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.

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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.

Jubilee Library – 1889 – Architect Laurence Booth and Edgar Wood

Long Street looks lovely in spring with the Jubilee Library cherry blossom out and the trees coming into leaf. This panorama shows how Middleton’s Jubilee Library was designed to respect the timber-framed Old Boar’s Head. The library is an early and unusual Arts & Crafts design and there is only one other listed Arts & Crafts library in England of such an early date.

The official architect was Laurence Booth of Bury who won the competition for designing the library. However, he built nothing like it before or afterwards. Instead, the building is in Edgar Wood’s early Arts & Crafts style (he was aged 29 in 1889).

Edgar Wood’s father and his main client (Schwabe) were the two principal funders of the library and many of the other large funders were also Edgar Wood clients. We think that Laurence Booth was a front to hide Edgar’s involvement as he could not have fairly competed and it would have have been controversial for him to do so. There are many clues in the surviving records that this was the case and that Edgar Wood was indeed the true designer.

In this way, Edgar Wood appears to have designed the town’s first public library creating a state of the art design some ten years before Arts & Crafts architecture began to take off. Consequently, the Library is now firmly on the Edgar Wood heritage trail!

Edgar Wood’s avant garde buildings were very contentious locally and he had to take a very low profile in the design of publicly funded buildings. Similar methods were used to hide his involvement in the design of  Long Street Methodist, the Arts & Crafts Church, when he was only revealed as architect at the last minute in December 1898 after all the decisions had been made. Likewise, he was hidden from view in the restoration of the Parish Church and, as one of the leading town planners of England, we also think he was the hidden designer of Alkrington Garden Village. The official designer, Thomas Adams, would have known Edgar as they were both involved in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire.

The Library is full of Arts & Crafts features, like the traditional pegged oak construction used for the timber work (which Mr. Booth complained about!). The reinforced concrete construction of the first floor is another Arts & Crafts experimental feature.  Blending traditional handicrafts with modern methods like reinforced concrete were very much Edgar Wood’s approach. Later on, he became famous for his flat concrete roofs and for pioneering modern design.

CLICK HERE to enlarge the photo.

Briarhill & Hillcrest– 1892 architect Edgar Wood

Briarhill_procIn the early days of Arts & Crafts architecture, pioneers like Edgar Wood experimented with a variety of materials and forms, trying to find a new way in design. The semi-detached pair of houses on Rochdale Road, Middleton, Briarhill & Hillcrest, is one of these and represents an art nouveau ‘town’ approach to design in contrast to the vernacular revival ‘country’ approach of Redcroft & Fencegate next door.

Their appearance could not have been more different, with bright red Ruabon bricks, tall angular symmetry and pioneering Art Nouveau forms. This striking and original building, now considerably at risk in 2016, is one of the world’s first art nouveau buildings and takes no prisoners in its powerful expression. It was so advanced in its day that the design was published across Britain, Europe and USA and it set the trend for other ‘all red’ buildings.

Some people struggle to like it, though others adore its bold and uncompromising impact.The use of identically coloured red brick and terracotta was approved of by William Morris, where the smoky atmosphere required such materials. However, when it came to the roof, Edgar Wood did something no other architect had thought of, he mix five different types of slate from around the country, to create a mottled impressionistic surface – an idea transferred from the realm of painting to building.

EW Briarhill in USThe building was illustrated in the USA publication, American Architect and Building News a year later. This magazine was published in Boston and would have been admired by the early Arts and Crafts designers of the eastern States.

Briarhill 1980s
Briarhill 1980s

 

Original leaded lights
Original leaded lights
Two tulips are that is left
Two tulips are that is left
From the road
From the road
Scalloped walls
Scalloped walls
Arts & Crafts letter box
Arts & Crafts letter box
Art Nouveau hallway
Art Nouveau hallway