New book celebrates Morecambe’s Art Deco past

Art Deco author Genista Davidson
Art Deco author Genista Davidson
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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.

Art Deco Traveller'Midland Hotel exterior

Art Deco Traveller'Midland Hotel exterior

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.

Exterior of Morecambe Winter Gardens

Exterior of Morecambe Winter Gardens

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.

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.

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.

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.