Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Port Sunlight

One of the finest surviving industrial garden villages in the UK is that of Port Sunlight. Founded in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever, the "soap king"  its location the result of him looking for somewhere to build a new soap works and house his employees. At that time this area on the Wirral was marshy farmland and tidal creeks but Lever saw its both as a potential source of labour and also good connections by road and rail.
Although Lever made his fortune by manufacturing soap he would have loved to be an architect so he wanted his workers village to be a pleasant place to live and be of the finest of the architecture of the time. In this pursuit he employed over a dozen different architectural practices.
One of which was his godson James Lomax-Simpson who built the houses along the long and extensive  King George's Dive here.  The timber frame house on the left of this photograph is now a holiday home.
At the end of the drive is the Art Gallery which houses Lever's huge collection of pottery, paintings and furniture. He collected so much he ran out of room in all his houses.  The gallery was built in memory of his adored wife, Elizabeth,  Lady Lever (who died in 1913) who he called his "better three-quarters".
They lie together in the churchyard of the church which was built for all denominations. The signpost outside the mausoleum is just a simple sign that says "The Founder".  When Lever was knighted he became Lord Leverhulme, which was the combination of their two surnames (Lever and Hulme).
Lever's social and romantic ideals makes the village an unique place.  The health and education of the workers at the time was far superior to those in the nearby cities. The external look of the village has been preserved since the death of Lever in 1925. Set in 130 acres of parkland there are over 900 houses and 12 public buildings now looked after by the Port Sunlight Trust.
The present home of the NatWest Bank was the Girls' Hostel (built 1896) originally built as a a hostel for the female employees travelling from Liverpool.
What I liked about the village was the variety of architecture, as can be seen at the time it was built there was much influence from of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Alas although I can show some of the housing styles I can't show the Port Sunlight Swimming Pool which was an open-air pool and, like the majority of them in the UK, it does not survive.  I am told by someone who was born, married and lives in the village it was wonderfully place to swim as it was heated by underground pipes from the Glycerine Works in the factory .

So there you have it, a village built on soap.  Lever was famous for his use of advertising and spent millions. His famous quote is as true today as it was in the 19th century "I know half my advertising isn't working, I just don't know which half"

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at P here

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Observing Observatories

Tucked away on a hill in Hesketh Park, Southport is the Fernley Observatory. It fell into disrepair in the 1970s but this listed building was refurbished in 2007 and is once more operational with its 6" refracting telescope being used by the Southport Astronomical Society.  The park it stands in is named after the Rev Charles Hesketh who donated the land, the observatory is named after a local Methodist and philanthropist who was involved with the setting up and operating Hesketh Park and donated the Meteorological and Astronomical Observatory in 1871.
I would have liked to take a trip up the stairs to have a look inside but alas it was not open.  If I had been fortunate then I would have seen inscribed around the dome Psalm XX1X-1 "The Heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handwork". 
Today observatories are more likely to be found on the tops of mountains rather than hills but the one glanced through the pillars on this hill on a hazy day is a more famous name than the one is Southport
 Helpfully this woman is pointing at the name above the doorways.
 The Royal Observatory, Greenwich which was founded in 1675 when the first Astronomer Royal was appointed.  The building takes his name of Flamsteed House. Its original purpose was to improve navigation at sea so that an exact position of east and west could be found by astronomical means and to discover the "so much desired longitude of places" and is the home of Greenwich Mean Time.
The scientific work of the Royal Observatory was relocated in the 20th Century and Greenwich itself is now a tourist attraction.  There is a pleasant garden at the back here but the thing of most excitement to me was the remains of William Herschel's telescope seen in the foreground.  This is the remaining section of the 40 ft (12m) reflecting telescope built for William Herschel who became famous for his discovery of the planet Uranus in 1781.  At the time the telescope was the largest in the world and was paid for by King George III at a cost of £4000.

Completed in 1789 and erected at Herschel's home near Slough (30 miles east of Greenwich).  It soon became a tourist attraction even being marked on the 1830 Ordnance Survey map.  It was difficult to set up and maintain and his son dismantled it in 1840 then most of the Tube was destroyed when a tree fell on it 30 years later.  I imagine that William Herschel's sister would have also looked through this telescope as she was also an accomplished astronomer discovering many comets.
Going inside the Observatory and up the stairs is this wonderful walnut panelled room with soaring windows, just the place to look at the sky.
 Time to put our feet up outside the Astronomy Café at the Royal Observatory   Here stands the Gagarin Statue and this part of Flamsteed House has now been renamed Gagarin Terrace. The zinc alloy statue was unveiled by Yuri Gagarin's daughter Elena in March 2013. It is an exhibition copy of the statue made by Anatoly Novikov installed at Lyubertsy (just outside Moscow) which is where Gagarin trained as a steel foundry worker aged 15-16.
Posters in the Astronomy Café
After his flight into space Gagarin was invited to visit Manchester by the Foundry Worker's Union, which when he accepted  was extended to a state visit to London and he made his two day visit in July 1961.  These posters celebrate the occasion when the crowds came out to see the first man in space. an observer of the stars and the dream that one day we will travel there.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at O here 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Naval College

Part of the complex of buildings that is the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London which I passed when heading towards the riverside.  Designed and built by Christopher Wren it was also added to by later architects, its most iconic view of its buildings and domes is from the across the river
Described by UNESCO as the "finest and dramatically sited architectural landscape ensemble in the British Isles" unfortunately this is the clearest view I took when departing by river boat.  The reason.  It was just a few days before the Saharan Sand/Dust was going to give London its first smog of the year on the 31st March.
The preceding days (before the full impact of the dust storm) resulted in hazy views such as this taken from Observatory Hill in Greenwich Park of the Naval College and London skyline.
But here is one half of the building domes taken from the Greenwich Park side and as a school crocodile passed on its way to the National Maritime Museum
Where, as threatened in my post for F for Fourth Plinth in this round of ABC Wednesday, here is a photo of where Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle found its permanent home.
As can be imagined Greenwich's naval past is everywhere but the site was originally a palace of the Tudor monarchs (which fell into ruins after the English Civil War). 
An appropriate place to find a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh who was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and schoolchildren everywhere who enjoy swashbuckling history so no wonder he featured in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Originally this statue was in Whitehall and was relocated here outside Pepys House.

All the Christopher Wren designed buildings were constructed from 1696-1702 to serve as a Royal Hospital for Seamen, this closed in 1865 and between 1873 to 1998 the buildings were used as the Royal Naval College for training in the naval sciences. Today some buildings are occupied by the University of Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum and are owned by a charitable trust for all to enjoy their architecture.
An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at N here

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Manchester Marriage

Don't you just love it when visiting a place you happen upon a marriage like I did with this one in Manchester.  They had chosen the Neo-Gothic magnificence of Manchester Town Hall to plight their troth. All the guests have boarded the motorised transport and all that is left is for the bride and groom to join them.
The photographs have all been taken including the 'kissing the bride', or in the pursuit of equality maybe it is 'kissing the groom'.
Now everyone is off to what is traditionally called the wedding breakfast, although as can be seen from the shadows the time is around 17.00. The bus is one of my all time favourites, a 1951 Leyland Royal Tiger and both it and the Guy Arab IV double decker shown in the first photo were restored by the expertise of Manchester's Walsh Brothers and are owned by Belle Vue Coaches
Manchester Town Hall was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1877 and has many notable sculptures.  I think the marriages take place in the Great Hall outside which on the floor are mosaic patterns of bees (symbolising industry). The other pieces of magnificence inside are Ford Madox Brown's Manchester Murals.  I didn't get a full on photograph of the Town Hall but happily the building featured  on one of the 2012 "A-Z of Britain" postage stamps
The 250 ft Clock Tower is occasionally opened to visit. The three clock faces seen from Albert Square in front of the Town Hall apparently bear the inscription "Teach us to number our Days" but it's too far away for my myopia.
 An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at M here

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Libraries Through the Lens

Squeezed in between more modern structures this little building caught my attention while in London at the weekend.  I wondered what it was, but not for long,  because the sign above the left door says "Public Library".  Looks very inviting doesn't it?  The architect was Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas (1868-1948) who was, as can be seen, a fan of the baroque revival style. Built at the beginning of the 20th Century it is one of the libraries funded by the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He rarely turned down requests for a grant to build a library , the only stipulation was that the local authority would fund its upkeep.  Large parts of the English speaking world have Carnegie Libraries, including my own town. If he was around today doing the same thing these buildings would be very functional but most that were built under his inspired idea to give access to books to all were places you could both learn and dream.   What other purpose could that cupola have but be one to dream under especially when it looks like this inside
This interior view is from The Greenwich Phantom's blog who marvels at the three domes in one building here and appropriately calls it a Greenwich Secret.  If I had known there was such an interior I would have made my way through that public library door to marvel.
Built on a rather grander scale is Liverpool's Central Library, the largest of the cities 22 libraries. It is located in the rows of classical buildings on William Brown Street and has recently been reopened after extensive interior refurbishment last year. I think the rotunda is the reading room but the entrance is the one with the umbrella tables on the left. How very civilized, you could sit and read your book there in the sunshine. The refurbishment also introduced a roof terrace where views of the city can be gained and a literary pavement into the building which can be seen on the BBC's 'In Pictures' views of the £50M restoration here. Always a joy to hear about restoration rather than closure of a library.
 Lastly we have Winchester Library which has been re-branded as the Winchester Discovery Centre, the photo taken at sunset when the exterior floodlights were coming on.  Located in a building that is a former Corn Exchange from 1838, like the other libraries I have shown it is a listed building, but unlike the others its one I have actually been inside.  It is both a lending and reference library but they also have a small art gallery on the top floor with a interesting exhibition programme,
Demco Interiors photograph
up those stairs. It also has a performance hall, shop and café;  lots of discovering time could be spent in here. 

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at L here.