Swansea Civic Centre

Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architect of the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982

Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.

Confused?

Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.

Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.

The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.

After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.

See, simple!

Wikipedia

However.

In 2019 it was reported that Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said:

As part of our city centre’s multi-million pound transformation, it remains our aim to vacate and demolish the civic centre.

We want to reinvigorate that area and we continue to make progress on a master plan for it.

Powell and Dobson think that this seems like a swell idea

Urban Splash seem to have a slightly vaguer vision.

In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.

Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.

I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.

Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:

Diolch yn fawr once again to Catrin Saran James for acting as my spirit guide.

Kardomah Café – Swansea

Morris Buildings 11 Portland St Swansea SA1 3DH

Welcome, at the Kardomah Cafe we have a long history of excellent service, great food and wonderful coffee. We are an independent, established, family run business of nearly 50 years. Traditional values are important to us and have helped us create a warm and friendly atmosphere, which is seen by many of our customers as an important part of their lives, a place to meet their friends, whilst enjoying quality food and drink.

The company that created the Kardomah brand began in Pudsey Street, Liverpool in 1844 as the Vey Brothers teadealers and grocers. In 1868 the business was acquired by the newly created Liverpool China and India Tea Company, and a series of brand names was created beginning with Mikado. The Kardomah brand of tea was first served at the Liverpool colonial exhibition of 1887, and the brand was later applied to a range of teas, coffees and coffee houses. The parent company was renamed Kardomah Limited in 1938. The brand was acquired by the Forte Group in 1962, sold to Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo in 1971, and became part of Premier Brands some time between 1980 and 1997. The brand still exists, selling items such as instant coffee and coffee whitener.

The Kardomah Cafés in London and Manchester were designed by Sir Misha Black between 1936 and 1950.

Manchester
LondonRibapix

The original Swansea branch was at 232 High St, and known as ‘The Kardomah Exhibition Cafe & Tea Rooms’, moving to the Castle Street in 1908.

Castle Street

The Castle Street cafe was the meeting place of The Kardomah Gang, which included Dylan Thomas, and was built on the site of the former Congregational Chapel where Thomas’s parents were married in 1903. The cafe was bombed during WW2 and was later replaced by the present Kardomah Coffee Shop Restaurant in Portland Street.

Wikipedia

An in-depth history is available here.

I’d never had the pleasure of visiting a Kardomah before, imagine my delight when I was directed there by local artist, activist and archivist Catrin Saran James, during our delightful Swansea Moderne tour!

Following an extensive walk from one end of town to the other, I returned there for a late midday bite to eat and a sit down – it looked a little like this:

Many thanks to the staff and customers for putting up with me wandering around for a while with my camera, whilst they worked and ate.

Diolch yn fawr.

Concrete Relief – Swansea

Central Clinic 21 Orchard Street Swansea SA1 5AT

Whisking you back in time!

To 2015 when local artist and archivist Catrin Saran James is undertaking a little reverse vandalism by way of guerrilla restoration or adfer gerila if you will.

Leading to a full scale cleaning of the Harry Everington 1969 concrete mural adorning the Central Clinic.

It was under Harry’s guidance that students from the Swansea College of Art produced the mural which was put on the building’s exterior back in 1969.

It was fantastic to have had an email from the ABMU Health Board earlier this year.
Martin Thomas who leads the ABMU Heritage Team contacted me as he was researching what public art the health board owned.

Martin came across my Guerrilla Restoration work and the previous work I’d done in highlighting cleaning samples of Harry Everington’s 1969 abstract concrete sculptural mural over the last 5 years.

Taken from the ABMU Heritage blog, here’s what Martin said of the project:

When we started this group we carried out a scoping exercise to see what historical artefacts the health board owned and this mural came up.

When I did more research I found out about Catrin’s project and we thought it would be a good idea to help finish what she had started.

We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to clean a very neglected sculpture.

Catrinsaranjames.com

Subsequently her gallant restoration endeavours made headline news in Wales Online.

Fast forward to Wednesday May 11th 2022 – I am aboard the Transport for Wales train, Swansea bound!

Catrin had kindly forwarded me a clear and comprehensive guide to Swansea’s Modernist architecture.

Characteristically, I promptly got lost, fortunately we had arranged to meet at the National Waterfront Museum – which was clearly signposted. Following a chat and a cuppa we swanned off, visiting the Civic Centre and a lovely array of post-war retail outlets.

We parted and I went on my merry way – I can’t thank you enough for your company and erudition Catrin, diolch yn fawr.

Eventually I arrived at the Clinic, I feel that the best time to visit a medical centre is when you are fighting fit, with an overwhelming interest in cast concrete, rather than plaster casts.

Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

St Alkmund’s Church – Derby

40 Kedleston Rd Darley Abbey Derby DE22 1GU

The burghers of Derby required room for a ring road – but St Alkmund stood in the way, so he was CPOd and sent elsewhere.

Looking for Mr Wright.

When the Victorian church was demolished, traces of several earlier churches were revealed, stretching back to the 9th century. Artefacts found included the stone sarcophagus of Alkmund of Derby, now in Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Photos: John Mackay 1967

Derby Telegraph

Given a fairly generous budget the Diocese decided upon a modern design solution, in order to solve the pressing problem of their missing church.

Local architects Naylor Sale and Widdows were commissioned to resolve this omission.

Construction began in 1967 completed in 1972.

The exterior boasts a static space rocket spire – which was lowered into position using not one but two helicopters.

Along with a delightful Festival of Britain style clock.

To the right of the front elevation is an extensive Dalle de Verre wall.

The entrance a light as air glass and aluminium construction.

Paired with a gently curving brick mass.

The main body of the church is deceptively capacious.

The wall of glass suitably illuminating.

The original lighting has been retained, though the former cork floor has been carpeted and the original pews replaced by portable seating.

There is a side chapel incorporating stained glass from the original church.

Thank you so much to Alex and Tony for granting us access to this stunning church.

Civic Centre – East Kilbride

I walked from St Bride’s Church, through a valley to East Kilbride Civic Centre

Commissioned by the burgh of East Kilbride, was designed by Scott Fraser & Browning, built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts and completed in 1966.

Accommodating Ballerup Hall.

Ballerup Hall is located within East Kilbride Civic Centre and takes its name from its twin town Ballerup, which is near Copenhagen in Denmark. The hall comprises a main hall with stage, kitchen facilities and a bar servery. The adjoining district court room is available after office hours for a limited range of activities.

SLL&C

The stars of British Championship Wrestling return to East Kilbride with a star-studded line up including The Cowboy James Storm and all your favourite BCW Superstars!

I missed the missing link twixt Roddy Frame and the Civic Centre.

If you were lucky enough to catch the 2013 concerts in which Frame marked the 30th anniversary of High Land Hard Rain by playing Aztec Camera’s seminal debut album live, you’ll already have seen Anne’s pictures. Before getting to High Land Hard Rain itself in those shows, Frame treated audiences to a rare set drawn from what he termed his East Kilbride period – the songs he was writing as a teenager that would appear on Aztec Camera’s two Postcard singles, and form the basis of the band’s legendarily unreleased Postcard album, Green Jacket Grey.

While he played those tunes, huge, striking black and white images of his old hometown appeared as a backdrop behind him, setting exactly the right fragile, retro-future new town mood of post-industrial Fahrenheit 451 urban development.

Glasgow Music City

There are plans for redevelopment:

A strategic masterplan for East Kilbride town centre which could see a new purpose-built civic facility is to be put before the council next month.

Last March we told how radical new plans could see the crumbling Civic Centre replaced with – a new front door to East Kilbride.

Despite there being no specific proposals agreed at this stage, South Lanarkshire Council has confirmed that agents of the owners are set to present their strategic masterplan to elected members in February.

Daily Record

It currently sits by the shopping centre and a patch of empty ground.

Several imposing interlocking volumes, formed by pre-cast concrete panels.

East Kilbride was the first new town built in Scotland in 1947. New Town designation was a pragmatic attempt to soak up some of the population from an overcrowded and war ravaged Glasgow. Its design was indeed an anathema to the chaotic and sprawling Glasgow: clean straight lines, modern accessible public spaces; and footways, bridges and underpasses built with the pedestrian in mind. It was designed as a self contained community — with industry, shops, recreation facilities and accommodation all within a planned geographic area.

Medium

On a quiet Saturday morning in April, approaching through an underpass or two, I arrived at the shopping centre.

Then circumnavigated the Civic Centre.

The cost of getting married in East Kilbride will rise by up to 39 per cent.

Couples currently pay £217 for a council official to carry out their service on a Saturday – this will increase to £250.

On Fridays, the next most popular day, the cost will rise to £120 from £87.50.

Getting married Monday to Thursday still represents the best value, but the rise from £72 to £100 represents the highest in percentage terms.

Daily Record

The Pyramid at Anderston – Glasgow

759 Argyle Street Glasgow G3 8DS

Architects: Honeyman, Jack & Robertson

I was walking along St Vincent Street one rainy day.

From the corner of my left eye, I espied a pyramid.

Curious, I took a turn, neither funny nor for the worse, the better to take a closer look.

Following a promotion within the Church of Scotland to construct less hierarchical church buildings in the 1950s, an open-plan Modern design with Brutalist traits, was adapted for the new Anderson Parish Church. The building consists of a 2-storey square-plan church with prominent pyramidal roof, with over 20 rooms. The foundation stone was laid in 1966, with a service of commemoration in the now demolished St Mark’s-Lancefield Church. The building was completed in 1968.

Let’s take a look around outside.

Later that same day, I got a message from my friend Kate to visit her at the centre.

She is charged with co-ordinating a variety of activities at The Pyramid.

In 2019 the Church of Scotland sold the building and it became a community centre for people to:

Connect, create and celebrate.

It also serves as an inspirational space for music, performances, conferences and events.

Let’s take a look around inside.

As a footnote the recent STV Studios produced series SCREW was filmed here!

Adam Smith Building – Glasgow

Architects: David Harvey, Alex Scott & Associates – 1967

The Adam Smith Building, named in honour of the moral philosopher and political economist, Adam Smith, was formally opened on 2 November 1967 by Sydney George Checkland, Professor of Economic History from 1957 to 1982. The building was the first of the University’s multipurpose blocks housing a large number of departments, and a library for Political Economy, Social and Economic Research, Economic History, Political and Social Theory and Institutions, Management Studies, Psychology, Social Psychology, Accountancy, Citizenship, Anthropology, Criminology, Industrial Relations, and the School of Social Study. A records store was provided beneath the Library for the Economic History department to house their rapidly growing collection of business records from the vanishing Clyde shipyards and heavy engineering workshops, which now form part of the Scottish Business Archive held at University of Glasgow Archive Services.

Archives Hub

Eastern Elevation 1973
Southern Elevation 1978

Wandering almost aimlessly around the campus, when the blue mosaic caught my eye.

The glass stairwell drew me in further.

Entering the building I explained myself to the passing janitor:

I’m intrigued by the stairways of 1960s civic buildings.

There are two – he helpfully replied.

Further intrigued I took a good look around – first up one.

Reaching the top and discovering the Lecture Theatre.

Then down the other.

The mosaic mural at the foot of the main staircase was the work of George Garson, the head of the Mural Design and Stained Glass department at the Glasgow School of Art.

A quick look around the outside and then on my way.

Cumbernauld Housing

Sunday morning in Glasgow, I caught the first train out from Queen Street Station.

In October 2017, a £120 million project began on bringing the station up to modern standards, demolishing many of the 1960s buildings and replacing them with a new station concourse, which was completed in 2021.

I arrived in Cumbernauld and walked toward the Central Way and back again.

Cumbernauld was designated as a new town in December 1955, part of a plan, under the New Towns Act 1946, to move 550,000 people out of Glasgow and into new towns to solve the city’s overcrowding. Construction of its town centre began under contractors Duncan Logan, chief architect Leslie Hugh Wilson and architect Geoffrey Copcutt – until 1962 and 1963, and later Dudley Roberts Leaker, Philip Aitken and Neil Dadge.

Wikipedia

This is the housing that I saw.

St Bride’s RC Church – East Kilbride

Whitemoss Ave East Kilbride Glasgow G74 1NN

Architects: Gillespie Kidd & Coia 1957-1964

Designed by Professors Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein.

Grade A listed 1994 RIBA Bronze Medal

Should you so wish – jump the train from Glasgow Central, unless you’re already here/there.

Walk up West Mains Road, alone on a hill standing perfectly still sits St Bride’s, you can’t miss it.

The biggest extant example of Bricktalism, the most Bricktalist building in the world, possibly.

Stallan-Brand design director Paul Stallan commented:

St Bride’s for me is the most important modernist buildings of the period. The church made from Victorian sewer bricks and concrete is both simple and complex. The architecture continues to be a key reference for students of architecture from across the world interested in modernism and the contemporary vernacular in context. Andy and Isi’s work is as important to Scotland as Alvar Aalto’s work is to the Finnish.

Urban Realm

The bell tower was removed in 1983 due to extensive damage to the brickwork.

Image: Postwar Concrete

Image: Gillespie Kidd & Coia Archive at the The Glasgow School of Art.

It’s a traditional Scottish stone detail I saw for myself as a boy growing up in the Highlands, on every castle and fortified house, and on the flanks of the tower at Muckrach, ancient seat of the Grants of Rothiemurchus, built in 1598. This was my local castle just a mile from home.

The entrance to St Bride’s, I like to imagine, comes from a friendship that included travel in the Scottish Highlands, admiring the Scottish vernacular close-up, of a fevered conversation about a simple concept – the massive blind box, and how the application of simple, semi-traditional material detailing can make it all the richer.

St Bride’s is simply one of the finest buildings in Scotland.

Chris Boyce design director at CJCT Studios

Get your skates on it’s almost ten o’clock, Saturday Mass is about to start, take a seat.

Many thanks to Fr. Rafal Sobieszuk and the congregation for their warm welcome.

Sadly I was unable to reach these dizzy heights.

Happily the exterior is open and easily accessible, though care should be taken when zig zagging carelessly across West Mains Road.

Historically this is my very first Scot’s post, more to follow, I’m away to the Civic Centre.

IRK VALLEY #TWO

Having walked and cycled twixt Victoria Station and Blackley, I returned once more to the Hexagon Tower to resume my explorations towards the source in Royton.

Beginning on Delaunays Road and onwards along Blackley New Road.

The footpath falls away from the main road to the wooded valley.

Returning to the road I was distracted by Sandyhill Court and the reliefs which I discovered there.

I was also taken with with this electrical substation.

We are encouraged to be wild about Blackley Vale a reclaimed landfill site.

Across the Victoria Avenue Bridge and down the other side.

Emerging by Sainsbury’s and picking up the path again.

Onwards under the M60 Motorway.

The M60 was developed by connecting and consolidating the existing motorway sections of the M63M62, and an extended M66. It came into existence as the M60 in 2000, with the completion of the eastern side opening in October.

The original plan called for a completely new motorway, but policy change led to the plan which created the current motorway. As soon as it opened, the motorway got close to its projected maximum volume on significant sections.

Hey look there’s Alkrington Hall!

This Palladian mansion was designed and built in 1736 by renowned architect, Giacomo Leoni, who had also been responsible for significant alterations to Lyme Hall during the same period.  

Offering an infusion of historical significance coupled with an abundance of living space throughout, Alkrington Hall East, simply must be viewed to be appreciated in full.  

During the early 1770’s, the Hall became the largest museum outside of London, when the Hall’s owner, Sir Ashton Lever, exhibited his private collection of natural objects, including live animals. Remaining as an imposing symbol of Leoni’s work, Alkrington Hall remains one of only a few surviving examples throughout England.  

In modern times, the Hall has since been carefully and sympathetically separated into 4 sections, and we are pleased to be offering for sale the largest portion of the Hall, with a total floor area comprising of over 7500 SQFT, and living accommodation spread over 4 floors.  

Sold for £825,00 in 2021 Savills

Seen here in 1870

Next thing you know you find yourself in Middleton, where the Irk sort of disappears – you sort of get lost and sort of follow the wrong track, eventually ending up back where you should have been in the first place.

Don’t follow Wince Brook – it’s so far from right that it’s wrong – right?

Take a walk up Oldham Road to see Warwick Mill instead.

1907 by G Stott of J Stott and Sons – Red brick with internal cast-iron frame.

Grade II Listed

There was and Oval Partnership planning for a retail development in 2014 which failed to materialise.

The converted building will provide a showcase for Chinese manufacturers of construction-related products looking to enter the UK and wider European markets. Products on display will include tiles, lighting, furniture, kitchenware, sanitary ware and curtains. A second phase will see the construction of a new building alongside effectively doubling the floor space. In addition the brief includes a range of restaurant, leisure, culture and entertainment facilities threaded through the building. The conversion will open up the existing building in a dramatic way, maximizing permeability and providing a strong visual connection back into the town, promoting public access through the building to the attractive south-facing waterside of the mill.

Permeability failed to be maximised, sadly.

Ambitious plans to refurbish Grade II listed Warwick Mill to create new homes and breathe life into an important building and part of Middleton’s history have been drawn up. 

Warwick Mill has recently changed ownership and the new owners, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, have been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the last nine months to develop proposals to redevelop the site.

Rochdale Council

So far so CGI good- the town eagerly awaits a surfeit of high end SUV owners.

Former clog wearing mill workers remain silent on such matters.

The Job Centre steadfastly remains a Job Centre.

The river reappears here in back of the Middleton Arena.

Proceeding in a disorderly manner.

Emerging by this substantial substation.

Across the way is Lodge Mill.

A Middleton couple has saved the oldest surviving mill in the town after a two-year renovation project.

Located on Townley Street, Lodge Mill was built in the mid-1800s and was originally a silk weaving mill. It went on to cotton weaving and cloth dying, then to a home for many different small local businesses. Sadly, in the early 2000s, it fell into disrepair and became derelict.

Martin Cove and Paula Hickey bought Lodge Mill on 1 April 2019 and immediately set about replacing and repairing the roof. They also installed a 19.4kw solar PV system so the mill became its own little power station that summer.

In August 2019, the couple opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.

The ice cream is made using cream from Tetlow Farm’s dairy herd at Slattocks – Martin explained.

Rochdale Online

It was £2.25 for two scoops and a flake – a welcome oasis on a warmish day.

Sadly in December 2021 there was a serious fire, work has since been done to repair the roof.

A poorly signed footpath takes you back riverside by way of assorted industrial debris.

Still very much in use the Vitafoam Mill

Founded in 1949 on £100 capital, Vitafoam started its original operation manufacturing latex foam products in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

After establishing the business, the company made a major move to its current site in Middleton, Manchester in 1955, acquiring two empty former cotton mills to cope with increased demand.

By 1963, Vitafoam had added the manufacture of polyurethane foam to its business and was providing product speciality for upholstery and bedding markets.

As Vitafoam entered the new millennium the company had made great strides in supplying external foam converters. These rely on Vitafoam to be their business partner and provide their foam needs. This trend continues to grow from strength to strength and is supplemented by our own group conversion companies.

Regaining the river at Chadderton Hall Park.

Its roots stretch back to the 13th century being the land on which Chadderton Hall once stood. It contains a large field area with a small football pitch, a playground area, several flower gardens and a small café situated next to the Park’s bowling green.

Chadderton Hall was first built in the 13th century by Geoffrey de Chadderton, this first hall was in Chadderton Fold slightly to the east of the current park. In 1629 a new hall was built at the site of the current park and was present there until the 20th century when it was demolished in 1939. It was at the end of the 19th Century that the area surrounding Chadderton Hall began to be used for public recreation. A boating lake and a menagerie, including a kangaroo and a lion, were established as part of a Pleasure Garden. These features have long since been demolished but evidence of the boating lake can be seen by the hollowed out area where the playing fields now stand.

Wikipedia

Diminishing now the river thin and shallow, as we rise into the hills on the outskirts of Greater Manchester.

Passing by Royton Cricket Club as the river disappears again.

Based in the heart of Thorpe Estate – Royton Cricket, Bowling & Running Club offers a family friendly environment whilst hosting strong, competitive cricket throughout the summer. Bowling throughout the summer along with a Running section – Royton Road Runners, who operate all year round. Along with seasonal events such as our well known firework display along with St Georges Day celebrations – with plans in the pipeline for improvements on current events as well as new exciting projects – it’s a great time to be apart of the club & community!

I have very fond memories of visiting with my dad Eddie Marland as he followed Ashton in the Central Lancashire League – both watching cricket and seeing my dad crown green bowling here.

The river has gone underground again.

To be found on Salmon Fields – in pool form.

Site of a Life for a Life Memorial Forest

These now full memorial forests were originally donated to Life for a Life by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. Salmon Fields meadow sits adjacent to a lovely pond that is used regularly by fishing enthusiasts and is frequently used as a breeding site for Canadian Geese.

Life for a Life planting areas are natural environments where we encourage wildlife and plantlife to flourish, as such additional items should not be added to the tree or the space around it, especially as they can cause damage to the tree. 

Please be aware that any prohibited items left on or around memorial trees will be removed. 

Although these sites are now full to the planting of new memorial trees if you have an existing memorial tree dedicated you can still upgrade memorial plaques, add additional ashes to a memorial tree, order memorial keepsakes etc.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Tower in Blackley.

The Irk’s name is of obscure etymology, but may be Brittonic in origin and related to the Welsh word iwrch, meaning roebuck

In medieval times, there was a mill by the Irk at which the tenants of the manor ground their corn and its fisheries were controlled by the lord of the manor. In the 16th century, throwing carrion and other offensive matter into the Irk was forbidden. Water for Manchester was drawn from the river before the Industrial Revolution. A bridge over the Irk was recorded in 1381. The river was noted for destructive floods. In 1480, the burgesses of Manchester described the highway between Manchester and Collyhurst which – the water of Irk had worn out. In 1816, of seven bridges over the Irk, six were liable to be flooded after heavy rain but the seventh, the Ducie Bridge completed in 1814 was above flood levels.

According to The New Gazetteer of Lancashire the Irk had – more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the Kingdom and – the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters. 

However, by the start of the 20th century the Irk Valley between Crumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.

Wikipedia

The river emerges from beneath the city into an area named Scotland – a remnant of Manchester’s links with the Jacobite Rebellion.

To the left were the squalid Victorian homes of Red Bank – currently presenting as the Green Quarter.

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

This is a river with an ignominious history – famously damned by émigré Friedrich Engels.

At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

The stretch along Dantzic Street into Collyhurst Road was heavily industrialised, of which some remnants prevail.

Along with an abandoned traveller’s camp, where once the gas works had stood.

New housing is being built forming the first wave of the Victoria North masterplan.

Previous enterprises have hit the buffers beneath the railway on Bromley Street.

To the right is Dalton Street once home to the Collyhurst Cowboy.

Here are the remains of Vauxhall Street, named for Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, built in the remains of the Collyhurst Quarry – which in turn became Sandhills.

There are current plans afoot to create a City River Park.

In addition the local authority oversees the Irk River Valley Project , along with Groundwork, United Utilities, Woodland Trust and Greggs.

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

Spanning the defunct railway workings, affording a view of the brightly blooming city centre.

Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.

Seen here in 1934.

Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.

Queen’s Park was one of Britain’s first municipal parks created in 1846. The park was originally arranged around Hendham Hall, home of the Houghton family however this was demolished in 1884.

Dropping down to Hendham Vale.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

The Smedley Hotel is a very large pub that is hidden away on a quiet back street. Once inside there were a few different rooms and I had a drink in the bar which was fairly large and seemed in need of some attention. The pub still had its old Chesters signs outside and there were three real ales on the bar. I had a drink of Chesters bitter and this was a very nice drink the other beers were Chesters mild and Boddington’s bitter.

I thought this pub would be long gone but it is still standing and I think open for business.

Alan Winfield 1994

Lost to the world are the Manchester Moderne flats of Kennet House overlooking the Irk Valley on Smedley Lane.

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

Taking the road up and then down, returning to the river, and following the wrong path – alongside the Hapurhey Reservoir and Ponds.

A remnant of the industrial era the reservoirs and ponds, once used by the factories as a source of water, have over the year become a thriving habitat which supports a substantial amount of wildlife.

Then cutting back and regaining the correct path.
Finally arriving at the Hexagon Tower.

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Tower Blocks – Blackley

Sandyhill Court Sandyhill Rd Manchester M9 8JS

Almost high on a hill stands a lonely tower block.

Seen here in 1987.

Tower Block

Sandyhill Court – Stands on the corner of Riverdale Road and Sandyhill Road and is still a local authority block.

The front entrance has a mosaic and concrete relief, recalling De Stijl particularly Joost Baljeu.

Along with echoes of Jean Arp.

The flats had acquired a stereotypical bad reputation.

Blight flats will soon be high-rise des-res.

Residents on a blighted Blackley estate have been told of plans to deal with the mostly unoccupied high-rise flats that are seen as the cause of the problem.

Manchester Evening News

I entered via the vehicular access – in order to view the four remaining reliefs.

The Lakeside Rise blocks now form part of a private gated community and are accessed from Blackley New Road.

The original blocks and their locations are as follows:

Ashenhurst Court Now Lakeside 1
Heaton Court Now Lakeside 2
Wilton Court Now Lakeside 3
Blackley Court Now Lakeside 4

Bracknell Court demolished – was on the corner of Riverdale Road and Bridgenorth Road adjacent to Heaton Court
Riverdale Court demolished – was on Riverdale Road opposite Bantry Avenue.

Travellers Site – Dantzic Street Manchester

The Irk Valley – the damp, dark and dank Irk Valley.

The south bank of the Irk is here very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate. Among them are mills on the river, in short, the method of construction is as crowded and disorderly here as in the lower part of Long Millgate. Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts, and he who turns in thither gets into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found – especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. In one of these courts there stands directly at the entrance, at the end of the covered passage, a privy without a door, so dirty that the inhabitants can pass into and out of the court only by passing through foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement. This is the first court on the Irk above Ducie Bridge – in case any one should care to look into it. Below it on the river there are several tanneries which fill the whole neighbourhood with the stench of animal putrefaction.

Below Ducie Bridge the only entrance to most of the houses is by means of narrow, dirty stairs and over heaps of refuse and filth. The first court below Ducie Bridge, known as Allen’s Court, was in such a state at the time of the cholera that the sanitary police ordered it evacuated, swept and disinfected with chloride of lime. Dr. Kay gives a terrible description of the state of this court at that time. Since then, it seems to have been partially torn away and rebuilt; at least looking down from Ducie Bridge, the passer-by sees several ruined walls and heaps of debris with some newer houses. The view from this bridge, mercifully concealed from mortals of small stature by a parapet as high as a man, is characteristic for the whole district. At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Friedrich Engels

This is the street parallel to the River Irk, Dantzic Street, an anglicised version of former German city Danzig, currently Gdansk in Poland.

Gas works, works and a hole in the wall public convenience.

This has all gone.

Once home to putative homes.

The stylishly designed living areas and carefully considered external finishes within the new buildings, have been designed to compliment the rich industrial architectural style of the area.

They were never built

Pinnacle Alliance plans to build 344 luxury apartments on a site near Dantzic Street, as part of the ‘Northern Gateway’. Dozens of investors have paid up to £350,000 for the off-plan apartments in the proposed scheme. But two years since many first paid out for their home, no work has actually begun on the £30m scheme.

The dispute has led to a demonstration in Hong Kong, where around 50 buyers took to the streets over Christmas urging local authorities to take up their concerns. And in an unusual twist, protestors even recorded their own campaign song – to the tune of Jingle Bells – criticising Pinnacle.

Now Victoria North is on the way.

On the way out are the Travellers’ homes on the other side of the road, adjoining the Irk valley.

Thought to be in danger of flooding, they were condemned, yet there are plans to build on the site for less contentious or socially inclusive usage.

For centuries the commons of England provided lawful stopping places for people whose way of life was or had become nomadic. Enough common land survived the centuries of enclosure to make this way of life sustainable, but by section 23 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 local authorities were given power to close the commons to Travellers. This they proceeded to do with great energy, but made no use of the concomitant power given to them by section 24 of the same Act to open caravan sites to compensate for the closure of the commons. By the Caravan Sites Act 1968, therefore, Parliament legislated to make the section 24 power a duty…for the next quarter of a century there followed a history of non-compliance with the duties imposed by the Act of 1968, marked by a series of decisions of this court holding local authorities to be in breach of their statutory duty; but to apparently little practical effect. The default powers vested in central government, to which the court was required to defer, were rarely if ever used.

Gypsy Traveller

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said yesterday, that the new laws will target trespassers – who intend to reside on any private or public land in vehicles without permission, and where they are causing significant disruption, distress or harm to local communities.

This new offence will enable the police to fine or arrest those residing without permission on private or public land in vehicles in order to stop significant disruption, distress or harm being caused to the law-abiding majority – she added.

The new law also gives the police the powers to seize and impound vehicles whose owners fail to comply with the new law and who refuse or can’t leave.

You are criminalising a problem that has been created by the failings of a political will to deliver appropriate accommodation.

Joseph P Jones from the Gypsy Council

Travellers Times

So here we are – in the shadow of the ever expanding New Manchester – no homes for those who choose their own traditional way of life.

Burnt out shells, discarded toys and a population of ghosts.

Today, we live in a political economy that has been dominated by neoliberalism as a consolidation of the role that capital has in accumulation by dispossession. It has been written extensively elsewhere that contemporary neoliberal land policy affects seemingly disparate groups within the urban population. Less explored, however, is how this logic affects GRT communities in particular.

The traveller site on Dantzic Street lies within the forthcoming Red Bank neighbourhood, on the meander of the Irk, this particular neighbourhood will consist of:

A landmark thirty seven storey building as well as two sister towers, Park View and City View.

Given its proximity to the Green Quarter and other luxury residences, we can expect the rent gap produced by speculative land values to be fully exploited on this patch of land. As for a new traveller site to replace the one on Dantzic Street, the future remains unclear. Having reached out to an Executive Member for Housing and Employment within MCC about ecological concerns alongside the worries concerning lack of land access to travellers, the first question was responded to with misplaced enthusiasm whilst the latter was yet to be briefed at all.

GM Housing Action

Wigan Walk

Arriving at Wigan Wallgate turn left and left and right.

Tucked away along Clarence Yard is the former Princes Cinema.

Photo: Ian Grundy

Where once upon a time the flat capped and hatted audience queued at length, for a glimpse of Dracula and Frankenstein.

Opened in 1934 and closed on 10th January 1970 with a screening of The Mad Room.

Cinema Treasures

It has subsequently been in use as a nightclub.

Back out onto Dorning Street in search of telephone exchanges, three telephone exchanges.

Inter-war

Sixties.

Seventies.

Just around the corner is an expansive GPO Sorting Office of 1959.

Across the way is the Technical College.

The foundations of Wigan & Leigh College date back to 1857, and the current institution was formed in April 1992 through the merger of Wigan College of Technology and Leigh College.

Partly formed from the Thomas Linacre Technical School.

Architects: Howard V Lobb G Grenfell Bains & Hargreaves 1954

School Hall – RIBA Pix

Curious decorative brick motif – a floor plan of the building.

My thanks to Mark Watson for his erudition and insight.

Across the road the former Grammar School now an NHS Centre.

Wigan Grammar School was founded in 1597 and closed in 1972 as part of the comprehensive education movement. it became Mesnes High School until 1989, and then the Mesnes Building of Wigan College.

It was designated a Grade II listed building in 1997.

Architect: A E Munby

Since 2003, it has been known as the Thomas Linacre Centre and is an out-patient department for the Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust.

Let’s head back into town and along Standishgate.

Former Burton Tailors – possibly.

Turn left into Millgate to see the boarded up Civic Centre.

Formerly not boarded up Civic Centre.

Across the way the new Library and Life Centre by Astudio and LCE Architects

Down the road to where the International Swimming Pool was – opened 1968.

Demolished 2010

Scholes Comprehensive Development 1964 – five thirteen storey blocks.