5 architectural delights in Cheshire
- Credit: Archant
We pick five of our favourite buildings or structures in and around Cheshire
Chester Rows Chester’s covered walkways are completely unique. In fact it is thought there is nothing like them anywhere in the world. These walkways - one at ground level and another elevated above are to be found in each of the four main streets in the centre of the city and it is argued they could be the first ever shopping centre in existence. Why were they built like this? One theory is that Chester had previously suffered a series of fires and in 1278 following a blaze of particular severity they were built this way so that the businesses were more fireproof. From this, the suggestion has been made that there was ‘a general undertaking by the citizens of Chester ... to improve the commercial potential of their property by providing two-level access for customers’.
What’s so great about Chester’s Rows? Although they have undergone changes over the centuries - some of the Rows have been blocked off for example - they are still architecturally stunning examples of Medieval street planning and their popularity with the modern-day visitor to Chester proves their enduring appeal. Many of the buildings containing portions of the Rows are listed and some are recorded in the English Heritage Archive. The premises on the street and Row levels are used for a variety of purposes; most are shops, but there are also offices, restaurants, cafés, and meeting rooms. Chester Rows are one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
Why we are impressed Chester’s Rows offer visitors to the city more than just a generic shopping experience. Who doesn’t love weaving in and out and up and down these walkways, popping into the shops and cafes and peering down into the street from the lofty position of the first floor? Useful information www.visitchester.com
Jodrell Bank The Jodrell Bank Observatory near Holmes Chapel is a British observatory that hosts a number of radio telescopes, and is part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester. It was established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the University of Manchester who wanted to investigate cosmic rays after his work on radar during the Second World War. It has since played an important role in the research of meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and gravitational lenses, and was heavily involved with the tracking of space probes at the start of the Space Age.
What’s so great about Jodrell Bank? It may be argued that this complex is a fantastic piece of architecture. Certainly, the sight of the Lovell Telescope, which is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world is as stirring as any palace or country residence in the county. It just epitomises everything fabulous about ‘space age’ design and has been considered as a candidate for World Heritage status in the past. According to UNESCO: ‘The Jodrell Bank Observatory, the proposed nomination, which is part of the University of Manchester’s School of Physics and Astronomy, is dominated by the monumental Lovell Telescope, the first large fully steerable radio telescope in the world - which still operates as the 3rd largest on the planet. The telescope is 76m in diameter and stands 89m high. Despite its age (53 years in 2010), it is now more powerful than ever and remains at the forefront of Astrophysics research, working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to observe distant galaxies and objects such as Pulsars and Quasars, far out across the Universe.’ Wow factor is an understatement.
Why we are impressed Says architect Roger Stephenson: ‘It’s an important landmark that you can see from all over Cheshire (there’s a good view from the top of the hill in Bowdon). It is a classic piece of engineering of the Firth of Forth Railway Bridge ilk. It places Cheshire on a world stage. It is a beacon to the rest of the Universe!’ Useful information For more details visit www.jodrellbank.net
Port Sunlight An astonishing achievement by William Hesketh Lever, Port Sunlight on the Wirral is not just the finest surviving example of early urban planning in the UK, it is a memorial to its creator’s philanthropy. William Lever, later Viscount Leverhulme, built this 19th century village for his soap factory workers at Lever Brothers (which was eventually to turn into global giant Unilever). The village is set within 130 acres of beautifully maintained parkland. There are approximately 900 houses and some larger buildings and nearly every one of them is now Grade II listed. One of the great buildings in Port Sunlight is the Lady Lever Art Gallery. A keen art collector, Lever travelled all over the world and liked to show the villagers the art he’d amassed. Opened in 1922 by Princess Beatrice, the art gallery shows Lever’s collection and modern-day artwork. The collection includes a range of furniture, paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
What’s so great about Port Sunlight? Lever employed over 30 different architects in the building of the village and the result is an intoxicating mix of architectural styles enhanced by the parkland setting giving tranquil scenes of great beauty. The historical significance of Port Sunlight lies in its combination of model industrial housing, providing materially decent conditions for working people, with the architectural and landscape values of the garden suburb, influenced by the ideas of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Each block of houses was designed by a different architect. The backs of any of the houses cannot be seen, and each house is unique. In terms of architectural features, there is half-timbering, carved woodwork and masonry, pargetting (ornamental plaster work) moulded and twisted chimneys and leaded glazed patterns. Some houses were built in Flemish style, with bricks imported from Belgium.
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Why we are impressed Any walk around the village affords views of some of the most exciting village architecture of 19th century England. With each block of houses designed by a different architect, Port Sunlight continues to impress and delight.
Budenberg HAUS Projekte, Altrincham Developers Urban Splash acquired the site of the former Budenberg gauge factory adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal in 1999. They demolished existing Victorian industrial buildings on the site to make way for this cutting edge residential development of 320 new high quality apartments. The existing three storey Budenberg building was retained, converted and extended. Completed in 2004 this phase of the project won numerous awards, including an Institution of Structural Engineers North West Region Award. Two new buildings consisting of 260 dwellings with an underground car park were designed using a steel-framed superstructure leaning out over the canal and were completed in 2006.
What’s so great about the Budenberg HAUS Projekte? It is unique in many ways: firstly, how often are cutting-edge apartment developments found in an historic market town? Secondly, how often do Foster and Partners, the most famous architectural practice in the world design them?The answer to the latter is, never before - at least, not outside London. The buildings rise from three to seven stories cantilevering over the canal, and offer innovative floor plans ranging from one bedroom apartments to three bedroom penthouses. The building also marks the first time Urban Splash used CHP (combined heat and power) significantly reducing harmful CO2 emissions, up to 50% less than conventional power generation.
Why we are impressed Budenberg HAUS Projekte proves there is a demand for cutting edge architecture and housing solutions in the suburbs. For more details visit www.urbansplash.com
Royd House, Hale Royd House is one of many buildings created by Edgar Wood (1860-1935). It’s been called ‘strange and beautiful’ but then Wood was an iconoclast who wasn’t afraid to be bold, creating the first flat concrete roof in England in 1906 way before that arch modernist Le Corbusier. Wood fell in love with Arts and Crafts movement which was very popular at the late 19th early 20th century and the detailing of Royd House in Hale reflects this. His work is principally domestic, but he designed several churches and small commercial buildings operating very much as an individual rather than in a larger practice. Examples of his work are to be found in areas such as Oldham, Rochdale and Bramhall. Wood was a founder of the Northern Art Workers’ Guild in 1896, one of the major provincial societies within the Arts and Crafts Movement and was president of the Manchester Society of Architects from 1911–12.
What’s so great about Royd House? Royd House is considered so important that it has been awarded Grade I listed building status. Wood built the two-storey Y-shaped building as his own home between 1914 and 1916. It has a concrete roof, concave facade and is faced in Portland red stone and Lancashire brick. It shouldn’t work but it does. Its elegant, curved facade and detailing which includes a striking panel above the front door designed by Pilkington’s add up to a striking architectural gem. It is now considered to be one of the most advanced examples of early 20th century domestic architecture.
Why we are impressed ‘It has a bold formal simplicity, little in the way of overt historical reference, a rational, practical plan - and it relies extensively on new materials. It is also cosy, sumptuous and romantic’ wrote Keith Miller in the Daily Telegraph when the house went up for sale in 2001 for £850,000. We couldn’t put it better.
For more details visit manchesterhistory.net/edgarwood/ROYD/roydhouse.html