Organised by the Twentieth Century Society
Text by Eddy Rhead and David French.
Bolton Town Hall – 1873 was designed by William Hill of Leeds, with Bolton architect George Woodhouse.
The original building was extended in 1938 by Bradshaw Gass & Hope – hereafter BGH.
Le Mans Crescent by BGH 1932-9 well complements the Town Hall extension. Its neo-classical design is assured and confident. Pevsner remarked that:
There is, surprisingly enough, no tiredness, the panache is kept up.
Three arches pierce the Crescent’s centre but today they lead only to a potential development site. One end of the Crescent contains the Art Gallery and Library; the other used to house the former Police Headquarters and Magistrates’ Courts.
George Grenfell Baines, the founder of the Building Design Partnership, was involved in this project when he worked for BGH in the 1930s
The Octagon 1966-67 originally by Geoffrey Brooks, the borough architect, rebuilt 2018-2021. The hexagonal auditorium has apparently been retained. Pevsner states of the former building:
A welcome dose of honest Brutalism.
The Wellsprings successfully fitting with the Town Hall
The former 1931 Cooperative Society Store, on the Oxford Street corner, is by BGH. The entrance has Doric columns in deference to the Town Hall’s Corinthian ones – and Le Mans Crescent uses the Ionic for the same reason.
We pass Paderborn House 1968 -69 Sutton of Birmingham clad in moulded concrete, with Traverine around the entrance.
Former Lloyds Bank on Deangate corner, clad in white faience, looks BGH-ish but it’s not listed in the Lingards’ BGH monograph.
Across the way the unlisted Post Office – complete with listed phone boxes.
Whitakers 1907 by George Crowther.
Pastiche timber-framed with pepper-pot turret.
Incorporates genuine Tudor timbers from a demolished building nearby.
To the north of Deansgate, down Knowsley and Market Streets, is GT Robinson’s 1851-6 Market Hall. The interior is, according to Matthew Hyde: a lucid structure simply revealed.
He contrasts it with Market Place Centre 1980-88 by Chapman Taylor Partners: In that most ephemeral of styles, a jokey Postmodernism.
It does however echo Victoria Hall 1898-1900 BGH.
Chapman Taylor also did the 1980-8 Market Place Shopping Centre. The Market Hall was built over an impressive brick undercroft above the River Croal which has recently been opened up and is a destination.
At the Oxford Street corner, Slater Menswear, above Caffé Nero, has Art Deco white faience upper storeys. Further down is the imposing Marks & Spencer, faced in dark stone 1965-67.
The mansard roof was added later.
Along Market Street, Clinton Cards is clad in white faience with Art Deco window details.
At the corner of Bridge Street is a charming 1960s clock; the building would not look out of place in Coventry.
Other buildings of interest on Deansgate include Superdrug – with some Art Deco features; Greggs by Ernest Prestwich of Leigh who trained with WE Riley.
Sally Beauty and the Nationwide – entrance by William Owen of BGH.
The former Preston’s jewellers, on the corner of Bank Street, has terracotta, by Thomas Smith & Sons 1908-13, a prolific local firm. It had a time ball, on the clock tower, which was raised daily at 9am and dropped at 10am, on receipt of a telegraph signal from Greenwich.
The 1909 Bolton Cross, in Dartmoor granite, by BGH replaced an earlier one which is now kept at Bolton School. Churchgate contains the 1636 Ye Olde Man & Scythe; the former coaching inn Swan Hotel, reconstructed in the 1970s to look more genuinely Georgian and Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe 1667.
Stone Cross House 1991 was built for the Inland Revenue in an aggressively red brick and spiky style. It has a rather desperate chandelier in the foyer.
The gates of St Peter’s church EG Paley 1871 are framed by Travel House, Newspaper House -1998 and Churchgate House and Huntingdon House 1974.
St Peter’s has a Neo-Gothic font and cover by N Cachemaille-Day 1938. The gates and gate piers may look early C20 but they are late C18.
Samuel Crompton 1753-1827, the inventor of the mule, is buried under the large granite monument, erected in 1861.
At the corner of Silverwell and Institute Streets is WT Gunson & Son’s 1970 Friends Meeting House: decent with a light elevated roof corner. It has a tilted roof floating on the glazed upper walls.
Scott House has a charming 1926 plaque commemorating Sir James Scott and his wife Lady Anne. Scott started the Provincial Insurance Company.
The two storey offices of Fieldings and Porter are a successful piece of infill by BGH.
Nip around the back to get a glimpse of this cracking stairway.
Silverwell Street 1810 is named after the Silver Well. Bradshaw Gass & Hope now self-described as Construction Design Consultants, not architects, are at number 19. Note the plaque to JW Wallace, founder of the Eagle Street College, dedicated to the works of the American poet, Walt Whitman. Wallace worked there from 1867 to 1912. The plaque is ringed by a quote from Whitman:
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it.
Whitman corresponded with his Bolton admirers; the Museum contains early editions of his works and his stuffed canary.
Further down Silverwell Street is the 1903 Estate Office of the Earl of Bradford who still owns a large area of Bolton. At the end of Silverwell Street is the former Sun Alliance House, now converted to flats, the colourful panels are a later addition.
Bradshawgate and Silverwell lane corner has a former café bar with original curved Moderne windows. This was originally Vose’s tripe restaurant, later UCP – United Cattle Products. It was most stylish and elegant, decorated in 1930s streamline Moderne style, with starched white tablecloths, silver service and smart waitresses.
Nelson Square was opened on March 23, 1893. The cenotaph memorial to the Bolton Artillery is by Ormrod, Pomeroy & Foy 1920. Calder Marshall sculpted the statue of Samuel Crompton 1862. The shiny red former Prudential Assurance office 1889 isn’t by Waterhouse but by Ralph B. Maccoll of Bolton. Matthew Hyde in Pevsner describes the early C20 faience facades of Bradshawgate as:
A plateful of mushy pea, ginger nut, liver, tripe and blood orange shades.
Infirmary Street has a 1970s office block with an octagonal, nicely lettered plaque to WF Tillotson, newspaper publisher. Round the corner in Mawdsley Street, the former County Court 1869 TC Sorby, 1869. Opposite, at the corner, is GWBD Partnership’s 1987 St Andrew’s Court, containing a somewhat whimsical recreation of a Victorian shopping street in miniature. The job architect was J Holland. Matthew Hyde says:
Neatly contrived on a tight site.
Into Exchange Street and through the former Arndale Centre 1971; low and mean according to Pevsner 2004, now re-branded as Crompton Place 1989 Bradshaw, Rose & Harker and still dreary, we go to Victoria Square and the Town Hall. The classical building on the left is the former Bolton Exchange 1824-5 Richard Lane.
The square was pedestrianised in 1969, to the Planning Department’s designs, under RH Ogden. It was quite an early scheme which won three awards including one, unsurprisingly, from the Concrete Society. The fountains were designed by Geoffrey Brooks and the trees were planted by the Earl of Bradford.
Owen Hatherley in Modern Buildings in Britain says of the town
It feels as if you’re in a real city, like in Europe, and you can drink your cup of tea in repose while admiring the monuments.