Archives for category: Architecture

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Finishing the animal enclosures

Everywhere in the park things are taking shape and getting nearer to completion, and even though there’s still a lot to be done, every day there are signs that we’re in the final stages. The animal enclosures and the aviary have now been constructed and the back wall is clearly visible (with work still going on) behind the Grotto – which has now been fully cleared of its tangle of ivy, and has a smart new pair of Victorian style street lights. You can now see the steps of the aerial walkway that climbed from the cave up and across to the flower gardens behind the castle (I haven’t drawn these right, because in my sketch they don’t seem to end up in the cave as they should – the sunlight was very bright that afternoon and the shadows too dark for me to make it out properly). 

The Rose Garden

Beneath the bank of rhododendrons the rose garden has been planted with red and white standard roses in neat lines that look like something straight out of Alice-in-Wonderland, and dainty wooden slatted benches are appearing all over the place, all curvaceous and pretty. (Will they be comfortable? I’m not too sure about this, but time will tell.) 

Glasshouses

Glasshouses and dome

The glasshouses are still getting finishing touches but at least we can see them properly now the hoardings have been removed. A chance for me to try drawing the dome, and make a mess of it – I got all the elipses wrong and the proportions aren’t right either, even after a couple of attempts – but there’ll be plenty of opportunities to practise from now on!

Cherub on the north fountain

And at long last the fountains are complete, cherubs and all. I wish now that I’d had the chance to sketch the top bits before they were hoisted up and fixed in place because actually it’s quite hard to see all the detail, as they’re so high up – but they look lovely.

Cherub on the south fountain

Next Sunday is the Cliffe Castle Garden Party – not the official opening of the completed park as was originally planned (this will happen at a later date) but a chance to celebrate everything that’s happened so far, and with work going on at the speed we’re seeing now, there’ll be plenty more finishing touches ready by then….


More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

​Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Tucked away beyond the Conservatory lies the Grotto… 

If you arrive at Cliffe Castle from the car park and make your way down the path towards the museum the first thing you come to is the mouth of the tunnel, dark and spooky; long ago the entrance was planted with ferns (which would have looked lovely) and more recently it was liberally draped with ivy which added to its darkly gothic tone. Up until now I have to admit that it gave me the creeps. 

But I’ve always found that drawing something is a good way to overcome any misgivings, and now I’ve sketched it from all sorts of directions I feel quite differently about it. 

As you come further down the path you realise the tunnel is part of a larger structure, a sort of conglomeration of rockwork that’s quite hard to describe. Most of the vegetation has been stripped off it and now you can see more or less what it must have looked like when it was first built and before it was planted – mostly with rhododendrons – and it’s very strange indeed. 

To understand it better it’s helpful to know a bit of its history…. 

In the late 1870’s when Henry Isaac Butterfield was executing his grand building and landscaping plans at Cliffe Castle, he employed a French stonemason Monsieur Aucante, a specialist in the field of ornamental rockwork to create a marvellous structure that would provide – 1. a cleverly concealed entrance by means of a tunnel, for tradespeople and goods to enter the house with their deliveries unseen by the family and guests;  2. an aerial walkway leading up to the flower gardens and glasshouses at the back of the Castle; 3. an intriguing rocky retreat rather like a natural cave, that would look eye-catching and romantic and serve as a cool place to sit in on a hot summer’s day; and 4. a striking piece of architectural landscaping that would shape the wonders of nature’s creation into something even more grand, and provide a support for an attractive natural display of flowering shrubs. 

Clearly Monsieur Aucante set about the task with skill and ingenuity, creating a striking feature with natural pockets in the rock to be filled with soil that would support plants, but it wasn’t until I was drawing the strange fluid shapes of this flowing convoluted limestone that I realised what I was looking at, and why it looks so strange. These swirling holes and curling channels have been eroded by churning water and pebbles – they’re exactly what you find for instance at The Strid – and they would have been formed horizontally, not vertically, which is what makes them look so odd in a vertical wall. It makes you wonder where exactly all this rock was collected from, and how it was extracted and transported from its original site, presumably by horse and cart. 

Nevertheless the skill of the craftsman didn’t stop there. Some of the stone has been worked – if you look closely you can see that the central pillar supporting the front of the cave is carved in the form of a tree trunk. Because it’s now closed off with locked iron gates you can only stand outside and wonder what it might have been like in its heyday, and speculate as to whether the bricked up wall to the right as you peer into the gloomy interior hides the beginning of the flight of steps that led up to the aerial path that wound its way to the gardens beyond. 

The whole place is a bit of a mystery. Although it’s referred to as the Grotto, this is one thing that it’s not; a grotto is a highly decorated, often shell-encrusted whimsy and this was never conceived as such a thing, but it’s hard to find a simple word to sum up what this whole feature is and the word Grotto has somehow stuck. And in a way it sounds right, I think, even though to be pedantic we should be calling it something else. Grotto. A strange, fantastical, weird place, full of possibilities and probably odd stories that we may never know. It deserves more attention and with some loving care, who knows what strange and beautiful things may develop in this rather forgotten corner? Only time will tell. 

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can. 

Councillor Sarah Ferriby being interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph & Argus at the raising of the dome

At 16 minutes past 11.00 on Thursday 9th February – an extremely chilly morning and a red-letter day in the calendar of the restoration project – the dome was raised into position on the top of the glasshouses. No fanfares, no brass band, no speeches – but a great sense of accomplishment and perhaps a little relief that the whole thing went off without the slightest hitch. The 9.5 ton dome was lifted by a crane so immense I couldn’t get even half of it onto the page of my sketchbook, and I watched with excitement as it sailed upwards and was guided smoothly and expertly into place.

As everyone assembled in hard hats and high-vis vests I sketched the crowd, including Councillor Sarah Ferriby from Bradford Council (Environment, Sport, and Culture) as she was interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph and Argus. I drew the contractors as they made preparations and at various times during the lift itself:

Guiding the dome into place; impossible to get the crane and the dome onto the page – things happening too fast

I wish I could have sketched the whole process from start to finish as it unfolded but the truth is I couldn’t decide whether I should try to do that, or take photos, or video the actual moment of lifting, and stupidly I should have spent more time paying attention and looking closely at what was going on. Besides, I knew I could rely on my friend Christina Helliwell who was there taking photos to get great shots – and of course she did.

Christina Helliwell taking shots of the crane as the dome is lifted

So with her permission, here are some of the highlights that I couldn’t draw, as captured expertly through her lens. 

Fitting the hoists. The dome has been nestled firmly into a square frame of steel girders to support it safely. Bright red hoisting straps are fitted to the frame (a nice touch, these red straps – probably brightly coloured to be clearly visible but they look very celebratory).

A tall order – the truly colossal crane with the dome prepared for lifting. There are two hydraulic lifts – one blue, one red – with platforms to raise workmen up to the top level so they can guide the dome onto the framework 

A delicate operation: the crane lifts and swings the dome forwards while guide ropes on two sides are held by men on the ground keep it from spinning

Airborne! The moment when guide ropes really come into play

Final adjustments, and it’s in position! 

So it’s up – and now clearly visible from many parts of the park, and even from the Skipton Road. A new part of the landscape, a milestone in the progress of the project and a hint of what’s yet to come. 

***This post was amended to correct a mistake I made wrongly attributing Councillor Ferriby’s areas of responsibility; it should have read Environment, Sport and Culture, not Sport, Education and Culture ***

SPECIAL OFFER! 
To celebrate the raising of the dome I’m making a selection of my sketches available to buy as prints, from Photobox.com. (You can see these collages here on my website.) If you’d like to know more, get in touch through my 
Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

This week the dome is going to be raised and put in place on top of the glasshouse frame, and to celebrate this landmark event I’m making a selection of my sketches available to buy as prints, from Photobox.com. (You can see these collages here on my website.) If you’d like to know more, send me a message through my Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it so you can have a look. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

Over the last week the dome that will be the crowning centrepiece of the top stretch of glasshouses has been gradually assembled on site. It sits there looking huge (will it seem smaller when it’s up in the air?) and now it’s being glazed. The curved glass panels arrived carefully packed in lots of plastic wrapping and strapped to wooden pallets – and it’s toughened glass, not plastic, so what with the structure of the dome itself the whole thing is going to weigh 9.5 tons, which is going to need a big crane to lift it. All being well this is going to take place this Thursday, and needless to say I plan to be there to watch…..

Glazing panels being unpacked

I’m finding the dome itself a real challenge to draw – first there’s the difficulty of getting the curves and elipses right, especially hard when drawing standing up and in a smallish sketchbook – and then there’s the question of how to deal with the glass. I haven’t managed to get it anywhere near right but at least every time I draw it I learn something more about its shape and construction.

Dome and cupola partially glazed and almost finished

Watching it being raised by crane and lowered into position is going to be so exciting…….!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Another landmark in the work on the top terrace – the framework for the central section of glasshouses has started to go up. This will be the circular, domed structure that will contain a Norfolk Island Pine planted in the most enormous container that’s already in place. (I sketched this at the end of a dark afternoon when the light was fading fast and I could see just well enough to make out what was going on.) 

Many of the plants that were in the old glasshouses were removed before the demolition and stored for safety, so some of these cactii and succulents will find their way back into the new planting schemes. But in the meantime, behind the scenes, a lot of work is going on to plan and devise what to plant and how best to arrange it. 

The Victorians were obsessed with ferns. There’s even a word for it – Pteridomania – they couldn’t get enough of them, and wherever possible they planted them in exotic and dramatic settings imitating a kind of romantic woodland, incorporating old dead roots and stumps of trees. (The oldest and most famous Stumpery is at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire and photographs of it show something weird and gothic, looking like something straight out of Middle Earth.) 

Rooteries are simpler, more natural, and less contrived. Last week Dan Palmer the Heritage Parks Officer put together a collection of roots and the odd bit of stump collected from uprooted bushes from the park hedges and planted a few ferns and other plants as an example of what might be done. I loved it – I think I even recognised the root from drawing it where it was lying outside during the previous week – and I just had to do a sketch of this sample Rootery. 

The planting schemes for the whole park still have to be finalised and it will exciting to follow; it has taken an enormous amount of research into the history of the original gardens and to source specimens of just the right kind. Only this week there was exciting news about rhododendrons…… but more about this another time!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

If you were to go up to the top of the park today and look at this view of the tower,  you’d see that already things have moved on from when I did this sketch a couple of weeks ago. It’s exciting to see the start of new building – even though at this stage the framework for the café row of glasshouses looked more like a monstrous white spider crouched next to the tower wall, all pale and ghostly in the dim light of late afternoon. 

I’ve peered through the viewing windows since then; the work is progressing fast but every time I’ve been there the windows were wet with condensation from morning fog and I couldn’t see well enough to draw. Winter sketching has its challenges. 

More to follow soon…. 

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

As I can’t see what’s happening behind the security hoarding that now surrounds the site at Cliffe Castle (we’re still waiting for viewing windows) I thought I’d turn my attention to the old toilet block above the children’s playground, which will be the next thing to be demolished after they’ve finished taking down the café. I stood beside the tower to sketch, and the view across the Aire valley from here is stunning. 

I made a lot of mistakes in the drawing – quite a lot of the proportions aren’t right and there’s something very wrong going on with the roofline of the extension at the back, but I’ve learnt that things that go wrong with urban sketching are just as valuable as what goes right, or perhaps more so. You learn by making mistakes, and I now understand a lot more about the structure, though I’d like to know more.

This little building is in a sorry state, but because of that it’s full of bits of delectable rich urban decay, and I had a wonderful time taking photos of the rusty old iron downpipe that has gorgeous peeling layers of different shades of blue paint (why are old drainpipes hereabouts often painted this lovely turquoise blue colour?) and the extraordinarily beautiful iron bolt on the railings that secure the entrance. I know this project of mine is a sketching record but there are times when only a photo will do.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

The animal enclosure and the glasshouses were demolished this week. I’d already managed to do a wild, rapid sketch of the glasshouses from some distance away, standing outside the security fence:

These have now all gone. I’d hoped to get the chance to get closer and sketch some details, because the stone wall beneath the glass had some really interesting features. Dave Bennison from Bradford Parks gave me a conducted tour of the site, which gave me a wonderful chance to have things pointed out that otherwise I would have missed. Almost at ground level at the back of the raised flowerbed you could see long carefully dressed stones like lintels, evenly spaced in a course of regular sized stones – because the best way to grow vines in a hothouse is to plant just outside, and then train the stem through a hole in the wall so that the roots get the benefit of rainwater and drainage and the leaves and branches have warmth and protection under glass. So in order to do this, you need little holes like windows in the wall – and for that reason you need lintels. (Apparently Victorian gardeners often used to put the carcase of a dead animal into the bottom of the hole they dug at the time of planting, to fertilise the vine with blood and bone – I wondered if the skeletal remains of a cow or a horse might emerge when they dug around the footings, but Dave thought any trace would be long gone….)

Unfortunately it looks as if health and safety regulations are going to prevent me from being allowed onto the site and getting near enough to draw details like this, except occasionally under supervision. I’m going to have to sketch from behind the security hoarding and make do with what I can see through the viewing windows they’re going to cut. 

This was the animal enclosure, next to the glasshouses, already half dismantled. The flight of stone steps (which regretfully I didn’t sketch – I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot of this; thankfully there are lots of photos) and all the dressed stones have been meticulously numbered and photographed so they can eventually be put back together in their correct positions. 

I don’t know which is more fascinating – discovering things about the buildings and the history of the site, or watching the process of the work as it unfolds and the way it’s done. One of the men working there was telling me how much admiration he had for the craftsmanship of the original work, and the skill and effort that had gone into the building. It seems I’m not the only one who’s finding this a very interesting building site! 

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

Sometimes demolition can be done very quickly, but not when you’re conserving things that are going to be put back together again. I spent some time last week watching the stones in this wall being carefully separated into piles and the dressed stone being neatened and cleaned before being stacked on pallets and taken away. The wall has had to come down to give better access to the site; it’ll be reinstated, eventually, a bit further back. Even though it’s a slow and deliberate process, things can move amazingly fast – I’m constantly surprised by how much has changed from one day to the next.

These drawings were from last week, when the weather was better; this week I’ve been dodging rain and haven’t managed to get too many good opportunities to draw. 

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  


When I’m out and about, occasionally I catch sight of something that’s been made, or hung, or arranged or displayed by someone who had no conscious intention of making a work of art at the time – and yet the result is something strikingly different, something that is expressing an idea, or maybe just presenting itself to the world in a way that says, ‘Look, here I am, take notice of me’.

I don’t want to get into the whole complex business of what constitutes a work of art, or at least, not here and now – but there are times when I feel liberated by stumbling across something in the street that could have been self consciously show-cased in a gallery as an art installation, and I want to celebrate its glory and freshness and integrity. ‘Yes!’ I want to shout, ‘you’re wonderful!’ So I take pictures.

These drain covers are a case in point. They’ve all been carefully constructed so that when in place the design of the stone paving continues across them in an uninterrupted flow; all you are supposed to see when they’re in their right places are the edges of the metal frames. But as each one has been taken out from time to time and put back, they’ve been jumbled up and now they’re a far more interesting visual picture – and a framed one at that. I stood a long time looking at them and enjoying their different shapes and textures, their tonal values and their colour, and the composition as a whole. If this had been hanging on the wall of a gallery I would have stood just as long and looked as thoroughly, but I confess that finding it in the street I enjoyed it more.

Actually I often like to look at drain covers – and street furniture generally. They are things so often ignored and overlooked. I have no idea why this inspection cover has been painted red. Right in the middle of a cobbled street, and not six feet from a neighbouring one that’s a natural unpainted brownish grey, it’s saying something important, but I have no idea what it is. Street furniture has a language of its own.

I’m not sure if this last example really counts as unintentional art, but I found it so arresting when I saw it the other day that I can’t resist including it. What are we to infer from this washing line, with just one single sock? A whole multitude of possibilities ran through my mind – and more entertaining notions than the sort I usually have when looking at something calling itself Art. Long live the art of the everyday, the art of everyone, the art that’s unintentional. All we have to do is get out there and see it.