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3. City Centre - A Sunday Afternoon Tour

So far we have pretty much avoided the city centre of Woolham. The major feature is the former mouth of the River Wear which has been culverted and is now little more than a basin, it is known as St Asaph's Reach and seperates the city centre into East Bank and West Bank. Very little remains by way of truly historic buildings in Woolham as it was more-or-less levelled by enemy action in WWII so much of what we'll see on our tour is post-war reconstruction.


3.1 Overview

I thought best to start with an overview of the city centre so we can orientate ourselves. You can see how the River Wool runs along the bottom of the picture with St Asaph's Reach making its way into the heart of the city, it is also possible to see a glimpse of the culverted River Wear which re-appears to the east. Here you can also get an idea of the road layout with the inner ring road snaking around the CBD and the famous Wear Bridge crossing the Reach and the two major railway terminii; West Quay and Bude Street.


3.2 St Edmund's Square

We begin our short tour at St Edmund's Square. West Quay station is located just to the left of this photograph and the town's main bus station can just be seen there too. St Edmund's Church (1871) sits on the site of a medieval church by the same name which was deemed structurally unsafe in 1868 when the spire collapsed after a lightning strike, its replacement is built in what Pevsner described as a 'continental Gothic' style. The square outside was renovated as part of a package of works to improve the cityscape in 2004 and now features a coffee shop, newspaper vendor and tourist information booth. In recent years the area has done much to shake off a slightly ropy reputation it once had for vice and crime.


3.3 King's Market

Moving north from St Edmund's we come to King's Market built in 1811 it was once a thriving trader's market but when trade declined in the late-90s the market hall was converted into restaurants and shops and the stalls in the square moved from their traditional trade of fruit and vegetables to selling books, records and vintage clothing. The building to the left of this is the headquarters of Wessex Rail and the one to the north is the Wessexian offices of Barclay's bank.


3.4 Bude Street station

Moving further south we come to the end of Wear Bridge and to Bude Street station. It is a small terminus with just four platforms but it forms a major link in the commuter network connecting to the City Ring and the eastern suburbs. The park at the top of this photograph is Cathedral Park, the largest green space in Central Woolham and the building recently constructed on its corner is the Grant Gallery of 2003. It houses a collection of Wessexian paintings and sculpture from 10th century misericords to the most recent works of Sandra Walker and Germaine Portright.


3.5 Cathedral Park

And finally a quick look at Cathedral Park. The park was laid out in 1779 by King George IV, it originally had the Bude Palace at one end and the Cathedral at the other, the palace has long-since disappeared after a fire in 1801 but the cathedral still sits at the south end of the main axis. In this photograph we can see the west side with the Observatory (no longer used due to the light pollution of Woolham) and the Park Street tram stop. The white building facing the river is the offices of Wessexian supermarket chain Safeway.

I hope this gives you a taste of the city centre, there's certainly a lot more to see and hopefully we'll get to take another look in the near future. Thank you for all your comments, it is good to know people are enjoying my CJ and if you have any constructive criticism or ideas I'd love to hear it.


2 Anglesea Park - Squares and Gardens

Anglesea Park is a neighborhood of Woolham located just east of the city centre. Originally laid out in the 1830s on land owned by the Duke of Shannon the houses here are moslty elegant, Georgian terraces centred around a number of squares.


2.1 Holbourne Square

Here we see the first of the squares to be built, Holbourne Square actually located in Elgin Park (it's Elgin Park station we can see), the neighborhoods run into each other and the names are often used interchangeably as both share the same station. The statue in the square is of Isaac Watts the hymnwriter, theologian and composer who was born in a farmhouse nearby in 1674.


2.2 Tavistock Square

The most in-tact of the squares is Tavistock with its complete rows of late-Georgian townhouses and shady, wooded square complete with drinking fountains and an oak tree which is believed to date from 1715, around the same time as the Nassau rebellion in Wessex. The church is that of St Michael, a Victorian addition designed by Charles Barry and built on the site of Anglesea House, an Elizabethan manor house which burned down in 1874.


2.3 Huxley Square

Something more of an architectural mish-mash we come to Huxley Square. Building here didn't begin until 1841 and is a mix of townhouses built to the original Georgian plans and newer, more fashionable Victorian villas. In 1943 an incendiary bomb was dropped in the top-left corner and the houses here were rebuilt in the 1950s. The office block in the bottom-right is the headquarters of Parish Wells solicitors and was constructed on another bombsite in 2004 on what had been, since the war, a car park.


2.4 Shannon Street

Forming part of the inner ring-road is Shannon Street, the location of the majority shops and amenities in Anglesea Park. From left-right; Wattisham House (HQ of Denham Feeds, 2005), St Joseph's RC Church (1882), St Joseph's Vicarage (1882), 12 Shannon St (HSBC bank, 1934), Anglesea Park Police Station (1902).


Woolham is my first forray back into the world of Simcity 4 in around four years (my last CJ being Oakwood, California). I've spent quite a while collecting the BATs and mods I require to be able to play to my preferred level of realism. My style for this city has been British but you'll notice it's RHD with American road textures, this is because Woolham is not in the UK but in Wessex. More shall be explained.

1 Woolham; A Linear Tour

I have decided to start with a taste of Woolham, a historic city located in the heartland of Wessex, situated on a bend in the River Wool with a hinterland stretching across the Wool Valley. The city itself is a hive of commercial, academic and industrial activity and so befitting somewhere as varied it seems the best way to start would be with an, almost, random linear study. Taking a line across the city from south to north we'll look at the neighbourhoods we encounter starting on the southern edge of the city centre:-


1.1 Hawksmoore

We start in the south of the city centre, on the fringes of the main CBD with a district known as Hawksmoore. The Brutalist building on the left is Woolham City Library, built in 1974 and designed by Sir Basil Spence it is, to some, a masterpiece of modernist architecture worthy of listing and to others a carbuncle, a building in which 'books are burnt, not read'. The main entrance is found in the sunken plaza across the road, originally a space for exhibitions and performances it is now, sadly, wind-swept and barren.


1.2 Highwick

Between Hawksmoore and Highwick lies the University of Wessex but this warrants more isolated attention. Instead we turn our sights to the student hinterland. Gentrification came early to Highwick, the first of the workshops and warehouses was converted in 1979 and from there the neighbourhood became a draw for academics and artists. The house in the centre of this photograph with the dormer windows is 4 Sydney Street, famously home to the authour Sir Duncan Welham.


1.3 Suffield Hill

Coming out on the otherside of Highwick we arrive at Suffield Hill. The area here is dominated by the tow high-rise blocks of social housing seen in this photograph; Pugin House and Barry House. The industrial area here was flattened during WWII leading to large-scale rebuilding in the post-war era. The station here is built in the standard style of the Woolham Transport Board which will become familiar as we see more of the city's districts.


1.4 Eastney

Our final stop on this whistlestop tour is Eastney, a slightly more outlying neighbourhood than those we've looked at so far, it is a mixture of social housing and, mostly, private rented accommodation within easy commuting distance of the city centre and the University. In the top-left hand corner we can see one of the buildings of the Woolham and District Hospital, a large Victorian huddle of buildings which, again, we will come to at a later point.

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