Tamara – Whaley Bridge

I’ve often cycled by here on occasion taking time to the a snap or two.

You seemed to be in decline, in need of care and attention. Stood amongst Peak vernacular and sub-Lutyens villas something of anomaly.

A diminutive Modernist house – a rose amongst the herbaceous borders.

Someone seems to have taken you in hand and work is underway, I just hope that they put your name back in place.

Tamara

Tamara is a female given name most commonly derived from the Biblical name Tamar, meaning date – the fruit, date palm or palm tree. In eastern European countries like Armenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine it has been a common name for centuries. In Australia it was very popular from the 1960s to 1990s. 

In the United States, the name was fairly common from the late 1950s to mid 1990s, bolstered by the popularity of the film Tammy and the Bachelor – Tammy is commonly a nickname for Tamara. In the US the most girls named Tamara were born in 1970 and the number of Tamaras born per year was greater than 1,000 as late as 1996.

The name is now fairly uncommon in the US: in 2010, the name fell off the Top 1000 SSA Baby Names list, with fewer than 250 baby girls named Tamara that year.

Hartshead Power Station – Offices

We have of course been here before, to see a concrete bus shelter and a derelict control room.

All that is solid melts into air as Marx and Marshall Berman told us.

Though remnants remain – this is a short journey through a hole in fence, down into the warren of power station offices past.

They have been stripped of their former use and meaning, transformed into a transitory art performance space, paint and plaster now peeling, appealing to the passing painter, partially reclaimed by nature.

Let’s tag along:

St Christopher RC – Ashton under Lyne

Lees Road Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 8BA

Architect: Francis A. Kerr 1955

A post-war design consisting of an upper church over a lower hall, the prominent campanile making it something of a local landmark. The portal frame construction, materials and design are standard for the time. The interior has been reordered but retains some original furnishings. 

A new post-war parish was created to serve the growing residential area in Hurst Cross, previously served from St Anne’s, Ashton. Fr Kelly built the new church, whose foundation stone was blessed by Bishop Marshall on 5 June 1954.  The first Mass was held on Easter Monday, 1955. 

The church is conventionally orientated with the sanctuary to the east. Less conventionally, it is a two-storey building, with a ground floor parish hall and a first floor church. The church is reached from Lees Road by a reinforced concrete bridge and steps. A brick campanile marks the southwest corner. The structure of the portal-framed building is expressed externally by raking brick buttresses to side elevations.  The west gable end is faced in aggregate panels with a concrete relief depicting St Christopher over a plain three-bay flat-roofed portico.  The aisles are faced in ceramic tiled panels to the upper level with render to the parish hall level. The nave is lit by three-light clerestory windows with smaller windows to the aisles. The shallow-pitched roof is laid with mineral felt.  A two-storey block containing a large sacristy connects to the contemporary presbytery.

Inside, the six-bay upper church has a plain west gallery above a narthex with glazed screen. The aisles have arcades of square brick piers and plain plastered walls. The clerestory windows are leaded with coloured glass margins. The ceiling is lined with acoustic panels and the concrete floor is laid with carpet or linoleum tiles. The reordered sanctuary retains the original polished concrete altar in a forward position; the 1950s altar rails and pulpit have been removed. The east wall is now hung with wallpaper, but was originally fair-faced brick; the Crucifix and painted timber high altar canopy are part of the original arrangement.  The side chapels also retain original 1950s polished concrete altars. The octagonal font with oak cover dates from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, of unknown provenance. The hardwood pews were designed for the church.

Taking Stock

I have known this church for some fifty years – living just up the road.

It was probably along with St Mary’s Denton my first experiences of Modern Architecture.

I went to the youth club in the social area beneath the church.

St Mary

It is typical of the Italianate styling of the time, a functional mix of glass brick and concrete, far from ostentatious – and sitting comfortably in its setting.

On the day of my visit the country is in lockdown, Mass suspended and the body of the church used as a homeless shelter, prior to rehousing – signs of the times.

Beanland House No 2 – Ashton under Lyne

Gambrel Bank Road Ashton under Lyne

I have been here before in 2015 en passant, snapped the homes chatted to a resident and off, she had informed me that they had been post-war experimental concrete homes.

I thought no more about it – but subsequently I did, returning to the road to take another look.

Here’s one I didn’t make earlier.

There are four semi detached homes constructed from concrete, rendered painted and clad over the years, windows replaced, additions and amendments made.

Though the basic design characteristics have been retained.

There are no local archival images or histories, I assume that they were post-war, an addition to the inter-war Smallshaw council estate.

In an area which in 1848 was given over to mining and agriculture.

I have subsequently learnt from an online contact Mr Sid Cat, that the homes are Beanland No 2.

They are listed on the BISF site – 102 were built.

More than this I cannot say – further searches for Beanland proving largely fruitless.

In addition there are also several semi detached houses of identical shape and proportion faced in brick – why?

Suffice to say here we are now and here they all are.

All Saints Church – Hale Barns

Hale Rd Hale Barns Altrincham WA15 8SP

As Hale Barns grew in the 1950s and 1960s it was clear that the small daughter church was less than adequate in terms of size and facilities, and under the leadership of the Rev Fred Cox, the then Vicar, a new church was planned for the site. Designed by Brian Brunskill, All Saints Church was consecrated in 1967.

Outside it can seem a rather stark building, of brown brick, set back from the busy Hale Road but inside it is full of light and space.  The influence has clearly been that of the French architect Le Corbusier, and there is a wonderful interplay of curved and straight walling.  At first there was no stained glass, but in the early 1980s glass by the Japanese artist Sumiko was installed in the north windows.  This includes a stylised tree-of-life design. In the baptistry there is some Victorian glass brought from St Mary’s Church.

In 2009 a radical and daring re-ordering of the building was completed. The church was carpeted and new furniture of high quality, designed and made by Treske, woodcarvers  of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, was installed.  The tree-of-life design in the 1980s glass has been echoed in the glass inserts to the Lectern and High Altar and also in the metal uprights of the Altar Rail.  All the fittings are moveable, giving a flexible space.  This flexibility give opportunities to explore how the building itself can enrich worship at different seasons of the Church’s year. 

All Saints

My first time in Hale Barns – hence my first visit to All Saints.

Small in scale, but large in ambition – a wonderful exercise in the calm controlled use of brick, rich in small details, along with an expressive mix of warm curves within a rigid grid.

Of particular note is the sculptural concrete bell tower, the exterior use of pebbles in the porch which flow into the interior space, along with a discrete palette of grey tiling.

It demands to be circumnavigated – fresh surprises await around each turn, simple hard landscaping of flags, softer restrained planting and open areas of lawn, so very well tended.

Let’s take a look around.

Here are some images of the reworked interior taken from the All Saints gallery.

Concrete Island – Stockport

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.

Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.

JG Ballard Concrete Island

I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.

Leading who knows where.

The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.

I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?

This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.

Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.

Further and further.

Into an underground world.

Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home. 

William C. Faulkner

William Mitchell – Collyhurst

It’s April 2020 and I’m here again.

Having been before and before and before.

It’s lockdown so we can’t go far, so from home in Stockport to Collyhurst is within my daily exercise allowance.

There is talk of relocation for the diminutive Mitchell totem, but as of today no sign of any action – all is in abeyance.

What we do see is the encroachment of flora, cleaner air, low or no level human activity encourages growth between the cracks.

And at the base of the plinth

I took the opportunity to get in close.

Move around in a merry dance.

Quite something to spend time in an ever changing urban space – devoid of company, save for the calming sound of birdsong and the distant rumble of a distant train.