All Skipped Up

IMG_0003_proc It was a great tidy-up on Saturday, where volunteers from the Edgar Wood Society had a major sort out and tidy up, filling a skip and two van loads of rubbish for disposal and metal items for recycling. Thanks to all involved.


Locality Workshop 4 – Followed by Edgar Wood Society

We had another double bill yesterday, 15th January, when at 5pm Arts & Crafts Awakening and Locality got together to work through the draft business plan for the Arts & Crafts Church. We and Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust are presenting it to the Edgar Wood Townscape Heritage Initiative Board on 20th January. Over the last few weeks we’ve made great strides in finding new uses, as well as putting together a restoration scheme, also with the Trust.

At 7.30pm, it was the turn of the Edgar Wood Society committee (some pictured) which ‘set to’ with a raft of ideas for 2015 from purchasing an H. D. Chorlton watercolour to the planning of this year’s events, research and practical support for the Arts & Crafts Church. Watch this space!

Edgar Wood to feature in a book on Art Nouveau

The Edgar Wood Society is liaising with Ediciones Polígrafa, a prestigious publishing house based in Barcelona specializing in books on Art, Architecture and Design, printed in English and Spanish. Here is their web site.

Ediciones Polígrafa are currently working on, The World Atlas of Art Nouveau Architecture, edited by Ivan Bercedo and Jorge Mestre. It will have specialized contributions from all over the globe. Edgar Wood buildings will be included in the United Kingdom section, including Long Street Methodist Church. We are currently helping them out with photographs of Wood’s principal buildings.

Liz McInnes MP joins Christmas Open House

Christmas2014-51_proc064_procThursday evening could not have gone better for organisers Emma and Nick of the Edgar Wood and Middleton THI team. Not only did forty to fifty people visit the candle-lit church but one of those visitors was Middleton’s MP, Liz McInnes.

Liz came to express her support for the THI project and conserving Middleton’s heritage.  It was a great boost for everyone. She was given a tour of the buildings before joining visitors at Ye Olde Boar’s Head for a concert of Christmas music by Middleton Band.

There was complementary seasonal food and drink as well as an exhibition about the heritage grants for the Edgar Wood buildings of the conservation area.


Mackintosh Architecture Exhibition

Yesterday, 17th December, I travelled up to Glasgow to see the Mackintosh Architecture exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery, before it closes on 4th January 2015.

The exhibition is the result of a research project into Mackintosh’s buildings and the practice that he worked for, Honeyman and Keppie, later Honeyman, Keppie and Mackintosh. Elsewhere at the Hunterian, you can visit the internal recreation of Mackintosh’s house and see his travel sketches and paintings.

There are no new major discoveries. Instead, the exhibition tries to rebalance the myths – the doomed romantic, Scottish nationalist, pioneer modernist etc. – simply by showing his drawings and the networks of professionals and patrons in which he worked. Through this everyday evidence you see another Mackintosh emerging, a team player and an exemplary professional working for one of Glasgow’s major architectural practices.

All of the famous drawings are exhibited and what immediately surprises is how large they are, much bigger than the prints in books. You can see his immaculate draughtsmanship, by which he stood out from his contemporaries. The work of Honeyman and Keppie is also shown. They were fine architects working in the styles of the day rather than Mackintosh’s Art Nouveau. There was quite a lot of collaboration between all three designers and Mackintosh could work just as well in the traditional styles, if he needed to.

d281_015Mackintosh’s four large houses are highlighted. In these, his architectural progression is the reverse of other progressive designers, running from the almost abstract Windyhill to the highly expressive Hill House, to the Jacobean Auchinibert (featured drawing above) and finally to the vernacular Mossyde. You can see him absorbing ideas from the English Arts & Crafts movement, initially at Auchinibert, partly through the preference of the client. Mackintosh’s final house, Mossyde, shows him fully resolved as a vernacular Arts & Crafts designer – an astonishing change from Hill House of only a few years earlier. Mackintosh was an architect who could develop and embrace new ideas. It is a shame that architectural work dried up after 1910 then stopping completely in the First World War. Who knows what he may have otherwise produced?

The stripping away of the myths allows Mackintosh’s true genius to come to the fore – that of a professional architect and designer of the highest calibre who buildings inspired many of his own generation and many more in subsequent generations.

Locality Workshop 3 – Developing a Dual Approach

Our final Locality workshop, let by Lindsey and Chris, was a lively and good humoured discussion about how best to develop the potential at the Long Street School. Building on the previous two sessions, we agreed a dual approach where some of the buildings, principally the main hall, would be best used for commercial functions to generate income. However,  other parts would be best developed for community uses and activities, like an ‘urban village hall’ which could assist community engagement.  This part would also embrace the heritage centre idea. We also discussed applying for an Awards for All Scheme to get such a ‘village hall’ moving.  We retained the nursery idea as a ‘Plan B’ for the main hall.

We covered a lot of detail and how the timeframes for each might work in 2015 and 2016, and the likely timing of the conservation grant scheme.

We set a tentative date for our first meeting of 2016 as January 15th, 5-7pm.

Many thanks to all who have contributed.

Locality Workshop 2 – Getting Down To Business

The second Locality workshop was taken by Zoe Goddard on Thursday 4th December. Eight people came, the same folk as last time, so the team seems to be shaping up.

020_procIt was an excellent session where we began to ‘get down to business’ regarding what social enterprises are, how they differ from one another and how the particular type needs to fit the activities and objectives of the specific group.

We also made good progress on the possible future uses for the Long Street School buildings. We found that one use possibly has a ‘strategic fit’ with our longer term aims for Edgar Wood and Middleton Heritage.

Everyone left the meeting encouraged (and well fed!). Zoe went away to investigate further the pros and cons of our shortlist of potential uses.

The next meeting is this Thursday 11th December, 5-7pm and will be led by Lindsey. Come along and join us!

All Soul’s Bolton… Now Open

B4GXZXVCcAApueyThe Arts & Crafts Church conservation surveyor, Alan Gardner, recently attended the re-opening of the magnificent All Soul’s Church, now converted to multi-faceted community uses. Alan was responsible for the conservation of this enormous Paley and Austin church. Can you spot him in the team photo? (back row third from right).

Another, Arts & Crafts Church favourite, photographer Andy Marshall, has been commissioned to record the restored building and it’s ultra modern ‘building within a building’. See Andy’s photographs here.

Congratulations all round!

Could Jubilee Park Fountain be Restored?

academyarchitect29londuoft_0011 (2)Edgar Wood Society and Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust are looking into the history of Jubilee Park Fountain and whether it is possible to restore it.

The fountain with its staircase and curved ‘exedra’ was donated by Thomas Broadbent Wood in 1906. He was a greatly regarded Middletonian and father of Edgar Wood, who designed the structure. The design was drawn in 1905 and was so unusual and interesting that it was displayed in the Royal Academy in London and used as the cover for its annual architectural journal, Academy Architecture.

Unfortunately, the fountain no longer exists. If you know what happened to it, or if any part of it survives even if damaged, please let us know by emailing

Finding any remains would allow us to accurately measure them. However, historian and writer, Harold Cunliffe, has let us have two old photographs which allow us to work out the dimensions almost as well. The trick is to find the exact point from which the old photo was taken, both horizontally and vertically, by carefully working off the photograph.

Then you retake the picture today with a measuring staff set at exactly the position of the fountain and its sculpture. You then merge the photographs in a photo-editing program like The Gimp. Vertical measurements can be read off the staff while horizontal measurements are likewise worked out by digitally turning the rule on the staff.  With such measurements, a mason and sculptor could replicate the design very accurately, using the photos for the details.

These are our first attempts just using a ranging pole, as we currently don’t have a measuring staff. The photos are very close to the original viewing point and the result is very encouraging.  Next time, we hope to get it spot on! Even so, they have already shown that the bottom two steps, where the stone has recently been stolen, were not part of Edgar Wood’s design at all but were added later. Click on the photos to enlarge them…

Fountain-Harold-Cunliffe-photo_proc_proc_procFountain Harold Cunliffe photo and 2014_procFountain 2014_proc


Jubilee-Park-Fountain-Harold-Cunliffe-1909_proc_procJubilee Park Fountain Harold Cunliffe 1909-2014_procJubilee Park Fountain 2014_proc

This technique was used to restore the original gateposts and fencing to Edgar Wood’s 36 Mellalieu Street. It was inspired by Edgar Wood’s own technique of the ‘measured sketch’ that is sketching old buildings and features and then measuring them. This meant he could accurately recreate the historic features in his own buildings.


Edgar Wood Society meeting follows Locality Workshop 1

It was a double bill for some as, yesterday, the first Locality workshop session with Arts & Crafts Awakening and Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust was followed imediately by the first committee meeting of the new Edgar Wood Society (pic above). However, Geoffrey, Christine, Maureen and the gang put on a great buffet so we managed to keep going from 5pm through to 9.30.

It was a busy day at the Arts & Crafts Church with an afternoon consultation about Tonge Hall in the Ladies Room and another group cleaning and organising the Lecture Room for the evening’s event.

Beginning at 5pm, Locality had a great session lined up for us, helping us think through both the recent past and the future. First, we looked back at how Middleton Heritage and Edgar Wood had evolved over the last ten years and then peered forward with ideas for the future. We brain-stormed some exciting new uses for Long Street School. We are building up our timeline and its milestones at each meeting.

It was good to have Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust with us. If you are interested in Middleton’s heritage or Edgar Wood, you are welcome to join us. Our next meeting is 5-7pm next Thursday, 4th December.

Please note that the third session is no longer Tuesday 9th but Thursday 11th.

However, the session ran over so as the Edgar Wood Society committee members arrived they mingled with the Locality meeting. There was a good sense of common purpose and fun.

Like these meetings, the aims of Arts and Crafts Awakening and the Edgar Wood Society overlap and an early part of the Edgar Wood Society committee meeting discussed this as people tried to get their minds around how things evolve in the future. The committee also discussed the winter lecture programme, the new Society web site (thanks Lee!) and developing a Middleton and Edgar Wood narrative, based on recent research.

One the research front, we agreed to invite members and non-members to join the Edgar Wood Research Project so that in 2015, the Heritage Initiative’s ‘Year of Edgar Wood’, we will be able to use everyone’s research activities for maximum effect.

Arts and Crafts Awakening meets Locality

Arts and Crafts Awakening is being set up as a social enterprise to promote Middleton Heritage, including Edgar Wood, the Parish Church and Long Street Methodist Church and School. This evening we met our advisors for the next few months, Zoe, Lindsey and Chris from Locality, the nationwide network for community-led organisations.

465_procWe had a very friendly and worthwhile time showing them around, then had some tea before settling into a relaxed discussion of what we were seeking to achieve.

Zoe, Lindsey and Chris are helping us think through how best to set up the group and find the right balance of community activities and businesses for the Long Street Edgar Wood buildings.

We planned three workshop days between now and Christmas –

Wed 26th November 5-7pm,

Thursday 4th December 5-7pm and

Thursday 11th December 5-7pm.

If you are interested in Middleton’s Heritage generally or the Parish Church, Long Street Methodist or Edgar Wood specifically and would like to know more, drop us a line at


Edgar Wood Research Project to visit English Heritage

The Edgar Wood research project, part of the Edgar Wood Society, has been researching Edgar Wood’s buildings over several years, building on the firm base established by architectural historian, John Archer. Now Nick and David of the group are meeting English Heritage in York on Tuesday 11th November to discuss the findings.  It will be interesting to find out what English Heritage think of it all!

Update on the new Middleton Heritage Film…

Anthony Dolan and the Middleton Heritage Film Group are just finalising the details of a Heritage Lottery Fund application for the last in the history of Middleton of films.  Tentatively titled, Romantic Middleton and the Modern Age, it will cover the Middleton story from the late Victorian period through the Great War and into the inter-war era.

The story-line will be shaped by the lives and ideas of the creative figures such as the educational pioneer Julia Schwabe, painters Frederick Jackson and William Booth, craftsman James Smithies and Arts and Crafts designers Edgar Wood and Henry Sellers. It will look at the groups they formed – the Staithes Group and Northern Art Workers Guild – and how these went on to influence the wider art scene and society generally.

The Great War brought the good times of the Edwardian era to a shuddering halt. The film will look at how Middleton reacted to the war and its aftermath and will celebrate the life of its everyday people, especially its Victoria Cross hero, Joel Halliwell, as society moved into the modern era.

Autumn Clean-up

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Today Friday 7th November Christine had a birthday party putting the garden to bed for the winter. The moss was raked out of the grass – mainly moss and not much grass! The bushes and lavender hedge was trimmed, the several bags of spoil were removed to the waste disposal plant.

James Smithies and Middleton Arts and Crafts Workers

The Middleton Heritage Film Group and the Edgar Wood Society have joined forces to research a new film to follow Enlightenment Middleton, tentatively called Romantic Middleton and the Modern Era.  We are studying a group of Middleton Art Workers, initially associated with Edgar Wood, who then developed their own careers but are now largely lost in the mists of time.

James Smithies (of 9 Cheapside) and his son, Herbert, and Tom Wellens (of Back James St., Middleton) were metal workers and furniture makers.  They eventually moved their workshop to Wilmslow. James made various pieces for the Parish Church, including the Robert Catterall plaque (illustrated). Here is a superb Arts and Crafts cabinet made by them.

There also was James Lenagan, a wood carver and furniture maker, who taught at Middleton Technical Classes and worked with Edgar Wood and a J. T Tetlow, who had five exhibits at the Manchester Arts & Crafts Exhibition of 1891.

If you have any information on these people or any others, please let us know by emailing


Arts and Crafts expert visits Long Street…

The Arts & Crafts academic, Stuart Evans, visited the Long Street Methodist Church and School on Friday. Travelling up from the east of England, he was given a tour of the buildings  by David, followed by lunch with  at the Boar’s Head P.H. with Geoffrey and Christine.  Stuart is also meeting Nick over the weekend to discuss the importance of Middleton’s Edgar Wood and Arts & Crafts heritage. Stuart is completing a book on the Century Guild of artists and craftspeople who were influential in the Manchester area at the end of the nineteenth century. He is an expert on Edgar Wood and, Wood’s colleague, J. Henry Sellers.

Go ahead for Middleton Heritage Lecture Room

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.

Birth of ‘Vernacular Romanticism’ talk by Nick Baker – 25th October 2014

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!

Goodbye: Friends of Edgar Wood Centre… Hello Edgar Wood Society, Middleton

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!