Architecture Students visit Accrington

It was a great pleasure to take two groups of twenty students from Manchester School of Architecture around Accrington town centre yesterday.

It was a lovely sunny day, so we dug deep into Accrington’s cultural heritage, its recent past and current problems.

We started off at the Italianate Town Hall, built as the Peel Institution in 1857 (architect James Green), and then worked our way round a series of historic streets, buildings and interiors, slowly tracking backwards in time from the 1960s to the Regency and Accrington’s rural beginnings.

Accrington Town Hall

The urban spaces we looked at included:

– a 1930s Broadway with a perfectly preserved 1961 Arndale Centre (the oldest in the country) and 1968 modernist Town Hall extension and shops (architect: Sydney Greenwood);

–  late nineteenth century boulevard, Blackburn Road, lined by large Victorian, Edwardian and art deco shops;

Blackburn Road looking east to the Town Hall – photo Andy Marshall

– Riley’s Arcade of 1894 (architect: Haywood and Harrison), a classic late Victorian indoor shopping arcade with a glass roof, colourful stained glass and Art Nouveau tiles;

One side of the Market Place

– Market Place which is wrapped around a large Italian Baroque Market Hall of 1868 (architect: John F. Doyle) which has superb sculpture by S. J. Rogerson;

Part of the large sculpture on top of the Market Hall

– a Regency square laid out round the parish church of St. James, 1721 (architect: John Birtwistle);

– Warner Street, a model street and industrial housing development of 1821;

– Abbey Street, turnpike road of 1790 (engineer: Blind Jack of Knaresboro – John Metcalf) lined by Regency shops, houses and cottages; and,

– a Regency Coaching Inn, former Red Lion Inn (c.1800), with a public hall (1822), coach house and stables sited around a cobbled court which was adapted from a medieval farmyard marking the very beginning of Accrington.

Along the way, we encountered a rich architectural heritage of the Modern, Edwardian, Victorian and Regency periods. Here is a selection of buildings:

a large 1920s Burton’s shopping development with public dance hall above (architect: Nathaniel Martin);

The Exchange – drawing by Francis Roberts Architects

– The Exchange, a classical style shop and manufactury of 1910 (architect: Henry Ross) recently restored by Francis Roberts Architects

– Classical Carnegie Library of 1906-8 (architect: W. J. Newton) with its great stair window by H. G. Hillier;

– the late Gothic of St. James’ School, 1895 (architect: Thomas Bell of Burnley);

Market Chambers and Town Hall – photo by Andy Marshall

– Renaissance style Market Chambers corner retail and office development of 1889 (architect: Henry Ross);

– a large Renaissance style Liberal Club of 1885 (architect: Maxwell and Tuke);

– Italianate style Mechanics Institution 1878 (architect: George Baines);

Cannon Street Baptist Church

– the 1874 Gothic church, spire and school of Cannon Street Baptist (architect: George Baines);

– the 1860s Ruskinian Gothic Manchester & Liverpool District Bank on Eagle Street;

– an earlier 1845 home of the Mechanics Institution;

– 1839 listed back-to-back cottages and cellar dwelling of 9-11 Black Abbey Street;

– Warner’s Arms P.H. of 1828 with its large two-storey bow window bays; and,

– a pretty former Post Office of 1827 on Little Blackburn Road.

Many of the students are involved in a series of studies and projects the School is undertaking on Accrington town centre. The tours introduced them to the history and architecture of the town.

Leave a Reply