Work is in progress at Conwy Archive Service to conserve and digitise more than 400 architectural drawings from the collection of Sidney Colwyn Foulkes (1884-1971) thanks to a grant of £12,898 jointly awarded by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and MALD.
Colwyn Foulkes was a pioneering architect from Colwyn Bay who formed a successful practice in his home town. He was instrumental in re-drawing the standard for social housing in the 1950s with practical, well-designed and attractive homes which won praise from both Clough Williams Ellis and Frank Lloyd Wright. He was one of the first industrial landscape architects, overseeing large-scale developments in visually sensitive environments; a founder of the Historic Buildings Council for Wales and active in the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales.
The drawings selected represent types of building that have been vulnerable to changes in social or business need or have simply outlived their usefulness: banks, a children’s home, places of worship and cinemas. In many cases the drawings may be the only evidence that these once significant civic buildings ever existed.
Conwy town no longer has a single functioning bank, a subject of local controversy for a county town and international visitor destination. The collection includes plans for 3 banks dating from the early 20th century in Conwy and Deganwy which have been reinvented as bistros or other tourist-oriented businesses.
The Dr Garrett’s Children’s Memorial Home was a charitable foundation for sick children from Manchester which closed thirty years ago. The site featured unusual rotatable chalets which gave convalescing children benefits of sea air and sunshine. A steady stream of past residents come to the archive to reminisce over the photograph collection and visit the site, now occupied by a rather bland housing estate.
Christ Church, Llandudno, was built in the 1880s as an English Presbyterian Chapel. It was adapted by Colwyn Foulkes for continuing religious purposes in the 1980s, but is now a children’s play enterprise called ‘Bonkerz’. This is typical of parish churches and chapels, all of which are vulnerable as denominations struggle to minimise their buildings portfolio.
Cinemas were a specialism of the architect who was awarded the Cinema of the Year Award in 1936. The Palace in Conway posed particular challenges. He succeeded in creating a modern building that blended in well to its location within an Edwardian walled town. The exterior, however, was no indication of the state-of-the-art interior with its sweeping elliptical auditorium and a stage flanked by silvered columns. Decoration was provided by Holophane lighting which bathed the interior with colours. The building still exists today but has sadly declined and is only used as a Bingo Hall. Colwyn Foulkes was commissioned to design many other cinemas in the 1930s in North Wales and North West England, none of which survive in their original form (or at all).
Archivist Susan Ellis said: “Architectural drawings represent a significant resource for research. With this grant we can ensure that records of these once important buildings survive and remain accessible digitally.” The work will be complete by the autumn of 2018.