Streamline Worcestershire – Adventures With The Printed Page

Blakedown Rough (1934)

14 months ago, I assigned myself the task of researching and photographing of all of the surviving Art Deco and early modernist architecture in my home county of Worcestershire. The resulting images would then be compiled together into a booklet of some kind, with a few copies printed up for posterity. A nice straightforward achievable project to occupy myself with, when the time presented itself.

At this point my ‘green-horn’ credentials became blindingly obvious. Not only did I underestimate how much work is involved in such a project, but I forgot how obsessive and single-minded I become, once committed to something. And so, for over a year, I devoted pretty much all my spare time, outside of work and family, to what became Streamline Worcestershire.

Northwick, Worcester (1938)

Travelling all over, including areas that were once, but are no longer part of Worcestershire, I visited factories, offices, churches, private homes, shops, cinemas, swimming pools, garages, pubs, hotels, a transmitting centre, a bus stop, a zoo and a water tower. I’ve marvelled at what the county has to offer, with the number, diversity and quality of applicable candidates greatly exceeding my original expectations. Hours vanished while rolling through microfilm at the city library, pouring over stacks of local history books, and scouring the internet for elusive pieces of information. My limited photography skills have also been put to the test, shooting in all manner of weather and light conditions, with the removal of unwanted cars via Photoshop, now a particular speciality. Now this may all sound rather tame, driving to Redditch on a rainy Sunday to find a needle factory not being that impressive, but within my fairly sheltered existence, this was more akin to a Tolkienesque quest!

Former Co-Operative Department Store, Dudley (1939)
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Regal, Tenbury Wells (1937)
Austin House, Worcester (1939)

After the seemingly endless process of proofreading and fine tuning for print, the manuscript was eventually completed a few weeks back, with a bound proof dropping through my letterbox today (via the excellent bookprintinguk). The little booklet I originally envisioned, has grown to a weighty 168 page full colour hardback tome (not quite ‘coffee table’ specification, but substantial nonetheless).

I can’t quite explain the strange elation, of holding, and leafing through one’s debut printed offering for the first time, it is somewhat unreal. I also get a perverse sense of satisfaction in having executed publication following a DIY punk ethic, taking me back to an industrious youth spent recording and self-releasing material in various noisy bands.    

Evidently, the book is of fairly niche interest, but I’ve received such a wave of positive feedback concerning the project since its inception, I suspect that I’m not the only one, mesmerised by the lesser celebrated structures of this golden age of design.

‘STREAMLINE WORCESTERSHIRE – DISCOVERING THE ART DECO & INTER-WAR MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE OF THE COUNTY’ is a limited print run of 258 copies (the number of ODEON cinemas opened in the UK during founder, Oscar Deutsch’s, lifetime). Available direct here, via Amazon, and through a number of local retailers. OUT NOW. See for more information.

covercontentsinside2inside1A larger selection of images from the book are being featured as part of an ongoing series on the Art Deco Magpie Instagram page #streamlineworcestershire


A Trip to the Talkies

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Families gently file into the auditorium. Some have small toddlers, uneasily making their way into the semi darkness, others stride confidently in armed with popcorn and juice boxes. Groups of friends meet in the adjoining cafe, eagerly awaiting delivery of a hot beverage before finding their seats. It’s just a normal Saturday matinee at Worcestershire’s best loved Art Deco cinema, The Regal in Evesham. But what’s this? A man scampers around in the dark waving a camera about. *Snap snap snap*. Is he photographing the ceiling?! *Snap snap snap*. Now the carpet!  *lens change…snap snap snap*And the door to the toilets?! Who is this mad man? Get him away from our children. SECURITY?!….

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve been trying desperately to kill two birds with one Canon shaped stone. My photographic mission of capturing local 1930s buildings has been gathering steam of late, with an ever growing list of candidates and plenty of great weather, it’s just the time factor that poses a problem. As a result I concocted a genius plan: Combine family days out with photo shoots.

The first of these was an astounding success. Picking one of the hottest days of the year, we all headed up to Droitwich Spa Lido. Designed by Thomas H. Mawson and opened in 1935, this fine modernist building boats the U.K.s only outdoor brine pool. I had arranged pre-opening access to take some snaps before the heaving masses dived in, so capturing its beauty was a piece of cake. Pictures in the bag, we all enjoyed a good splash around before heading home.

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Buoyed by my success I planned the second group adventure. Finding Dory, the latest Pixar effort was showing at my favourite local grade II listed cinema, The Regal. A round of emails once again sorted out pre-show permission and a plan was set. Unfortunately we were running late, and other happy cinema goers were running early, leading to the situation described above.

…….Abandoning the heavily occupied auditorium I took to the foyer. It covers three levels and has a wonderful banister rail snaking its way up the memorabilia laden stairway. Two old projectors sit on upper and lower floors, while the circle bar with classic Deco signage occupies the middle. I would have got some wonderful shots if all the damn people didn’t keep getting in my way!


Never mind, I’ll just pop outside and capture the exterior of the building in all its glory. The main street frontage is framed in stonework, dominated by a cornice rising and becoming fluted over a corner entrance and flanked by piers. Original paired double doors with flèche motif are…. covered in chipboard. It turns out a couple of rotters broke down one pair of the gorgeous original 1932 double doors earlier in the week to steal some collection boxes left out. They’re irreparable I’m told, but recreations will be commissioned once funds have been secured. I could rant for ages about this, but I’ll suppress it and simply say that arrests have been made, and I hope they throw away the key.


On examining the pictures later in the day it became quickly apparent that results weren’t up the scratch. Blurred, underexposed and filled with ‘ghosts’. I guess I’ll have to go back and do it all again, what a chore!

Next weekend.. who fancies a trip to a paint brush factory kids?!!

The Regal is raising funds for a 4th floor extension. If you’d like to contribute please visit their crowd funding page.

Somers Park Road

It’s a dull overcast day with occasional light drizzle and I’m zipping through the backstreets of Malvern about to commence my latest project; a photographic record of 1930s modernist buildings of Worcestershire (catchy title i know, but it still needs some work). Clearly I couldn’t have picked less appropriate weather to get busy with the DSLR, but finding spare time for such frivolous activities is always a challenge. So much so that it’s a constant minor frustration. No matter how much time I have, there are always far more tasks on the ever evolving to do list. It’s amazing to me how some folk can happily spend a whole Sunday lounging in front of the telly, or lose hours sapping amber nectar outside a country pub. Don’t these people have lawns to mow, cars to wash, furniture to sand down or photobooks to publish?! It would seem not.

somers park church 021It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around my brain like a game of pong for at least a year. In a predominantly rural county, ‘art deco’ architecture is few and far between. Those examples that do exist, while not being as impressive as say Miami or Manhattan, still stand out like beacons of a bright new future that never arrived. The short list of photogenic candidates will find me visiting establishments catering in the worlds of leisure, automotive, retail, industrial, civil and religion.

I quickly find my chosen target of today’s photo shoot; Somers Park Road Methodist Church. A striking angular red brick construction on the corner of two fairly busy residential streets in Malvern Link. It’s situated next to an earlier Edwardian church, and was built in 1936 to house the ever growing congregation.

Parking isn’t a problem and I’m quickly in place. With baby in pushchair (yes daddy daycare has reached new lows!), lens bag on back and camera around my neck we’re off to see what we can capture.

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There’s no service today and both church and grounds are chained and padlocked (I assume they must be fed up with hoards of stray photographers trespassing!), leaving me no choice but to snap from the pavement. It’s not a problem as there are plenty of attractive angles to enjoy and I get busy with my kit wandering back and forth. I freely admit that the building is not as impressive as some of the more iconic heavyweights of British Art Deco architecture like Battersea or the De La Warr Pavillion, but it still has some key 30s design elements.  A barrel fronted South wall protrudes from the base of the structure with plain bands of stone running parallel to the flat roofed section. Twin towers rise up either side offering entry and exit to the space. The doorways have the delightful touch of a small flight of steps with one curved level and three square. A porch on the West side has a fort-like roof line with an a-symmetrical chimney and stepped incline. Stained glass window detailing is also quite stylized and geometric, leaving me keen to return and see them illuminated from the inside.somers park church 003

It doesn’t take long to complete the shoot, and we’re swiftly on our way back home. Unfortunately, when I download the images onto the laptop it quickly becomes apparent that they aren’t up to scratch. When it comes to photography I’m a bit of a chancer; worry about the composition, ignore the technical side and it’ll come good in the end. Alas, today’s total lack of sunshine has robbed me of anything usable for the final project. Rendering them into black and white improves matters enough to post up here.. but I’ll have to go back again for a second attempt on a sunny day. Not to worry, I’m happy enough to have actually laid the foundation stone for the project and have given myself a target to beat next time.