Archives for category: Architecture

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.

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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.