Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Sheffield Streets

I had time to kill – in search of early Sunday morning visual thrills.

I took to the mean streets of Steeltown UK.

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

Raymond Chandler 

It was 8am – low bright sun pierced the achingly empty space between the long high industrial buildings.

There was nobody to share the morning – yet the clearly audible kling and klang of work pervaded the air, along with the lingering aroma of engine oil and decay.

This is what I found:

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Canyons of Industry – Sheffield

Obviously, stating the obvious in Comic Sans on a shocking pink ground may ease the pain of industrial decline and its attendant social and economic ills.

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Sheffield along with the majority of  British manufacturing towns and cities, has seen the wealth created by over a century of hard labour spirited elsewhere, and the means by which that wealth was created shipped overseas or overwritten by new technologies.

This has not been an accident or unfortunate consequence of global trends, it has been government policy.

It has not been government policy to regenerate these towns and cities.

So Sheffield has taken the initiative to become – The fastest growing British city outside London.

With areas of new and arresting development.

Though that may do little to redress the structural economic divides within the city.

 

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So I walked the avenues and alleyways of the Lower Don Valley, early on an October Sunday morning, mourning the passing of the clang and clamour that once fuelled the city and the nation.

An aroma of engine oil and the sound of metal on metal still permeates the area, and the low autumnal sun warms the long straight streets.

 

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Strangeways Manchester #1

Strangeways?

– How strange.

The Strangeways family themselves are certainly recorded in antiquity at the site, although the name appears differently over time; Strongways in 1306, Strangewayes in 1349 and Strangwishe in 1473. In the late 1500s in records at Manchester Cathedral the surname is spelt Strangwaies.

My thanks to Thomas McGrath for his – Long Lost Histories: Strangeways Hall, Manchester

Before panopticon prisons entered the public imagination, and incarceration was the order of the day for the disorderly, it was all fields around here – with the odd house or baronial hall.

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Swire’s map of 1824

Strange days, over time the prison is built, the assizes appears and disappears and tight groups of tired houses cluster around the incipient industry. The fiefdom’s of old become tie and tithe to successions of industrial plutocrats.

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Broughton Street 1910Photograph J Jackson

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Kelly’s map of 1920

The area becomes the centre of the city’s rag trade, a large Jewish Community, the largest outside of London, grows up around Strangeways, Cheetwood and Cheetham Hill – houses, mills, wholesale, retail, warehouse, ice palace, beer-house, brewery. The area is home to several of Joe Sunlight’s inter-war industrial developments – his Jewish family were named Schimschlavitch, his father a cotton merchant. The family emigrated to England in 1890 and settled in Manchester.

So much for Joe Soap – the area was also the location for local lads, Karl Marx, and Marks & Spencer.

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Derby Street 1901 – 1924

Further developments took place with the building of the Cheetwood Industrial Estate – a postwar group of flat-rooved, blocky brick and concrete utilitarian units.

So let’s take a look at the ever so strange streets of Strangeways, in that period of change during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, when manufacturing, retail, repair and distribution were almost, just about to disappear in a puff of globalisation, economic depression and Thatcherism. Where Jack and Jill the lads and lasses, traded, ducked, dived, wheeler dealed from Cortinas, Transits and low milage, one owner, luxuriously leather-seated and walnut-dashed Jags. A vanishing or vanished world, where however briefly – Manchester went architecturally mod.

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Bent Street

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Broughton Street

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Carnarvon Street

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Chatley Street

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Cheetwood Street

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Derby Street

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Julia Street

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Knowsely Street

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Sherbourne Street

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All archival photographs from the Manchester Local Images Collection

 

 

Holt Town Manchester – Part One

1785 Established by David Holt, and described as the only known example of a factory colony in Manchester, that is, an isolated mill complex with housing for the workers.

1794 Mills advertised for sale following the bankruptcy of David Holt and Company.

Things, as we know, have a tendency to come and go – ’twas ever thus.

A whole history of the area can be found here.

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River Medlock Holt Town

The area has seen a transition, in some two hundred year or more, from a leafy rural idyll, to smoke choked industrial hell and back again.

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Pollard Street

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive.

In 2014 I visited the site of the former Distillers Company, later Air Liquide UK, production had ceased. The factory was just about standing, litter and detritus strewn, unloved and unwanted, temporary home to the homeless.

The Industrial Revolution has been and gone – bye bye.

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There are plans for redevelopment, couched in the terms of the professional new-speak of the new urban renewalists.

The international design competition for Holt Town looked for a solution to the dilemma of providing a sustainable, distinctive, high density family-led residential community in close proximity of the Manchester regional centre.

Promising open green spaces and housing based on the traditional European perimeter block model, not a mention of a mill.

Possibly lasting a little longer than David Holt’s dream, and subsequent manifestations.

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