Civic Centre – Wigan Again

I’ve been here before, no not in some strange déjà vu sense.

I’ve been here before – look!

Three years on, now in the shadow of the newly built Life Centre, you stand alone unloved – empty.

But the future of the Modernist landmark, which was first put in service by the borough in the early 70s, remains unclear. There is speculation that the Millgate building, first unveiled by Wigan Mayor John Farrimond, could become a hotel.

Last October the Wigan Observer revealed how the council had enjoyed mixed fortunes when it came to marketing elements of its existing property portfolio.

But the council has been successful in offloading some venues, with Ince Town Hall now home to Little Giggles nursery.

So who knows what fate awaits you – the town I am told is on the up.

Let’s hope that the Civic Centre is not coming down

Golden Lane Estate – London

Something of an iconic, totemic, pin-up poster boy/girl for the Modernists, I bumped into you one rainy day, on the way from here to there. Initially attracted by an unexpectedly bright slab of primrose yellow and white.

Golden Lane was developed in the early 1950s to create local housing for essential workers in the City of London, following the devastation of the Blitz. At the time only around 500 people actually lived in the City of London so the estate was deliberately designed with small units to house single people and couples comprised of the broad social and professional mix needed to support the local community. 554 units were built of which 359 were studios and one bedroomed flats; the remainder were maisonettes and early tenants included caretakers, clergymen, doctors, police offices, cleaners and secretaries. Today there are approximately 1,500 people living on the estate in 559 flats and maisonettes. 

Golden Lane was commissioned from architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon by the City of London Corporation (which still manages it) and built on bombed sites previously occupied by small businesses and industries. Some of the basement areas of the former buildings were retained as sunken areas of landscaping. Building took place over a 10-year period between 1952 and 1962 when Crescent House on Goswell Road was completed. Golden Lane was listed Grade II in 1997 (Crescent House is Grade II*). When built, Great Arthur House was the tallest residential building in London and its Le Corbusier inspired design included a resident’s roof garden. The estate also included a leisure centre with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It is now run by a private operator and is open to both residents and the general public.

Academy of Urbanism

I stuck around too take a look, struck by the variety of scale, detail and space within a relatively tight integrated development. Mature greenery abounds along with a delightful water feature.

It would appear that following the 70s right to buy the estate is a 50/50 mix of social and private ownership, relatively trouble free and well maintained, something of an anomaly in our go-ahead, left behind land.

Go take a look for yourself see what you think.

Blank Street – Ancoats

As with all things material and corporeal there was time when you simply didn’t exist.

1860 adjacent to Woodward Street and the Rochdale Canal, a simple agglomeration of loose limbed industrial buildings and such – yet to be christened Blank.

adjective

  1.  Unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain a blank wall.
  2. Showing a lack of comprehension or reaction – we were met by blank looks – synonyms: expressionless, empty, vacant, deadpan, wooden, stony, impassive, inanimate, vacuous, glazed, fixed, lifeless, uninterested, emotionless, unresponsive, inscrutable.

noun

  1. A space left to be filled in a document – leave blanks to type in the appropriate names – synonyms: space, gap, blank space, empty space.
  2. A cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, used for training or as a signal.

verb

  1. Make (something) blank or empty – electronic countermeasures blanked out the radar signals.
  2.  Informal North American defeat (a sports team) without allowing them to score – Baltimore blanked Toronto in a 7–0 victory.

Though contradictorily I have found reference to a bankrupt foundry in the London Gazette 1857.

You appear again during the Manchester Blitz.

By 1960 you are on the map and the area is on the up and up.

Though I have to ask the question of the namers of streets – why so Blank, an off day at the office – we have whole blocks named for poets, painters, and far flung places, so why so Blank?

Hadn’t they heard of nominative determinism – born to be Blank.

Whilst in search of a Brown Cow I found a photograph on the Local Image Collection of 60’s maisonettes in the area alongside Woodward Street.

This Municipal Modernist development seems to have been short-lived and subject to yet more demolition in the area, to be replaced by late 70’s terraced housing.

Blank Street inexplicably became Fulmer Drive.

Which in turn had been tinned up and demolished around 2008.

How did that happen – seemingly viable homes previously changing hands for £100,000 deemed surplus to requirements – land banking, ahead of an as yet unseen masterplan?

Your life was short and sharp – shaped by economic shifts, world war and the local authorities ephemeral housing policies. There is little evidence of your existence, photographic or otherwise, so I want to set the record straight – draw a blank.

Here you are as of July 2019 – tarmac intact, drains fully functioning, pavements paved, awaiting orders. A circuitous run of grassy ridges resembling the remains of some Roman or Iron Age fortification.

Where do we go from here?

Birley Street Tower Blocks – Blackburn

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

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

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

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

Pastscape

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

Providing an excellent backdrop for the passing parade.

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

On the reverse a tiled relief – sadly painted over.

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