Bolton Walk

Organised by the Twentieth Century Society

Text by Eddy Rhead and David French.

Bolton Town Hall – 1873 was designed by William Hill of Leeds, with Bolton architect George Woodhouse.

The original building was extended in 1938 by Bradshaw Gass & Hope – hereafter BGH.

Le Mans Crescent by BGH 1932-9 well complements the Town Hall extension. Its neo-classical design is assured and confident. Pevsner remarked that:

There is, surprisingly enough, no tiredness, the panache is kept up.

Three arches pierce the Crescent’s centre but today they lead only to a potential development site. One end of the Crescent contains the Art Gallery and Library; the other used to house the former Police Headquarters and Magistrates’ Courts.

George Grenfell Baines, the founder of the Building Design Partnership, was involved in this project when he worked for BGH in the 1930s

The Octagon 1966-67 originally by Geoffrey Brooks, the borough architect, rebuilt 2018-2021. The hexagonal auditorium has apparently been retained. Pevsner states of the former building:

A welcome dose of honest Brutalism.

The Wellsprings successfully fitting with the Town Hall

The former 1931 Cooperative Society Store, on the Oxford Street corner, is by BGH. The entrance has Doric columns in deference to the Town Hall’s Corinthian ones – and Le Mans Crescent uses the Ionic for the same reason.

We pass Paderborn House 1968 -69 Sutton of Birmingham clad in moulded concrete, with Traverine around the entrance.

Former Lloyds Bank on Deangate corner, clad in white faience, looks BGH-ish but it’s not listed in the Lingards’ BGH monograph.

Across the way the unlisted Post Office – complete with listed phone boxes.

Whitakers 1907 by George Crowther.

Pastiche timber-framed with pepper-pot turret.

Incorporates genuine Tudor timbers from a demolished building nearby.

To the north of Deansgate, down Knowsley and Market Streets, is GT Robinson’s 1851-6 Market Hall. The interior is, according to Matthew Hyde: a lucid structure simply revealed.

He contrasts it with Market Place Centre 1980-88 by Chapman Taylor Partners: In that most ephemeral of styles, a jokey Postmodernism.

It does however echo Victoria Hall 1898-1900 BGH.

Chapman Taylor also did the 1980-8 Market Place Shopping Centre. The Market Hall was built over an impressive brick undercroft above the River Croal which has recently been opened up and is a destination.

At the Oxford Street corner, Slater Menswear, above Caffé Nero, has Art Deco white faience upper storeys.  Further down is the imposing Marks & Spencer, faced in dark stone 1965-67.

The mansard roof was added later.

Along Market Street, Clinton Cards is clad in white faience with Art Deco window details.

At the corner of Bridge Street is a charming 1960s clock; the building would not look out of place in Coventry.

Other buildings of interest on Deansgate include Superdrug – with some Art Deco features; Greggs by Ernest Prestwich of Leigh who trained with WE Riley. 

Sally Beauty and the Nationwide – entrance by William Owen of BGH.

The former Preston’s jewellers, on the corner of Bank Street, has terracotta, by Thomas Smith & Sons 1908-13, a prolific local firm. It had a time ball, on the clock tower, which was raised daily at 9am and dropped at 10am, on receipt of a telegraph signal from Greenwich.

The 1909 Bolton Cross, in Dartmoor granite, by BGH replaced an earlier one which is now kept at Bolton School. Churchgate contains the 1636 Ye Olde Man & Scythe; the former coaching inn Swan Hotel, reconstructed in the 1970s to look more genuinely Georgian and Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe 1667. 

Stone Cross House 1991 was built for the Inland Revenue in an aggressively red brick and spiky style. It has a rather desperate chandelier in the foyer. 

The gates of St Peter’s church EG Paley 1871 are framed by Travel House, Newspaper House -1998 and Churchgate House and Huntingdon House 1974.

St Peter’s has a Neo-Gothic font and cover by N Cachemaille-Day 1938. The gates and gate piers may look early C20 but they are late C18.

Samuel Crompton 1753-1827, the inventor of the mule, is buried under the large granite monument, erected in 1861.

At the corner of Silverwell and Institute Streets is WT Gunson & Son’s 1970 Friends Meeting House: decent with a light elevated roof corner.  It has a tilted roof floating on the glazed upper walls.

Scott House has a charming 1926 plaque commemorating Sir James Scott and his wife Lady Anne. Scott started the Provincial Insurance Company.

The two storey offices of Fieldings and Porter are a successful piece of infill by BGH.

Nip around the back to get a glimpse of this cracking stairway.

Silverwell Street 1810 is named after the Silver Well. Bradshaw Gass & Hope now self­-described as Construction Design Consultants, not architects, are at number 19. Note the plaque to JW Wallace, founder of the Eagle Street College, dedicated to the works of the American poet, Walt Whitman. Wallace worked there from 1867 to 1912. The plaque is ringed by a quote from Whitman:

All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it.

Whitman corresponded with his Bolton admirers; the Museum contains early editions of his works and his stuffed canary. 

Further down Silverwell Street is the 1903 Estate Office of the Earl of Bradford who still owns a large area of Bolton.  At the end of Silverwell Street is the former Sun Alliance House, now converted to flats, the colourful panels are a later addition.

Bradshawgate and Silverwell lane corner has a former café bar with original curved Moderne windows. This was originally Vose’s tripe restaurant, later UCP – United Cattle Products. It was most stylish and elegant, decorated in 1930s streamline Moderne style, with starched white tablecloths, silver service and smart waitresses. 

Nelson Square was opened on March 23, 1893. The cenotaph memorial to the Bolton Ar­tillery is by Ormrod, Pomeroy & Foy 1920. Calder Marshall sculpted the statue of Samuel Crompton 1862. The shiny red former Prudential Assurance office 1889 isn’t by Waterhouse but by Ralph B. Maccoll of Bolton. Matthew Hyde in Pevsner describes the early C20 faience facades of Bradshawgate as:

A plateful of mushy pea, ginger nut, liver, tripe and blood orange shades.

Infirmary Street has a 1970s office block with an octagonal, nicely lettered plaque to WF Tillotson, newspaper publisher. Round the corner in Mawdsley Street, the former County Court 1869 TC Sorby, 1869. Opposite, at the corner, is GWBD Partnership’s 1987 St Andrew’s Court, containing a somewhat whimsical recreation of a Victorian shopping street in miniature. The job architect was J Holland. Matthew Hyde says:

Neatly contrived on a tight site. 

Into Exchange Street and through the former Arndale Centre 1971; low and mean according to Pevsner 2004, now re-branded as Crompton Place 1989 Bradshaw, Rose & Harker and still dreary, we go to Victoria Square and the Town Hall. The classical building on the left is the former Bolton Exchange 1824-5 Richard Lane.

The square was pedestrianised in 1969, to the Planning Department’s designs, under RH Ogden. It was quite an early scheme which won three awards including one, unsurprisingly, from the Concrete Society. The fountains  were designed by Geoffrey Brooks and the trees were planted by the Earl of Bradford.

Owen Hatherley in Modern Buildings in Britain says of the town

It feels as if you’re in a real city, like in Europe, and you can drink your cup of tea in repose while admiring the monuments. 

Halifax Building Society HQ

Here we are again for we have been here before.

I was taking a band of merry Modernist Moochers around town, so I stopped to snap this BDP behemoth once again.

On a sunny September morn.

David Lees informs me:

Halifax Building Society HQ, designed by BDP in an a multi-consultant appointment. Bill Pearson, partner and lead designer, John Ellis, M & E partner, David Cowler, Industrial Designer for the conservatrieve document storage and recovery terminals.

Rod Morris, Graphic Designer designed the sculptural Corten air vents. Richard Saxon, Americanophile introduced the theory of the open plan office. The building has twin fourteen foot deep steel beams clear-spanning between the four corner stair towers, within the chamfered soffit, a floor that also houses all the plant rooms. Lower floor of curtain walled cladding is a one acre open plan beaurolandchaft office, based upon analysis of workflow, the first in the UK and the biggest order for Herman Miller action office furniture at the time.

The office ceiling is a development of BDP’s coffered ceiling creating diffuse, glare free light and massive sound deadening, needed in open plan. Yellow cylindrical air inlet terminals by David Cowler. There ended up being so many duct penetrations in the fourteen foot beams that Harry Halsall, the structural engineer, had to prop them centre span. To create strong columns that could be lost in the window walls he used solid square section forged steel. No holds barred on this building’s cost. Executives suits of offices on the top floor with lavish bespoke joinery have recessed landscaped courtyards.

The building sits on a vast chasm that is storage for physical title documents the society had to keep. Its roof is a crash slab that can take the full weight of the building above collapsing. Large vertical robot arms travel the racks to retrieve the documents that get delivered to the office floor by a conveyor system. Office terminals designed by David Cowler who went on to design the iconic Samsonite Suitcase.

Nobody thought about the groundwater effect when the concrete basement was built. Without the weight of the building on it, it floated eleven inches. Luckily when the water was pumped out it settled back down precisely.

BDP Manchester’s golden years.

I arrived fresh from Uni just as it was finished.

Thanks to David for the inside information, here’s what it looks like on the outside.

Deneway Stockport Again

Here we are again then – having stopped to snap this July.

I’ve gone completely round the bend and over the hill – just by leaving my own abode, situated just below Deneway.

Early morning low light on wet roads, the mixed palette of brick simply glows.

Walls fleetingly adorned with shadows of birch and willow.

Redrock – Stockport

Much maligned, universally loathed – the Stockport leisure facility everyone loves to hate.

What’s the story?

No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light
.

1900

The area between Princes Street and Bridgefield Street was a tight warren of housing, shops and industry, eventually demolished in the 1970s, designated as slum clearance.

Prior to the arrival of the ring road the space remained undeveloped and turned over to car parking.

Little changes as the M60 is opened.

Images TS Parkinson –  Stockport Image Archive

So for over forty years the land lies pretty vacant, but far from pretty.

Until 2015 when planning permission is granted for the £45m Redrock leisure scheme, which includes a 10-screen cinema, restaurants and shops.

Councillor Patrick McAuley, the council’s executive member for economic development and regeneration, said:

This is a very exciting time for Stockport. Developments such as these help our ambition of putting Stockport on the map to bring more people to work, shop and socialise here. We have been keen to involve the public in plans for both developments, by holding various consultation exercises.

We look forward to an exciting few years improving Stockport’s offer.

So good bye to all this, the local authority is making serious progress, developing Stockport’s future, against a background of structural decline and the dominance of Manchester city centre.

The architects for the scheme are BDP – the building was not well received as it was awarded the Carbuncle of the Year 2018.

Judges were left unimpressed by the – awkward form, disjointed massing and superficial decoration, while readers called it an absolute monstrosity.

Though to be fair The Light has a house style that leans heavily towards the anonymous industrial shed.

Sittingbourne

The development has however become a commercial success – once inside customers seem more than happy with the facilities.

The people of Stockport have welcomed us with open arms since opening in 2017. We’ve now had over one million guests join us for everything from the latest blockbusters to opera, theatre and concerts.

It’s been that busy that we’ve just added two additional screens and now offer freshly made pizzas, burgers and sliders. We’ve got plenty more exciting additions up our sleeve for next year too!

Tom DeanBusiness Manager at The Light Cinema

Yet it continues to attract wave after wave of criticism on local Facebook groups, perhaps the former car parking area should be reinstated, or the Victorian slums rebuilt?

I went to take a look for myself during lockdown – see what you think.

Real attempts have been made to make the landscaping and street view amenable to pedestrians, it feels like an attractive and safe urban space.

The view from the north is less successful, the scale and decorative work looks over ostentatious and confused.

Look away if you wish, it won’t be here forever – and if you fancy something different try The Plaza or The Savoy.

Possibly see what’s playing at The Palladium.

That should keep everyone happy shouldn’t it?

Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

I don’t usually walk this way – so I walked this way.

I discovered the rear of building, a building formerly only known from the others side, when seen from Oxford Road.

Whilst making my way from The Gamecock to elsewhere, I serendipitously discovered the other other side.

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

This Building Design Partnership scheme pre-dates Wilson Womersley’s appointment as master planners for the Education Precinct but exists harmoniously with the later series of buildings. This is most likely due to the method of development before any ‘grand concept’. The incremental expansion of the University, following WWII, was largely dictated by the progress of compulsory purchase orders; this group was no exception. At the planning stages, the lack of a masterplan led to organising the wings of the buildings in an open, orthogonal arrangement. This would allow expansion in a number of directions, according to the next available site in ‘the dynamic situation’. The result was the creation of a small courtyard flanked by two five-storey blocks and a two-storey structure. All three buildings use the same pink-grey concrete. The plastic qualities of concrete were explored in both cladding and structural panels and the textural qualities exposed in the bush hammered columns, to reveal the Derbyshire gravel aggregate. The sculpted and moulded panels on the two-storey block and on the gable ends of the larger blocks were designed in collaboration with William Mitchell. The only other materials in the external envelope were the windows of variously clear and tinted glass. The window modules were set out against a basic geometry in three standard patterns and applied across the façade. This resulted in a clever interplay of vertical and horizontal expression. 

Mainstream Modern

Ellen Wilkinson was born into a poor though ambitious Manchester family and she embraced socialism at an early age. After graduating from the University of Manchester, she worked for a women’s suffrage organisation and later as a trade union officer. Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to political power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and supported the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government, she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. She made a connection with a young female member and activist Jennie Lee. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson became a prolific journalist and writer, before returning to parliament as Jarrow’s MP in 1935. She was a strong advocate for the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and made several visits to the battle zones.

During the Second World War, Wilkinson served in Churchill’s wartime coalition as a junior minister, mainly at the Ministry of Home Security where she worked under Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison’s attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party’s leader; nevertheless, when he formed his postwar government, Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time, her health was poor, a legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implementation of the wartime coalition’s 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. Much of her energy was applied to organising the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 15. During the exceptionally cold weather of early 1947, she succumbed to a bronchial disease, and died after an overdose of medication, which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Wikipedia

So here we are now – a significant building, named for a significant figure.

I wandered around, pale painted rectangular reliefs abutting darker rectangular reliefs. Strict window grids at a variety of heights. Warmer rounder rounded reliefs to the east, contrasting with their orthogonal cousins. A surprising courtyard contains a diminutive but charming concrete sculpture and an almost hidden exterior spiral stairway.

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.

Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park Manchester

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

American born, resident of Didsbury Manchester, sculptor and designer, responsible for, amongst other things, the BAFTA mask.

Mitzi_Cunliffe_Design

Her first large scale commission was two pieces for the Festival of Britain in 1951. One, known as Root Bodied Forth, shows figures emerging from a tree, and was displayed at the entrance of the Festival. The second, a pair of bronze handles in the form of hands, adorned the Regatta Restaurant. She created a similar piece, in the form of knots, in 1952 which remains at the School of Civic Design at Liverpool University, along with The Quickening in the rear courtyard.

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Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard. She used the technique to decorate buildings throughout the UK, but particularly in and around Manchester.

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Particularly this example of four modular panels named Cosmos, set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park, Fallowfield, Manchester.

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