The Co-op – good for architecture

CWS Leman StreetWhen in London last weekend to take yet more industrial architecture photos for the forthcoming (when I’ve written a bit more) book, I chanced to be on Leman Street, in that peculiar bit of the capital running south from Aldgate East station. Pevsner points out the wonderful CWS buildings, and is absolutely right, it is a veritable co-op canyon, with massive warehouses-cum-offices on both sides. The most eye-catching are the towered corner building of 1885-7 at the south end, by CWS architect JF Goodey, and opposite (and best of all) a refugee from Amsterdam, the massive and very bricky offices of 1930-3 by CWS architect LG Ekins (see left). Fabulous brickwork detailing. Ekins is usually said to have been the CWS architect during 1916-45, but he worked for the Society at Dunston (Gateshead) a little earlier, so I presume he was the CWS head architect from 1916 and in their department before that. We know the names of several CWS architects but little else about them, mostly I guess due to their archives having been destroyed. A researcher in Rochdale is doing a dissertation on some aspects of CWS architecture, but it would definitely be worth a whole book. They were early adopters of reinforced concrete and their buildings – if one includes factories, offices and shops – have played a part in townscapes throughout Britain. Think of the enormous Scottish Co-op offices in Glasgow, on the south bank in Morrison Street, almost under the M8 – it is Leeds Town Hall-like in scale. Anyway, back to work…..

And the tallest chimney is?

Tulketh MillSeems, initially, an easy question to answer: which is the tallest surviving 19C industrial chimney in the country? OK, so which country, and mills or chemical works, and brick/stone, and circular/octagonal/square cross-section; so many combinations. We could have the tallest brick octagonal mill chimney in England – so that’s the one at Shaddon Mill (1836) in Carlisle, now 270ft but originally 305ft. At first this was not the tallest in England when built, as is often quoted, although it did become such (if you see what I mean) when the Adams soap works chimney (1836) in Smethwick was truncated. As for the ultimate tallest in England, that’s the chimney at India Mills (1867) in Darwen, a polychromatic brick square cross-section monster of 289ft (11ft reduced from its original height). This just beats, by 6ft2in, the sublime Cox’s Stack (1865) at the Camperdown Works in Dundee, which remains just as it was built. Curious that the real mega-chimneys at Glasgow chemical plants, Tennant’s Stalk (1842, 435ft6in) at St Rollox and Townsend’s at Port Dundas (1859, 454ft), both brick with circular cross-section, have gone but the more decorative polychromatic stacks remain. But I’m still delving into the world of chimneys, so don’t take all this as the last word! The pic is of Tulketh Mill (1905) in Preston, with its brick chimney (231ft, now reduced to 180ft) used to advertise a firm of steeplejacks. By the way, if you are wondering about the lack of metric measurement, they were built in feet, so they stay that way for the moment. Hope to see the Darwen stack for myself soonish. Happy New Year everyone.