When I was around six or seven years old, circa 1954, my mother would collect me from Huntsman’s Gardens Schools, in the depths of Sheffield’s industrial east end, and call round at Attercliffe Library for her weekly fix of books to read. Though she had left school at fourteen, she was an omnivorous reader.
I have a clear memory that, while she browsed, I would make a beeline for the bottom shelf of the music section, dig out a score of Handel’s Messiah and stare in wonderment at the multiple staves of the ‘Halleluiah Chorus’, amazed to see how much music could be going on at one instant.
How I reached this I’ve no idea. Somehow I must have known that the ‘Halleluiah Chorus’ was part of Messiah and that it had been written by George Frideric Handel, but the piece is actually buried at the end of Part II and so isn’t easy for a little kid to find.
Attercliffe Library, built in 1894, still exists, an elegant Jacobethan building next door to the older Attercliffe Baths of 1879. It was designed by Charles Wilke, about whom next to nothing is known.
For nearly a hundred years it provided knowledge and entertainment to Attercliffe workers and their families and then, when the houses eventually came down, it closed in 1986.
Over years of driving into
East Anglia I have only associated Felixstowe
with processions of container trucks hammering down the A14.
When I stayed at the Woodbridge Station Guest House I took the train to Ipswich and then on to Felixstowe to a happy surprise. “Felix” is, after all, Latin for “happy”.
The mouth of the River
Orwell has been strategically important, both for trade and defence, since
Roman times at least, and grew markedly after the arrival of the railway in
1877 and the opening of the port in 1886.
The passenger train-service now terminates at the latest of the town’s three stations, Felixstowe Town (1898), which was built in response to an upturn in tourism after the 1891 visit of Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858-1921), Queen Victoria’s great-niece and the wife of Germany’s last Kaiser, Wilhelm II.
The walk down Hamilton
Road, now partly pedestrianised, leads to a clifftop view of the Pier (1905; rebuilt 2017) [http://www.felixstowe-pier.co.uk], with the cranes of the distant docks to the right, and the promenade to the left.
The seafront is dotted with
opulent former hotels, of which the Felix
Hotel (1903) is the most prominent.
This is where Princess Victoria and her family stayed in 1901 and,
coincidentally, where Wallis Simpson took rooms while her divorce took place in
nearby Ipswich in 1936. (This was the
occasion of the legendary American newspaper headline “KING’S MOLL RENO’D IN
WOLSEY’S HOME TOWN.”) The Felix closed
in 1952 and became the headquarters of the fertiliser company Fisons Ltd for
thirty years. It is now, predictably,
converted to apartments.
[http://www.landguard.com] introduces visitors to the long history of
Felixstowe’s defences. This was the
location of the last opposed invasion of England in 1677, and four of the
original seven Martello towers in the town survive.
I had a typical seaside
lunch, fish and chips at Fish Dish [http://www.myfishdish.co.uk]. When I told the guy behind the till that the
place reminded me of Whitby he smiled and said he’d trained and worked at
Whitby for thirteen years before setting up in Essex.
The pleasures of Felixstowe
are simple. On a sunny day you can sit
on a promenade bench and watch vast container ships, loaded to capacity, making
their way out of the port at surprising speed.
And, because Ipswich is a
significant rail hub, you can visit Felixstowe from far afield without using a
The Station Guest House at Woodbridge – https://woodbridgestationguesthouse.co.uk
– is an excellent example of practical reuse of a
potentially redundant station building. The station itself continues to
operate as the first stop out of Ipswich on the line to Lowestoft and the
building houses a high-quality café, the three-bedroom guest house, a florist’s
shop and a taxi office.
The station was built for
the former East Suffolk Railway and opened in 1859. A footbridge provides access both to the
Ipswich-bound platform and also to the banks of the nearby River Deben.
I had a comfortable family
room with a double bed and a single bed, with an en-suite which allowed
me to watch people walking over the footbridge without them seeing me at my
ablutions. It’s a corner room, so from one window I could watch the
trains arrive and depart over the level crossings and from the other I could
watch the boats riding the tide on the river.
Breakfast is served
promptly at 9.00am at a reserved table in the café and the service is
admirable. The only minor downside is that car-parking is £3.00 a day
maximum and you have to feed the meter before the guy with the hi-vis jacket
books you. The notice by the machine warns that photographs may be taken,
which I read as a threat.
There’s really no reason to
bring a car to stay at the Station Guest House.
There’s a perfectly good train service that links with London and East
Coast services via Ipswich.
Carla, the delightful lady
who welcomed me to the Station Guest House , reeled off a list of places to
have dinner as the café closes at 3.00pm. For most of my stay, however, I
happily picnicked each night with more than enough tea and coffee and the sound
of the trains through the open window.
Woodbridge itself is an
attractive town. Beside the river is the
Woodbridge Tide Mill, one of two
remaining tidal watermills that are restored to working order and producing
wholemeal flour for sale [https://woodbridgetidemill.org.uk]
and on the opposite bank is the National
Trust Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre [https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo], marking the site of the enormously significant
Anglo-Saxon ship burial, excavated in 1939.
Some conversions of old buildings to new uses are an uneasy
compromise – cinemas converted into apartment blocks, places of worship adapted
The former Lister
Drive Baths in Liverpool is an example of reuse as pure genius.
Lister Drive, connecting Newsham Park with Green Lane, was
laid out in the late 1890s and furnished with a series of Corporation
buildings, all of them overseen, but not all designed by the City Surveyor,
At the west end of the Drive, nearest the Park, was the tramway electricity generating station
(c1902, demolished), and to the east Green Lane Council School (1907, demolished) and Thomas Shelmerdine’s Green Lane Carnegie Library (1904-05,
currently being restored), and in the centre the Lister Drive Baths, designed by the Corporation Baths Engineer, W R
Court (1901-04) on the basis of “sketch designs” by Shelmerdine.
The Baths is an essay in terracotta, inside and out, in what
is described as a “free English Renaissance” style. The tiles and bricks were supplied by
Pilkington & Company, including fish and leaf designs by Charles Francis
Annesley Voysey (1857-1941). The layout
provided first- and second-class plunge baths for men (60ft × 30ft and 75ft ×
35ft respectively), first-, second- and third-class private baths for men, and
women’s private baths. Women were
allowed access to the first-class men’s bath on certain days.
Hot water for the baths was supplied by the nearby
electricity generating station.
The Baths were closed because of bomb damage during the
Second World War, and were repaired and reopened in August 1949. They finally closed in 1987 and were
appropriately adapted as a welcoming pet shop, with the first-class pool given
over to koi carp.
During opening hours the public are welcome to look around, without any obligation to buy so much as a packet of bird-seed. And if you have a pet, it seems the Lister Fisheries & Pet Centre has everything they might need or want: http://www.listerpetcentre.co.uk/index.html.
The rescheduled Unexpected Liverpool (June 7th-11th 2021) tourincludes an informal visit to the Lister Drive Baths. For further details please click here.
On the north-western outskirts of Sheffield, a short walk up the Rivelin Valley from the Supertram terminus at Malin Bridge, a gateway leads to the Roman Catholic cemetery of St Michael, opened in 1862 and still in use: https://www.saintmichaelscemetery.org.
After the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, the first
parish church in the area was St Bede’s,
opened at Masborough on the then outskirts of Rotherham in 1842. It was followed by the parish church of St Marie in Sheffield (1850), now the
cathedral of the Diocese of Hallam, and another large church, St Vincent’s (1853 onwards) was started
in The Crofts, an overcrowded area north of the town centre where Irish
Catholics settled after the Potato Famine.
Of these, only St Bede’s had a burial ground, until in 1862 the priest at St Vincent’s, Father Burke, purchased eight acres of steeply sloping land in the Rivelin Valley from the snuff-manufacturer Mr Wilson, whose family had also provided the land for the General Cemetery nearly thirty years before.
The cemetery, with a temporary chapel, was dedicated on Michaelmas Day, September 29th 1863.
The present chapel was built in 1877, financed by a gift of £2,000 from the Sheffield tailor and gents’ outfitter, George Harvey Foster, and designed by the father-and-son practice Matthew Ellison and Charles Hadfield. This new chapel is 72 feet long and 22 feet wide, built in the Early English style. It has an apsidal east end, a sixty-foot-high bellcote above the west door, and the south-west porch is embellished with a statue of St Michael slaying Satan as a dragon.
The interior, restored in 2005, is distinguished by the work
of an impressive group of contemporary artists.
The marble and alabaster altar, with its figure of the dead Christ, is
from the Cheltenham workshop of the sculptor Richard Lockwood Boulton.
Further decorations were funded by a gift of £430 by the
Foster family in 1884 – wall paintings by Charles Hadfield and Nathaniel
Westlake, who also designed the west window, and the three east windows,
designed by John Francis Bentley who later became the architect of Westminster
Cathedral and manufactured by Nathaniel Westlake’s stained-glass company,
Lavers & Westlake.
The two most prominent monuments in the cemetery stand above
the family vaults of George Harvey Foster (1829-1894), and the department-store
proprietor, John Walsh (d1905), respectively gothic and neo-Classical and
constructed within a decade of each other.
The sharp gradient makes exploring the cemetery a strenuous
activity, and visitors are advised not to stray from paths because gravestones
may be unstable.
Higher up the valley side are two more burial grounds, a
very small Jewish cemetery and the Church of England Walkley Cemetery, both
opened in 1860.
When the very last Sheffield tram came off the streets in
October 1960 an assiduous member of its load of enthusiasts made sure that, as
the gates of Tinsley Tram Sheds closed behind it, its destination indicator
showed ‘CEMETERY GATES’.
The cemetery gates at which Intake trams sometimes turned back was City Road, established by the newly-formed Sheffield Burial Board on a site east of the town-centre purchased from the 15th Duke of Norfolk in 1881.
The original buildings – Church of England and Nonconformist
chapels, a gateway and lodge on Manor Lane and a gatehouse and offices on City
Road, all in late Perpendicular style – were designed by the Sheffield
architects Matthew Ellison Hadfield & Son.
The initial apportionment of land was between the Church
of England (slightly over 20 acres), the Nonconformists (13 acres) and the
Roman Catholics (7 acres), leaving 9 acres to allocated as required in future.
There was no Roman Catholic chapel at the cemetery until 1898, when the Duke of Norfolk commissioned a design with a hexagonal sanctuary and a central lantern above the altar, 60 feet long, by Matthew Ellison Hadfield’s son Charles. Dedicated to St Michael, the foundation stone was laid on July 22nd 1899, and it was consecrated on October 11th 1900.
A subsequent resolution by the Burial Board allowed the
space in front of the chapel to be used for burials of Catholic clergy, and it
became known as the Priest Vaults.
In 1901 Sheffield Corporation, having taken over the
functions of the Burial Board the previous year, gained legal powers to
construct one of the first municipal crematoria in Britain, and commissioned
Charles Hadfield and his son Charles Matthew Ellison Hadfield to design an
octagonal structure alongside the Nonconformist chapel, based on the Abbot’s
Kitchen at Glastonbury so that the steel exhaust from the cremator could pass
through the Gothic lantern which provided light and ventilation to the space
Charles M E Hadfield’s bronze catafalque was constructed
by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts and installed in the chapel, and a
columbarium was installed in the south side of the City Road entrance range.
The crematorium opened on April 5th 1905. The first cremation was of Eliza Hawley of
Upperthorpe, on April 24th 1905, in the presence of her family, the architect
and the Town Clerk. A further six
cremations took place in the following six months to November 1905.
The Church of England chapel was demolished in 1982, having been made redundant by the construction of a modern chapel to the north of the crematorium. All the other original buildings on the site remain, though the Catholic Chapel has been derelict for years.
City Road Cemetery is included in the itinerary of the Cemeteries and Sewerage: the Victorian pursuit of cleanliness (September 16th-20th 2021) tour. For further details of the tour please click here.
One of the destinations on the Unexpected Liverpool (June 1st-5th 2020) tour is the iron church of St George, Everton, which I first visited so long ago – in 1978 – that I could photograph on the opposite side of the road the Catholic Church of Our Lady Immaculate, the only vestige of Edward Welby Pugin’s Catholic Cathedral to be built in 1853-6.
Our Lady Immaculate was knocked down in the early 1990s but
there are still other significant buildings to see in the vicinity of St George’s.
Almost directly across the road on a triangular site is Everton Library (1895-6), a bold, varied but taut freestyle design – a blend of Jacobean and Arts & Crafts – by the versatile Corporation Surveyor Thomas Shelmerdine (1845-1921) who, between 1871 and 1912 built several other branch libraries and the grand Hornby Library in the city centre, the ponderous gates to Sefton Park, the fire station and tramway offices at Hatton Garden, another fire station at Kirkdale, several schools and a couple of colleges and a tactful extension to the Town Hall. He laid out St John’s Gardens once it was decided that the Anglican Cathedral wouldn’t be built there.
A few yards from the Library stands the lively, turreted half-timbered The Mere Bank public house (1881), bristling with terracotta panels and plasterwork, and until recently still trading, though they haven’t updated their Facebook page since Hallowe’en: https://www.facebook.com/MerebankPub.
In the distance, and visible for miles across the Mersey, is Everton Waterworks (Thomas Duncan, 1853-7) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTRfHTX0bJE], which consists of an underground reservoir and a Piranesian high-level water-tank, 90 feet above ground-level, holding 2,700 gallons, dwarfing the two Italianate pumphouses, built to provide a head of water in the time before 1891 when Liverpool took its water from Lake Vrynwy in mid-Wales. Everton Waterworks has been long disused, yet a mystery buyer purchased it for £71,000 in March 2019: https://lbndaily.co.uk/mystery-buyer-pays-70000-evertons-victorian-water-tower. It remains to be seen what they plan to do with it.
The rescheduled Unexpected Liverpool (June 7th-11th 2021) tour not only includes a visit to St George’s Church, Everton, but also to the sister iron church of St Michael-in-the-Hamlet, Toxteth. For further details please click here.
Immediately after building the Hyde Park Barracks, its architect, Francis Howard Greenway (1777-1837) was commissioned to build St James’ Church, King Street (1824) directly opposite.
It’s a classical Georgian design, essentially a preaching
box with a tower and spire, repeatedly adapted in keeping with the classical
dignity of Greenaway’s intention.
Though it’s not as old as St Philip’s Church, York Street
(founded 1793, current church by Edmund Blacket, 1848-56), St James’ is steeped
in Sydney’s history and its monuments tell powerful stories of lives lived and
Indeed, it’s described as the “Westminster Abbey of the
The first significant memorial was executed in England by
Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841) to commemorate Captain Sir James Brisbane
(1774-1826), who died in Malaya and was cousin to the Thomas Brisbane
(1773-1860) who gave his name to the Australian city.
Other wall-tablets relate early episodes in the violent
conflict between the British invaders and the indigenous Australians, which led
to the deaths of –
Captain Collet Barker of His Majesty’s 39th Regiment of Foot “who was treacherously murdered by the aboriginal natives on the 30th of April 1831 while endeavouring in the performance of his duty to ascertain the communication between Lake Alexandrina and the Gulf of St Vincent on the South West Coast of New Holland [ie, Australia]”
John Gilbert, ornithologist, “who was speared by
the blacks on the 29th of June 1845, during the first overland expedition to
Port Essington [in the far north of what is now Northern Territory] by Dr
Ludwig Leichhardt and his intrepid companions”, accompanied by the motto “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Scientia Mori”
Edmund Besley Court Kennedy, assistant surveyor,
“slain by the aborigines in the vicinity of Escape River [near Cape York,
Queensland] on the 13th of December AD 1848” and Jackey Jackey (d 1854), “an
aboriginal of Merton District who was Mr Kennedy’s sole companion in his
conflict with the savages and though himself wounded tended his leader with a
courage and devotion worthy of remembrance, supporting him in his last moments
and making his grave on the spot where he fell”
Because of its proximity to the law courts and centre of
government in Sydney, St James’ Church has always played a major part in the
life of the city.
My initial travels in Australia gave me a false impression
that the country’s architectural history begins with the Gothic Revival.
In fact, over sixty years passed between the arrival of the
First Fleet in 1788 and the gold rushes that transformed the Australian economy
from 1851 onwards.
I came to realise that the early architecture of Australia is Georgian – particularly the churches and public buildings of Tasmania and the surviving Georgian buildings in and around New South Wales.
Francis Howard Greenway (1777-1837) was a young Bristol
architect who became bankrupt and was sentenced to fourteen years’
transportation for forgery. He arrived
in Sydney in 1814 and quickly made the acquaintance of Governor Lachlan
Macquarie (1762-1842; in office
1810-1821), who was instrumental in developing New South Wales from a convict
settlement to a nascent colony.
The Governor commissioned Francis Greenaway to design and
build the first Macquarie Lighthouse at South Head, Watson’s Bay (1817; replaced 1883). When this project was satisfactorily
completed Macquarie emancipated Greenaway and made him Acting Civil Architect
under the Inspector of Public Works, Captain J M Gill.
Francis Greenaway’s most important surviving work is the Hyde Park Barracks (1818-19) for male
convicts at the head of Macquarie Street in central Sydney.
Built by convicts for convicts, the Barracks was more like a
hostel than a prison. In order to make
use of their labour, the colonial government had to provide a measure of
physical freedom to transported prisoners who worked, in gangs or on attachment
to free employers, in the already crowded town.
The central three-storey dormitory block stands in the
middle of a courtyard, surrounded by domestic and administration buildings and
the deputy superintendent’s residence.
Convict transportation ended in 1840 and eight years later
Hyde Park Barracks was converted to a female immigration centre, part of a
government initiative to recruit single women from Britain and Ireland to
counterbalance the preponderance of men in the colony.
While Burton Corporation was building Claymills Pumping Stationto rid the town of brewery and household effluent, sending the ordure and the smell to the unsuspecting village of Egginton across the county border in Derbyshire, their colleagues in Leicester were also catching up with the effects of rapidly expanding population on their town’s limited sanitation.
Sewage-disposal had been a problem for the expanding
borough from the 1850s onwards.
The civil engineer Thomas Wicksteed (1806-1871)
designed a scheme for his Patent Solid Sewage Manure Company to drain the town
and purify the resulting solid matter as manure.
Though the scheme markedly improved the condition of
the River Soar, the manure failed to sell and the enterprise failed.
Indeed, pail closets continued in the poorer districts of the town and the removal of ordure by carts, canal barges and railway wagons was a continuing nuisance.
A new scheme was devised in 1885 providing two arterial sewers linking to a sewage farm on the outskirts of the borough and the Abbey Pumping Station was constructed between November 1887 and May 1891 to pump sewage 1½ miles to Beaumont Leys.
The imposing Elizabethan engine-house, begun in 1889,
was designed by the Leicester architect Stockdale Harrison (1846-1914).
The four pumping engines, very like the slightly earlier ones at Claymills and by the same local firm of Gimson & Company, are now the largest surviving Woolf compound steam-engines in the United Kingdom, and Abbey Pumping Station is one of the few places where four steam pumping engines can still be seen within one engine house.
The high-pressure cylinders are 30in × 69¼in, and the
low-pressure cylinders are 48in × 96in.
Each flywheel is 21 feet in diameter, and the beams are 28 feet long.
Leicester’s population grew more than threefold between 1861 and 1901 and continued to expand through the first half of the twentieth century.
At Abbey Pumping Station settlement tanks and an
electric pump were installed in 1925, and capacity was reinforced by the
installation of a ram pump in 1939.
The station continued to steam until the opening of
the Wanlip Sewage Treatment Works in 1964.
The site was then converted into the Leicester Museum
of Science and Technology which opened in 1974.
The original eight Gimson Lancashire boilers had been
replaced in 1925: of these replacements
only one survives, and the boiler house now contains other museum
exhibits. Two of the engines are
restored to working condition, though limited boiler-capacity prevents them
both being steamed simultaneously for longer than a very short time.
There are other sewage-related experiences in the
The site railway, first installed in 1926 and
operated by a small petrol locomotive, has been adapted for passengers. Trains are hauled by a restored steam
locomotive, Leonard, from the Birmingham
Tame & Rea District Drainage Board’s Minworth sewage treatment works.
A display entitled ‘Flushed with Pride’ (a title borrowed from Wallace Reyburn’s inimitable 1969 biography of the water-closet manufacturer, Thomas Crapper) includes a lavatory with see-through bowl and cistern, into which visitors can drop artificial faeces and watch them journey from the U-bend to the main sewer.
Abbey Pumping Station is included in the itinerary of the Cemeteries and Sewerage: the Victorian pursuit of cleanliness (September 16th-20th 2021) tour, based in Sheffield. For further details of the tour please click here.