Strangeways Manchester #2

Way back in the Twentieth Century – Cheetwood Industrial Estate was built.

The future was functionalist flat-roofed, concrete, steel and brick boxes.

Adorned with the flowing scripts and signage of the multi-nationals, nationals and local companies, intent upon rendering corporeal the post-war optimism, attendant full-employment and the buoyant business of business.

Fast forward to the future – the roofs have been pitched up, the windows bricked up or shuttered or both, walls encased in sad cladding.

The semi-permanent signage replaced with terminally temporary vinyl.

Joe Sunlight’s neo-classical pediments have been painted a funny colour.

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Holy Rosary – Fitton Hill

The first mission in the Fitton Hill, a post-war housing estate, was due to the work of Fr Buckley, an assistant priest at St Patrick’s Oldham. He arranged for the purchase of land in the Fitton Hill area in 1940, before the new housing was built. Once the estate had begun to be developed, Fr Buckley said Mass in an upper room in Maple Mill. The foundation stone of Holy Rosary was laid by Bishop Marshall on 2 October 1954 and the church was officially opened by Mgr Cunningham in July 1955.  The presbytery was built in about 1970. The first campanile blew down and had to be rebuilt.  In 2009, the parishes of Holy Family and Holy Rosary were merged.

Taking Stock told me so and will tell you even more.

Architect: W and JB Ellis who were also responsible for Our Lady of The Assumption in Langley.

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I first passed by one sunny day in April 2016 – happily snapping the exterior of this ever so pleasingly prosaic Italianate brick building.

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Following a cue from pal Tim Rushton, I was alerted to the significant decorative work within.

The mosaic and fresco work of Georg Mayer-Marton – born in Hungary 1897, died in Liverpool 1960 was one of Britain’s very few experts in the art of face or facetted mosaic.

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Sadly the fresco is no longer visible – painted over with emulsion when thought to be too tatty – a tiny fragment has been revealed by conservators.

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There is currently a campaign to restore and preserve these important works.

The church is now closed, but we were ever so fortunate to have Bernard Madden on hand to open up and show us around, a warm welcoming space once full to overflowing.

Now sadly silent.

We all deserve better.

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Northmoor Road Co-op – Manchester

Cooperative Society shops and meeting hall. Dated 1912; altered. Red brick with liberal dressings of green and buff glazed terracotta, red tiled roof with geometrical patterned band and cockscomb ridge tiles. Rectangular plan. Edwardian Baroque style. Two storeys and attic, 11 bays; projected ground floor with dark green Ionic pilasters between the shops and a central recessed porch with dark green surround, light green Ionic columns and segmental open pediment ; inverted voluted brackets linking ground floor pilasters to alternate pedestals of 1st-floor colonnade, which has Ionic semi-columns with festoons and a thin cornice, all in matching light green terracotta; swagged frieze of buff terracotta with buff modillions to a green cornice; brick parapet with buff terracotta balustrades and triangular dormers in alternate bays, interrupted in the centre by a green segmental pediment with raised lettering “Beswick Cooperative Society LTD”. Tall segmental-headed windows at 1st floor including a canted bay in the centre with parapet lettered “Built AD 1912”, and coupled windows in the 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 11th bays, all with elaborate surrounds of buff terracotta including quoined jambs, moulded transoms and enriched keystones; and stained glass in the upper lights. Square Baroque-style turret at left gable.

Grade II Listed

The building itself was originally designed for commercial use with a department store on the ground floor boasting five departments including a butchers, shoes and boots, a drapery and a grocery. On the first floor there was a meeting room that was large enough to host dances with live music. Its inaugural event was an exhibition by the Co-operative Workers Society that also included a recital by the C.W.S. orchestra of Balloon Street; it was reported to have been a great success. It was also used for community events such as the Crowcroft Bowls Club prize-giving ceremony in 1914.

Northmoor Road was called North Road at the time the building was in use as a co-operative and was developed between 1899 and 1930’s. Its most famous resident was J.R.Tolkien who lived here between 1926 and 1947.

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1965 Manchester Local Image Collection

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Now home to Great Places Housing

This is such a substantial building exuding an opulent retail grandeur that easily leaves your local Tesco Local in the deep dark ignominious shade. From a time when the expanding Cooperative movement provide for most of the areas material needs – though the Beswick Society was disliked for its aggressive territorial ingress, outside of any recognised geographic constriction.

Externally it is still substantially as was – clearly visible from the nearby Stockport Road and continuing to command the street with degree of grace.

Go take a walk, take a look!

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St Michael and All Angels – Manchester

I’ve passed this way before, 2012 at the behest of Richard Hector Jones in the company of Owen Hatherley and others – recreating the legendary White Bus Tour.

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So have Historic England:

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Church. 1937, by N.F.Cachemaille-Day. Red brick in English bond with some stone dressings (roof concealed). Star-shaped plan formed by the diagonal intersection of two unequal squares, plus a wide rectangular narthex enclosing the west end. The main vessel is a lofty structure with plain walls, sill-band carried round, and plain parapet, except for the upper part of each side of the cardinal projections, which have windows in tall intersecting Romanesque arcading with Y-tracery, all in brick, with a central pilaster strip rising to a moulded cornice. Large plain cross rising from roof. The single-storey flat-roofed narthex has coupled plain rectangular doorways in the centre and 3 narrow rectangular lancets to each side. Interior (as reported 16.01.81): ingenious plan with lofty columns supporting flat ribbed roof. Forms group with Rectory attached to south side.

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So have Revolvy:

The Corporation of Manchester acquired the Wythenshawe Estate in 1926 and began laying out the garden suburb in 1930. It was eventually to have 25,000 houses and a population of 100,000. The garden suburb was designated part of the parish of Church of St Wilfrid, Northenden, but that small parish church proved insufficient to accommodate the rising congregation. A mission church was therefore opened in 1934, and in 1935 the diocese approved plans for the construction of a new parish church at Orton Road. The budget was £10,000. Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day was appointed as architect for both the church and the adjoining parsonage. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 8 May 1937, by the Bishop of Manchester. The builder was J. Clayton and Sons of Denton.

So has the redoubtable Nikolaus Pevsner:

A sensational church for its country and its day. The material is brick, bare in four of the corners, with large brick windows in the other four. The intersecting arches of the windows are the only period allusion.The interior has very thin exposed concrete piers and a flat ceiling. The church make sit clear that the architect had studied Continental experiments, the parsonage points to Germany and Mendelssohn. Stained glass by Geoffrey Webb.

Geoffrey Webb lived and worked in the centre of East Grinstead at the height of his career and is noted among enthusiasts of fine glass for his use of brilliant blues. In his early career he worked with Charles Eamer Kempe, the most prolific and best-known stained glass artist of his generation. Webb’s work can also be found in many other places around the UK including Manchester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, and in Daresbury parish church in Cheshire where he designed a memorial window in honour of Lewis Carroll.

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So I cycled by one almost sunny Sunday morning, engaged in the porch by an elderly joke telling gent, awaiting his more devout partner.

I love the bible, they all rode on motor bikes – “the roar of Moses’ Triumph is heard in the hills, Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.”

The Apostles were in one Accord. – Acts 5:12

We waited out the end of the morning service, exchanging gags, eventually I entered. Met by cheery parishioners and priest, welcomed with open arms, happy to chat and allow me to go about the business of snapping this enchanting building. Take yourself down there and bathe in the stained glass light from the sun drenched east windows, feel the warmth of the open elevating space, everything’s looking up:

A sensational church for its country and its day – today.

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St Luke The Physician – Manchester

Cycling around Wythenshawe one sunny day yesterday, in search of friends old and new, I found myself beside myself, beside St Luke’s.

1938-9 by Taylor and Young. Light brown brick in English garden wall bond (roof concealed). Modern functionalist style. Nave with west tower, north and south aisles with porches and side offices, short chancel. Rectangular tower to same width as nave, with short triangular buttresses flanking a square-headed doorway, plain wall except for very large geometrical-floral clock, parapet and very low set-back louvre stage with steeply-pitched hipped roof. Flat-roofed aisles have projected triangular west ends flanking tower, a projected porch at each end of north aisle and corresponding projected offices to south aisle, and very small star-shaped windows with pentagonal surrounds. Nave has 7 pairs of tall square-headed lancets. Short one-bay chancel has concrete cross in place of east window. Interior: basilican character, with low passage-aisles, chamfered piers terminating with lights, flat concrete-beamed ceiling; side-lit chancel with relief figures of angels. 

Grade II listed Historic England

Those are the facts – the fabulous thing is the clock, a playful lesson in geometry, surface and colour, and it keeps time as well.

Wythenshawe is awash with modern churches and this pale brick giant is hard to miss dominating the Brownley Road junction, built to serve the then ever expanding housing estate to the south west of Manchester.

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Brownley Road flats

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Manchester Image Archive

I love the playful touches which offset the monolithic volumes of St Luke’s – go ahead take a look inside:

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And out:

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St Catherine of Sienna – Sheffield

Sir Basil Spence 1958-62. . Brown brick. Roof not visible. Slate cladding to entrance block of parish hall. Rectangular nave sweeping around into a semicircular apsed sanctuary .

EXTERIOR: entrance to liturgical south-west and parish hall to liturgical west with vestry. Carved words “The Church of St Catherine” to left of recessed entrance. Tower linked to liturgical south-east, and comprising two convex slabs forming a sacristy at ground level and linked by concrete beams above. Patinated bronze sculptural group with crucified Christ affixed to its east side.

INTERIOR: aisleless with vertical slit windows to north and south walls and roof sloping upwards towards chancel, on laminated timbers beams, so that roof deck is separated from the walls by a narrow glazed strip. Light is thrown onto the east wall by a concealed window at the east end of the nave. Sanctuary is raised two shallow steps, and altar was originally raised on two further steps against the east wall. It has now been moved forward. Altar is a black painted metal framed table with a varnished timber top. Font of polished limestone with fossils is in the original position to liturgical south side of sanctuary. Timber lid with schematic metal dove. Large timber cross behind altar, comprising two pairs of overlapping beams, penetrated symbolically by large nails. Timber sedilia on metal supports. Laminated timber pews. Organ above entrance to sacristy . A strongly sculptural design with a powerful presence.

British Listed Buildings.

St Catherine Sienna is a fine church, sited impressively and standing imperiously on the Sheffield outer ring road, high above the city. Brick curves, a tall detached tower and open for business, serving the outlying post war housing estate of Woodthorpe with regular services and a firm foundation of community activity.

Lit delicately from side slatted windows and higher apertures, the main body is calm and assured, the scale and proportion in harmony with the simple Spence seating and slightly raised altar. The detail of the wooden roof grid perfectly balancing the warm austerity of the walls.

My thanks to Father Phillip for his time and a fine cup of tea.

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