Friday, 29 January 2010

Seeing red...

Picture courtesy of the Scottish Civic Trust Buildings at Risk website (click to enlarge)

Update: See also

This article caught my attention on last week's Urban Realm website:

Excellent - re-use of a handsome historic theatre/cinema building, a People's Palace, which will again become an asset to the community!

Here's further information, and a picture of the building in its prime:

the listing  on the website of the Theatres Trust:

and here the Buildings at Risk Register entry:

which details its long history, its current state of neglect, and the planning history. Prior to the latest news, planning consent had been granted to retain the facade, and build flats behind it. That permission has expired, all the plans appear to have come to fruition to rescue the building from those who have allowed its neglect, and it is reported that its future now lies in a different direction.

This  Flickr picture shows the building as it is at the moment, a sad sight:

although the attractive  exterior stonework remains  intact, and it requires little imagination to see this as once again a centrepece of its locality, brought back to life with an intelligent re-use, while at the same time giving  historical and cultural continuity to its community. Additionally, surely it is more sustainable to re-use such a building, with all the embodied energy in its stone and brick, than bulldoze and rebuild something which in all probablity won't be anything near as long lasting?  No doubt it is also possible, given how much reworking will have to be done of the damaged interior, to upgrade the building to modern standards of insulation and consider forms of renewable energy to heat it, eg ground source heating, solar panels?  If it can be achieved on buildings in the World Heritage Site of Edinburgh, see many past posts here, such as tenement buildings:

and even such a prestigious project as the  Bank of Scotland, surely it can be done in Glasgow?

...It was thought that the project was an imaginative re-working of a landmark building, combining sensitive restoration with bold intervention. The judges felt the use of modern lighting coupled with restrained interior design enhanced the spaciousness...   also praised for commitment to sustainability by using ground source heat pumps that assist heating and cooling in the building. This halves the previous energy consumption...

As reported last year:

Bid for cash could benefit Glasgow ex music hall.
28th July 2009

Communities in the East End of Glasgow are bidding to win a multi-million share of a new Government fund to improve local high streets. One of the four groups, the local regeneration agency, believe the cash could bring the ex-Olympia Theatre of Varieties back to life and transform a neglected crossroads by restoring it to its former architectural glory.

The money would allow Clyde Gateway to buy the building from its current owners and make it secure, saving it from further deterioration, then look closer at the possible options for use stating that to leave it as-is is no longer acceptable. It has been vacant for 16 years.

The £1.9m bid from the fund would fund the purchase by Clyde Gateway and then another £3.6m would be invested to start refurbishment work, with the likely use being a sports facility or office space for local businesses and services.

Ms Carlin added: "The ambition is to have public access to the building again. If it was turned into a residential development it would mean the loss of a community facility. Competition for the cash is high with the £60million fund attracting 133 bids from around Scotland totaling£125m. Source: Evening Times.

At the end of 2008: Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company have since been successful in their bid for cash from the Town Centre Regeneration Fund to purchase and restore the building to public use, although exact details on that use are not yet known. Scottish Civic Trust

January 2009: Now Gateway has acquired the historic property with government support, designs are being worked up to transform the famous structure for restaurant and public use with offices above Urban Realm

A pity it will no longer house a theatre or cinema, but excellent that a creative re-use is being found and actively pursued, especally in light of this report today:

Sustainable Glasgow look back to the future with trams
29 Jan 2010

Trams and congestion charging are amongst two options being considered in a new report from Sustainable Glasgow, an initiative which aims to transform the city into one of Europe’s greenest.
Led by Strathclyde University the initiative aims to cut carbon emissions in the city by 30% by 2020 Urban Realm

However, I read on, and a small piece at the end of the Urban Realm report on the rescue and re-use of the Olympia caught my attention:

Sadly however a series of historic tenements within Dalmarnock itself will not be saved, Pritchard states that these homes fall within the Athletes Village site and are too expensive to bring up to standard.

Here is a site with photographs showing what will be lost to landfill:

and a spot of history:

As Wapedia reports:

Victorian sandstone tenements in Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock that were originally renovated as part of the GEAR (Glasgow East Area Renewal) scheme in the late 1970s, have seen their residents systematically rehoused in recent years, thus being allowed to fall into a dilapidated state once more. They are now planned to be totally demolished as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes village masterplan by RMJM... (yes that's the RMJM of Gazprom Okhta Tower infamy, see many a past post here, and the recent employer of the disgraced banker Sir Fred Goodwin).

And of course, no new development is complete without a tower:

East One, also known as Dalmarnock Tower, is a proposed high-rise residential building in Glasgow, Scotland. As originally proposed, the tower included a hotel, and had a projected height of 180.00 metres over 55 floors, which would have made it the second-tallest building in the United Kingdom outside London, after the proposed Piccadilly Tower in Manchester (188m). However, an updated proposal submitted for outline planning permission in December 2007 shows a reduced tower of 39 storeys. The proposed tower would be built on a site in Millerfield Road, Dalmarnock, close to the site of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The tower will be accompanied by low-rise residential development

Interesting to note that some tenements are seen as more valuable to keep than others.

What is critical to creating a genuine urban environment is restoration of the Edwardian tenements further down Millerfield Road. Pre war housing should be given utmost priority for grant aid as such homes constitute the very essence of Glasgow. The tenements surviving today have done so because they were rehabilitated in the eighties and nineties, although this is clearly futile if they are subsequently abandoned. The Games carry the carrot of a sustainable future for the area, the first such opportunity in a generation.

Such mixed messages!

 So, a part of the history of  Scotland  is being erased, handsome stone tenement blocks bulldozed for an Athlete's Village? Well, see also past posts here re  the US, and the razing of a number of  important buildings for an Athlete's Village for a failed Olympic bid:

I haven't seen the figures for the claims about it not being  economic to repair; I wonder how short a term and narrow, and indeed convenient for achitect and developer, a view this is? Surely the cost to the environment of hoying all that beautiful stone, all that embodied energy, could also be considered?

And the subject, the longstanding, longrunning weeping sore, of the attempts to have the ludicrous VAT regime in this country amended, has to come into the picture?

Give or take some concessions for various situations which are small in number,  there is no VAT to pay on new buildings, yet repair of existing buildings attracts the full rate of VAT. It might not sound a great deal, but for work on the  scale of re-using large areas of tenements, the sums added to the bill will be huge. Again, we have a 'sustainability' agenda, boiler scrappage schemes, encouragement to insulate to ever hugher standards, seal ourselves in with double glazing, save energy by changing lightbulbs, but we fail to see the bigger picture.

Is this because governments are in thrall to developers of new builds? It sounds suspiciously like the powerful development industry has its ear. Or is it because it hasn't really ever considered what a harmonising or no VAT regime could bring in benefits to the existing building stock?  With a more sensible VAT regime, refurbish/retrofit  rather than raze could become far more common than it is at present.  Builders would still be required, as would architects, suppliers, developers; a change of emphasis would be better for the environment, and save so many more of our traditional and handsome buildings.   I suspect communities throughout the country would welcome such change of emphasis both for buildings in the 'public realm', and for repairs/extentions/upgradingscarried out to their own homes.

 An article worth re-reading:

For Fraser, sustainability means working with existing environments as much as it means creating new ones. Make do and mend is his mantra, and a good Scottish virtue it is too.

So I leave the last word on this to Malcolm Fraser in the Herald following the announcement of the site plans: full screen link to doc

Malcolm Fraser Tenements

And so on to further destruction.  Another unnecessary demolition has begun, a different part of the UK, Medway, Kent.  The bulldozers moved in last week to begin  razing Strood's Aveling and Porter building.

A Press Release from July 2009 gives a little history:

William Palin, Secretary of SAVE says, ‘To lose the A&P building, one of relatively few buildings of architectural merit in Strood would be a tragic waste. This is a finely detailed and stonkingly well-built  Edwardian commercial headquarters, in excellent condition and ripe for sympathetic conversion. Medway Council has the opportunity to preserve this much-loved local landmark and promote its integration within a wider development scheme. This building, with its rich history and quality of design, could be the jewel in any future scheme for the riverside. Its destruction would surely be viewed by future generations with anger and disbelief.’

There is no need to demolish the Aveling and Porter building, the building appeared sound, SAVE and Hugh Thomas had drawn up an alternative and attractive plan to incorporate it into a new development, but  razing is apparently far preferable to retaining some history and a very decent building. The craft skills with which it was built we will rarely see the like again. I bet that Strood has a sustainability policy though...

Pictures and further details of what is currently happening: full screen of Press Release below from last autumn:
SAVE Strood Press Release

An alternative plan for the building and the wider site:


The unlisted Aveling and Porter building is one of only a handful of buildings of architectural and historic significance in Strood. It dates c.1906 and was designed by local architect George Bond as the headquarters of Aveling and Porter, manufacturers of agricultural engines. The firm built its first steam engine in 1861 and went on to become the world’s leading producer of steam rollers. The firm’s handsome office building has stood as a prominent landmark on Strood riverside for over 100 years. Now, the owners, Medway Council, want to see this fine, solid and well-maintained Edwardian building destroyed to facilitate the sale of the wider site to developers.

Although currently empty, the building is in good condition and remarkably intact (all the original windows survive for example). Clearly, it is eminently capable of conversion for a number of new uses. Its waterside location, with views across the Medway to Rochester is a major attraction.

Final word from Medway's  Coun Hubbard.

Bulldozing over history, heritage and public opinion

Labour campaigners, led by Stephen Hubbard, questioned the leader of the Conservative council in March 2009. We cited the significant concerns that the Conservative Party was bulldozing over a historic asset, purely to sell the land to cover the massive black hole in the council books caused by overspending on the Chatham two-way fiasco. The leader of the council made no clear statement to support the building and it is now extremely likely that the building was be demolished. Another piece of Rochester & Strood history laid waste by a culturally moribund administration.

Local residents and the SAVE Britain's Heritage Group have suggested that whilst the majority of the building be demolished the older, historic Aveling & Porter building be retained as an historic facade and tribute to the cultural history of Rochester & Strood. The Labour Group suggested that developers may be open to the retention of the historic building as a value-add to any development or alternatively the Council could use the building for young people in Strood.

Sadly the Conservative run Medway Council does not wish share that ownership of Strood’s manufacturing heritage and is proposing to demolish all the buildings on the civic centre site in order to maximise the profit from selling the site to a developer. In May 2006 the council’s Tory Cabinet adopted a Building Height Policy that gave them the right to give planning permission, on the civic centre site, for blocks of flats between 6 to 8 storeys high - right up to the river’s edge.

£800,000 Cost to tax payer

In June 2009, it became clear that the Tories had massively underestimated the cost of the demolition of the Strood Civic Centre which was budgeted at £300,000. This figure has now doubled to £800,000.

£800,000 which could have improved all the road surfaces across Strood and still had spare to spend on a youth centre.

The Tory relocation to Gun Wharf was justified on cost grounds, but it has became increasingly clear that the £800,000 cost was a staggering financial oversight.

£800,000 which could save a primary school from closure or paid for extra teaching assistants in our classrooms.

Indeed. And what about the cost to the environment? And the historic environment? What a scandalous waste.


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Friday, 22 January 2010

Thank you,

...for linking here today and calling the Republic 'a fine weblog' :

In return, I think yours is pretty good also!

Here's more info:

things magazine was originally founded in 1994 by a group of writers and historians based at the Victoria & Albert Museum/Royal College of Art in the belief that objects can open up new ways of understanding the world.

Now an independent magazine, things has built a reputation as a home for new writing – essays, reviews, short stories and poems – about objects and their meanings. The website contains a weblog, photography galleries, special projects, searchable archives and the occasional on-line only article.

Our printing schedule used to be biannual, but now it's just occasional. This means you can't subscribe any more, but if you'd like to be notified of new issues, drop us a line and we'll keep you up to date.

To order back issues of the magazine (1 through to 17-18, the most recent), visit our archive page, click on 'add to basket' and our friends at PayPal will handle the rest...

I'll be back very soon with a longer blog update. I feel a rant coming on...

To keep you amused, the picture above comes from this website:

Bates Motel?  Big Dick's Halfway Inn?? Amigone Funeral Home???

Another thing... a fab animation in 3D of the National Railway Museum

...and one more thing, an UPDATE from me blog January 4th:

a feature on the Scottish Ballet HQ from Urban Realm:

And finally; don't know if this is things or stuff, but fantastic Jayne, to have your and Rupert's wedding featured on Queens of Vintage!  It was a wonderful day...  (see all four pages...)

Pics: Clare Hocter


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Thursday, 7 January 2010

'126?' Mallard's record run

The men who set the record (still unbroken)  Fireman Bray; Driver Duddington (see below*) Inspector S. Jenkins.

Mallard waits for the 'right away' at Barkston, July 3rd 1938

The National Railway Museum has been having fun, and this morning posted via Twitter this pic and report on building a Mallard snowloco. What larks!

So I thought a short blog on Gresley's Mallard, just to brighten the wintry weather for all us rail enthusiasts.

*This short audio/video clip has the words of the driver, Joe Duddington, recorded in 1945,  who was at the helm on that record breaking run, 126 mph, 'the fastest speed a steam locomotive had ever been driven in the world'.

For the sharp-eyed, there is a sign by the side of the track where that record run took place; I always look out for it and give a silent cheer!

In the summer of 1998, organised by The Gresley Society and with the help of railway companies and private donors, a sign was placed close to the East Coast Main Line at milepost 90¼ , on the Up side (the east side) of the line, to mark the place where Mallard achieved the record speed of 126mph.

Picture: Brian Dow

The map shows where the record was achieved and where the commemoration sign is, between Little Bytham and Essendine. The nearest town (not on the line) is Stamford

Further details courtesy of this page:

which was created to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the record run.

Cecil J. Allen, in 'The Gresley Pacifics of the L.N.E.R.', gave this account of the run:

"But...the sporting instincts of Sir Nigel had been aroused by the 114 m.p.h. attained by the L.M.S.R. Pacific Coronation in the previous year...and he was determined, under the cloak of these [brake] tests, to give the rivals a speed challenge which they would have little chance of beating. In Mallard he found a perfect instrument for his purpose, and in Driver Duddington, of Doncaster, a fearless collaborator. The test train consisted of three of the "Coronation" twin sets, plus the dynamometer car, seven vehicles in all weighing 240 tons."

The train was started a little north of Grantham, and passed the station at a modest 24 m.p.h., with the regulator wide open, and cut-off 40 per cent. In 2¼ miles at 1 in 200 up, the train accelerated to 59¾ m.p.h.; on 1½ miles further with cut-off eased to 30 per cent, the speed increased to 69 m.p.h.; and up the final 1½ miles through the tunnel to Stoke box, still at 1 in 200, 74½ m.p.h. had been reached as the summit box was passed. Due to the expert work with the shovel of Fireman Bray, the boiler continued to supply all the steam needed for an unchanged 40 per cent. as the engine swept southwards.

From milepost 100, speeds at the end of each successive mile were 87½, 96½, 104, 107, 111½, 116, 119 m.p.h. (milepost 93), and then, at the ensuing half-miles, 120¾, 122½, 123, 124¼ and finally 125 m.p.h. at milepost 90¼, while the dynamometer record for a very short distance revealed the tremendous maximum of 126 m.p.h., the figure usually quoted, and at which the 6 ft. 8 in. driving wheels were doing more than 500 revolutions a minute. All this was at 40 per cent. cut-off with full regulator, increased between mileposts 94¼ and 93 to 45 per cent. Five miles (posts 94 to 89) were reeled off at an average of 120.4 m.p.h., and speed actually exceeded 120 m.p.h. for three miles continuously (posts 92¾ to 89¾). So the record was secure; Mallard had travelled faster, not only than the L.M.S.R. Coronation, but also than all other steam locomotives in the world whose high speed performances, properly authenticated by a sequence of passing times, are on record.


Movies (can't embed)

Short thrilling clip of Mallard running in 1986:

That run:

Telly prog on Mallard Best Of British:


An A4, Waverley, Edinburgh

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

If winter comes...

Today's happy snow snaps and a quote courtesy of  Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, whole poem here:

and another poem about snow below.

Click on pic to open to Picasa:

Snow Jan 5th 2010


Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again,
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope,
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine,
in the sunniest voice he could muster
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting
accumulation. A father goes months
without speaking to his son.

How there can be a place
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet. The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

                           Naomi Shihab Nye


Monday, 4 January 2010

On being industrious...

It's the first anniversary of this blog, which began one year ago today.

I'm not claiming that it's world shattering, but I'd like to thank all those who read it, and those worldwide who have contacted me via the email on my profile to say nice things, send me information, share their angst, and all those friends who read it regularly and tell me to carry on.

I am sure I should write something carefully considered and full of academic background, but instead I am posting a brief blog with two contrasting buildings, a century between them

Red House Cold Store, Smithfield Market Western Buildings, completed 1899, architects Reeves and Styche, really pretty unknown.  I should delve more fully into those two. It's an industrial building, and one which I probably know more about than most, and have 'fought' for over a number of years, against the proposed demolition, the listing, the delisting... the story isn't yet all told.

Externally I find it beautiful, dramatic, internally it possibly is less so, being well... a giant fridge really... although its contribution to the history of this nation, and that of other nations, is considerable, and the survival of much of the interior really should be respected and protected.  Are you listening Margaret Hodge?

Further pictures and information:

Inquiry news (archive):

The other dates from 2009, one century later, and on the outside is frankly quite industrial looking, albeit fittingly and elegantly so, in the context, a modern interpretation of ‘wrinkly tin’, and factory style saw toothed roof, an addition to an existing re-use of a historic tramshed in Glasgow.  Internally I gather it is magnificent. I hope to visit soon. I have loved the art of ballet since I was five years old, and those who know me well can attest to a life long commitment to trying to spread that love (and in particular, the Cecchetti Method).

Malcolm Fraser Architects, Edinburgh, not unknown at all…

So – two buildings to enjoy, in the fullest sense, and long may they continue to bring pleasure.

UPDATE A review from Urban Realm of the Scottish Ballet HQ


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Another snowy day - South Tyne Trail walk

A historic pic - a locomotive on the Lambley Viaduct

An afternoon walk on a section of the South Tyne Trail, which runs along the line of the former Halthwhistle to Alston branch line of what was the Newcastle to Carlisle railway, the oldest cross-country line in the UK. This section contains the Lambley Viaduct,  attributed to Sir George Barclay Bruce and listed at Grade II*.

Click to enlarge

Web album,  click on picture to view all. Pic 1 of the sequence actually has three deer in it, but they are hard to spot:

South Tyne Trail Walk Jan 3 2010

Direct link to album (all pics can be enlarged by clicking on them):


More about the Lambley Viaduct and others on the line here  (information has been taken from the booklet “Lambley Viaduct - The History, Decline and Restoration of a Great Monument” by Robert Forsythe and Charles Blackett-Ord. Published by The North Pennines Heritage Trust in 1998):

When trains began to run up the whole length of the Haltwhistle to Alston branch from 17th November 1852, all but a mile of line had been in use for months. That mile was the length of track between Shaft Hill (later Coanwood) and Lambley across the Lambley Viaduct. The line was engineered without a single tunnel, but there were some nine substantial bridging structures to compensate.

A certain mystery concerns the Viaduct’s creator. Suffice to say that it and its partners on the branch are ascribed to Sir George Barclay Bruce (1821 to 1908) The design of Lambley Viaduct seems to have been complicated. When the Alston branch line had been surveyed, for the second time, in 1848, (the photo: A Haltwhistle to Alston passenger train crosses the Lambley Viaduct. Photo from the N.E. Stead Collection) drawings then produced showed that the river at Lambley was to crossed by a viaduct with 24 arches, each of 20 feet span.

Perhaps because of the disagreements between Lord Carlisle and the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company or more simply because of foundation problems, the design was modified to incorporate arches of much greater span. Whatever the reason, the design features of Lambley Viaduct differ from other structures on the line. The elements of redesign may well affect Barclay Bruce’s input.

The contractors for the viaduct were Rush and Lawton. When the Newcastle Journal newspaper reported a visit to see the work in progress in September 1851, Barclay Bruce conducted the party around the works; Benjamin Lawton was also present that day. The contract for the branch stipulated that all of the stone that was used to make the viaducts, was to be stone from Prudham, i.e. the Prudhamstone quarries connected to the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway near Fourstones.

The Engineer had permission to alter this clause and it does appear that some local limestones, sandstones and gritstones were also used in the construction of the line’s viaducts.

The South Tyne Trail:

PDF leaflet with pics, history and route:

North Eastern Railway Association


Friday, 1 January 2010

New year, snowed in!

A little too chilly to sit out! (Click to enlarge)

A slideshow of photos taken at around midday. Snowed in!

Here they are as a web album (click on picture)

New Year's Day 2010 - snowed in!

Can't get anywhere by car, police advice is to not travel, no transport anyhow, and it's getting too deep to walk with ease.

Hope all have recovered from last night, and happy 2010.