Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.
Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council.
The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’.
On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.
The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.
Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.
The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.
Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.
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.
You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.
Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.
The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.
Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.
A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.
With an architectural heritage to match:
BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.
At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.
This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.
Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.
Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.
Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations. Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords. The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.
The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.
So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.
Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.
The third such public sculpture I have had the pleasure to visit following trips to Newcastle and the now defunct BHS in my hometown of Stockport.
Henry William Collins and Joyce Millicent Pallot have a very special place in my heart, their lives’ work together gracing the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Southampton, Gloucester, and Colchester. A distinctive style of bas relief in impressed concrete, ceramic terrazzo and simple modern motifs, drawn from local history and imagery.
We here in Stockport have our own BHS murals, happily so does Newcastle.
The work of acclaimed artists Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins, they worked on a large number of murals and exhibition designs for amongst others, Jamestown Festival, USA; Brussels Exhibition; Expo 70; Japan; Shell Centre; GPO Tower, London; Grosvenor House, London; Ind Coope Ltd; Philips Business Systems; Sainsburys; British Home Stores; Cwmbran Arts Trust; Essex County Council and IBM, London.
They never worked on the site itself, but used a regular contractor Hutton’s Builders Ltd Colchester, who cast the concrete in panels around four feet square. There are two relief panels, depicting events in the history of Newcastle. Highly stylised, the relief is moulded to a depth of 5cm and features some charming Geordie characters.
The left panel contains the following inscriptions and images Monkchester with Roman head and Newcastle coat of arms. Roman ship and golden coin. Collier Brig 1704-1880 with ship. Oceanus with anchor and seahorse with trident. The right panel contains the following inscriptions and images: Jupiter Fortuna with two figures. Engineering; Davy and Stephenson; coal mining ship building with images of same. G & R Stephenson; Armstrong Whitworth; Rocket 1829 with image of first steam engine. Armstrong 12 Pounder RA with image of gun. 1878 J.Swan Pons Aelius with bridges depicted below. Turbinia and image of ship. Various churches with names carved about including Grainger Dobson 1865; 1838 Green Stokoe; Bewick with a swan; a figure and Brigantia. Final section on far right has Geordie over two figures, then the Keel Row with a loading boat at the bottom.
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 last year, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
The mural illustrated the cover of the 1975 Newcastle Festival.