The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.

The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.

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Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.

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The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.

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Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.

Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.

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It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.

The last time I came by you were still open for business.

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I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.

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I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.

Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.

And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.

This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.

Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.

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Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts – Liverpool

And so castles made of sand, 
Fall in the sea, eventually.

Once there was a battle here, several actually, and battles mean castles, possibly.

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Erected in the between 1232 and 1235, inevitably through the passage of time, blows were exchanged, the Banastre Rebellion of 1315, and later in 1689 Prince Rupert was battered by King Billy, and so on until it was eventually demolished in 1726. A series of churches ensued, finally to be supplanted by the arrival of an amusingly statuesque Queen Victoria, replete with plaque.

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In 1976 excavation of the south side of Castle Street was conducted before the construction of the Crown Courts building, which was built in the style of a castle.

What goes around comes around, ending up largely square in Derby Square.

And lo and so it came to pass, new law courts were erected upon the site begun in 1973, opened in 1984. Architects were Farmer and Dark, who were also responsible for the Fawley Power Station.

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And the Cornwallis Building at the University of Kent.

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I passed by there yet again last Saturday, still maintaining a restrained ambivalence regarding this monolithic concrete and sand pseudo-castle. Less than, and larger than the sum of its parts. The quirky detailing and awkward geometry, producing a somewhat confused, yet imposing scheme, an ossified pinkish ribbed construct from another age.

Mass – possibly without redemption.

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Coat of arms by Richard Kindersley

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William Mitchell – Liverpool

To wander the streets with a broad smile, open heart and eyes, is to enter into an unwritten contract with the unexpected and inexplicable.

Chance encounters with old, new or familiar friends.

Imagine my surprise, when for the first time ever I unexpectedly came upon these William Mitchell reliefs on Hope Street, whilst walking aimlessly away from Lime Street.

That sense of surprise has never diminished, my spirits lift and my smile broadens to a cheeky grin, my pace quickens in ever so eager anticipation as I approach.

Wrapped tightly around the low, low waist of the former Federation House – big, bossy and very, very beautiful – though at times obscured by more recent architectural intrusions.

Public Sculpture of Liverpool – Terry Cavanagh 1997

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The original raw concrete is now awash with washes of off-magnolia exterior emulsion.

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Hughes and Willet were seemingly less amazed or amused, the opinion of the Aztecs, or for that matter the Neo-Aztecs, is sadly not a matter of record.

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I remain impressed by the impressed concrete relief, a convincing addition to a sharp functional modern office block, all of which have not dated disastrously as soon as the fashion supporting it has collapsed.

Treat yourself take a walk, surprise yourself once in a while.

Aztec bars were withdrawn shortly after their launch in 1967.

The Aztec race was all but wiped out following their disastrous encounter in 1519 with the Conquistadors.

The William Mitchell reliefs prevail to this this day, as of last Sunday.

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Myrtle Gardens – Liverpool

Once again I wandered the warm and welcoming streets of Liverpool in search of houses.

Once again I found older housing, dressed up as newer housing with a new roof, windows and clientele, a stone’s throw from my former encounter in St Andrew’s Gardens.

Myrtle Gardens in Edge Hill was part of the larger project of Liverpool’s inter-war rehousing programme – a tale very well told by Municipal Dreams.

An area with a whole heap of history

And a whole heap more on this fine site The Liverpool Picture Book from whence these images were taken:

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There is also a  comprehensive visual history here in this clip:

Containing the poignant lost faces of the estate:

A familiar tale of bomb damage, decline and sale to private developers and here we are today, a mix of short student lets, newcomers and a handful of long term residents.

Eddie the porter – named Eddie Porter, a clear case of nominative determinism, proved the perfect host, I introduced myself as the man from the Manchester Modernists, doors opened and the conversation flowed like fine wine.

Tales of lads illicitly playing football in the roof voids, families leaving concrete structures in order to huddle in corrugated iron Anderson Shelters, A Hitler’s time in the ‘Pool and his resolve  save the Liver Building, bombs that did fall on the now missing blocks of flats, a family celebrating the return of their son killed in an air raid.

We parted and I strolled amongst the elevated homes some 300 flats, over 80 years old and continuing to provide shelter and succour for the many, though sadly no longer under the sheltering wing of the Municipal Housing Department and their team of engineers, architects and builders.

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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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The Bullring – Liverpool

I love walking around the Bullring, there are no bulls, just students.

What was once imagined as inter-war social housing, a proud public utopia for you and me, is now a temporary pied-à-terre for them and their owners.

Built in 1935 as part of the city’s expansion of council homes, a time and place very much in thrall, to the then current developments in German Modernism.

https://berlinheritagehousing.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/large-housing-estate-britz/

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It was one of many such developments across Liverpool, as outlined here:

in this detailed post by Municipal Dreams.

St Andrews Gardens, aka The Bullring is the sole survivor.

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In 1967 the residents turned out in force to celebrate the opening of the very close by Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

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Faces now faded, the lost warm, wide smiles and pretty paper flowers of post-war dreams.

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Captured here on film:

Go take a walk today through a past and a future which we all still deserve.

There is still the sense of a magical space and possibilities as yet unrealised

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Liverpool – The New Penny Farthing

89 Roe St – tucked into the side of the sprawling St John’s Centre car park and a cosily withdrawn corner of the Royal Court Theatre.

The New Penny Farthing.

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A name which instantly evokes arcane loose change and strange bicycles.

Each time as I pass I’m drawn in, yet never enter.

Amazed by the array of ever changing signage, happy hours abound.

It’s a happy house, we’re happy here.

A dark drinking den awaits within, the daytime drinker abides, imbibing.

Stay new.

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