Appleton Water Tower

Appleton Water Tower, Sandringham, Norfolk (1980)

Accounts of the nineteenth-century “Sanitary Question” – the controversy over how to resolve the environmental problems of water-supply, sewerage and disposal of the dead – usually focus on the rapidly expanding, densely-populated towns and cities and their poor, unhealthy and undernourished populations of the time.

In fact, the crises of public health and limited medical knowledge cost the lives of individuals in all levels of society.

The best-known example of a prominent life cut short by avoidable disease in this period is Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-1861).  He died, after several weeks’ illness, at Windsor on December 9th 1861, probably of typhoid, leaving a shocked nation and a bereft widow.

His accumulating personal woes would have undoubtedly lowered his spirits and sapped his physical strength – several years of discomfort from stomach cramps, a near-death experience in a carriage accident, the death of his mother-in-law, concern over his eldest son’s liaison with an Irish actress and the strain of being involved in a diplomatic skirmish, the Trent affair.

However, it was the fetid drains under Windsor Castle that almost certainly did for him.

He was not alone.  In the same few weeks of 1861, typhoid swept through the Portuguese royal family, who were Prince Albert’s young cousins,– the Infante Ferdinand (15) on November 6th, his brother King Pedro V (24) on November 11th and another brother, Infante João, Duke of Beja (19) on December 27th.

A decade later, by which time the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841-1910), had married, raised a family and acquired the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, he himself contracted typhoid while staying with the Earl of Londesborough at Scarborough.  A fellow guest, the 7th Earl of Chesterfield, and the Prince of Wales’ groom died of the disease, but His Royal Highness recovered.

It seems that the drains at Londesborough Lodge were no better than those at Windsor Castle.

The Prince quickly enlisted the experienced civil engineer Robert Rawlinson (1810-1898) and a sanitary specialist James Mansergh (1834-1905) to ensure that the newly completed Sandringham House was safely supplied with water and properly drained.

The nearest supply, a chalk spring about a mile away, was twenty feet lower in altitude than the ground floor of the house, and the highest point on the estate was only five feet higher than the roof.

Not only did the supply require pumping, but a greater head of water was needed for fire-fighting.

The solution was to construct a sixty-foot-high water tower, surmounted by a 32,000-gallon tank, overlooking the surrounding landscape and visible for miles.

James Mansergh designed an elegant brick structure in a style he called “neo-Byzantine” in polychrome brick and local stone.

Its two lower storeys provided accommodation for a caretaker, and the second floor, accessible by a private staircase, was reserved for the occasional entertainment of royal house parties who could, if they wished, climb to the top of the tank to enjoy the view.

The chimney flues from the fireplaces ran through the centre of the tank to prevent the water freezing in heavy frosts.

The four foundation stones were laid on July 4th 1877 by Alexandra, Princess of Wales, her brother Prince Waldemar of Denmark, and the Wales’s two young sons, Princes Albert Victor and George (later King George V).

When the water-supply system was completed the following year, the hydrants surrounding Sandringham House were tested by a personal friend of the Prince of Wales, the celebrated Chief of the London Fire Brigade, Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw KCB (1830-1908), “to his entire satisfaction”.

The water-supply system was maintained first by the Sandringham estate and later by the local water authority until 1963.  Four years later the Tower was leased to the Landmark Trust which cleared away the surrounding outbuildings and converted the first three storeys into a memorable holiday let  [Holiday at Appleton Water Tower, Sandringham | The Landmark Trust], receiving its first visitors exactly a hundred years after the foundation stones were laid.

156 years of continuing prayer

St Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church, Attercliffe, Sheffield

When I run my annual Heritage Open Days Walk Round Attercliffe we visit one of only two remaining Christian places of worship in the Lower Don Valley. It’s also the only historic place of worship in the Valley that has been in continuous use since it was built.

The Roman Catholic Church of St Charles Borromeo was consecrated in 1868 to provide a home for a congregation that had been meeting since 1864.

This was the time when the flat rural meadows and gardens of the Lower Don Valley were being replaced by huge steelworks served by rail and canal. 

Housing for the workers, many of whom came from surrounding counties and as far away as Ireland, had to be within walking distance of the works because public transport was inadequate and expensive.

The church was the gift of Mr William Wake of Osgathorpe, and partly financed by gifts of £500 each from the Duke of Norfolk and from Mrs Wake and her family.  The eventual cost was £4,700. 

The dedication commemorates the Wakes’ son, Charles, who drowned while skating on the Serpentine in Regent’s Park in January 1867.

The building was designed by Charles John Innocent (1837-1901) and Thomas Brown (c1845-1881), who went on to design nineteen out of the twenty-two schools built by the Sheffield School Board from 1873 onwards.

Initially only the nave and the presbytery were constructed.  Charles Innocent returned in 1887 to oversee the lengthening of the nave and the construction of the baptistery and two porches to the west and the chancel, Lady Chapel and sacristy to the east.  These extensions, costing £2,400, were the gift of the Duke of Norfolk and Mr and Mrs Wade.

The interior is spacious and light, with a hammerbeam roof.  The screens, choir stalls and pulpit were designed by C J Innocent and carved by the sculptor Harry Hems of Exeter (1842-1916).  The organ is by the Norwich builder Norman & Beard, and dates from 1911.

The adjacent brick-built school was originally built in 1871 and rebuilt in 1929 in memory of the first rector of the parish, Father Joseph Hurst, who served from 1866 to 1905.  It was remodelled in 1964 by Hadfield, Cawkwell & Davidson, and closed because of falling rolls in 1981. 

After some years of use for Youth Training Scheme activities it became the Diocese of Hallam Pastoral Centre, opening on June 27th 1990.

Alongside the Centre, regular services continue in the church of St Charles, as they have done since 1868.

St Charles Borromeo Church is a destination on Mike Higginbottom’s Heritage Open Days A Walk Round Attercliffe which takes place on Friday September 6th 2024 from 10am to 12.30pm, starting and finishing at the Attercliffe tram stop.  

Call 07946-650672 or e-mail mike@mikehigginbottominterestingtimes.co.uk to book.

The little railway with the long name

Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (1977)
Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (2016)

Though I’ve driven from home in Sheffield to Matlock more times than I can number, on a whim I decided to travel by train when I needed to visit the Derbyshire Record Office recently.

I told myself it’s difficult to park in Matlock during the day, but actually I like riding on trains and if you’re a certain age you can get a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket that lasts all day and costs only £7.70:  Derbyshire Wayfarer | National Rail.

It’s a very long time since I set off northwards out of Derby on a train that takes the left branch at Ambergate Junction and stops at the sad little platform which is all that’s left of the triangular Ambergate station.

While passengers climb aboard the driver unlocks the signalling for the line up to Matlock, which is a fascinating piece of transport history as well as an enjoyable piece of Derbyshire countryside.

There’s a point shortly before Whatstandwell station where the Derwent valley narrows so that the Cromford Canal, the railway, the A6 trunk road and the river are practically side by side.

Further north, canal, river and railway change places as the railway plunges through Leawood Tunnel (309 yards) while the canal follows the contour to cross the river at the Wigwell Aqueduct.

The next station, Cromford, is exceptionally pretty.  An expensive essay in French chateau style, it was designed by George Henry Stokes (1826-1876), who had married Emily, daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s gardener, designer of the Crystal Palace and a director of the Ambergate-Rowsley railway.  The up waiting room is a self-catering holiday let:  The Waiting Room Holiday Cottage – Cromford – Railway Station Cottages.

At the north end of the Cromford platform the line enters Willersley Tunnel (765 yards) and emerges at the approach to the Swiss-style Matlock Bath station.

The stretch north of Matlock Bath was much more fun when diesel railcars allowed you to look forward over the driver’s shoulder.  There are two tunnels, High Tor No 1 (321 yards) and High Tor No 2 (379 yards), separated by a flash of daylight and a glimpse of the River Derwent.  If you blink you miss it.

You can, thanks to years of effort by volunteers, now cross platforms at Matlock and carry on to Rowsley when the Peakrail service is running.

Taking the train from Sheffield to Matlock via Derby is potentially quicker (under 1¼ hours) than the X17 bus service (just over 1½ hours) – and less effort than driving.

Triangular station

Ambergate Station, Derbyshire (1965)

I remember Ambergate station in the 1960s when it had six platforms, though not all of them were in use. Indeed, I photographed it by chance while on a bike ride when I was sixteen [Buyers’ remorse: British Railways Class 17 | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times], and I went back a couple of years later when a sunset provided appropriate lighting for a station in rapid decline.

In 1972-73 I was coming to the end of my time teaching at Bilborough Grammar School in Nottingham and beginning a long career of part-time adult-education lecturing for the University of Nottingham.

Through that winter and spring I left school promptly, took a bus to Nottingham station and caught a diesel rail-set that trundled over some of the oldest railway lines in the north Midlands – the original Midland Counties Railway (1839) to Derby, then north over the North Midland Railway (1840) to Ambergate, and from there on the little railway with the long name, the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midland Junction Railway (1849) to Matlock.

The ponderous title of the company indicates an intention to connect the East Midlands with Manchester, but it only reached Rowsley on the doorstep of two ducal estates before running out of cash in 1849. 

The title also indicates that the three railways which met at Derby had amalgamated in 1844 as the Midland Railway.

In the midst of the frantic competition between railway companies after the investment bubble known as the “Railway Mania”, the MBM&MJR became jointly leased by the Midland and its rival, the London & North Western Railway, which operated what we now call the West Coast Main Line from London to Scotland.

The L&NWR gave up its share of the lease after the Midland gained powers to build a competing line from its branch to Wirksworth.

Eventually, after the 6th Duke of Devonshire died and his successor didn’t want a railway running through his Chatsworth estate, the 8th Duke of Rutland was persuaded to allow a line tunnelling behind the back garden of Haddon Hall, and the railway was extended from Rowsley up the Wye Valley, first to New Mills and eventually on to Manchester.

The southern “Midland Junction” at Ambergate developed, in fits and starts, into a key connection for trains between Derby, Manchester and Sheffield. 

An informative Wikipedia map [Ambergate junction – Ambergate railway station – Wikipedia] shows how the 1849 junction was west-to-north, and the south/north-west link was opened later, in 1863.  A further south/north-east link, to allow expresses to overtake stopping trains, followed in 1876.

Another service began in 1875, providing passenger trains to Pye Bridge on the Erewash Valley line, part of which now operates as a heritage railway, Midland Railway (Butterley).  (The MBM&MJRroute north of Matlock to south of Rowsley is also a heritage line, Peakrail.)

In the course of the nineteenth-century operational changes the station buildings were shifted around, until the triangular junction was provided with six platforms on a high embankment.  The buildings were, of necessity, constructed of timber.

The station remained intact until all passenger services except the shuttle service to Matlock ended in 1968.  Then, in 1970, the redundant platforms and all the timber buildings were taken down, and Ambergate passengers wait on the former up platform with the benefit of a bus shelter.

Ambergate had, along with Queensbury (closed 1955) and Shipley in West Yorkshire and Earlestown in Lancashire, the distinction of being a triangular station with six platforms. 

Fragmentary remains

Site of former Brightside & Carbrook Staniforth Road store: pilaster base

When I’m stuck for information about an aspect of Sheffield’s architectural and social history, one of the people I call on is Robin Hughes, trustee of Hallamshire Historic Buildings and Joined Up Heritage Sheffield.  He almost always has a detailed, referenced answer.

In return, he occasionally asks me for answers to his queries.  Sometimes I know something;  other times I’m clueless, as I was when he asked if I’d noticed three stones on the south side of Staniforth Road in Attercliffe, immediately downhill from the Pinfold Bridge across the Sheffield Canal. 

The blunt answer was no:  I must have driven past them hundreds of times and never even glanced in their direction.

Robin was at a loss to explain them, though they had clearly been significant.  Two form a pair at the boundary of Spartan Works though too far apart to mark an entrance;  the other is smaller (or perhaps lower) and immediately adjacent to the canal-bridge parapet.

It would have been irresponsible for me to speculate:  any conjecture of mine would have been no more than a wild guess.  Robin’s initial hypothesis was that they were boundary markers, and he found an 1819 map on Picture Sheffield to support it.  But he added, “There may be another explanation, though.”

And there was.  Within a couple of hours he e-mailed again with the correct answer.

These stones are all that remains of the Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society’s Staniforth Road store [Print details Picture Sheffield], which was built in 1894 when Staniforth Road was still Pinfold Lane, and completely destroyed in the Blitz in December 1940.  They are, in Robin’s words “the decorative bases of the shop front pilasters, and are not functional.”  The building was designed by the B&C’s preferred architect, Henry Webster.  In this Picture Sheffield image [Print details Picture Sheffield] of the ruins the single stone is visible next to the small child on the extreme left.

These almost invisible vestiges mark a place where Attercliffe people shopped for “value for money furniture”, jewellery, prams, pianos, cycles, carpets, rugs and mats, according to an advertisement in The Sheffield Co-operator (May 1924) that promises “Give us your co-operation, and we will give you Civility, Attention, and Free Delivery”:  Issue_021_May_1924.pdf (principle5.coop) [page 3].

It’s also a memento of a night of terror in December 1940 when bombs rained on Attercliffe obliterating familiar shops, pubs and churches, making many houses uninhabitable and killing at least 660 people across the city.

These three small pilaster bases would almost certainly have been forgotten without Robin’s detective work, and their history would have been lost.

In the imminent rejuvenation of Attercliffe I suggest it’s important to commemorate the lives and lifestyles that went before.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard have made it easy for visitors to visualise what was on their site until a few decades ago by raising funds to install professionally composed interpretation boards that are now accompanied by a £5 guide book.

The writer Neil Anderson has led a series of effective campaigns to ensure that the 1940 Sheffield Blitz is not forgotten.  His easy-to-use app [Sheffield Blitz – Apps on Google PlayThe Sheffield Blitz on the App Store (apple.com)] enables anyone with a mobile phone in their hand to visit relevant locations in and around the city centre, accompanied by the voice of the late Doug Lightning, the last surviving firefighter to have been on duty in the midst of the raid.  Ian Castle has commemorated the World War I raid on the Lower Don Valley in 1916:  Sheffield author Neil Anderson relaunches book that led to proper tribute to city sacrifice in Blitz (thestar.co.uk).

Attercliffe has more than enough sites associated with the Blitz to make a walking trail that captures for younger generations the impact of two nights’ destruction in the dark days of the Second World War.  Alongside books, videos and apps, there’s a special immediacy to markers of the actual sites that casual pedestrians can stumble upon, like Gunter Demnig’s StolpersteineStolpersteine | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times.

If “heritage” means anything, it’s about linking the experience of past generations to the imagination of those who follow.

Brightside & Carbrook

Former Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society branch, 18/20/22 Page Hall Road, Sheffield

In the late nineteenth century Sheffield, like most places, was dotted with Co-op shops selling food and all kinds of household goods.

Many co-op branches were mundane buildings which, if they survive, are difficult to recognise, but on occasions a society would make an architectural statement in the grimy streets.

The Brightside and Carbrook branch at 18/20/22 Page Hall Road, on the former tram route to Firth Park, remains a particularly spectacular landmark, faced with white faience and an elaborate composition of pilasters, aedicules and festoons. 

Its opulent interiors were photographed at the time of its opening in 1914, when smart assistants and the manager, Alf Sparkes, waited expectantly for the first customers

It served a moderately affluent community with clothing, drapery and haberdashery.  An early image shows that the fascia advertised “clothing & outfitting…boots & shoes…linoleum & carpets…drapery, millinery and costumes”.

A much later image of the frontage dated 1952, showing that the white faience had become distinctly grubby in Sheffield’s polluted atmosphere, advertises “baby linen, ribbons, laces, a millinery showroom, ladies’ & childrens’ underwear, furs, corsets, skirts [and] a mantle showroom”.

At the time it closed on June 12th 1965 the front windows advertised “Co-operative furnishing, footwear…outfitting [and] drapery”.

Since then the building has been used as Patnick’s Junk Shop (1972), Pope’s DIY superstore (1993), Khawaja & Sons Halal Supermarket and presently the Hamza Supermarket.

It was listed Grade II in 1995.

Across the road is a less regarded building, 25 Page Hall Road, which has an inscription ‘FIRTH PARK COLISEUM’ and the date 1906.  This has prompted overenthusiastic cinema enthusiasts sometimes to speculate that it was a cinema, but in fact it was a rival to the Co-op opposite.

It was owned by the outfitter Mr Samuel Alonzo Peel, who also ran the Emporium and Peel’s Stores in the nearby suburb of Brightside.

He was provoked in May 1915 to issue the following legal notice in the Sheffield newspapers:

It has come to my knowledge that statements have been made to the effect that the above businesses are not in a good financial condition and that I have therefore been compelled to work as a Turner at one of the large firms in Sheffield.  Such a statement is untrue.  When I heard of the shortage of men (although I have been out of the trade twelve years) I returned to this trade purely from a patriotic motive.  My businesses are financially sound and if I can ascertain who the originators of the above slander are I shall be prepared to take proceedings against them… [Searching Picture Sheffield].

May 1915 is the precise date of the Lusitania riots, which destroyed many German butchers’ businesses in Sheffield and other cities:  Libraries Sheffield: From the Archives: Sheffield and the Lusitania riots of 1915 (shefflibraries.blogspot.com).

According to the information in Picture Sheffield, Mr Peel died in 1925.  His Coliseum survives.  When I first knew it and puzzled over the inscription in the 1970s it was a launderette.  Since 2014 it has been SK Market – Mix Potraviny.  Mix Potraviny is Slovak for “mixed food”.

Castle House

Former Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Store, Castle House, Sheffield
Former Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Store, Castle House, Sheffield: main staircase

The “Co-op” was the mainstay of many working-class families, particularly in the north of England, from the mid-nineteenth century until well after the Second World War.  Not only did it provide groceries and greengroceries;  it offered furniture, funerals, clothing, carpets, soap and shoes as well as banking and insurance.  The Co-operative Group remains powerful, but it has lost its proud tradition of cradle-to-grave service to customers who regained the profits of their trading through the dividend, or “divi”.

For historical reasons which were perpetuated by political inertia, there were two co-operative societies in Sheffield, the Brightside & Carbrook and the Sheffield & Ecclesall – the former based in the gritty, working-class east end and the latter serving the more affluent areas to the west.  Geography divided Sheffield’s population in shopping, just as it did in football.  Both co-ops originated in the 1860s.

Everyone remembered their “stores number”, which they gave to the shop assistant for every purchase so that at the end of the year the “divi” reached their membership account.

The Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society chose to plant their flagship city-centre store at the south end of Lady’s Bridge on land purchased from the City Council in 1914.

Building operations stalled until 1927, and construction revealed vestiges of the medieval Sheffield Castle, which had been dismantled in the mid-seventeenth century after the end of the Civil War.

The City Stores, a splendid shopping emporium with a lengthy façade stretching from Waingate along Exchange Street, eventually opened in 1929.

The building lasted only eleven years, and was destroyed in the 1940 Blitz. 

After the B&C Co-op gave up the site to the City Council for what became Castle Market it took instead a site at the corner of Castle Street and Angel Street, and initially made do with a single-storey shop opened in 1949.

When building restrictions were eventually relaxed at the end of the 1950s the Society expanded upwards, building the impressive Castle House, designed by George S Hay, the Co-operative Wholesale Society’s chief architect, in collaboration with the CWS interior designer, Stanley Layland.  It cost slightly under a million pounds.

Castle House began trading in 1962 and opened formally in 1964, joining replacements for other bombed-out Sheffield department stores – Walsh’s (1953; reconfigured early 1960s), Roberts Brothers (1954), Cockaynes (1955-56), Atkinsons (1960) and Pauldens (1965), along with the one of the only two Sheffield stores that wasn’t bombed, Cole Brothers, which relocated to Barker’s Pool in 1965.

Of these, the Brightside & Carbrook store expressed a different architectural language to any other building in the city.  The façade, splayed across the street corner, presents a blind wall of Blue Pearl Cornish granite that masked the sales floors on the first and second storeys. 

Within, an elegant spiral main staircase connected the ground floor to each floor, and at the top a mural relief of a cockerel and a fish heralded the restaurant, with an innovative suspended ceiling, and the directors’ lavish board room and executives’ offices.

Castle House stood out from the other postwar city-centre department stores by the quality of its design in the style then known as ‘contemporary’.  It spoke of the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s that life really was better than before the War and that there was no going back to the drudgery and hardship of the interwar period.

Shopping footfall in the city centre inexorably declined from the opening of the Meadowhall Centre in 1990.  The main retail operation at Castle House closed in 2008, followed by the remaining peripheral departments, travel, the Post Office (2011) and latterly the supermarket (2022).  It was listed Grade II in 2009.

Castle House and the adjacent former Horne’s building were repurposed in 2018 by the developer Kollider, though this enterprise hasn’t had a smooth passage:  Is Kommune on the verge of kollapse? – by Victoria Munro (sheffieldtribune.co.uk).

The building is apparently intact but clearly underused.   It still looks excitingly modern, though it’ll soon be sixty years old.  Like all buildings, it needs to earn its keep in a continuing hostile economic environment, yet deserves considerable amounts of TLC.

Indeed, when the Heart of the City development is complete, it’s to be hoped that the desert of decaying buildings and empty spaces between Castle Square and the Victoria Quays, with the Old Town Hall in its centre, will be similarly transformed. 

The longer it’s left, the more difficult it’ll be to rejuvenate.

St Anne’s Roman Catholic Church, Keighley

St Anne’s Roman Catholic Parish Church, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) began his career as an architect in the early 1830s, empowered by two events, the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829) and his own conversion to Catholicism in 1834, which led him to become the great pioneer of the Gothic Revival in the British Isles and across the world.

John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury (1791-1852) enlisted him to design Catholic churches, monasteries and schools, and Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) hired him to contribute detailed designs to the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster for which he was never in his lifetime accorded adequate credit.

In a short career lasting barely a decade Pugin directed his prodigious artistic talent to provide inexpensive church designs for impoverished congregations alongside opulent commissions for wealthy Catholic patrons.

He was capable of devising simple, dignified parish churches for as little as £3,000, yet when he had access to a generous budget – and when he was footing the bill himself – he spent lavishly and designed richly.

St Anne’s, Keighley is typical of his low-budget commissions, a modest nave with a short chancel and a belfry which fell down during construction and had to be rebuilt.  The current edition of Pevsner’s Buildings of England:  Yorkshire West Riding – Leeds, Bradford and the North (Yale University Press 2009) points out that the simplicity of the lancet windows were “popular among less exacting architects”;  given the chance, Pugin would have insisted on tracery.

The Pevsner volume (p 353) shows an 1843 engraving of the building in its original form – modest, simple, elegant, and instantly recognisable as essentially Pugin.

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the congregation had outgrown the building and the Bradford architect Edward Simpson (1844-1937) turned the place on its axis and more than doubled its floor area in 1907.

Pugin had observed the tradition that worshippers should face east towards Jerusalem, but his chancel became the entrance, and at the west end Simpson added a florid new chancel and a pair of double transepts.  They are clearly by a different hand, yet Simpson shows respect for the original design.  This layout is practical, providing direct entry from North Street, and is visually harmonious.

The interior was extensively beautified in the period 1908-1915.  Pugin’s 1841 east window by Thomas Willement (1786-1871) remains above the entrance doors, and the original altar is now in the Chapel of Our Lady.  The main sanctuary has an imposing high altar and reredos, installed in 1915:  Taking Stock – Catholic Churches of England and Wales (taking-stock.org.uk).

It’s ironic that when a similar rearrangement was proposed at the former St Aidan’s, Small Heath, Birmingham, now All Saints’, in 1998, the Victorian Society strongly objected, until firmly told by the Chancellor of the Consistory Court that worship took precedence over antiquarianism.

St Anne’s amalgamated with the nearby parish of Our Lady Of Victories Keighley in 2016 and it’s apparent from the parish website that the congregation is thriving:  St Anne’s Catholic Church – Priest’s Welcome (stanneskeighley.org.uk).

The parish has a long tradition of welcoming strangers to its community – “…not only the Irish immigrants but later on the Italians, Poles, Slovenians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Latvians, Czechoslovakians, people from many African countries and most recently Indians from Kerela as well as many migrant workers from Eastern Europe” – and supports socially and economically disadvantaged members of the local community through its charity shop and at the Good Shepherd Centre:  St Anne’s Catholic Church – Good Shepherd Centre (stanneskeighley.org.uk).

Temple Street Methodist Church, Keighley

Temple Street Methodist Church, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Temple Street Methodist Church (1846) is indeed a temple celebrating the growth of Wesleyan Methodism in Keighley in the former West Riding of Yorkshire.

There had been Methodists in the town for just over a hundred years by the time it was built.  A journeyman shoemaker called John Wilkinson formed a small group to meet in his cottage for worship in 1742. 

The tiny congregation rapidly grew to over a hundred, and John Wesley (1703-1791) made his first visit to the town in 1746.  He returned in 1753, 1759 and 1772.  On his last visit, in April 1774, he preached to “our old, upright, loving brethren at Keighley”.

The first purpose-built preaching house opened in 1754 and was enlarged in 1764 and 1777.  It was superseded by the Eden Chapel in 1811, which became a Sunday School when the Temple Street chapel opened, designed to accommodate 1,600 people, in 1846.

At that time the façade looked out across an open space to North Street, the main road, but later its façade was hemmed in by the buildings of Russell Chambers.

This was not the only Methodist presence in Keighley.  The Primitive Methodists began a mission in 1821 and eventually extended to three circuits, and the Wesleyan Protestant Methodists built their Gothic church with its 125-foot spire, the tallest in the town, in c1863.  These were only the most prominent among a scattering of little chapels across the locality.

My friend John who grew up in Haworth in the 1960s remembers Temple Street for the Keighley Grammar School Founder’s Day services and the annual performances of Messiah which, in the local tradition, were in two parts, afternoon and evening, with community hymn-singing in between.  The Messiah events involved choirs of up to three hundred.  Sometimes extra chairs were needed to seat the congregation.

In a surprisingly short time at the end of the 1960s there followed a rapid decline, as the Christian population moved to the outlying suburbs and villages and an Asian population replaced them.  The Methodist congregation formed an ecumenical partnership with the parish church of St Andrew and the chapel was sold to the Borough Council for an intended redevelopment plan that was promptly abandoned when Keighley was transferred to the City of Bradford Metropolitan District in 1974.  In that year the Temple Street Chapel was listed Grade II.

The war-memorial stained-glass windows were transferred to the museum at nearby Cliffe Castle and the magnificent Foster & Andrews organ seems to have disappeared, as fine organs did and sometimes still do.

The oak war-memorial board also disappeared, but was reclaimed in remarkable circumstances in 2015:  Temple Street | Men of Worth.

Temple Street was sold in 1978 and became the Shahjalal Mosque, and remains after all a place of worship.

The prettiest bridge in Berlin

Oberbaumbrücke, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Berlin

The Oberbaum Bridge [Oberbaumbrücke], which links two Berlin suburbs, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, across the River Spree, is engagingly weird. 

Lonely Planet describes it as “Berlin’s prettiest bridge”, while the Berlin Historical Walks website suggests “its strutting proud form reflects the confidence and swagger” of imperial Germany.

In fact, its chequered history touches every aspect of the growth and resilience of this fascinating city.

The crossing was established at the boundary of early eighteenth-century Berlin as part of a customs wall to collect tolls.  The name literally translates as “Upper beam bridge”, indicating the tree-trunk barrier that was lowered overnight to discourage smugglers.  There was a lower (ie, downstream) beam at Unterbaumstraße.

The original wooden bridge was replaced by the present brick, double-deck structure in 1894-96, to overcome a bottleneck for road vehicles and pedestrians and to accommodate elevated tracks for the city’s first subway trains.  Services on the U-bahn from Stralauer Tor on the eastern side of the bridge to Potsdamer Platz began in 1902.

To mask the bare structure the architect Otto Stahn (1859–1930) dressed it in the distinctive Brick Gothic style, with two entirely decorative towers flanking the central span, indicating that this had been a historic gate into the city.

In the final weeks of the Second World War the Wehrmacht blew up the central section in a vain attempt to impede the advancing Red Army, and Allied air raids damaged the Stralauer Tor station so severely that it was never rebuilt.

The Oberbaumbrücke came to symbolise the division of Berlin, first into four sectors administered by the Allies, and then into the two separate enclaves of East and West Berlin.

In the early post-war years West Berliners could exercise the right to travel across to the East, but East Berliners were strictly forbidden to set foot on the bridge, and the U-bahn service was cut back to Schlesisches Tor in West Berlin. 

The boundary between East and West was the western bank of the Spree, so the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 turned the river waters into no-man’s land. 

On October 5th 1961 25-year-old Udo Düllick got himself sacked by his East German Railways [Deutsche Reichsbahn] supervisor, took a taxi to the Oberbaumbrücke and tried to swim across the river to reunite with his older brother in West Germany.  The East German guards fired warning shots and then took direct aim.  West Berliners watching daren’t enter the water to rescue him for fear of being shot themselves. 

The East Germans failed to hit Düllick but he drowned and his body was recovered from the west bank the following day.  2,500 people attended his funeral.  He was the first, but by no means the last, to die in the waters of the Spree at this place.

A permanent arrangement to open the bridge for pedestrians was agreed in 1972, and three years later a formal emergency plan to rescue people – often children who climbed through gaps in the parapet – from the river waters.

The Oberbaumbrücke came to symbolise the sadness and separation of the city’s inhabitants.  The subway viaduct was partly dismantled and the ornamental towers were demolished in 1974.

The reunification of Germany in 1990 has been celebrated by the restoration of the crossing. 

The gap in the viaduct was filled by a tactful, elegant steel structure by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava (b1951), and the distinctive towers were rebuilt.  The bridge reopened to pedestrians and motor traffic in 1994 on the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and the U-bahn service was restored to Warschauer Straße station the following year.

Now the Oberbaumbrüke is a celebrated tourist spot in its own right, enjoyed and loved by Berliners and foreigners alike.

The pedestrian walk beneath the U-bahn tracks is remarkable: it was designed as a prestige project by Otto Stahn in medieval style, with castellated towers, gothic arches, polychrome brick, heraldry – very St Pancras.