In his postcard, Phyl writes that the weather is nice, he has a self-catering apartment near a pond, but complains about the expensive cost of Spanish bread at £1 a loaf.
Although it was delivered to the right address on the card, Mr Davies said he has no clue who either Phyl or Mrs Leon could be.
I’ve been baffled by it really.
I suppose Mrs Leon once lived in my flat, but I’ve asked around neighbours who have lived here twenty or thirty years, and none of them have ever heard of her.
The Post Office say they have no idea what could have happened to the postcard for twenty nine years, may be it got stuck in a sorting machine, may be given that it’s got both British and Spanish stamps on it, someone found it and posted it on.
Really I’d just like to find out who either Phyl or Mrs Leon are, so I could finally give it to them after all this time.
Curiously the story does not reproduce the picture of the picture postcard.
Dear Eddie, this is a very pleasant place and the weather is just right. The food is very expensive though over £1 for a loaf of bread! We have a self catering little apartment by the side of a pond complete with ducks.
There is something very poignant about the handwritten reportage of holidays past and also a sadness attached to the blank other side -sentiments forever unsent.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now From win and lose and still somehow It’s life’s illusions I recall I really don’t know life at all
We are all going somewhere or nowhere or other – we report back.
Having a nice relaxing holiday. Not had good weather. Got caught in rain on Friday have lost my voice. Uncle Jim laughing
Auntie Ethel & Jim
Hope Leslies finger is coming on alright
20th August 1968
Hello Sharon, hope you are as happy as can be. Sorry I can’t tell you anything about your country, as I’ve never been; not yet anyway.
23rd April 1979
Dear Rita, here we are enjoying our holiday with Frank, Jacky & Stuart. The weather has been very poor, but there is an improvement today. Hope all is well with you. Lynn her husband and the little ones are visiting on thursday, so we shall have a real tea-party.
So I walked along the edge of the bay and cut up through the park to the University.
Singleton Park, and the Abbey, in which the university sits, were given to the borough of Swansea by John Henry Vivian, the 19th century Swansea copper magnate. The abbey was given to the university in 1923, but other campus developments, by and large, had to wait until after WW2, when a significant building programme was undertaken
The University’s foundation stone was laid by King George V on 19 July 1920 and 89 students (including eight female students) enrolled that same year. By September 1939, there were 65 staff and 485 students.
In 1947 there were just two permanent buildings on campus: Singleton Abbey and the library. The Principal, J S Fulton, recognised the need to expand the estate and had a vision of a self-contained community, with residential, social and academic facilities on a single site. His vision was to become the first university campus in the UK.
By 1960 a large-scale development programme was underway that would see the construction of new halls of residence, the Maths and Science Tower, and College House – later renamed Fulton House. The 1960s also saw the development of the “finite element method” by Professor Olek Zienkiewicz. His technique revolutionised the design and engineering of manufactured products, and Swansea was starting to stake its claim as an institution that demanded to be taken seriously.
Work began on the student village at Hendrefoelan in 1971, the South Wales Miners’ Library was established in 1973 and the Taliesin Arts Centre opened on campus in 1984. The Regional Schools of Nursing transferred to Swansea in 1992, and the College of Medicine opened in 2001. Technium Digital was completed in 2005 and, barely two years later, the University opened its Institute of Life Science, which commercialises the results of research undertaken in the Swansea University Medical School. Work commenced on a second Institute of Life Science in 2009.
Having been gifted the Singleton Abbey – the 1937 Library was the first new build on the site.
A competition was held in 1934 to find an architect to design a new library building.
The winner was Verner Owen Rees, a London architect with Welsh heritage. The Library opened in the autumn of 1937 and was known as the ‘New Library’, and has later become known as the ‘1937’ or ‘Law’ Library. Miss Olive Busby, who had been the University’s librarian since 1920, moved to this new building and was famous for patrolling it for the next twenty years, ensuring everyone was being quiet!
Then a swift right into the lea of the Faraday Building.
Walking beneath the Faraday Tower and looking back.
To our right Fulton House – This was built 1958-62 by Sir Percy Thomas & Son – design partner Norman Thomas. The decorative scheme in the main hall is by Misha Black; the panels ofThe Rape of Europa by Ceri Richards are an addition of 1970.
Fulton House, which was called College House from when it first opened in 1961 until 1986, is one of the most historically significant buildings on the Singleton Campus. Throughout the early 1950s, extensive plans were put in place to expand the Singleton site. At the core of this vision was a large building that could act as a meeting place, and a social and academic hub. This is what it became after 1961. The building contained common rooms, a music room, a coffee lounge, an extra library, a book shop and a barber’s shop.
This large wall hanging measuring H305cm x W620cm hangs on the wall opposite the Ceri Richards paintings. The hangings were very dusty and the nails holding the piece up were rusty. We were able to interview the artist to find out more about how the hanging was made. Glyn Jones used a blow torch to apply pitch and PVA medium to canvas and skrim fabric that he then attached to a geometric rope structure. Gouache paint was used and a solvent fixative spray allowed the colours to become imbibed into the PVA film. The hanging was made in six panels and then the horizontal rope ends glued together on site. These glued attachments had failed several times in the past and Jones had fixed them. With his permission we decided to come up with a new approach to these fixings. After cleaning the panels, we adhered magnets into the ends of the ropes so that they would click together easily. We reinforced the vertical ropes between the sections with nylon thread. Strong polyester was attached to the back of the top edge allowing a new hanging system where the strips were screwed into the wooden fixing battens. The hanging now looks much brighter and more colourful and detaching rope problem has been permanently resolved.
This generously spaced mural in the form of three splendid green, red, and blue shields in glazed plastic material and black cording is a creation in which the artist, Mr Glyn Jones symbolically portrays the Holy Trinity
The centre shield, in green, represents God the Father as creator and sustainer.
On the right of the centre shield, that is on the right hand of God the Father, is the red shield which represents our Lord and Saviour.
On the left of the centre shield, that is, on the left hand of God the Father, is the blue shield which represents the Holy Spirit.
In other ways the mural is modern in its abstract technique. Its basic symbolism is simple: a shield is for protection and green fertility sustains all life. Mr Glyn Jones is to be congratulated on a study which appealingly and joyfully presents the Holy Trinity as a protective and creative life-force that is yet associated with the Cross. His is a new and attractive achievement in the artistic tradition of Celtic Christianity.
Controversially plans for a £30 million Student Activity Centre at Swansea University’s Singleton campus have been revealed.
Bosses say the centre will form part of a new Student Precinct and, subject to planning permission, will replace the former Digital Technium building which was built in 2003 at a cost of £9.5million.
The scheme will replace the existing Digital Technium building and will be linked to the adjacent Grade II listed Fulton House, which will also be refurbished. Together, they will form the core of the new Student Precinct. Designs to resolve the surrounding streetscape and provide new access routes across the campus are also included.
Peter Moro is the forgotten co-designer of the Royal Festival Hall. A German émigré who had worked with Berthold Lubetkin’s famed practice, Tecton, in the 1930s, Moro was drafted in to help realise the Festival Hall in just two short years, in time for the Festival of Britain in 1951. With a team of his former students, he created many of the interiors we see today. For Moro, the Festival Hall was a stepping-stone to a career designing many of Britain’s finest post-war theatres, particularly Nottingham Playhouse, Plymouth Theatre Royal, and the renovated Bristol Old Vic. He and his colleagues also designed some exceptional one-off houses, as well as exhibitions, university buildings, schools, and council housing, collaborating with leading talents such as the designer Robin Day.
Set in the heart of Swansea University’s Singleton campus we exist to enrich the cultural lives of individuals and communities across the region, presenting arts experiences for audiences in our spaces and on the streets of Swansea.
Carl Cozier aka Holy Moly has added decorative details to the site.
Next door the Keir Hardie Building and its Neighbour the James Callaghan Building.
Heading back on ourselves toward the Wallace Building.
Percy Thomas was commissioned to design new buildings for science and engineering, but these plans were thwarted by cost constraints. However, following the appointment of John Fulton as principal in 1947, Thomas was re-engaged to prepare a new development plan.
The earliest halls can be seen at the centre of this postcard.
Also to the left of this later postcard.
This card shows the Singleton campus of Swansea University. Top right, the abbey which was the university’s original building; beyond that the houses around St Helens – the sports ground where in August 1968 Sir Gary Sobers scored six sixes in an over for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan.
Prifysgol Aberystwyth University – Penglais CampusSY23 3AH
Led by London Welshman Hugh Owen, a small group of patriots sought from the 1850s onwards to raise enough money by public and private subscription to establish a college of university status in Wales. A project of enormous ambition, the University opened its doors in 1872 initially with a handful of teachers and just twenty five students in what was then a half-finished hotel building – the Old College on the seafront.
The first decade presented many challenges for the University’s survival. The generosity of a few individual benefactors and organised appeals for support from the ordinary people of Wales kept the University in being, and, perhaps more importantly, deeply rooted it in the minds and the affection of the Welsh people. A matter of considerable pride is that the University has made a significant contribution to the education of women, being one of the first institutions to admit female students.
Since those early days, Aberystwyth University has gone from strength to strength and now has more than 6,000 students and 2,000 staff. As the institution grew, its main campus moved from Old College on the seafront to Penglais Hill. This finely landscaped site enjoys spectacular views over the historic market town of Aberystwyth and the Cardigan Bay coastline. New buildings, including major arts and science developments, halls of residence, a magnificent Arts Centre and sports facilities are located here.
In 1935 Percy Thomas prepared a plan for the layout of a new campus, and was appointed as architect for the first three buildings to be constructed – Cledwyn, Pantycelyn and the swimming bath. This marked the beginning of the move away from the college by the sea to the college on the hill.
Built in a simple Georgian modern style, faced with Forest of Dean stonework, the building’s main entrance features a broad architrave adorned with low reliefs of agricultural scenes, and there are decorative circular stonework emblems in between the windows of the upper floor.
The carved stone work is by David Evans.
A Manchester-born sculptor who attended the Manchester School of Art, and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. After active service in the World War I, he resumed his studies at the Royal Academy, where he was instructed by Francis Derwent Wood. In 1922, he won the Landseer Prize and later went to work in the British School at Rome. He had been exhibiting at the Royal Academy since 1921. His works from the 1920’s are mainly highly stylised religious and mythological themes.
During his stay in the United States, he executed some significant work for public buildings in New York. The locations there included Rockefeller Center, Radio City, Brooklyn Post Office, a bank on Wall Street, St Thomas’s Church on Fifth Avenue.
Here are the four decorative panels placed higher on the building.
Immortalised in this elegant educational stamp set – designed by Mr Nicholas Jenkins of the Royal College of Art
To the right of the entrance this striking mosaic – action is ossified in the manner of a semi-permanent Pollock.
Aberystwyth Arts Centre is one of a number of campus buildings designed by Dale Owen of Percy Thomas Partnership, and completed in 1970-1972.
Built to a strongly horizontal design using grey granite aggregrate, the facade is essentially an overhanging rectangle framing of glass with an off-centre overhang. The position of the building providing unobstructed panoramic views over the main piazza style concourse and the sea beyond.
David began lecturing at Cardiff College of Art, later teaching and holding administrative posts at University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, retiring in 1988 as director of the department of visual art.
David Tinker was prominent in so many aspects of the visual arts in Wales throughout the second half of the 20th Century as a painter, sculptor, teacher, and stage designer.
Tinker is perhaps best known as one of three originators of the 56 Group with Eric Malthouse and Michael Edmonds, the new generation of young artists in Wales who were interested in modernism and keen to ally themselves to the international art world.
The 56 Group had no manifesto and for the most part they acted as an exhibiting co-operative; not all were abstract painters and their work was stylistically very different from one another, but all shared radical ideals. Their orderly revolt against the establishment was unique in the history of art in Wales.
They championed abstraction and allied themselves to European and American modernism, at a time when painters in Wales were being commended for recording the urban, rural and industrial face of Wales and its inhabitants.
As might be expected, the art establishment more readily accepted 56 Group avant garde works, and those artists who had been achieving some success as painters of the contemporary scene suddenly found themselves side-stepped, and labelled parochial.
The period 1966-1974 saw in his paintings a move toward hard-edged abstraction in which Tinker employed geometry-based structures, simple arithmetical problems, colour mixed from a restricted palette, and gentle tonal gradation.
Pandemics come and almost go – as do seaside shelters it seems.
The shelters of 1860 are quite literally a thing of the past.
Thye have become host to Niall McDiarmid‘s snaps of local business folk – the project developed when local residents raised concerns about the appearance of the shelters on the promenade.
Cllr Roger Parry said
The shelters are nearing the end of their lifespan and these sections of the prom will be upgraded as part of the waterfront project.
In the meantime, State of Independents will make great use of the shelters; celebrating our hardworking local businesses and hopefully encouraging footfall from the promenade to our high streets.
The last of the Rhos on Sea shelters is a dangerous customer suitably secured.
There remains two exemplars of the typology located at the Colwyn end of the bay.
The second shelter lacks the pierced concrete blocks.
So work progresses on the coastal defences, the promenade is refashioned after a fashion in the fashion of the day.
There is no longer a place for these unique exemplars of Municipal Modernism.
Before the work began, the promenade was a tired, uninviting and underused public space. Poorly lit and often host to anti-social behaviour, the uneven surfacing and crumbling shelters were the results of years of patchwork repairs.
The project has transformed the area into a public space which the local community can take pride in and make use of all year round.
Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.
Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council.
The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’.
On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.
The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.
Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.
The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.
Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.
A mix of pedestrianised terraces and low rise blocks, set in a loose grid of roads and rolling, tree-lined, grassed areas.
Over time there has been the addition of uPVC and the revisionist intrusion of the ahistorical carriage lamp.
Incidentally an area with more al fresco shopping trolleys than I had ever seen, I assume that the big Asda, located within walking distance of the homes, to be the progenitor of such a notable proliferation.
It remains, generally speaking a well kept lived in area – let’s take a look.
Taliesin (/ˌtælˈiɛsɪn/ tal-YES-in, Welsh: [talˈjɛsɪn]; fl. 6th century AD) was an early Brittonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin.
Taliesin is the home, studio, and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright built Taliesin on his favorite boyhood hill, in the Wisconsin River valley homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents. He named it Taliesin in honor of the Welsh bard whose name means Shining Brow, reflecting his belief that the crown of the hill was reserved for nature, and that buildings should be constructed at the brow of the hill.
It is also a name commonly found on many of the common place dwellings of the Principality.
Tre-Taliesin is a village in Ceredigion nine miles south of Machynlleth.
The village is known for the Bedd Taliesin, a hilltop Bronze Age tumulus which is traditionally regarded as the site for the grave of the Welsh bard, Taliesin. It is listed as a Historic Monument. It is a round-kerb cairn with a cist about 2m long. The capstone has fallen; the side stone slabs are more or less in their original positions.
Which brings us to Taliesin Cwmbran a group of 58 flats located at the northern end of a road named Forgeside.
This development is something of an anomaly, breaking the mould of the conventional New Town housing which surrounds it.
Broadly Postmodern – with passing references to half timbered buildings, yet with more contemporary cladding. A wandering profile and angular roofline which echoes Hollywood Medievalism, paired with a fortress like enclosure of space and scaled down passageways.
So far no architectural attribution – any clues anyone?
Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.
The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairndismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.
In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.
A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.
In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.
On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.
Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.
Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.
My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth Square – William Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.
There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.
Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.
Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.
The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.
Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.
The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.
According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.
The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.
This is a town with a visual culture defined by carefully created picture postcards – conjuring images from land, sea, sand and sky.
New technology arrives, dragging Llandudno from the sepia soaked past into the CMYK age!
So it’s only right and proper that the town should have an art gallery.
Oriel Mostyn Gallery was commissioned by Lady Augusta Mostyn after the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society asked her for better premises than their existing home, in a former cockpit in Conwy. The ladies’ gender prevented them from joining the Royal Cambrian Academy, also based in Conwy.
Designed by architect GA Humphreys, the new gallery opened in 1901. From 1901 to 1903, the gallery housed works by members of the GLAS. As a patron of the arts and president of the society, Lady Augusta was aware that the ladies needed more space to display their work and gave them the opportunity to rent a room in the new building.
Lady Augusta was keen for the gallery to be used by local people, so the society was asked to leave and a School of Art, Science and Technical Classes was set up. Alongside the many classes, there were art exhibitions, lectures. social events, and even a gallery choir and shooting range!
The current shop area was the location for a ‘Donut Dugout’ – a rest and recreation area for the many American servicemen in the town. Coffee and doughnuts were served and the men could read magazines from home.
After the war, Wagstaff’s Piano and Music Galleries occupied the building. In 1976 the artist Kyffin Williams, and others, suggested the building should become the proposed new public art gallery for North Wales. Architects Colwyn Foulkes supervised its restoration and it reopened, as Oriel Mostyn, in 11 August 1979.
Acknowledged to be ‘one of the most beautiful galleries in Britain’, Mostyn in North Wales was an existing listed Victorian museum with two lantern galleries tucked behind a listed facade. We were appointed by Mostyn after winning the Architectural competition with a design combining a gallery space refurbishment with a gallery expansion and a new dramatic infill section linking new and old. The project has won a number of awards and increased footfall by over 60%.
Why not let your feet fall there soon – Oriel Mostynis open.
The very first time I visited the town as a child back in the early 1960s, it rained almost every day.
Subsequent visits have almost always been bathed in warm sunshine.
Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architectof the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982
Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.
Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.
Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.
The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.
After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.
In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.
Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.
I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.
Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:
Welcome, at the Kardomah Cafe we have a long history of excellent service, great food and wonderful coffee. We are an independent, established, family run business of nearly 50 years. Traditional values are important to us and have helped us create a warm and friendly atmosphere, which is seen by many of our customers as an important part of their lives, a place to meet their friends, whilst enjoying quality food and drink.
The company that created the Kardomah brand began in Pudsey Street, Liverpool in 1844 as the Vey Brothers teadealers and grocers. In 1868 the business was acquired by the newly created Liverpool China and India Tea Company, and a series of brand names was created beginning with Mikado. The Kardomah brand of tea was first served at the Liverpool colonial exhibition of 1887, and the brand was later applied to a range of teas, coffees and coffee houses. The parent company was renamed Kardomah Limited in 1938. The brand was acquired by the Forte Group in 1962, sold to Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo in 1971, and became part of Premier Brands some time between 1980 and 1997. The brand still exists, selling items such as instant coffee and coffee whitener.
The Kardomah Cafés in London and Manchester were designed by Sir Misha Black between 1936 and 1950.
The original Swansea branch was at 232 High St, and known as ‘The Kardomah Exhibition Cafe & Tea Rooms’, moving to the Castle Street in 1908.
The Castle Street cafe was the meeting place of The Kardomah Gang, which included Dylan Thomas, and was built on the site of the former Congregational Chapel where Thomas’s parents were married in 1903. The cafe was bombed during WW2 and was later replaced by the present Kardomah Coffee Shop Restaurant in Portland Street.
I’d never had the pleasure of visiting a Kardomah before, imagine my delight when I was directed there by local artist, activist and archivist Catrin Saran James, during our delightful Swansea Moderne tour!
Following an extensive walk from one end of town to the other, I returned there for a late midday bite to eat and a sit down – it looked a little like this:
Many thanks to the staff and customers for putting up with me wandering around for a while with my camera, whilst they worked and ate.
To 2015 when local artist and archivist Catrin SaranJames is undertaking a little reverse vandalism by way of guerrilla restoration or adfer gerila if you will.
Leading to a full scale cleaning of the Harry Everington 1969 concrete mural adorning the Central Clinic.
It was under Harry’s guidance that students from the Swansea College of Art produced the mural which was put on the building’s exterior back in 1969.
It was fantastic to have had an email from the ABMU Health Board earlier this year. Martin Thomas who leads the ABMU Heritage Team contacted me as he was researching what public art the health board owned.
Martin came across my Guerrilla Restoration work and the previous work I’d done in highlighting cleaning samples of Harry Everington’s 1969 abstract concrete sculptural mural over the last 5 years.
Taken from the ABMU Heritage blog, here’s what Martin said of the project:
When we started this group we carried out a scoping exercise to see what historical artefacts the health board owned and this mural came up.
When I did more research I found out about Catrin’s project and we thought it would be a good idea to help finish what she had started.
We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to clean a very neglected sculpture.
Subsequently her gallant restoration endeavours made headline news in Wales Online.
Fast forward to Wednesday May 11th 2022 – I am aboard the Transport for Wales train, Swansea bound!
Catrin had kindly forwarded me a clear and comprehensive guide to Swansea’s Modernist architecture.
Characteristically, I promptly got lost, fortunately we had arranged to meet at the National Waterfront Museum – which was clearly signposted. Following a chat and a cuppa we swanned off, visiting the Civic Centre and a lovely array of post-war retail outlets.
We parted and I went on my merry way – I can’t thank you enough for your company and erudition Catrin, diolch yn fawr.
Eventually I arrived at the Clinic, I feel that the best time to visit a medical centre is when you are fighting fit, with an overwhelming interest in cast concrete, rather than plaster casts.
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.
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.
From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.