Manchester’s Victoria Baths

Wednesday, July 27th 2016

Manchester is always a fascinating city with plenty to fascinate the visitor, especially such as we who have an interest in history and architecture. For today’s trip we had a particular goal in mind, as the title indicates.

For trips like this where we travel by train, we make use of our railcard which gives us a third off the normal ticket price. It is called the Two Together Railcard and, as the name suggests, you have to travel together in order to qualify for the reduced price. On weekdays, the card is valid on journeys after 9:30 am but at weekends and on bank holidays, you can travel as early as you like.

Joshua Hoyle & Sons Warehouse
Joshua Hoyle & Sons Warehouse

Because today is Wednesday and we travelled after 9:30, we were a little pushed for time and so we set out for our main destination as soon as the train reached Manchester Piccadilly Station. Even so, we could not ignore the historic and often beautiful buildings that we encountered along the way and often stopped to admire and photograph them. Above is a very large but handsome warehouse that still proudly bears the name of the firm that owned it, Joshua Hoyle & Son, traders in cotton goods. Designed by Charles Heathcote & Sons and built in 1904, it now has a deserved Grade II listing. These days the building houses the Malmaison Hotel and Smoak restaurant.

The Old Fire and Police Station
The Old Fire and Police Station

This building – or I should say, façade – was already hard enough to photograph because of its size. Even taking it at an angle, it was necessary to stitch several photos together. Even so, the joke was on me because I discovered only later that this ‘building’ is in fact only a part of the whole complex. The complete design is a triangle, so there are two other façades that I didn’t see and photograph! A creation of architects Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham, it was built 1901-6, though the inscription ‘ERECTED ANNO DOMINI MDCCCCV’ suggests a completion date of 1905. This Grade ii* listed building is referred to as the Fire and Police Station but it in fact included a number of other services as well, including an ambulance station, a bank, a coroner’s court and a gas-metre testing station. (They don’t do things by halves in Manchester!) Perhaps on another visit I will manage to photograph the other façades and complete the set.

Plymouth Grove Primary School
Plymouth Grove Primary School

This is a local primary school and it opened in 1906. Apparently, classes were originally divided by floor, with Infants on the ground floor, Girls on the first floor and Boys on the second. More information about the school, and its recent addition, together with reminiscences and photos of past times, see the article Plymouth Grove Primary School on the Longsight Memories Website.

Victoria Baths
Victoria Baths

Despite these various distractions we eventually arrived at our destination, the magnificent Victoria Baths. In the late Victorian period, personal hygiene came to be seen as an important social, as well as individual, concern. The homes of poorer people, and even those of the more affluent classes, were not provided with bathrooms. Local councils began to build bathing and laundry facilities for the use of citizens to promote good health and also for reasons of civic pride.

Victoria Baths
Victoria Baths

Manchester responded to this need by building the magnificent Victoria Baths. Few other towns produced baths even approaching the beauty of these. We arrived during a sunny interval and were able to photograph the building as it shone in all its glory.

The baths were designed by the city surveyor, T. de Courcy Meade and opened in 1906. They continued in use until 1993 when they finally closed. Efforts are now being made to secure funds to restore the baths to their original glory and this worthy project has made a promising start. For more information, see the Victoria Baths Website and this Wikipedia article.

Females' Entrance
Females’ Entrance

Though cleanliness and the means to achieve it were for all, class consciousness still played an important part in the design and running of the baths. It seems that women were less concerned about class than the men because there is only a single entrance for ‘females’ and a single pool for them to use. Not so, for the males, however.

Males 2nd Class Entrance
Males 2nd Class Entrance

Male bathers were divided by the simple stratagem of levying two entrance charges. This is the entrance for ‘Males 2nd Class’. Men entering here paid 2d (two old pence) and were given access to the smaller of the two male pools. Also, the cubicles in which they changed lacked doors.

Males 1st Class Entrance
Males 1st Class Entrancee

The entrance for ‘Males 1st Class’ is no different in appearance from that for the 2nd class but admission here cost 4d (four old pence). The pool was larger and was later also known as the Gala Pool and was used for swimming events and competitions. The cubicles here were provided with doors.

Later on, the strict segregation of the sexes was relaxed on Sunday mornings when mixed bathing was allowed so that families could enjoy the facilities together.

Entrance to the Superintendent's Flat
Entrance to the Superintendent’s Flat

While admiring the elaborate façade, you might easily miss this discreet entrance. It is not for the public but gives access to the private apartment of the Superintendent of the Baths. This role was a prestigious one and the size of the flat and its position on the top floor reflect this.

Entrance Hall and Turnstile
Entrance Hall and Turnstile

We arrived before the official opening time but were allowed to come in and wait. We were admitted by the old 1st Class Males’ entrance and found the ticket booth and turnstile still in place. Notice too the beautiful tiling and the high-quality stained glass.

The Sports Hall
The Sports Hall

There was to be a guided tour of the baths but in the meantime we were admitted to the Sports Hall which can be hired for events. (I think the balloons were left over from a birthday celebration.) There is also a cafe in this hall.

The building can be hired for various purposes as a reasonable way of earning money for the restoration. In our case it was slightly unfortunate that several locations were being used for rehearsals by a dance group and as they were juveniles, we were asked not to take photos in areas where they were present. This cramped our style somewhat.

The Females' Pool
The Females’ Pool

This is the pool that was used by female customers. You can see how the glass roof provides plenty of natural light. The railings on the upper level are original but those around the pool are temporary ones, necessary to prevent people from falling into the empty pool. As is standard, the floor of the pool slopes so that there is is shallow end and a deep end, the latter being 6 feet (approx. 1.8 metre) deep.

One of the Stairways
One of the Stairways

Natural light is used wherever possible though, inevitably, some areas are darker than others. The green tiling appears everywhere and is both ornamental and easy to clean. Great attention has been paid to the layout of all areas and all features, such as stairs and doorways, are well proportioned and aesthetically pleasing.

Tiling and Mosaic Flooring
Tiling and Mosaic Flooring

The floors are made of mosaic which is easy to clean but can also be worked in beautiful and appropriate patterns and pictures. In this passageway, the floor motif is fish.

Mosaic Fish Motif
Mosaic Fish Motif

One of the more remarkable features of the Victoria Baths is the amount of stained glass. This is to be found everywhere on both external and internal windows and screens. I have collected some of these and present them as two slideshows below:

Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Some of the glass windows and screens represent sporting activities while others show flowers or imaginary scenes and figures. It was then, as it is now, unusual to find so much stained glass and of such quality outside religious buildings. Perhaps the intention was to convey the message that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ but I also think that beauty was an end itself.

Part of the Turkish Baths
Part of the Turkish Baths

The establishment also included a full set of Turkish Baths, complete with hot and cold and cooling-off rooms. Here, as throughout, the same attention to detail and to aesthetic concerns is to be seen.

Chimney and Water Tanks
Chimney and Water Tanks

On leaving, we went into the yard and had a look at the tall chimney for the boiler house and the big water tanks. When the baths closed in 1993, everything was left less more or less as it was and the hope, therefore, is that a full restoration can be achieved to bring these magnificent baths beck into operation and to be once more a venue and facility of which the people of Manchester can be truly proud.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Holland Park

Tuesday, July 26th 2016

Thought of Train of Thought
Thought of Train of Thought
Ron Arad

We started today’s outing at St Pancras Station where we went in search of breakfast. We found this on the terrace of Carluccio’s restaurant, a vantage point from which we had a good view of the latest artwork to occupy the site known as the Terrace Wires. This is a large, highly reflective metal object bearing what I think is the somewhat awkward name, Thought of Train of Thought. By Rob Arad, it has the important feature that it rotates about its horizontal axis, something that cannot be shown in still photos. The video on this page contains sequences showing the object rotating. It is certainly an eye-catching object though it keeps reminding me of a fish with the head and tail cut off.

After breakfast we set off for our main destination, a famous and beautiful park in a Royal London borough.

Holland Park lies within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and its history goes back to the early 17th century when Sir Walter Cope, who owned the four manors of Kensington, built a grand house that was called Cope’s Castle. House and grounds later came into the possession of the 1st Earl of Holland and his descendants and accordingly took the Holland name.

When the owners sold off parts of the grounds for house building, the name ‘Holland Park’ expanded to include the whole neighbourhood, as it still does today when it is regarded as a desirable residential area for those who can afford to live there.

During WWII, the house was bombed and left in a ruinous condition. In 1952 the London County Council bought the estate from the then owner, the Earl of Ilchester, and turned it into a public park. Enough of the original buildings remain to provide amenities such as the Holland Park Theatre, home of the Opera Holland Park, the Belvedere Restaurant, an art gallery and the Orangery, a venue for events and functions. Parts of the grounds are set aside for football, cricket and tennis. For many visitors, including ourselves, the park is mainly a beautiful environment in which to stroll, admire the scenery and perhaps take tea in the park cafe.

Gate, Holland Park
Gate, Holland Park

We took a bus to the Kensington High Street entrance of Holland Park where this fine gate stands. We, the public, do not enter by the gate, of course, but sneak in through the smaller doorways on either side.

Sun Worshipper
Sun Worshipper
Jacob Epstein, c.1910

We first went to the park cafe for a cup of tea. This is the only park cafe I know that has valuable works of art on display. This one, by Jacob Epstein, is known as the Sun Worshipper, though the sculptor himself never gave it a name. It was made around 1910, probably as part of a joint project with sculptor Eric Gill to create a temple in the latter’s garden, a project that failed for lack of money.

The Maid
The Maid
Eric Gill, 1911-2

Also in the cafe is a companion piece by Eric Gill, called The Maid, also intended for the temple. (This photo was in fact taken on a previous visit to Holland Park – see Breakfast, then a walk in the park.)

Boy with Bear Cubs
Boy with Bear Cubs
John Macallen Swan

There are also sculptures in the grounds of the park. This one, by John Macallen Swan (1846-1910), is entitled Boy with Bear Cubs and bears the inscription ‘LENT BY THE TRUSTEES OF THE TATE GALLERY’. It is not known when it was made but it was first exhibited in 1902.

The Formal Garden aka The Dutch Garden
The Formal Garden aka The Dutch Garden

Within the grounds there are formal gardens and more natural areas. This enclosed space with its geometrical flower beds providing a blaze of colour is known both as The Formal Garden and The Dutch Garden. In the midst is a sculpture of Milo of Croton, the legendary strong man who came to an unfortunate end as a result of trying his strength on an oak tree. I didn’t photograph him this time but you will find a picture and the story at the end of Breakfast, then a walk in the park. (Sculptor unknown.)

The Belvedere
The Belvedere

The building, decorated with a colonnade is now known as the Belvedere and houses a restaurant of the same name. In the 17th century, this would have been the stables but in the 19th it was converted into the Summer Ballroom. One can now only imagine the glittering events of which it would then have been the elegant venue.

Annunciation
Annunciation
Andrew Burton, unveiled 2004

This curious, if intriguing, piece of art is by Andrew Burton and is entitled Annunciation. It is made of bronze and pieces of African granite and is therefore very heavy. Setting it up must have been quite challenging. It was unveiled in 2004.

Walking Man
Walking Man
Sean Henry, 1998

I have to say that the works of Sean Henry are more to my taste. While the Romans coloured their sculptures of famous persons, it is still fairly unusual for sculptures to be painted. Sean Henry colours his sculptured figures which then seem all the more lifelike. He portrays them in natural poses and it is the locations of the finished works that often gives them a sense of drama. The Walking Man walks, as though absorbed in thought, through the park. You can stand beside him, walk around him – even touch him – and observe him as closely as you wish. Though of ‘ordinary’ people with no pretensions of grandeur, Henry’s figures give you a sense of presence so that you half-expect the figure suddenly to break pose and walk away.

The Kyoto Garden
The Kyoto Garden

In the centre of the park is the Kyoto Garden with its lake and water fall. To quote the information panel:

The Kyoto Garden was constructed as part of the Japan Festival 1991 on the occasion of the centenary of the Japan Society in Britain. It was built by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the help of many Gardening Companies in Kyoto and was presented to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a gift to commemorate the long lasting friendship between Great Britain and Japan.

The Waterfall
The Waterfall

The waterfall feeds the lake but of course also has aesthetic and symbolic meaning:

The three-step waterfall symbolizes steep mountains and deep gorges, while the pond depicts a vast ocean view. In this way, the entire garden represents, in condensed form, the grandeur of natural landscape.

The Kyoto Garden pond
The Kyoto Garden pond

There are paths through the garden with a bridge over part of the pond, with lanterns and other decorative elements. The number of people present showed how attractive the garden is.

Some of the Koi Carp
Some of the Koi Carp

Not the least interesting feature was the large number of Koi carp in the pond. They were attracted to the people as much as the people were attracted to them and it was hard to get close enough to the water to take this photo.

Large Koi carp
Large Koi carp

The fish were unexpectedly large for such a relatively small pond. This individual in the above photo was over a foot (30 cm) long. Each had a different pattern and combination of colours. Koi were originally bred in Japan (koi is Japanese for ‘carp’) to add colour and decoration to garden ponds and lakes. These were certainly very striking and pretty.

The park is full of wildlife, including squirrels and birds of every kind, making it a wildlife oasis and refuge in the midst of a built-up area.

Peacock
Peacock

Peahens
Peahens

It also has its own fauna which include an avian species that has long been a favourite in the grounds of great houses, the peacock. These peafowl seemed quite comfortable with the crowds of admirers. The cock, with his resplendent blue robe was taking his ease and watching the passers-by like a monarch holding court. The hens nearby were grazing and were less concerned with the people. After all, this was their domain and would remain so when the human visitors had all departed.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Digbeth: street art and some other bits

Saturday, July 23rd 2016

Digbeth is an area of central Birmingham which we have visited before – see Chilly in Birmingham. it is an area in transition. Once heavily industrial, it is now being redeveloped with apartment blocks and shops replacing the old factories and workshops. Many properties stand empty, some in a ruinous state, and this lends a desolate air to some parts but I have no doubt that it will rise up and take on new life. In the meantime, it has proved a fertile area for street artists with new works appearing regularly.

SUKI 10C
SUKI 10C

I always photograph this building when I come to Digbeth. Perhaps this is because in the back of my mind the thought occurs that the paintings might have changed in the meantime but I don’t think they have. This building, once a pub and now a music venue and night spot called SUKI 10C, is symbolic of the changes occurring in Digbeth. From being virtually derelict, it has been refurbished and embarked on a lively new career. (See the SUKI 10C Website.)

Unsigned street art
Street art in Floodgate Street
Unsigned

We rambled around those parts of Digbeth where we expected to find plenty of street art. I will admit to being a bit choosy and to photographing only those works that I like or think have some merit. I am posting some of those I ‘collected’ and hope you find them interesting. Sometimes, the artist has signed a painting or I recognize a particular artist’s style. Where this is the case, I will note the name and provide a link to that artist in my page Street Artists; otherwise I will mark it ‘unsigned’ (as above).

Work by JimmyC
JimmyC

The railway line crosses Floodgate Street by a bridge and in the cave-like arches beneath it there are paintings to be found. The one above is immediately recognizable as work by JimmyC but in any case the artist has signed it.

Art by My Dog Sighs
My Dog Sighs

Still in Floodgate Street, if we had felt we were being watched it wouldn’t have been surprising because, on a wall, was a giant pair of eyes! Not only are the eyes very realistic but the pupils reflect the scene that the artist imagines the eyes are looking at. The work is signed by My Dog Sighs and if you look at his various sites, you will see that he has a particular interest in eyes. (No, I don’t know that the oriental characters say and I’m even unsure what language they belong to.)

Unsigned art in Floodgate Street
Unsigned

This complex work of art on what looks like an old entrance to a building or yard, is unsigned. Like many street artworks, it is difficult to photograph because of the cars and other vehicles that park along the kerb.

Art by N4T4
N4T4

The last work I visited in Floodgate Street (though there were probably more) was this one, a rather mysterious piece signed N4T4. The subject’s head is girt about by rings like those around the planet Saturn.

Unsigned art under the bridge
Unsigned

We then passed under the railways bridge, which also includes a bridge over the River Lea, and found the above amusing item. On one of the bridge piers, four radio receiver dishes have been installed. I have no idea what their purpose is but some witty artist has painted the wall behind them to turn them into the objective lenses of four telescopes, a visual pun.

Art by N4T4
N4T4

On emerging into Gibb Street, we found another painting by N4T4, even more complex than the previous one. The colours and the lighting give a luminous effect, though I do not know what the subject is.

Art by 0707
0707

Off Gibb Street is a square or open area at the foot of residential blocks where there are shops and cafes and also some passageways and corners where you might find street art. The slinky blonde above is by an artist new to me who has an entirely numerical name, 0707. The use of monochrome for the subject against a coloured background is an interesting technique.

Art by Sr. X
Sr. X

We almost missed this one painted on a wall beside a small supermarket away from the main area. It is by Sr. X and achieves its effect from the counterintuitive combination of an apparently happy domesticated couple with the violent implications of a petrol bomb that they are lighting. A very striking piece of imagery.

Old Custard Factory car park
Old Custard Factory car park

We next went to the large car park situated off High Street Deritend behind the old Bird’s Custard Factory. This is a happy area for street artists who not only paint the walls but have even managed to press the chimney into service! It’s always worth paying a call here to see whether there is anything new and there usually is.

Art by the Real Dill
The Real Dill

I ‘collected just a couple of items on this trip, firstly, this happy-looking skull, perhaps happy because he has recovered his eyes and tongue, by The Real Dill, and…

Unsigned art
Unsigned

…secondly, This monster occupying a corner and thereby seeming to be three-dimensional. I don’t know whether it is an imaginary bug or monster or perhaps a virus, but its sharp teeth suggest is it savage and dangerous though it has characteristics of cartoon figures. I say it is unsigned but it is possible I missed a signature tucked away in the far corner.

Art by Dank (Dan Kitchener)
Dan Kitchener

On the corner of Allison Sreet with the main road, at this point called simply Digbeth, we found this large mural by Dan Kitchener adorning the curved front of premises belonging to Apart’Hotel. Dan has become well known and travels widely. As well as practising street art, he also receives commissions from businesses for murals such as this one.

Digbeth Police Station
Digbeth Police Station

This is Digbeth Police Station, also on a corner of Allison Street. It is an imposing building with a prominent clock tower, a feature that I think is unusual in a police station. Not much seems to be known about this building beyond the fact that it dates from 1911 and was designed, not by a professional architect, but by the then city engineer, Henry Edward Stilgoe (1867-1943). In the early 20th century, many Irish immigrants came to live in Digbeth and the area was considered rough and difficult to police. In compensation, as it were, no few Irishmen joined the police and proved their worth in keeping the peace. The station still fulfils its original purpose.

Art by Annatomix
Annatomix

We found this portrait by Birmingham artist Annatomix in Dudley Street. I imagine everyone would now recognize the person depicted whether or not a  fan of his music and songs but, just in case not, the artist has added the name ‘BOWIE’. The painting has been tagged by some other person.

Shades of René Magritte
Shades of René Magritte

This object, set in a wall at the intersection of Hinckley Street and Dudley Street made me laugh. It reminded me of René Magritte and his famous painting subtitled Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe). (See here for more information.) And of course, I had to try it just to see: I pressed the flap but it didn’t move. It has presumably been immobilized.

Old Station Enrrance

GWR Coat of Arms
Old Station Entrance

We walked up Livery Street towards Snow Hill Station and there found the old Great Western Railway station entrance, now bricked up, sadly. What is now called Snow Hill opened as a GWR station in 1852, when I assume this entrance was made. Before eventually becoming known as Snow Hill, the station had several names, one of which was Livery Street Station. Over the door we can still see, finely modelled, GWR’s coat of arms. This was made by combining the coat of arms of London (with its motto DOMINE DIRIGE NOS) with that of Bristol (whose motto is VIRTUTE ET INDUSTRIA). The two halves of the shield display the shield elements of London and Bristol, respectively.

Botanical Locomotive
Botanical Locomotive, Snow Hill

We approached the station and found the forecourt decorated with a botanical locomotive, a pretty and amusing memento of the age of steam when the station came into being.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 2 Comments