Exploring the legacy that Art Deco has left behind

Art Deco Traveller'Midland Hotel exterior
Art Deco Traveller'Midland Hotel exterior
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Art Deco officianado Genista Davidson has travelled the length and breadth of the country seeking out the nation’s architectural treasures for her new book Art Deco Traveller A Guide to Britain. Here she picks out some of her favourite gems in Lancashire.

It was in the 1960s that the term Art Deco was formally recognised as the defining name for the period, usually regarded as the interwar years 1918 – 1939.

Stanley Park Cafe, Blackpool

Stanley Park Cafe, Blackpool

The foundations for this movement were laid down as early as 1904 by Josef Hoffmann but came to the world’s attention following the 1925 Paris World Exhibition which highlighted Art Deco in all its glory.

Many people I have spoken to over the years cannot actually say why or what it is specifically that they like about the architecture, design and revolutionary style which came out of the first half of the 20th century and swept across Europe and America - and reached Australia, New Zealand, India and Argentina to name but a few - other than that they can recognise it and enjoy seeing it.

They often associate it with white rendered concrete flat roofed buildings, suntrap windows and sunray motifs.

It may be the stylised use of the new material called Bakelite which was now ingeniously used for anything from door and furniture handles to lemon squeezers and jewellery, or the simplistic clean lined interior designs.

Interior detail Stanley Park Cafe , Blackpool.

Interior detail Stanley Park Cafe , Blackpool.

Whatever you associate it with, like or dislike about Art Deco it certainly made its mark.

Unlike its predecessors that of Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Deco was here to address every area of society, it was to be functional and practical, using materials which could be mass produced and out of this grew some iconic utilitarian City Hall buildings along with hotels, cinemas, dance halls, lidos not to mention residential properties.

Over the years, unfortunately many Art Deco buildings have fallen into disrepair and been demolished as the heritage of that time had been little appreciated and they have made way for new developments and supermarkets or were revamped into bingo halls and the like.

It is not all doom and gloom though, over the past 10 years a steady momentum of people embracing the past whether it be ‘good old fashioned manners and courtesy’ or the escapism that nostalgia brings, with the glamour and glitz that is also often referred to as ‘jazz days’ conjures up within us, is having a revival.

The Marine Hall, Fleetwood

The Marine Hall, Fleetwood

Let us take a look at the iconic Midland Hotel in Morecambe built in 1933 and designed by the talented architect Oliver Hill.

This truly is the ‘Queen of Queens’ in Art Deco streamline modern design.

The exterior and interior are aesthetically perfect in my eyes. It has an original stone mural of Odysseus by Eric Gill which stands proudly behind the reception area along with Marion Dorn’s emblematic mosaic seahorses which adorn the floors and fittings.

The extravagant Ravilious Rotunda bar with an impressive chandelier and painted wall murals which overlooks the sun terrace and beyond across Morecambe Bay is sublime. The 44 light and airy modern contemporary style guest rooms bode well with the complete restoration programme which this hotel underwent in 2008. Before this it was languishing in uncertainty. How lucky we are to enjoy this hotel again in all its full glory.

Take a short stroll from the Midland Hotel and you will pleasantly surprised when you find the family run Brucciani Ice Cream Parlour (don’t be fooled - it also serves delicious breakfasts and lunches).

This original 1939 designed premises had an influence on other shops in the area and it has a delightful interior with original wood panelling and art deco glass mirrors and geometric motifs.

Not only can Brucciani be found in Morecambe, they also have an impressive Art Deco premises at Fishergate, Preston built in 1932.

Mention must also be made of the Winter Gardens, in Morecambe. Although pre-dating the Art Deco period by half a century the recently restore 1920s style French bar has a beautiful ambience.

Casting our net to Blackpool, here you will find the splendid Parks Art Deco Café tucked in the grounds of Stanley Park.

Constructed from brick with sandstone features and attractive mahogany doors with the classic deco steel framed windows, a delightful oasis to enjoy afternoon tea or a celebratory G&T with period music playing and traditionally dressed waiters and waitresses, it all just makes for an extra special soiree without a huge price tag.

The Notarianni Brothers Ice Cream Parlour at South Shore in Blackpool still retains its original Art Deco counter and serves the same vanilla ice cream recipe from days gone by.

Whether it is the quirky ‘cusp’ of deco Chorley Theatre, on Dole Lane Chorley, or the Marine Hall, at Fleetwood, which still retains its charm and character from 1935, when the architect William Melville designed this L-shaped colonnade, with a white Portland cement exterior with its faience bands, our Art Deco heritage is out there for all to enjoy.

Here, I can only scrape the tip of the iceberg, so next time you are leisurely walking along your high street or parade of shops take time to look at the style of the buildings and start to explore the legacy that Art Deco has left behind in your region for all to enjoy.

The Art Deco Traveller - A Guidebook to Britain is a collection of hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres, dance halls, lidos and places of interest. It is available at www.artdeco-traveller.co.uk and major book retail stores.

Genista Davidson an Art Historian who has spent the past 30 years travelling and living the Art Deco life for business and leisure and always sourcing Art Deco wherever in the world she may be. Next year, the second book in a series of five Art Deco Traveller Guides, is due to be published.