Mottram Street Flats – Stockport

A post-war northern town, facing the problems of bomb damage, poor quality housing, and the pressing need for new homes.

In 1963 there seemed to be space and the will to build, the site at the centre of the image flanked by ageing Victorian terraces and industry.

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Soon to become the Mottram Street Development.

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Back in 1965 these were the highest housing tower blocks in Greater Manchester.

The work of borough architects John Rank and Clifford Fernley.

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1960’s Photographs from the Stockport Image Archive

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1980’s photographs from The Tower Block

Typically they incorporated concrete street furniture, sculptural and decorative detail, in keeping with the age.

Like many other developments of the period they have subsequently been clad, fenced, painted and secured beyond recognition.

There was a raised concrete play area, of which nothing has survived.

A little of their original character however has prevailed – a William Mitchellesque fallen obelisk, along with some panelling and planters.

Curious to see public art behind bars

– would that they were removed.

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Unity Hall – Wakefield

Wool, wool, wool I do declare – Westgate Wakefield the worse for wear, warehousing, banks and halls in a state of transition. The enormous wealth created by the local textile trade and associated industries, has left an architectural legacy that permeates the wide street, with a more than somewhat faded grandeur.

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Laying the Foundation Stone

The Co-operative Unity Hall has seen better days – opened in 1902 and offering extensive retail space, along with a concert and dance hall, echoing to the sound of silent films, all-in wrestling and a fine array of music.

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Sadly, as the post-war boom becomes an ever distant, sonic shadow of its former self, the hall closes. Listed yet unused, it stood aloof and alone, unloved. The Beat were on, sadly the beat no longer went on.

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Derelict Places 

Happily a corner has been turned and under new management:

Unity Works is a stunning grade II listed multi-use space, where modern meets state-of-the-art. Unity Works is a great space for work and play, from 1:1 meeting areas, to large conferences, office & work space, to live events, comedy, music, theatre and film screenings.

There’s something for everyone!

More than 400 people invested in a community share scheme to help fund the refurbishment, which began in January. Continuing the tradition of a movement in this architectural gem, which was established as the Wakefield Co-operative headquarters in 1867, a building alive with rich detailing, signage, architectural type and mosaic.

Get gone take a look, listen and dance.

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Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts – Liverpool

And so castles made of sand, 
Fall in the sea, eventually.

Once there was a battle here, several actually, and battles mean castles, possibly.

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Erected in the between 1232 and 1235, inevitably through the passage of time, blows were exchanged, the Banastre Rebellion of 1315, and later in 1689 Prince Rupert was battered by King Billy, and so on until it was eventually demolished in 1726. A series of churches ensued, finally to be supplanted by the arrival of an amusingly statuesque Queen Victoria, replete with plaque.

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In 1976 excavation of the south side of Castle Street was conducted before the construction of the Crown Courts building, which was built in the style of a castle.

What goes around comes around, ending up largely square in Derby Square.

And lo and so it came to pass, new law courts were erected upon the site begun in 1973, opened in 1984. Architects were Farmer and Dark, who were also responsible for the Fawley Power Station.

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And the Cornwallis Building at the University of Kent.

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I passed by there yet again last Saturday, still maintaining a restrained ambivalence regarding this monolithic concrete and sand pseudo-castle. Less than, and larger than the sum of its parts. The quirky detailing and awkward geometry, producing a somewhat confused, yet imposing scheme, an ossified pinkish ribbed construct from another age.

Mass – possibly without redemption.

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Coat of arms by Richard Kindersley

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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 Marks Broomhill – Sheffield

The church was originally built in 1868–1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. This building was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the “Sheffield Blitz” of 12 December 1940, only the spire and a porch survived (they are now Grade II listed structures). The remnants of the bombed church were used as the basis for a new church designed by George Pace and constructed 1958–1963. This new building is of a Modernist design but is also sympathetic to the Gothic spire and porch. It is a rubble-faced concrete building with striking slit windows of varying numbers and locations around the building. There are also two notable stained glass windows: the Te Deum window by Harry Stammers and the west window by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.

Wikipedia told me so.

Welcome to St Mark’s – an open, welcoming church for people from all walks of life who wish to learn more about Jesus and Christian faith and seek the freedom to ask the big questions. We have strong engagement with Christian communities and other faith traditions. People come from all over the country to participate in our Centre for Radical Christianity, where a lively climate of debate and learning can be found.
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Their website told me so.
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This a remarkable building staffed by remarkably welcoming people, it’s exterior betraying little of the wonders within. Divine stained glass, brut concrete structures, pale limed wood, sculptural forms – full of light and warmth.
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Pleasure Gardens – Battersea

So suddenly the war ended and all of a sudden the fun began, followed with indecent haste by a wholesale national lack of fun, no fun anywhere no how.

Well why not have a festival, a Festival of Britain!

The south bank of the Thames had once been home to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Why not put it there or thereabouts.

‘This was always a raucous place, but a temple of the muses too. Under the management of its gifted, quixotic master of ceremonies, Jonathan Tyers, it was perhaps the first public art gallery, hung with paintings by Hogarth and Hayman. The buildings – first Palladian then Gothic and exotic – were splendid and the music inspired. The Vauxhall season was unmissable. Royalty came regularly. Canaletto painted it, Casanova loitered under the trees, Leopold Mozart was astonished by the dazzling lights. The poor could manage an occasional treat. For everyone it was a fantasyland of wonder and pride.’

It was decided there and then, the government would enforce state funded fun!

Programmes were printed and works undertaken.

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Posters were pasted, let the fun begin in Battersea – and all the rest is history.

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Then just as suddenly the fun was all but blown away, by the chill wind of the incoming Tory Government.

Much to my surprise there are still remnants and  reminders to be found on the site, planting, fountains furniture and sculptural structures abound, restored in 2011 by Wandsworth Council – a timely reminder of a time when we were encouraged to have fun on the rates.

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