While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport.
The surfaces of the tower blocks are covered in mosaic murals designed by Barden that rise the full 135 foot height of the buildings. They were controversial initially but are now a tourist attraction.
Tuesday 28th July 2015 waking up early on the outskirts of Okehampton – I went next door to explore – the Wash and Go.
I went back to Okehampton.
Headed out of town along the old railway line to Plymouth – where rests the solemn remains of previous railway activity and Meldon Quarry.
It’s believed that the first quarrying began around the late 1700s when the local limestone was extracted. Over the years this gradually gave over to aggregate quarrying and apelite quarrying until it final closure. The original owners of the quarry were the London and South Western Railway and then came Britsh Rail and finally EEC Aggregates.
Crossing Meldon Viaduct.
Meldon Viaduct carried the London and South Western Railway across the West Okement River at Meldon on Dartmoor. The truss bridge, which was constructed from wrought iron and cast iron not stone or brick arches, was built under the direction of the LSWR’s chief engineer, WR Galbraith. After taking three years to build, the dual-tracked bridge opened to rail traffic in 1874. Usage was limited to certain classes of locomotive because the viaduct had an axle load limit. Although regular services were withdrawn in 1968, the bridge was used for shunting by a local quarry. In the 1990s the remaining single line was removed after the viaduct was deemed to be too weak to carry rail traffic.
The crossing is now used by The Granite Way, a long-distance cycle track across Dartmoor. The viaduct, which is a Scheduled Monument, is now one of only two such surviving railway bridges in the United Kingdom that uses wrought iron lattice piers to support the cast iron trusses – the other is Bennerley Viaduct between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Architects– Percy Bartlett and William Henry Watkins
Built on the site of the Andrews New Picture Palace, which had opened in 1910, and was demolished in 1930. The Gaumont Palace was opened on 16th November 1931 with Jack Hulbert in “The Ghost Train” and Sydney Howard in “Almost a Divorce”.
The imposing brick building has a white stone tower feature in the central section above the entrance. Seating inside the auditorium was provided for 1,462 in the stalls and 790 in the circle.
It was re-named Gaumont in 1937 currently closed and at risk.
The post war redevelopment of Plymouth produced this sizable Portland Stone Shopping Centre.
‘A Plan for Plymouth’ was a report prepared for the City Council by James Paton Watson, City Engineer and Surveyor, and Patrick Abercrombie, Consultant Architect, published in 1943.
Planning is not merely the plotting of the streets of a town; its fundamental essence is the conscious co-relation of the various uses of the land to the best advantage of all inhabitants. Good planning therefore, presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the people, their relationship to their work, their play, and to each other, so that in the shaping of the urban pattern, the uses to which the land is put are so arranged as to secure an efficient, well- balanced and harmonious whole.
The magnificent dalle de verre fascia of the Crown and County Courts.
having had a good old look around I sought shelter for the night, with some difficulty I found a profoundly plain room. The town seemingly full of itinerant contractors, filling the vast majority of available space.
Not to worry let’s have a look at the seafront.
Tinside Lido by J Wibberley Borough Engineer, with Edmund Nuttall and Sons and John Mowlem and Company, builders, with entrance building of 1933 by the same engineer.
Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lidois an attraction not to be missed.
Built in 1935, Tinside is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era. The Lido is a wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed.
Time for a timely 99 tub – what ho!
Followed by several pints of Dartmoor Jail in the delightful Dolphin Hotel.
The Dolphin Hotel is a pub on the Barbican , the building, which is known as either the Dolphin Inn or Dolphin Hotel, is a Grade II listed building. It notable as the setting of several of the artist Beryl Cook’s paintings.
The three storey building was constructed in the early 19th century, although it may contain fabric from an earlier structure. It has a slate mansard roof surrounded by a tall parapet with a moulded cornice. The front has white stucco with plaster reliefs of dolphins. The pub is associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed at the hotel on their return from exile in Australia in 1838, when a Mr Morgan was the landlord.
It is a no-frills unmodernised pub famous for its cask ale, draught Bass served straight from the barrel. The sign on the front of the building has always called the pub the ‘Dolphin Hotel’. In 2010 the pub was refurbished, but vandalised in 2014.
Early morning passing by the yet to be reopened Dreamland, back then just a work in progress, it has had a more than somewhat chequered past.
Dogged persistence has assured its future:
Just before Christmas 1919, and almost exactly one year after the end of the Great War, John Henry Iles purchased Margate’s The Hall By The Sea, thus initiating the history of what would become Dreamland.
The Dreamland cinema replaced a smaller cinema on the site, with this modernist masterpiece opening in 1935. The super-cinema, designed by architects Julian Leathart and WF Granger.
After several years of campaigning to save the Dreamland site from redevelopment, and successful funding bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Department for Culture Media and Sport’s SeaChange Scheme, the Dreamland restoration project went live in January 2010, appointing a professional team to deliver The Dreamland Trust’s vision for a reimagined Dreamland, however, the battle was not over.
After a long restoration project, Dreamland opened its doors to the public on June 19 2015. The park was further reimagined and expanded in 2017 following additional investment, with new thrill rides, a much bigger events space, fresh designs, and a new welcome for a new generation of visitors.
Along the long straight coastline the distinctive and distinguished silhouette of Reculver Castle can be seen in the distance.
Two thousand years ago the geography of this area was very different. The Wantsum, a sea channel up to 3 miles wide, cut off the Isle of Thanet from the mainland, and the Roman fort of Reculver stood on a promontory at the north end of the channel where it joined the Thames estuary. Today the Wantsum has silted up and become dry land.
By the 5th century the Romans had abandoned their defence of Britain and the fort at Reculver had fallen into disuse.
An Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded on the site in 669, reusing the existing defences, and the church of St Mary was built near the centre of the earlier fort. Documentary evidence suggests that the site had ceased to function as a monastic house by the 10th century, after which time the church became the parish church of Reculver.
Remodelling of the church in the 12th century included the addition of tall twin towers.
The medieval church was partly demolished in 1805, when much of the stone was reused to construct a new church on higher ground at Hillborough, but the twin towers were left. They were bought, repaired and underpinned by Trinity House in 1809.
Further along the unstable concrete coast we approach Whitstable.
With its chi-chi cafes and bars, tastefully ramshackle shacks and snacks.
Profil fronted fascias for family run department stores.
Whites of Kent is a family company now into the third generation of close family members. The original story begins with a young ambitious girl of 18 who knew all about stocking repair machines. She travelled to Australia by boat then on to Switzerland and Paris where she trained women and gave demonstrations on the stocking machines.
In 1954 the retail side commenced again with a ladies underwear shop in Faversham’s Market Street, followed by a fashion shop in Market Street and then our current shop in Court Street.
We have in the past had shops in Sandwich, Sittingbourne, Herne Bay, West Malling, Folkestone and Cliftonville. Currently we have Whites of Kent shops in Faversham, Whitstable and Dover selling lingerie, linen, hosiery, underwear, slippers and more. See our Shop page for addresses, phone numbers and opening times.
The road winds through the low marshes, across estuaries and inlets, between Seasalter and Graveney.
Home to a down home, home made fishing fleet.
On September 27 1940 – a Luftwaffe bomber was shot down by two Spitfires over Graveney Marsh after a raid on London. This was the last ground engagement involving a foreign force to take place on the mainland of Great Britain.
Dulled by dual carriageways and the dirty urban dust of a sunny late summer’s day – I was more than happy to discover this Modernist church in Rainham.
St Thomas of Canterbury RC
A modern church of 1956-58 by Eduardo Dodds. The atmospheric interior is decorated with fine sculpture by Michael Clark, and ceramic panels by Adam Kossowski. The tower is a local landmark. The former temporary church of 1934 survives as the Parish Centre.
Followed by another brick behemoth the Gaumont Chatham.
The Palace Cinema was built by a subsidiary of the Gaumont British Theatres chain, and opened on 30th November 1936. The exterior had a tall square clock tower, which was outlined in neon at night – Architect Arthur W. Kenyon
Re-named Gaumon from 18th December 1950, closed by the Rank Organisation on 2nd February 1961 with John Gregson in The Captain’s Table.
It was converted into a 24-lane Top Rank Bowling Alley, which opened in December 1961. Eventually, this was the last of the Top Rank Bowls to close, closing on 31st October 1970.
The building was converted into a B&Q hardware store, and the interior has been gutted. It was later in use as a camping centre, which remains open in 2010 as Camping International. The building is now known as Clock Tower House.
Designed by German civil engineer Hellmut Homberg, the two main caissons supporting the bridge piers were constructed in the Netherlands. ] The bridge deck is about 61 metres high, and it took a team of around 56 to assemble its structure.
The bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 30 October 1991. The total cost of construction was £120 million. The proposed name had been simply the Dartford Bridge, but Thurrock residents objected and suggested the Tilbury Bridge, leading to a compromise. At the time of opening, it had the longest cable-stayed span of any bridge in Europe.
I arrived at the Dartford Crossing hot and hungry – wandering towards the tunnel entrance, only to be apprehended by the authorities.
What are you doing here?
I pleaded for a glass of water and directions, happily I received both from a friendly member of staff.
Picked up by Range Rover and driven over to Essex free of charge.
Wearily I made my way across the county, no time for snaps it seems, simply wishing to hit town before nightfall. None of my B&Bs were booked ahead of time and I’ve never had a ‘phone. Finding a bed for the night proved troublesome – knocking on the door of a minor hotel, I was rebuffed by a Beatle suited, be-wigged figure:
Are you to take the vacancies sign down then – says I.
No – says he.
Under cover of darkness I holed up in a contractors’ flop house on the front, no-frills communal showers, short shrift and cold linoleum, but a welcome repose none the less.
Some pints don’t touch the sides – this and several others didn’t, ‘neath the flickering lights of Southend by night.
A wobbly walk along the prom.
Fetching up with pic of the Kursaal.
The Kursaal is a Grade II listed building in Southend-on-Sea which opened in 1901 as part of one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks. The venue is noted for the main building with distinctive dome, designed by Campbell Sherrin, which has featured on a Royal Mail special edition stamp.
Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918 December 30th 2006
This time we are taking a peek around the back.
Having passed by on the top deck deck of the 42 on my way home to Stockport, I espied an extension of the sculpture to the rear of the tower.
I vowed to return!
Fighting through extraction units, wheelie bins, hoppers, plus a disused and disabused vacuum cleaner, I found myself in the narrow service area, where I did my best to get back from the wall, hard against the chain link fence.
The things you do.
For some much needed light relief, air and open space I revisited the front face of the tower.
Council House former Civic Centre – Armada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA
Former Civic Centre 1958-62 by Jellicoe, Ballantyne and Coleridge with city architect HJW Stirling. In-situ concrete structure with pre-cast aggregate panels. It comprises a fourteen storey slab block on a raised raft foundation which straddles a two storey block to the north and a bridge link to the two storey Council House to the south. The bridge link is elevated on pilotis to create an open courtyard with a reflecting pond, part of the designed landscape of the civic square.
I rode into town on my bicycle en route from Weston super Mare to Hastings one sunny afternoon in 2015. The pictures I took that day were largely left untouched, until today. I was prompted by an online postcard search to finally put them to some good use.
On the day of my visit the building was well and truly closed, and its future uncertain.
I took my time and explored the site, here is what I saw:
I subsequently found archival image of the interior – including examples of applied decorative arts.
The building has suffered of late, from poor maintenance and general neglect.
Love it or hate it, it’s one of Plymouth’s most iconic post-war buildings – and it towers over the city centre. But the Civic Centre has been empty since 2015, with sad images revealing parts of the outside literally crumbling.
Today is the day Plymouth will finally discover what developer Urban Splash plans to do with the landmark 14-storey tower block it bought for £1.
The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.
Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.
Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?
Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.
By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.
Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.
By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.
Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.
Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.
But wait what’s this coming around the bend?
The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.
Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.
Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.
Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.
A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.
A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.
All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.
Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.
A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.
Bouncing betwixt and between Bonnard and Bill Viola from Tate Modern to the Royal Academy I took a detour to The Barbican – in search of the Dorothy Annan tiled mural.
Having failed conspicuously to find it, following an extensive and discursive wander, I did the wise thing and asked.
My thanks to the helpful resident and his young son.
Redirected and on course for our deferred engagement, Dorothy and I met at last on an underpass.
I also recently discovered a Barbican Manchester mash up – Gerrards of Swinton fulfilled their largest ever single order for the site – my thanks to David Roughley for the information and illustration.
You wouldn’t ever want a bad case of the cladding, the triumph of the expedient over the purist aesthetic. We all may wish to be warm, dry and free from unwanted ingress, whilst exercising a degree of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which we are clad.
In Wakefield and in local authorities throughout this fair land there seems to have been a distinct lack of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which modern tower blocks are clad.
Cloaking concrete in coloured surfaces better suited to Toytown than our town.
Four twelve-storey H-plan tower blocks built as public housing as part of the central area development of lower Kirkgate. The blocks rise out of other low-rise development. Each block contains 44 one and two-bedroom flats, providing 176 dwellings in total. The consulting architects for the development were Richard Seifert & Partners. Construction is of concrete frame with brick infill panels. The blocks were approved by committee in 1964.
Tudor House aka Lower Kirkgate Comprehensive Development area as was:
The Lansbury Estate, to the north of East India Dock Road, is the most important, largest and best-known council estate in Poplar. It demonstrates the different trends in post-war council house design and layout. The interest of the estate lies as much, if not more, in the story of its planning and construction, as in what was actually built. This is especially true of its first phase, which formed the basis of the Live Architecture Exhibition in the 1951 Festival of Britain.
Originally outlined in the 1943 plan for London, replacing the bomb damaged homes of displaced dockers, the estate has weathered well enough, though changes in demographics, the ever greater engulfing tide of gentrification and the containerisation of all ports, brings a fresh set of challenges and changes.
Go east – I visited the V&A Micro Museum, which has become a focus for residents’ and visitors’ memories and projections of a certain uncertain past and future. Arriving by the Docklands Light Railway, I was immediately drawn towards my destination, by the prominent Lansbury Tower, its clock patiently ticking away the time to and from 1951. Welcomed by staff and fellow travellers at the Chrisp Street Market site we began our tour at the heart of the Festival area – further details of which can be found here at Municipal Dreams.
A mix of market, shops, Festival pub, warm cream London brick terraces and low rise, later tower blocks, schools, churches and open grassed communal areas. On a cold and getting colder late winter’s day, a smattering of residents went purposefully about their business.
I’ve passed this way before, they’re hard to miss, seven substantial tower blocks towering over the town on College Bank.
But what goes up, may come down.
Construction in 1963
Demolition in 2017 is one suggestion – following years of poor maintenance, problems of heating and ingress, plus a whole host of other reasons outlined here.
The housing trust in consultation with residents, have produced a tentative plan.
This may or may not include the demolition of one or more blocks. On the day of my visit, the tenants I spoke with understood that the blocks faced an uncertain future, and were rightly concerned by the rumours and conjecture. The majority would prefer to stay put, having lived there for several years, raising families and building homes.
Whatever the outcome I hope that the wishes of the residents are not overwhelmed by political expedience, or the will of the developer.
The Balfron Tower Conservation Area was designated in October 1998 around the two residential blocks designed by Ernö Goldfinger for the London County Council in the 1960s. The Conservation Area boundary protects the listed Balfron Tower and Carradale House, and other buildings in the ‘Brownfield Estate’, including Glenkerry House, a community centre, shops and associated low-rise housing development.
The 27-storey Balfron Tower is Goldfinger’s first public housing project, and a precursor to his better known Trellick Tower in North Kensington. The neighbouring Carradale House and Glenkerry House sit within the landscaped areas developed at the same time. The Brownfield Estate, also known as the East India Estate, is now recognised as a fine example of planned 1960s social housing. Considered to be exemplary examples of the post-war housing schemes, Balfron Tower and Carradale House were listed in 1998 for their cultural & architectural merit.
This was my first visit, to a key building in the short history of modernist post war housing, currently something of a sleeping giant, awaiting Prince Charming’s kiss.
What will it awake to?
Tower Hamlets are mid consultation, as evidenced in this here document.
On an overcast and ever darkening afternoon, the rain cutting in on a chill wind, set against a slate grey sky, its surfaces and volumes were ever so slightly forlorn.
There is much to be done by way of regeneration, with the attendant issues of heritage, funding, gentrification and inevitably who lives where and why?
Arriving in Rochdale in search of something else entirely, it was impossible to ignore seven prominent, as yet unclad tower blocks, high upon a hill. I was informed by a local resident that they were known locally as the Seven Sisters, though variously identified as Falinge B, College Bank, and Holland Street flats.
The area was formerly home to Victorian workers’ dwellings, known as The Paddock – the post-war policy of slum clearance saw them swept away, in readiness for municipal modernity.
Hey presto 1963 and there appears four 21 storey blocks containing 476 dwellings; three 17 storey blocks containing 286 dwellings.
Photograph Mancunian 101
Building contractors were Wimpey and the flats were designed by Rochdale’s Borough Surveyor, Mr W H G Mercer and Mr D. Broadbent along with Mr E V Collins, chief architect to contractors George Wimpey and Company.
Slap dab in the middle of the town stands a lone tower block of residential, social housing.
Buxton House backs onto the lower rise Civic Centre and is conjoined to the main shopping street and precinct, linked by a low wide underpass. Adorned on its street entrance by the most enchanting mosaic, announcing a spry geometric optimism to those shoppers and residents that pass under, through the underpass.
Ten floors of homes are bound in brick concrete and glass – a truly commanding central location, graced by the inclusion of an incongruous Chinese restaurant – The Mandarin.
The former Richmond flats in Huddersfield have been revamped and are now known as Harold Wilson Court.
The two other blocks sadly have neither been revamped nor renamed after famed local politicos.
Herbert Asquith or Luddite House – take your pick.
They stand by the road unloved and forlorn, tinned up awaiting demolition. Once home to hundreds, the former residents have now been paid out, moved out and hopefully rehoused.
Richmond flats were named after Sidney Richmond, the former Huddersfield Borough Council architect, and were the second of the three blocks currently on the site. The first block opposite was Lonsbrough Flats, named after Anita Lonsbrough, 1960 Olympic Gold medal swimmer and council employee, with the third being the middle block Ibbotson Flats, named after Derek Ibbotson, the Huddersfield athlete who held the world record for running a mile.
The site was obviously more valuable than viable town centre homes – Tesco is a coming
Go see them, say hello and wave goodbye – they’ll soon be gone.