26 June 2014

The Road to Wigan Pier

There is no pier in land-locked Wigan. At the heart of what was once mining country, Wigan was renowned for its industrial ugliness. The town's coal-loading staithe, upon the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, where tubs of coal were unloaded into barges, was known jocularly as Wigan Pier. 

The jetty is understood to have been demolished in 1929, before George Orwell's arrival, but the ironic name had already caught on. A reconstructed tippler (top) demonstrates how the coal tubs were emptied straight into the waiting barges. On the opposite side of the canal stands Gibson's cotton warehouse, built in 1777, and converted in 1984 into The Orwell pub.

Facing this across the canal is Trencherfield Mill, a cotton spinning mill, built with an iron and steel frame in 1907 for William Woods & Sons Ltd, the second mill on the site. This became part of Courtaulds in 1964.

The Grade II-listed building has been converted into offices and apartments, largely empty, but such that many architectural details have been preserved (above).

Wigan Dry Dock is believed to date from c.1888, constructed as part of the adjacent boatyard, and still in use. The canopy is likely of the mid-twentieth century.

Close to Wigan Pier, alongside the River Douglas, are Eckersley's Western Mills. There are three mills here, designed by A.H. Stott for Farington, Eckersley & Co., and built between 1884 and 1900. Eckersley was at the time the largest ring spinner in Britain.

Much of the complex of spinning blocks, engine houses and their chimneys, winding rooms, weaving sheds and warehouses is derelict, although home to a roller rink and kart circuit.

03 June 2014

ShACC Attack

As one might expect, there were a number of uncommon vehicles on show at the Whittington Castle open evening of the Shropshire Alternative Car Club (ShACC), which majors on kit and one-off vehicles. The Lomax kit car, based on Citro├źn 2CV mechanicals, was created in 1982. Its current incarnation is made by Cradley Motor Works, of St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

KBC 122K is a 1972 Porsche 914. Built in collaboration with Volkswagen between 1969 and 1976, the 914 boasted a 1.7 litre flat four in its VW guise, and a two litre flat six in its Porsche guise. In the United States, other than California, both were sold badged as Porsches.

TDG 602 is an Austin Nash Metropolitan. Nash was an American manufacturer, but determined that tooling costs would be too high to build the Metropolitan in the States. The car was thus built in Europe, although initially sold only in North America. UK-based manufacture was undertaken by Fisher & Ludlow (bodywork) and Austin (mechanicals and assembly).