St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.

St Joseph’s

The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.

Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.

The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.

The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.

The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.

Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.

This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.

The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.

I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.

Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.

Elim Pentecostal Church – Halifax

Hall St Halifax HX1 5AY

Elim Church

Having walked from Hebden Bridge to Halifax with Mr Phil Wood, we approached Hall Street – and gazed admiringly at this striking building, from across the A58.

Attributed to C.S. Oldfield and it was completed in 1972 apparently they did the relief too.

20th Century Society

A low serrated, ridge and furrow conical roof, corona and steel spire breaking the skyline.

Very much a building of two halves, the single storey hall, adjoining the body of the church, which is raised on a plinth.

They are linked by an internal hallway.

An intriguing mix of restrained classical detailing, along with the more modernistic roof and internal structure.

From the outside it is possible to discern the stained glass panels in the corona.

To the right of the main entrance is a modular sculptural relief, modelled in concrete cast in fibreglass.

There are eight individual modules, set in a grid of six by eleven – sixty six in total, rotated to break up the rhythm of the piece.

I was blessed on the day of my visit, with permission to photograph the interior, many thanks to Pastor Mark.

Hastings 2015

I had completed my journey from Weston super Mare, with a final day’s cycle ride from Eastbourne and had two days to spare.

So I took some time to have a mooch around and this dear readers is what I did see.

I have snapped the seafront shelters previously and put together one post after another.

These are an integral part of Sidney Little’s concrete promenade scheme

Lurched toward London Road Launderette in St Leonards – which was featured in my 2020 book eight laundrettes.

Next door is this Post Office mosaic.

Back to the front for a more traditional seaside shelter.

Exploring the backstreets in search of fitness for purpose and secret signs.

Then diving in for a delicious dosa at the long gone St Len’s Lakshmi Mahal – since moved to Bexhill on Sea.

Snapping the plaques at the White Rock Theatre.

Currently closed but hopefully open in time for the We Love The Spice Girls.

Popped into Arthur Green – former gent’s outfitters, current bric a brac brokers.

Before we know it, we’re in another laundrette, once more without washing in the Wash Inn.

Back along the front to the well appointed and freshly painted Marine Court.

Time to pop into the not always open subsequently closed St Leonard’s Church.

When World War II broke out, Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea were considered vulnerable to attacks and invasion from abroad. On the night of Saturday 29 July 1944 a doodlebug was hit over the English Channel. Damaged, it nevertheless continued to fly towards the coastline of St Leonards-on-Sea. It was approaching Marine Court which was hosting a servicemen’s party – but it veered and crashed in front of the doors of St Leonard’s Church, making a deep crater. The tower fell into this, and the rest of the church was brought down as well. Although there were no casualties, the church was completely destroyed. Although the problem of rock falls and subsidence associated with the cliffs had continued throughout the life of the church, the War Damage Commission would only pay for it to be rebuilt on the same site. The architectural partnership of brothers Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were commissioned to design the new building.

Patrick Reyntiens stained glass

The unique features were inspired by Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, rector from 1929 to 1961. Following a dream, he went to Israel and had the prow of a Galilean fishing boat constructed to form the pulpit.

Marble work on the floor depicts locally caught skate and herring.

Beyond the communion rail are loaves and fishes set in different marble patterns bordered by scallop shells, a copy of the Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Galilee.

The structure set into shifting cliffs is subject to subsidence.

Procedures have been completed for St Leonard’s Parish Church on Marina to be closed for worship. 

The service will be next Saturday August 4 2018 at 3pm. 

Because the building cannot be used the service will be at St Ethelburga’s in St Saviour’s Road.

St Leonard’s has been called the church with an inbuilt message.  Even the very stones cry out to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand and accept the Good News of the Gospel.

St Leonards Church

Bognor Regis to Eastbourne

It’s Tuesday 5th August 2015 and the taps don’t match – is this a good omen?

Or simply proprietorial pragmatism?

And why is the sink a funny shape?

Any road up we’re off up the road, the sun’s a shining and here we are in Littlehampton.

Looking at a pale blue gas holder, some way off in the middle distance.

Staring up at a fishmonger’s ghost.

Passing by an ultra-squiggly seaside shelter as a runner passes by.

The Long Bench at Littlehampton is thought to be the longest bench in Britain and one of the longest in the world. The wood and stainless steel bench ‘flows’ along the promenade at Littlehampton in West Sussex – curving round lamp posts and obstacles, twisting up into the seafront shelters, dropping down to paths and crossings.

The bench was opened in July 2010 and can seat over 300 people. It was funded by Arun District Council and CABE’s ‘Sea Change’ capital grants programme for cultural and creative regeneration in seaside resorts. The bench was also supported by a private donation from Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita, the founder of the Body Shop, which first began trading in Littlehampton.

Water treatment plant.

Nothing lifts the spirits quite like a wildflower meadow.

Imagine my surprise having gone around the back – an expressionist concrete spiral stairway.

Letting the sky leak in here at Burlington Court in Goring on Sea

The phrase deceptively spacious is one that is often overused within the property industry, however it sums up this ground floor flat prospectively. Offering a great alternative to a bungalow and providing spacious and versatile living accommodation, this is an absolute must for your viewing list.

Prime Location £250,000

What a delightful Modernist frieze on the side of Marine Point – Worthing!

With lifts to all floors this triple aspect corner apartment is situated on the fifth level and has outstanding panoramic sea views across from Beachy Head to Brighton through to the Isle of Wight. It is also benefits from stunning South Down views to the west and north. The property has been recently refurbished to a high specification and includes features such as: Quick-Step flooring, security fitted double glazed windows, a hallway motion sensor lighting system, extensive storage space and two double bedrooms.  

On The Market £450,000

Fox and Sons are delighted to offer For Sale this immaculate seafront penthouse located within the highly desirable Normandy Court situated on the sought after West Parade, Worthing. Upon entry you will notice that the communal areas are kept in good condition throughout.

Fox and Sons £325,00

The finest N in the land!

One of the finest modular pre-cast concrete car parks in the land.

Borough council officers have recommended developing the Grafton car park, with a fresh study recommending that building new homes there is key – saying it is important to help revitalise the town centre and bring in new cutlural and leisure activities.

The car park is currently undergoing essential maintenance to be able to keep it open in the short term but the recommendation is that it should eventually be demolished to make way for the new development.

Spirit FM

In the meantime they have painted it a funny colour.

On the concrete Undercliff on my way out of Brighton.

The Seven Sisters in view.

Before you know it you’ve booked into an Eastbourne B&B enjoying the multiple benefits of the complimentary biscuits and a mini-kettle brew.

Followed by a pint in the delightful Dolphin.

A stroll around town.

Returning to the backyard of The Dolphin.

Another pint then.

Night night.

Plymouth to Dartmouth

Wednesday 29th July 2015 – eastward ho!

Leaving the compact anonymity of my B&B for the open road!

Having been unable to sample the joys of the Quality Hotel.

The Quality Hotel closed in 2014 and was demolished two years later after the site was bought by the city council following vandalism and fires.  

The ten-storey concrete block was built in 1970 in the 350th anniversary year of The Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth for North America.

Gilpin Demolition

Plymouth Hoe’s fifty million pound hotel and apartments project appears to have ground to a halt with no building work happening more than a year after developers vowed it would start in 2018.

Henley Real Estate, the firm behind the plans for an 11-story hotel and a 15-floor block of flats on the demolished former Quality Hotel site, has gone silent on plans and not responded to emails and phone calls from Plymouth Live.

When we visited the site the only sign of life was some weeds growing out of the ground.

I’ll leave them to it, I’m off in search of the South West Passage

The South West Coast Path itself is 630 miles long and is the longest established National Trail in the country. Starting at Minehead in Somerset it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour. 

However if you follow the Coastal Path you’ll miss this delightful concrete fire station training tower in Plympton.

Along with the longest corrugated iron structure in the West Country.

You’ll miss getting slightly lost and a cup of tea at the Dream Bites roadside café in Modbury.

Dream Bites café, we’re all is welcome, from cars to Biker’s to Ride outs to Puplic and to work companies even you the cyclists!

GREAT FOOD GREAT PRICE.

You’ll miss the deep hedged lanes of Devon.

Where the four x fours force you into the roadside brambles with consummate ease and regularity – even on a designated cycle route.

Respite from such trials and tribulations can be found upon siting a water tower or a deserted butchers – down at Slapton Ley.

Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. 

Much beloved of my old pal Harry H Potts and family.

Then it’s up a hill down a hill to Dartmouth.

I made enquiries at several sea front hotels – who upon assessing my mode of dress and transport, despatched me to a back street pub B&B, suit y’self suits me, and my pocket.

The Seale Arms was just the job.

Quick change for the artist – let’s have a look around.

It’s full of historical architectural detail.

And slightly more hysterical architectural detail.

Time for a pint – chatting in the pub to yachting types, for it is here that the sense of tradition, the sea, power and wealth traditionally resides.

A short walk home.

Night night.

Weston super Mare to Ilfracombe

Following a sound night’s sleep, courtesy of the Ocean Hotel, I set out on my Ridgeback World Voyage – purchased through the Cycle to Work Scheme, I have essentially used it in order to cycle away from work.

My dream had always been to devise a way of life, where the lines between work, leisure and culture disappear, where such tiresome social constructs have finally become redundant – let’s go!

Having failed to learn from my previous jaunt, that a map is a handy aid to successful travel, I set off merrily without one – on Sunday 25th July 2015.

Following Sustrans’ signs will suffice, says I to myself.

I arrived safely in Brean, as the rain began to fall with a deeply disheartening enthusiasm.

The signage indicated a route across the beach – I quickly learnt that heavy rain and sand do not produce a sufficiently solid surface for cycling, when push comes to shove, there’s only one way forward.

Push.

There was no escape to the left, the extensive run of caravan parks and private leisure facilities having erected attractive razor wire topped barriers and locked gates – I pressed on.

With every arduous tortured sandy step, I developed an even deeper antipathy towards Pontin’s Brean Sands.

Here at Brean Sands we have been busy getting ready to welcome guests to our park. We have painted all our apartments, we have fitted over 10,000 metres skirting board throughout the apartments. All external soffits have been painted along with all the Double Decker apartments and main buildings. The QV Bar, Restaurant and also the Fun Factory have all had new flooring fitted. Our Restaurant bays are now refitted as well as improvements to our till area & reception desk.

Free at last from the sandy hell of the shore, I sought succour in this seaside café – where panoramic views of the sea come free.

Having enjoyed the multiple benefits of a breakfast not included tariff at the Ocean Hotel, I was now very, very hungry indeed – I made very, very short work of egg and beans on toast.

I briefly kept company with a Swiss couple, who were on an extensive motor car tour, I quickly became something of an apologist for the day’s foul weather.

It’s not always like this you know.

Stating the obvious, yet thinking the converse.

The panoramic view through the other window – a delightful row of rain soaked, link low rise maisonettes – nirvana!

I was arrested by this arresting wayside shelter/art gallery facility commemorating the Coronation of 1953, in the village of Chedzoy.

The village is at the western end of King’s Sedgemoor and lies on an ‘island’ of Burtle marine sands, close to King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The area was settled possibly in the Mesolithic period, and timber trackways from the third to first millennium B.C. provided routes to other settlements on the Somerset Levels. Roman artifacts have been found in the parish.

The name of the village is pronounced Chidgey or Chedzey, and derives its name from being Cedd’s Island. The zoy part of the name being derived from eg or ieg meaning island.

The shelter stands at the corner of Front and Higher Streets – it would appear that the Burghers of Chedzoy had exhausted their inexhaustible font of creative naming resources, by the time that streets had been invented – the Mesolithic fools.

The village people seem to be suffering from some collective false memory syndrome recollection of a fabulous Mer-family past.

Improving weather in the Bridgwater area, as we languish in the cool shade of the by-pass, beside the River Parrett.

The River Parrett has its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset in England and flows west through the Somerset Levels. The mouth is a Nature Reserve at Burnham on Sea where it flows into Bridgwater Bay on the Bristol Channel. The river is tidal for 18.6 miles up to Oath; and, because the fall of the river, between Langport and Bridgwater is only 1 foot per mile, it is prone to frequent flooding, in winter and high tides.

The River Parrett is 37 miles long and its main tributaries include the Rivers Tone, Isle and Yeo. The River Cary drains into the Parrett via the King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The River Parrett drains an area of over 652.5 square miles – comprising around fifty percent of the land area of Somerset.

Somerset Rivers

Here we are in Williton – where the modern world is ready to sweep in unannounced as announced in the Somerset County Gazette.

Plans to build a new supermarket, retail units and health centre in Williton have been resubmitted this week. J. Gliddon and Sons Ltd. has put forward new plans for the redevelopment of land off the A39 Bank Street in Williton, behind its existing store.

The shop will be demolished to create the access road, with the company expected to occupy a new unit fronting onto Bank Street once the mini-roundabout has been built.

Well so far so good – I arrived in Minehead in one piece – bike intact.

Having only the vaguest notion of where my onward route lay – I hastened to the Tourist Information Office. Having carefully explained my malaise the helpful staff gazed at me with mild amazement, liberally mixed with slightly perplexed eye-rolling and the odd tut.

Having received quite detailed instructions, I was almost immediately lost, following a road that abruptly ceased to be a road. Reluctantly I picked up a woodland path, rutted with tree roots and certainly not a suitable cycling route.

It fell away sharply, as I careered out of control down the precipitous slope.

On reaching the end I discovered that my new rain jacket had also fallen away, along with my treasured Casio watch, which was tucked safely in the pocket.

I lightly bit my lip and reflected that climbing back up the precipitous slope, which I had only too recently incautiously careered down, was not an option – onward ever onward.

In my mind the younger me looks at the older me – having lost all faith in my ability to manage my life with even a modicum of honesty and integrity, or at best a basic grasp of reality.

O ye of little faith – he seeks sanctuary in Church of All Saints Selworthy.

A whitewashed Grade I Listed 15th-century Church, with a 14th-century tower.

Welcome to this outstanding Parish Church, which, thanks to it’s distinctive white appearance stands as a beacon on the hills of Exmoor. For centuries Selworthy Church has been a focus for residents and visitors as a place to experience the power and presence of God. We hope you find peace of God here and leave uplifted, refreshed and inspired.

Further on down the road somewhere or other I had a cup of tea and piece of cake.

Had I carried out even the most basic research, I would have known that the ups and downs of Exmoor are no easy ride, particularly in heavy rain without a rain jacket.

As the sky darkened I was heartened by the sight of the light’s of Ilfracombe, twinkling star like in the distance – following eighty six miles of toil and a measure of trouble, I finally arrived at the pre-booked digs. They had been concerned by my no-show, relieved when I finally arrived, incredulous when I told the tale of the day’s travails. The lady of the house ever so kindly washed and dried my sodden clothing.

I showered and hit the town – eschewing food in favour of a pint, chatting to a garrulous gang of solar panel cleaners from Cornwall.

Returning merrily to the B&B and the prospect of slumber.

Night night.

Jetson Street – Abbey Hey

We are travelling backwards and forwards in time – firstly back to 1845 when the street was yet to be built, before the Industrial Revolution created the need for workers’ homes, to house the workers from the newly built workplaces, which also did not yet exist.

It was almost all fields around here.

Old Maps of Gorton

1845

A little further forward to 1896 when Jetson Street has emerged fully formed from the fields, along with rail, road, amusement and industry.

1896

Fast forward to today and it’s all almost still there – though most of the work and the majority of the amusement has evaporated into a cloud of post-industrial, Neo-Liberal economic stagflation.

So why am I here – fast forward to the fictional future!

As a kid I watched as the Jet Age emerged before my very square eyes, giving the street a certain cosmic charm – I was curious.

I have searched online – this seems to be the one and only Jetson Street in the whole wide world – I searched online for its origins.

The name Jetson means Son Of Jet and is of American origin.

Which quite frankly seems unreasonably glib.

The name Jetson is from the ancient  Anglo-Saxon culture of the Britain and comes from the names Judd and Jutt, which are pet forms of the  personal name Jordan. These names are derived from Jurd, a common abbreviation of Jordan, and feature the common interchange of voiced and voiceless final consonants.

The surname Jetson was first found in  Hertfordshire where they held a  family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the  Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.

Which quite frankly seems unreasonably obscure.

Let’s jet back to 1964.

T Brooks wandered these streets taking thousands of photographs for the Manchester Corporation, possibly the housing or highways departments – they all still exist here on the Local Image Collection.

This was a world of corner shops on ever corner, settled communities full-employment, neatly ordered rows of sturdy brick-built homes.

I follow in his hallowed footsteps, what if anything remains of this world – fast forward to 2015 my first fleeting visit.

Now trading as Happy Home
A barber shop no more

The area now has a richer racial mix – having recently become home to many African and Eastern European families. The architectural consistency of the houses has been swamped by render, window frame replacement, addition and extension, and the arrival of a plethora of motor cars. The majority of shops now long gone, as the once pedestrian community spread their retail wings and wheels elsewhere.

Jetson Street – North
Sandown Street
Kings Close
Madison Street
Kenyon Street
Kenyon Street
Sign of the times
Gordon Street
Jetson Street – North
Jetson Street – South
Walter Street
Walter Street
Claymore Street
Claymore Street
Courier Street
The only remaining front doors and tiled porch every other having been given over to the allure of uPVC and the enclosed doorway
My on street correspondent congratulated the Raja Brothers on the sound service they had provided during these difficult times.
Where the barbers was
Burstead Street
Abbey Hey Lane

Holy Angels – Hale Barns

The magnum opus of the architect Arthur Farebrother, who was a parishioner. The church is executed in monumental style and has a powerful and little-altered interior which owes a debt to Dom Paul Bellott’s design for the Benedictine Abbey of Quarr, Isle of Wight.

The parish was formed in 1958 and fundraising for building a church started almost immediately. The church was designed by Arthur Farebrother, a parishioner, and the contractors were Browns of Wilmslow, a craft firm with a high reputation particularly for woodwork and carving. The building was finally opened in 1964.

Holy Angels is a building of great presence, of pale brick executed in free early Gothic style with Romanesque overtones. It has a powerful pylon-like west tower, transeptal chapel, attached southwest baptistery with a conical copper-clad roof, and a plain presbytery attached on the north side. The interior is dominated by the powerful brick arches which continue into the ceiling as vaulting. Narrow processional aisles and ambulatory. The north side confessionals are framed by a timber surround. Elevated forward altar with choir seating around in an arc. The simple modern furnishings are probably original.

Taking Stock

I was in search of All Saints just along the way in Hale Road, but came upon Holy Angles looming large on the corner.

A commanding essay in pale brick, though referencing architecture of the Middle Ages, it has a transitional modernity in its angular Arts and Crafts details.

All Saints Church – Hale Barns

Hale Rd Hale Barns Altrincham WA15 8SP

As Hale Barns grew in the 1950s and 1960s it was clear that the small daughter church was less than adequate in terms of size and facilities, and under the leadership of the Rev Fred Cox, the then Vicar, a new church was planned for the site. Designed by Brian Brunskill, All Saints Church was consecrated in 1967.

Outside it can seem a rather stark building, of brown brick, set back from the busy Hale Road but inside it is full of light and space.  The influence has clearly been that of the French architect Le Corbusier, and there is a wonderful interplay of curved and straight walling.  At first there was no stained glass, but in the early 1980s glass by the Japanese artist Sumiko was installed in the north windows.  This includes a stylised tree-of-life design. In the baptistry there is some Victorian glass brought from St Mary’s Church.

In 2009 a radical and daring re-ordering of the building was completed. The church was carpeted and new furniture of high quality, designed and made by Treske, woodcarvers  of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, was installed.  The tree-of-life design in the 1980s glass has been echoed in the glass inserts to the Lectern and High Altar and also in the metal uprights of the Altar Rail.  All the fittings are moveable, giving a flexible space.  This flexibility give opportunities to explore how the building itself can enrich worship at different seasons of the Church’s year. 

All Saints

My first time in Hale Barns – hence my first visit to All Saints.

Small in scale, but large in ambition – a wonderful exercise in the calm controlled use of brick, rich in small details, along with an expressive mix of warm curves within a rigid grid.

Of particular note is the sculptural concrete bell tower, the exterior use of pebbles in the porch which flow into the interior space, along with a discrete palette of grey tiling.

It demands to be circumnavigated – fresh surprises await around each turn, simple hard landscaping of flags, softer restrained planting and open areas of lawn, so very well tended.

Let’s take a look around.

Here are some images of the reworked interior taken from the All Saints gallery.

St Mary’s RC Church Denton – Again

I’ve visited before and posted a post previously.

That’s no reason not to pay another visit, especially on a sunny lockdown day – so here we are again on Duke Street.

All masses suspended, life on hold – let’s take a look around:

Coventry Cathedral

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.

Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.

© Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Coventry Cathderal

The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.

St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.

Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.

This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.

The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.

Study for the the seventy two foot high tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland – collection of The Herbert Art Gallery

The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed

Altar cross and crown of thorns by Geoffrey Clarke, large ceramic candlesticks by Hans Coper.

Chairs by Russell Hodgson and Leigh.

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.

A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows. 

Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer

Stained glass to aisle walls by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New.

At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel. 

This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.

The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar. 

Historic Coventry

St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy – Hull

667 Beverley Rd Hull HU6 7JL

Set back from Beverley Road – we just about found this delightful Modernist gem. Tucked in amongst student accommodation and approximate to the Endsleigh College.

It was well worth the circuitous bust journey from the Interchange to St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy

The church built in 1965 is fan-shaped in plan. Concrete portal frame with yellow brick infill. Shallow-pitched sheet metal clad roof. The main rear wall is flat and blind, with a parapet, and extends across the building at full height. From this wall the main body of the church radiates, three facetted bays to either side, with a saw tooth eaves line, then a projecting square block which houses the narthex and west gallery. The saw tooth eaves continue just above the entrance block to complete the fan shape. Attached to the other side of the main wall are the low, square projections of the side chapels and sacristies and a concrete framed bell tower with shallow pitched roof. The entrance block is clad is artificial stone, has a wide, glazed screen with central doors and a thin flat canopy. 

We had arrived some twenty five strong as part of Manchester Modernist’s Hull Mooch – we were very warmly welcomed and left more than satisfied by the riches both within and without.

My thanks to Deacon Rev. Robert Shakesby

Above this an inset panel of decorative mosaic by Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd of Manchester -the firm ceased trading in 1965. The facetted elevations have large glazed areas set in a bold concrete grid of mullions and transoms, tripartite in the centre with a border of smaller divisions. The bell tower is placed in the centre of the east wall and has a port cullis-like bell-opening facing west.

The mosaic is surrounded by decorative abstract panels in light relief

Let’s take a look inside.

The interior is a light and spacious essentially single cell, with the shallow canted projection of the sanctuary – top lit by a row of seven small circular skylights, the low side chapels and the organ gallery. The concrete portal frame provides a dramatic grid radiating from the centre of the east wall. Sanctuary fittings in contrasting marbles, by Toffolo & Son of Hull, designed as a piece. Similar marble altar in the northeast side chapel. The chapels have subtle shallow-pitched arches. West gallery also with circular skylights. Organ pipes at either end arranged within a striking double-curve enclosure, like a grand piano in plan. Open-backed pews and original light fittings. Stained glass by Leo Earley of Earley & Co. of Dublin. Stations of the Cross, wooden relief panels set within integral frames, somewhat stark.

Thanks to Taking Stock for the facts.

Odeon – Guide Bridge

285 Stockport Road Guide Bridge Ashton-under-Lyne

This was planned to be the Verona Cinema, a project of local builders – P Hamer Verona Cinema Ltd. The construction of the cinema was almost completed when Hamer sold the building to Oscar Deutsch and it opened as one of his Odeon theatres.

Hamer then used the proceeds of the sale to build the Roxy Cinema Holinwood, which was designed by Drury & Gomersall.

Opening date of the Odeon Theatre was 29th June 1936, when the first programme was Bing Crosby in “Anything Goes” and Harold Lloyd in “The Milky Way”. Designed by the noted cinema architectural firm of Drury & Gomersall, the frontage had a neat entrance in brick, with white stone facings on the window surrounds. There was a parade of shop units on each side of the entrance which had matching brickwork and a white stone trim.

Inside the auditorium the seating was arranged for 834 in the stalls and 330 in the circle. The side splay walls on each side of the proscenium was decorated in wide horizontal bands, and topped with a backlit illuminated grille.

The Odeon was closed by the Rank Organisation on 11th March 1961 with Kenneth More in “Man in the Moon”.

It was converted into St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Former cinemas have made good conversions to churches and the fabric of the buildings are generally respected. In this case though, the sad story is that the front entrance has been rendered over and inside all details of it cinematic past have been erased. You would never know you were inside what had been been an Art Deco styled building.

Contributed by Ken Roe Cinema Treasures

I passed by nearly every day for years travelling to and from school, I played there at a wedding reception in the church social club. I sadly have no recollection of the building in use as a cinema.

It has been closed since 2010 – currently it has no purpose or seemingly any future use, there are no For Sale signs in evidence.

Fallen so quickly and absolutely from grace.

St Mary’s RC Church – Denton

Duke Street Denton Manchester M34 2AN

I remember you being built.

I remember our visit with the Manchester Modernists in 2015 – arranged by Angela Connelly and Matthew Steele of Sacred Suburbs

I popped by to see you yesterday – a truly remarkable structure set amongst the terraced housing of an unremarkable street.

The foundation stone for the present building laid by Bishop Beck in August 1962. He returned to bless and open the church on 25 June 1963. The new church was built from designs by Walter Stirrup & Sons – job architect Kevin Houghton, at a cost of about £60,000. The church is notable for its dalle de verre glass, by Carl Edwards of Whitefriars.

The church is a very striking and characterful building with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof rising in peaks on four sides, with clerestory lighting in the angles, that on the west side jutting out to form a canopy over the entrance. It was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘wildly expressionist’.

Taking Stock

I suggest that you do the same and pop by to see St Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows soon.

St Vincent de Paul – Rochdale

Caldershaw Road Norden Rochdale OL12

Well it’s almost a mighty long way to cycle from Stockport to here, but well worth it.

A clear functional design of the 1970s, designed to place all the internal focus on the top-lit altar, which beneath its modern cladding incorporates a pre-Reformation altar stone. The external appearance of the church is slightly forbidding but the interior is enhanced by vibrant slab glass.

More than somewhat bunker like in its recessed situation, well below street level, yet interesting and engaging nonetheless – I’m rather fond of grey.

Working around the comings and goings of the adjacent school, I half circumnavigated the site, capturing something of the detail and exterior views of the stained glass. The interior will have to wait until another day.

Planned and newly constructed housing developments in Norden and Bamford made it apparent that a new church was needed nearer the geographical centre of the parish. In June 1975 the present church of St Vincent de Paul was opened, nearly a mile away from the old church. The architect was Bernard Ashton of the Cassidy & Ashton Partnership, Preston.

Internally the church is simply fitted with plain white plastered or boarded walls. The low level of daylighting enhances the effect of the four corner windows, which are filled with rainbow glass, and of the top-lit altar. The dalle de verre glass was designed by Eddie Blackwell and made in Dom. Charles Norris’s workshop at Buckfast Abbey. The figure of the risen Christ on the roof over the entrance porch were also designed by Blackwell.

Taking Stock

Immaculate Conception – Failsworth

Clive Road Failsworth Manchester M35

A church of the early 1960s, built before the Second Vatican Council on a traditional basilican plan. The design is striking and unusual, with an interesting combination of Gothic, classical and modern architectural motifs. The architect, Tadeusz Lesisz of Greenhalgh & Williams, is a little known figure but a designer of some interest. The church exhibits a scheme of sculpture, stained glass and mosaic on Marian themes, mainly by local designers, and retains almost all of the original furnishings and fittings in little altered state. It also retains furnishings from the late-nineteenth-century predecessor church. 

Taking Stock

The church is Grade II Listed

The west front is very striking, the broad entrance arch enclosing a suspended aluminium figure of the Virgin by E.J. Blackwell of Manchester, who also executed the moulded artificial stone friezes. 

The stained glass is by Charles Lightfoot, much of it to the designs of the architect, some incorporating glass from the previous church.

Leyland – St Mary’s Church

It never fails to surprise, turning the corner of a somewhat anonymous suburban street to find:

A building of outstanding importance for its architectural design, advanced liturgical planning and artistic quality of the fixtures and fittings.

Broadfield Drive Leyland Lancashire PR25 1PD

The Benedictines came to Leyland in 1845 and the first Church of St. Mary’s was built on Worden Lane in 1854. The Catholic population was small at this time, but had grown to around 500 by 1900. Growth was assisted by the industrial development of Leyland and after the Second World War the town was earmarked as the centre of a new town planned in central Lancashire. By the early 1960’s, the Catholic population was 5,000. Fr Edmund Fitzsimmons, parish priest from 1952, was a guiding force in the decision to build a large new church of advanced liturgical design, inspired by progressive continental church architecture of the mid 20th century.  The church was designed by Jerzy Faczynski of Weightman and Bullen. Cardinal Heenan blessed the foundation  stone  in  1962  and  the  new  church  was  completed  ready  for  its consecration and dedication by Archbishop Beck in April 1964.

Stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens.

Pink brick, reinforced concrete, copper covered roofs, zig-zag to main space and flat to aisle. Circular, aisled plan with projecting entrance and five projecting chapels.

Central altar. Entrance in large projecting porch with roof rising outwards and the roof slab cantilevered above the doors, its underside curving upward.

Large polychrome ceramic mural representing the Last Judgment by Adam Kossowski occupies the width of the porch above the two double- doored entrances.

Brick rotunda with projecting painted reinforced concrete chapels to left and right, of organic round-cornered form.

Folded radial roof above main space, leaning outwards to shelter triangular clerestory windows. Circular glazed light to centre of roof, its sides leaning outwards, culminating in a sculpted finial of copper or bronze.

Internally, sanctuary is floored in white marble, raised by a step, and the white marble altar is raised by three further steps.

Fixed curved timber benches are placed on slightly raked floor.

`Y’ shaped concrete aisle posts, designed to incorporate the Stations of the Cross, sculpted by Arthur Dooley.

Above these the exposed brick drum rises to the exposed, board-marked concrete folded roof. The aisle walls comprise thirty-six panels of abstract dalle-de-verre stained glass, totalling 233 feet in length, by Patrick Reyntiens, mostly in blues and greens. The theme is the first day of Creation. Suspended above the altar is the original ring-shaped light fixture, and also Adam Kossowski’s ceramic of Christ the King.

Further original light fittings are suspended above the congregation.

The font is placed in the narthex, in a shallow, marble-lined depression in the floor. It comprises a concrete cylinder with an inscribed bronze lid.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its rising roof slab, contains a green marble altar with in-built raking supports.

Behind it is a tapestry representing the Trinity, designed by the architect J. Faczynski.

Text from Taking Stock

Many thanks to Father John and the members of the congregation for the warm welcome that they extended to us on the day of our visit to their exceptional Grade II Listed church.

St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

Brownhill Dr Blackburn BB1 9BA

The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

Lancashire Telegraph

And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.

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.

St Augustine RC Church – Manchester

We have been here before on the west side of Grosvenor Square, between the former Eye Hospital and Registry Office on Lower Ormond Street, sits the solid stolid brick form of St Augustine.

The original St Augustine’s was one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Manchester, having been established at Granby Row in 1820. This church was sold in 1905 to make way for the Manchester Municipal Technical College, and a new church built on York Street. This church was destroyed in the Manchester Blitz of 1940. The present site previously housed a chapel of ease in a building bought from the Methodists in the 1870s. It had briefly been a separate parish, but in 1908 was amalgamated with St Augustine’s parish. After the War it was the only surviving church in the parish. The new St Augustine’s was built here with the help of a grant from the War Damage Commission, at a cost of £138,000, when it was clear that the original building was inadequate. The new building was opened in 1968 and consecrated in 1970.

Quite rightly listed by Historic England.

Roman Catholic Church 1967-8 by Desmond Williams & Associates. Load-bearing dark brown brick construction with felt roofs supported on Vierendeel girders, with rear range in brick and timber cladding.  

Body of church virtually square, with corridor at rear right leading to cross wing containing offices and accommodation. Windowless façade with floating service projection to the left and four full height brick fins to the right of wide recessed central entrance reached by low flight of steps. On the projection a ceramic plaque with star and mitre and on the inner face of the left hand fin a figure of the Madonna, both by Robert Brumby. Set back returns of 6 bays, divided by pairs of projecting slim brick piers. Openings between the pairs of piers filled with coloured chipped French glass. Secondary entrance beneath large cantilevered canopy in first bay of left hand return. Slender linking block containing sacristy. The rear presbytery range, containing first floor hall, meeting rooms, kitchen, chaplaincy offices and accommodation for four priests. Bell tower rising from parish rooms block. 

A simple box plan with ceiling of steel trusses clad with timber and clerestory north lights. Sanctuary of three stepped platforms with white marble altar set forward. Large ceramic reredos sculpture of Christ in Majesty by Robert Brumby of York. Bays containing either projecting confessionals or chapel recesses are divided by pairs of projecting slim brick piers. Fixed seating in angular U-shape surrounding Sanctuary. Side chapel to left. Narthex. West gallery above originally with seating, now housing organ. Unified scheme of decoration by Brumby including the external plaque and statue, holy water stoups, wall light brackets, circular font with ceramic inset and aluminium lid, altar table with bronze inset and, probably, Stations of the Cross sculptures. Also by Brumby, a memorial plaque fashioned from mangled plate, damaged in the Blitz, commemorating the earlier parish church which this replaced.

Of particular note are the stained glass windows.

The internal atmosphere of the church is modified by the changes in light cast through the stained glass windows. The windows are of a colourful random and abstract design and ascend the full height of the walls between structural bays which themselves form enclosures to confessionals and stores. The pieces of coloured glass are suspended in concrete and were supplied by the now defunct Whitefriars company. The designer was a French artist, Pierre Fourmaintraux, who began working with Whitefriars in 1959, using the ‘dalle de verre’ (slab glass) technique that had been developed in France between the wars. His motif was a small monk variously painted upon, or cast into, the glass. In St. Augustine’s the motif is cast and highly stylised and can be found tucked away at the foot of each of the rear windows.

Mainstream Modern