An architecture and sculpture of purely abstract form through which to walk, in which to linger and on which to play, a free and anonymous monument which, because of it’s independence, can lift the activity and psychology of an urban housing community on to a universal plane.
The idea for the Apollo Pavilion was the culmination of Victor Pasmore’s involvement with the planning and design of the new town of Peterlee in County Durham which began in 1954 with his appointment by A.V. Williams, the General Manager, as a consultant architectural designer to the Corporation. The brief was to inject a new initiative into the new town’s design, which had been limited by practical and financial constraints. The early departure of Berthold Lubetkin from the original design team, and the limitations imposed by building on land subject to underground mining, had led to a deterioration in the quality of the architecture being produced at Peterlee.
At Peterlee Pasmore worked initially alongside architects Peter Daniel and Franc Dixon to develop the Sunny Blunts estate in the south-west area of the town, though by the time the Pavilion was built Dixon had left and the team included the more experienced Harry Durell, Colin Gardham and landscape architect David Thirkettle. Pasmore continued to be involved with Peterlee until 1978 and designed the Pavilion as a gift to the town.
It was restored in 2009 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant of £336,000. The restoration restored the south side stairway – the other had not been part of the original design, reset the cobbles in the surrounding area and reinstated the two murals on the north and south walls.
A metal gate restricting access at night time to the upper level has been introduced, and the original lighting scheme, out of action since the mid 1970s, has been reinstated.
I jumped the X9 bus and headed for Peterlee – walked the wide open streets in search of signs.
There were no signs.
I found it instead by chance and instinct.
Here it is.
Peterlee was to be the miners’ capital of the world and was named after the well-known miner and councillor Peter Lee.
Architect Berthold Lubetkin’s plans included everything from football pitches and tennis courts, to a rock-climbing centre and a zoo. However, to Berthold Lubetkin’s frustration, the National Coal Board opposed his plan and, after numerous failed attempts to agree on the siting of housing, Lubetkin quit the project in 1950. He later gave up architecture altogether and took up pig farming.
It remains a grand place to live it seems, tidy housing set in rolling greenery.
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.
Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.
Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.
A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.
Before I knew it I was in Blyth.
The town edged with military installations
Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.
827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.
The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.
Encountering a brand new factory.
And the remnants of the old power station.
Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.
After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.
UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.
The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.
By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
Pebbledashed over white brick. Roofs part concrete slab, part glazed behind parapet. Irregular plan, Modern Movement style. Group of blocks of varying height round tall central tower with rounded, glazed stair turret. Walls mainly sheer, with plinth and slight roof projection.
Long block on east of tower has central south projection with glazed, banded steel double door under high strip of windows beneath eaves overhang. Taller storeroom to west has similar doors in 2 recessed banded glazed bays; and abuts on south-east corner of tower. Similar double doors in base of tower. Large lower south-western canteen wing abuts on west side of tower and has banded glazing around two sides above a projecting sill. Slightly-projecting 3-bay office section to north has steel cross casements; on its return another casement and a door with hollow-chamfered jambs and flat hood. Taller bath block behind. Wave pattern on rainwater heads.
This is the youngest colliery in the neighbourhood, having commenced operations for the Ashington Coal Co Lt. in 1934. The shafts, which are situated comparatively near to the coast, are two in number, and both were sunk to the High Main seam level, which is 486 ft from the surface. The downcast No. 1 is 18 ft in diameter and is used for coal-raising on two shifts per day, and the upcast, which has a diameter of 15 ft, is used for ventilation and emergency man riding only.
The seams being worked are the High Main, the Diamond, the Main, and the Yard. Each of these seams shows practically the same nature of roof and floor as throughout the two neighbouring collieries and the distance between the seams is also comparable. They are, of course, found at slightly greater depths at Lynemouth, the Yard seam, for example, being 660 ft. below the surface near to the shafts, as compared with some 300 ft. at Ellington.
I have admired the work of Bernhard and Hilla Becher ever since seeing their photographs in the one and only Tate at the time, in old London town.
An early example, possibly twelve small black and white prints of pit head winding gear, assembled in a three by four grid.
I became intrigued by the notion of serial art and typology, later in the seventies working as a Systems printmaker.
Very much in the tradition of Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse.
In more recent years I have worked as a documentary photographer, at time paying homage to Bernhard and Hilla.
By placing several cooling towers side by side something happened, something like tonal music; you don’t see what makes the objects different until you bring them together, so subtle are their differences.
So on hearing of their exhibition at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, I excitedly booked my train ticket from Manchester.
Saturday 29th February 2020 – an auspicious Leap Year – knowingly taking a leap into the known unknown.
Braving the imminent threat of Storm Jorge.
I was given the warmest of welcomes by the gallery staff, spending a good while chatting to James, a fellow enthusiast.
My first surprise was the Bechers’ drawings, painting and notebooks.
Then onwards into two large, light spaces, with the work – actual Becher archive prints, displayed with the reverence that they deserve.
Given space to breath, in a calm contemplative area.
With a quiet attentive audience.
So here that are in situ – worth the wait, worth the train ticket, worth the two way seven hour rail trip. Seeing the prints close up reading the exposure, the thrill of the dodge and burn, a lifetime’s ambition realised.