Wigan Infirmary, architecture

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This is the original entrance to Wigan Infirmary. Opened in 1873 it’s built in the neo-Gothic style which was the height of fashion during the Victorian age. It was designed by Thomas Worthington, an architect who was born in Crescent Parade, Salford, on 11 April 1826. Worthington was raised as a Unitarian, and as a result of his upbringing was committed to social reform. Probably due to this, he was often commissioned to design public buildings. There are many examples of his work in the Manchester area and other parts of Northern England.

Like many buildings in the North of England, the Infirmary became blackened with soot and other pollution emitted from factories, mines and iron foundries that dominated the landscape in Wigan during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. But it was cleaned up a few years ago during the major re-development of the hospital, revealing the brighter colours of its brick and stonework.

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Image published in The Building News, March 4th 1870. via http://archiseek.com

There are two wings on each side of the three main bays and a central tower and front porch. It’s constructed from red brick (as were many neo-gothic buildings from this period) with bands of blue bricks providing contract. A cream coloured sandstone used for decorative elements on the windows.

The porch has a crenelated balcony The front entrance has a pointed gothic arch supported by two short columns with floral capitals.  An engraving on the arch tells us that the hospital was opened on June 4th 1873 by the then Prince and Princess of Wales.

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The main first floor windows have pointed arches constructed of red brick with some blue coloured bricks and sandstone used to create a decorative effect.

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A coupe of old photographs taken by Francis Frith, who’s recently featured in a series on BBC2, can be viewed on the web here and here.

I think that the building is a good solid example of Victorian Municipal neo-Gothic architecture. Well proportioned, with some attractive features.

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A night in Portmeirion

The Village

The Village

Anyone who has ever watched the 1960’s TV show “The Prisoner” will recognise the scene in the picture above. It’s the village were Patrick McGoohan was held captive as “Number 6”.  I used to watch this programme as a boy and was always facinated by the place.

The location for the series was  Portmeirion, a fantasy village in North Wales created by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. He acquired the estate, on a peninsula near Portmadoc, in 1925. At that time there were only a few buildings on the site, including the mansion that now houses the hotel, a lodge/stable block that is now become “the Salutation“, the building now known as “the Mermaid” and  Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian mansion, which isn’t in the village proper, but stands closer to the entrance to the estate.

Over the years he assembled a collection of buildings which he relocated to the site while he had others constructed from scratch from his designs. In some cases he created new structures from disparate elements he acquired. For example the ornate porch on “the Pantheon” (or “Dome”) is a massive Norman Shaw fireplace!  The result was an Italian style village on the coast of North wales. But its misleading to think of it as Italian – it has its own style. I mean, would an Italian village have a floodlit statue of the buddha and statues of Thai dancers on top of columns in the main square? Look closely at the buildings and they’re not always what they seem. Proportions are such that some of them appear larger than they really are.

It isn’t always obvious to day visitors, but the village is actually a hotel.  Of course, there is the Hotel itself, situated in a stunning location on the estuary, and Castell Deudraeth is also a hotel. But most of the buildings are either hotel rooms or suites or self catering accommodation. It isn’t cheap to stay there but as a special treat we booked a suite in one of the village buildings. You don’t know which one you’re staying in until you arrive. We had the top floor of “the Anchor“. It had two rooms – a lounge and a bedroom with a four-poster bed. Nicely furnished it had an excellent view out over the estuary.

The Anchor

The Anchor

Inside "the Anchor"

Inside "the Anchor"

The deal we had was for dinner bed and breakfast, the meals being taken in the main hotel. The food was very good – one quibble is that the meat was cooked more than we’d really asked for – “medium” was really well done and “rare” was more like medium.

As hotel guest you get the run of the village and it was good to be able to wander around after all the day visitors had left. Mind you, it wasn’t too busy when we arrived as it had been raining heavily on and off during the morning and afternoon. Luckily it eased off just after we arrived and we were able to wander round the village, walk down to the beach – luckily “Rover” wasn’t around (a “prisoner reference!) – and wander around the woods.

No sign of Rover!

No sign of Rover!

Unfortunately it poured down the next morning, so we only stayed a little while before moving on. Despite the rain it was an enjoyable break and we’ll do it again sometime – apparently you can get good deals during the off-season and it would be good to re-visit during the winter months.