Wythburn Church

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My recent walk up Helvellyn started and finished in the car park next to Wythburn church.

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It’s a small, but attractive building with white rendered walls and a green Lakeland slate roof.  Originally constructed in 1554 on the site of an earlier chapel, it was rebuilt  in 1640, and again in 1740 with some additions in the 19th Century. It’s a Grade II listed building

The church used to serve a small, isolated, rural community but the local population was severely reduced once Thirlmere was turned into a reservoir to provide water for Manchester at the very end of the 19th Century. Despite this it is still in use with services held during the summer months.

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After I had finished my walk I went to have a look around the outside of the church and noticed that it was open. So I had to go inside to have a peek inside.

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It was surprisingly light inside and clearly well looked after.

The church was well known to the Lakes poets. Hartley Coleridge (the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge) called the church a ‘humble house of prayer’, while William Wordsworth saw it as a ‘modest house of prayer.’

Two East End Buildings

One of my main objectives during my mooch around Spitalfields last week was to have a look at a couple of Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau buildings  in the area, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. He was a Scouser – well, almost, he was born in Birkenhead – who moved to London in 1880.

The first of the two buildings was the Whitechapel gallery, a short distance down Whitechapel from Aldgate where I’d been working. I’d been there a few times before to visit exhibitions and always admired the building with it’s twin towers and massive, off-centre round arch above the front door.

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It’s creamy stone stands out in a street of dark brick buildings. In a number of ways, with it’s solid stone construction and relatively but curved surfaces, it rather reminds me of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, particularly the Glasgow School of Art.

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Originally, it was intended that the upper part of the facade would be filled with mosaics by the renowned Arts and Crafts designer Walter Crane, but these were never completed. However, today there’s a lovely metallic frieze of leaves and branches by Rachael Whiteread that was installed just a few years ago.

The gallery was founded  1901, intended to bring art to the working classes of East London, and was one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in the Capital.

The second building was on Bishopgate at the far side of Spitalsfields and close to Liverpool Street Station – The Bishopgate Institute.

Like the Whitechapel Gallery, it has a broad semi-circular arched entrance and twin towers, in this case topped by ornate, multifacetted turrets. It has a different look, though – a little more traditional, more ornate and influenced by Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.

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There are beautiful friezes above the entrance and towards the top of the towers, representing the Tree of Life. It was difficult to get a photo of them – the street was busy with commuters at rush hour, but I’ve done my best to enlarge sections of my pictures of the building

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According to the Institute’s website

The original aims of the Institute were to provide a public library, public hall and meeting rooms for people living and working in the City of London. The Great Hall in particular was ‘erected for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement of literature, science and the fine arts’.

So both buildings reflect the Art and Crafts Movement’s dedication to the cause of social progress (and, in may cases, Socialism) by providing facilities for the education and enlightenment of the working class. It’s good to see that both buildings are still being used for the purposes originally intended.

Charles Harrison Townsend designed another Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau building, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London. I’ve had a look at some pictures of the Museum on the web and it’s now on the bucket list. It’s not so far from the Dulwich Picture Gallery so perhaps I can arrange to combine a visit to both of them.

Street Haunting in Spitalfields

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Last Tuesday I was working in the east of London, in Aldgate. After work, I still had 2 and 1/2 hours to kill before my train so, as it was a pleasant afternoon, I decided to have a wander around Spitalfields, a short walk away.

In the 17th and 18th century the area was associated with silk weaving after Huguenots fleeing from persecution in France settled here and brought their skills with them. Later, Irish linen workers settled here. In the Victorian period, following the decline of the silk and linen industries it became something of a notorious slum. There were further waves of Jewish and then Bangladeshi immigrants bringing new cultures and energy to the area. Today, like much of the East End it’s become somewhat gentrified. The old Victorian market and surrounding streets being redeveloped.

It’s an interesting place to walk around, with some historic buildings and modern street art to look at.

For me, the star of the show is Hawksmoor’s magnificent gleaming white Christ Church

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one of the six, eccentric English Baroque churches for which he is best known.

There’s an interesting war memorial in the church yard.

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Close by, on Commercial Street,  the Fruit and Wool exchange building has been controversially redeveloped against local opposition, over-ruled by the former Mayor of London and current “Clown Secretary”. The white neo-Classical façade has, fortunately, been preserved.

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A number of old commercial buildings nearby  have also been preserved

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I quite liked this building with it’s neo-Gothic features

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and these more modern flats with an Art Deco look

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There’s street art dotted around the redeveloped market. Here’s a selection I spotted.

The Spitalfields Goat by Kenny Hunter

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A pear and a fig by Ali Grant

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Dogman and Rabbitgirl with coffee by Gillie and Marc

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Wooden Boat with Seven People by Kalliopi Lemos, features an authentic boat that was used to transport refugees from Turkey to the shores of the Greek islands. The installation aims to reflect Spitalfields’ rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of migrants across the centuries.

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I couldn’t find out who had created this “steampunk” motorbike

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Het Olympisch Stadion

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We were staying directly across from the Olympisch Stadion, built as the main stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. It’s a brick built Amsterdam School style structure, designed by the Dutch architect Jan Wils.

Due to renovation works taking place on a couple of Art Deco style buildings at the front of the stadium and an entrance that had been built to the stadium which was being used as a skating rink (the Dutch love skating), we couldn’t see much of the building, but I popped over for half an hour one afternoon to take a closer look.

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Built of brick, in keeping with the Amsterdam School style the walls have decorative features including flower boxes and projections.

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The Marathontoren (Marathon Tower) is positioned asymmetrically in front of the Marathonpoort (Marathon Gateway) – it’s here where the Olympic flame burned for the duration of the Games

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The tower is lit up at night and we could see it from the street outside the hotel and our bedroom window.

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Round the back of the stadium there was a sculpture of Johan Cruyff and Berti Vogts who played on opposite sides during the 1974 World Cup Final between the Netherlands and West Germany.

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A wander round Den Haag

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After our visit to the Mauritshuis we decided to explore the town and grab a bite to eat. It was a cold, grey day, so not so great for sightseeing and taking photos, and we hadn’t really done any research about the sights, so we restricted ourselves to a brief, unstructured walk in the older area to the west of the museum, stopping off in a café for hot drink and a bite to eat.

The Mauritshuis is next to the Binnehof, the home of the Dutch Parliament. Despite this, security was minimal and we were able to walk right through the central courtyard

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This is the Royal residence in the city, the Noordeinde Palace. It’s currently used as a “working palace” by the KIng.

DSC03132 Meandering through the old streets I was reminded a little of Brussels. Like the Belgian capital the streets were lined with individually designed buildings rather than regimented rows.And like Brussels, there were quite a few Art Nouveau influenced buildings. There was clearly much more to see but time was limited and it was cold! Here’s a few photos of some of the more interesting buildings we saw.

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These are some of the Art Nouveau/ Jugendstil style, or influenced, buildings I spotted

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This building, with it’s decorative brickwork, looked like it was influenced by the Amsterdam School, although there are also some Art Decoish features

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This rather grand former restaurant is now the home of the Pathe Cinema

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We had a peek inside

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Amsterdam Oud Zuid architecture

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During our recent trip to Amsterdam we were staying on the edge of the area known as Oud Zuid (the Old South) on Stadionplein, directly across from the Olympic Stadium. The area was developed at the beginning of the 20th Century. Travelling on the tram to and from the city centre I’d noticed that many of the buildings had features that suggested that they’d been designed by architects from the Amsterdam School, so I decided to go for a bit of a mooch and look into this further.

The area was developed under the Plan Zuid, which was designed by the architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage and many of the architects were from the Amsterdam School.

Although the  Amsterdam School movement is considered to be part of international Expressionist architecture, there are features reminiscent of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in their buildings. As with most architectural movements, each building has it’s own features, but there are some common characteristics.

  • The architects’ emphasis was on the outward appearance of a building and less on its functionality – “Form before function”
  • the buildings are mainly constructed from bricks – often different shapes, textures and and colours of brick are used.
  • The windows are often eye-catching shapes,
  • There is great attention to detail and ornamentation, including sculptures, wrought iron decorations and stained-glass windows.
  • The facades often have curves and bulges, concave and convex shapes
  • The corner buildings or buildings at the end of a complex, often emphasized by a tower-like element.
  • The entrances and staircases are often highlighted by a special shape or decorations in stone or wrought iron.

I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the streets snapping photos, even though it was rather grey and cold with some rain showers. Here’s a few of the pictures I took.

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Windows and doors tend to be particularly ornate

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Although most of the buildings were residential blocks, I did spot a few individual houses with characteristic Amsterdam School features

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Manchester’s Midland Hotel

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One of my Christmas presents last year was a tour of the Midland Hotel in Manchester. It’s something of an iconic building which I’ve passed many times being on Peter Street, opposite the Central library and near the Bridgewater Hall. It’s also close to the Free Trade Hall (now converted into another luxury hotel) but is where I first started going out to concerts in my mid teens a long, long time ago. The tour covered the history and the architecture of the hotel and was followed by a rather civilised afternoon tea.

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The hotel a large Edwardian Baroque style building constructed on an  “island” in a dominant position facing the former Central Station the northern terminus for the Midland Railway’s rail services to London St. Pancras, which it was built to serve as a railway hotel . The front entrance doesn’t face the station so passengers would have to walk round the building to enter via the grand front entrance. However, there was a covered walkway (long gone) to the rear entrance so porters could bring the wealthy passengers’ bags into the hotel ready for them.

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The façade of the hotel is covered with glazed terracotta tiles, which was a common finish on buildings from this period in the industrial north. My home town of Wigan, for example, has quite a number of buildings covered with red terracotta tiles in the town centre. This made the surfaces easy to clean at a time when the air was heavily polluted and light coloured stone would become black in no time at all. I remember many black stone buildings from when I was young which were cleaned up in the 1970’s dramatically changing their appearance. The Midland’s tiles were specially made by Burmantofts Pottery of Leeds, who specialised in architectural facing products.

When the hotel was built, a “Gentleman’s Theatre” occupied part of the site. This had to be demolished but a theatre was incorporated into the building. There are particularly fancy terracotta tiles with sculptures representing the Arts over the windows and doors where this new theatre, now long gone, was located.

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The symbol of the Midland Railway company was the Griffin, and this occurs as a decorative feature inside and outside the building.

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The hotel is renowned as the place where a certain Mr Rolls met a Mr Royce, founding the company that bears their names.

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Moving inside, today you enter the lobby with it’s Art Deco style reception desks

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but this area was originally a Winter Garden – the tree in the centre of the lobby no doubt being a reminder of this.

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The skylights in the roof are a reminder of this

The tour of the building took us into the public rooms used for meetings and the like, some of which had interesting features, as well as one of the bedrooms

There were decorations on the walls in the corridors which included displays of materials found in bedrooms which had been left behind by guests over the years. These included all sorts – newspapers, magazines, comics, letters, postcards, drawings, maps and all sorts of miscellaneous objects.

One of the features of the hotel is the Octagon Lounge which originally had a Moorish design with a large lantern hanging from the ceiling. A few years ago it was redesigned and now has an Art Deco look to it.

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It was an interesting tour and at the end we were able to indulge ourselves with afternoon tea with sandwiches (no crusts!) and scones with cream and jam.

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Very naughty!

Afterwards we headed over to Home – Manchester’s Contemporary Art, Theatre and Art Cinema complex to watch Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, which we enjoyed very much.

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All in all a good afternoon and evening out, despite the weather