The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.
I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.
Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.
Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.
Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.
We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.
One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.
The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.
The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.
I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.
The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.
Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.
Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.
The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.
114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.
Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.
Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.
Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.
Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.
A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.
Before I knew it I was in Blyth.
The town edged with military installations
Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.
827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.
The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.
Encountering a brand new factory.
And the remnants of the old power station.
Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.
After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.
UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.
The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.
By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.
I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.
We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.
Though the pier appeared to be closed.
Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.
The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.
The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.
Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.
The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.
Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988.
The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.
On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.
On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity
Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.
Built of flint and rubble.
One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:
We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack. Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.
In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.
The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.
When the figures say crime is falling, why are we more frightened than ever? Could our towns and cities be creating fear and mistrust? More property is being built in Britain than at any time since the Second World War – but it’s owned by private corporations, designed for profit and watched over by CCTV. From the Docklands boom to cities such as Manchester, gated apartment developments, gleaming business districts and plazas have sprung up over the country.
Has this ‘regeneration’ really made our lives better?
I’m returning to the MMU Didsbury Campus, the site began life as a baronial deer park and estate, in 1740 the site was purchased by the Broome family, and a new house was constructed after 1785 by William Broome, from 1812 owned by Colonel Parker. Following a succession of uses and owners the School of Education is established.
I studied for a PGCE in Art there in 1984.
Subsequently, fun and fashionable free-market economics, have increasingly governed the management of education and its assets.
MMU sold the site for an undisclosed sum to the developers PJ Livesey.
This is Sandown House, formerly the administrative block, redeveloped as private homes, each valued at £675,000 and upwards.
St James Park is an exclusive collection of beautifully converted heritage buildings and individually designed luxury homes offering opulent living accommodation finished to an uncompromising specification. Beautifully styled and perfectly connected, this gated development is located moments away from the heart of Didsbury Village.
So why choose a gated community?
The fear of fear it would seem, is on the increase, whilst crime itself is decreasing.
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors says that although residents feel safer in gated communities, it is more of a perception than a reality. Research in the US suggests that gating may not deter criminals and initial studies in the UK suggest the same.
If they are allowed to develop unchecked, it will breed hostility and threaten the social cohesion of the UK’s cities, the surveyors warn.
Social exclusion, the bitter taste of economic apartheid is obviously the plat du jour here in St James Place – there is limited pedestrian access and secure gates to inhibit unwanted automotive ingress.
There is an exciting array of CCTV devices, encoded gates and doors, ever higher railings in evidence.
Security for the terminally insecure.
It is possible to live in an open environment in East Didsbury, here on Ford Lane folks come and go, hopefully interacting with friends, neighbours. family and strangers passing idly by.
Though this is one of the most affluent areas of Manchester, and happily one is unlikely to find oneself with an unemployed collier as a neighbour.
Community minded, demographically diverse cities, will produce safe, secure, healthy places to live.
There is no evidence that gated communities are in any way safer, in fact they may well be socially divisive – this is the never never land of smoked glass Range Rover windows and mirrored wardrobes.
Architectural critic Ian Nairn makes a convincing case for a socially mixed residential development, which still maintains a regard for the area’s heritage.
I visited Lillington Gardens Estate in August 2018 – now a mature development, where those residents I spoke with, seemed happy and content with their homes.
Sir John Bland 5th Baronet 1691 – 1743 of Kippax Park and Hulme Hall, was a British landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1713 to 1727.
His mother was Anne Mosley, daughter of Sir Edward Mosley of Hulme.
He retired from Parliament aged 35 and moved the focus of his local political activity from Yorkshire to Lancashire, where his mother had inherited Hulme Hall and the Lancashire estates which covered most of Manchester.
This is the celebration of privilege, power and property in pressed aluminium and print, saluting the progenitors of the Mosely Family, who once upon a time, were Manchester’s wealthiest landowners.
We live in an owned landscape where access is an issue.
Mr and Mrs Andrews would not the that little or nothing has changed since Gainsborough’s time.
Completed shortly after Mr. Andrews’ marriage to the daughter of a neighbouring gentry, a marriage that enhanced his estate, the image captures the unchanging power of property relations in pre-industrial England.
“They are not a couple in nature as Rousseau imagined nature,” John Berger comments. “They are landowners and their proprietary attitude to what surrounds them is visible in their stance and their expressions.”
The first thing I’d say is this is going to be an aspirational site within an aspirational area – PJ Livesey
So how did we get here?
Baroness Thatcher makes massive tax cuts for the wealthy, funded by North Sea Oil revenues, impoverishing the public purse, undervaluing the privatisation of public assets, encouraging the right to buy, yet inhibiting the building of social housing, hot housing the property owning democracy.
The term ‘property-owning democracy’ emerges from a discursive history of use. Coined by British MP Noel Skelton in 1920, the concept compounded the terms ‘property-owning’ and ‘democracy’ as a conservative response to left-leaning ideas of liberalism and socialism. At this stage, the term represented the necessity of protecting property rights from democratic organisation.
More recently stamp duty holidays, houses as speculative assets not homes, low interest rates, massive middle-class inheritances, deregulation in the financial sector, all fuel the upwardly mobile housing boom.
Whilst for the lower orders years and years of pay freezes, attacks upon trade unions, the continued decline in manufacturing, small state austerity, zero hour contracts, rent hikes, attacks on the unemployed, universal credit and indexed benefits, have all fuelled reduced social mobility.
Looks like we have a schism on our hands.
The UK became a much more equal nation during the post-war years. The data available shows that the share of income going to the top 10% of the population fell over the 40 years to 1979, from 34.6% in 1938 to 21% in 1979, while the share going to the bottom 10% rose slightly.
Since 1979 this process of narrowing inequality has reversed sharply, inequality rose considerably over the 1980s, reaching a peak in 1990.
Come, now, you rich men, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothing has become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted away, and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh. What you have stored up will be like a fire in the last days. Look! The wages you have withheld from the workers who harvested your fields keep crying out, and the cries for help of the reapers have reached the ears of Jehovah of armies. You have lived in luxury and for self-gratification on the earth. You have fattened your hearts on the day of slaughter.
St James Park is an exclusive collection of beautifully converted heritage buildings and individually designed luxury homes offering opulent living accommodation finished to an uncompromising specification. Beautifully styled and perfectly connected, this gated development is located moments away from the heart of Didsbury Village, where residents can enjoy an abundance of independent café bars, restaurants and boutiques, as well as Didsbury Park on the doorstep.
Alderman Moss bequeathed the house and gardens to the City of Manchester on his death in 1919 because he wanted the house and its contents to remain, as far as possible, intact “to show what a comfortable house of the olden times was like”.
Everything’s gone grey, in the aspirational race for the neutral high ground of individualism, they have painted you into a corner of dull, monochromatic conformity.
Welcome to the professional world of self interested, low-interest, the get rich quick deregulated go-getter.
Now get out.
I dreaded walking where there was no path And pressed with cautious tread the meadow swath And always turned to look with wary eye And always feared the owner coming by; Yet everything about where I had gone Appeared so beautiful I ventured on And when I gained the road where all are free I fancied every stranger frowned at me And every kinder look appeared to say “You’ve been on trespass in your walk today.” I’ve often thought, the day appeared so fine, How beautiful if such a place were mine; But, having naught, I never feel alone And cannot use another’s as my own.
This is a revamped version of my original post, I was contacted by residents, who had reservations concerning the photographs that I had taken of their homes, whilst on their private roads, without their permission, in contravention of current legislation.
I have replaced these with photographs taken from public roads and also from pictures found on the developer’s website.
Places are different: Subtopia is the annihilation of the difference by attempting to make one type of scenery standard for town, suburb, countryside and wild. So what has to be done is to maintain and intensify the difference between places. This is the basic principle of visual planning. It is also the end to which all the other branches of planning – sociology, traffic circulation, industry, housing hygiene – are means. They all attempt to make life more rewarding, more healthy, less pointlessly arduous.
Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.
Out east and passing alongside the running track.
Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.
Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.
The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.
We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.
Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.
People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.
A beautiful coastal town with a regency feel which is ideal for visitors of all ages. Sat in the middle of spectacular countryside Sidmouth is home to beautiful beaches, stylish eating places and great shopping, with everything from unusual gifts, designer clothing and lifestyle goods available.
The day of my visit the Folk Festival was in full swing – I encountered hardened drunken cider drinkers, drunk in the park and more tie-dyed clothing, than you would consider it humanly possible to produce.
With a hey nonny no I left town – up a very steep hill.
At the top of the hill, I unexpectedly came upon an observatory.
It is both a historical observatory and home to an active amateur astronomical society. It is a centre for amateur astronomy, meteorology, radio astronomy, and the promotion of science education.
The observatory is regularly open to the public, staffed entirely by volunteers, and each summer hosts the South West Astronomy Fair.
Norman Lockyer was a Victorian amateur astronomer, who discovered the element Helium in the Sun’s corona in 1868 and was one of the founders of the science journal Nature in 1869. He became the director of the Solar Physics Observatory at South Kensington and the first professor of astronomical physics in the Normal School of Science – now the Royal College of Science, in 1887, he was knighted in 1897.
Using one’s own skill and ingenuity it is entirely possible to deduce that one arrived at such an august hill top observatory – at exactly X o’clock!
We’re now on the road to Beer, more of which in a moment first we’re on the way to Branscombe.
Characteristic Saxon chiselling on stones hidden in the turret staircase suggest the probability of an earlier, 10th century, Church on the site. Saint Winifred’s is among the oldest and most architecturally significant parish churches of Devon. The 12th century square central tower is one of only four completely Norman towers in Devon.
The church contains a rare surviving example of wall painting, dated about 1450 and discovered in 1911, the couple in this fragment illustrate Lust.
Sadly much of our ecclesiastical art was removed, destroyed or over painted during the Reformation, exacerbated by Cromwell and a general disdain for pictures and such.
Lust was also to be removed, destroyed or over painted.
The reverence for royal succession was and is actively encouraged.
The beautiful picturesque village of Beer is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Devon. Surrounded by white chalk cliffs, the shingle beach is lined with fishing boats still bringing in their daily catches and is famous for its mackerel.
On the edge of the South West Coast Path, Beer has some of the most stunning coastal walks in the county, one of the best being from Seaton to Beer with dramatic views across the Jurassic Coastline. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, chose for its stunning view of the beach and village from the hillside.
A narrow lane leads to the bay, clogged with oversized Toytown motor cars, full of folk in search of something which they’re doing their level best to remove, destroy or over paint.
Toytown is home to Larry the Lamb,and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. Each day a misunderstanding, often arising from a device created by the inventor, Mr. Inventor, occurs which involves Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor.
Delightful home compromised by the curse of the ubiquitous uPVC.
Whether you are looking for interesting attractions, wanting to explore stunning natural landscapes, experience thrilling outdoor activities, or just wanting somewhere to stay, eat or shop, you’ll find it all in Seaton.
I found a pie shop and a pastie.
I found an ironmongers with a Stymie Bold Italic/Profil fascia.
Frequented by men who tend to adopt a combative stance when confronted with displays of ironmongery.
I found the road to Lyme Regis and the Regent Cinema.
The Regent Cinema opened on 11th October 1937 with Hugh Wakefield in The Limping Man. It was built for and was operated by an independent exhibitor.
Bristol based architect William Henry Watkins designed a splendid Art Deco style inside the cinema which has seating on a stadium plan, originally the seating capacity was for 560. It has a raised section at the rear, rather than an overhanging balcony. Lighting in the auditorium is of a ‘Holophane’ type, which changes colours on the ceiling. The proscenium opening is 35 feet wide. There was a cafe located on the first floor level.
In recent Years it has been operated by the independent Scott Cinemas chain. The Regent Cinema has been recently restored. From October 2000, English Heritage gave it a Grade II Listed building status.
2016 – Following the devastating fire at the Regent Cinema on Tuesday 22nd March, we can now confirm that the auditorium block of the Regent has been damaged beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt. Damage to front of house areas is largely cosmetic, and will be attended to as part of the wider build scheme. We have every intention to rebuild the cinema to its former glory.
2019 – The WTW-Scott Cinema group is still actively engaged in a potential rebuild scheme for the Lyme Regis cinema. We’re currently working on our fourth set of design proposals, from which we need to reach the point where the rebuild scheme is both financially and architecturally viable. At present, we have not consulted with local authorities as there is little point in wasting everybody’s time presenting a scheme design that isn’t viable. New build cinemas are architecturally very complicated, and the Lyme Regis venue being a listed building presents challenges to overcome, all of which add significantly to any build schedule. Once we have a viable, workable scheme, we look forward to working with the local authority and Historic England to progress this.
The remainder of my time in Lyme was spent desperately seeking a bed for the night, to no avail. Following multiple enquiries and dead end directions to no-go destinations, I headed out of town.
Bridport bound – where I chanced upon a Pub/B&B the magnificent Lord Nelson where the owners allowed me to store my bike in the ninepin bowling alley.
I sat in the beer garden at the Lord Nelson and boozed – chatting to a local lad that worked in the local brewery, brewing the local beer, that was served in this very same local pub.
Palmers Ales are brewed in one of Britain’s oldest and prettiest breweries and have been since 1794. The only thatched brewery in the UK, Palmers sits adjacent to the river Brit just a mile from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. All our fine ales are brewed using water from our own naturally rising spring.
Our Head Brewer uses only the finest Maris Otter malt and carefully selected whole leaf hops to produce ales in a way they have been made for generations. Palmers historic brewhouse has a traditional Mash Tun, an open top Copper, along with top fermentation, this is the way ale should be brewed.
I finished up somewhere else, sat outside chatting to someone else, about something else.
Get down for breakfast – I personally regret the untimely passing of fried bread and the appearance of the so-called hash brown.
Originally, the full name of the dish was hashed brown potatoes or hashed browned potatoes, of which the first known mention is by American food author Maria Parloa in her 1887 Kitchen Companion, where she describes the dish of hashed and browned potatoes as a fried mixture of cold boiled potatoes which is folded like an omelet before serving.
Years later we got them.
Thursday 30th July 2015 and the sun is a shining brightly on the Dart.
Get on the ferry!
We’re off again.
The Monkey Puzzle tree Araucaria araucana is one of the oldest trees in the business – of being a tree.
It is native to central and southern Chile, western Argentina, and a welcome visitor to the English Riviera.
The hardiest species in the conifer genus. Because of the prevalence of similar species in ancient prehistory, it is sometimes called a living fossil.
The refined white rectilinear box shaped houses of the genus Seaside Moderne, are an offspring of the International Style, to be found all over the globe.
The sea covers seventy percent and rising, of our planet.
Seaside shelters are ubiquitous along our coast and form a typology determined by a rich variety of wild and wonderful Municipal tastes – flat, broke, baroque, modern and functionalist, hardly two the same.
Electricity is a popular power source both locally, nationally and internationally.
Model villages originated in seventh century China, there is only one way around a model village.
Laundrettes may be on the way out but this gallant knight of the road continues to record them, both online and in print.
Here in Teignmouth a pier appears not uncommon on certain parts of the coast.
Teignmouth Grand Pier is a great day out for family and friends. There’s something for everyone – from big kids to little ones – it offers you all the traditional attractions and entertainment in the Great British spirit of the seaside.
Time to get on the ferry again Steve – crossing the Exe Estuary on the Starcross to Exmouth Ferry.
Bikes carried for a small additional charge.
No time for Bingo, reading the local paper or the amusements – time for a pint, in the form of two halves.
Then a wander back to the digs – see you all tomorrow.
Drew up a list of buildings, made plans – dream on.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.
However, whilst on my 2015 cycle tour of the south west coast I arrived almost accidentally yet serendipitously outside Babbacombe Model Village.
A good place to visit as dogs are welcome and this is important to us. The models were very cleverly designed and each one is recognisable and very funny anecdotes and labels. It was much bigger than it looked but flowed easily and was fun and charming to walk around. There is also a free mini crazy golf room which makes a change to not charge for something like this and a joy to see. I really enjoyed myself and it is all so well maintained you can feel the passion of the people creating it.
I went in – how could I have done otherwise?
Many of the buildings reflect the areas’ Seaside Moderne styles, from the holiday chalets to the substantial Modernist Villa, plus all the up to the minute services and infrastructure one would expect in a modern model village.
Although there is evidence in the local area of occupation since the Iron Age, it was still a small village until the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, and was connected with local towns and cities by a railway, and two piers were built. The growth continued until the second half of the 20th century, when tourism declined and some local industries closed. A regeneration programme is being undertaken with attractions including the Helicopter Museum, Weston Museum, and the Grand Pier. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. Cultural venues include The Playhouse, the Winter Gardens and the Blakehay Theatre.
I pushed my bike along the prom heading for my pre-booked digs in a stylish seafront hotel.
Past the Marine Causeway linking the shore to some kind of modern day Post Modern Shangri-La.
A mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, possibly not.
You can stroll onto Knightstone Island, where you will find some cafes serving light snacks and refreshments, or to the other side which takes you along the causeway, accessible to walk across according to the tides. At the other side of the Causeway you will find a small rocky beach with tidal rockpools ideal for exploring.
Just along the prom stands one of my all time favourite seaside shelters.
Even further along – what’s all this here then?
The foundation stone of the Birch-designed Birnbeck Pier was laid in 1864. It opened on 5th June 1867 and consisted of a 1040 foot cantilever construction to Birnbeck Island and a short jetty extending westwards from the island.
It seems to have changed hands several times in its relatively short life, including the stewardship of the infamous Urban Splash and the mysterious mystery owners, the current custodians it seems, have done little to secure a secure future.
It remains alone and untended, stretching aimlessly out to sea.
In April 2015, Friends Of The Old Pier Society created a novel fund raising scheme in which 1p and 2p coins would be lined up to stretch from the Grand Pier to Birnbeck Pier.
September 2019 Councillor Mr Crockford-Hawley said:
It’s this end of Weston which is the sore, it’s the carbuncle, it’s clearly well past its prime and it needs some serious attention. I mean it would be wonderful if somebody came along with an open ended bank account and said ‘yup, I’d love to restore it for the sake of restoring it’, but quite clearly there’s got to bean economic future for the pier, there’s got to be a purpose for the pier.
Possibly a wealthy Beatle could bail the ailing pier out of deep water?
Next thing I know I’m outside the imposing and impressive sounding Ocean Hotel. Sad to say on the day/night of my visit it wasn’t just this weary traveller that appeared to be over tired, happy to report the the New Ocean Hotel has been revamped and in tip-top condition by all accounts.
Any road up, let’s get out, take a walk up the road – have look at some local type.
Watney’s mythical Red Barrel.
Watney’s was the Evil Corporation which sought to crush plucky small brewers and impose its own terrible beer on the drinking public. It acquired and closed beloved local breweries, and it closed pubs, or ruined them with clumsy makeovers.
Its Red Barrel was particularly vile – a symbol of all that was wrong with industrial brewing and national brands pushed through cynical marketing campaigns.
Keeler Productions has taken over Locking Road Car Park, opposite Tesco, and The Regent Restaurant, in Regent Street, to film a BBC period series The Trial of Christine Keeler, based on the Profumo Affair in the 1960s.
Enough of all that period drama, let’s have a look at some period architecture.
Madeira Court – 67 flats built in 1988.
Weekly Social Activities include – coffee mornings, card evenings and occasional days out, organised by social club. New residents accepted from sixty years of age, both cats and dogs generally accepted.
Boulevard United Reformed Church – Waterloo Street
Architects Gordon W. Jackson and Partners 1959
Constructed on part of the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema, the Odeon Theatre was opened on 25th May 1935 with Jack Buchanan in Brewster’s Millions. Built as one of the original Odeon Theatres in the then emerging Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit, it was built on a prime corner street position in this sea-side town and was the first of several Odeon Theatre’s to be designed by architect Cecil T Howitt.
The Weston-super-Mare Odeon was built by C Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham on the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema. It opened on 25 May 1935, at which time it was described in the souvenir programme as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’.
A short walk along the prom snapping shelters and the sheltered – no two the same.
I then chanced to fall into a Beer Festival and bad company – the rest is a blur, see you all tomorrow there’s some cycling to be done.