14 March 2019

Green Ekco AD65

Very nearly the holy grail. Four of Ekco's round radios of the 1930s and 1940s - not the AD75 - were available for special order in a variety of colours, the cabinet made of urea formaldehyde instead of the Bakelite used for the standard 'walnut' and black cases. As far as is known, there are three genuine colour A22s - two red and one 'onyx' green - and three genuine colour AD65s - two onyx green, and one ivory. All others are reproductions or fakes - Gerry Wells' wooden Wells Coated AD65s amongst the former, and a number of injection moulded A22s passed-off as genuine amongst the latter.

The very best reproductions are those made by Graham Rowe, in Brisbane, Australia. Using moulds taken from genuine sets, the cabinets are made from a thermoset polymer, a compound of stone, plaster, resin and acrylic. The fakes can be melted, whilst Rowe's cabinets are irreversibly hardened, under heat and pressure. To date, he has made five AD65s - two onyx green, one swirled red, and two ivory - and four A22s - two red and two onyx green.

The pictured set is one of Rowe's two onyx green AD65s. It has an original Ekco chassis, and an original Ekco station dial, replacing the reproduction one with which the cabinet was initially fitted. Naturally, the speaker cloth is modern, but a very close match to the original. The bars are made from polished aluminium. The back is from an original AD65, and replaces the original with which the cabinet was initially fitted, being in better condition.

The moulding is absolutely correct, down to the ribbing inside, and the swirled colour is spot on. Even the captive screw retainers are correct - made of brass, moulded into the cabinet, and of the correct thread to accept the 2BA (British Association) cheese head screws used to affix the back. Were it not for the absence of the stress cracks in the cabinet which characterise all genuine colour round Ekcos, it would be impossible to tell this set from the real thing.

04 March 2019

Forton Services, M6

Forton Services, now called Lancaster Services, between junctions 32 and 33, was the second service station to be opened on the M6 motorway, in November 1965 - the first being Charnock Richard. It is famous for its concrete hexagonal Pennine Tower.

In the cantilevered space, 74 feet across, was a restaurant and sun deck, looking out over Morecambe Bay and the Trough of Bowland. The site and tower were designed by T.P. Bennett and Son, responsible for much of the development of the new town of Crawley, West Sussex; and was originally operated by the Rank Organisation.

The structure, which emulates an air traffic control tower, stands beside the northbound carriageway, with an enclosed bridge linking it to the southbound. The tower closed in 1989, as the restaurant deck lacks a secondary exit in the event of emergency. Despite Grade II listing in October 2012 it stands rather forlorn. Indeed, the whole site looks very worn.

Poster copyright Steve Millership.

Karan Anne Porter

Thursday 4 March 1965 to Wednesday 4 February 2009.
Photograph: Roseberry Topping, Cleveland Way, September 1992.

01 March 2019

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower stands atop Beacon Hill, at 1,024 feet the second highest point in the Cotswolds. It was built as a 'Gothic' folly for Lady Coventry, wife of George William, the 6th Earl of Coventry, one of the great patrons of 18th-century estate landscaping. Completion was circa 1799.

The tower formed part of an overall  plan produced by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Brown recruited the architect James Wyatt, who was largely responsible for the design, Brown dying in 1784. Originally called Beacon Tower, the folly stands 65 feet tall. It comprises three storeys plus a rooftop terrace, from which it is possible to see 16 counties. The plan is an unusual one - a hexagon with round towers cut into three of the six angles.

Sir George's son John gave away the tower in 1819 to the neighbouring estate of Middle Hill, then recently inherited by the bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps. Phillipps moved in his printing press in 1822, to establish the Middle Hill Press, but neglected the structure. The tower was abandoned in 1864 and remained empty until 1872.

William Morris's friend Cormell Price leased it from 1876, and both Morris and Edward Burne-Jones frequented the tower as a retreat. It remained part of the Middle Hill estate until 1949, when it was offered to the National Trust as a gift, one which was declined. The tower was ultimately rescued by Anthony Wills, Baron Dulverton, who used his family's tobacco funds to restore it. With a second staircase inserted in another of the round towers, Broadway Tower opened to the public in 1975.

19 February 2019


Azulejos are Spanish and Portuguese ceramic tiles, painted and tin-glazed. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo, the National Tile Museum, in Lisbon, tells their history.

In both repeating patterns, and pictorial panels, azulejos are found both inside and outside very many Portuguese churches, palaces, and public buildings, on walls, floors, and even ceilings. They are not just ornamental, but in some cases provide for temperature control within homes.

Of Persian origin - azulejo is derived from the Arabic zellige, meaning polished stone - the form was introduced into the Iberian peninsula by the Moors. Manuel I introduced the tiles into Portugal following a visit to Seville in 1503.

Following the Moorish tradition of horror vacui, the Portuguese often completely covered walls with faience azulejos, in a variety of colours. The blue-and-white tiles now synonymous with Portuguese architecture were introduced in the second half of the 17th century, from Delft, the Netherlands.

15 December 2018

Putting on a Pedal-Stool

YMGW's partner's sister says "pedal-stool" in place of "pedestal," as in The IT Crowd. Yellow moulded breakfast bar stool salvaged from derelict building. Footrest cut off, leaving central section to enable attachment of pedals. Metalwork rubbed down, primed and sprayed with purple enamel. Pedals and connecting bar salvaged from redundant exerciser. Plastic 'bearing' ground down to interference fit within stub of footrest, and assembly held in place by rubber bungs and circlips. No parts or materials bought for project.

08 October 2018

Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight

Billy Butlin, a funfair entrepreneur - he introduced dodgems from the USA to the UK in 1923 - founded his eponymous holiday camp company in 1936, the first camp opening outside Skegness, the second at Clacton-on-Sea (1938). Over three decades nine camps were opened in the British Isles, including one in Mosney, Eire. During World War II the camps were taken over by the military, Skegness as HMS Royal Arthur. Indeed, Butlin completed the camp at Filey for Admiralty use, and built HMS Glendower at Pwllheli and HMS Scotia at Ayr specifically for military use, but to a pattern that enabled post-war use as holiday camps.

By 1948 Butlin's had six camps, which provided the destination for one in twenty of British holidaymakers. 1950 saw an unsuccessful foray abroad, with Butlin's building a resort on Grand Bahama, which soon folded. From 1953 the company expanded into hotels, in Blackpool, Brighton, and Margate. The company's heyday was the 1960s, with the opening of three more camps, at Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Barry Island. From 1966 it even operated the revolving Top of the Tower restaurant in London's Post Office Tower. Butlin had always been a man of firsts. Britain's first mono-rail was opened at the Skegness camp in 1965.

In the late 1960s Butlin's suffered from the growth in self-catering holidays. Billy Butlin retired in 1968 and Butlin's was sold to the Rank Organisation in 1972. In the 1980s decline was driven by cheap overseas holidays. Filey, Clacton, Mosney and Barry closed, and even the name disappeared - the camps became Holiday Worlds. Three of the original Butlin's camps, now called resorts, remain - Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Skegness. They returned to the Butlins name (now without an apostrophe) in 1996, and still retain redcoats, during the summer season, as hosts and entertainers. The holiday division of Rank was bought by Bourne Leisure in 2000.

11 July 2018

Kingsand, Rame Peninsula, Cornwall

The Maker with Rame Institute provides the iconic image of Kingsand, on the Rame peninsula. It is the third building on the site, at the head of Girt beach. The first was a pair of cottages, one of which was swept away in a storm in 1817, along with its wooden-legged occupant.

The replacement tenements were, in 1877, purchased to found an institute to provide a teetotal meeting, reading and educational facility for young men. This was later again used as a house and run as a tea shop. The last inhabitants moved out in 1910, and the building was demolished in 1912.

The drawings for the current building were prepared in July 1913, by architect Harold Hosking. The foundation stone was laid in November the same year. Although an integral part of the building, the clock tower was separately financed - £80 for the tower and £42 for the clock - to retrospectively commemorate the coronation of King George V (22 June 1911). The tower was completed in 1914, but WWI caused final completion of the building to be delayed until 1921.

The construction is of sandstone rubble, with limestone dressings. The Institute was Grade II-listed in 1987. The tower was seriously undermined by the storms of February 2014, but squeaked past demolition. The £600,000 restoration included the construction of protecting sea defences beneath the tower.