Monthly Archives: May 2020

Woodbridge Station Guest House

Woodbridge Station, Suffolk

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. 

First-class fishery

Lister Drive Baths, Liverpool: first-class swimming pool (2019)

Some conversions of old buildings to new uses are an uneasy compromise – cinemas converted into apartment blocks, places of worship adapted as pubs.

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, Thomas Shelmerdine.

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) tour includes an informal visit to the Lister Drive BathsFor further details please click here.

Transportation in miniature

Hiroshima, Japan: City Transportation Museum, Chōrakuji

I had a couple of hours to spare in my last afternoon in Hiroshima, so I took to the Astram, opened in 1994, a people-mover built to connect with the major sporting arena up in the hills, Edion Stadium Hiroshima. 

The people-mover is remarkable, over eleven miles long, running underground beneath the central area and then mounting a continuous viaduct that never seems to touch the ground.  I’m not convinced about this rubber-tyred concrete technology:  it’s distinctly bumpy compared with rail and the infrastructure seems to be bulky and intrusive.

The route is up a steep-sided valley that reminded me of Halifax, or Hebden Bridge, in which every piece of flat land is built on, with low-rise housing, high-rise towers and the associated suburban public and commercial development. 

I was interested to see the Hiroshima hinterland, and I took as my destination the transportation museum at Chōrakuji, two-thirds of the way along the route.

The Hiroshima City Transportation Museum [http://www.vehicle.city.hiroshima.jp/VEHICLE_HP/Contents/01_home/0104_English/ehome.html], a five-minute walk from the Astram station, is in an expensive-looking modern building, and was not what I expected.  There are only two full-size vehicles in the whole place – a sports car and one of the atom-bomb trams, identical to the two I’d seen on the streets but painted in a different livery. 

A whole floor is given to an eclectic display of a couple of thousand models of trains, cars, ships and aeroplanes, with very perfunctory labelling in Japanese and English.  I had a go at driving a train simulator but couldn’t get on with it.

Upstairs was a two-storey hall, filled with a gigantic working model of a not-far-into-the-future city to demonstrate as many modes of public transport as possible – not only trains and cars and ships and aircraft but helicopters, monorails, travellators, even a fairground.

So there, under one roof, you can examine past, present and future transportation, most of it in miniature, some of it in motion.