A Sussex boiler house

Sussex boiler houseBack from the Association for Industrial Archaeology conference on the University of Sussex campus at Falmer, now just across the roaring A27 from the Brighton & Hove Albion ground. The sun shone, the Downs looked tempting – so here’s a photo of the University’s boiler house! The campus, designed by Basil Spence over a period of years, is fascinating. Two stand-out buildings are Falmer House, all arches and views through, and the Meeting House, a spectacular white concrete (I think) circular-ish building with masses of panes of coloured glass lighting the upper chapel. The rather less noticed boiler house is also a real success, an industrial take on the themes running through the campus, and reminiscent of Tate Modern in its brickwork. I hope the prospective students and their parents packing the campus for open day last Saturday enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks to all the conference organisers, and whoever arranged the barrel of Harveys Best in the bar!

Beers all round as Built to Brew wins AIA award!

Industrial Scene smallSometimes all the keyboard bashing seems worthwhile….. and so it was when I heard recently that Built to Brew had been given the Association for Industrial Archaeology’s 2015 Peter Neaverson Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Industrial Archaeology. (See details here: Peter Neaverson Award.) It’s a real honour, I’m delighted; thanks to all who were part of the project, especially my publishers (English Heritage) and editorial staff, and the Brewery History Society. I’ll be collecting the award at the AIA conference in Brighton on 5th September (see the award winners). Meanwhile, any ideas on what this little watercolour sketch might be? Certainly industrial, and a bit brewery-like, but maybe an invented scene.

Jennymount’s Gentlemen

Jennymount2This is Jennymount Mill in north Belfast, or rather a small portion of it, the offices built in 1864 and the chimney behind, which I guess must be about 140 feet high (that’s about 43 metres). The linen mill itself is a complex collection of structures, but the main one is a very handsome tall block of 1891 by the architect John Lanyon. It has lovely bright red brickwork, with the round(-ish) headed windows set back in deep architraves, which broaden out – the brick courses step back – as they near the top of the window; a curious and pleasing effect. Since I was there the day following Belfast’s worst ever June storm, which was still passing through, didn’t have long to look at the gentlemen’s head keystones looking back at me from the old office. It seems they are famous names including Wordsworth, Columbus and Newton; not sure what they’ve ever done for the linen industry but one gets the idea of reflected glory. Belfast was enjoyable but windy; the scale of the structures around the docks is huge, particularly the graving dock where Titanic was fitted out. Having been at Hilden, near Lisburn, to see another mill the previous morning, only fitting I should have a pint of Hilden Brewery beer in the evening, so I chose Barney’s Brew, a wheat beer named after Bernard Hughes who built an enormous flour mill in Belfast. Excellent.

Brick Heaven at Bursledon

Bursledon BrickworksThe text of Vic & Ed Industrial Architecture is coming along nicely, about half done now, and I’m just taking the very last photos for the 150 or so illustrations. Last week visited the former Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield, all redeveloped but still retaining an industrial feel with some pretty polychromatic brickwork which looked good in the sunshine. Slightly further afield was the really splendid Bursledon Brickworks in Hampshire, probably the last steam-driven brickworks in the world. If you are anywhere near (or even if not) this is truly worth a detour; you can get there by train and foot/bus from London in a little over two hours, so it is not exactly remote. The most attractive part visually is the old two-storey drying shed (see pic) where the bricks were laid to dry, but the kilns are great too, and there’s a huge display of bricks and terracotta, including some glazed terracotta from one of Portsmouth’s old pubs. Good day out, complete with tea shop and excellent cakes, what more could one ask!

Britannia in Bedford

Bedford gatewayCurrently working on the third chapter of the Vic & Ed industrial architecture book, which concerns engineering works. Coincidentally made trip to London (on day of eclipse, which in London was totally eclipsed itself by fog) and thence to Bedford to photograph the old gateway of the Britannia Works, one of several huge engineering works that used to be in Bedford. Thanks to the street furniture – two lamp posts and one cycling sign in the space of about five yards – standing the gateway on its side is the clearest way to see it! I spent about twenty minutes marooned on a traffic island as Bedford’s phenomenal traffic whizzed around me, trying to get a decent shot. At least the sun shone, as it had done earlier in St Neots when I took Paine’s Mill, a wonderfully polychromatic former flour mill (well, a part thereof) dating from about 1907. Now housing, it is hidden away from the main street and quite a surprise when one comes across it amongst low-rise everyday terraces. Just like Monty Python’s ‘home is my castle’ at 35 Acacia Avenue, which was, of course, a castle….

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.

At the works and at work

Brush Works LoughboroughA big moment this week as I started working on, that is actually writing, my book on Vic & Ed industrial architecture. I’ve been having a fine time travelling around to obscure locations to take photos of some of our remaining factories and works, and also collecting archive images, often in the form of c1900 era postcards, like this one of the Brush Engineering Works in Loughborough. Any and all roof ridges were fair game for display of the company’s lengthy name. The old postcards and prints really help with visual evidence of what factories looked like; any remaining buildings have often been largely altered and simply don’t show the structures as the Victorians saw them. Factories are a really underestimated building type. By the way, a warm welcome to any readers who have arrived here from the Built for Brewing blog. The frequency of posts here will probably be less than one a week, but I hope to entertain with some good illustrations of our works and factory heritage, while plodding on with the text. Happy Christmas everyone!

A window into another world

Slessor windowHere’s another for the small collection of stained glass windows showing industrial scenes. It shows a Dundee jute factory with a mill girl – in fact Mary Slessor, who went on to be a missionary in Africa – along with a pretty correct depiction of the machinery, line shafting and all. It dates from 1923 and was designed by William Aikman as a memorial to Slessor; it can be found in the café at the McManus Gallery in Dundee. Great excuse to pop in for a coffee…. though I just paid a flying visit (almost literally) while in the city to take a photo of the massive and very wonderful Cox’s Stack out at the Camperdown Works. It is a polychromatic chimney which could be straight out of Rawlinson’s 1850s chimney design monograph. Now stands rather sadly in a ‘leisure park’ where various efforts have been made to copy its polychromy.

Tiger Works

Tiger WorksSpent a few hours at Kelham Island in Sheffield last week taking photos and noticed this curious little workshop (now a bar of course!) on West Street on the way back to town on the tram. It was at one time part of the Viners cutlery empire, so definitely a part of the Steel City’s cutlery heritage. But tigers? More like lions I think….. Off to see a couple of old paper mills down south later this week.