Turnpike Centre – Leigh

The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.

Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.

The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.

All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.

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Helen Stalker has curated and promoted a series of fine exhibitions in the interim period – sadly arrested by current circumstances.

Let’s take a look around the exterior of a building which reflects the confidence and pride of a very individual town.

On our last visit we even got to look up on the roof.

So post lockdown, when you feel it’s safe and socially acceptable to do so travel to Leigh – take a look.

Leyland – St Mary’s Church

It never fails to surprise, turning the corner of a somewhat anonymous suburban street to find:

A building of outstanding importance for its architectural design, advanced liturgical planning and artistic quality of the fixtures and fittings.

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The Benedictines came to Leyland in 1845 and the first Church of St. Mary’s was built on Worden Lane in 1854. The Catholic population was small at this time, but had grown to around 500 by 1900. Growth was assisted by the industrial development of Leyland and after the Second World War the town was earmarked as the centre of a new town planned in central Lancashire. By the early 1960’s, the Catholic population was 5,000. Fr Edmund Fitzsimmons, parish priest from 1952, was a guiding force in the decision to build a large new church of advanced liturgical design, inspired by progressive continental church architecture of the mid 20th century.  The church was designed by Jerzy Faczynski of Weightman and Bullen. Cardinal Heenan blessed the foundation  stone  in  1962  and  the  new  church  was  completed  ready  for  its consecration and dedication by Archbishop Beck in April 1964.

Stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens.

Pink brick, reinforced concrete, copper covered roofs, zig-zag to main space and flat to aisle. Circular, aisled plan with projecting entrance and five projecting chapels.

Central altar. Entrance in large projecting porch with roof rising outwards and the roof slab cantilevered above the doors, its underside curving upward.

Large polychrome ceramic mural representing the Last Judgment by Adam Kossowski occupies the width of the porch above the two double- doored entrances.

Brick rotunda with projecting painted reinforced concrete chapels to left and right, of organic round-cornered form.

Folded radial roof above main space, leaning outwards to shelter triangular clerestory windows. Circular glazed light to centre of roof, its sides leaning outwards, culminating in a sculpted finial of copper or bronze.

Internally, sanctuary is floored in white marble, raised by a step, and the white marble altar is raised by three further steps.

Fixed curved timber benches are placed on slightly raked floor.

`Y’ shaped concrete aisle posts, designed to incorporate the Stations of the Cross, sculpted by Arthur Dooley.

Above these the exposed brick drum rises to the exposed, board-marked concrete folded roof. The aisle walls comprise thirty-six panels of abstract dalle-de-verre stained glass, totalling 233 feet in length, by Patrick Reyntiens, mostly in blues and greens. The theme is the first day of Creation. Suspended above the altar is the original ring-shaped light fixture, and also Adam Kossowski’s ceramic of Christ the King.

Further original light fittings are suspended above the congregation.

The font is placed in the narthex, in a shallow, marble-lined depression in the floor. It comprises a concrete cylinder with an inscribed bronze lid.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its rising roof slab, contains a green marble altar with in-built raking supports.

Behind it is a tapestry representing the Trinity, designed by the architect J. Faczynski.

Text from Taking Stock

Many thanks to Father John and the members of the congregation for the warm welcome that they extended to us on the day of our visit to their exceptional Grade II Listed church.

Birley Street Tower Blocks – Blackburn

One fine day – whilst walking back to and/or from happiness, in the general direction of Blackburn town centre, I happened to chance upon three towers.

Whilst not in any sense Tolkienesque – for me they held a certain mystique, wandering unclad amongst swathes of trees and grass.

Trinity, St Alban and St Michaels Courts – three thirteen storey towers each containing sixty one dwellings.

Three thirteen-storey slab blocks built as public housing using the Sectra industrialised building system. The blocks contain 183 dwellings in total, consisting of 72 one-bedroom flats and 111 two-bedroom flats. The blocks are of storiform construction clad with precast concrete panels. The panels are faced with exposed white Cornish aggregate. Spandrel panels set with black Shap granite aggregate are used under the gable kitchen windows. The blocks were designed by the Borough architect in association with Sydney Greenwood. Construction was approved by committee in 1966.

Pastscape

Built on Birley Street following extensive 1960’s slum clearance.

Providing an excellent backdrop for the passing parade.

Each entrance porch with a delightful concrete relief on the outer face.

On the reverse a tiled relief – sadly painted over.

They are well proportioned slabs set in ample open landscape dotted with mature trees – maintained to a high standard.

St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

Brownhill Dr Blackburn BB1 9BA

The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

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And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.

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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Brucciani’s – Morecambe

Brucciani – 217 Marine Rd Central, Morecambe LA4 4BU217

Built on the eve of war in 1939, the local paper feared that Brucciani’s might not be good for the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and that its presence could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk bar, Brucciani’s typifies the simple, geometric ‘high street deco’ styling popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling, a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass of Venetian canal scenes, mirrors, deco clocks and even the original penny-in-the-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms.

Classic cafés

I’ve been coming here for over ten years now, alone or in company, come rain or shine and without fail, as sure as ice is nice, I have a banana spilt – or to be more precise a Banana Royal.

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Jenny Steele 2015

This is a café with a café menu, café furniture, café staff and service.

It only ever wanted and wants to be a café, unchanged by the uncaring winds of vicissitude and fashion. To tread the turquoise and tan linoleum, ‘neath the period lighting fixtures and fittings, to be seated on the warm red leatherette, one elbow on the circular Formica table is to enter into into a pact with a perfect past.

It’s on the front you can’t miss it – overlooking the Sunset Bay.

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Indoor Market Preston – Epilogue

I’ve been here, before recording the prelude to the epilogue, here at Preston’s Indoor Market.

So on my return this February, I find that the inevitable end, is indeed now past nigh.

Boarded and shuttered awaiting demolition – Waiting for The Light to shine:

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Preston City Council has granted planning permission to Muse Developments’ £50m cinema-led leisure scheme in the city centre.

Muse is working in partnership with the council on the plans, made up of an 11-screen cinema operated by The Light, seven family restaurants, a 593-space multi-storey car park and public realm improvements.

The project forms part of the wider regeneration of the Markets Quarter which includes the full refurbishment and redecoration of the grade two-listed market canopies and the construction of a glazed Market Hall.

Preston to their credit have become an exemplar for inward urban regeneration, and the work undertaken so far in the market area is bringing new life and trade to the area.

That said, it is always saddening to see the architecture of the Sixties swept aside.

So come take one last wander through the concrete warren of ramps, underpasses and tunnels of the unwanted indoor market.

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St George’s Shopping Centre – Preston

Once upon a time the future was shop-shaped and utopian, the Modernist reliefs a welcome relief from post-war doom and gloom, public decorative art was off the ration for good, or so it seemed. Small retail units, housed small local operators, their shiny well-washed fascias, glowing with graphic pride and diversity, slab serif and decorative script the order of the day.

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Architects J Seymour Harris and Partners envisaged a brave new water-coloured open-aired world for the grey austerity-tinted folk of Preston.

And lo it came to pass and underpass – the future was here yesterday.

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Get off the bus on Fishergate and walk right on in.

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The shopping centre opened on 22 March 1966 as St George’s Shopping Centre.

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It was originally an open air centre, and was roofed over during refurbishment in 1981. It was further refurbished in 1999.

In May 2004, when The Mall Company took over the centre, they were greeted with an ageing shopping centre. The shopping centre was rebranded as The Mall, and a massive development scheme was planned. Small stalls, main shops, cafes, restaurants, toilets, and escalators were overhauled.

In March 2010, the shopping centre was acquired by Aviva Investors for £87 million. In September 2010, The Mall was rebranded under its original name St George’s Shopping Centre.

Wikipedia

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So welcome back to today – stripped of distinctive decoration, covered in and given the international sheen of absolutely nowhere at all.

In intemperate template for the future.

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Archival images from the Preston Digital Archive and Peter Reed.

 

Preston Indoor Market

Built in 1973 scheduled to be closed and demolished in ten days time.

The future is not so red rosey for yet another traditional local market.

A typically boxy arrangement of steel, concrete, asbestos glass and brick, the complex of trading units, stalls and parking is not without charm. Though as with many other developments of its type, it seems to be without friends, then inevitably without customers and traders.

Following a template originated at London’s Borough Market, developers and councils seem to favour the modern artisan over the proletarian . This concept when meshed with the multi-plex and chain restaurant/bar amalgam, provides a shiny new future, for the shiny new shape of all our retail and leisure needs.

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So ta-ta to another world of hats and socks, fruit and veg, workwear for workers.

You’ve just about time to pop in for a brew.

Two sugars, stirred not shaken.

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R.E & J. Parker Bakers – Leigh

I do have a particular penchant for pâtisserie – though close in spirit to their Euro equivalents, the vernacular bakers of the North are by comparison, sadly now a seldom seen, rare and precious breed.

My dad’s three sisters Alice, Jenny and Lydia all trained as confectioners, and he himself was a van man for Mother’s Pride. In my turn I worked as a van lad at their Old Trafford base.

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Flour, eggs, sugar and fat are in my blood.

In their way the growth of the mass-market bakers, along with the motor car and supermarket hegemony sealed the fate of the local bread, cake and pie shop, along with the demise of the associated skills and attendant early morning work patterns. When I visited Cochrane’s in Audenshaw, it was clear that their youngsters no longer wished to take on the family baking business. So the once unremarkable sight of remarkable rows of fancies, growlers and tarts, is now a thing of familiar folk memory, rather than a sweet and savoury reality.

On both of my visits to Leigh I have passed Parker’s – the windows warm from the freshly baked confectionery – including the almost unique Singing Lily – sweet double crust pies, a large circle of shortcrust pastry folded over dried fruit and rolled until the fruit is visible, sugared and baked.

Next time I’ll go in and try one or two treats – get it while you can.

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Sam’s Bar – Wigan

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Sam’s Bar – Orchard St, Wigan WN1 3SW.

Once there was The Ball and Boot – oval or round, no dubbin required.

A Tetley Walker pub on the edge of the then new Scholes Estate – seen here in 1987.

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Photograph Tower Block

This is the one and only photograph of its former black and white self.

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Though an internet search revealed a rich heritage of pool, football, fancy dress and trips to Lloret De Mar, for the lads and lasses of Lower Scholes.

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The pub now named Sam’s Bar, has retained its jolly jumble of modernist volumes and angles – though having lost the harlequin panels and off licence. Mid-morning the lights were on and the pub was surrounded by cars taking advantage of the £1.90 a day parking.

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The online reviews seem to divide opinion as to the quality of the current provision.

This pub is not a nice place to visit. If your not a regular you get leered at all night, the people and staff are absolutly terrible. You will wait at the bar all night waiting to get served, whilst all the regulars get their drinks. Then and only then will you get yours. You will see a fight at least once a night. Karaoke is only for those of us who are blessed with the ability to sing – they wont let you up again if not. This pub needs knocking down it’s a menace to society, out of 10 a big fat 0.

Solid, dependable and well-run. Friendly bar staff and regulars, local and national newspapers, rugby league memorabilia, jukebox, pool table, and very fair prices. Has been my local for years, ever since I got tired of the landlord turnover at the Cherries. I’ve never seen anyone refused a go at karaoke, including me, and I can’t sing, and rarely pick a song anyone likes. So you carry on spouting tripe, and I’ll carry on drinking at Sam’s Bar Scholes.

Beer in the evening.

You’ll have to swing by and judge for y’self – my own karaoke tune of choice as ever:

In The Ghetto.

 

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Wavertree Liverpool – Pathfinder

How does the modern world treat the past?

With a disdain bordering on a sociopathic destructive indifference it appears.

New Labour with an eye to rehouse the housed, tinned up hundreds of homes prior to demolition and redevelopment. They were and still are solid late Victorian terraces possibly in need of improvement – during the 1990’s, period housing stock was refurbished with central government funding, through a system of easily obtained grants. Improving the living conditions of many, maintaining the structures, and  supporting the local self-employed building trade.

So several years down the line, I visited the streets of Wavertree discussed in Owen Hatherley’s article of 2013.

Little or nothing has changed there are some tenanted houses, interspersed between the blanked out windows in sadly deserted streets, save the two camera shy free runners, who had lived and played in the area for some seven years.

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When one door closes another door closes.

If working-class areas are to defend themselves, they need confidence, both in themselves and in the places they live, otherwise the whole grim process will go on, with councils making the same mistakes and the same lives being destroyed, without interruption.

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Police Station – Blackpool

I’ve been here before, innocently snapping – without incident.

A super-large Roger Booth cop shop and courts, concrete combo.

So why not go back just one last time, prior to demolition and redevelopment.

So I did.

Following the acquisition and demolition of Progress House the Bonny Street Station is to be relocated, and the former site, under the ownership of Blackpool Council, set to become who knows what – who knows?

Progress House, Clifton Road, Marton.
Progress House, Clifton Road, Marton.

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The Council knows, it plans to develop a new site for the defunct Central Rail Station

A giant of the steam age that became a car park

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It is 50 years since Central Railway Station closed with the land being used for a car park ever since. It was proposed as the site for the super-casino until that bid failed to win government backing. Since then plans for an indoor snow-based attraction have also failed to make any progress.

Today happily, snow-based attractions are still failing to make any progress.

Blue skies and chill early March air greeted me, across the wind swept, precast concourses and piazzas – warmish grey, against brightish blue.

I simply didn’t expect the boy in blue – ten minutes of light/half hearted interrogation.

“Who, what, why, where are you?”

Responding in a clear concise and non-confrontational manner, I was free to go about my legal business, taking these pictures for you.

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Police Station – Morecambe

It seems that post-war Lancashire police stations are under threat, often the work of County Architect Roger Booth, and to my mind buildings of both interest and quality, they are nevertheless disappearing fast.

Wigan is now a smart new hotel, now cracks a noble heart good-night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest – in your merrily clad Premiere Inn.

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Blackpool and Bury are both to be demolished.

What is going on, are we running out of crime?

On the day of our visit to Morecambe, there was no obvious evidence of miscreants on the prowl, though appearances can be deceptive -consider this incident of  March 2008:

Morecambe Police Station was evacuated on Wednesday night after an elderly man took a suspicious package into the building. 

Police said the man brought the object into the reception, said it was suspicious and quickly left. 

Officers called the Bomb Disposal Team from Chester who said it was an ‘improvised device’. All houses near to the station in Thornton Road were evacuated and the area was cordoned off for two and a half hours. 

 The area was declared safe shortly before 8.30pm. 
 
Further research reveals:
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Though locals are also encouraged to use online services:

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The modern day cop shop faces an uncertain future it seems. So get out there toot sweet, take a look behave responsibly at all times and remember folks it’s not a crime to snap a Bobby or their place of work.

It is not illegal to take photographs or video footage in public places unless it is for criminal or terrorist purposes.

There will be places where you have access as a member of the public, but will have to ask permission or may be prevented altogether. These could include stately homes, museums, churches, shopping malls, railway stations and council or government buildings. You need to check the situation out on a case by case basis.

County Archives – Preston

The things that you see from a passing train, those things that arouse your curiosity.

Blackpool bound, to the left a horizontal slab on stilts.

Well, well.

Whatever could that be?

Well we shall see, shall we?

Some days later alighting at Preston Station, I hotfooted it hurriedly down the road to who knows where.

Peeping coyly from behind the surrounding trees, in the shadow of County Hall – the Lancashire Archives, yet more of Roger Booth’s handiwork.

A low stone clad block stood elegantly on slender supports, inside the courtyard, a grid of aluminium and glass, the people peeping out. The core of the building shrouded in a solid serrated brick screen.

It really is a treat.

Go see for yourself

The Lancashire Archives

Blackburn – Launderette

Wandering amiably down Whalley Old Road towards Blackburn one warm sunny day today, I came upon yet another launderette.

Somehow, somewhat frozen in time.

Front window cracked, but just about holding together, signage almost intact, machines formerly fully functioning – flagging, fluorescent tubes softly flickering, unguarded against the wood chip.

Patterned formica surfaces care worn and faded from use and abuse.

Washing done at home takes longer to dry (and costs you more).

You have been warned.

Wigan – The Springfield

Standing amongst a high density of housing, once homes to the thousands of mill workers that lived, loved, laughed and drank here, The Springfield prevails.

Built in 1903 by Heaton and Ralph for Oldfield Breweries it has retained much of its original character and features and is listed on CAMRA’s Historic Pub Interiors inventory.

http://www.heritagepubs.org.uk/pubs/historic-pub-interior-entry.asp?pubid=605

Having walked from the centre of town, following a full day of snapping this and that I was ready for a swift half of well kept Tetley’s Bitter. The staff were more than friendly and happy to assist me in recording this fine and welcoming hostelry. By day quiet and on the dark side, by night it comes to life. Large family and function rooms, a cards and doms tap room, pool and TV caters for customers of all ages and interests.

I have tried to capture the weight of sunlight as it falls softly, through the etched glass of the pub, a unique quality known only to the daytime drinker.

If you’re passing pop in.

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Wigan – Washeteria

I loved it.

In the United Kingdom known as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as laundromats or washeterias, and in Frimley too it would appear.

George Edward Penury created the word laundromat for Westinghouse.

According to NALI the National Association of the Launderette Industry, numbers peaked at 12,500 in the early 80s but have since dwindled to just 3,000.

The first UK launderette – alternative spelling: laundrette. was opened on May 9th 1949 in Queensway London.

In Wigan they never closed.

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Wigan – The Pagefield Hotel

Like many large Edwardian pubs The Pagefield is now closed, though of great social, architectural and historical importance, the economics of industrial decline and changing patterns of leisure almost always point to a change of use rather than reopening as a boozer.  Though more commonly becoming a Tesco or Sainsbury’s, plans have been submitted for both conversion to flats and a possible Indian Restaurant, neither seem imminent.

The building is blessed with etched and stained glass windows, a richness of architectural type, mosaic porch and a grandeur in scale and detailing. Once serving a high density of housing in the Springfield area, the mills that fuelled the economy of the area are now long gone, along with the wages that bounced over the bar.

It was named after the Pagefield iron rolling mills which were just down the road – thanks to Steven Buckley for the inside track, his great grandfathers worked at the mill.

Originally a Bolton based brewery Magee and Marshall owned the pub, passing to Greenall Whitley and then the usual succession of entrepreneurial pub companies.

“Magee Marshall & Company was a brewery that operated from the Crown Brewery in Bolton. It was founded by David Magee, a brewer and spirit merchant in 1853. He moved from the Good Samaritan Brewhouse to the Crown Hotel in the 1860s and built the Crown Brewery in Derby Street next to the hotel. After his death he was succeeded by his sons, who acquired David Marshall’s Grapes Brewery and the Horseshoe Brewery. The company was registered as Magee Marshall & Company Ltd. in 1888. The company acquired Henry Robinson’s Brewery in Wigan and Halliwell’s Alexandra Brewery. In 1959 it was acquired by Greenall and Whitley and closed in 1970.

The brewery, built around 1900, was in the “traditional brewery style” with a five-storey section for gravity processing and an ornamental tower. Up to the 1950s the company transported water, high in dissolved calcium carbonate content, in tankers by rail from Burton on Trent for the brewing process.”

 

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The original Pagefield

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