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Morecambe Again

Also in Morecambe close to the Midland Hotel on the sea front on the other side of the road were these two Art Deco buildings.

The first was once a Woolworths.

Old Woolworths Morecambe

Here it is when it was a Woolies.

The other houses a Hitchens

Hitchens Morecambe

This is someone else’s close in view.

There was one more Deco-ish building much further along the front but time was getting short so I didn’t photograph it.

Art Deco Icon

Leaving Haworth we headed back home through Lancashire, skirting Bolton and Blackburn (plenty signposts but nary a glimpse of it from the M65) on our way to the M6 and north. We came off at junction 33A to detour into Morecambe. Mistake. The road takes you through Lancaster and the traffic was a crawl, if that.

Our destination was Morecambe – we passed the local football ground in the way in. As a seaside town we expected it to be in something of a decline but it looked in good enough nick, thriving even.

The goal was of course the Midland Hotel: designed by Oliver Hill. Its vintage is 1933 and it’s one of Britain’s signature Art Deco buildings. It has of course been featured in the Poirot TV series.

More recently, starting in 2006, it has been restored. It reopened in 2008.

This photo was taken from a distance and shows the curvature of the frontage.

View form distance.

Here is a stitch of three I took from the car park. The stitching seems to have flattened the perspective.

midland panorama

The entrance pillars are nice, too. Could do with a bit of weeding, though.

Entrance pillars at car park.

Closer in to the cylindrical tower. You can see the Eric Gill sea horse sculptures adorning the top. The glazing seems okay on the tower but the room windows look wrong.

Cylindrical entrance tower.

The view from the south. Eyes poked out on this side?

View from South.

The view from the south west, (the promenade, essentially.) To my mind the restoration has put in too much glass here. No doubt it protects the patrons from bracing winds.

View from South West.

The north side. Lovely curved entranceway and canopy – plus the glazing on the doors looks right.

View From North West

Friends of the Midland Hotel website is here.


And so via East Lancashire and West Yorkshire to Haworth. We came over the moors from Hebden Bridge through Oxenhope. This was very atmospheric as the mist was rolling around the hilltops, though not as bleak as I had been expecting and very reminiscent of moorland Scotland.

While the town of Haworth is well enough signposted the Brontë Parsonage Museum wasn’t until we had almost passed it. The village from their time we would have completely missed were it not for the museum signpost. The photo is of the original part of the building as it was in the Brontë’s time. An addition to the right was made by a later incumbent who had a sizable income.

Brontë Parsonage Museum Haworth

The museum society’s web site is here.

The rooms are/were tiny. How they crammed two adults and four children plus servants in there is a miracle. It’s worth a visit on its own and the staff (all volunteers I believe) were very friendly. The talk and more especially the tour outside afterward were very good indeed.

When the Brontës lived there, Haworth was essentially one cobbled street on a steep hill. The old village was more or less shut when we were there, though. I think the shops – almost all Brontë or tourist related – do most of their trade on a weekend.

The church was/is down the hill a wee bit from the parsonage, separated from it by the cemetery but still uphill of the village, though. At that time table top burials (with flat, not upright, gravestones) remained in use in Yorkshire though they’d been phased out elsewhere. Apparently Haworth was the unhealthiest place in England then. The Rev Brontë was never done taking funerals. We were told that there were 42,000 dead in the cemetery – this in a space not much bigger than a penalty area!

The nature and density of the burials meant that the corpses didn’t decompose properly. Sometimes they were dug up and burned to make room for later bodies. When it rained, ground water from the graveyard would drain under the church and rise up through the floor. The smell must have been appalling. This stuff along with raw sewage would also have flowed down the street. What with that and the overcrowding – Haworth was extremely densely populated with loads of mills and such – no wonder the death rate was so high.

The views now are not at all bleak, rather pleasant actually, but it was hopelessly remote in the early nineteenth century and must have seemed like the end of the earth. Modern Haworth lies mainly across the valley from the old village.

There was a nice (twentieth century) park at the bottom of the hill, too.

Striking Architecture

One strange thing we learned about Chester is that it’s in Wales – in the televisual sense at least. Button 4 on the remote in the B&B had S4C and Channel 4 was on button 8. I think the border is actually right on Chester’s outskirts but it still seemed strange.

We left Chester and headed east to view some modern architecture. I took the A56 because I was fed up with motorways and knew the road passed close to our destination.

As a result of this we travelled through Altrincham, Sale and Stretford, encountering quite a few Art Deco cinemas, shops and houses on the way but I have no pictures as I was driving.

At Salford we were directed down Matt Busby Way past the Theatre of Debts Dreams and on to Daniel Libeskind’s building for the Imperial War Museum North. This photo was taken from across the Manchester Ship Canal.

Imperial War Museum North.

The first thing I noticed on getting out of the car in the car park I instantly recognised as a Soviet designed tank. (The good lady wondered how I knew but they’re just so distinctive.) It’s in desert camouflage since it’s a T-55 as used by the Iraqi army and was captured by British forces during the second Gulf War.

Tank outside Imperial War Museum North

There’s a T-34 inside the museum. (When I see Second World War footage of those I always think they look like Daleks. It’s probably the way the gun sticks out.) Also among the exhibits are a Harrier Jump Jet – which had to be craned in before the roof was put on – a gun turret from a Wellington bomber – tiny inside – and a German floating mine laid at Scarborough in World War 1.

The building’s shape and form were explained by the tour guide (from whom we got a hug: but don’t get your hopes up – she went to school with our younger son’s girlfriend, and we’d met before.)

The unusual shape is based on a fragmented world with three shards representing Earth, Air and Water – the three arenas for war. Apparently there was to be a fourth symbolising Fire – highly appropriate to war, as well as matching the four ancient Greek Elements – however, the project’s funding didn’t permit that. The audio visual displays projected onto the inside walls are very effective.

We spent four hours inside and wondered where the time had gone. It’s well worth a visit.

A spot of lunch (late) and then over the Ship Canal to the Lowry, designed by Michael Wilford and started in 1997. We were told the building is supposed to resemble a steamship. My photo is a stitch of two taken from the War Museum side.

The Lowry Salford

More details are on the Lowry website.

There were lots of Lowry paintings, of course – some not of matchstalk men: mostly the early ones before his style settled. In “Going To The Match” he captures perfectly that stooped-over walk men used to have when walking to a football match. Others of the pictures show this stooping too, though, so maybe it’s a Northern England thing.

There are some of Lowry’s landscapes here too but none was as good as his riverscape that we saw in the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow.

We then spent some time in the Lowry Retail Outlet just across the plaza.

The area has been cleaned up since it was industrial. There were scullers taking advantage of the calm water. The new BBC premises in Manchester are under construction a stone’s throw away off a branch of the Canal. (See the cranes in the photo above.) I hope from the outside that will be more interesting than the vast shoe box they recently built in Glasgow – which is stunning inside instead; but that’s a bit pointless really.

The footbridge across the Ship Canal between the two museums is interesting as it’s on a lift; or rather two lifts – a kind of modern equivalent of the Transporter Bridge at Middlesbrough. There’s a photo on the Lowry site of it raised to allow a ship through.

Modernist Chester

The last thing I expected to find in Chester on our trip was Art Deco buildings, but it was riddled with them.

Just outside the city wall, right where the clock is, lies this former Burton’s.

Burton's, Chester

Almost opposite Burton’s was an Art Deco (former?) Marks & Spencer which was so tall and wide I couldn’t photograph it. I also can’t find a picture of it on the web.

Further along the same road was what is now a night club or something (called Brannigan’s and Lot 76) but looks as if it was once a cinema.

Former cinema? Chester

Most strikingly, and inside the city wall, was the now disused Odeon Cinema. A great example of Art Deco in the fascist tendency. On Flickr I found these pictures from when it was still open. I particularly like the trianguloid columns.

Odeon Cinema, Chester




Here’s a very minor example of Art Deco just opposite Lot 76.

New Look, Chester


The good lady and myself hied ourselves off for a few days this week ticking places off the “to see, to do” list.

Our first stop was Chester.

It’s an idiosyncratic city, certainly. Lots of Tudor (or Tudor style) buildings and the famous rows – colonnaded terraces of shops above shops.

This was the most impressive building of that type.

Tudor shops in Chester

Tudor shops in Chester

There was scaffolding on the row on this one. Behind it the place opened out into a modern shopping mall which could have been anywhere.

Here’s another example. Note the nearest upper shop’s name. Shuropody. (Shudder.)

Tudor building showing row

Tudor building showing row

It was very pleasant strolling along the rows at night after the shops had shut. It had been a bit hectic and crowded during the day.

Like York, Chester still has a walkable city wall, though it came down to ground level on the side of the city nearest the river. This clock stands above one of the entrance gates to the walled part. Unfortunately the sky was a bit bright behind it.

Chester wall clock

Chester wall clock

This one was outside the wall. Still traditional Tudor in style but the incongruousness with the contrast to the shop’s name forced me to photograph it.

Curry's Digital!

Curry's Digital!

Dumbarton Rock

Another fruit of my “Doon The Watter” trip.

This shot was taken from the south Bank of the Clyde almost at Langbank. The tide was out, showing the rocky foreshore.

Dumbarton Rock and Castle 1

Dumbarton FC’s stadium is immediately behind the Castle Rock as you look at it from here.

This photo shows a cloud shrouded Ben Lomond (the only Munro I have ever climbed) in the background.

Dumbarton Rock and Castle 2

There actually is an angle, just west of Langbank, I glimpsed it on my way back down later in the day but I was on a motorway and couldn’t stop, where the Castle Rock does look like a recumbent elephant. Hence the Elephant And Castle pub in Dumbarton High Street – now closed I believe – and the football club badge. I had always thought it was Dumbuck that was supposed to be elephant-like but it is the Rock after all.

This picture shows the Rock from Greenock. I seem by accident to have caught a seabird on the wing.

Dumbarton Rock from Greenock

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 7. Nardini’s Café, Largs. Update.

On my trip Doon The Watter I ended up at Largs, so naturally I took the chance to visit and photograph the refurbished Nardini’s.
This is a stitched together photo of the two I took of the exterior. I like the flags, a true Art Deco touch. Note the “ghost” of the car that was turning left on to the main street.

Nardini's Cafe Largs

What a splendid job they’ve made of the restoration. It’s been tastefully done with lovely light shades in the cafe part, stepped octagonal box shapes.
The ice cream selling area (through the corner entrance) also has a Deco type shade on the central light but it’s a stepped cylindrical shape.
The glassware on the doors has also been rendered in the Deco style.
The décor inside and glass doorway reflect the Art Deco feel. The chairs and tables in the café part were less striking though.
This is the photo of the left side.

Nardini's Cafe Largs left side

The present owners have no connection with the Nardini family as far as I know.
Encouragingly the place was busy, though.
We had to sample the wares, of course. The good lady had a double cone with Belgian Chocolate and Caramel Shortcake flavours, I had Double Cream Vanilla and Tablet. (The sign said, “Scottish Tablet,” – must be for the tourists.)
Here is the photo from the right aspect.

Nardini's Cafe Largs right side

There were other ice cream purveyors in Largs including a different Nardini’s – perhaps someone from the original family trading on a smaller scale than before.
Largs is still a typical seaside town. There were even people buying rock from a wee sweetie shop. It took me back.

Due to someone viewing (on 1/8/09) my previous post about Nardini’s (see link above) I found this video on you Tube.

Nardini’s website is here. See also this nice set of aerial photos.

More Wild Life

Last week I took a trip “Doon The Watter” (except I went by road rather than boat.)

Birds on foreshore at Greenock

Birds on foreshore at Greenock

On the shore at Greenock were these birds which at first I thought were oystercatchers but the plumage isn’t quite right and the beaks are too orange. Does anyone have any idea what they are?

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