Monthly Archives: April 2019

Montecatini Terme

Montecatini Terme, Italy: Tettuccio Spa

Montecatini Terme, Italy: Tettuccio Spa

I’d never have found my way to Monticatini Terme if I hadn’t booked a Great Rail Journeys ‘Highlights of Tuscany’ holiday [https://www.greatrail.com/tours/highlights-of-tuscany] which was based in the excellent Hotel Francia & Quirinale [https://www.franciaequirinale.it/en], providing four-star quality with individuality and amenity, meticulously efficient service, an elegant lobby, a spacious lounge with many settees and a grand piano and an equally spacious restaurant with a separate area for private parties.

Two minutes’ walk from the hotel is the Parco delle Terme, which contains the spa from which the town takes its modern name, strongly reminiscent of Buxton or Harrogate and utterly enjoyable:  https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://www.termemontecatini.it/&prev=search.  Open courtyards with columned arcades open one into another, with fountains and an apsidal concert stage for music.

Baths on this site are documented back to 1201, and were reported by the Montecatini physician Ugolino Simoni in 1417.  In modern times the spa was developed by Grand Duke Peter Leopold, who sponsored the construction of the Bagno Regio (1773), the Terme Leopoldine (1775) and the Terme Tettuccio (1779).

The heyday of the resort was the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Though some parts are in need of restoration they evoke the time when the composer Verdi lived in the town, with such neighbours as Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Beniamino Gigli and Luigi Pirandello.

A series of elaborate marble counters offers a variety of waters through labelled taps:  Rinfresco, which “promotes the elimination of waste through the renal pathways and restores lost salts in sports training”, was the only water that was actually flowing and for lack of a cup I couldn’t drink any of it.  It wasn’t very warm.  Behind the counters a series of tiled pictures show the ages of man, voluptuously suggesting how water improves health at every age.

I had lunch – smoked salmon and remarkably tasty white bread accompanied by a litre of aqua naturale – in the high, domed, dignified Caffè Le Terme, far too grand to be called a café in any language but Italian.  On a very hot day the air conditioning was natural and effective – huge doors wide open on three sides of the high-ceilinged room.

Elsewhere in the park from the main complex are other spa buildings, the Terme Torretta (1904), the Terme Excelsior (1907) and the Terme Tamerici (1911).

At the edge of the park, I booked a table for dinner at the Profumo Garden Bistrot [https://www.thefork.it/ristorante/profumo-garden-bistrot/307299?cc=18174-54f] and later enjoyed a superlative five-course meal in an open-air setting, as the hot day cooled to warm and the sun dipped lower in the sky.  Perfect.

Holy Angels

Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, Staffordshire: chantry chapel

The Hon Mrs Emily Charlotte Meynell-Ingram (1840-1904) was one of the richest women in England, the widow of Hugo Francis Meynell-Ingram (1822-1871), whom she married in 1863.

From her husband she inherited substantial estates in Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, amounting to 25,000 acres including Temple Newsam, near Leeds, and Hoar Cross in east Staffordshire, ten miles west of Burton-on-Trent.

Her father-in-law died in 1869, shortly after he began building a new house at Hoar Cross to replace the Old Hall.  It was completed in 1871, the year that his son’s death in a hunting accident left his widow lonely and socially isolated.

Though the Mrs Meynell-Ingram preferred to spend time at Temple Newsam, she dealt with her bereavement by building Holy Angels’ Church at Hoar Cross, within a short walk of the Hall, so that her husband’s remains could be transferred from the parish church at Yoxall.

Mrs Meynall-Ingram resolved from the outset to entrust the entire design of her church to a single architect.

Her choice, George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), remained with the project from the initial commission in 1871 until the end of his life.  Indeed, the only part of the church that he didn’t design, the narthex, is his own memorial designed by his assistant and successor in the practice, Cecil Greenwood Hare (1875-1932).

Bodley had previous experience of working for a single lady patron with an open cheque-book:  he had designed St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough in 1861-2 for Miss Mary Craven, the daughter of a Hull surgeon.

He and his business partner Thomas Garner (1839-1906) certainly worked together at Hoar Cross, though Bodley seems to have taken a lead.

Holy Angels’ is an essay in the Decorated style of fourteenth-century English Gothic and is regarded as one of Bodley’s best churches.

The church is oriented to the south, so that daytime sun streams through the six-light east window.

The nave has a timber roof, while the significantly taller east end is elaborately vaulted.  These features combine to make the sanctuary a dramatically lit, mysterious space, its sanctity preserved by Bodley’s ornate iron screen.

In 1888, when the Old Hall was opened as a boys’ orphanage, Mrs Meynell-Ingram decided the church was too small and commissioned Bodley to take down the west wall and extend its length from two to three bays.

She added the Lady Chapel to the south of the chancel in 1891, and the corresponding All Souls’ Chapel to the north in 1901, and refloored the nave in black and white marble the following year.

And Mrs Meynell-Ingram incessantly collected artefacts to embellish Holy Angels’ when she travelled in Europe and the Mediterranean.  She commissioned the Stations of the Cross copied from the Antwerp carvers the Antwerp carvers Jean-Baptist van Wint and Jean-Baptist de Boeck, coloured in the sgraffito manner which she had seen in the Mariankirche in Danzig (now Gdańsk).

The Chantry Chapel contains the tombs of both Hugo and Emily Meynell-Ingram, their effigies each resting on an alabaster base under ogee arches.  The effigy of Hugo Meynell-Ingram is by the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825-1892).

This sumptuous church is one of the highlights of Victorian architecture, worth seeking out for its great beauty and richness.

It epitomises what can be done when piety, grief and great wealth combine with artistic excellence.

A guided tour of Holy Angels’, Hoar Cross is included in the Pugin and the Gothic Revival (September 18th-22nd 2019) tour with lunch at Hoar Cross Hall.  For details please click here.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

Lads’ and girls’ club

Salford Lads’ Club entrance

The Salford Lad’s Club has been operating for well over a century, but only became well-known after it featured on the cover of The Smiths’ third album, The Queen is Dead (1986).

The Club committee was at first not pleased by this attention.

A later change-of-heart encouraged fans to visit, to take selfies outside the front door, to come inside to add their pictures to the Smiths Room and to buy an impressive range of souvenirs.

There’s much more to celebrate about the Club.

It was founded in August 1903 as part of the newly built New Barracks estate by the brothers William (1847-1927) and James Groves (1854-1914), local brewers, who persuaded Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) to open the club on January 30th 1904.

It was one of a number of local clubs founded to break the combative local youth gang-culture, known as “scuttling”, which had disturbed the peace of Salford and inner-city Manchester for the previous twenty years.

The main staircase has a memorial to William and James Groves, with the motto “To brighten young lives and make good citizens”.

The Club offered opportunities for strenuous activity, including annual summer camps in Wales, alongside less energetic pursuits such as billiards, snooker, draughts and bagatelle.

The building was designed by Henry Lord (1843-1926) who was also responsible for the adjacent New Barracks estate, Salford’s first municipal housing development, and survives almost entirely intact, providing a large gymnasium and a concert hall, both with viewing galleries, and a boxing gym.  The former fives court is now split to create rooms on two floors.

The physical comfort of the modern building must also have been attractive.  The sport facilities included showers at a time when hardly any homes had indoor sanitation, and the club was exceptional in offering an employment bureau for boys aged thirteen and upwards.

The Lads’ Club stands at the end of Salford’s actual Coronation Street.  The model for the TV serial, Archie Street, was older and the houses were smaller.  Archie Street was used in the title sequences of the programme from 1960 to 1969;  it was demolished in 1971.

The Salford Girls’ Institute stood nearby at the corner of Regent Square, adjacent to St Ignatius’ Church, until it was bombed in the Second World War.  It was never replaced and eventually the Salford Lads’ Club became the Salford Lads’ and Girls’ Club in 1994.

The building was listed Grade II in 2003 as a rare example of a purpose-built boys’ club.

The Club retains the membership cards of the 22,500 young people who have attended since 1903.  This archive is digitised and accessible for family-history research, and the Archive Room contains the Wall of Names, installed in 2015.

Former members include Eddie Coleman (1936-1958), the youngest of the “Busby Babes” who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster, Allan Clark and Graham Nash (both born 1942), founder-members of the 1960s band The Hollies – Graham Nash went on to perform with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – and the champion boxer Jamie Moore (born 1978).

One of the co-founders of the Betfred bookmakers, Fred Done (born 1943), whose first betting shop opened in Ordsall in 1967, contributed to the cost of the Wall of Names.

As well as being a destination for music tourists, the Salford Lads’ Club does what it’s always done for young people in the local community – “brighten young lives and make good citizens”.

A visit to Salford Lads’ Club forms part of the Manchester’s Heritage (June 3rd-7th 2019) tour.  For further details, please click here.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Manchester’s Heritage, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2009 tour Manchester’s Heritage, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.