19 June 2013

Jeanne d'Arc, Rouen

The church of St Joan of Arc, completed in 1979, stands on the site of the Place du Vieux-Marché, Rouen, where ritual humiliations and executions were undertaken in the name of religion. Jeanne d'Arc was burned alive here in 1431 for 'heresy' - a cross outside the church supposedly marks the exact spot. It is speculated by some that Joan may have suffered from what we now know as severe migraine auras.

Louis Arretche designed the church to echo the shapes of a flaming pyre. Many early Christian churches were formed in the shape of an upturned boat, and Arretche's design reflects this too. The naval form chosen is that of a ship of the Vikings, who overran Rouen in the ninth century. The overlapping maritime and Christian theme is carried through to the nearby market halls, which resemble small overturned boats and gaping fish.

The exterior has overtones of Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, completed in 1954, with flourishes worthy of Antoni Gaudí. The glorious stained glass is from the church of St Vincent, largely destroyed during WWII, and the remains of which stand a few hundred yards away. The windows had been removed for safe-keeping.

12 June 2013

Bakelite Beast

Leo Baekeland invented the first true, i.e. fully synthetic, plastic in 1907. Ekco's first Bakelite radios were introduced in 1930 for the 1930/31 season, in the form of the models 312 and 313, designed by L. Smithers, both with separate loudspeakers. (Note: at that time, the wireless set industry worked in seasons, the models for the next season shown at autumn trade fairs. The industry's mostly women workers were hired at the end of summer, and fired around about Easter, each year.)

The U49 set was introduced by Ekco in 1947. This utilized the same cabinet as the August 1946 AC-only A23, but was instead AC/DC. It is an impressively large, and somewhat brutal, chunk of Bakelite, 22 inches long, 13 inches high, and 10 inches deep. This houses a chassis that provides for short-, medium-, and long-wave reception. There is also a channel for television sound, and a bank of five pre-set station buttons. The cabinet features on its front face, in Bakelite, Ekco's later logo. Original price £23.2s.0d plus purchase tax.

07 June 2013

Whalley - Ancient

Whalley Abbey was founded in 1296 by Cistercian monks from Stanlow Abbey, on the Mersey, and consecrated in 1306. The church, of which remain only the foundations, was completed in 1380, but the bulk of the abbey was not finished until the 1440s. Building continued right through to the 16th century, when Abbot Paslew built himself a luxurious lodging.

The abbey was dissolved in 1537, in which year Paslew was executed in connection with the Pilgrimage of Grace of the year before. The abbey lands were divided and sold in 1553. Richard Assheton bought the monastic buildings, demolished the abbot's house and infirmary, and built a country house. Whilst the church and remaining monastic buildings were largely pulled down in the 17th century, the country house remained, and was sold to the Church in 1923. It is now a retreat and conference venue.

Whalley - Modern

The Whalley Viaduct, of 49 arches, is the longest railway viaduct in Lancashire, 2,034 feet long and 70 feet above the River Calder. It was built between 1846 and 1850 for the Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway. The engineer, Terrence Wolfe Flanagan, filled the two arches closest to nearby Whalley Abbey with brick screens decorated in Gothic style. The viaduct contains over seven million bricks, and over 16,000 cubic yards of stone.