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 four genuine colour AD65s - three 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.