Sunday, 19 May 2019

Hello again, Saltaire

For me, one of the small joys of going away on holiday is coming back and getting reacquainted with 'normal' life again. Often the ordinary things seem all the sweeter for having been away. I took the scenic route walking back from the supermarket and was pleased at how pretty Saltaire looked. The hawthorn blossom is prolific this year and there are holiday boats moored along the canal again. (These are just shots on my old iPhone... I don't take my camera to the supermarket!)

The elaborate chimney of Salts New Mill is always an impressive sight. I never tire of living here.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Paper marbling

At Nostell, in collaboration with The Hepworth Wakefield, there was a demonstration of paper marbling techniques by the artist Giles Round's Obelisk Marbling team. They were taking inspiration from the beautifully marbled paper that Thomas Chippendale used to line drawers in his furniture, and the endpapers of some of the precious books in the library.  

The process involves a bath of carrageen seaweed, a thick gluey substance, which is then delicately splattered with pigments. The surface is often combed or dragged to produce swirling effects.  A sheet of paper is laid on top to pick up the pigments and then lifted out to dry. Each sheet is unique. The bath is cleaned between each page, by soaking up the remaining pigment with newspaper before starting again. It was quite time-consuming but the young lady demonstrating it when I visited seemed to be enjoying the creative process. 

Friday, 17 May 2019

Inside Nostell

The State Dining Room, designed by James Paine
Sitting room lined with tapestries
Bedroom with tester bed, most likely designed by James Paine
The interior of Nostell Priory is jam-packed with fine architectural details, priceless furniture and objects, utterly breath-taking. Of particular interest is the plasterwork, crafted by two generations of the Rose family of plasterers: Rococo designs by James Paine and later the Neo-Classical designs made famous by Robert Adam.

Plaster ceiling by James Paine in the State Bedroom.

Plasterwork in the Top Hall by Robert Adam

Robert Adam ceiling in the Top Hall
It is likely that Robert Adam introduced the Winns to Thomas Chippendale, a Yorkshireman (born in Otley) who made his name as a furniture maker and designer, largely by producing the innovative "The Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director", a luxurious catalogue of furniture designs. With this judicious advertising and by making connections to some of the wealthy elite, he became one of the most celebrated furniture makers Britain has ever produced - a kind of 'Shakespeare' of the furniture world. He not only supplied individual items but designed whole room schemes. His relationship with the Winns was not always straightforward and there were arguments over unpaid bills and unfinished work. When Rowland Winn was killed in a coach accident in 1785, Chippendale was left with huge unpaid fees.

Nostell is home to some of Chippendale's best pieces and last year (2018), being the 300th anniversary of his birth, there was a special exhibition exploring his life, work and relationship with Nostell.

Chippendale cabinet

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Nostell Priory

I've just returned from a holiday, so I need a few days to sort out my photos. In the meantime, I've just realised that I never shared any photos of one of the expeditions I made last autumn, to Nostell Priory near Wakefield. I'll remedy that now. It gives us an excuse to enjoy those lovely autumn colours, so different from the current bright spring shades.

Nostell, a Georgian mansion built between 1727 and 1785, was the home of the Winn family, who had originally made their money from the London textile trade in Tudor times and then added to it by investment in property and land. They bought the Nostell estate in 1654. By the 18th century, as a high status family and now with a knighthood, they wanted to replace the original house with a new one that would demonstrate (and increase) their status and wealth. Over two generations, they employed James Paine (who was only 19 when he began the work) to create an imposing and fashionable Palladian mansion, and craftsmen like Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale to create and furnish the interior. Waning family fortunes and early deaths meant the project was never completely finished, until the discovery of ironstone and coal on the family's various estates revived their wealth. By the late 19th century, Nostell was finally fulfilling the grand vision for which it had been conceived. It was given to the National Trust in 1953 and is hailed as one of the great houses of the North of England.

There is plenty to explore inside the house and also a huge estate of gardens, lakes and parkland for visitors to enjoy.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Going dotty

Here's another layered image. It started out as two pictures of the pierced metal sides of a pedestrian walkway over a nearby road. My original images just look like the grey steel it is made from but by layering them and then boosting the saturation, subtle colours within it become much more vivid. It's fun to do but it makes me think that designing curtain fabric or wrapping paper must be a complete doddle these days. It only takes a few minutes to create something like this. Dotty!

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Three Bradford murals

In the Little Germany area of Bradford, there are several interesting murals. The first, above, is on the side of the Bradford Playhouse. It was painted in 1993 and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the founding, in Bradford, of the Independent Labour Party, which was effectively the forerunner of our modern Labour Party. It came about as the result of a crippling strike over pay and conditions by mill-workers in 1890, when people realised that the strikers had lacked key political support and a political movement began, focused on improving working and living conditions for ordinary workers. (See HERE). 

The second is (just about) recognisably a picture of the artist David Hockney, who appears to be taking a photo of his own image (see HERE) on the opposite wall. 

The third is in a blocked-up doorway in one of the Victorian textile warehouse buildings. If you look carefully, the name of the band Led Zeppelin confirms that this is the Stairway to Heaven - unfortunately it's closed!

Monday, 13 May 2019

Bradford Playhouse

Bradford has a fine and historic theatre, The Alhambra, that hosts the big touring shows: musicals, plays, ballets and a much-loved pantomime at Christmas. Tucked away in the Little Germany district, however, is a much smaller theatre, the Bradford Playhouse. It was founded by an amateur group in 1929 and within a few years the playwright J B Priestley became its President. He helped rebuild it after a fire in the 1930s (with a very Thirties-looking facade, see above). Another fire in 1996 caused the closure of the main auditorium, which was again rebuilt. Since then, it has changed ownership, name and been threatened with closure many times and many efforts have been made to revitalise it as an important community resource. It seems to struggle on heroically. 

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Eastbrook Hall

Despite some of Bradford's city centre being a bit run-down, it has some very fine buildings. One of them is Eastbrook Hall, now Grade II listed. It was originally a Methodist Chapel, opened in 1904, replacing an earlier one on the same site, and was known as 'the Methodist cathedral of the north'. It had a fine, galleried hall which saw huge and fervent gatherings. I have seen reports of it also being a theatre but I can't be sure of that. It was disused from the 1980s and then suffered a major fire in 1996, which left it derelict and roofless.

In 2008, an £11m renovation project, supported by the Prince's Regeneration Trust (founded by the Prince of Wales), saw it converted into apartments, though as with many of the conversions in Little Germany, the potential has never been fully realised due to the effects of the recession on the housing market and the ongoing struggle Bradford has to revive the city centre.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Navvies Ark

I noticed this unusual boat, Navvies Ark, moored on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Saltaire. It has a very eye-catching paint effect and an unusual shape, certainly not a traditional narrowboat. I looked it up when I got home (as you do. Hurrah for Google!) Apparently it was once a lifeboat on an oil rig in the North Sea. It has been completely transformed and refitted by its owners, Martin Hodson and Julie Knott, into a fully equipped living boat, with all mod cons including a shower and a solar panel for power. There's an article about it HERE with some interior shots. I think it must get a lot of attention wherever it goes.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Candid camera

April's assignment in my online photo group was to 'take a photo of someone you don't know, either posed or candid'. That's a real challenge for me. Partly because I'm so deaf, I find it hard to engage with people I don't know - and I feel voyeuristic taking photos candidly. I had to have a go though...  

First, I took the photo of Alex at the mining museum. Though I would have liked a less cluttered background, I wasn't entirely comfortable about 'posing' him, so it was a bit rushed. Then I decided to have a go at taking some 'street shots', trying to catch people unawares. My new camera makes street photography slightly easier as it has a tilting backscreen, so I can compose surreptitiously and avoid lifting the camera to my eye. Still a challenge though. Somehow, photos with cluttered backgrounds taken by Martin Parr look OK; photos with cluttered backgrounds taken by me look... cluttered. At least the top shot doesn't have a cluttered background. 

The lady and the two boys were enjoying a picnic. I've blurred the boys' faces a bit as I'm never very happy showing identifiable pics of children on a public blog. I've a friend who is mother to adopted children and, as she points out, it can actually be dangerous to show identifiable children in identifiable locations. Some children's lives are very precarious and you just never know.  

In St. Peter's Square in Manchester there was a small group of 'Remainers' (Manchester for Europe) trying to convince people that staying in the EU is essential. They didn't have to work too hard to convince me... but others perhaps were less open to their message.

I spotted two older ladies just sitting watching the world go by (as the saying goes). It reminded me of my childhood, sitting with my parents on a bench somewhere. I think I asked what we were doing and mum said: 'Watching the world go by'.  After a while my sister asked: 'When is it coming?'

Some friends were having a warm chat over coffee:

and a little girl was running through the water jets, without her shoes but still in her (very wet) tights.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The forge

One of the buildings at the National Coal Mining Museum is used as a working forge by Nicholson-Harris Blacksmiths. It's a happy arrangement whereby the buildings and tools are used and the blacksmiths are able to carry out conservation work on some of the museum's objects, as well as producing items for sale and for commissions. You can also book a 'Be a Blacksmith for a Day' experience course, to learn the basic skills and create a few hand-forged items yourself. That sounds great fun!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Life in the mines

Most of the men now greeting and educating visitors at the National Coal Mining Museum are ex-miners. It makes it very interesting as they have real stories to tell and real expertise to share. On the day I visited, Alex was stationed in the Hope Pit Store, which holds much of the museum's archive of heavy machinery and tools. It is situated at the far side of the museum site, and you can either ride over there on a little train (that used to carry miners to their work stations) or walk along a nature trail. It was fairly quiet when I was there, so he kindly agreed to pose for a photo.

Canaries were used in mines right up until the 1980s, to detect dangerous gases like carbon monoxide. The birds would react much more quickly than people to the presence of toxic fumes, and acted as an early warning system. Eventually the use of 'electronic noses' meant the birds were phased out, but many miners felt this was a loss as they treated the birds as pets. Caphouse has an aviary full of the pretty yellow birds.

Pit ponies were once used extensively underground as well as above ground, to haul coal and equipment. At the peak in 1913, 70,000 were employed underground but by 1978, thanks to mechanisation, there were only 149 underground and the last of them retired in the 1990s. The sturdy, hardy little ponies lived underground for many months at a time, enjoying occasional holidays above ground. They were a vital part of the mine's operation and as such were well-cared for, and much loved by the miners.

Capstone has this model (below) showing how they would have pulled the coal tubs along rails, but there are also four real horses, including a couple of little Welsh ponies and a lovely Clydesdale heavy horse. They do a short 'day shift' in the stables to delight and educate visitors to the museum and are then led out to fields to graze and rest.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Our coal heritage

The last deep coal mine in the UK, Kellingley in Yorkshire, closed in December 2015, bringing to an end an industry that had sustained many communities since the 17th century. (There are a few open-cast mines still working.)                                                                                                               I've been doing some research on my family tree, and I know that my maternal grandfather and his father were miners in the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire coalfields. I was interested therefore to revisit the National Coal Mining Museum for England, near Wakefield. I last went there in 2014 (see here) but it has expanded quite a lot since then. Colliery headstocks and buildings were a familiar sight in my childhood and have now mostly disappeared, so to see the preserved remains of Caphouse Colliery and Hope Pit is quite nostalgic. The big wheels and cables operate the lift cages taking men up and down the shaft at the start and end of their shift and bringing the coal out. 
Mining ceased at Caphouse in 1985 but the mine workings have been made safe for tours, so you can get a hard hat and a lamp and go down in a cage to walk through the excavated tunnels and see some of the machinery still down there. It is truly fascinating. Tours are led by ex-miners who have a fund of stories to tell, both funny and poignant. No photos are allowed underground (things with batteries: cameras, phones etc are confiscated because of the risk of explosion from sparks). The tours operate as if you were a miner. You are issued a numbered metal check (see below for a collection of them), which miners used to have to hand in in exchange for a safety lamp before they went underground. In that way, they could tell exactly who was down in the mine, crucial information in the event of an accident. 

Monday, 6 May 2019

Manchester Central

I didn't have a lot of time to wander the streets of Manchester during my visit, as I spent so long in the wonderful Art Gallery. I did, however, have a little stroll around St Peter's Square, near the Town Hall.  The redbrick Midland Hotel is still rather splendid and has a wonderful history.  It was built in 1903 as a railway hotel, in an elaborate Edwardian Baroque style. It's said that it was coveted by Adolf Hitler as a possible Nazi headquarters in Britain, and the area around it was indeed spared the bombing that affected much of the city during WWII. 

Beside the Bridgewater Hall (a relatively new concert hall that is home to the Hallé Orchestra), the water feature is part of the old canal network in the area. The beautiful red brick building behind it is Chepstow House, built in the 1870s as business premises for Sam Mendel, a wealthy textile baron. It is now apartments.

Nearby, across all the tram tracks of Manchester's complicated, modern tramway system, is the unusual rotunda of the Central Library built in the 1930s of Portland Stone.

Opposite stands a bronze statue of Emmeline Pankhurst (born in Manchester), shown proclaiming her views whilst standing on a chair. Sculpted by Hazel Reeves in 2018, it was the winner of a public vote to choose which woman should be immortalised and it was unveiled to mark the centenary of the first right to vote for (some) women. Apparently the only other statue of a woman, in Manchester, is of Queen Victoria.