Monday, 28 February 2011

Manningham Part 1

That’s where I lived - though my parents said it was Heaton -- from the age of 12 till I left home for university, never to return except for holidays. Manningham was a suburb of Bradford, though by my time it had had at least 50 years as one of the main districts of Bradford, industrial as well as residential. Manningham in the 17th century had been a village -- farming and a bit of hand loom weaving; Heaton, a bit further out, still was and is a village, sort of, though with plenty of late Victorian and 20th century housing added, and in the way that Highgate in London is a village.

My return visit last week is an example of the difference a good book can make to perception and experience.
The authors are Simon Taylor and Kathryn Gibson; it came out in 2010 and is scholarly, readable and intelligent -- simply a fine piece of work by English Heritage, who have had conservation projects in the area. Cheap, too -- £9.99.

As a teenager I knew Manningham and Heaton well but never appreciated their architectural distinction. I got the book for Christmas, read it in soft southern suburban Surbiton where I now live and was inspired to go back and have a fresh look. So I did, last week, and this time what I saw was richly meaningful because of the explanations and historical maps in the book. What we see depends not just on perception (at least if that refers to light falling on eyeballs) but on the semiotic chains that are activated by the incoming ‘messages’-- the image evokes ideas or associations already there, which in turn evoke others...

In 1950s Bradford, old buildings -- working-class cottages, Victorian mills, 19th century co-op stores -- were smoke-blackened and shabby. They felt clapped-out when what we pined for -- or Stibbs and me and our AA architecture student friend Colin Bottomley did -- was Bauhaus and Corb, European modernism, clean lines, whiteness. This was before Asa Briggs’s (1965) celebration of Victorian Cities, and before the cream of cameramen started their black and white luxuriating in the north in films like A Taste of Honey.

I took my new compact camera, a cheap Nikon that I’d after placing portability above features. I suppose it did ok but I missed the viewfinder that such cameras no longer have -- the screen or monitor is useless when you’re looking into a bright scene -- simply can’t see what the camera’s going to take. That seems to be the case a lot of the time. But the main disappointment was that the weather was dull and non-photographic. Still, I offer a few shots here...

Bradford has fallen on hard times (nothing has replaced the textile industry) as can be seen from the run-down streets, though the Asian families (in Britain that means from the Indian subcontinent and not, as in North America, east Asia) are apparently very attached to the place. It means some fine buildings and squares are overgrown, neglected or derelict, like the wonderful Victorian Southfield Square off Lumb Lane (click to get photos a decent size):

Fairmount, an elegant 1853 development built in open fields, is a particularly sad case.

Further out from the centre I passed through Lister Park and up into Heaton, past several fine villas on Emm Lane.
No more pics allowed in a single post so continuing in Part 2.

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