Archive for the 'Architecture' Category

Another Brick in the Wall

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

One for the Walsall history types.

One of Walsall’s better buildings, 41 Bridge St. You can see a picture, and read details here, on Walsall Council’s local listing page. or here on Flickr. Yes, amazingly, this building is not listed, just locally listed, and we all know what protection that gives.

Anyway, this is a great building, and is in use, so unlikely to get the attention of the civic arsonist. It’s rather beautiful, what with all the ironwork on the roof and such, but sitting outside the St Matthews Hall pub the other night, something struck us:

41 Bridge St, from where it approached Lichfield St. There's something odd about the 2nd floor,

41 Bridge St, from where it approached Lichfield St. There’s something odd about the 2nd floor.

a section of wall has been entirely rebuilt in modern brick: the roof and either end look original, and the new work is clearly intended to facsimile the original, but doesn’t quite manage it. I know this building has been the subject of renovation (I think I recall the ironwork being replaced/refurbished), but what happened here, anyone? It’s quite an odd thing- did the bulding suffer damage?

I remember the building as the Heart of England Building Society myself- formerly Walsall Mutual Building Society, apparently.

Pier to Pier

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

We decided to pop away for a weekend, but other appointments kept us at home on Saturday, and needed us back on Tuesday, so just one night away. This meant somewhere reasonably close by, so Weston-super-Mare it was. The resort’s been a popular visit for West Midlanders for years, to the level that the local rag gets published in the town.

My last visit was sometime around 1996, when we drove in looking for lunch, didn’t like the look of it much, and drove out again. The one before that was a day trip sometime in the 1970s, on a coach, when I were but a lad.

Since then the prom has been done up, and the pier has had a disastrous fire and amazing rebirth.

It now looks great, and despite the Tripadvisor whingers, well worth the £1 entry fee:

The Grand Pier

The Grand Pier

As a fan of English seaside, it’s nice to see a pier in such good conditiion, unlike the Birnbeck Pier, a short morning walk just up the coast, undergoing emergency repairs by the looks of it, with the lifeboat station in temporary accomodation on the seafront. The pier is in a shocking condition, pictures here, and 2 Urbex reports here (2011) and here (2007), showing the rapid deterioration.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

I like piers: love them, which makes this list sad reading, and a good proportion of this list distrubing too- just look at this site, for example.

That made our diversion on the way home the next day all the better: Clevedon Pier also has a chequered past, having suffered partial collapse, but has been restored and is now both in great shape and grade 1 listed:

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

with lovely cast-iron fittings. It’s small, and there’s no amusements (just a tea room), and it costs more that Weston’s Grand, but it’s a structure of beauty, and an example of what can be done. Which seaside pier next?

Southport

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

I decided we deserved a weekend away, so we went to Southport. Somewhere we’d always meant to go, and having had a reccomendation from friends (“It’s very Victorian, you’ll like it”) we departed.

It’s surprisingly close: 2 hours, a hundred or so miles, and yes, it is very Victorian. The rather splendid Lord St is lovely, and the Pier is fine- the second longest in the UK, and as the longest is the admittedly long, but dull, Southend, it’s Southport FTW, as there’s a bar at the end, for a start.

One building caught my eye from the pier: this lovely, huge Victorian pile of an ex-hospital:

Tho old Southport Promenade Hospital, Now Marine Gate Mansions.

Tho old Southport Promenade Hospital, Now Marine Gate Mansions.

which is now appartments, with a half-million pound price tag(PDF, 1.2MB).

Southport is a oddly laid out place: the pier bridges a lake between the town and the sea, and the actual seafront has a retail park (where our hotel was), which presumably is the type we’ll soon have in Walsall, with a cinema, and a large selection of crappy chain restaurants:

Share and enjoy: crappy chain restaurants and a cinema: seems inexplicably popular.

Share and enjoy: crappy chain restaurants and a cinema: seems inexplicably popular.

I don’t know if the land is reclaimed, but it’s odd: the promenade is some way back: you’d imagine the hotels and pubs would be on the front, not a modern retail park.

We had a fabulous meal, a few drinks, and a bit of a stroll: one to revisit with more time, the town is affluent, but not up itself, architecturally good (mostly), and a blend of seaside and town.

Castle Miranda

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Castle Miranda is otherwise (more properly?) known as Chateau Noisy. It’s a long way from here, in Belgium, but was designed by the English architect Edward Milner. It is, to vastly understate things, a beautiful Neo-Gothic building that has been terribly neglected. You can read all about it in an account on David Baker’s excellent site here. It’s also very popular with urbexers.

David’s a professional photographer, and has taken some beautiful images of the chateau- you can visit the gallery by clicking the image below:

Castle Miranda

Castle Miranda. Image courtesy of David Baker: click to visit his gallery.

The bad news is that the owners want to demolish it, despite many offers to purchase the site over the years. See Dave’s post here, and a petition site here (hint, use Google Translate if you can’t read French).

Golden Opportunity

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I wasn’t at work last week, but the weather put paid to most of the outdoor tasks, as while it wasn’t universally wet, things were too changeable to commit to much. When a friend mentioned that she wanted to sell some gold, but wanted company (was I a bodyguard? maybe), it seemed like a pleasant diversion: The Jewellery Quarter has nice architecture, and decent pubs (more of the pubs later). I wanted to suggest CatsforGold
, but didn’t feel I’d get taken seriously.

We’d arranged to meet by the Chamberlain Clock, but I had something magnificent, but sad to look in on first, on my walk past Snow Hill:

The Gothic

What was The Gothic pub in Great Hampton Row, Birmingham

The Gothic was built around 1869-1870. It closed in 1991, and seems to have been rotting since: two of the nice gables have gone (see the c1950 photo here and another here), nasty modern shopfittings have been added, and the roof looks very dodgy in places. Thus is despite it being Grade II listed since 1982, though I suppose we should be grateful the arson contractors haven’t moved south from Walsall.

Anyway, onwards. We met up, and commenced the tour of the gold dealers: let this be a warning: prices varied by at least 10%, and this was not insignificant given the value in this case. After a tour of 5 or 6, we settled on one place, sold the gold, and got the bulk of the cash paid in to Barclays, handily back by the clock, and just in view of the lovely Warstone Lane Cemetery lodge:

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image's page.

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image’s page.

Now the nice bit: as a reward for standing about looking large, lunch, with some of the proceeds. A walk round the corner back onto Great Hampton St, passing the Rose Villa Tavern and the Jewellers Arms and on to The Lord Clifden
which turned out nicer than expected.

Prace Bets Now!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

A short reference to silly post-pub gameshow Banzai.

I’m now wondering after yesterday’s events (blogged in detail by Brownhills Bob) which historic building in Walsall will be next.

We’ve had the Jabez Cliff building, the church at Melish Rd, another old leatherworks near the art gallery, several pubs, and of course Shannon’s Mill. Prior to that, Great Barr Hall.

So then. What’s next for the unleaded and Swan Vestas treatment, so handy for ridding yourself of an expensive to refurb building?

Will it be The Bell in Willenhall?

The Walsall Workhouse Guardians Building?

Or a mystery item from our diminishing list of historic buildings? (In all honesty, I’m running out of ideas as targets are acquired) Still given the state of our town, something is bound to become vacant and unloved, then burnt and demolished soon.

As The Plastic Hippo pointed out, there’s a remarkable amount of fires involving buildings from either the Statuary List (PDF, 262k) or the local list (PDF 180k). At least the Avion escaped.

Work on the Avion- continued

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Work is progressing on the Avion. The section that appeared to be getting demolished actually seems to be mostly retained, there’s a new roof in progress (rather than what looked like asbestos sheets), and some impressive windows at the rear, presumably where the original screen was, so a similar treatment to The Imperial, where it works quite well. It surely can’t be long until the building will be watertight again.

Rear of the Avion

Rear of the Avion cinema, 26-June-2012. New roof under construction, and new glass. Click for bigger version.

Work on the Avion

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Looks like the visit to the Avion by some urbexers was well-timed: over the Easter break my bother-in-law emailed me:

Just thought I’d let you know that they’re demolishing it ……we went to Morrisons today & the back half has already gone.

I’m pleased to say that it’s not actually being demolished, or at least not all of it: the planning documents (PDF, 80kB) on Walsall MBC’s site don’t go into detail (and I can’t find anything more detailed), but they do say:

Part demolition and alterations and change of use to Class A4 (drinking establishment) with external seating area, extension of adjacent car park, new boundary fences and pedestrian access.

which pretty much confirms the Wetherspoons story.

They’re not mucking about though: I called in at Morrisons on Monday, and you get a good view at what’s going on, and they’re demolishing a good part of the large auditorium behind. At least there’s nothing architecturely significant about it- pretty basic 1930s construction, brick, steel girders, and a sheet roof.

Avion Cinema from Morrisons car park, 23/4/2012

From the side, it’s clear how much has been demolished:

From one side. 23/4/2012

What I’m not sure about is how much is going to be demolished, or how much is original: it’s a big old shed of a building, so clearly they won’t need all of it. Can’t help but think that the top of the frontage, on the other side, would make a nice roof terrace…

Cross Purposes

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I first got the heads-up from a neighbour, but this was also featured in the Express and Star tonight, though not online. I’ll try to scan the page.

There’s plans afoot for the Four Crosses, one of my favourite pubs, and now the only pub in Shelfield, as the Spring Cottage is (still) undergoing conversion to a Co-op store.

It’s an odd one. Unlike most planning applications involving pubs these days, the pub is to stay, but it’s beer garden, car park, and surrounding land is to be taken over by a care home, which will spread into the first floor of the pub, with the pub business continuing below. A very odd arrangment.

picture of plans

Planned elevations for the site: Click for bigger, see link below for PDF original.

There’s full details on Walsall MBC’s fairly ropey planning site: I can’t easily link the application as a page, so here’s the most interesting documents. For the full application, go to here and search for 12/0221/FL.

Design and Access Statement (PDF, 4.4MB)

Elevations (1) (PDF, 3.6MB)

Elelvations (2) (PDF, 3.8MB)

Ground Floor Plan (inc Garden/Car Park) (PDF, 800KB)

There’s a few things I don’t like here: I’m not keen on the new building for a start, and it clashes somewhat with the nice old pub, and I also rather like a pint in the beer garden, but more of a concern is that the care home will apparently create 40 jobs, but the new car park will have only 17 car spaces (less than currently!) despite having to support the pub and the care home. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of pub many drive to, but a 30-bed home with 40 potential staff (who admittedly won’t all work at the same time) and a pub having 17 parking spaces, when the surrounding roads are either unsuitable to park in or already crowded by residents? Seems like a bad idea, despite what the Transport Statement says (PDF, 1.3MB). I also wonder where all the pub customers will smoke…

The only thing in favour is that the pub will get a bit of a refurb, and the owners will make some money, which might be the difference between closing and not, but it just seems so odd, and just doesn’t quite fit: I’d be concerned that the pub would get swallowed up. Still, I suppose better it stays standing?

Like I say, an odd one. Anyone have any comments?

Eyes Down

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

A discussion on Twatter today prompted me to poke about on 28dayslater, the Urban Exploration forum, and I was very pleased to see the Avion in Aldridge featured in two threads.

Thread One: February 2012

Thread Two: April 2010

There’s some great pictures there: one thing great about Urbex is that at least for the most part, the urbexers just explore and document, unlike the arsonists that visit most of Walsall’s old buildings.

I’m rather a sucker for Art Deco buildings- which seems odd considering I also love Victorian Gothic Revival (much of which was flattened during Deco’s prime).

Even if you don’t like the building there’s some nice history (and hideous bingo decotration) in there.

What’s starting to concern me is that the reported Wetherspoon takeover of the building hasn’t happenned yet, and while the building is locally listed, we all know what level of protection that offers.


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