The go ahead has been given for turning the Lecture Room at the Arts & Crafts Church into a venue for the groups which make up Middleton Heritage. The first stage is to clear out and clean the room and Nick volunteered to organise this. We will then introduce chairs, a kitchenette, for cups of tea and coffee, and a large screen for speakers and films. Next year, there are plans for the Lecture Room to be fully restored through a conservation grant from the Edgar Wood and Middleton Heritage Initiative. The room, which was originally designed as a lecture room, will be made available for meetings, talks and functions in 2015/16.
Nick Baker is a student of Arts and Crafts and modern design and is an expert on Edgar Wood. His lecture on Saturday gave us an insight into the wider world of Arts and Crafts architecture and how Wood fitted into the bigger picture in the years 1887-99. It was a great talk, full of knowledge and ideas. As well as Wood, Nick talked about Voysey, Shaw, Baillie-Scott, MacLaren, Prior, Lutyens and Gimson – a roll call of great designers from that time. Presumably, his next talk will be about the period 1900 to 1914… let’s hope so!
At the AGM on Saturday 25th October, the Friends of the Edgar Wood Centre changed their name, after a year or so deliberating.
The use of the name Edgar Wood Centre for Long Street Methodist Church and School never really took off. There was also a bit of confusion between the Manchester Edgar Wood Centre and the one at Middleton.
So the name of the Friends has changed to the Edgar Wood Society, Middleton and the buildings will be known by their original name of Long Street Methodist Church and School, or the short-hand Arts & Crafts Church.
Now that’s much better!
Tonge Hall and Hopwood Hall have been added to the national Heritage at Risk Register, as well as Long Street Church. Click to read the MEN report
Three major buildings at risk for one medium sized town… it’s a bit much.
Yesterday was one of those special days…. With just a few hours notice, BBC Radio and TV turned up to film the church and school. Why? Because English Heritage has just added the Long Street buildings to the national Heritage at Risk register, which is updated and published every year.
First off, was BBC Radio Manchester and the Allan Beswick morning show – we were on towards the end and at 8.30am a presenter and radio technician came knocking at our door. Nick, David, Nick (from the Council) and Tim (from English Heritage) were there to welcome them and quickly show them around. Michelle, the presenter decided to have a live description from the Lecture Room looking into the garden and then a walk into the church via the vestry. We were all very nervous but they quickly put us at ease and it was a great experience being with such professional media people.
Having relaxed from our radio experience, TV came knocking at our door at 11am with Mark Edwardson, the NW Tonight presenter and cameraman. They wanted to do a slot for NW Today at lunchtime and a longer slot for the early evening NW Tonight. Again, we all gave them a tour round and they quickly got up to speed. They chose the corner of the School Hall stage for the shorter NW Today shoot as there is a good bit a grot there! As this was not live, they did three takes and then disapeared to edit and upload the film, while we had a sandwich or two.
By now, Mair from English Heritage had replaced Tim and it was decided that three of us would be interviewed for the NW Tonight shoot. However, when setting up on the Hall balcony, Mark, the cameraman, got a large carbon fibre spinter in his finger from his tripod. This requires hospital A&E treatment so he had to go off imediately leaving Mark the presenter having to do the whole thing on his own, with a small backup camera he had in his car.
We now experienced BBC professionalism at its best as Mark Edwardson worked out a new 1 minute 45 second shoot in his head and then set-to using his little camera and a tripod. All the professional tricks came out – off-camera interviewing of Mair and Nick, Mark speaking to the camera on the tripod (he did six takes of the introduction in front of the crumbling wall of the stage), distant shots in the garden of David and Nick and a walk past with David, all blended together with stills of the building and its materials. It was a tour de force of improvisation.
It runs from October to January next year.
Great news for Middleton’s heritage – the Government and English Heritage have listed the Independent Labour Party Club on Milton Street as Grade II. This followed the submission of a scheme to convert it into flats. The listing specifically protects the inside as well as the outside of the building as being of special historic and architectural interest.
Another building of Midddleton’s Golden Cluster receives official recognition. We look forward to sensitive proposals to secure its future for the long term.
Here are the English Heritage listing documents, hot off the press…
Golden Cluster Month has had another successful year with hundreds of people enjoying four heritage buildings open to the public and various events laid on.
Things were brought to a close by Middleton Heritage Film Group’s ‘Enlightenment Middleton’ film, directed by Anthony Dolan. Over 80 people came to the premiere. This is a great documentary which brings to life Enlightenment heroes, Ashton Lever, George Cayley and Sam Bamford and Middleton’s unique Palladian house, Alkrington Hall. The film will shortly be uploaded to YouTube… we’ll let you know when it does.
Many thanks to all who made September ‘golden’ for Middleton’s heritage!
A new social enterprise may be formed to help save Edgar Wood’s Arts & Crafts Church at Long Street.
Christine Grime, Lee Wolf, Nick Baker and David Morris, two Middletonians and two ‘Wood-ies’ from further afield, have temporarily called it Arts & Crafts Awakening while they consult local people and visitors on the best way forward.
For years many have been almost ‘asleep’ to how special Edgar Wood’s buildings make Middleton. Arts & Crafts Awakening refers to Middletonians now ‘waking up’ to their wonderful Arts & Crafts heritage, not least to secure the future of Long Street Methodist Church and School, the finest in England.
What does the future hold for this Arts & Craft Church? If you have more time, let us know what you think by completing this short survey .
Middleton Heritage Film Group have worked all year on their fourth film about Middleton’s impressive heritage. Don’t miss the premiere coming up next Tuesday! Admission is free, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery funded Edgar Wood and Middleton Heritage Initiative.
Enlightenment Middleton covers the area’s history of the 1700s and early 1800s. You will be surprised about the Middleton people of that time and what they achieved, a few of them gaining national and international fame for their outstanding lives.
Middleton’s Milton Street Family Centre was closed and sold a few years ago but not before it was lovingly restored by Middleton Township and Rochdale Council’s building repairs team.
New owners want to convert it into ten flats, something which would destroy the interior spaces, replace the lovely windows and install rooflights into the prominent Westmorland slate roof facing the road. The planning application is being considered by Rochdale Council planners and public comments can be seen and made here (the plans can be viewed also). Rochdale Council Conservation section comments have yet to be posted online.
The family centre was for a long time a nursery and before that it was Middleton’s Independent Labour Party Club House and HQ, built in 1912. Furthermore, it was designed by Edgar Wood in a very early Art Deco style. It is completely unique in England and an important monument to the growth of the Labour Movement in Middleton and Manchester. Here is an expert report on the building carried out by the Middleton Edgar Wood project Independent Labour Party Clubhouse, Middleton HBR aug 2014
We all want to see this fantastic monument in the conservation area reused but the current proposals need modifying to prevent irreversible harm to part of Middleton’s unique Golden Cluster of heritage buildings.
This was a day trip organised by the Friends of The Edgar Wood Centre in Middleton to see some Arts & Crafts highlights. We all met at the Arts and Crafts Church and boarded a coach bound for the mecca for northern Arts & Crafts… The lake District.
We then travelled to the highlight of our trip, Blackwell, Windermere built between 1898 and 1900, a masterpiece designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. With a rather chequered history it has somehow managed to retain many of its original features and is considered to be the best example of its type open to the public.
After a brief introduction from a local guide we enjoyed a light lunch before wandering at will to admire the very fine craftsmanship not only of the building but also the contents. Built as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a brewing magnate it has magnificent views over the lake.
Our next stop was at Broad Leys now the headquarters of the Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club but designed by Charles FA Voysey as a large house, again in the Arts & Crafts style.
Finally we enjoyed a walk round the gardens and refreshments at Brockhall Visitor Centre (below) although none of us ventured onto the aerial walkways and runway. Comments like ‘It’s too busy’, ‘I’m not prepared to queue’, ‘We haven’t got time’ were uttered at regular intervals!
Our thanks to Christine and Geoff for their hard work in organising such an excellent day.
Middleton Garden of Remembrance is highlighted by English Heritage in its annual review of listings across the country. The garden and loggia are one of only a handful of Arts and Crafts inspired war memorials.
The whole report can be viewed here…
James William Booth (1867-1953) Booth was a leading member of the Staithes Group. He studied at Manchester School of Art under Elias Bancroft. He was a friend of Fred Jackson. Bancroft and Jackson visited Whitby and Hinderwell to paint and Booth followed. He initially shared a studio with Laura and Harold Knight in Staithes. Booth was a member of the Manchester Academy and the Royal Cambrian Academy.
Frederick William Jackson was born in 1859 at Middleton Junction. He was one of three children, and his father worked as a photographer in Oldham. His two brothers were Vincent Jackson, a musician trained at Leipzig Conservatoire, and Charles Arthur Jackson, who was an art dealer and owned a gallery at 7 Police Street, Manchester. Charles gave considerable support to Frederick during his career, helping with both money and materials. Many of Jackson’s pictures bear labels inscribed with the address of his brother’s gallery.
Jackson had relatively little formal training. His interest in painting was evident from an early age: as a boy, he went on sketching tours with his friend, the future architect, Edgar Wood. After leaving school, he attended evening classes at Oldham School of Art, where he studied painting under John Houghton Hague. (William Stott of Oldham was another of Hague’s pupils).
John Houghton Hague’s brother, Joshua Anderson Hague, was the leader of a group of young artists known as the ‘Manchester School’. Nearly all these artists had been trained at Manchester Academy of Fine Art and they met together in Wales at the studio of the self- taught, Joseph Knight, in the early 1870’s. They were influenced by the Barbizon School of painters and by Israels, Mauve and Maris, and they made a number of trips to Brittany between 1871 and 1878. The group was making, a considerable impact in the mid 1870’s and Jackson was drawn towards them, being influenced by their choice of subject matter and style of tonal painting. Academy where he attended life classes for six months. In 1880, he went to live in North Wales, where the artists H. Clarence Whaite, Joshua Anderson Hague and Edward Norbury were planning to found the Royal Cambrian Academy. He joined the already considerable number of Manchester artists living in the Conway Valley.
The 1880’s was an important decade for Jackson. He was made a member of the Arts Club in 1879 and a member of the Limners Club in 1880-1. Following the Manchester Academy exhibitions of 1880 and 1881, he was elected a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Art. Over the next few years, he exhibited a good deal of his work, including two coast scenes at the Paris Salon in 1884 and “two splendid landscapes” there in 1885. In 1886, he became a founder member of the New English Art Club. He did not join its ten more progressive members (including Sickert and Steer) who worked in an Impressionistic as opposed to Barbizon inspired manner, and he did not exhibit at their separate exhibition of 1898 entitled ‘The London Impressionists’. In 1894, Jackson became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. Throughout the ’90’s, and probably through his friendship with Edgar Wood, he became involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was at this point that he did a number of mural paintings. His affinity with the Movement is evident in other areas of his work – his wash drawings to illustrate works by local dialect writers, Ben Brierley and Samual Laycock for example and his oil paintings of hand spinning and handloom weaving.
Returning from Wales, he went to Paris where he studied under Lefebvre and Boulanger. He remained in France for four or five years. It is most unlikely that he was influenced by those masters who taught him in Paris – they worked in a meticulous and academic style favoured by conservative French art lovers of the day, and totally alien to his own approach. At this time, Rochdale born Edward Stott was also in Paris, Studying under Carolus Duran, and Oldham-born William Stott and Henry Herbert La Thangue were studying under J. L. Gerome. During this period, the work of the Barbizon school painters was being hung in the Salon and Impressionism was at its height – with the stir it had caused still very much in evidence! (The first Impressionist Exhibition had been held in 1874 and the last was to be held in 1886).
After completing his studies in Paris, Jackson visited several European countries, spending most of his time in Italy, in Capri, Venice, Florence and Rome. He also visited Morocco before returning to England. He settled at Ivy Cottage, Hinderwell near Whitby, marrying Carrie Hodgeson, the daughter of a Yorkshire farmer. From there he exhibited frequently at the Manchester Academy and at the annual exhibition of the Yorkshire Union of Artists, as well as in London.
After 1900, Jackson travelled to Russia, France and Italy and, as some of his contemporaries noted, his late landscapes executed in these included some of his finest work. Jackson was liked and respected in his day and praised as an artist. It was generally felt that he could have achieved the distinction of R.A. had it not been for his reticence and modesty. He died in 1918 aged 59 and was buried in his native Middleton.
Edgar Wood was an architect, artist, craftsman, conservationist and town planner. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, he had a national and international reputation and was regarded as the most important avant-garde architect in the north of England.
Wood was born into a wealthy Middleton family in 1860. From an early age he had a passion for art and spent hours sketching with his friend, Fred Jackson, who later became a prominent artist. Wood instead trained as an architect, though he viewed architecture as an “art”. He filled his buildings with beautiful furniture, stained glass and paintings, often of his own design or making. Jackson and Wood sometimes co-operated on painting murals for his buildings.
As an architect, Wood rejected large scale commercial practice and worked as an artist with a small number of assistants designing furniture, stained glass, sculpture, metal and plaster work as well as buildings. Many commissions were from friends and family in Middleton, Huddersfield and Hale. Influenced by the artistic and socialist writings of William Morris, he saw himself as an artisan serving the people of these localities.
Architecture was changing. The Victorian Gothic style was on the wane and architects were looking for a new way to design. Art Nouveau was a new style based on extended lines and sensuous curves. It was used for buildings, sculpture, painting and the graphic arts. Arts & Crafts, another approach, revived traditional building techniques to create beautiful yet practical buildings. It stressed honest craftsmanship, handmade quality and the importance of art in everyday life. Edgar Wood was a leading practitioner in both.
Wood’s early buildings revived vernacular features, crafts and techniques. They were richly detailed and very romantic. Later, his larger buildings took on strange Art Nouveau forms, confirming his avant-garde reputation. Gradually, a plainer style emerged with decoration carefully placed in specific places.
At the height of his fame, Wood worked with an Oldham architect, J. Henry Sellers, and created a series of radical new buildings of a type unseen before. With their flat reinforced concrete roofs and sometimes geometric patterns, they were among the first examples of “modern architecture” in Europe.
Edgar Wood constantly sought new architectural expression in practical and well planned buildings. Today, he is regarded as someone ahead of his time; for example, his avant-garde designs anticipate Expressionist architecture of the 1920s and Art Deco of the 1930s.
Long Street Methodist Church & Schools are a striking complex of connected buildings arranged around a courtyard garden – the finest Arts and Crafts Methodist Church anywhere.
Edgar Wood’s church has a simple, strong and memorable appearance but with delicate surfaces where colour and texture prevail. Seen close up from the street, the church soars dramatically. It is built of subtly textured brickwork and almost identically coloured red Runcorn sandstone which runs organically up the building like no other. The organic looking tracery of the two large windows at each end of the church is un-mistakedly Art Nouveau and the one facing the road grows upwards to form a finial with a plant-like top. While recognisably a church, the design was the most the modern and forward-looking in England when built in 1899.
The internal styling is plain, simple and modern with a very controlled visual scene with the same stripy red sandstone and subtle header bond brickwork found outside. It is a very peaceful space, large but not overpowering. All the windows have plain leaded glass, so pure white light illuminates the church. However, little coloured Arts & Crafts leaded windows in the doors glow when the light catches them. The chancel is marked by a line of Art Nouveau fittings – a pulpit, lectern and font all connected by a matching stone chancel wall. Beyond this, the chancel is intimate with Art Nouveau pews, chairs and kneelers.
The open roof space is designed with alternating hammer beam and scissor trusses with the underside of the trusses catching the light from the windows. With a brilliant touch, Wood fixed small square timber caps to alternating trusses thereby giving the roof a rhythm drawing the eye along the nave and chancel to the windows at each end.
The church is a true expression of the Arts & Crafts – nothing is showy or pretentious and everything is harmonious save for the occasional modern alteration.
Long Street Methodist Church & School are a striking complex of connected buildings arranged around an ‘outside room’ garden. Across this space, Edgar Wood integrates a series of opposites – sacred and secular, expression and restraint, axial and informal, and, rational and romantic. The plain and simple mass of the church contrasts with the complexity and richness of the school buildings where there is a unique character, somewhere between a formal composition and a romantic street scene.
Unfortunately, time has eroded the outstanding qualities of the garden and its buildings. To rectify this, Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust and Arts & Crafts Awakening are pursuing heritage grants to restore the design to the designers intentions, as far as can be achieved. Once restored the garden will look something like this…
Taken together, the Methodist church, school and garden are finest expression of Edgar Wood’s attempts to synthesize tradition and modernity. These artistic buildings and spaces feel simultaneously both ancient and modern, where the rational and romantic are harmoniously intergrated.