Elmfield Hall & Churchfield House – old houses, new roles

Two enjoyable projects currently on the go involve large Victorian houses, Elmfield Hall, Church and Churchfield House, Great Harwood.

Though quite unrelated as buildings and projects, successive meetings today reminded me of their close similarities. Both are the former houses of locally important Victorians, which subsequently passed into the hands of the pre-1974 local authorities, then to Hyndburn Council and now to social enterprises which provide community related services. Both draw upon a common set of funding sources and both have a cafe! Continue reading “Elmfield Hall & Churchfield House – old houses, new roles”

Colin Gilbert – video

Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (see this post) reminds me of the work of a late colleague, Colin Gilbert, a Manchester artist with a passion for heritage. Colin also liked to add figures observing the scenes of his paintings. In this picture (click to enlarge), he was responding to a location in the Middleton conservation area… a view from Durnford Street, just behind Ye Olde Boar’s Head pub, with Jubilee Library and St. Leonard’s Church beyond. The intense colours and his manipulation of scale and perspective expresses the hidden power and significance of that particular place. Continue reading “Colin Gilbert – video”

Briarcourt – a place of hope

I visited Briarcourt today. It’s an early Arts and Crafts Movement house at Lindley, near Huddersfield, built in 1894 for the Sykes family. The designer was Manchester’s Edgar Wood. He was related to the Sykes and consequently designed several buildings in the area, including the famous Lindley Clock Tower. Continue reading “Briarcourt – a place of hope”

Blackwell – The Arts & Crafts House

Travelling back from the Lakes, it was time for my annual pilgrimage to Mackay Hugh Baillie-Scott’s Lancashire masterpiece, Blackwell near Bowness, Windermere – a truly wonderful house. Below are some of my happy snaps taken on the phone (please forgive the quality).

If you’ve never been before, Blackwell is well worth a visit… the house excels as a beautifully kept ‘walk-in art exhibit’. It is a fantasy house every bit as much as, say, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover.  I am trying to learn some of the lessons of the excellent crisp presentation at Blackwell, for when I advise my colleagues on the care of Walter Brierley’s house, Hollins Hill, a.k.a. The Haworth, Accrington.
Continue reading “Blackwell – The Arts & Crafts House”

Dunham Massey

I have visited Dunham Massey in Cheshire over many years and have observed how it has grown into a lively modern visitor destination, with the National Trust undertaking a phased programme of conservation and development for well over a decade.

I have to be honest, the hall is good but unadventurous, architecturally speaking. There have been three historical halls since the 1600s. They have been spectacularly painted in a series of bird’s eye view illustrations and the best of the three was perhaps the 1690s hall. This, as far as I can tell, was a courtyard design replete with Dutch gables, corner towers, huge leaded light windows and other Elizabethan and Jacobean features. It seems to have been a lively building with several phases. It was unfortunately replaced, or perhaps encased, in the 1730s by a very plain brick building designed by John Norris, a largely unknown architect. It was a very conservative and dated design but it at least it had the typical Georgian qualities of efficiency, harmony and balance.

The main façade and interior, however, was completely reworked in Edwardian times by Joseph Compton Hall, another unknown designer, into something even less interesting! I can see that he was trying to  introduce some warmth and interest but, to be honest, it was probably better before altered it. The eaves and dormers either side of his odd Carolinian style focal point are too domestic for such a large building. Consequently,  Dunham has nothing to match the dramatic Palladianism of nearby Lyme Park. What there is, however, is beautiful workmanship in a lovely orange Cheshire brick and, most importantly, a gorgeous der park setting. Continue reading “Dunham Massey”

Hampstead Garden Suburb

This summer I have been visiting Hampstead Garden Suburb, in north London on a series of day trips. Hampstead was a pioneering garden suburb designed by Raymond Unwin, Barry Parker and Edwin Lutyens with many other Arts & Crafts Movement architects contributing buildings. Mervyn Miller’s book on the suburb has been indispensable!

I love this suburb and enjoy deciphering the nuances of design that Parker and Unwin pioneered and liked to use. Unlike their other estates, Hampstead’s buildings were designed by a wide range of Arts & Crafts architects, so there is a lot for the architectural historian as well as the town planner to see. 
Continue reading “Hampstead Garden Suburb”

Manchester Making the Modern City

Every town and city has its story, but few have a history that is essential to understanding how the modern world was made. Manchester was the first industrial city and arguably the first modern city. 

I have been enjoying this new book (edited by Alan Kidd and Terry Wyke), having got a complementary copy for contributing a photograph. It is a critical history of Manchester and how it developed into an international city. It covers the social, political and industrial history rather than the architecture but has lots of background information for significance and conservation reports, including a very useful historical timeline.

Details are HERE.