Sunday, 28 June 2015

Postcard from Newport (Mon.)

Newport Transporter Bridge viewed from below.
I grew up just down the A48 from Newport (in Chepstow) and have always had a fondness for the town, immortalised in the wonderful video Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind). However, my teenage memories of the town don’t really extend much beyond browsing pop albums in the W.H. Smiths basement and knowing that Newport was the ‘Home of the Mole Wrench’*.  Since then I have passed through it many times, mostly on the M4, where the principal impressions are made by the looming hilltop mass of Celtic Manor Resort and the excitement of the Brynglas tunnels, which (according to Wikipedia) were "the first tunnels in the British motorway network and are still the only bored tunnels". So it was with considerable pleasure that I joined a day-long expedition of Newport with the C20 Society - expertly led by Judi Loach.
(NB click on images to enlarge.)
Highlights of the day included:
Newport Civic Centre
Designed by Cecil Howitt, construction of the Civic Centre was begun in 1937, but suspended at the outbreak of War; building recommenced in 1950, but the clock tower was not begun until 1963 - and then despite a public vote objecting to its cost. Our visit was principally to see the suite of murals by Hans Feibusch (assisted by Phyllis Bray) executed between 1961 and 1964. The murals tell the story of local history. We were subsequently privileged to view a portfolio of Feibusch's original drawings and cartoons for the murals held at Newport Art Gallery.
Hans Feibusch, murals at Newport Civic Centre: (l to r) The Burning of Newport Castle, The Battle of Agincourt, The Surrender of Raglan Castle, 1961-4
Hans Feibusch, The Battle of Agincourt, (detail of murals at Newport Civic Centre), 1961-4
Hans Feibusch, Steelworks, (detail of murals at Newport Civic Centre), 1961-4
Hans Feibusch, The Building of the George Street Bridge, (detail of murals at Newport Civic Centre), 1961-4
Odeon Cinema
An excellent example of Art Deco cinema architecture by Harry Weedon and Arthur J. Price, built 1937-38
Harry Weedon, Odeon Cinema, Newport, 1937-8
Harry Weedon, Odeon Cinema, Newport, 1937-8 (detail)
Newport Transporter Bridge
This was a real treat! The bridge, opened in 1906, is beautiful - much more slender and delicate that I had imagined from seeing it in the distance. It was thrilling to climb up the tower and walk across the upper deck looking down to the River Usk below, descend on the other side, and return as a passenger on the suspended 'gondola'. Wonderful.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
View across the upper deck - walkways are to the right and left.
View up river from upper deck - click on image to see full width
View down river from upper deck - click on image to see full width
Belle Vue Park
A public park laid out in 1892-4 to designs by Thomas Mawson, featuring an elegant Edwardian pavillion and conservatory, and a bandstand.
View of Newport Transporter Bridge from the terrace at Belle Vue Park
The expedition also included visits to the Church of Sts. Julian & Aaron, Holy Trinity Church, Christchurch, and Duffryn housing estate.
Thanks to the C20 Society and Judi Loach, in particular, for a splendid day.
* For what seemed like years (back in the late 1960s/early 1970s?) all local letters were franked by the Post Office with the legend Newport (Mon) The Home of the Mole Wrench; I had no idea what a Mole Wrench was. Evidently, it is a self-grip wrench (allegedly) invented by Thomas Coughtrie in 1955 and manufactured by M.K. Mole and Son, based, from 1960, in Newport.

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