St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.

St Joseph’s

The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.

Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.

The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.

The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.

The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.

Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.

This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.

The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.

I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.

Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.

Rotherham Modernism

There comes a time in everyone’s life, when one simply must go to Rotherham, at least once – so I did.

To keep company with my personal town guide, Sheffield Modernist and local resident, Helen Angell.

I arrived early at Rotherham Central, so went for a solo wander.

The station was originally named Rotherham, becoming Rotherham and Masborough in January 1889 and finally Rotherham Central on 25 September 1950.

The newish Rotherham Central station was opened to passengers on 11 May 1987, the present iteration on Friday 24 February 2012, as part of the Rotherham Renaissance plans for the regeneration of the town.

Wikipedia

Opened 22 December 1934 as the Regal Cinema with Leslie Howard in Girls Please. Sandy Powell, the famous comedian attended opening night this 1,825 seat. It was designed by the Hull based architectural firm Messrs Blackmore & Sykes for local exhibitor Thomas Wade and was leased to the Lou Morris chain.

By 1937 it was operated by the London & Southern Super Cinemas Ltd. chain. The Regal Cinema was leased to the Odeon circuit in 1946 and was re-named Odeon. It was sold by the Rank Organisation to an independent operator in 1975 and renamed Scala Cinema, by 1981 using the circle only.

Closed 23rd September 1983 with the film Porky’s.

Became a bingo hall initially named Ritz but now Mecca. On 20th February 2020 the building was put up for sale by auction at an asking price of £600,000+, but failed to sell, with the maximum reached £590,000. Mecca bingo continues in the building.

Cinema Treasures

Curious corner retail development and sculpture of the Sixties – with pub archeology.

Art Deco detail and tiling.

Royal Mail Sorting Office.

Retail detail.

Beeversleigh Flats – built between 1968-71. 

Main contractors J. Finnegan it’s thirteen storeys high – housing forty eight dwellings.

Interwar Technical College – Howard Building

From the 1930s, it provided technical-orientated education from the Howard Building on Eastwood Lane, Rotherham. In 1981, three neighbouring colleges of arts, technology and adult education were merged into one. As a result, the college became known as Rotherham College of Arts and Technology.

Revised plans to convert the historic Howard Building in Rotherham town centre into self-contained studios and apartments have been approved by the planning board at Rotherham Council.

The prominent former college building was sold prior to going to auction last September after it was advertised as a development opportunity and given a guide price of £250,000 by local auctioneers, Mark Jenkinson & son.

2015

28 Days Later

A group of rogue property directors with links to a prominent derelict building in Rotherham have been banned for a total of 54 years. The six, of Absolute Living Developments, were found to have misled more than 300 people to invest at least £12 million in residential properties.

The firm was linked through a lender to Avro Developments, which had plans passed in 2015 to renovate former college block the Howard Building in Rotherham town centre.

Rotherham Advertiser 2019

Clifton Building

Next to the market.

With a strident high tech canopy, very recently added – though Rotherham’s history stems back 800 years when it is thought that the original royal market charter was granted by King John in the year 1207.

There are traces of the 1970’s rebuild.

Bunker-like The Trades former music venue/pub, which replaced the former riverside Trades Club.

The PA now silenced.

This was an amazing event. The bands were really good and the drinks offers, while limited, were good. The ceiling in the ladies toilets had fallen through and was dripping, presumably there had been a leak from all the rain, but this didn’t lessen the awesome experience.

October 2019

The cooling towers and flats are long gone – the coal-fired power station operated from 1923 until October 1978.

The Prince of Wales Power Station in Rotherham was located on Rawmarsh Road and was opened by the Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VIII.

The former Grattans catalogue offices can be seen to the left.

Renamed Bailey House and still in use by the local authority, its days it seems are numbered.

The building is named after Rotherham-born engineer Sir Donald Bailey whose ingenious bridge designs played a key role in shortening World War II, the house in which Bailey was born, 24 Albany Street is still standing.

Sadly no longer home to the Harlem Shuffle

No big names – just big sounds.

There are some surviving power station buildings.

Along with electrical infrastructure.

Up the road next, to the former fire station, which now houses J E James Cycles.

It is surrounded by typically atypical inter war housing.

I could make the wild assumption, that these flat roofed maisonettes were originally homes fit for firefighters.

A passing nod towards a former Methodist Chapel.

Further on up the road to Peck House.

And the attendant tiles.

Just around the corner Backer Heating – still trading.

Returning toward town and enchanted by a giant 13 amp plug.

Under the underpass.

Then the other underpass.

Finally through the last underpass.

With a final notable note regarding Rotherham’s hand painted council commissioned signage – I’d like to think that they have a sign writer in their employ.

Many thanks to my learned companion Helen – thanks for a fine day out, so much to see and do!

Hastings 2015

I had completed my journey from Weston super Mare, with a final day’s cycle ride from Eastbourne and had two days to spare.

So I took some time to have a mooch around and this dear readers is what I did see.

I have snapped the seafront shelters previously and put together one post after another.

These are an integral part of Sidney Little’s concrete promenade scheme

Lurched toward London Road Launderette in St Leonards – which was featured in my 2020 book eight laundrettes.

Next door is this Post Office mosaic.

Back to the front for a more traditional seaside shelter.

Exploring the backstreets in search of fitness for purpose and secret signs.

Then diving in for a delicious dosa at the long gone St Len’s Lakshmi Mahal – since moved to Bexhill on Sea.

Snapping the plaques at the White Rock Theatre.

Currently closed but hopefully open in time for the We Love The Spice Girls.

Popped into Arthur Green – former gent’s outfitters, current bric a brac brokers.

Before we know it, we’re in another laundrette, once more without washing in the Wash Inn.

Back along the front to the well appointed and freshly painted Marine Court.

Time to pop into the not always open subsequently closed St Leonard’s Church.

When World War II broke out, Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea were considered vulnerable to attacks and invasion from abroad. On the night of Saturday 29 July 1944 a doodlebug was hit over the English Channel. Damaged, it nevertheless continued to fly towards the coastline of St Leonards-on-Sea. It was approaching Marine Court which was hosting a servicemen’s party – but it veered and crashed in front of the doors of St Leonard’s Church, making a deep crater. The tower fell into this, and the rest of the church was brought down as well. Although there were no casualties, the church was completely destroyed. Although the problem of rock falls and subsidence associated with the cliffs had continued throughout the life of the church, the War Damage Commission would only pay for it to be rebuilt on the same site. The architectural partnership of brothers Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were commissioned to design the new building.

Patrick Reyntiens stained glass

The unique features were inspired by Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, rector from 1929 to 1961. Following a dream, he went to Israel and had the prow of a Galilean fishing boat constructed to form the pulpit.

Marble work on the floor depicts locally caught skate and herring.

Beyond the communion rail are loaves and fishes set in different marble patterns bordered by scallop shells, a copy of the Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Galilee.

The structure set into shifting cliffs is subject to subsidence.

Procedures have been completed for St Leonard’s Parish Church on Marina to be closed for worship. 

The service will be next Saturday August 4 2018 at 3pm. 

Because the building cannot be used the service will be at St Ethelburga’s in St Saviour’s Road.

St Leonard’s has been called the church with an inbuilt message.  Even the very stones cry out to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand and accept the Good News of the Gospel.

St Leonards Church

Bognor Regis to Eastbourne

It’s Tuesday 5th August 2015 and the taps don’t match – is this a good omen?

Or simply proprietorial pragmatism?

And why is the sink a funny shape?

Any road up we’re off up the road, the sun’s a shining and here we are in Littlehampton.

Looking at a pale blue gas holder, some way off in the middle distance.

Staring up at a fishmonger’s ghost.

Passing by an ultra-squiggly seaside shelter as a runner passes by.

The Long Bench at Littlehampton is thought to be the longest bench in Britain and one of the longest in the world. The wood and stainless steel bench ‘flows’ along the promenade at Littlehampton in West Sussex – curving round lamp posts and obstacles, twisting up into the seafront shelters, dropping down to paths and crossings.

The bench was opened in July 2010 and can seat over 300 people. It was funded by Arun District Council and CABE’s ‘Sea Change’ capital grants programme for cultural and creative regeneration in seaside resorts. The bench was also supported by a private donation from Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita, the founder of the Body Shop, which first began trading in Littlehampton.

Water treatment plant.

Nothing lifts the spirits quite like a wildflower meadow.

Imagine my surprise having gone around the back – an expressionist concrete spiral stairway.

Letting the sky leak in here at Burlington Court in Goring on Sea

The phrase deceptively spacious is one that is often overused within the property industry, however it sums up this ground floor flat prospectively. Offering a great alternative to a bungalow and providing spacious and versatile living accommodation, this is an absolute must for your viewing list.

Prime Location £250,000

What a delightful Modernist frieze on the side of Marine Point – Worthing!

With lifts to all floors this triple aspect corner apartment is situated on the fifth level and has outstanding panoramic sea views across from Beachy Head to Brighton through to the Isle of Wight. It is also benefits from stunning South Down views to the west and north. The property has been recently refurbished to a high specification and includes features such as: Quick-Step flooring, security fitted double glazed windows, a hallway motion sensor lighting system, extensive storage space and two double bedrooms.  

On The Market £450,000

Fox and Sons are delighted to offer For Sale this immaculate seafront penthouse located within the highly desirable Normandy Court situated on the sought after West Parade, Worthing. Upon entry you will notice that the communal areas are kept in good condition throughout.

Fox and Sons £325,00

The finest N in the land!

One of the finest modular pre-cast concrete car parks in the land.

Borough council officers have recommended developing the Grafton car park, with a fresh study recommending that building new homes there is key – saying it is important to help revitalise the town centre and bring in new cutlural and leisure activities.

The car park is currently undergoing essential maintenance to be able to keep it open in the short term but the recommendation is that it should eventually be demolished to make way for the new development.

Spirit FM

In the meantime they have painted it a funny colour.

On the concrete Undercliff on my way out of Brighton.

The Seven Sisters in view.

Before you know it you’ve booked into an Eastbourne B&B enjoying the multiple benefits of the complimentary biscuits and a mini-kettle brew.

Followed by a pint in the delightful Dolphin.

A stroll around town.

Returning to the backyard of The Dolphin.

Another pint then.

Night night.

Bournemouth to Portsmouth

Sunday 2nd August 2015 – you awake and you’re still in Bournemouth and still in one piece, the possibility of late night stag and hen madness passed over without incident.

A quick look around town, then let’s get off to Pompey – where I was very proud to be a Polytechnic art student 1973/76, in good old Lion Terrace.

Last night’s late night drinking den with its fabulous faience frontage and doorstep mosaic.

Close by this tiled porch at The Branksome.

Built 1932 by Seal and Hardy as offices for the Bournemouth Echo, steel-framed, the main elevations faced in Monks Park Bath Stone.

Plans to redevelop the listed Daily Echo offices in Bournemouth were withdrawn shortly before they were due to be discussed by councillors.

That Group’s application to extend the Richmond Hill building to create more work space as well as a 30-bed hotel, café, gym and events space had been recommended for refusal before it was pulled from the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

Daily Echo

Vandale House appears to have been refurbished as flats, having lost its architectural type.

The property benefits from modern and contemporary décor throughout, large balcony and views over the Town Centre itself. 

This art deco cinema was built for ABC and designed by their regular architect William Glen, it opened in June 1937.

The ABC, originally the Westover Super Cinema, entertained audiences for almost 80 years before it was closed in 2017 – along with the nearby Odeon – to make way for a new Odeon multiplex at the BH2 complex.

In its rejected plans for the site, Libra Homes had pledged to restore the cinema’s original Art Deco frontage, if it survives under the cladding that was added in the 1960s.

Cinema Treasures

Boscombe Pier – is the perfect vantage point to watch volleyball, table tennis and mini golf. If you are feeling adventurous, try scaling the nearby, purpose built boulders next to the pier or have a go at slacklining!

There are nearby are cafés, takeaways and beach shops all within walking distance from Boscombe Pier. The pier is free to enter and has a plethora of activies that individuals and families can enjoy! 

Designed by Archibald Smith, the 600 foot pier opened on 28th July 1889. In 1924/5 and 1927, the head was renewed in high alumina concrete and, between 1958 and 1960, the neck was reconstructed using reinforced concrete.

The neck building is a design by the Borough Architects, demonstrating great verve and vivacity. The contemporary style associated with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses and made popular with Californian homes in the 1940s was well suited to the requirements of an architecture that combined ‘sun and fun’. The contemporary style made a feature of expressing different elements or planes of a composition with different materials, and here the combination is honest and each element well detailed. The sweep of the cantilevered, boomerang-shaped roof is a particularly joyous feature. It is a building that would have been despised as being exactly of its date until recently; now it is a building that can be celebrated for that very reason, and a rare example of pier architecture from these years. 

Historic England Listing

San Remo Towers a block of 164 flats, with penthouse and office, over basement garage. 1935-8 by Hector O’Hamilton.

Facilities offered as inclusive in this price included centralised hot water and central heating, an auto vac’ cleaning system, centralised telephones, a resident manager, a porter, daily maid, boot cleaning and window cleaning services. There was a Residents’ club with a reading room card room, billiard room and library, and a children’s recreation and games room. There were kiosks in the ground-floor lobbies selling tobacco and convenience items, where the staff took orders for the local tradesmen. The fifth-floor restaurant offered a la carte meals, which could be taken at pension rates of 38s per week. A simpler dinner cost 2/6d. The use of an American architect, Hector O Hamilton, may be an explanation for the building’s large range of facilities, including the grand underground car park and sophisticated servicing

Two bed flat £183,000

Carlinford benefits from commanding views over Poole Bay looking to the Isle of Wight across to the Purbecks. Included in the annual service charge is a Caretaker, Gardener & the communal areas are kept in good order. A fabulous location and a great place to call home. 

Two bed flat £350,000

Crossing the New Forest and arriving in Hythe.

Running the length of the pier to catch the ferry across Southampton Water.

Where one is able to see many large ships.

St Patrick’s Catholic Church 1939

W.C. Mangan’s last church in the diocese, with a moderne Gothic character rather than the basilican style he favoured elsewhere. The design is not without character and is in the mainstream of brick church building around middle of the twentieth century.

Taking Stock

First siting of Stymie Bold Italic/Profil since Devon

Sadly the Hovercraft Museum was closed – Founded 1987 as a registered charity, the Museum Trust is the worlds greatest collection of Hovercraft archive, film, and historic craft, dating back to to John Thonycroft’s 1870 air lubricated boat models and the then Dr. Cockerell’s 1955 annular jet experiments.

So excited to be boarding yet another ferry.

Seeing Portsmouth for the first time in a long time.

Finding cheap digs at the Rydeview Hotel.

My partner and daughter stayed here recently and the warm reception we received was great, thought it was going to be real value for money however when getting into the family room, which was a decent size, the curtain was half hanging down, iron marks and stains on the carpet, dirty windows, mould on the bathroom ceiling, hole in the bathroom floor and a very random shower head coming from the toilet that was very unpleasant. When we checked in we asked about breakfast and we were told this was going to be an additional £3 – we thought this was great value for money for a full English only to be left hungry and out of pocket! My daughter had one slice of toast, we asked for the full English what we received was cold and hard beans, and un-cooked egg and a rank sausage, the eating area was dirty – cobwebs everywhere.

I too stayed in the Family room with a delightful mouse for company and enjoyed one of the worst meals I’ve ever not eaten.

I headed for the 5th Hants Volunteers where I formally kept company with Felim Egan, Norman Taylor and Ian Hunter way back when.

Drinking Gales HSB – formerly a local brew now owned by Fullers

Established in 1847 Gales Brewery (George Gale & Co. Ltd) was an old brewery situated in Horndean, on the edge of Waterlooville. It made the nutty HSB – Horndean Special Bitter and the newer Gales Bitter. It took its water from its own well situated under the brewery which is fed from the South Downs, and the yeast and liquor, coupled with the local brewing style, produced beers with a sparse head, quite dark in colour.

In late 2005 Fuller’s Brewery bought Gales for £92 million. In January 2006, Fuller’s began cutting jobs at the Horndean brewery, and it was announced on 27 February 2006 that the brewery would close at the end of March 2006, although distribution and warehousing would continue in the area.

It didn’t tater the same and the pub had been gutted – gutted.

I beat a retreat to the Barley Mow – where I fell in with a gang of former Poly students from the 70s – they had studied and never left.

Eventually we all left.

Night night.

Weston super Mare

Although there is evidence in the local area of occupation since the Iron Age, it was still a small village until the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, and was connected with local towns and cities by a railway, and two piers were built. The growth continued until the second half of the 20th century, when tourism declined and some local industries closed. A regeneration programme is being undertaken with attractions including the Helicopter Museum, Weston Museum, and the Grand Pier. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. Cultural venues include The Playhouse, the Winter Gardens and the Blakehay Theatre.

Wikipedia

I arrived mid-morning on Saturday 25th July 2015 – having travelled some two hundred miles or so from Stockport by train.

The Iron Age seemed to be over and regeneration slowly but surely under way.

This marked the start of another coastal tour, following last year’s epic which began in Hastings.

This time I was heading for Hastings – but that can wait until tomorrow, let’s have a look around town.

Directly opposite the station is a group of Seaside Moderne homes in various states of whiteness – standing in line along Neva Road.

Reasonably priced, cheaper than Frinton – check it out

I pushed my bike along the prom heading for my pre-booked digs in a stylish seafront hotel.

Past the Marine Causeway linking the shore to some kind of modern day Post Modern Shangri-La.

A mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, possibly not.

You can stroll onto Knightstone Island, where you will find some cafes serving light snacks and refreshments, or to the other side which takes you along the causeway, accessible to walk across according to the tides. At the other side of the Causeway you will find a small rocky beach with tidal rockpools ideal for exploring.

Just along the prom stands one of my all time favourite seaside shelters.

Even further along – what’s all this here then?

The foundation stone of the Birch-designed Birnbeck Pier was laid in 1864. It opened on 5th June 1867 and consisted of a 1040 foot cantilever construction to Birnbeck Island and a short jetty extending westwards from the island.

National Piers Society

It seems to have changed hands several times in its relatively short life, including the stewardship of the infamous Urban Splash and the mysterious mystery owners, the current custodians it seems, have done little to secure a secure future.

It remains alone and untended, stretching aimlessly out to sea.

In April 2015, Friends Of The Old Pier Society created a novel fund raising scheme in which 1p and 2p coins would be lined up to stretch from the Grand Pier to Birnbeck Pier.

September 2019 Councillor Mr Crockford-Hawley said:

It’s this end of Weston which is the sore, it’s the carbuncle, it’s clearly well past its prime and it needs some serious attention. I mean it would be wonderful if somebody came along with an open ended bank account and said ‘yup, I’d love to restore it for the sake of restoring it’, but quite clearly there’s got to be an economic future for the pier, there’s got to be a purpose for the pier.

Possibly a wealthy Beatle could bail the ailing pier out of deep water?

Having made a bob or two since they appeared here in 1963.

Next thing I know I’m outside the imposing and impressive sounding Ocean Hotel. Sad to say on the day/night of my visit it wasn’t just this weary traveller that appeared to be over tired, happy to report the the New Ocean Hotel has been revamped and in tip-top condition by all accounts.

Any road up, let’s get out, take a walk up the road – have look at some local type.

Watney’s mythical Red Barrel.

Watney’s was the Evil Corporation which sought to crush plucky small brewers and impose its own terrible beer on the drinking public. It acquired and closed beloved local breweries, and it closed pubs, or ruined them with clumsy makeovers.

Its Red Barrel was particularly vile – a symbol of all that was wrong with industrial brewing and national brands pushed through cynical marketing campaigns.

A page-spread from Design Research Unit 1945-1972 – Koenig Books 2011 via A Practice for Everyday Life via Boak and Bailey – who examine the truth behind the myth.

A palimpsest ghost within a ghost.

A seaside outing for dear old Brush Script – a casual connecting script typeface designed in 1942 by Robert E. Smith for the American Type Founders.

The face exhibits an exuberant graphic stroke emulating the look of handwritten written letters with an ink brush.

It came third as a Least Favorite nomination in a 2007 designers’ survey.

It was rated fifth in The Eight Worst Fonts In The World list in Simon Garfield’s 2010 book Just My Type.

Why have just one identity when you can have two, welcome to the 21st Century schizoid Savoy – don’t it jus’ make you want to stomp?

First but surely not the last sighting of Profil aka Stymie Bold Italic – in a none inline variant.

Classical kerning down at the local estate agents, tasteful Gill Condensed Bold – from the hand and eye of the far from tasteful Eric.

Ay up it’s a launderette that almost thinks it’s a scooter!

Cheap beer, raffle, singer and bingo on a Wednesday afternoon.

Amazing and great atmosphere with friendly service staff and atmosphere, love it, real nice people

Facebook

Russell Davies Flickr

Keeler Productions has taken over Locking Road Car Park, opposite Tesco, and The Regent Restaurant, in Regent Street, to film a BBC period series The Trial of Christine Keeler, based on the Profumo Affair in the 1960s.

Weston Mercury

Enough of all that period drama, let’s have a look at some period architecture.

Madeira Court – 67 flats built in 1988.

Weekly Social Activities include – coffee mornings, card evenings and occasional days out, organised by social club. New residents accepted from sixty years of age, both cats and dogs generally accepted.

I can find no reference for this dalle de verre stained glass window.

Boulevard United Reformed Church – Waterloo Street

Architects Gordon W. Jackson and Partners 1959

Constructed on part of the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema, the Odeon Theatre was opened on 25th May 1935 with Jack Buchanan in Brewster’s Millions. Built as one of the original Odeon Theatres in the then emerging Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit, it was built on a prime corner street position in this sea-side town and was the first of several Odeon Theatre’s to be designed by architect Cecil T Howitt.

The Odeon was Grade II Listed on 21st August 1986.

Cinema Treasures

The Weston-super-Mare Odeon was built by C Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham on the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema. It opened on 25 May 1935, at which time it was described in the souvenir programme as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’.

A short walk along the prom snapping shelters and the sheltered – no two the same.

I then chanced to fall into a Beer Festival and bad company – the rest is a blur, see you all tomorrow there’s some cycling to be done.

Night night.

Clacton to Great Yarmouth

Day four Thursday 4th September 2014 – leaving Clacton on Sea for Frinton on Sea is the equivalent of crossing continents, time zones, aesthetic and social sensibilities.

Leaving the razzle-dazzle, frantic fish and chip frazzle, for the sedate repose of germ free Frinton.

Green sward and restrained modernist shelters adorn the foreshore.

I love the bold optimism of Maritime Moderne – the bright eyed, forward looking window grid of these fine flats.

I have a cautious admiration for the faux Deco newcomers.

The modernist estate was attempted many times in the interwar years; visions of rows of fashionable white walled, flat roofed houses filled developers eyes. In practice the idea was less popular with potential house buyers. In the Metro-Land suburbs of London, estates were attempted in Ruislip and Stanmore, with a dozen houses at most being built. One estate that produced more modernist houses than most, albeit less than planned, was the Frinton Park estate at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.

Oliver Hill was known for his house designs, which spanned styles from Arts and Crafts to Modernist. Hill was to draw up a plan for 1100 homes, as well as a shopping centre, luxury hotel and offices. The plan was for prospective buyers to buy a plot and then engage architects to design their new house from a list of designers drawn up by Hill. The list featured some of the best modernist architects working in Britain at the time; Maxwell FryWells Coates, F.R.S. Yorke and Connell, Ward & Lucas.

As wonderful as this sounds today, the buying public of 1935 did not quite agree. The majority of potential buyers were apparently put off by the Estates insistence on flat roofs and modernist designs. Plan B was to build a number of show homes to seduce the public into buying the modernist dream. Of 50 planned show homes, around 25 were built, with about 15 more houses built to order. The majority of these were designed by J.T. Shelton, the estates resident architect, with a number designed by other architects like Hill, Frederick Etchells, RA Duncan and Marshall Sisson.

Modernism in Metroland

One million four hundred thousand pounds later

Nine hundred and fifty thousand pounds

These survivors are now much sought after residences.

The Modern House

The town is also home to this traditional confectioners – Lilley’s Bakery.

Leaving the coast for pastures new – well, a ploughed field actually.

Crossing the River Orwell over the Orwell Bridge on my way to Ipswich.

The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use in the UK. The two spans adjacent to the main span are 106m, known as anchor spans. Most of the other spans are 59m. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres; the bridge had to be at least 41 metres high. The approach roads were designed by CH Dobbie & Partners of Cardiff. 

The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous concrete box girders with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction. The girders are hollow, allowing for easier inspection, as well as providing access for services, including telecom, power, and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir.

The bridge appears in the 1987 Cold War drama The Fourth Protocol, in which two RAF helicopters are shown flying under it, and at the end of the 2013 film The Numbers Station.

Wikipedia

Time for a Stymie Bold Italic stop – much to the obvious consternation of an over cautious customer.

It seems to still be extant – but with a tasteful coat of subdued grey paint according to its Facebook page.

Having completed this journey in 2016, then reacquainting myself in 2020, I have little recollection of visiting Ipswich, but I did, yet there are no snaps.

I photographed this and several other water towers, precisely where, I could not honestly say.

Suffice to say that it is somewhere – as is everything else.

An admiring nod to Bernd and Hilla Becher.

This the only time that I chose to have a glass of beer whilst awheel, normally waiting until the evening – I couldn’t resist this charming looking brew pub in Framlingham.

Earl Soham is a village close by, on the A1120. The Earl Soham Brewery beers started out in  life being brewed in local man Maurice’s old chicken shed. You may be pleased to hear they have a slightly more sophisticated set-up now, without forgetting their humble roots.

If you haven’t tasted them before, we think you’ll be as delighted with them as our regulars, and you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome if you come to try them out.

The Station

The sort of wayside boozer where I could have easily idled away an hour or two – hopefully I’ll pass by again some time and linger longer.

Another water tower – somewhere.

The most enchanting of shop fascias.

Something of a curiosity – David Frost’s father’s ironmongers in Halesworth – and the Ancient House with its ancient carving.

The bressumer beam at the front of the is linked with Margaret de Argentein in the late 14th and 15th century, it is believed t it could have been a manor or toll house. 

Currently trading as a Bistro with paranormal problems;

Things in the window were swaying the other day and when we went to stop them they almost fought back.

I’ve seen two ghosts in the kitchen. One was clearly a man, the other was when I thought my daughter was over my shoulder but when I looked around she wasn’t there, and we were the only two in the building.

Eastern Daily Press

The long and ever so slightly winding road of the lowlands, sad eyed.

Service station highlight of the tour – with its National graphic identity intact.

A no longer a bakers bakery.

Ghost sign.

All at sea again – caravans to the left of us, sea to the right of us, onwards onwards.

The eternal puzzle of the paddling pool.

Terracotta tiling on the Lifeboat House.

Crossing the estuary of the River Yare – yeah, yeah!

Finally arriving in Joyland.

Rides include the world famous Snails and Tyrolean Tub Twist.

A huge toy town mountain incorporates the Spook Express kiddie coaster, Jet Cars and Neptune’s Kingdom undersea fantasy ride, Pirate Ship, Major Orbit, Balloon Wheel and Skydiver complete the rest of the rides.

Hungry – why not grab a bite at the American Diner.

I actually went to the Wetherspoons.

Though the town is full of tiny pubs.

And a chippy.

I wandered the highway byways and promenade of Great Yarmouth, all alone in a neon nightmare!

Finally settling down for a pint or two – again.

Lastly encountering the late night skaters.

Night night.

Southend to Clacton

Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.

The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.

Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.

Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself;  but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre.  During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time. 

Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters.  We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there.  It was a most exciting day.

She was as natural as you see her on the television.

Postscript 2002

A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.

The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.

The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.

A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.

Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.

Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.

Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.

It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.

Photo Phil Parsons

Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?

Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.

Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.

Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.

This is Constable country:

Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.

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Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.

Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.

Encountering the occasional leafy lane.

I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .

A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.

Architect – JH Dabrowski 

The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977

This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.

Taking Stock

Struggling to go around a Straight Road.

£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:

This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.

Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.

Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.

Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.

Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.

I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.

Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.

Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.

Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading. By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.

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The pier seems to have changed hands several times, as is the way with such things, subjected to fires, storms and pestilence – yet still prevails.

Key attractions include Stella’s Revenge – a family Galaxi rollercoaster. Formerly operated at Barry Island Pleasure Park as Galaxy, and later Viper.

Pause to consider the prospect of magical fun, fun, fun.

Let’s return to dry land, where we find certain signs of decline in these uncertain times.

Hope springs eternal in the Arcade hairdressers.

We place our trust in the tried and tested condiments of this most sceptered of isles.

Life goes on at the Linen Shop – yet another Profil/Stymie gem!

A limited choice is widely available from the far from extensive menu, though mushrooms do come with princely, premium price tag attached.

Another long day closes with a well deserved pint – God bless the Old Lifeboat House and all who sail in her.

Night night.

Neaverson’s – Huddersfield

Kirkgate Buildings Byram Street

Commercial building with ground-floor retail units and offices to the upper floors, c1883, by W H Crossland with sculptural work by C E Fucigna. Sandstone ashlar, slate roof, substantial ashlar ridge stacks. C19 Queen Anne style with French influences and classical Greek sculpture. One of the ground-floor shop units was remodelled in 1935 by Sharp and Law of Bradford with Moderne shopfronts and interior fittings.

The cultural and visual collision is immediate – the pairing of Huddersfield’s grand Victorian manner with the latest of European Moderne.

Neaverson’s – purveyors of pottery and glass began life in 1893 in premises on Cross Church Street, before moving to the Grade I-listed Byram Street building in 1935.

Set to the ground floor of bay 4 is a 1935 Moderne shopfront by Sharp and Law of Bradford. The shopfront is of grey and pink/beige marble with unmoulded windows that are curved to eliminate reflection, and has a glazed door set within a recessed porch. Set below the top of the shopfront is a ribbon window with dark tinted glazing and slender vertical and horizontal muntin bars arranged in a geometric pattern. The original metal signage in stylised sans-serif relief lettering reads ‘NEAVERSONS’, ‘pottery’ and ‘four’.

Thought to echo Susie Cooper’s London shop and unswervingly now – the fascia must have been something of a shock to the taciturn Tykes.

Neaversons glass and china shop closed in 2007.

Gerry’s Tea Rooms occupied the building for less than two years.

There is not a day goes by when I don’t see some of my customers asking what went wrong. They think I was a failure and that is so not the truth.

Along came a restaurant:

The Grade II 1930’s interior has been refurbished by the new owners and exudes understated sophistication.

“Wow, I feel like I’m in London,” said Trish as she stepped into the newly-opened Neaversons restaurant, having just arrived on the train from the capital.

It closed not long after.

Currently home to the Zephyr Bar and Kitchen

A prohibition stylised venue offering a selection of drinks, food and an environment that really sets us apart from the crowd.

The listed frontage has survived intact – let’s take a look.

Odeon – Guide Bridge

285 Stockport Road Guide Bridge Ashton-under-Lyne

This was planned to be the Verona Cinema, a project of local builders – P Hamer Verona Cinema Ltd. The construction of the cinema was almost completed when Hamer sold the building to Oscar Deutsch and it opened as one of his Odeon theatres.

Hamer then used the proceeds of the sale to build the Roxy Cinema Holinwood, which was designed by Drury & Gomersall.

Opening date of the Odeon Theatre was 29th June 1936, when the first programme was Bing Crosby in “Anything Goes” and Harold Lloyd in “The Milky Way”. Designed by the noted cinema architectural firm of Drury & Gomersall, the frontage had a neat entrance in brick, with white stone facings on the window surrounds. There was a parade of shop units on each side of the entrance which had matching brickwork and a white stone trim.

Inside the auditorium the seating was arranged for 834 in the stalls and 330 in the circle. The side splay walls on each side of the proscenium was decorated in wide horizontal bands, and topped with a backlit illuminated grille.

The Odeon was closed by the Rank Organisation on 11th March 1961 with Kenneth More in “Man in the Moon”.

It was converted into St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Former cinemas have made good conversions to churches and the fabric of the buildings are generally respected. In this case though, the sad story is that the front entrance has been rendered over and inside all details of it cinematic past have been erased. You would never know you were inside what had been been an Art Deco styled building.

Contributed by Ken Roe Cinema Treasures

I passed by nearly every day for years travelling to and from school, I played there at a wedding reception in the church social club. I sadly have no recollection of the building in use as a cinema.

It has been closed since 2010 – currently it has no purpose or seemingly any future use, there are no For Sale signs in evidence.

Fallen so quickly and absolutely from grace.

St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

Brownhill Dr Blackburn BB1 9BA

The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

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And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.

Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Sale Pyramid Odeon Cinema

Cinema Treasures

Located in Sale, Cheshire, now part of Greater Manchester. Designed by the famous British cinema architectural firm, Drury & Gomersall, the Pyramid Theatre is a classic example of an Egyptian-style cinema in Britain and had a 1,940 seating capacity.

The frontage although not particularly Egyptian in overall design does have various Egyptian style mouldings and fluted pillars. Internally, the Egyptian theme was again largely mouldings and finishes like Graumans Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The theme was included in the specially designed Christie Organ, which was installed in the Blue Coat School in Oldham.

Following a request by the school to remove the organ in 2008, the organ was in storage for five years. The Christie has now been donated to the Lowe Side Trust, by the LTOT,  along with funding for refurbishment and installation, of both consoles, into Lowe House Catholic Church, St. Helens, Lancashire. As of the beginning of 2018 the the original pit console is now fully functioning in the Church. The Egyptian style stage console is now under refurbishment to full theatre specification. Website for this project will be available shortly.

Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust

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The Pyramid Theatre changed hands a couple of times between its opening on 24th February 1934 and 21st December 1942 when it was taken over by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain. It was re-named Odeon on 18th June 1945.

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In 1981, the Rank Organisation closed 29 of its Odeon cinemas and the lease for the Odeon Sale was bought by the Tatton Cinemas group and it was re-named Tatton Cinema. Stage shows returned to the theatre, however the runing costs caused the lease to revert to Rank in 1984 and the building was closed.

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The cinema was purchased by Trafford Borough council for £200,000, but by 1987 the costs to the council were estimated at £1.5 million. A campaign was started to save it from demolition.

In 1988, it was advertised for sale by tender and by 1990 the cinema was converted into an American themed nightclub, known as JFK’s

The nightclub closed around 2001 and the auditorium was transformed into a franchised L.A. Fitness Centre, using a former front stalls exit as its entrance. The main entrance and foyers are currently unused. In 2013 it became a Sports Direct Fitness Club.

The Pyramid Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building in November 1987.

It is currently closed and seemingly unused.

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I often cycle passed and wonder about your past, and a possible future.

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Our cinema heritage is and always had been under threat, listed and unloved desperately seeking the care and attention to survive into another other century. Subsequent repurposing has proved temporary and unsustainable, without the concerted efforts of local authority, charitable trust and enthusiastic amateurs, you will remain a silent pharaonic sentinel by the side of Washway Road.

Forever.

“Only the best is good enough for Sale”

 

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The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.

The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.

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Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.

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The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.

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Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.

Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.

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It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.

The last time I came by you were still open for business.

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I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.

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I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.

Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.

And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.

This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.

Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.

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Brucciani’s – Morecambe

Brucciani – 217 Marine Rd Central, Morecambe LA4 4BU217

Built on the eve of war in 1939, the local paper feared that Brucciani’s might not be good for the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and that its presence could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk bar, Brucciani’s typifies the simple, geometric ‘high street deco’ styling popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling, a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass of Venetian canal scenes, mirrors, deco clocks and even the original penny-in-the-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms.

Classic cafés

I’ve been coming here for over ten years now, alone or in company, come rain or shine and without fail, as sure as ice is nice, I have a banana spilt – or to be more precise a Banana Royal.

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Jenny Steele 2015

This is a café with a café menu, café furniture, café staff and service.

It only ever wanted and wants to be a café, unchanged by the uncaring winds of vicissitude and fashion. To tread the turquoise and tan linoleum, ‘neath the period lighting fixtures and fittings, to be seated on the warm red leatherette, one elbow on the circular Formica table is to enter into into a pact with a perfect past.

It’s on the front you can’t miss it – overlooking the Sunset Bay.

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WH Smiths – Newtown Powys

Life is full of tiny delights.

Newtown, a town of tiny delights, my journey through Wales by bike took me there.

None more delightful and surprising than the branch of WH Smiths, its exterior adorned with the most beautiful of signs, tiles and lamps.

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Curious, curiously I  explored further, the porch housed a newspaper and magazine stall with further tiled images.

These tiles were made by Carter & Co. at their pottery works in Poole, Dorset in the 1920s. Commissioned by the retailer, they were installed in the entrance ways of a number of its branches. They were intended to advertise the wide selection of books and other items on sale, however their distinctive Art Deco style and the scenes depicted also expose a great deal about society at that time.

In subsequent decades, particularly during periods of refurbishment from the 1960s, many shops lost their decorative panels, either being removed or covered over. Only seven branches of WHSmith are known to have their tile panels intact, with a few surviving in private collections. Many tiles were rescued by WHSmith and these can now be seen in a museum housed in the Newtown branch in Powys. 

Further information

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The staff were typically helpful and accommodating – directing me to the Museum upstairs – just pull the rope to one side.

Go take a look 

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Hastings – Sea Front Shelters

The very first time I visited Hastings, I was immediately enchanted by the seafront and its enchanting shelters.

Perfectly formed cast concrete poetry, facing the swelling channel.

Offering shade and respite from coastal sun, wind and rain.

Temporary home to some.

Decorated in the finest style.

A short endless walk, sea to the right, back again, to your left.

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