Amble to Berwick upon Tweed

The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.

I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.

Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.

Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.

Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.

We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.

One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.

The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.

The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.

I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.

They were all Grateful Dead fans who like me had attended the Bickershaw Festival in 1972.

The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.

Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.

Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.

The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.

114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.

Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.

Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.

The Armstrong family the former owners, made millions from the sale of armaments.

If I thought that war would be fomented, or the interests of humanity suffer, by what I have done, I would greatly regret it. I have no such apprehension.

He also said:

It is our province, as engineers to make the forces of matter obedient to the will of man; those who use the means we supply must be responsible for their legitimate application.

I paused a wee while to take a sip of water and admire the agrarian architecture.

A couple on their bikes stopped to chat, as a babe in arms the lad had been transported by mam and dad, in a sidecar with tandem attached.

Such a delightful and poignant recollection – we wished each other well and went on our way.

I made my way from the rolling hills back down toward the coast.

Where a permissive path hugged the shore, which I cautiously shared with some equally cautious sheep.

Looking back toward Lindisfarne.

Looking forward to the past.

Pausing for the passing of a mainline train.

Berwick upon Tweed in view.

Come the evening I spent an hour or two in The Curfew, feasting on fine beer, company, haggis scotch egg and game pie.

Finishing with this well deserved and wonderful, bottle of Oude Geuze.

The final day – so many marvellous miles covered, forever stopping to chat, snap, look and learn.

No finer way to see the world, though so condensed and intense even at touring speed – apologies to all the things that I failed to see.

So long to Amble, Newcastle, Redcar, Scarborough and Hull.

Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

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. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

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.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

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.

Historic England

During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

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.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

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.

Wikipedia

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.

Energy News

Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Redcar to Newcastle

An early start on another sunny day, cycling along long straight roads out of town, towards Middlesborough.

Having previously visited Hull and Scarborough and all points in between.

Slowly passing sleepy factories and desolate bus shelters.

Bunker like social clubs and flower lined roads.

The Albion club in South Bank has stood empty for the last three years. 

Now local lad Mark Trainor has the keys – and says opening the doors to the club his own family frequented for years will be a dream come true.

He’s planning to cater for everyone, he says, and it won’t just be all about drinking.

Parents will be able to call in for a coffee after dropping the kids at school, there will be pool nights and Mark’s personal favourite – Pie Day Fridays.

Gazette

Public art framing the Transporter Bridge.

The £2.7m Temenos structure has taken four months to piece together on the banks of the River Tees near Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge.

Thousands of metres of steel wire have been woven between the two steel rings to create the 164ft high and 360ft long sculpture.

It was created by artist Anish Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond.

BBC

Temenos is a Greek word meaning land cut off and assigned as a sanctuary or holy area.

Following a 1907 Act of Parliament the bridge was built at a cost of £68,026 6s 8d  by Sir William Arrol & Co. of Glasgow between 1910 and 1911 to replace the Hugh Bell and Erimus steam ferry services. A transporter bridge was chosen because Parliament ruled that the new scheme of crossing the river had to avoid affecting the river navigation. 

The opening ceremony on 17 October 1911 was performed by Prince Arthur of Connaught, at its opening the bridge was painted red.

In 1961 the bridge was painted blue.

In 1974, the comedy actor Terry Scott, travelling between his hotel in Middlesbrough and a performance at the Billingham Forum, mistook the bridge for a regular toll crossing and drove his Jaguar off the end of the roadway, landing in the safety netting beneath.

Wikipedia

The cycle track followed the river, which sports a fine array of industrial architecture.

Tees Newport Bridge designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson and built by local company Dorman Long who have also been responsible for such structures as the Tyne Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was the first large vertical-lift bridge in Britain.

Wikipedia

Crossing the river and heading for Hartlepool.

Negotiating underpasses and main road cycle lanes.

I was delighted to be drawn toward Dawson House here in Billingham.

Austere brick churches.

St Joseph RC Low Grange Avenue Billingham

A prefabricated polygonal structure of the 1970s, with laminated timber frame. The seating came from Pugin & Pugin’s church at Port Clarence. 

Taking Stock

Just along the way Saint Lukes Billingham 1965.

In a slightly more upbeat mode St James the Apostle Owton Manor.

I convinced myself that this building on Station Road Seaton Carew was a former pub, I discovered following consultation with the local studies offices, that it was in fact a former children’s home destined to become a doctors.

I found myself looking back across the estuary to Redcar.

Northward toward Hartlepool.

Where the bingo was closed and the circus had left town.

Every Englishman’s home is a bouncy castle.

St John Vianney located on King Oswy Drive West View Estate.

Architect: Crawford & Spencer Middlesbrough 1961.

A large post-war church built to serve a housing estate, economically built and with a functional interior. The campanile is a local landmark. 

The parish of St John Vianney was created in 1959 to serve the growing West View Estate, on the north side of Hartlepool. The church was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 4 April 1961. The presbytery was built at the same time.

Taking Stock

I found myself on yet another former railway line.

The Cycleway was once a railway line designed by George Stephenson to take coal from the Durham coal fields to the docks in Hartlepool, where the coal was then distributed throughout the world.

Tees Valley

The landscape opened up to coal scarred scrub, I lost the path and found a church, which imposed itself upon the hillside.

St Joseph RC Seaham County Durham

Architect: Anthony J. Rossi of Consett 1964

Taking Stock

Opening 1964

Seeking assistance from a passing cyclist I negotiated a safe passage to Sunderland.

The Sunderland Synagogue is a former synagogue building in Sunderland, England. The synagogue, on Ryhope Road, was designed by architect Marcus Kenneth Glass and completed in 1928. It is the last surviving synagogue to be designed by Glass.

The synagogue was listed as a Grade II historic structure in 1999.

Wikipedia

I crossed the Queen Alexandra Bridge

The steel truss bridge was designed by Charles A Harrison – a nephew of Robert Stephenson’s assistant.

It was built by Sir William Arrol between 1907 and 1909 and officially opened by The Earl of Durham, on behalf of Queen Alexandra on 10 June 1909.

Wikipedia

I took a right and arrived in Roker, where I saw these well tanned and tattooed cyclists taking a rest.

Pressed on, largely alongside the coast to South Shields.

Under advisement from a jolly passing jogger I took the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.

Tyne Cyclist and Pedestrian Tunnel was Britain’s first purpose-built cycling tunnel. It runs under the River Tyne between Howdon and Jarrow, and was opened in 1951, heralded as a contribution to the Festival of Britain.

Wikipedia

I cycled the banks of the Tyne, fetching up at the Quayside with a fine view of the Baltic.

Washed and suitably brushed up I hastened to the Bridge Tavern – to take a glass or two.

A fine end to a very long day.

Scarborough to Redcar

Well it seems that I had already cycled from Hull to Scarborough, so it must be time to head for Redcar.

Leaving Scarborough by the Cinder Track under the expert guidance of Mr Ben Vickers.

This was the site of the Gallows Close Goods Yard.

Formerly the Scarbough to Whitby Railway – the line opened in 1885 and closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Yet again I chance upon a delightful post-war home.

I parted company with the track dropping down to the Esk Valley from the Larpool Viaduct.

Construction began in October 1882 and was complete by October 1884.

Two men fell from the piers during construction, but recovered.

I found myself in Ruswarp, home to this enchanting bus shelter.

I bombed along the main road to Sleights.

There then followed a hesitant ascent, descent, ascent along a badly signed bridleway, fearing that I had climbed the hill in error I retraced, then retraced.

A difficult push ensued, a precipitous path, rough and untended, rising ever higher and higher.

Finally arriving at Aislaby, more than somewhat exhausted – the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Asuluesbi

Pausing to catch my breath I took the wildly undulating road to Egton – along the way I was alerted to the presence of a tea stop by two touring cyclists from Nottingham.

The Cake Club.

A welcome wet and a hunk of home made carrot cake.

Brewmeister Maria was good enough to suggest route through Castleton Moor and over the tops to Saltburn.

It was too hot a day for a detour to Fryup.

The curious name Fryup probably derives from the Old English reconstruction Frige-hop: Frige was an Anglo-Saxon goddess equated with the Old Norse Frigg; hop denoted a small valley.

An old woman at Fryup was well known locally for keeping the Mark’s e’en watch – 24 April, as she lived alongside a corpse road known as Old Hell Road.

The practice involved a village seer holding vigil between 11pm and 1am to watch for the wraiths of those who would die in the following 12 months.

Castleton Moor ghost.

In the village I was given further directions by two elderly gents, who had been engaged in a discussion concerning their long term mapping of acid rain levels in the area.

One was wearing a Marshall Jefferson t-shirt.

I climbed Langburn Bank onto the flatish open moorland.

Taking a brief break to snap this concrete shelter.

There then followed a hair stirring series of hairpin descents to the coast at Saltburn.

Followed by an off road route to Redcar.

Our Lady of Lourdes – Architect: Kitching & Archibald 1928

Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.

I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.

Another long day – I went to sleep.

Hull to Scarborough

Heading out of Hull one sunny Sunday morning along Sustrans Route 65.

The first leg of my journey northwards to Berwick, many thanks to all those kind souls who filled my water bottle, directed, redirected and misdirected me along my merry way.

I suddenly found myself on Sustrans Route 66 – nominally lost.

Good fortune however had pointed me in the direction of this functional yet charming brick built church, on the edge of a huge roundabout – St Mary Queen of Martyrs RC in Bransholme.

The new St Mary Queen of Martyrs church was built at Bransholme in 1976-7 and the old St Mary’s church closed and demolished in 1982.

Architect for the new church was JT Reid of The Reid Partnership – Pontefract.

The entrance graced by these textured fascias.

Following a series of brief engagements with various local benefactors, I regained my intended route and joined the Hornsea Rail Trail – the bed of the former branch line.

The line was officially opened on 28 March 1864, the last passenger train ran on 19 October 1964.

Goods traffic continued to use the line as far as Hornsea Bridge until 3 May 1965.

The place-name Swine is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Swine.

It appears as Suine in a charter of circa 1150, the name perhaps derives from the Old English swin meaning creek.

Wikipedia

Eventually arriving in Hornsea – on this occasion having little or no need of Do it Yourself, Ironmongery or Glass requisites.

And being Sunday, it was shut.

I tarried a while on the well appointed seafront.

Gliding along leafy, green hedge-lined lanes.

Following a dead end lane to the place of dead roads.

Skipsea – home to Crossways Fish & Chips

Here you will be offered perfectly cooked fish.

Retracing and crossing the Yorkshire Wolds.

Zigging and zagging here and there, in search of a route, any route, I came upon Okanagan – a delightful asymmetric Prairie Style modern home.

Filey Road, Gristhorpe, Filey, Scarborough, North Yorkshire – currently valued at £562,000.

The interior decorative order currently out of synch with the post war exterior.

Hurrying along to reach town by tea time – I descended deftly into Scarborough.

Where I hooked up with local lad Ben Vickers for a pint in the North Riding Hotel.

The rest is, as they say – a mystery.

Beacon House – Whitley Bay

Granada Way
The Guardian

Beacon House Whitley Bay completed 1959.

Client: JM Liddell

Photograph: David Bilbrough

Cycling twixt Newcastle and Amble, I espied a tower block upon the horizon.

Leaving the coastal path I came upon Beacon House.

Research lead me to the work of Ryder and Yates Architecture.

Two pioneering young entrepreneurial architects who worked with Le Corbusier and Ove Arup first met in the office of Berthold Lubetkin. In 1953, they formed Ryder and Yates in Newcastle upon Tyne. That Le Corbusier, Lubetkin and, to no less extent Newcastle born Arup, had a powerful influence on the subsequent design philosophy of Gordon Ryder and Peter Yates can still be seen in any evaluation of Ryder’s work today.

Their work celebrated in this RIBA publication.

Beacon House is and elegant eleven storey tower, modest in scale yet rich in detail.

Two tiled elevations to the north and south.

Elegant balconies of a refined construction.

Plus a curious curved shell surrounding the entrance, along with a cantilevered covering.

Sadly this Peter Yates mural Procession of Shells is now lost.

Billingham

Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.

I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.

Dawson House aka Kingsway.

A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.

The architects were Elder Lester Associates.

The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.

Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.

The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.

The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.

The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.

Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.

The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.

This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.

La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.

In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.

The Forum

In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry.  It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm.  Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.

The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade.  The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements.  The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.

Something Concrete and Modern

Octel Amlwch – Interiors

Having appraised the exteriors and pumping infrastructure, let us now consider the interior life of the site.

A site where a myriad working lives once unfolded – labourers, technicians, maintenance staff, administrators and managers.

They are now but fleeting shadows, their documents strewn across upturned furniture, empty lockers their standing open and untended, laboratories whose processes have ceased. A chaotic canteen with no-one to cook for, unsafe safety suits and unwashed washrooms.

Home now to pigeons, gulls and swallows alone.

The disconnected telephone remains unanswered.

Octel Amlwch – Pumping

We have taken a trip around the extant exteriors of the processing plant.

Now let’s turn our attention toward the epic infrastructure which extracted and pumped seawater.

Sea water is sucked in and then lifted 50ft into sea water ponds by huge pumps where any debris is removed. It is then passed to the seawater main where chlorine and dilute sulphuric acid are added which releases the bromine. It is literally blown out of the water. This water is passed into the top of a tower where it drops over 20ft through the packed section of the tower. There it is met by currents of air travelling upwards. Where it meets these air currents the bromine gets stripped out the water, which is returned to the sea. Whilst the wet bromine laden air passes from the top of the tower to be treated with sulphur dioxide and water. This produces mists of hydrobromic and sulphuric acids.

This mist passes into an absorber, and the acid coalesces. From here, it blows to a collecting tank. The bromine free air returns to the blowing out tower and the cycle begins again. The acidic product is referred to as primary acid liquor. This is now pumped to the steaming out tower. It enters the top and is treated with chlorine and steam, which releases the bromine as vapour. It is then condensed to a liquid. The bulk of bromine goes to dibromoethane, whilst the remainder is sold or used to make other intermediates.

It takes about 22,000 tonnes of seawater to produce 1 tonne of bromine. Every minute 300,000 gallons of seawater are drawn in.

This now redundant technology has left a legacy of industrial dereliction amongst the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks and sylvan seas of the Anglesey Coast.

This is a landscape which induces fear and fascination in equal measure.

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

Edmund Burke

Octel Amlwch – Exteriors

Amlwch has been the centre of the world’s copper industry, a coastal town on Anglesey with a long history of trade, the coming and going of goods.

Once the site of a processing plant extracting bromine from sea water.

The Associated Octel factory was built to extract bromine from seawater and turn it into an additive for petrol engines. At the time, petrol used in road vehicles contained lead. Engine knocking was a common problem, when the mixture of air and fuel didn’t burn efficiently with each detonation. This could damage engine cylinders over time. The additive produced here reduced knocking and improved engine efficiency.

As the health effects of lead in vehicle exhaust gases became better understood, unleaded petrol was developed. It was introduced to UK filling stations in the 1980s, and leaded petrol was later phased out. As demand for anti-knock additive reduced, the Octel factory diversified into other bromine products and was taken over by Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. In 2003, the corporation decided to close the works with the loss of more than 100 jobs.

A detailed history of the site can be found here at Octel Amlwch.

The site has been subject to arson attacks and partial demolition, the extant buildings tagged, tattered and torn.

Slowly but surely nature breaks through the tarmac and concrete.

The gate is open, the lights are out, there’s nobody home.

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

Wikipedia

Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Seaward Tower Harbour Tower – Gosport

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport.

The surfaces of the tower blocks are covered in mosaic murals designed by Barden that rise the full 135 foot height of the buildings. They were controversial initially but are now a tourist attraction.

The tiles were produced by Carter and Co of Poole

Wikipedia

He was also responsible for the unlisted and under threat ceramic murals in Halifax Swimming Baths.

C20

Whilst cycling form Southampton to Margate I took the opportunity to walk around and snap the blocks, one sunny day in May.

Here they are unclad in 1984

Tower Block

Brochure courtesy of Peter Blake

The work seems unrivalled in both scale and vision a lasting testament to good design.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

East Didsbury Station

East Didsbury Station was opened in 1909 by the London and North Western Railway and, until 6 May 1974, was called  East Didsbury and Parrs Wood.

From 1923, the line was operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Following the formation in 1948 of British Rail, rail services were operated by the London Midland Region of British Railways, then North-Western Regional Railways.

The station was rebuilt in the 1959 by the architect to the London Midland section of British Rail, William Robert Headley – who was also responsible for Coventry, Oxford Road and Piccadilly Stations.

Services to Manchester Airport began in 1993 upon the opening of the Manchester Airport spur.

With the privatisation of rail services in 1996/7, East Didsbury was served by the North Western Trains franchise.

Although it’s just up the road from me, this is the first time I’ve ever travelled back to or from there.

I was off to Eccles – live and direct!

The southbound side has been tastefully replaced by nothing in particular.

In a style to match our austere privatised times – provincial bus stop chic.

happy the northbound side’s still stood standing – on stilts.

The waiting room more or less intact.

The last of the few, get it while you can – all aboard for Patricroft, right away guard!

Archive images: JF Harris 1959

Tiles – St Pauls Road Preston

Preston Vocational Centre PR1 1PX

Traversing the mighty A6, as it passes through Preston and on up along St Pauls Road.

You’re in for a big surprise, for on the wall of the Vocational Centre is a splendid display of tiles.

Fiercely geometric, featuring strong linking lines and dynamic dotty dots, softened by a delicate hand-drawn woven mesh.

The varied and distinctive palette set against a pale mid-grey ground.

Well worth the walk even on the rainiest of days in early May.

Reminiscent of the Carter’s Tiles adorning Castle House stairwells in Sheffield.

But actually manufactured by Pilkington’s.

East Park Gates Hull – Concrete Walls

Holderness Rd Hull HU8 8JU

At the entrance to the park on Holderness Road are eight concrete walls.

They are covered in square, cast concrete modular panels.

Said to be the work of the City Architect in 1964.

Municipal Dreams lists the City Architect at that time to be JV Wall, having replaced David Jenkin in that same year.

My money’s on Wall – well it makes sense don’t it?

I had taken the bus from Hull Interchange on a chill April morning.

The driver obligingly giving me a shout at the appropriate stop – right outside the gates.

They are not universally loved:

A further testament to the concrete pourer’s art is to be found adorning the entrance to East Park. They are so horrible that I could find nothing on the net to indicate who designed them, shame is a powerful motive for reticence. So here they stand to welcome the visitor; after this the actual park couldn’t be any worse.

Hull and Hereabouts

I can only assume that the actual park is held in much higher regard, listed and adored by all.

To my mind they are a bold addition to the park’s entrance, very much of their time, yet at the same time, ever so very now!

The has been a gentle patination to the raw surfaces and limited external intervention from the local Tyke taggers.

Take a look make up your mind – yay or nay?

It looks like they’re here to stay.

If you like this then you’ll like this and possibly this.

From Huyton to Hull and back to UMIST – it’s concrete walls all the way.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!