Monthly Archives: January 2018

Humming tower

Beetham Tower, from Castlefield, Manchester

Beetham Tower, from Castlefield, Manchester

When I was little, going on holiday to Blackpool involved hanging out of the train window from Preston onwards seeking the first glimpse of the Tower.

Nowadays, approaching Manchester feels the same, particularly when I drive over the Woodhead Pass, where you can see the Beetham Tower from as far away as Tintwistle.

The Beetham Tower at 554 feet won’t be Manchester’s tallest building for much longer, when Tower 1 (659 feet), the tallest of the cluster of four towers at Owen Street, is topped out in 2018.

For the moment, though, it’s the tenth tallest building in the UK, and the tallest outside London.

It was designed by Ian Simpson of SimpsonHaugh & Partners whose other Manchester work includes the Shudehill Interchange and the Central Library and Town Hall Extension restoration.

It sits on a narrow site on Deansgate, and its profile, with a distinctive overhang at the 23rd floor, makes it unmistakable.  The first twenty-two floors are occupied by the Hilton Manchester Deansgate [http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-manchester-deansgate-MANDGHI/index.html] and the floor with the overhang is the Cloud 23 bar [https://www.cloud23bar.com], where you’re asked to “dress to impress”.

Above that, floors 24-47 are apartments.  The architect, Ian Simpson, moved into the top-floor penthouse, a two-storey residence containing trees imported from Italy and craned through the roof before topping out.

Other notable residents have included the Manchester-born singer, Shayne Ward, and the footballers Phil Neville and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Living in or near the Beetham Tower is sometimes disturbed in windy weather by a hum from the ten-metre glass blade which extends the height of the south façade.  This persistent howling noise, featured in the rock-band Paramore’s track ‘Idle Worship’ (2017), has on occasion interrupted filming of Coronation Street.

Not everyone approves of the way the Beetham Tower dominates the cityscape, but I like it.

Manchester Central

Manchester Central

Manchester Central

Like most Victorian cities, Manchester had more railway termini than it really needed – Victoria and Exchange, which connected end-on, London Road, latterly known as Piccadilly, and Central.

The last built was the shortest lived.

Manchester Central station was opened in July 1880, serving the Cheshire Lines services of the Midland, the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire and the Great Northern railways, which had operated into a temporary terminus, known as Manchester Free Trade Hall Station, since 1877.

Sir John Fowler’s train-shed at Manchester Central, with ironwork by Andrew Handyside of Derby, has a span of 210 feet, only thirty feet narrower than St Pancras.  Unlike St Pancras, the arch is not tied beneath the platforms because of the structure of the huge brick undercroft, which bridged and connected with the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal.

The original intention to fill the station frontage with either a hotel or an office-building never came to anything, and until the station closed on May 5th 1969 its façade was no more than a temporary wooden structure.

Charles Trubshaw’s Midland Hotel (1898-1904), a bombastic but loveable essay in terracotta – “probably the most beautiful building in the whole city”, according to the initial publicity material, “a vast and varied affair” in Pevsner’s description – was built on a two-acre site across the road looking over St Peter’s Square, linked to the station by a covered way.

After rail-services were diverted away from Central Station in 1969 it stood neglected, used only as a car-park for some years, until in 1980 the Greater Manchester Council, in conjunction with a private developer, transformed it into an exhibition hall, G-MEX, the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre.

The architects for the G-Mex conversion were Essex, Goodman & Suggitt.

Its use as a concert venue declined after the opening of the Manchester Arena in 1995, and G-MEX was rebranded under its original name, Manchester Central, in 2007-8:  https://www.manchestercentral.co.uk.

Family home

Eyam Hall, Derbyshire

Eyam Hall, Derbyshire

Eyam Hall has been occupied by the Wright family ever since it was built by Thomas Wright as a wedding present for his son John, who married Elizabeth Knyveton in 1671.

Thomas’s father William had bought extensive land and lead mines in Eyam in 1633, and the family can trace their ancestry back to the thirteenth century in nearby Great Longstone.

The Hall is a fine example of a Derbyshire vernacular manor house, and its contents, accumulated over generations, remain intact, such as the two bacon settles beside the hall fireplace and the series of family portraits that begins with Elizabeth Knyveton and her parents and sister.

The fine dogleg staircase with its ball finials and fiercely pointed pendants, is thought to be earlier than the building in which it stands.

This well-chronicled family history runs up to the present.  The current owners, Robert and Nicola Wright, the eleventh generation of owners, opened the Hall to the public in 1992 and created the craft centre, café and shop in the stable yard.

They leased the Hall to the National Trust in 2013, and four years later the Trust is giving up its tenancy.

The new direction is indicated by a new website:  http://www.eyamhallweddings.co.uk.