Our Lady Star Of The Sea – Amlwch

The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch. 

Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.

Coflein

Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.

About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.

Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.

Wikipedia

From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.

Prior to the construction of adjacent houses and the treatment of the concrete shell.

The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.

British Listed Buildings

Robert Jones of Beaumaris: 

I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.

BBC

For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.

This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.

The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:

A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.

Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.

Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.

The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.

He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.

They had one son born in 1940.

Porth Wen Brickworks – Anglesey

Located twixt Bull Bay and Cemaes Bay, accessed whilst walking the Anglesey Coastal Path.

The area is rich in Quartzite, central to the production of Silica Bricks, which are resistant to high temperatures, much in demand at the height of the Industrial Revolution for lining steel furnaces.

The ore on the headland was first mined around 1850, with the ore being hewn out the living rock by hand.

A little railway brought the ore to the cliff above the brick works, then lowered by gravity to the works below, where the rocks would be pummelled and rendered to a size that could be further processed.

Mining by manual endeavour lasted from around 1850 to 1914, the hazardous harbour and alleged poor quality products hastening the enterprises’s demise.

Porth Wen brickworks was designated as a scheduled monument by Cadw in 1986 and classified as a post-medieval industrial brickworks.

Further information.

I first visited Porth Wen in the late Seventies, cycling to the nearest lane and walking across open fields.

It remains as incongruous today, set amongst coastal agriculture and the shiny sea.

Take care it’s a slippery slope – and the owners forbid access to their private property.

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.

Shelters – Rhos on Sea

I thought that you may have all been removed – phase two of several phases reshaping the hard landscape of Wales.

It seems I was incorrect – I’m happy to report that as of last Friday only one of our shelters is missing.

So I more or less repeated the task undertaken on my last visit.

Yet another series of photographs of the amalgamated municipal mash-up – concrete glass pebbles pebbledash paving mosaic and imagination rendered corporeal courtesy of Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy.

And the constantly berated Undeb Ewropeaidd.

Jubilant Leave supporters in Conwy are celebrating a convincing win in the historic EU referendum vote.

The Brexit backers secured a majority of more than 5,000, winning the poll by 35,357 votes to 30,147 votes.

Daily Post

So here we are almost all present and correct – let’s take a stroll down the prom together, stopping only to snap and shelter from time to time, from the short sharp September showers.

Penrhyn Bay – Again And Again

Here we are again again.

Baby it happens when you’re close to me
My heart starts beating – hey a strong beat.
Oh I can’t leave you alone
Can’t leave you alone

I walk over the Little Orme and there you are so well behaved – trimmed topped and tailed polished window washed windswept so sub-urbane.

Nothing ever happens here or does it?

The highly popular singing duo Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth retired to a small bungalow in Penrhyn Bay.

It provided a location for an episode of  Hetty Wainthropp Investigates

Originally a small farming community, Penrhyn Bay came to rely heavily on the employment opportunities of the limestone quarry operating since the mid-19th century, and served by its own narrow gauge railway, but quarrying ceased in 1936.

However, Penrhyn Bay expanded rapidly in the 20th century to become a desirable suburb of Llandudno – my you’re a hot property.

Almost half a million pounds and counting as the ever mounting mountain of retiring and retired knock upon your over ornate uPVC doors.

So here we are, as the rain clears and the sun almost breaks – your carefully rendered and stone clad walls, not quite awash with a golden midday glow.

Just like Arnie and General McArthur I’ll be back – I shall return.

Shelters Rhos to Colwyn

I have previously sought succour in your shady shelters, as unrelenting sheets of steel grey rain peppered the wind whipped Irish sea.

A concrete cornucopia of Californian screen block, glass, pebbledash, mosaic and crazy paving.

Municipal modernism under threat as the unstoppable force of coastal improvement lumbers on, a pantechnicon of shiny surfaces, sensitive planting, contemporary seating and laser-cut, contextually appropriate historical panels.

As Hardscape introduces a wholesome dose of CGI style medicine to the promenade

I for one will miss you all when you’re gone.

Next time I pass all this will seem as a dream, a tale told by a fool full of sand and fury signifying nothing.

Return To Penrhyn Bay

Then the very next morning it came right back to me.

She wrote upon it:

Return to Penrhyn Bay – so I dutifully did

This is the land of the well-behaved bungalow, neatly tended, conscientiously swept, accessorised by B&Q.

The stoic sea and wind washed link-detached semi.

Nothing is out of place, except perhaps the architectural style – a West Coast blow in on the North Wales Coast.

To wander is to wonder:

Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

On The Waterfront – Llandudno

A welwyd eisoes.

I’ve been here before, as have others before me.

The town of Llandudno developed from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements over many hundreds of years on the slopes of the limestone headland, known to seafarers as the Great Orme and to landsmen as the Creuddyn Peninsula.

Some years later.

In 1848, Owen Williams, an architect and surveyor from Liverpool, presented landowner Lord Mostyn with plans to develop the marshlands behind Llandudno Bay as a holiday resort. These were enthusiastically pursued by Lord Mostyn. The influence of the Mostyn Estate and its agents over the years was paramount in the development of Llandudno, especially after the appointment of George Felton as surveyor and architect in 1857.

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The edge of the bay is marked by concrete steps and a broad promenade, edging a pebbled beach which arcs from Orme to Orme.

Walk with me now and mark the remarkable shelters, paddling pools and bandstand screens, along with the smattering of people that people the promenade.

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