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.

03 July 2018

I, Ekco Robot

At 21" high, the AC97 is Ekco's tallest Bakelite-cased radio. It is also the company's most strikingly Art Deco cabinet design, which lies behind one of its colloquial names - the Robot. The set provided for MW and LW reception, tuning assisted by the central Mullard TV4 'magic eye' valve, which indicates signal strength - and provides the set's other nickname, the Cyclops.

The cabinet was designed in 1936 by Jesse Collins, elected a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists in 1945. In the same year Collins founded Britain's first true course in graphic design, at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London. The set was available in two colours of Bakelite: the pictured walnut, and black (with ivory-coloured urea formaldehyde trim and knobs).

28 June 2018


A cross between a shed and a day-bed, the shed-bed is part of a wider fire-pit and decking project, dryly stands in a rain shadow. It was constructed from four eight-foot fence posts, each pair joined by lower and upper stretchers, the resultant side frames joined in the same fashion.

Battens along the inside of the long lower stretchers support thick slats. Trusses were formed at each end and the roof was planked-out, using reclaimed wood. The weatherboarding used to form the gables and the headboard was also reclaimed. Roofed with mineral felt and galvanised corrugated sheet, capped with ridging formed from scored and folded scrap aluminium sheet.

Mattress from Freegle; cheap bedding from pound shops. Candle holders made from scrap aluminium; string of LED 'bulbs,' powered by a hidden solar panel, from a pound shop. Integral 'bedside tables;' storage beneath the shed-bed for firewood for the adjoining fire-pit.

12 May 2018

Green Citadel, Magdeburg

The pink Green Citadel, so-named for the wildflower meadows and trees on its roofs, was the final architectural work of Viennese artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It is home to 55 individually-designed apartments, an hotel, offices, shops, cafés, a 200-seat theatre, medical practices, and a kindergarten.

Its striking Gaudí-meets-Williams-Ellis style marks it out very distinctly from the Baroque buildings that surround it, and from the Communist-era rational architecture that dominates residential Magdeburg.

The Housing Association of the City of Magdeburg commissioned Hundertwasser in 1998 to refurbish the prefabricated concrete high-rise that used to occupy the site. The scheme was abandoned in favour of a new build, and ground was broken in December 2003, three years after the architect's death. The plans, sketches and scale models had, however, all been completed, and the complex opened to the public in October 2005, at a build cost of circa €27million.

Hundertwasser developed a manifesto in which he stated: "Architecture [must be] true to nature and humans." The residential leases grant a 'window right': "A resident must have the right to lean out of his window and to refinish everything within arm’s reach on the outer wall, so that people can see from afar, 'A free man lives there'; [and] may refinish the outer wall of his apartment around the window in a creative and original way ..."

11 May 2018

Dessau - Kornhaus

The Kornhaus was commissioned jointly by the City of Dessau and Schultheiss-Patzenhofer, a brewery. Built on the banks of the River Elbe, the name was taken from a granary that once stood on the site. The competition was won by Hannes Meyer (second director of the Bauhaus), but the commission was ultimately granted to Carl Fieger, for cost reasons.

Construction, in 1930, utilised a reinforced concrete frame, with rendered brick walls. Downstairs, in the basement, was a bar. Upstairs was a dance hall and restaurant. The semi-circular section was originally to be an open balcony, but was glassed-in mid-construction. There are echoes of the design in Ove Arup's Labworth Café, on Canvey Island, built 1933. The Kornhaus was renovated in 1996.

10 May 2018

Dessau - Bauhaus

Bauhaus, meaning 'building house,' is not a style. It was a school of art, with three incarnations: the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar (1919-1925), Bauhaus Dessau - School of Design (1925-1932, architecture department founded 1927), and the Freies Lehr- und Forschungsinstitut, Berlin (1932-1933). And it is a piece of Modernist architecture, the Bauhaus Building. Walter Gropius both founded the school and designed the Dessau building - along with the Masters' Houses and the Törten Estate.

The moves resulted from pressure from right-wing politicians. The school of design was ultimately closed by the Nazis. What remains is Gropius' building, which when constructed stood alone, surrounded by green lawns. Reinforced concrete, rendered brickwork and expanses of glass are now commonplace, but when the Bauhaus was built in 1925/26 the architecture was revolutionary.

The building was home to both the school of design and Dessau's municipal vocational school. There are three wings: the four storey workshop wing, the studio building, and the north wing. Many of the fixtures and fittings were designed by masters and students of the school of design. Gropius designed the door handles.

The workshop wing presents the three storey glass curtain wall, and Herbert Bayer's capital lettering, for which the Bauhaus is visually famous. In March 1945 an incendiary bomb destroyed much of the curtain wall. After various temporary fixes, this was replaced in 1976, in aluminium and set flush to the floors, rather than in steel and with a space between the curtain wall and the floors, as built.

The studio building was a hall of residence, 28 student rooms over four storeys. Fitted furniture and a washbasin made these rooms luxurious for the time. In 1930 Mies van der Rohe, the last of the three directors, had some of the studios combined to form classrooms. The original furniture is gone, but it is possible to stay in the renovated student rooms.

A two storey bridge (photos three and six) links the studio building to the north wing, and at each end gives onto the wide staircases that serve each 'half' of the whole building. The north wing, occupied by the vocational school, was of a more conservative design, but enlivened by the bright blue, red and yellow paint used throughout the complex. The colour design was by the then head of the wall-painting workshop, Hinnerk Scheper.

After closure of the school of design in 1932 - the vocational school remained - the Dessau building was used by Junkers and the armaments minister, Albert Speer. After WWII the building was employed as a hospital and then as a school. Since German reunification in 1994 the building has housed the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. It underwent extensive renovation from 1996 to 2006.

08 April 2018

April Fools' Car Show 2018

The sixth running of the April Fools' Car Show was held at Whittington Castle. The castle, portions of which date from the twelfth century, is the only one in Britain cared for and operated by a private trust of volunteers. The event, sponsored by Oswestry Classic Car Garage, hosted over 110 vehicles - the largest show yet.

As in prior years, the show attracted a number of rare and unusual vehicles, including a BSA Scout coupé de luxe (above), and Norman Crisp's 'Reaper' campervan, based on a hearse and complete with a working kitchen in the pull-out casket - as featured on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

Third place went to Matt Potts' Mirage GT, production of which is planned to be brought to the Oswestry/Wrexham area. Vic Morris scooped second place with his fine Ford Model A of 1929. The show winner was Steve Hazelwood, who collected the now traditional handmade trophy for his immaculate 1961 Vauxhall Cresta (above).

04 March 2018

Karan Anne Porter

Thursday 4 March 1965 to Wednesday 4 February 2009.
Photograph: Berwick-upon-Tweed, September 1991.

28 February 2018

Modern Leaded Lights

Leaded lights are commonly seen as an art only of the past. Indeed, the vast majority of the work undertaken by Jonathan Lill, owner of Harlequin Leaded Lights, of Oswestry, is restoration of old lights. Just two or three projects per year are new work. One such is a light to mark the anniversary of YMGW and partner - conjoined initials and a Roman X, signifying ten years. Leaded lights are formed of small pieces of stained (as in this case) or painted glass, supported by lead cames joined together with a mixture of tallow and tin solder. Tin is the traditional tenth anniversary gift.

12 February 2018

St Joseph's, Wigan

The current incarnation of St Joseph's was designed by George Goldie, who specialised in Roman Catholic churches. He was of Mssrs. Goldie and Child, of Kensington, London.

The construction contract was awarded to Mr J. Wilson, of Wigan. The foundation stone was laid in 1877, and the church completed in 1878. It opened on 30 June of that year. Music hall star George Formby, denizen of Wigan, attended here, perhaps admired the windows.

The church was de-consecrated and sold in 1995. Planning permission was granted in 2014 for conversion into an indoor rock climbing facility, but the building remains derelict. The only holy ghost now in residence is in the form of hundreds of pigeons.

06 February 2018

Holy Trinity, Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Church of the Holy Trinity, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, is a glorious architectural oddity. It was designed by its first priest, Father James Egan, and built 1833-34. The style is Gothic, common for the period, but it is the materials used that are unusual.

Following an offer from a local brick maker of all the bricks that might be required, Egan undertook the design work, right down to the moulds for the shaped bricks. The façade is constructed of Staffordshire blue vitrified brick, made from the local Etruria marl. As is the case for all engineering bricks, Staffordshire blues are fired with limited oxygen, which produces a hard brick with a high resistance to water penetration.

There are tiers of blind arcading, moulded bricks, embossed bricks, and bricks laid in diaper formation. On completion, the church was described as "the finest modern specimen of ornamental brickwork in the kingdom" (White's Directory of Staffordshire, 1834). First listed in 1949, the church now boasts Grade II* listed status.