Spirit of the North

Historic England

Historic England has commissioned photographer John Kippin to encapsulate the North’s rich and multi-faceted identity with a new set of photographs called ‘Spirit of the North’.

Spirit of the North
The Great Exhibition of the North is a celebration of the North of England's pioneering spirit. As part of the Exhibition's 'Inspired by' programme, Historic England has commissioned photographer John Kippin to record places that have helped inspire and shape Northern identity. The result is 'Spirit of the North', a series of photographs revealing Kippin's unique interpretation of historic places that embody and inspire Northern spirit. A selection of Kippin's photographs will feature in a new exhibition at Bessie Surtees House, Newcastle from 22 June 2018. 

The Casbah Club, Liverpool

This world famous club is in the basement of a house in Liverpool.

The Beatles helped to paint the walls and ceilings with spiders, dragons, rainbows and stars and, in the form of ‘The Quarrymen’, played on its opening night.

The club was an important venue for many 'Merseybeat’ bands in the early 1960s, providing a place to perform when many venues were closed to their type of music.

Read the list entry for The Casbah Club

Salford Lads Club, Salford

Salford Lads Club was officially opened in 1904 by its first member, Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts Movement.

A purpose-built recreational and sports club for local young men, it is now famed for its association with Manchester band The Smiths.

Read the list entry for Salford Lads Club

Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank Observatory

This radio telescope is the largest and longest-lived component of the Jodrell Bank Observatory.

It was built in 1952-7 to the requirements of (Sir) Bernard Lovell, who worked for the University of Manchester's Physics Department.

Read the list entry for Lovell Telescope

'Not Listening', Acoustic Mirror, Fulwell, Sunderland

The Acoustic Mirror at Fulwell was built during the First World War to protect the local area from aerial bombing. It was constructed after a Zeppelin dropped a bomb over the Wheatsheaf area of Sunderland in April 1916, leaving 22 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The mirror reflected sound detected by a microphone in front of the dish to an operator who could alert the authorities of approaching Zeppelins.

It is an enduring monument to local communities’ experiences of the First World War.

Read the list entry for the Acoustic Mirror

Steam Yacht Gondola, Coniston Water

This Victorian steam yacht regularly carries tourists to and from John Ruskin's lakeland estate, Brantwood.

Ruskin was famous as a writer, artist and social reformer; many great thinkers have been influenced by his ideas. His belief in the value of preserving and maintaining heritage for public benefit is embedded into the founding of the National Trust, the Welfare State and Historic England.

Read the list entry for Brantwood

Midland Hotel, Morecambe

The Midland Hotel was built for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1933, by architect Oliver Hill, with sculpture and stone reliefs by artist Eric Gill.

At the time of opening it was one of the most glamorous places in Britain. The hotel opened to widespread acclaim and an entire issue of Architecture Illustrated was devoted to it.

The hotel was sold in 1952 and fell into decline, closing in 1998. It was refurbished by Urban Splash, reopening in 2008.

Read the list entry for the Midland Hotel

Castlerigg stone circle, Cumbria

Castlerigg is one of Britain’s earliest stone circles, built around 3000 BCE as a trading place or religious centre for the Neolithic people who grazed their flocks in the high central fells each summer.

It is a feat of Neolithic engineering as much as it is a spiritual setting: the stone circle is about 30 metres in diameter and was originally made up of 42 stones. Several of the stones align with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.

It was safeguarded under the first Ancient Monuments Protection Act in 1882.

Castlerigg has inspired generations of antiquarians and poets since the 18th century.


Read the list entry for Castlerigg stone circle

Durham Cathedral

In 2017, the number of people in England and Wales who describe themselves as non-religious significantly outweighed the Christian population for the first time.

Despite this, the North continues to describe
itself as religious.

As well as being the spiritual heart of the North East, Durham Cathedral represents great leaps in design and engineering. The cathedral, a place of worship and home to Saint Cuthbert’s shrine, was constructed between 1093 and 1133, and is the oldest surviving building with a stone vaulted ceiling of such scale in the world.

It marks a turning point in the history of
architecture as the first successful use of the pointed arch. It is a landmark that represents the beginning of Gothic Architecture.

Read the list entry for Durham Cathedral

Woodhorn Colliery, Ashington, Northumberland

Woodhorn Colliery was a coalmine for over eighty years. At its peak almost 2,000 men worked there and it produced 600,000 tons of coal annually. Production stopped in 1981. It became a museum in 1989.


The museum holds eighty paintings of the Ashington Group (Pitman Painters). The Group was largely made up of coal miners who first came together in 1934 through the Workers Education Association to study and appreciate art. They captured everyday life within the mining community.

The work of the Ashington Group is admired worldwide as a remarkable example of creativity in the North East, thriving during difficult times.

Read the list entry for Woodhorn Colliery

Orgreave, Rotherham

At the end of the 20th century, the National Union of Miners picketed the Orgreave coking plant, protesting against the Tory government’s decision to close collieries around the country.

The Battle of Orgreave was one of the most violent events in England during the 1980s; the media presented police violence as self-defence and this continues to be the government’s official stance, but many witnesses believe this to be a manipulation of the truth.

Jarrow Town Hall and Wilkinson Court, South Tyneside

The foundation stone of Jarrow Town Hall was laid in 1899 by Lady Palmer, wife of Sir Charles Palmer of Palmer Shipbuilding and Iron Company - the main employer in Jarrow before it collapsed in 1933.

In 1936 Ellen Wilkinson MP led the Jarrow Hunger March to Westminster to protest against the unemployment and poverty suffered in the North East of England.

The Jarrow March was a peaceful protest which historians credit with having no immediate effects but long-term benefits to social change.

Read the list entry for Jarrow Town Hall

Tyne Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne

The Tyne Bridge was, at the time it was built, the largest single span bridge in Britain. It has since become a defining symbol and iconic landmark of the North East.


The bridge opened in 1928 by King George V. It was built by the Middlesbrough firm Dorman Long, who also built the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

In 2011, a record of 54,000 runners passed over the bridge during The Great North Run. In 2012, the largest Olympic rings in the UK were erected here for the Olympic football tournament and torch relay.

Read the list entry for the Tyne Bridge

Anderton Boat Lift, Anderton with Marbury, Cheshire

The Anderton Boat Lift is the world's first commercially successful boat lift.

Designed by Edwin Clark, it was built in 1875 to provide a fifteen metre vertical link between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Boats paid a toll at the entrance to the lift, entered the lift from the basin, were transported upwards, then sailed along a wrought iron aqueduct supported on iron piers to a newly-constructed canal basin before entering the canal itself.

The lift closed in 1983 but reopened in 2002 following extensive restoration.

Read the list entry for the Anderton Boat Lift

Preston Central Bus Station and Car Park, Lancashire

Preston has long been the hub of a major bus network at local, regional and national level. The nation's first motorway was the Preston by-pass, which opened in 1958. The area was in the forefront of developments in road transport.

The Central Bus Station and Car Park in Preston opened in 1969. It is little altered and is considered to be a good example of an integrated 1960s traffic planning that functions as originally intended.

Read the list entry for Preston Central Bus Station and Car Park

Concrete workshop block at De Smet-Rosedowns Ltd, Kingston Upon Hull

This workshop, although not in use, is protected by Historic England for its special architectural history.

The concrete workshop at De Smet-Rosedowns Ltd was constructed with reinforced concrete using the method patented by François Hennebique.

Built in 1900, this was the first building in England built in reinforced concrete.

The two men are Daniel Wynder and Walter Myers, two locals photographer John Kippin encountered at the site: 'They were delighted to talk to us and were overwhelmingly positive about the idea of heritage and their city. They were very enthused about the idea of Hull as the city of culture.'

Read the list entry for the Concrete Workshop Block

Goths, Whitby, North Yorkshire

The seaside town of Whitby is a magnet for tourists for a variety of reasons.

One aspect of the town's appeal is its association with Bram Stoker's Gothic horror novel Dracula. Stoker was so inspired by the town's architecture and landscape that part of the story takes place here.

In recent years, Whitby has hosted a Goth weekend festival, attracting visitors who come dressed in the subculture's appropriately dark, period-style garb.

Read the list entries for Whitby's East Pier and West Pier

John Kippin

To celebrate the North of England’s people and places, in 2018 Historic England commissioned photographer John Kippin to explore the ‘Spirit of the North’.

Kippin has been based in the North for 40 years. He has used his unique style and inquisitive approach to create a new set of photographs that capture how the North’s extraordinary history of creativity, innovation and cultural influence continue to shape the identity of Northerners today.

Kippin visited a selection of the North’s most historically and architecturally significant places. He is convinced that the North’s spirit is ever-changing and complex. The landscapes and cities that he visited have incredible histories and continue to evolve as new generations add their mark to the North.

These photographs explore the North of England’s rich and contradictory character. They question perceptions of ‘Northernness’ and celebrate places that have shaped the entire world but are totally and uniquely of the North.

Learn more about our exhibition and the Historic England podcast series ‘Spirit of the North’.

Find out more about John Kippin

Credits: Story

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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