To deny the so-called north/south divide in England is to deny a deeply held belief amongst many in our population. The concept goes way back in our history; back to the days of the industrial north as compared to the more genteel rolling hills of a southern landscape that was filled with gentleman farmers and aristocratic landowners.
Like many long-held, traditional beliefs, this one may have had a grain of truth back in the ‘good old days’, but with advances in technology and the reduction in heavy, polluting industry, the north of England no longer deserves its reputation of being somehow less sophisticated or cultured. In the north, the rich heritage of glorious architecture rubs shoulders with the best of modern building designs, offering the most discerning amongst us an experience that’s both uplifting and inspiring.
Our Grand History
There are fewer places in the British isles where history is more evident than along the circular, two-mile walk that makes up the ancient city wall of Chester. Dating back to Roman times, the walls are now a Scheduled Ancient Monument that complement the more modern buildings around the city.
For grandeur on a large scale, look no further than St. George’s Hall in Liverpool. First opened in 1854, the building is a fine example of Neo-Classical architecture, with graceful columns enhancing the front elevation. Extensively renovated, the Hall was reopened by the Prince of Wales in 2007 and now houses the Heritage Centre and other attractions.
Not too far away in the beautiful and popular Lake District is Clifton Hall, a three story medieval tower that dates back to the 15th century. Being the only remaining part of what was once a much larger manor house, the fortified house is now open to the public, giving a glimpse into life in medieval times.
Into the Future
Slightly further north and showing off the flair of modern design is the celebrated Lowry theatre and art gallery. Designed by architect Michael Wilford, the triangular building that’s the size of five football pitches was started in 1997 and completed in 2000. In keeping with its location on Pier 8 of the newly developed Salford Quays, the glass and steel building has a distinctive maritime appearance. The Lowry is the cultural heart of Manchester, bustling with theatres, art galleries, cafes and bars.
The Eco House in Bolton is about as up-to-date and stylish as it’s possible to get. Designed to be the first carbon-neutral house in the UK, Eco House is built into the rolling Pennine hills. With power sourced from photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and a ground source heat pump, the house is environmentally friendly from foundation to roof. Viewed from above, the abstract petal-shape of the building disguises windows and doors that allow light to pour into what is otherwise an underground house.
If history, surroundings, a love of beautiful buildings and a sense of the finer things in life have a bearing on the concept of sophistication and culture, the north/south divide no longer exists.
Don’t believe it? Take a look for yourself at what the north has to offer. You’ll be amazed.
by Francesca, a UK-based freelance writer with a passion for architecture and design. She currently writes on behalf of McCormick Architecture.