Whilst talking to Niki last Tuesday about my current work on the year long project we discussed what I find interesting and architecture came up. Not necessarily fancy buildings but more run of the mill utilitarian concrete monsters. I mentioned that I liked to capture buildings and structures before they were destroyed or replaced with other constructions.
I have multiple examples of this in my catalogue, from St Austin’s Street Car park demolition, Safeway Abbey Foregate demolition, Harlescott Pub pre and post fire, garages, houses, offices and all manner of other images have been made in my last twenty-something years of owning a digital camera.
You Wait Hours For An Idea……
Whilst I was talking to Niki I also mentioned that there was some work underway in and around Shrewsbury at present to replace some bus shelters that had been in place for a good long time and are showing their age, with graffiti and vandalism as well as previously all glass panes being replaced by steel mesh due to vandals smashing them.
In the Shropshire Star article about the topic it states that 30 or more will be replaced:
“Stuart Farmer, projects manager for the town council, added: “We had initially looked at refurbishing the bus shelters, but a review concluded that a number of them had come to the end of their serviceable lives and required replacing.
“With 107 bus shelters in Shrewsbury under our responsibility, we are rolling out the replacement of the first thirty-seven over the course of the next two to three months. One aspect of this project is to ensure that we maintain the street scene by having a uniform bus shelter. The new structures will be long-lasting as well as being simple to maintain and clean.”Nick Humphreys, Shropshire Star, January 30th 2023
When I heard the news originally about the shelters being superseded I thought to go out and capture them but didn’t know which ones were being replaced. It may make a good little side idea I suggested and Niki initially liked the idea.
After all, how many people have stood at the same bus stop for years to travel to town, to college or to the hospital etc. I remember when I was young my Mum used to take us into town on the S1 or S11 buses (Midland Red) from a nearby bus stop and messing around on the fold out seats was part of the day out. I’ve never vandalised or graffiti damaged any bus shelters but I’m aware that some have this visible patchwork of generations of ne’er-do-wells absent minded art.
With a blessing of sorts from Niki, I would have done it anyway, I went home to consider my next move. Should I go and photograph every bus shelter around the town? 107 is an awful lot but for this project I want to capture only the 30ish that are to be replaced, if they haven’t already. Once I have a picture of the old bus shelter showing it’s signature damage patterns I’ll wait for it to be replaced and re photograph the same area. If I can capture a shelter in the process of being replaced that might be a part of the story also.
Now, how to figure out which ones to focus on first? Ooh, I know, I’ll phone up the council and ask if I can speak to someone about the bus shelter project and try and obtain a plan or timetable. This is exactly what I did, I phoned up Shropshire Council and spoke to a very helpful lady named Wendy . Once I’d explained that I am a photographer who captures local history and although it might sound weird I’d like to capture the bus stops, she made some notes and took down my contact details. She even had a brief conversation about how the bus shelter in Meole Brace has been run into by a car and the damage not repaired yet so it might make an interesting photograph. What can I say? She was lovely but I doubted I’d hear anything back off the enquiry.
Only, today I did. Sitting at work I had an email ping on my phone from the aforementioned Stuart Farmer at the town council with a timetable for the next week. I was gobsmacked that Wendy had passed it on to someone and that person had bothered to get in touch.
- Today – Monkmoor Road – Crowmere Road Junction
- Tomorrow – Monkmoor Road – Abbotts Road Junction
- Wednesday – Monkmoor Road – Clive Road Junction
- Thursday – Conway Drive – Outside of shops
- Friday – Welshpool Road – Oxon Business Park
- Saturday – Whitchurch Road – X Road
- Monday – Abbey Foregate – Outside Abbey Church
- Please not these are subject to change, Traffic management issues can alter the planned routes.
Wow, I was excited. I know, it’s a bit weird being excited by being given helpful information about bus shelters… Once I’d finished work this afternoon I grabbed my Canon 5D and my Bronica ETRS loaded with Ilford HP5+ and headed out to Monkmoor Road and the junction with Crowmere Road.
Going Back To My Roots
This is my stomping ground from when I was younger, my paper round was based in the area. This is back of my hand stuff so I knew exactly to where to head and park my car.
First stop was Racecourse Crescent to park my car and then walk to the Monkmoor Chippy on Monkmoor Road next to the Church and opposite the Corner Shop and the new bus shelter. NEW bus shelter. I figured I’d be too late for this one but wanted to see what the new installations looked like and I’m impressed how tidy they are. Whether the big glass panes last is something that time will tell but it’s an improvement over what was there before.
Jumping back in the Insignia I made my way down Monkmoor Avenue to see if they had been ahead of schedule with the Monkmoor Road/Abbotts Road shelter, but no, the old shelter is still in place. At the side of the road leading towards town on the bridge over Robertson Way. After chatting to my sister in law who was out taking her labrador Stanley for a walk I continued. The bus shelter here was made of steel mesh panels and the familiar blue and yellow paint that the town’s bus stops have featured for years.
The mesh means that you can’t see through it from an angle but from straight ahead you get a view of beyond the pane almost like the scene is made of halftone newspaper print.
This shelter had the very sturdy brown rotating seats that kept the surface free of pooling liquid in case it was raining. They are sturdy as I remember these seats going back a long time, I think even before these metal shelters were erected behind them. They were some older design that had a flat metal bottom half and some easily smashed glass in the top half. There was no real discernible graffiti on this example but there had been an attack by a titanium clawed seagull looking at the corrugated metal roof.
I took a few photos of this bus stop from different angles and with both cameras but by now the sun was setting so I’d leave my Bronica in the car for the remainder and I’d be using my Canon 5D with ISO auto setting allowed to go above the usual range I’ve used over the last few years.
On Wednesday this week the plan is to replace the bus shelter on the junction of Clive Road and Monkmoor Road. The shelter is outside the Lee Sing takeaway and Welfix Hardware shop.
Again, this shelter was painted blue with some yellow accents but owing to the youth of the are not being able to cope with having glass around and not smashing it to smithereens the front had been replaced with the steel perforated sheets. the small brown revolving seats were in evidence here too and although someone had painted them with some random markings it had been long worn off by a resident repeatedly resting their rump whilst waiting for the new snazzily renamed bus number 1. They’ve dropped the S from the front of the bus names probably as a cost saving for carrying around the extra letters in the digital bus signs.
This is a bus stop I’d used in the past, not necessarily for waiting for a bus but definitely to sit out of the rain with my mates after stocking up at the, now disappeared, Esso garage. the detritus around the base of the shelter shows that there hasn’t been much of an effort to keep them tidy over the years, it’s like the gunk that you find after moving the fridge away from the wall in your recently deceased Grandma’s house whilst clearing it out. The nostalgia it brought out in me was unexpected and it took me back to my school days when Mum used to get on the S1 or S11 and say one and two halves please, then we’d go to the Saverite in Mardol or the Shrewsbury market. I remember using the bus once too with my Mum as I’d been knocked unconscious at secondary school by a classmate with his high hockey stick and we had to go to hospital using the public transport. Me with a massive egg shaped bump on my forehead too, thanks Mickey.
The smell of the old diesel engines mixed with the fruit and vegetables on the return journey seemed to waft up my nose and assault my olfactory system even though it shouldn’t have. Strange what the body and mind can do to you eh?
Next up was Telford Estate and the Conway Drive shops which I definitely used as a small person with my family and friends. Trips to the swimming baths from here would have been made in my early teens before I realised that my bike would be cheaper to use.
By now it was getting dark but I was lucky that this little row of shops contains some adequate lighting so that people can get to the Spar shop with no hassle. There is usually a small group of teenagers hanging around here but I’ve no room to speak, my mates and I also used to hang around here and chat and take the mickey out of each other just here outside this very shop. Again, nostalgia kicks in and I’m able to recall the trips with my brother Mike and Mum into town to do the shopping or to buy a pair of school shoes from Teestar on Wyle Cop, very rarely a visit to Timpson’s.
The steel perforated mesh on here tells the story of young vandals having little else better to do on an evening but again there was no evident spray graffiti. The build up of street fluff under the shelter base was apparent too, I bet there is an old pound coin in there somewhere..
With these shelters captured on digital camera I shall wait for them to be replaced and then revisit to see if the town council trust the vandals with the glass screens. I guess they will as they are stating that they’re to be uniform. The new shelters will not have the same little brown seats but a simple metal rail to perch upon. Maybe this is to stop younger versions of people like me from resting too long on there and getting in the way.
The new stainless steel and glass shelters look nice, but I wonder how long they’ll last before someone finds a weakness that can be exploited for total destruction to occur. We shall see.
I’ll continue to catch the remainder of the listed shelters hopefully before they’re replaced and then all of them once they have been.
I’ve reached out over email to Mr Farmer again to see if he had a list of the others to be replaced, not worried about a timetable, but just so I know which ones I can go and document next. I’ll see if he comes back to me again.
Why Bus Shelters?
The overall reason for photographing these bus shelters is to capture a part of the town’s history and indeed my history. Why do I feel compelled to do this though? I can’t really say but I do have the urge to make images of these places that are social magnets for people who use public transport as a way of cementing them in history. Is it important to anyone else but me? Probably not, but one day someone might have their memories triggered by a simple image of the steel and glass structures they used when they were little too. That alone cheers me up and gives me a reason to do it.
Another thing I’ve thought about as part of this research and work is sitting on a bus for a day and taking photographs as it travels around the town. I’ll explore this idea further and see where that goes too.
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