Prior to the end of WWII, the British Iron & Steel Federation worked closely with Architect Frederick Gibberd & Engineer Donovan Lee, to develop several steel framed prototype houses and flats, which could be erected quickly and efficiently with limited use of skilled labour.
These prototype were duly named BISF which is a acronym of the originating sponsor, The British Iron & Steel Federation.
However, it was in fact the newly formed company, British Steel Houses Ltd, that went on to develop and manufacturer the BISF houses we see today.
Over 34,000 three-bedroom semi-detached houses and 1048 Terraced Houses were erected across England, Scotland and Wales.
The final production design incorporated rendered mesh ground floor walls and the now familiar, profiled steel sheeting panels affixed to the upper storey. The preferred roofing material was generally corrugated asbestos cement, or corrugated metal sheeting.
The frame of the prototype ‘B’ house was of the same general design as the type ‘A’ frame, but fabricated from flat light steel sections.
The roof trusses were also of light steel sections and the roof cladding was the same as that used in the type A house. Both prototypes had been designed to accept a variety of external wall materials, including traditional brick masonry if desired.
The external steel cladding that was affixed to the upper storey of the original BISF house appears visually similar to the external cladding that was used during the production of the unrelated Hawksley BL8 temporary bungalow.
This visual similarity caused many people to wrongly assume that the BISF House was a semi-detached version of the temporary bungalow, despite the fact that the BISF House was built as a permanent dwelling.
The vast majority of BISF houses were built as two-storey semi-detached pairs. A smaller number of terraced houses were also built by replicating the standard semi-detached frame.
A number of variations relating to the layout and materials used in the construction of this house have been noted, but in all cases, the original construction, design & construction of the steel framework, remains largely as described.
The area in Wythenshawe where the BISF houses were built, is known locally and colloquially as Tin Town.
In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.
The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighborhood.
The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.
Embroidery for the Church was designed by Anthony Blee and carried out by Beryl Dean and Associates, and Communion silver was specially designed by Gerald Benney.
An austerely simple deign, saved from bleakness by a few deft touches – Pevsner.
The lettering on the font cover is by Ralph Beyer, the painting on the east wall by William Chattaway, who came specially from Paris to paint.
2010 – John Richards
The church also contains four stones brought from prominent Christian locations across the globe including a rose hued stone from Assisi itself, these are embedded in the walls and floor around the building.
St Francis of Assisi’s Church in Wythenshawe stands testimony to the vigour of its first priest, the Reverend Ronald Pitcher. It was Pitcher who organised a local campaign to raise money for its construction, even before William Greer, Lord Bishop of Manchester, launched a wider appeal to fund churches and vicarages in new housing areas throughout the diocese.
It was probably also Pitcher who chose the architect, since he made initial contact with Basil Spence late in 1956. Drawings and a watercolour perspective were prepared by the beginning of 1958, when the scheme was priced at £17,500, exclusive of professional fees.
Following discussions with the congregation it was modified to provide side-aisles, and the estimate increased to £27,000, including an organ. Although the diocese believed the final cost might be as high as £35,000,the design was accepted and Spence formally commissioned at the end of the year.
A church forced to close three years ago after its congregation dwindled to just two has been reborn – as a community centre.
St Francis of Assisi, in Wythenshawe, was forced to shut its doors when its popularity waned and repairs became too expensive.
Now, thanks to businessman James Munnery and Pastor William Simoes, the former Church of England building is rising again as a beacon of hope for the neighbourhood. The pair have teamed up to re-open the church as the New Life Opportunities Centre. Ambitious plans for the not-for-profit venture include sports pitches, a recording studio, and a hall for events and dancing.
The Roman Catholic Church of St Anthony’s, 1959-60 by Adrian Gilbert Scott, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest: the church has a strong composition and imposing presence derived from its bold design and cathedral-like scale, which is enhanced by the use of elegant building materials, including narrow and very pale buff bricks, Portland stone dressings and copper roofs, and a dramatic west end incorporating a giant camel-vaulted arch containing the recessed west entrance.
Architect: it was designed by the notable architect Adrian Gilbert Scott who trained under Temple Moore and specialised in ecclesiastical commissions for the Roman Catholic Church, and it is one of his major works.
Interior design: the elegant interior maintains stylistic continuity with the exterior through its incorporation of Gilbert Scott’s characteristic soaring camel-vaulted arches, which are derived from ancient Persia and are successfully reinterpreted here in a modern form; rendering the arches and treating them as parabolas. The dignified space is also enhanced by a dado of buff-coloured Hornton stone that contrasts with plastered walls above, and tall windows that serve to maximise light.
Interior quality: the interior decoration is kept to a minimum overall to enable the beauty of the building to be fully expressed, but the furnishings are of a high quality, including inset Stations of the Cross, an unusual carved wall pulpit, and an elaborate marble, gilded and mosaicwork baldacchino.
Prior to the construction of St Anthony’s RC Church in 1959-60 Mass was celebrated first in two green Nissen huts knocked into one
Emmaus South Manchester is gearing up to support vulnerable people in Wythenshawe and surrounding areas.
Our charity aims to support homeless people and those suffering deprivation and social exclusion in the local area. Thanks to generous support from St. Andrews Church, we have set up a workshop in Wythenshawe and are now looking for retail premises to sell handmade items produced by local volunteers.
A social history of Wythenshawe and its Civic Centre can be found here at Archives +.
A general history of the garden city’s development can be found here at Municipal Dreams.
Lest we forget, the story begins with a level of overcrowding and human misery that is – thankfully – almost unimaginable in Britain today. In 1935, Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health condemned 30,000 (of a total of 80,000) inner-city homes as unfit for human habitation; 7000 families were living in single rooms.
The estate was always considered to be, in some sense, the realisation of an ambitious vision.
The world of the future – a world where men and women workers shall be decently housed and served, where the health and safety of little children are of paramount importance, and where work and leisure may be enjoyed to the full.
Cooperative Women’s Guild
Work began in the interwar years, and continued following the hiatus of 1939-45. The shopping centre named the Civic Centre was open in 1963, the actual Civic Centre containing a swimming pool, theatre, public hall and library in 1971.
A triumph for Municipal Modernism conceived by the City Architects and realised by Direct Works. This post war development owed more to the spirit of Festival of Britain optimism, new construction methods and materials, rather than the grandiose functionalist classicism of the original scheme.
The Co-operative Superstore was a key element in the provision of provisions.
There still is – The Forum is a bright and modern hub for co-located services used by community and business.
The original Forum opened in 1971. One of Manchester’s largest public buildings, it had a leisure centre, library, theatre, main hall and meeting rooms. By the mid 1990’s it was under used, had deteriorated internally and externally and needed substantial investment.
The new Forum, along with a new police sub-divisional headquarters and improved transport link was designed to help strengthen the town centre, and provide a landmark project to raise Wythenshawe’s profile within Manchester and beyond.
In the 1980’s they put on a superb array of shows including Roll on 4 O’Clock which starred John Jardine, Jack Smethurst and Glynn Owen. Oh What a lovely War; What the Butler Saw and Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett. Bury’s own Victoria Wood starred in Talent which she wrote. Another Manchester icon Frank Foo Foo Lammar, famous as the top drag queen of the North-West whose club was re-known for its great party nights appeared in The Rocky horror Show.
A land of elegant covered walkways and raised beds.
The Anglican Church of William Temple was opened in 1965 on the corner of Robinswood Road and Simonsway as the church of the Civic Centre. The mission was already well-established, having begun many years previously in Shadow Moss School Room, latterly operating in a dual-purpose building on Simonsway. The architect, George Pace, agreed with the proviso that he should not design a ‘pseudo’ building, but that it should be modern in concept. This he did and particular attention was paid to the acoustics with a view to music and drama being performed there. One of Pace’s stipulations was that, as with all the churches he designed, there must be no plaques attached to the walls commemorating the dedication of the church or in memory of anyone, for he said he built his churches to the Glory of God. The only lettered stone is on the back wall of the church and it has on it the date of the consecration and a symbol, which is Pace’s original sign for William Temple Church.
The internal supports of the church are black-painted steel girders, not romantically symbolising the industry of the area, as it is sometimes said, but because when it was discovered that the church had been built on swampy ground an extra £2,000 was needed for foundations; the wooden beams of the original design had to be changed for cheaper steel ones. There is symbolism, however, in the placing of the font between and beneath the three main weight-bearing supports of the church.
The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester. The present lady churchwarden said:
“whenever we heard of a church being demolished we borrowed Mr. Owen’s coal cart and went off to see if we could buy any of the pews. Many times I’ve sat on the back of the wagon, in the pouring rain, with the pews, bringing them back to Wythenshawe to be stored until our church building was completed!”
Some time after the building was opened a fire damaged some of the pews. With the insurance money all the pews were stripped and bleached, giving an element of uniformity and a bright welcoming atmosphere in the church generally. An interesting thought was voiced that as many people living in Wythenshawe now had their origins near to the centre of Manchester they may be sitting in the same pews in which their ancestors once sat.
This a tale of a lane, a shady lane in south Manchester.
This is a tale of several Manchesters, layer upon layer of history.
Ford Bank House occupied much of what is now the Ford Bank Estate and prior to that it was believed to be farm land. Ford Bank House, probably the largest house erected in Didsbury was built in about 1823 by Joseph Birley a cotton manufacturer. The extended Birley family had a widespread influence on Manchester history even going back to the Peterloo massacre where one of the Birley ancestors led a contingent of the mounted soldiers who attacked what was a peaceful protest gathering.
A tale of emergent capital and political control, rendered corporeal in brick, stone, wood, glass and slate. A cotton-rich mercantile class seeking to suppress the democratic demands of a burgeoning proletariat.
Ford Bank House was sold to Thomas Ashton in 1858, when he died in 1898. In 1919 the remaining estate was sold to Dr Herbert Levinstien who worked on mustard gas research during the first world war. In 1934 the estate was sold to Ford Bank Estates Limited who developed and built what is now the Ford Bank Estate.
A tale of a growing and aspirational professional middle class, seeking inter-war semis in a leafy Didsbury glade – and the timely response of speculative builders.
Looking cheekily over the hedge in search of a monkey puzzle.
The ford of Ford Lane crosses the nearby River Mersey – thought to be the route of retreating Royalists following the siege of Wythenshawe Hall in 1644.
In 1901 a bridge was opened at the behest of local emigres engineer and social benefactor Henry Simon – a German born engineer who revolutionised Great Britain’s flour milling industry and in 1878 founded the engineering companies Henry Simon Ltd and Simon Carves.
He and his family were a serious reforming political force in the area – instrumental in the founding and development of the Halle Orchestra, Wythenshawe Park and housing estate.
For many years this was my route to work – cycling from Stockport to Northenden, each and every day forever. Witnessing the rise and fall of the river and the vacillating fortunes of Manchester’s economic regeneration.
This is south Manchester where the years of austerity, central government fiscal prudence and free-market economics, have had a far from adverse effect.
In stark contrast to the malaise of the north and east of the city, here we see a constant parade of skips and scaffold, free from the fickle trick of trickle down. As extensions and mortgages are extended at an alarming rate.
The round windowed gaze of the asymmetric homes, seem endlessly surprised at the good fortune that has befallen the residents of Ford Lane.
Here we are again – having previously travelled back to the inception of the estate in the 1970s.
Structurally little has changed, politically and economically things have shifted.
The Conservative Party had committed itself to introducing a Right to Buy before Margaret Thatcher became Party leader. After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place. 200,000 council houses were sold to their tenants in 1982, and by 1987, more than 1,000,000 council houses in Britain had been sold to their tenants.
The post war policy of building and renting local authority housing was swamped by the phrase property owning democracy, on which the popular conservatism of the 20th century rested, and with it a vision of the good society, was coined by the Scottish Unionist Noel Skelton in a quartet of articles for the Spectator entitled Constructive Conservatism, written in the spring of 1923. The appeal of Popular Capitalism proved compelling, however the periods of de-industrialisation, and the subsequent lull in the building of new affordable homes, has created a myriad of obstacles for those simply seeking somewhere to live and work.
The estate illustrates this historic shift, replete with homeowners decorative amendments and addenda, managing agents and trusts and an end to the architectural integrity of the development.
One could become all Ian Nairn about this, swathed in Outrage.
I myself feel that despite the cosmetic surgery, this remains a homely enclave, residents going about their business in a relatively orderly and happy manner.
Baguley is derived from the Old English words Bagca, badger, and Leah, wood.
Historically in Cheshire, Baguley is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was incorporated into Manchester in 1931.
It has a Brook though babble heard I none, it had a Station now long gone.
I idled by on my bike to snap the homes around Bideford Drive, which I dutifully did. My curiosity suitably aroused I perused the Manchester Local Image Archive, in search of clues. Planned in 1969 complete in 1971 main contractor Laing architects the City Office.
A rich mix of scale and typology, two differentiated blocks, tower and slab, short rows of compact terraces, open spaces, shops, car parking and limited planting. The interlocking geometries, paths and walkways make it an intriguing and entertaining estate, full of small surprises and ideas – these pictures are of 1971.
There is a sharply attenuated and clean feel in the air, optimism on a largely overcast day, a totality – planned integration – homes and architecture of distinction.
Cycling around Wythenshawe one sunny day yesterday, in search of friends old and new, I found myself beside myself, beside St Luke’s.
1938-9 by Taylor and Young. Light brown brick in English garden wall bond (roof concealed). Modern functionalist style. Nave with west tower, north and south aisles with porches and side offices, short chancel. Rectangular tower to same width as nave, with short triangular buttresses flanking a square-headed doorway, plain wall except for very large geometrical-floral clock, parapet and very low set-back louvre stage with steeply-pitched hipped roof. Flat-roofed aisles have projected triangular west ends flanking tower, a projected porch at each end of north aisle and corresponding projected offices to south aisle, and very small star-shaped windows with pentagonal surrounds. Nave has 7 pairs of tall square-headed lancets. Short one-bay chancel has concrete cross in place of east window. Interior: basilican character, with low passage-aisles, chamfered piers terminating with lights, flat concrete-beamed ceiling; side-lit chancel with relief figures of angels.
Those are the facts – the fabulous thing is the clock, a playful lesson in geometry, surface and colour, and it keeps time as well.
Wythenshawe is awash with modern churches and this pale brick giant is hard to miss dominating the Brownley Road junction, built to serve the then ever expanding housing estate to the south west of Manchester.