I’m often to be found underground – in Scarborough, Rotherham, Stockport, and Milton Keynes.
Here I am in this instance on Tyneside exploring the labyrinthine netherworlds.
I’m often to be found underground – in Scarborough, Rotherham, Stockport, and Milton Keynes.
Here I am in this instance on Tyneside exploring the labyrinthine netherworlds.
Brims and Co. Limited
Manors Car Park’s distinctive form derives from the constraints of the train line to east which collided with the new Central East Motorway A167 M which dips beneath, shaping the car park between these constraints. The curvature of the concrete decks sweeps uniformally across the site, interrupted only by the circulation ramp. The car park was the first multi-story car park in Newcastle and marked the beginnings of Wilfred Burns car-centric plans for the modernisation of the city through the Central East Motorway Plan – 1963.
Burns plan aimed to increase the economic growth of the city through greater convenience for an emerging car owning populace and even went as far as to incentivised cars travel by offering limited free parking in the city centre.
Manors car park connected and accompanied by an equally dramatic and elongated pedestrian footbridge from Manors Train Station – today Manors Metro, touching the car park for access before swooping under Swan House on Pilgrim Street Roundabout. The bridge takes what feels like the longest imaginable route over the motorway, allowing pedestrians to bypass Northumberland high street and take in the theatrics of the swooping concrete forms and motorway traffic.
In the early 1960s, under the leadership of T Dan Smith and his chief planning officer Wilf Burns, Newcastle city council undertook a comprehensive re-planning of the city centre that, had it been carried out to its full extent, would have led to the construction of underground motorways and a series of raised pedestrian decks running along Northumberland Street in the main shopping zone. The plan was that the new city would encircle the historical core, which would be preserved; meanwhile vast swathes of Georgian housing to the east would be razed. There were also plans for high-rise towers in the centre, only one of which was built.
This tendency in town planning was due in part to the publication of H. Alker Tripp’s book of 1942.
Along with Traffic in Towns an influential report and popular book on urban and transport planning policy published 25 November 1963 for the UK Ministry of Transport by a team headed by the architect, civil engineer and planner Colin Buchanan. The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.
These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.
In a one man war against the segregation of traffic and pedestrian I often walk car parks, ramps and all.
Stockport Asda, Piccadilly Manchester, Merseyway, Heaton Lane, Hull, Red Rock, Grimsby, and Margate.
As a non-driving militant pedestrian I assert my right to go wherever I wish to – within reason.
Okay let’s go.
Land was acquired for this site in 1929 for the then General Post Office.
The first buildings are constructed in 1932 as General Stores, a Workshop and Garages.
These were demolished in 1966 to make way for the present development.
The current building was phase one of eleven, which was to include a further twenty two storey building with a planned capacity of twenty four thousand people by 1980.
Building construction started in 1969 and was completed in 1972.
Final cost was £1,218,401.
My thanks to Sonna Lawrence BT employee, for his time and information.
There is little by way of background information online, save for this thread.
It’s officially The Hadrian Trunk Switching Centre and it is indeed owned by BT. It’s just a telephone exchange with a handful of staff. I only know this as I used to work for BT 150 customer service when ISDN was being rolled out 20 years ago and when there was a fault in the Newcastle area it was usually something going wrong in this building.
I’ve heard that it goes down as far as it goes up.
Someone has mentioned the basement which is legendary amongst the people who work there. Some say it’s a nuclear bunker, some say there’s a tunnel that goes to the other BT building in Carliol Square, others say there’s nothing down there.
The rumour always was that the central core was nuclear bomb proof so people in power could still make phonecalls and there is also a service tunnel going across to the CTE on the other side of the central motorway.
One online source suggests it may have been designed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.
Mainstream Modern informs us that the design team was:
Thomas F Winterburn – Senior Architect MoPBW.
W Freeman – Senior Civil Engineer.
E.W. Hutchinson – Project Engineer.
Working as an architectural assistant in Colchester Borough Engineer’s Office in 1935, Winterburn was with the Ministry from the at least the mid-1950s, he is recorded as the Senior Architect for Norwich’s Post Office Sorting Office in 1955. He was also responsible for the now demolished Milburngate House in Durham that housed the Passport Office.
All that aside I took a look around outside, come along circumnavigate along with me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wall, along with the low rise dwellings built to its south, replaced Victorian slum terraced housing. There were nearly 1200 houses on the site at Byker. They had been condemned as unfit for human habitation in 1953, and demolition began in 1966.
The new housing block was designed by Ralph Erskine assisted by Vernon Gracie. Design began in 1968 and construction took place between 1969 and 1982. The architects opened an office on site to develop communication and trust between the existing residents. Existing buildings were to be demolished as the new accommodation was built.
The new high-rise block was designed to shield the site from an intended motorway, which eventually was never built. Construction materials for Byker Wall were relatively cheap, concrete, brick and timber. Surfaces were treated with bright colours, while brick bandings were used on the ‘Wall’ to indicate floor levels.
Its Functionalist Romantic styling with textured, complex facades, colourful brick, wood and plastic panels, attention to context, and relatively low-rise construction represented a major break with the Brutalist high-rise architectural orthodoxy of the time.
There area has been well documented over time, notably by photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.
It’s reputation has had its ups and downs but most recently:
It’s been named the UK and Ireland’s best neighbourhood – it’s got top schools, friendly neighbours and community art classes – alongside high levels of poverty.
It has been lauded by Municipal Dreams
When Historic England awarded Byker its Grade II* listing in 2007, they praised both its ‘groundbreaking design, influential across Europe and pioneering model of public participation’. The estate’s main element, the Byker Wall, is – like it or loathe it – an outstanding piece of modern architecture. The conception and design of the estate as a whole was shaped by unprecedented community consultation.
I went for a walk around one morning in May 2017, the photographs are in sequence as I explored the estate. It’s hard to do justice to the richness and variety of architecture in such a short time, but I only had a short time.
I’m more than partial to a picture postcard – I have penchant for the picaresque.
And in these troubled times there’s no safer way to travel.
I have some previous experience, exploring the precincts of our fair land – here and there.
Prompted by a post from Natalie Bradbury – I became intrigued by Newcastle Civic Centre cards, I have visited the site, but in this instance, we are taken there thus:
Let’s have a look inside:
The Council Chamber
Its extensive rooms.
Which then led me to Plymouth – which I had visited some time ago, on my coastal cycle tour, another fine example of post-war Municipal Modernism.
Empty for some time it now seems that a change is going to come:
A long-awaited scheme to convert the empty Civic Centre tower block in Plymouth into flats is set to be given the go-ahead.
Planning applications to create 144 homes in the 14-floor landmark building in Armada Way are being recommended for approval.
The scheme also proposes a mix of uses for the ground and first floors including shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, bars, hot food takeaway, art gallery, gym, creche and day nursery.
Many of our fine Modernist civic buildings are under threat – as councils seek new premises for a new age.
Only the strong survive.
We here in Stockport have our own BHS murals, happily so does Newcastle.
The work of acclaimed artists Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins, they worked on a large number of murals and exhibition designs for amongst others, Jamestown Festival, USA; Brussels Exhibition; Expo 70; Japan; Shell Centre; GPO Tower, London; Grosvenor House, London; Ind Coope Ltd; Philips Business Systems; Sainsburys; British Home Stores; Cwmbran Arts Trust; Essex County Council and IBM, London.
They never worked on the site itself, but used a regular contractor Hutton’s Builders Ltd Colchester, who cast the concrete in panels around four feet square. There are two relief panels, depicting events in the history of Newcastle. Highly stylised, the relief is moulded to a depth of 5cm and features some charming Geordie characters.
The left panel contains the following inscriptions and images Monkchester with Roman head and Newcastle coat of arms. Roman ship and golden coin. Collier Brig 1704-1880 with ship. Oceanus with anchor and seahorse with trident. The right panel contains the following inscriptions and images: Jupiter Fortuna with two figures. Engineering; Davy and Stephenson; coal mining ship building with images of same. G & R Stephenson; Armstrong Whitworth; Rocket 1829 with image of first steam engine. Armstrong 12 Pounder RA with image of gun. 1878 J.Swan Pons Aelius with bridges depicted below. Turbinia and image of ship. Various churches with names carved about including Grainger Dobson 1865; 1838 Green Stokoe; Bewick with a swan; a figure and Brigantia. Final section on far right has Geordie over two figures, then the Keel Row with a loading boat at the bottom.
Information from – PMSA
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 last year, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
The mural illustrated the cover of the 1975 Newcastle Festival.
Everything is up in the air.
Tyneside is self evidently enamoured of elevation – they simply adore bridges, having five and another one as well. Walking driving, running trains across the mighty Tyne Valley, why they even write songs about them.
In the Swinging Sixties T Dan Smith vowed to create a Brasilia of the North, which as good as his word he did, though sadly lacking the requisite regard for the law of the land.
What remains is a complex interwoven structure of urban motorways, walkways, multi-storey car parks and tower blocks. To explore is to enter a world of the sublime, exhilarating and still yet mildly confusing.
Can you get there from here?
Following a path from the Grand Entrance and Council Chambers, my genial host and erudite guide Debbie took me behind the scenes into the back rooms.
Further delights unfold in this most remarkable of buildings.
Firstly into the Banqueting Hall – beneath your feet Arabescato Marble, inset with a sprung dance floor and on the vaulted ceiling hand carved African walnut. The slightly sloping walls are of Clapham Stone, with the only double glazed arrow slit windows in the country.
The chandeliers are hand cut crystal from Westphalia and have the Newcastle castles on the top part of the fitting.
The seahorse carpet was recently replaced, digitally designed and woven to perfectly match the original.
The facing wall is graced by a John Piper tapestry, which represents the mineral resources of the area.
Grilles by Geoffrey Clarke cover the alcoves and have an orange backlight to simulate a medieval fireplace.
The room can seat up to six hundred people and is available for hire, in regular use for a wide variety of functions.
The Model Room houses a magnificent architectural replica of the city.
It is also blessed with a living, walking talking spiral staircase, cast in one single piece of steel, it moves with you as you ascend and descend.
This ante room dressed with Arne Vodder furniture, walls clad in raw silk and hand carved wood, is a place green oasis, a sea of calm.
Opened on 14th November 1968 by King Olav of Norway, opened for me by Debbie Harvey on Friday 5th May 2017, thanks ever so much.
This takes us into architect George Kenyon’s Civic Centre
Cast Aluminium portals and reveals to Ceremonial Entrance by Geoffrey Clarke.
Staff on reception were once able to notify officials of the arrival of guests and dignitaries, using this right bang up to the minute electrical intercom.
To the right is the engraved John Hutton Screen engraved glass panels depicting – the inventive genius of Tyneside’s most famous sons and daughters.
From left to right: George Stephenson the steam locomotive, Sir Charles Parson the turbine engine, Sir Joseph Swan electric light bulb, Lord Armstrong the gun.
Brigantia – Celtic Goddess of the tribe, The Three Mothers – offering fruit for fertility, Mithras – the slaying of the bull , Coventina the goddess of a well, she reclines on a water-borne leaf and below her are three intertwined figures of nymphs of streams, for in those days every self-respecting stream had its own tutelary deity. All have been found when Roman temples have been unearthed on the Roman wall.
A twenty three foot high, eleven tiered chandelier of hand cut Bavarian crystal from Westphalia, hangs above your head. This chandelier was commissioned on behalf of Newcastle City for the opening of the building in 1968. It has 119 light bulbs, the crystal on the top is in the shape of a castle on the base of the chandelier are sea horses. The walls are lined with random English oak, the floor down stairs is Portuguese Verde Viana marble.
Elegant Arne Vodder designed sofas litter the entrance, this truly is a palace of delights a temple of Municipal Socialism, take your shoes off set a spell.
Y’all come back now!
Within the exterior of architect George Kenyon’s distinguished civic drum sits the inner sanctum of the Council Chamber – my thanks to the delightful head of hospitality Debbie Harvey for providing me with the most erudite and educational tour.
Outside the division bell, set against Danish slate, was originally to be found on the HMS Newcastle.
This silver bell is of the 10,000 ton cruiser HMS Newcastle presented to the ship by the Lord Mayor and citizens of Newcastle upon Tyne to mark her commissioning in 1937. Launched by the Duchess of Northumberland on the 23rd January 1936 at the Walker Naval Yard. In 1959 HMS Newcastle was towed from Portsmouth to Newport Monmouthshire to be broken up.
The entrance padded with soft green leather the door clad in hand carved Cedar of Lebanon.
We illuminated the illuminated sign and entered – what treasures await, leather and teak furniture by acclaimed Danish designer Arne Vodder, worth thousands and thousands of pounds. Fine Swedish marble and further Cedar of Lebanon acoustic cladding, each surface of the highest quality and chosen to enhance the sound properties of the space. The councillors seated once a month on 149 leather clad seats with integral voting and microphone modules. A high grey, skylight lit domed ceiling.
This is work of the highest possible quality, a proud summation of Municipal Socialism, our friends in the North, matched with the imaginary world of the Man from Uncle.
Hope, we need a little hope, here embodied in a huge municipal undertaking.
Having survived the indignity of the Luftwaffe’s absence, Newcastle set about the task of knocking itself down. T Dan Smith’s Brasilia of the North had to be built, the self-styled former revolutionary communist, Sunday painter and jail bird had a vision – fuelled by that hopped up, post war optimism that had engulfed the land.
Newcastle Civic Centre is a local government building located in the Haymarket area of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It is the main administrative and ceremonial centre for Newcastle City Council. Designed by the city architect, George Kenyon, the building was completed in 1967 and was formally opened by HM King Olav V of Norway on 14 November 1968. It is a Grade II* listed building. The Newcastle Civic Centre is the joint eighth tallest building in the city.
It is a concrete poem clad in Portland stone ashlar, Cornish granite, Broughton Moor stone, hand made bricks, Norwegian slate, Portuguese marble, English oak, travertine hand hewn and assembled into one of the finest buildings in the land, no expense spared. Liberally dotted with the labours of John Piper, Victor Pasmore, John Robert Murray McCheyne, Charles Sansbury Geoffrey Clarke, David Dewey, John Hutton and David Wynne.
A building full of surprises, big and small that repays exploration and further exploration, in that order. Go take a look, breathe that air, that air which whistles up the River Tyne, fresh from the Continent – and glow, all aglow with civic centre pride.