Library, Family History Group and Brewery descend…

Tuesday 28th April was one of those busy days at the Arts & Crafts Church buildings when several activities came together at the same time. While the Methodists were having their usual Tuesday meeting in the church, next door there was a steady traffic of people. One group was moving the Middleton History Library over from the Old Grammar School to its new home in the Edgar Wood Centre, while the Family History Group moved furniture and materials into its new office and set up the Lecture Room for its first meeting on Thursday, while the brewers, Wilson Potter, went room to room with Arts & Crafts Trust members sorting out the details for their first beer ‘soiree’ in the hall on 9th May.

The library arrives in dozens of boxes
The library arrives in dozens of boxes
Moving them on...
Moving them on…
Setting up the temporary home
Setting up the temporary home
The Library will eventually go here
The Library will eventually go here
Family History Group moving in
Family History Group moving in
The lecture Room laid out for the first Family History Group meeting
The lecture Room laid out for the first Family History Group meeting
Organising the Wilson Potter Beer Soiree
Organising the Wilson Potter Beer Soiree


165 & 167 Manchester Old Road – 1912 architect Edgar Wood

165–167 Manchester Old Road, MiddletonIn 1912 Edgar Wood built his final pair of semi-detached houses, 165–167 Manchester Old Road, Middleton, adjacent to his very first pair, West Lea of 1887. In doing so, he created one of the most unusual semis of his career – a striking building that fascinates everyone who takes time to look at it. The quality of the design and the thought that went into it, is outstanding.

Treating West Lea as a starting point, Edgar Wood derived from it the pitch of the gables, the string courses and general symmetry. He combined these with an abstract motif, a triangle, which shaped the outline of the main elevation. To achieve this he allowed the roofs of two outer entrance porches to continue the visual line of the main roof downwards towards the ground.

The main fenestration, however, was subsumed within a rectangle formed by a pair of two-storey bays, with two lines of strip windows wrapping around the bays.  These are of Georgian proportion, subdivided into twelve rectangular quarries per window. The top outer corners of the bays protrude from the diagonal roof-line, thereby creating the outline of a kneeled gable, a Wood leitmotif.  Finally, the shape of the door glazing, door heads and garden entrances (now demolished) is circular, so that Edgar Wood created the whole façade of the building from a series of simple triangles, rectangles and circles; an extraordinary reinterpretation of a traditional semi-detached house using the architectual language of the future modern movement.

Honorary Member of Edgar Wood Society Makes a Surprise Visit

165-167 Manchester Old Road Middleton EW (2)_procMr. John Archer a retired lecturer of Architecture at the University of Manchester ‘re-discovered’ the work of Edgar Wood while doing on the job training at Middleton Town Hall in the 1940’s. Edgar Wood’s ‘Toblerone’ houses, 165 &167 Manchester Old Road,  Middleton facing the then town hall took his attention.  John is subsequently reputed to have cycled the highways and byways of the area to discover other buildings by Edgar Wood.

Arts & Crafts Awakening/Middleton Heritage Meeting

We had a good meeting tonight (31st March 2015) working through a mix of detailed issues and broad aims about how we want to celebrate Middleton’s heritage and involve local people. Concerning the Heritage Lottery application, we agreed an outline for a local digital archive and history library, (still more idea than scheme) and asked four Middleton Archaeological Society and Edgar Wood Society members if they could work it up further. The Lettings group also discussed a number of enquiries and of lines of interest for using the buildings.

Renovation Continues

One of the directors of The Arts and Crafts Trust Ltd is continuing the work to get the room next to the kitchen back into use, but what else could Maureen be going on a wet afternoon. The room next to the kitchen was traditionally known as the cutting up room. Can anybody suggest why, other than it being next to the kitchen.


Locality Workshop 9 – Filling In Forms!

The Locality led workshop was a two part affair last night (25th March) as we split into groups, one working up the Awards for All grant for the new Urban Village Hall with Lindsey and Chris, while the other concentrated on the history library and archive project. Nevertheless, it was a successful evening with a good discussion on how we move forward with the heritage side of things and the Awards for All application now worked up. The meeting ended with the lettings sub-group filling in forms!

Briarcourt Revisited

Edgar Wood Society members Andy Marshall and David Morris enjoyed a quick visit to Briarcourt, Huddersfield this morning (23rd March) to meet new owners Vicky House and Duncan Morgan. Last time Andy and David were there, Briarcourt was empty, at risk and the prey of architecutural thieves. Now, with their Arts & Crafts vision and enthusiasm, Vicky and Duncan are putting life back into the house. You can follow their progress at and on their Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest feeds.

Briarcourt Andy MarshallHistorically, Briarcourt was an important design, much illustrated in its time. It has a certain angular and dynamic quality that is rare in Arts & Crafts buildings – a sophisticated vigour that is the antidote to rural simplicity for its own sake. Yet, it is built completely in a vernacular hand-crafted way using local stone for the walls and roofing flags. The architect, Edgar Wood, must have put in an enormous amount of thought and effort into the design.

Unfortunately, the weather was too dull to take the planned set-piece external photographs. Instead, Andy focused on the inside rooms and features and we will upload some when they are processed.

Locality Workshop 8 – Developing Projects

It was a great workshop last night as we began to bring the Locality-led project to a close. We began with Chris handing over our articles of incorporation to Christine (company secretary) and quickly moved into a discussion about the Urban Village Hall project. We are now ready for an Awards for All bid on this which we will discuss and decide at the next meeting.We then discussed the History Library/Digital Archive project which is running just behind the Village Hall one. Both are being developed by separate sub-groups. Finally, Chris led an entertaining ‘skills audit’ where we all confessed to what we could do. It was a good turnout with two new members.

Our next meeting is this coming Wednesday, 25th March at 6pm

Champing near Cambridge!

It’s a brand new idea… CHAMPING… i.e. camping in old churches! Last night, architectural photographer and Edgar Wood Society member Andy Marshall and I tried it out for the Churches Conservation Trust. I have to say that it is good, in fact its very good!

St. Cyriac, Swaffam
St. Cyriac, Swaffam – at first light in the rain!

We set out from Manchester on a brisk mid March morning (16th March) for a day photographing in Suffolk and then at our champing desination, the exotically named St. Cyriac & St. Julitta church near Cambridge. This is one half of the Swaffam Prior pair – two churches sharing the same church yard. St. Cyriac’s church was completely rebuilt in 1806 (bar the tower) by the colourful Cambridge architect, developer and mayor, Charles Humfrey. In contrast, it’s neighbour, St. Mary, was sensitvely conserved by Sir Arthur Blomfield, mentor to the Arts & Crafts designers, Reginald Blomfield (his nephew) and Walter Cave, as well as the writer Thomas Hardy.

St. Mary, Swaffam - a little later.
St. Mary, Swaffam – a little later.

The two churches complement one another. Humphrey’s church was ahead of its time, a compact building with a single wide space inside. It’s rational ‘Enlightenment’ Gothic gets straight to the point (sorry!) with an advanced almost mill-like construction where the arcade columns (plastered iron pillars?) rise straight up to a wide (probably) iron beam supporting the roof. Pugin would have hated it but its inherent simplicity and directness won me over.

A quiet and peaceful night ensued with just the sounds of wildlife outside, including a howling fox early in the morning. Yes, it was quite cold, it’s March after all, but the secret to champing in Spring is to sleep off the floor on a camp bed or two pews pushed together and wrap up well.

Setting up the shoot.

Andy, who was more organised than me, had brought ground coffee for our morning ‘wake-up’ after which we set up the church for the morning’s shoot.

It’s fascinating seeing a professional photographer at work. Most of the shots he had worked out even before we set off from Manchester and he improvised others very quickly.

Champing is a great idea for combining history and architecture with simple relaxation. Whatever type of church you stay in, it will be a lot more comfortable than being outside in the rain under canvas! The church had a kitchenette, washbasin and toilet – just the minimum.

David Morris