Last Thursday I visited New Brighton, which is part of Wallasey, on The Wirral to meet the owner of the New Brighton Palace and take a look round the building.

New Brighton is a short train ride from Liverpool Lime Street on the Wirral line. The train network is very extensive across The Wirral and takes you to towns as far as West Kirkby and Hoylake. The railway lines allowed people to travel from the larger city of Liverpool, to seaside towns such as New Brighton when people were allowed holidays or days off.  However, since the 1970’s onwards, less people have travelled to these seaside resorts and favoured holiday destinations abroad. Subsequently, a lot of these towns fell into decline as there was less tourism to support the local economy.

New Brighton, however, did not currently feel run down at all, it was very well maintained and clean, and it rather more felt like an extension of Liverpool with shore front restaurants such as Prezzo and Pizza Express in a redevelopment area on the front built in 2011. Walking down from the New Brighton station in the other direction, there are some vintage style cafes and locally run restaurants.

When leaving New Brighton station, I initially walked along the promenade to the left to have a look at the distinctly ‘seaside moderne’ seaside shelters.  There are three – one positioned on it’s own to the back of the promenade’s grassland which is an electricity sub station, and two that are paired together on each side of an entrance road to the promenade road.  Of the paired shelters – one is circular in form and containing toilets, and the second across the road is more oval in design and only holds sheltered seating.

I cannot find any information as yet to the architect or build date regarding these shelters, if you do know anything please do get in touch.

Further back towards the shopping area, there is an electricity sub station, again in this curved ‘seaside moderne’ style.

Although most likely built in the 1960s, there is waster water station (below) nearer the rail station which is a striking building and provides very clever private areas for seating around the outside for members of the public.

And lastly, there are beautifully sculptural concrete sea defences to see as you walk along the promenade.

(This is a repost from Looking Back|Moving Forward)


So far on my project, I have been amazed how generous people have been with their time and knowledge. During my last visit to Morecambe this was not any different.

I met up with the lovely artist, illustrator and ice cream entrepeneur Kate Sundae(Kate Drummond) who lives in Morecambe.  As her name suggests, as well as her various creative practices, Kate has a fantastic vintage ice cream business that encompasses her love of faded seaside glamour and all that is vintage. The Everyday is Like Sundae van travels to festivals, events and can also be seen on the Morecambe seafront.

Kate was really helpful giving me her opinion of the existing 1930s architecture and changing environment in Morecambe, also interestingly in relation to her other experiences of living in Glasgow, London and Brighton. Kate was on ‘The Friends of the Midland’ committee that helped to bring about the renovation of The Midland Hotel, finally through Urban Splash, and was really useful in pointing me to some passionate individuals who spearheaded the campaign to restore this iconic piece of architecture.

Kate also very kindly took me to Brucianni’s, a local sea front ice cream parlour that was built in 1939.  Built in ‘street deco style’, it still boasts much of its internal fittings such as wooden wall panelling, door fittings, lighting and formica tables. The business has always been run by an Italian family.  I would like to go back and explore more, it is a fantastic interior.

Kate also talked about three site specific paintings in Morecambe she had been commissioned to do for the Vintage by the Sea Festival in 2014, produced byDecopublique.  The legacy artworks were funded by Arts Council England.

The first painting ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ is painted upon the electricity sub station on the promenade in front of The Midland Hotel.  This is the area of the area of the former promenade bandstand which has been demolished.

The second painting is ‘Take the Plunge’ in the area of the former Super Swimming Stadium, which has also been demolished and is now a wide open space.  The imagery on the wall painting is taken from the swimming stadium design, and the text below is from the swimming test document, which to pass learners must have been able to ‘swim unaided and self-propelled from deep to shallow’.

You can watch a lovely video of cine film movies of the Super Swimming Stadium set to an instrumental piece Lido by Darren Hayman here – it is beautiful, I really encourage watching it!

The third painting by Kate Drummond and Shane Johnstone was a repainting of the Palladium Cinema ghostsign (above), which you can read further about on her website here.

Although built in 1897, Kate also directed me to the Winter Gardens, which is currently being managed and renovated by Friends of the Winter Gardens, which I would like to visit on a future trip, to get more understanding of how the town would have functioned as a whole when The Midland was built.  The Gardens have open days and various events on to have a look around the interior.

Kate also directed me to the two retail businesses on the shore front, one being the former Woolworths, that were most likely built in the 1930s.

I have to say Morecambe is a beautiful and interesting bay, and often when I discuss my project involving research in Morecambe, people can be quite snobbish about it as a place to visit and its reputation.  Already, I am won over as an advocate for Morecambe! Go visit…


This past Wednesday, I visited Morecambe to see the interior of The Midland Hotel, and be guided around the hotel by the very knowledgeable concierge Brian, who has worked at the hotel since it reopened in 2008, and also stayed in the hotel when it was previously managed by other hoteliers.  It was clear that Brian had a real passion for the hotel, and actually relocated to Morecambe with his wife when he heard the hotel was being redeveloped, so he could work there.  As part of his role, Brian shows guests and tours around the hotel and has developed in-depth understanding of the modern history of the building, it changing features and how many decisions were made during various incarnations of the building.  He has actually written a book about The Midland which will hopefully be published soon.

It was interesting to talk to Brian about the guests that stay in the hotel, and how far afield they travelled, often internationally, to see this iconic piece of architecture restored.

We started off the tour at the Eric Gill relief to the left of the current reception desk.  Eric Gill completed four commissions in total for the hotel, with the map mural being a last minute addition for the children’s playroom. Titled  ‘Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicaa’, the entrance mural it is carved into six tonnes of Portland stone and shows Odysseus coming from the sea welcomed by Nausicaa and three maids offering food, drink and clothing.  This scene represents the experience the hotel trade offers. The mural was stolen in the 1980s, and when a police campaign was launched to find the precious work, the thieves started to lose confidence, abandoned a truck with the mural within it at a South Yorkshire service station, and called the police anonymously to let them know where it was!

The hotel, designed by architect Oliver Hill, opened on 12th July 1933.  Few examples of the original furniture is left, apart from existing doors, three tables and a cocktail cabinet.  One of the three tables is pictured above, with an imitation formica surface top of the Pear Walnut doors.

The second commission for Eric Gill was a last-minute request, and it was originally intended as an educational map for the Children’s room.  The mural has actually been moved since the Urban Splash development to make way for a reconfiguration of the ground floor, but has remained intact.  The map shows the Lancashire and Lake District coast with figurative symbols within different locations, such as the man on his knees indicating the slave trade.

It is a relatively ‘clean’ work for Eric Gill, with only a man touching a woman’s breast in the top left hand corner as sexual suggestion.  Since visiting The Midland this time, I have spent more time reading about Eric Gill, his work and sexually obsessive and abusive behaviour.  I was surprised and shocked by this, but like everyone else can make a clear visual work to aesthetic and content of his artwork.

Gill’s third commission is the circular medallion carved at the top of the staircase, painted by his son-in-law Dennis Tegetmeier, who also hand painted the colour on the map mural.  The medallion depicts a sea-god being attended by mermaids and is edged with the words “And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn”.  Brian said it was suggested that the positioning of this work in relation to the stairwell, proposed the stairs as ‘a stairway to heaven’.  It is a space that incredibly impressive structurally, and on an emotional level it feels entirely optimistic, with light poring into an upwards tunnel that we can view on all sides where we are positioned upon and moving to.

The medallion is framed by the elaborate staircase, and the curved windows on the front of the buildings are a reproduction of the original lined glass from 1933.  The hand rail is also the original, although it has been raised slightly for health and safety reasons.  The original metal hand rail was kept as it is the rail that celebrities such as Roger Moore and Laurence Olivier touched when they stayed.  The stairs are actually built back to front, usually stairs start from the left in architectural practice.  The wall covering is a wallpaper replica of the original covering which was actually originally grooved Artex.

When Oliver Hill originally designed the hotel, he supplied plans to extend the roof terrace into another floor, which was rejected by the local council.  When Urban Splash redeveloped the site, they used Oliver’s existing plans to build this extra floor.  Contrary to popular belief, Hill did not base his design on a cruise liner, but on the curved shape of land, although the form of cruise liner’s commonly inform this style of ‘seaside moderne’ architecture.

Eric Gill’s fourth commission were the two carved seahorses on the front of building, which then went on to inform the hotel logo and foyer mosaic designed by Marion Dorn, who also designed the carpets in the entrance area.

A comment that Brian made about the hotel was that it was launched and relaunched and thrived in a recession and a depression.  In 1933, in the mid war period, and 2008, in the latest recession, when people looked to travelling within the United Kingdom for holidays and short breaks.

I really do think, especially since I visited other buildings from this era recently, they have done a sympathetic job renovating the building, and giving it a life again.  Of course, there are foibles, such as some out-keeping furniture but it has been turned into a functioning business again while highlighting the importance of its architectural design and history.

Whilst there, I bought ‘The Midland Hotel – Morecambe’s White Hope’ by Barry Guise and Pam Brook, which I looking forward to reading.

(This is a re-post from the blog Looking Back|Moving Forwards)


Although not a modernist building, The Winter Gardens in Blackpool is a very impressive entertainment complex, originally designed and opened in 1878, that houses a range of venues such as the Ballroom, Theatre, Opera House, café and various other conference facilities.  It was originally designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham , with additions to the complex being built in late 1800s, Olympia House being built in 1910 and the Opera House Theatre re built in 1939.

I took a visit to the areas accessible by the public and was enthralled by the decorative pattern on the ceiling, walls and floor and the fantastic pride and care taken in the building by the management and community.  Blackpool Council are also developing the Blackpool Museum Project, from which they are planning to open a museum within the Winter Gardens in 2018.  I am hoping to visit the collection in the next few months to source any archived materials about the local seaside moderne buildings I am researching.


A fortnight ago I took the train to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, to visit the Blackpool Casino and Pleasure Beach, designed by Joseph Emberton.  It is probably quicker to take the train to Blackpool North, if you are travelling from far, and taking the really frequent tram service down the promenade.  However, coming from the Pleasure Beach station, you get to take in the complex amusement park and architecture on the promenade and held within the current pleasure beach before reaching the impressive white building itself.

The Casino and Pleasure Beach was designed by Joseph Emberton for Leonard Thompson and built between 1937-40.

Joseph Emberton was the first British architect to successfully undertake the International Modern Style, and the only British architect included in Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson’s ground-breaking New York exhibition in 1932, `The International Style’. Emberton originally started in exhibition design before architecture, and other existing examples of his architectural design are Simpson’s of Piccadilly, City of Westminster, and the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-Crouch, (Maldon) Essex, are grade II*.

The building was altered in the 1970s by architect Keith Ingham, and has had various alterations over decades for changing internal use. The top floor was originally built as a roof garden which has been mainly altered into an extra floor in 1972. The sweeping curved exterior is highlighted by a very impressive spiral tower, and a spiral chimney, like on a ship.  There is currently a restaurant in the tower open at the weekends.  The ground floor holds a reception area at the rear for tickets to the Pleasure Beach Park.

The casino is built on a circular plan, and I am told the interior is a sequence of curved rooms.  I am going to visit the inside of the building next week, and am being shown around by the PR department, so I will learn more about the current use then over various floors. Looking forward to it!