Moreton’s Jellicoe designed water gardens at risk?
Annabel Downs writes:
It is the roof line of one of the main buildings that first catches your attention as you get off the train, and apart from the signs on the building, these northern lights structures in the roof, together with the cool north westerly location are tell tales of what the building was designed to deal with, Cadbury’s chocolate biscuits. The building was completed in 1953 and won a Civic Trust Award. Typical of the Cadbury approach, it’s a campus of buildings, for as well as the production buildings there are canteens, social clubs, pavilions, sports fields and much open space. Geoffrey Jellicoe was invited to design the landscape which he found ‘diabolical’.
The most interesting part of the scheme that he worked on was the boundary against Pasture Road, just at the point the main road swoops up and over the Liverpool-Wirral railway line and the entrance to Moreton Station, there’s a little slip road that peels off parallel with Pasture Road and leads to a side entrance of the station. Along this boundary Jellicoe plays with water, creating a concrete lined canal with a series of shallow stepped pools with scalloped edges for the water to tumble over. At the station end there’s a pump that takes it back to the beginning. He uses the idea of water as a barrier rather than just constructing a fence or wall to bound the site. More than this he engages with the passer-by to look onto the canal with a series of viewing platforms cantilevered over the water: these are only accessible on the public side of the boundary, you see the water in a completely different way looking up and down its length than you do looking across it. The outline of these platforms mirror the curves of the roof; in this way Jellicoe shares with the passer-by this delightful idea and view. It must have resonated completely with the Cadbury ethos. Susan Jellicoe took some photos of the scheme after it was completed (front cover of GHS news 87), and Jellicoe used this project as one of the examples of designing with water in Techniques of Landscape Architecture edited by AE Weddle, as well as in his own books.
There are two noteworthy points about this scheme; firstly it is almost unaltered since the photos were taken. It’s been neglected and not well maintained and the planting has long gone, but it survives intact. The second point is that the ideas Jellicoe developed here were subsequently used in his Hemel Water Gardens project where a section of the River Gade is canalised and is designed with viewing platforms and the same fluted weir detail. In another factory site for Delta Metals in West Midlands Jellicoe designed yet another version of this canal with weirs but this time without the viewing platforms.
The Moreton factory has been under threat for a number of years and also subjected to a series of changes in ownership. In January this year Burton’s Foods (the current owners) announced that they intend to close the entire site with the loss of all jobs. Redundancy notices have been issued. According to the House of Commons debate in January (2011) this site is the only land in the area suitable for industrial development and is zoned for that use.
In some ways it seems very inappropriate to think about saving designed landscapes when there are so many more pressing issues to be dealt with. However this is a significant example of Jellicoe’s work, and because it lies on the boundary of the site it could more easily survive and flourish as part of a new landscape, and then also with its shaped platforms it would be an indicator of what was here before. It will need help and shouting about to ensure it doesn’t get swept away, not many including the speculators and developers will readily see its benefits.
Jonathan Lovie adds: a case should be made to EH to get the landscape on the Register of Parks and Gardens. EH is planning a thematic study of post-war landscapes in the next year or so, should be able to respond reasonably quickly.