Monthly Archives: March 2017

Under the radar

Former Scala, later Galaxy Cinema, Long Eaton, Derbyshire (1993);  detail

Former Scala, later Galaxy Cinema, Long Eaton, Derbyshire (1993); detail

I’ve only once ever visited the former Galaxy Cinema, Long Eaton, in 1993, the very first time I went on a Cinema Theatre Association outing.

What was then the Silverline Bingo Club, Long Eaton, was – to be polite – not splendid.  It had had a chequered history as the St James Theatre (opened in 1907), then Vint’s Picturedrome (from 1910), then the Coliseum (from 1916), then the Scala (in 1923).

After a fire in 1934 it was refurbished in an up-to-date Art Deco style.  It operated as a cinema until 1964 and then as a bingo club until 1993.

In 1991 a suspended ceiling had been installed from the edge of the balcony to the proscenium, horizontally cutting in half not only the stage aperture but also the elaborate plaster decoration to each side.  The effect was faintly claustrophobic.

Its decorative scheme was pale grey and pink, and its lighting bare fluorescent.  Outside the Ladies was a sign which read “Beware Paint Still Tacky”.

We shinned up a ladder in the foyer to what looked like a cupboard door but turned out to be the truncated steps to the balcony.  There, dimly lit and devoid of seating, slumbered the upper half of the auditorium, a dark, silent, expectant space.

The bingo operation seems to have closed down soon after our visit, and there was a fire during the years that it was dark.

It reopened in 2007 as the tripled Galaxy Cinema, which operated until 2012.

In October 2012 the Derby Evening Telegraph reported that local reports of a possible burglary led the police to discover the place was in use as a “professional” cannabis factory, and they removed some 1,500 thriving plants:  http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Huge-cannabis-factory-Long-Eaton-s-Galaxy-cinema/story-17198019-detail/story.html.

The building was sold again in 2014 [http://www.nottinghampost.com/stage-cinema-s-history/story-19821693-detail/story.html] but apparently remained unused until a significant fire in January 2017 probably sealed its fate:  http://www.nottinghampost.com/fire-breaks-out-at-former-galaxy-cinema-in-long-eaton/story-30084788-detail/story.html.  A young man was quickly arrested on suspicion of arson:  http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/long-eaton-galaxy-cinema-fire-being-treated-as-arson/story-30084875-detail/story.html.

I write repeatedly about interesting, potentially valuable buildings that are below the Heritage England radar for listing, but depend for their future on the imagination and business acumen of an owner with vision.

Making money with the Galaxy building was a challenge, not least because Long Eaton is a small market town equidistant between two major cities, Nottingham and Derby, and it was never likely that the building would be put to economic use that would give it a long-term future.

Nevertheless, the images that someone took in 2008 show how much remained of the historic interior [https://www.flickr.com/photos/gpainter/2587069688/sizes/l and https://www.flickr.com/photos/gpainter/2587069678/sizes/l], and it seems a pity to lose it.

’Ackydoc

Worksop Road Aqueduct, Sheffield & Tinsley Canal (1977)

Worksop Road Aqueduct, Sheffield & Tinsley Canal (1977)

I’ll journey some distance to hear Mike Spick, the distinguished Sheffield local historian, and indeed I travelled as far as Chesterfield when he gave his Sheffield Canal presentation to the North-East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeological Society.

At the risk of showing disrespect I took issue when Mike referred to the Worksop Road Aqueduct as “T’ackydoc”.  The “t’” may be useful in print, but in Attercliffe dialect it was a pure glottal stop, as in “Weer’s thi dad?”  “Is on ’closet.”

Otherwise I listened to Mike’s presentation with admiration for the accuracy of his account, the richness of his illustrations and his adept use of PowerPoint to animate and explain.

The Sheffield & Tinsley Canal, not quite four miles long, climbs from the River Don at Tinsley, very near to the latter-day M1 viaduct and the much-lamented cooling towers that were demolished in 2008, by a flight of eleven (originally twelve) locks to its terminus on the edge of Sheffield city centre.

For over a century before it was built the nearest navigable waterway was the River Don Navigation at Tinsley;  the next nearest was the River Idle at Bawtry, over twenty miles away.

The canal was financially supported and its route along the south side of the Don Valley was directly influenced by the estate of the Duke of Norfolk, the ground-landlord for much of Sheffield.

To please the Duke a branch canal was built to his Tinsley Park collieries.  The course of the Greenland Arm is now Greenland Road, part of the Sheffield ring-road.

Authorised in 1815, four years after Attercliffe Common was enclosed, the Sheffield Canal opened with much celebration in 1819.

It was the first effective means of breaking Sheffield’s physical isolation, surrounded by seven hills.

Its heyday lasted barely twenty years, until the Sheffield & Rotherham Railway opened in 1839, following (as it still does) the north side of the valley.

For thirty years Sheffield passengers and goods headed east to Retford or north to Rotherham in order to travel south to London.  Only in 1870 did the Midland Railway complete its direct line from Chesterfield, the present-day route via Dronfield that to this day is known to railwaymen as the “New Road”.

The canal continued to serve the city under railway ownership well into the twentieth century.  Indeed, a new warehouse was built, for lack of anywhere else to put it, over the quay in 1896 and is known for obvious reasons as the Straddle Warehouse.

The last commercial cargo went down the canal in 1980.  It never became unnavigable but it was practically derelict by the time the opening scene of The Full Monty was filmed near Bacon Lane in 1997.

Now, as part of the regeneration of the Lower Don Valley, the canal has become almost unrecognisably emparked.  The terminal basin is a marina called Victoria Quays, presumably commemorating the defunct Victoria railway station.  The Quays, like the former station, is out on a limb, not easily accessible from the city centre.

There are hotel boats offering an alternative pied-â-terre to the corporate hotels, and a trip-boat offering “cruising for all occasions”, along the surprisingly silvan Attercliffe Cutting, over ’Ackydoc and down the locks to Tinsley.

In fact, it’s an ideal venue for a birthday party.

The Sheffield’s Heritage (October 2nd-6th 2017) tour includes a visit to the former industrial East End of Sheffield.  For details, please click here.

Grim times for Grimsby’s buildings

Victoria Flour Mills and Corporation Bridge, Grimsby

Victoria Flour Mills and Corporation Bridge, Grimsby

Ice House, Grimsby Docks

Ice House, Grimsby Docks

Dock Tower, Grimsby

Dock Tower, Grimsby

As recently as 1950 Grimsby had the largest fishing fleet in the world.  Cod wars and economic change put paid to the rich, dangerous trade, and now Grimsby docks handle cars instead of fish.

Grimsby’s most distinctive architecture is firmly associated with the docks.

The Custom House (1874) and the Dock Offices (Mills & Murgatroyd, 1885) remain in use, but the Victoria Flour Mills (Sir W A Gelder, 1889/1906), which was partly converted to apartments in the 1990s, is threatened by structural problems with its unconverted silo tower:  http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/grimsby-mill-tower-on-endangered-buildings-list.

The Grimsby Ice Company’s Ice House (1901), which could produce 1,250 tons of ice every 24 hours for direct loading into the trawlers, ceased production in 1990.  Though it still contains historic refrigeration equipment of world importance, it is no longer watertight and regularly appears on at-risk registers:  http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/the-grimsby-ice-factory-gorton-street-the-docks-grimsby.

Most dramatic of all is the Dock Tower (James W Wild, 1851-2), its extreme height, 309ft, determined by the need to provide a head of hydraulic pressure, using a 30,000-gallon water-tank, by gravity alone.

The hydraulic machinery by Sir William Armstrong was the first to be applied to working dock gates:  both sets of gates could be opened within 2½ minutes by two men.

The relatively little-known architect was well travelled, and brought his sketchbook ideas to Grimsby.  Pevsner’s Buildings of England entry points out that “the tower…is straight from Italy [ie, Siena Town Hall], but the crowning minaret is oriental…”

Grimsby’s workaday architecture is too good to lose:  http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/council-inaction-worse-for-grimsbys-image-than-cha-baron-cohen-film.

Update:  A recent article in the Grimsby Telegraph, June 8th 2017, illustrates the extent of the decay, and the beginning of the restoration, of the Victoria Mills: http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/grimsby-news/unveiling-marks-start-another-100-100989.

Further update:  The designation of conservation area status for the dockland area known as the Kasbah is a welcome indication that Grimsby’s industrial heritage is receiving attention:  https://www.nelincs.gov.uk/securing-kasbahs-future.

 

Meldon Viaduct

Meldon Viaduct, Devon

Meldon Viaduct, Devon

If ever there’s a need to restore the old L&SWR main line between Exeter and Plymouth, perhaps because the present route past Dawlish becomes unsustainable, there will be a problem at the Meldon Viaduct, three miles west of Okehampton.

It’s a spectacular piece of engineering, 120 feet high, crossing the West Okement River on a curve.  The initial single-line crossing, which opened in 1874, was duplicated by an identical structure, spliced to the original, in 1878.

Designed by the company engineer W R Galbraith, it has five wrought-iron piers which support cast-iron Warren truss spans, and as such is a unique survivor and a Scheduled Ancient Monument

Even more spectacular examples of this type of construction have vanished – the Crumlin Viaduct (200ft high, built 1857, demolished 1965) in south Wales and the Belah Viaduct in Cumbria (196ft high, built 1861, demolished 1963).

The nearest equivalent is the much longer but lower Grade II*-listed Bennerley Viaduct on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border, which has lattice-work spans rather than Warren trusses.

The trackbed across Meldon Viaduct, having been used as a roadway for lorries serving the construction of the Meldon Dam in 1970-2, is now part of the Granite Way, which links Okehampton with Lydford.

This presents a difficulty if there’s ever a need to restore the railway because apart from being a Scheduled Ancient Monument the viaduct is no longer strong enough to support the weight of trains.

The easiest way to visit Meldon Viaduct and to clamber down steps to see it from below is by riding the volunteer-operated Dartmoor Railway from Okehampton station to Meldon Quarry station.

A single dining car from an electric multiple unit serves as a café with a spectacular view of the viaduct as the walkers and cyclists cross to and fro.

Meldon Viaduct is a destination on the Railways of Devon (June 12th-16th 2017) tour.  For further details, please click here.