Yesterday (15th November), Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust hosted the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) NW annual general meeting at Long Street Methodist, the Arts & Crafts Church of Middleton, Manchester. This has recently been restored via a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Project architect, Lisa Mcfarlane of Seven Architecture, and myself led the afternoon event and there was a large turnout of around 40 members. We began with a talk about, Edgar Wood, the Arts & Crafts modernist who built the church in 1899, followed by a tour of the famous Middleton Golden Cluster of heritage buildings.
The weather was warm and the sun illuminated the gorgeous mottled tones of Middleton Parish Church of St. Leonard, the highlight of the tour. We admired the time worn patina of its unrestored medieval walls and especially the elaborate ‘Cardinal Langley Porch‘ of 1412 which is completely unique in the north-west. However, everyone was taken aback when Stephen Welsh of Buttress Architects announced that (despite objections) this beautiful medieval façade was to be destroyed and replaced with a modern carved replica! What!?
Where did such an idea come from? St. Leonard’s Church is grade I listed and its beautiful medieval masonry is hugely admired and celebrated. It features in several books on ancient churches and its time worn quality has inspired artists for generations, including Middleton born Staithes Group painter Frederick Jackson. I wonder if Heritage Lottery Fund is aware that its publicly funded grant is to be used in such a way on the finest medieval building in Greater Manchester.
Henry Oswald Hill was a native of Heywood, near Manchester and a talented young architect who had set himself up in the city. Tragically, he was killed in the First World War on Saturday, 21 October 1917.
He was known in military circles as the courageous Captain Henry Oswald William Hill MC, Flight Commander of No. 52 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He died on a dangerous night mission when his plane was shot down behind enemy lines on the Western Front. He was aged 29-years and is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial.
His death brings to mind the terrible loss of artistic talent in the war. How many of the 9,000,000 young soldiers, sailors and air crew killed in action might have gone on to create wonderful music, literature, art and architecture? Would the course of twentieth century architecture have been different had such young designers fulfilled their roles as architects?
Last week, I was on the roof of the old Woolworth building opposite Accrington Market Hall. Here are rarely seen perspectives of the Hall’s three main sculptures. They were carved by Joseph Rogerson who subsequently became a prominent Liverpool sculptor.
He was brought in by the young architect, James Francis Doyle (1840-1913) also of Liverpool. He likewise became one of the great architects of that city. It seems that in 1868-9, Accrington Market Hall launched two famous Liverpudlian careers.
Adding new design work to a historical building is an act of ‘creation’ whereas restoring lost features is generally considered as ‘conservation’. After a terrible disaster like a major fire, the choice between new design and restoration inevitably comes up. David Mullane, a former director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, argued that the burnt out library of the Glasgow School of Art should be rebuilt in a new way by a contemporary architect rather than be restored.