The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Pilkington's canteen

North West

Event: Wigan and St Helens tour on 31 May

The C20 Society’s North West Group will be touring Wigan, Ashton-in-Makerfield and St Helens on Saturday, May 31, 2014. This announcement is later than usual, due to arranging access to some venues. We will meet at Manchester Piccadilly rail station at 10 am before driving to Wigan. If Liverpudlians would like a pick up outside Wigan North Western rail station please let me know promptly. The coach could stop outside the station to collect passengers arriving on the 10.22 (leaves Lime Street at 9.32am).

We will stop first at Adam Viaduct, Wallgate, Wigan – a grade II listed concrete bridge – the first pre-stressed railway bridge in England (1946): it would be churlish, surely, to ignore it. Then on to St Jude’s, Poolstock Lane, Wigan (L A G Pritchard & Son, 1963-4) with wonderful dalle de verre windows by Robin Riley and an excellent Crucifixus by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze (who both worked for London Transport). St Jude’s was recently listed at grade II. At St Jude’s we will meet Robin Riley himself who can tell us about the design and construction of this modernist gem. This is a unique opportunity to meet and chat to one of the North West’s 1960s leading modernist artists. Riley also worked on the RC cathedral in Liverpool.

Off then to Ashton-in-Makerfield to St Oswald & St Edmund Arrowsmith (J Sydney Brocklesby, 1925-30). This is a remarkable church: works by F X Velarde and no fewer than seven (at least) very fine stained glass windows by Harry Clarke himself. There are nineteen Harry Clarke Studio windows in the church: astonishing. Clarke was one of Ireland’s greatest C20 artists; his work is in the Lane City Art Gallery in Dublin (The Eve of St Agnes window) and in many galleries across the world. His window in the League of Nations Building in Geneva was Eire’s gift to the League soon after Irish independence; it’s in Florida now. The church also has the Shrine of St Edmund Arrowsmith in a side chapel. We hope to hear how such an important artists’s works ended up in south Lancashire. Brockleby’s career is an odd one too: quite a character.

Into St Helens for lunch and, we hope, a look inside W D Caroe’s St Helen’s church (1920-26) with its original, almost Belgian [high praise] brickwork interior and odd arched spaces. But it’s not all churches: St Helens also has Pilkington’s original offices by Herbert Rowse (now apartments) and the later Pilkington campus offices, Alexandra Park (Fry, Drew & Partners,1964-5), with landscaping by Sylvia Crowe. Victor Pasmore’s mural in the former semi-derelict canteen building is exposed to the elements now so be warned for shocks.

We have other ideas we’re working on now – such a photostop at the Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, with its Bill Mitchell panel – but these have yet to be confirmed. Astley Green Colliery Museum is a gleam in our eyes too. The coach then returns to Manchester (but Liverpudlians won’t be forgotten: Merseyrail pass holders can leave at St Helens perhaps). The fare will be about £25 (with usual concessions; awaiting confirmation from coach company): pay on the day.

Please let me know if you would like a place, either by phone on 01772 824154 or email me.

Aidan Turner-Bishop
C20 NW