Bangor Pier


Whenever we looked out of the windows at our holiday apartment we couldn’t miss seeing Bangor pier. There it was sticking out into the waters of the Menai Strait directly across from us. We could see people promenading up and down the deck and we thought that sometime during our holiday we should go and have a closer look. So, after our visit to Carnarfon castle, as we were on the right side of the water, decided to take the opportunity before we drove back across the bridge.

The pier was opened on 14th May 1896 and is typical of Victorian leisure piers, with cast iron columns, a wooden deck, wrought iron gates, ornamental “street lamps” and a series of octagonal kiosks along its length, which have been rented out to local small businesses, including cafes and an artist’s studio. At 458 metres long it extends right into the middle of the Straits.


The pier is actually at Garth, a small community on the edge of Bangor, separated from the main part of town. It’s often referred to as “Garth Pier”.

We made our way to the pier, parked up and went for a walk, dropping some coins in the “honesty box” for the requested donation.


The pier has being undergoing renovation work in recent years and the far end was still closed off.

Looking over the water, not surprisingly, we could see Bryn Mel Manor. I used my zoom lens to take a photo.


At one time steamers would dock on the pier taking passengers to and from Blackpool, Liverpool and the Isle of Man. But that stopped many years ago.



The weather forecast for the Sunday of our holiday in the Lakes was for heavy rain all day. It didn’t quite turn out like that. We had a lazy morning and a late cooked breakfast (a holiday treat) but in the afternoon I had itchy feet. The skies were grey but it wasn’t raining, so some of us decided to go out for a short walk to have a look at the Lingholm Estate.


After the Lake District had become a popular holiday destination, particularly after the arrival of the railways made travel there much easier, many wealthy Victorian businessmen (many from Northern England) had holiday homes built on, or close to, the shores of the various lakes. Lingholm, on the north west shores of Derwent Water is one of these. It’s a large house built in 1873 and designed by the prominent Victorian Architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed many notable buildings including Liverpool University Victoria Building, Manchester Town Hall, Strangeways Prison, the Natural History Museum in London and Wigan Library)for Lt Col. James Fenton Greenall of the brewing family. Financial problems meant that he had to sell it and it in 1900 it ended up owned by the family of George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale.


Beatrix Potter spent her summer holidays at Lingholm between 1885 and 1907, and she wrote some of her best-known stories while she was staying here.


Today the house has been converted to holiday accommodation with several apartments to rent, but there’s also a garden and café that’s open to the public. It wasn’t possible to get round to have a proper look at the house so I was only able to get some snaps from the back.


The octagonal garden is only a few years old, but sits on the same spot as the old Lingholm kitchen gardens which Beatrix Potter credited as her original inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.


The garden contains a mix of vegetables for the kitchen and ornamental plants




There’s a path down to the lake where there’s a jetty where it’s normally possible to catch the launch over to Keswick and other locations around the Lake. It’s closed at the moment due to the construction of a new boathouse, but it was still possible to access the lake shore.



The estate also own a herd of alpacas and you can hire one out to take for a walk if you feel so inclined!


After a coffee and an ice cream we walked back towards Portinscale. I decided to have a wander through the meadow to the lake side where I stopped for a while to watch competitors participating in the second day of the swim-run coming ashore.


There was only a relatively short run for them to the finish line.

I had a chat with one of the race officials and he told me that the race had started in Buttermere and they’d swum in the lake there, run over the pass, along Derwent Water before another swim. Crazy!


Funky Fitzroy


One evening during my stay in Melbourne I took a taxi with three colleagues to visit a restaurant we’d been recommended. Naked for Satan served rather delicious Basque style tapas and from the top floor there was a great view over the Central Business District.  Driving over there it was noticeable that the restaurant was located in a very interesting “bohemian” area so I decided that I’d go back to have a look when I had the chance. So on the morning of my final day in the city I took a tram out to Fitzroy, which is a couple of kilometres out of the city centre.

Fitzroy was created in 1839 and rapidly grew as a working class suburb during the 19th century. Consequently there are a large number of very typical Australian Victorian terraced houses. During the 20th Century it became populated with immigrants from many different countries. These days the area has been gentrified and has become popular with trendy middle class “hipsters”. The character of the area reflects all of these.

There are a large number of well preserved Australian style Victorian era working class terraced houses. They’re smaller and more compact than those I saw in the more prosperous region to the east of the city centre, but still have verandas and balconies decorated with intricate ironwork and with corrugated iron roofs.

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The large neo-Classical Town Hall provides something of a contrast


There are trendy shops, cafes and restaurants on Brunswick Street, the main thoroughfare, a popular area at night


Reflecting the large bohemian population  street art is everywhere on the walls of houses, shops, commercial buildings and car parks.

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Melbourne – Victorian Architecture


There are a large number of traditional Australian houses throughout Melbourne, in variable condition, built during the expansion of the city during the Victorian period. During my stay I could see many of them as I travelled around by car, taxi and tram. I was keen to get a closer look so picked up a leaflet from the Visitor Centre that showed a walking route through the area just east of the centre of Melbourne where there’s a a large concentration of well preserved and restored houses.

The area looked as it had been quite a wealthy District, with relatively large houses, and that seems to be the case today with the houses all in excellent condition – they’ve clearly been done up and I guess the area has been “gentrified” in the recent past. I was told that unlike in the UK the wealthy tended to live on the east side of the city as the prevailing wind blows from east to west (the opposite to the UK) .


Most of the houses are terraced. They’re relatively simple with rectangular windows and doors. But the most noticeable features are the balconies and verandas


in most case with ornate decoration either in woodDSC03081

but much more commonly in wrought iron.



Some of the designs are very intricate





Another common feature is a roof made of corrugated iron.



I also had the chance to explore some areas with houses built for workers. They had similar features but were typically smaller. A good subject for another post, i think.

Max Gate

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This is the house where Thomas Hardy lived from 1885 until his death in 1928.  He designed it himself – he trained as an architect – and it was built by his father and brother who were builders with Hardy supervising the project. So it was very much a family affair.

It’s on the edge of Dorchester, just a couple of miles from the small cottage where he was born and raised and where he lived until he moved into the new house.


It’s a relatively modest Victorian villa with no particularly outstanding features. It was originally built as a “two up two down” with rooms on either side of a central hallway, and is set in quite pleasant, but not particularly extensive, grounds. As he became more wealthy following the success of his novels, he extended the house, building out at the back. The extension can be seen on the following picture.


Like his birthplace, the house is now owned by the National Trust as it was left to them by Hardy’s sister. It’s only partly accessible; a condition of the legacy was that Max Gate should be let out and the rent used to preserve and support his birthplace. Today, the tenants occupy more than half the rooms in house, the remainder being open to visits by the public.

Inside the Trust has furnished those rooms accessible to the public in a style representative of the period and probably gives a good impression of how a prosperous, upper middle class Victorian household would look. Although very little of the furniture belonged to Hardy, they have acquired some pieces on loan from Dorset County Museum, including this bookcase – bureau which stands in the corner of the dining room.


There are also a couple of his dining chairs and as you are allowed to touch the furniture and sit in the chairs around the house (a change from the usual policy of “keep your hands (and backside!) off” I can actually say I’ve sat in a chair that Thomas Hardy, and, possibly some of his well known visitors, once used.

The central hallway had a grandfather clock that was very similar to one shown in a photograph taken while Hardy lived there.


The Drawing room, to the right of the hall, is surprisingly bright and airy, due to the windows being much larger than those in most Victorian houses.


It was here that he’d entertain visitors, including Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sasoon, George Bernard Shaw, Gustav Holst and Virginia Woolf. There’s a small conservatory built on to the side of the room – one of the later additions.

The fireplace has the original Delft tiles set in the surround. I’m not sure whether the mirror was also owned by Hardy.


There was only limited access to the upstairs – just two of the three  rooms that Hardy used as studies and where he wrote works including, Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, short stories and poems. The contents of his study were removed after he died and are now in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

This is the second room he used as his study. It’s quite spacious and overlooks the garden. I could happily work there!



The third, and final, room used as a study is not accessible.

One of the things I found most interesting was that his first wife used to spend much of her time in the attic, where she had a small room, painting, reading and sewing. It appears she was a bit of an odd ball and that their relationship was  strained. The wife in the attic – reminds me of something!!


Former Adelphi Bank building, Liverpool

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Liverpool is full of impressive buildings, constructed during it’s heyday as a major port and commercial centre. Although I know the city very well, visiting regularly and  having lived there for 3 years while I was at University, I still frequently come across buildings I haven’t noticed before. One example was this building on the corner of Castle Street and Brunswick Street that I spotted last week I was working in Liverpool in a building on the Exchange Flags behind the Town Hall.

Checking up in my copy of Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Liverpool I discovered that the building was designed by W.D. Caröe for the Adelphi Bank (long gone having been absorbed into Martin’s bank which itself was absorbed by Barclays)during the late Victorian period in 1891.

Victorian architecture is probably best described as “eclectic”. Despite the innovations in science, industry and commerce during this period, their tastes in art and architecture were largely conservative and backward looking. They pilfered architectural styles from previous eras and other cultures, often combining different styles and influences in one building. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t. In the case of the Adelphi Bank I think the architect has been successful in creating a very distinctive building blending styles from Renaissance architecture with Nordic and even Eastern European features.

It’s very elaborate, with numerous statues, columns, carvings and other embellishments. It’s constructed with alternating  bands of red and light grey sandstone. The most noticeable features are the Onion domes on the roof (very unusual in Britain) and the very elaborate pair of cast bronze doors created by Thomas Stirling Lee, who was also one of the principal sculptors who worked on St George’s Hall.

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I wasn’t able to get a good photograph of the doors as the coffee shop that now occupies the building seem to have one of them permanently open during working hours. However, I did find the following picture from 1922 on the web on a site devoted to the history of Martin’s Bank.

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The reliefs show pairs of Famous Friends, David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, Castor and Pollux, Roland and Oliver. This theme was taken as the name “Adelphi” comes from the Greek word adelphoi, meaning "brothers" (source Wikipedia). Close ups of the details, together with some information on the work and it’s creator, can be viewed on the Victorian Web website here.

Manchester Reform Club

I’ve recently completed studying an on-line course, “Learning to Look at Western Architecture” run by Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by it. I thought the materials provided were quite poor compared with those provided for courses of a similar nature by the Open University and tutor support was minimal. The course content was also disappointing. It started well, discussing classical and gothic architectural styles, but as it progressed I felt it concentrated too much on broader philosophical questions, neglecting more detailed discussion of architectural styles that I would have found more valuable.

For the final assignment, one option was to write up an appreciation of a building. I decided to look at one of my favourite buildings in Manchester, the former Reform Club premises on King Street.

The Reform Club was founded in 1867 as a gentleman’s club for members of the Liberal Party, the party that represented the manufacturing class, and their supporters. Initially, the club met in three rooms they rented above a warehouse in Spring Gardens, but quickly commissioned their own premises, designed by the architects Edward Salomon and James Philpott Jones, which were opened on October 17, 1871.


Manchester Reform Club, King Street, Manchester

The building has a number of gothic features; tall, narrow, lancet like windows, pointed arches, pinaccled towers and gargoyles. However, it is very different from those classic gothic revival buildings found in the city centre such as Waterhouse’s magnificent Town Hall and the John Rylands library.

Other than the use of cast iron for the balconies on the second floor, there is little in the structure of the Manchester Reform Club to indicate that it had been built during the 19th Century. However, like many Victorian buildings, it incorporates features from a number of different styles from earlier eras. The architects appear to have been influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic and social reformer,  who advocated a return to the “purer” medieval styles. As Liberals, perhaps there was some aspiration too amongst the members of the Reform Club towards the Ruskian ideal of a better, fairer society, and the idea that architecture cannot be separated from morality. I doubt whether that was reflected in their actions towards their workers! It seems highly unlikely that they would agree with Ruskin’s view that the industrial revolution was “a grievous error exerting a corrupting influence on society

It is a three storey building constructed of light coloured stone. The first floor is the grandest, taller than the other storeys, more ornate with large windows, reminiscent of the “piano nobile” which is the dominant feature in Palladian style houses and Classical renaissance villas. The roof has a ballustraded parapet, and there are balconies below the windows on the first floor and some of those on the second floor, features associated with renaissance houses rather than gothic buildings.

The overall impression is of an Italian villa, but with gothic elements. Its style is best described as “Venetian gothic”, a style championed for civic buildings by Ruskin, in his works on architecture.

The front entrance


A stone Gryphon on the supports of the balcony over the main entrance


Details from the capitals on the columns flanking the main entrance


Front elevation first floor windows. The alternating colours of the stonework suggests a Moorish influence


Close up of one of the corner towers