12 February 2018

St Joseph's, Wigan

The current incarnation of St Joseph's was designed by George Goldie, who specialised in Roman Catholic churches. He was of Mssrs. Goldie and Child, of Kensington, London.

The construction contract was awarded to Mr J. Wilson, of Wigan. The foundation stone was laid in 1877, and the church completed in 1878. It opened on 30 June of that year. Music hall star George Formby, denizen of Wigan, attended here, perhaps admired the windows.

The church was de-consecrated and sold in 1995. Planning permission was granted in 2014 for conversion into an indoor rock climbing facility, but the building remains derelict. The only holy ghost now in residence is in the form of hundreds of pigeons.

06 February 2018

Holy Trinity, Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Church of the Holy Trinity, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, is a glorious architectural oddity. It was designed by its first priest, Father James Egan, and built 1833-34. The style is Gothic, common for the period, but it is the materials used that are unusual.

Following an offer from a local brick maker of all the bricks that might be required, Egan undertook the design work, right down to the moulds for the shaped bricks. The fa├žade is constructed of Staffordshire blue vitrified brick, made from the local Etruria marl. As is the case for all engineering bricks, Staffordshire blues are fired with limited oxygen, which produces a hard brick with a high resistance to water penetration.

There are tiers of blind arcading, moulded bricks, embossed bricks, and bricks laid in diaper formation. On completion, the church was described as "the finest modern specimen of ornamental brickwork in the kingdom" (White's Directory of Staffordshire, 1834). First listed in 1949, the church now boasts Grade II* listed status.

20 December 2017

Wavox - Milk Monitor

Manufactured by Truvox, of Wembley, London, the Wavox is an Art Deco-esque extension speaker of the 1950s. Truvox manufactured public address systems, cinema speaker systems, industrial cleaning machines, and heaters. In 1949 it acquired Rola Celestion, but disappeared in 1969 through a reverse take-over. Celestion Industries Plc now uses Truvox as a brand name for loudspeakers.

Housing a Merco speaker, the case is made of a casein-based polymer. Casein is a phosphoprotein present in milk, more commonly used in making cheese. Casein polymer is these days used in any volume only for making buttons. Wavox extension speakers were available in a small range of rather unpleasant colour-ways, including blue/pink. This example is a much more sedate combination of gloss black and matte off-white.

07 December 2017

Ekco Radio Stands

Ekco is known to have produced stands for just five of its iconic Bakelite radios of the 1930s and 1940s. There is direct contemporary evidence, from an Ekco leaflet of 1935, for stands for two of the company's five round radios - the AC/AD76 and the AD36, both inspired by Wells Coates' 1932 styling for the AD65 - and for the AC/AD86 'Dougal', styled by Serge Chermayeff. All three of these radios were released in 1935.

There's also photographic evidence of contemporary Ekco stands for the AC/AD85 of 1934, inspired by Wells Coates' design work (image not available for copyright reasons but available online); and for the black and chrome version of the AC/DC74 of 1933, styled by Serge Chermayeff, this last in chromed tubular steel (left).

The wooden stands were of beech, and sported design cues that reflected those of the radio for which they provided support. They were available in both brown and black, likely coloured toner subsequently sealed with cellulose lacquer, to match the principal colours in which the radios were made. Those for the round AC/AD76 and AD36 radios cost £1.5s.0d in 1935 - about £80 at today's prices.

No stand was available for the round A22 or AD75 radios, and there is no direct evidence of a contemporary Ekco stand for the round AD65. Stands without curves to the supporting platform are modern incarnations, and not Ekco originals.

However, the oak stand featured in the remaining photographs in this post has accompanied the AC85 which sits upon it since their joint purchase, in the Spalding area of Lincolnshire, in about 1934. It is unlikely to have been made by Ekco itself, but instead by a local joiner, to display the radio to best effect in a shop. An EKCO RADIO transfer runs along the top stretcher, and the fretwork to the cupboard door bears upon it EKCO, 'printed' by means of masked staining of the wood.

In about 1987 the radio and stand, still paired, passed locally to Graham Richardson, only the second owner. Now in the hands of its third owner, the radio (still entirely functional, without any restoration work having ever been done) and stand remain together. The stand is undoubtedly contemporary with the radio, and unique.

(Copyright of first two photographs unknown. Please advise if you are the copyright holder.)

11 November 2017

X-Ray Specs

Likely manufactured in the late-1960s but updated in the mid-1980s - the Freed transformer inside is dated August 1969, but the Soderberg anti-collision beacon October 1985 - this Halsey industrial X-ray warning device was used by the United States military. The item bears an affixed metal plate, plus a sticker from the time of its disposal, that together provide valuable information on its origins.

The Disposal Turn-In Document (DTID) number acts as a unique disposal serial number. The first six places provide the Address Activity Code. FB5587 is RAF Lakenheath. The light was, thus, used by the USAAF. The next four places indicate the date the item was catalogued for disposal. Per the US military's adaptation of the Julian dating system, 9196 is 6 April 1991.

The National Stock Number (NSN) system was standardised by NATO in 1974 to track military assets, although versions of it existed prior. The first four places indicate the Federal Supply Classification Group. FSCG 9905 is for signs, advertising displays and identification plates: even military ID plates have their own ID codes! 00 in the fifth and sixth places indicates the United States.

Demilitarisation Codes indicate the degree of physical destruction required. DEMIL: A denotes a non-munitions/non-strategic item that does not demand any such. $2,245.63 is understood to be the asking price at disposal in 1991, over £3,000 at 2017 prices. The Federal Condition Code is given as A1 - serviceable without qualification, new/unused.

Halsey was a trademark of Post Glover Medical Products, of Erlanger, Kentucky. Established in 1938, the company supplied medical items, including X-ray illumination boxes. It still trades, as PG LifeLink. The light would have been supplied via the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Georgia, part of the USAAF's Materiel Command.

Shaped like a truncated pyramid, the device stands 29 inches tall. When switched on the Lucite panels are illuminated from within, and the twin bulbs in the beacon rotate within the red glass housing. Built to operate on US 115v mains, the light has been converted to run on UK 240v, with a new transformer inserted to provide steeped-down voltage for the 28v DC beacon. The original transformer and Hubbell connectors have been left in place, to enable any future reinstatement to the original set-up.

(Many thanks to Steve and Karen Myciunka, of Mullard Magic, for assistance with the item's history; and to various members of the UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Forum for advice and parts.)

16 October 2017

Munrow Sports Centre, Birmingham

The Munrow Sports Centre was constructed in phases as part of the University of Birmingham's expansion plan of the 1950s. It is due for demolition. The athletics track was built in 1951, and now lies three-quarters covered by spoil from construction of the university's new library.

The multi-building design was created by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (famous for the Barbican Estate in London), but never fully realised. Phase one, commenced in 1963 and completed in 1966, provided for two sports halls/gymnasia.

A ramp rose to the reception. The dance studio block was finished with a vaulted roof of repeated shell shapes, a favourite of the practice, formed of concrete and finished with red tiles. Top-lighting was provided by raked forms of an alternative shell shape.