Droylsden Library

Built in 1937 – very much in the civic style of the day, an inter-war classical moderne utilitarian low-rise in brick, steel, stone and concrete.

A three level, level headed essay in resolute local pride, when Droyslden was an independent UDC, prior to the creation of Tameside.

Furnished in the finest manner.

Computerised and digitised – the first library in Tameside to go live.

Home to local art displays and reading corners.

Droylsden Library Carnival entry – first prize winner in its category.

Closed on March 17th it now faces demolition.

Archive photos Tameside Image Archive

The rising cost of repairs, combined with ‘a desire to progress’ with the regeneration of Droylsden town centre and the inaccessibility of the library’s T shape, three-floor configuration means that a ‘solution for the future of the library’ is now needed, according to the town hall.

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Of note are its curved cantilevered concrete balconies, complete with attractive steel balustrades.

Along with its carved relief above the door.

Decorative grille.

Commemorative Communist plaque

Drainpipes

Architectural Type.

And handrail.

I sure will miss the Library – I have walked cycled and bused by for over fifty years.

You are to be replaced by housing and relocated to the new development next door.

St Cuthbert’s Miles Platting Manchester

Junction of Fir Road and Oldham Road

One fine day, I chanced to walk by just as the service was finishing.

I asked Assistant Curate Rev. Peter Scott if it would be possible to photograph the interior of the church, he kindly consented.

Here are the results, along with shots of the excitingly angular exterior.

The church’s exterior is home to a dramatic concrete relief.

Let’s take a look inside, complex volumes and multiple window-lighting points, along with simple decorative order.

Of particular note – the organ pipes located above the main entrance.

Once again I can’t thank Rev. Peter Scott enough for giving us access to this beautiful church, serving the parishioners of Miles Platting.

George’s Barbers – Manchester

7 Paton Street M1 2BA

I came here on February 25th 2014, arrived early the shop was still closed, I’ll pop back.

Walked around the block and found that true to his word, he had re-opened.

I explained my intentions, asking to spend some time in the salon, chat and take some snaps as he worked away.

He was more than happy to accommodate my needs, he worked, we chatted, I snapped. This was some seven years ago now, typically, I forgot to make any written notes. Suffice to say he had been there some 48 years finally retiring on Christmas Eve 2014.

As city centre Manchester changes for good or for bad, the likelihood of a neighbourhood barber appearing is negligible. It was a privilege to spend some time with George, one of many Cypriot immigrants who found work here between and after the wars, we were more than happy to welcome him here.

Let’s take a look around.

A companion to Marilyn and Sheila.

Marilyn Hair Salon – East Didsbury

12 Gawsworth Ave Manchester M20 5NF

This is not the first time that I have crossed the threshold of a hair salon – having done so first in Failsworth, keeping company with Sheila Gregory and her chatty clientele.

Both Sheila and Marilyn preserve something of the past, not just in fixtures and fittings, but also in something of an old world charm. A land of shampoos and sets, lacquer and curlers, conviviality and coffee cups.

On the day of our chance encounter here in East Didsbury, we are all experiencing the first week of Covid lockdown – the salon is ostensibly closed, yet Marilyn was kind enough to allow us a few socially distanced moments to stop, snap and chat.

She has been here since 1963, nothing and everything has changed. She had intended to retire some time ago, but on the death of her husband she decided to continue cutting and curling, three days a week, living above the shop, doing just enough.

The interior is largely as was, mirrored, Formica topped and charming – with a delightful reception seating area.

All so lovingly cared for – Marilyn was using the current closure to keep up with the upkeep, washing towels and sweeping up.

I worked as quickly as possible not wishing to compromise anyone’s well-being. As ever on these occasions it is a privilege to be permitted to spend time in someone else’s world, thanks ever so Marilyn.

let’s take a quick look around.

Fountains Café – Bradford

17 John St Bradford BD1 3JS

I first came here some twenty years ago or so and on each subsequent visit little seems to change.

The exterior signage and fascia remain intact.

The orange light shades are still hanging limp and bright from the suspended ceiling.

The furniture and scarlet carpet unmoved, as the cheery waiting staff weave merrily in, out and round about with meals and drinks.

The distinctive white relief sits in the same place on the wall.

Almost inevitably I order a mug of tea.

Along with a plate of eggs chips and peas.

Eat and drink the lot and leave happy and contented – who can resist a well run, well appointed classic café?

I can’t.

A well-known and respected figure in the Bradford business world, Mr Paul Georgiou ran Fountains Coffee House in John Street for just shy of 50 years alongside his wife Mary, and has run cafés and other businesses in the city for almost six decades.

Other ventures created by Mr Georgiou include the Hole in the Wall nightclub, which was one of the first underground nightclubs in the city centre. It hosted acts including Sir Tom Jones and rockers Thin Lizzy as they rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970.

Sadly he passed away in 2019.

His main business Fountains Coffee House is now managed by his son Michael, but when it opened it was one of the first businesses to open in the John Street Market, as the Oastler centre was known then.

Telegraph and Argus

Maxine Peake was a recent visitor – filming a sequence for the film Funny Cow, along with Alun Armstrong.

I pop in every time I hit town – often whilst hosting a Modernist Mooch.

So here they are my own observations, brews and grub from the last few years.

Do yourself a favour pop in, if and when you pass, you won’t be disappointed.

Coventry Cathedral

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.

Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.

© Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Coventry Cathderal

The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.

St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.

Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.

This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.

The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.

Study for the the seventy two foot high tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland – collection of The Herbert Art Gallery

The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed

Altar cross and crown of thorns by Geoffrey Clarke, large ceramic candlesticks by Hans Coper.

Chairs by Russell Hodgson and Leigh.

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.

A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows. 

Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer

Stained glass to aisle walls by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New.

At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel. 

This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.

The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar. 

Historic Coventry

The Avenue Methodist Church – Sale

Wincham Road Sale M33 4PL

Wandering Washway Road on a windy wash-day with local lad Bill Mather, I was lead down the Avenue in search of a Methodist Church.

I was ill-prepared to meet such a suburban ecclesiastical behemoth, a giant of a building – It opened in 1963, and was designed by Halliday and Agate.

My thanks to Matthew Steele of Sacred Suburbs for this information.

They were also responsible for the Ordsall Secondary School and designs for Battersea Power Station.

The Avenue Church is no less monumental – a steel, brick and glass octagon with attached single storey hall – set in a shimmering sea of grass and tarmacadam.

The interior is open and light illuminated on four sides by large plain glass windows, broken up by a vertically unchallenged grid.

Artificial lighting is provided by suspended groups of lamps.

The seating a mix of plain wooden pews and portable chairs.

The altar a simple statement of panels and cross.

Treat yourself to a walk down the Avenue – take a look around.

St James Coffee House – Burnley

124 St James’s Street Burnley Lancashire BB11 1NL

Having never ever been, I thought it time to go.

To Burnley.

Several trains from Stockport later, along the length of the East Lancs Line, I arrived at Burnley Manchester Road Station via the reinstated Todmorden Curve.

Having wandered aimlessly awhile, it was time for a spot to eat – and there it was a vision to behold before my very eyes.

St James Coffee House

We’re situated in the town centre on St James’ Street, just a little bit further down from DW Sports – the old JJB store and next to the entrance to the old Empire Theatre, when you get to the art gallery you’ve gone too far!

The menu had caught my eye – pie!

To get in and get some grub was my sole and urgent imperative.

A warm welcome awaited, and even warmer food, served with alacrity and aplomb – tasty homemade meat and potato pie, chips, peas and gravy. A soft light crust and mushiest mushy peas – a real delight, seen off in no time and all washed down with a piping hot mug of tea.

£4.40 all in – service with a smile, in cosy, comfortable, traditional café surroundings.

I’ll be back – go and treat y’self soon.

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Ringway – Manchester Airport

Expecting to fly?

Well not really, the first time I ever visited Ringway was by bike, aged eleven cycling from Ashton-under-Lyne along leafy Cheshire lanes for what seemed like an age. A gang of Lancashire brigands arriving in the departure lounge, with bike pumps and duffle bags.

In the Sixties, when flying was infrequent, the airport was seen as sleek, new, glamorous and exciting – quiet literally at the cutting edge of the Jet Age.

Modern.

You were or are there, destination somewhere else, far more exotic than suburban Wilmslow.

Manchester Ringway Airport started construction on 28th November 1935 and opened partly in June 1937 and completely on 25th June 1938, in Ringway parish north of Wilmslow.  In World War II, it was the location of RAF Ringway, and was important in the production and repair of military aircraft and training parachutists.

After World War II, it gradually expanded to its present size, including massive expansion of aprons, runways and car parking areas. Among the first expansions was car parking and service buildings north of Yewtree Lane.

From 1958 to late 1962, Terminal One was built: this was the first of the airport’s modern large terminals and the first major public building north of Yewtree Lane.

You were or are there, so why not tell the world – with a postcard.

Wish you were here?

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Let’s go there now, back in time, through the most magical Manchester Image Archive.

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Newcastle Civic Centre – Council Chamber

Within the exterior of architect George Kenyon’s distinguished civic drum sits the inner sanctum of the Council Chamber – my thanks to the delightful head of hospitality Debbie Harvey for providing me with the most erudite and educational tour.

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Outside the division bell, set against Danish slate, was originally to be found on the HMS Newcastle.

This silver bell is of the 10,000 ton cruiser HMS Newcastle presented to the ship by the Lord Mayor and citizens of Newcastle upon Tyne to mark her commissioning in 1937. Launched by the Duchess of Northumberland on the 23rd January 1936 at the Walker Naval Yard. In 1959 HMS Newcastle was towed from Portsmouth to Newport Monmouthshire to be broken up.

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The entrance padded with soft green leather the door clad in hand carved Cedar of Lebanon.

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We illuminated the illuminated sign and entered – what treasures await, leather and teak furniture by acclaimed Danish designer Arne Vodder, worth thousands and thousands of pounds. Fine Swedish marble and further Cedar of Lebanon acoustic cladding, each surface of the highest quality and chosen to enhance the sound properties of the space. The councillors seated once a month on 149 leather clad  seats with integral voting and microphone modules. A high grey, skylight lit domed ceiling.

This is work of the highest possible quality, a proud summation of Municipal Socialism, our friends in the North, matched with the imaginary world of the Man from Uncle.

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Margate – Batchelor’s Patisserie

Idly meandering through Cliftonville, along Northdown Road, I chanced upon the most delightful of cake shop windows. Being something of an aficionado of cakes, shops and windows it seemed like an ideal opportunity to snap away, with customary broad-smiling, wide-eyed enthusiasm. Furthermore why not go in? I was met with the most charming of receptions from the patron Stuart Turner and staff – not unreasonably inquisitive regarding my impromptu picture taking, I explained my particular interest in the patisserie. The interior of the 50’s bakery, shop and café is perfectly preserved, with a little sympathetic restorative work. Well upholstered and formica topped the furniture is the finest of its kind, each table graced with fresh flowers, condiments and loving care and attention. An exquisite array of breads, pastries and cakes, resting on delicate doilies, displayed in glass fronted cases. I encourage you to visit, take tea, take cake, take away the fondest of sweet memories.

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