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 middletonheritage@gmail.com


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!

BBC comes to Long Street Arts & Crafts Church…

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.

BBC Radio Manchester - photo by Nick BakerFirst 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.

BBC North West Today - photo Nick BakerHaving 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.





Cotswolds – Arts & Crafts inspiration

The Cotswolds were at the heart of Arts & Crafts inspiration and Edgar Wood reused their vernacular buildings and features in his own designs. I am on my third visit to the area collecting this source material, this time in the rain! This is Stanton village which Wood visited in 1895. David M.

Edgar Wood’s Independent Labour Party Club Listed!

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.

1912 Milton St ILP Club House 2We are grateful to English Heritage for assessing the building in such a short time and to Nick Baker for such great photos..

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…

Notification Report


1912 Milton St ILP Club House

September Golden Cluster Month ends with ‘Enlightenment’

205_proc 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!

‘Arts & Crafts Awakening’ for Long Street Methodist Church – Give us your views…

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 .

Enlightenment Middleton Film – Tuesday 30th September 7.30pm – Long Street Methodist Church – Free Admission

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.

Edgar Wood’s Independent Labour Party Club Under Threat?

1912 Milton St ILP Club House 2
© Nick Baker

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.

Arts & Crafts trip to Blackwell, Broad Leys and Brockhall

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first stop was at Staveley Parish Church to view the magnificent East window designed and built by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones (the photo is just one small pane).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.

BrockholeFinally 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.