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Some articles don’t come easily under other categories. These could be comments on the news, thoughts about other cities and archaeological sites, or reports from a conference or lecture I’ve been to.

The British Side of Liverpool Cosmopolitanism

Photograph of the Welsh Presbyterian Church on Princes Road, Toxteth, Liverpool
Welsh Presbyterian Church on Princes Road, Toxteth (Old Liverpool Church, by Exacta2a)

Amongst the many things Liverpool is famous for, its long-held cosmopolitan nature is probably one of those which Scousers are less annoyed at being reminded of.

Liverpool’s long history of being a world port, along with its notorious role in the African slave trade have perhaps more than any other factors stamped their effects on the city’s image as a – cliche alert – ‘melting pot’.

But what I’ve only recently come to appreciate is just how influential incomers from our own isles have contributed to the landscape and character – the atmosphere – of Liverpool. As a landscape archaeologist this has usually been of little interest to me (except where it affects road names and ‘territories’. But since reading Our Liverpool, and now finally making headway with the giant Liverpool 800 book I’ve come to realise just what ‘Liverpool Cosmopolitanism’ can really mean.

I also feel a greater understanding of the way people from all over Britain (the ‘Celtic’ states) come together to make Liverpool the individualistic town it is.

The British in Liverpool

I can’t judge as an expert, but Liverpool 800 draws the lines between the characters of Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants fairly clearly

The Liverpool-Irish

The Irish are some of the most famous of Liverpool’s incomers. Both sides of my family (the Crilleys and the Greaneys) came over from Ireland in the 19th Century, and I can guess that a large proportion of Liverpudlians reading this could trace a similar lineage of their own.

A huge number of Irish migrants came over fleeing the potato famine in the middle of the 19th Century. Their numbers rose quickly and they were often stuffed into tiny and unclean court houses. They arrived poor, lived in squalid conditions and had a reputation for harbouring diseases in their communities, and conflicts often arose out of this with their neighbours (see below).

On the other side of the coin, yet still probably due to their great numbers, the Irish community contributed more than other groups to politics. The sectarian troubles of their homeland were brought across the Irish Sea, but in addition to the differences between Protestant and Catholics the Irish community took part in electoral politics. Irish Catholic clergy were elected to School Boards. Pub landlords like Hugh McAnulty and Jack Langan lent their premises to meetings of various activist groups. Austin Harford, a successful cloth merchant, led the Irish Party from 1903 to 1923, and became the first Catholic mayor in 1943.

As Liverpool 800 has it, ‘Liverpool-Irish’ was a distinct ‘hypenated identity’. Even as some sought to distance themselves from their roots as a way to “effect the quickest way out of the Liverpool ‘ghetto'”, it seems that as a distinct group the Irish were very active in all parts of Liverpool life (William Brown, funder of the Museum which sits on the road named after him, was an Ulsterman).

Cymry Lerpwl

The Welsh, in contrast to the Irish, appear at first to have kept themselves to themselves (or “looked after their own”, Liverpool 800, p.345). Having not come as far as the Scottish and Irish, many only stayed as long as it took to make their fortune and move back home. Others came seasonally to work, travelling along the coastal trade routes of north Wales.

This insularity was exaggerated by the language barrier that the Irish never found trouble overcoming. The Welsh were known for their building skills, and the various groups of ‘Welsh Streets’ of ‘Welsh Houses’ became a hallmark. In addition Liverpool became dotted with the Welsh chapels which can still be seen across the city today. In a way these were enclaves which may have helped isolate the Welsh from wider involvement in, for example, politics.

However, in later years there were movements to end this isolation. One of the problems was seen to be the lack of education which Welsh migrants had. Many were labourers and it was felt that this lack of further skills prevented the Welsh from becoming something more than admired builders and architects.

Even as the Eisteddfod and St David’s Day celebrations took place on Merseyside there were encouragements to “Amalgamate … with Anglo-Saxons – in other words, the English”. Though “they loved their language [and] they loved their country” they also “loved their Queen”.

However, perhaps due to their lower numbers, although they took part in electoral politics they never left the mark in the way the Liverpool-Irish did.

Liverpool Caledonians

As Belchem and MacRaild admit in their chapter ‘Cosmopolitan Liverpool’, the Scots are relatively unstudied in their roles within Liverpool history. But the journal Porcupine suggested in 1877 that “had it not been for the enterprise of the Scotchmen, Liverpool would not have emerged from its early obscurity”.

What surprised me therefore was that it was individual Scottish men, rather than communities, which seem to have made their mark on Liverpool. Sir John Gladstone, father of a future Prime Minister, moved to the city from Leith. He was a commercial man, as were many of his fellow Scots, including Samuel Smith, the ‘Cotton King of Liverpool’.

The professional contribution of Scotland was not confined to commerce. Dr. Duncan, the first Medical Officer for Health, was just one of the leading lights in medicine of Scottish origin.

The skilled Scots tended to cluster further from the docks than their Irish contemporaries, right on the outskirts of the north end of the city. This, Belchem and MacRaild tell us, was partly due to no love being lost between the Scottish and Irish. Indeed the reputation of the Irish for living in filthy and overcrowded courts was not confined to the Scots, though perhaps the records left us by those such as Dr Duncan mean we are left in no doubt as to the Scottish opinion.

British Liverpool

As I’ve said, as someone more usually interested in the bricks and mortar of the city, and the landscapes of roads and fields, the topic of people has always played second fiddle to the built environment. But this chapter in Liverpool 800 has give me a glimpse into the roles into which the ‘Celtic’ nations fitted in Victorian Liverpool.

Having said that, one of the things which struck me were the well-defined lines between what the Irish immigrant could expect to find when he arrived from Belfast compared to the life of the Welsh builder or the Scottish shipwright.

Was the truth of the matter so clear cut? I’m sure it wan’t, but what impressions do you get of the Irish, Scots and Welsh in historic Liverpool? Was it the numerous and politicised Irish? The skilled or highly educated middle and upper class Scotsman? And the quiet, insular Welsh communities with their occasional outbursts of Eisteddfod extravaganzas?

Or none of these things?

Poor architecture, not heritage, is preventing investment in Liverpool

Photograph of Liverpool Pier Head looking north up the new canal extension
New development hand in hand with heritage, by Radar Communication via Flickr

Council Leader Joe Anderson has hit out at English Heritage for what he sees as the over-reaching influence and meddling of the ‘heritage lobbyists’ in the future development of Liverpool.

Anderson’s current gripe is related to the Liverpool Waters project, which English Heritage advised to be reduced. Since their input, the number of tall buildings has been reduced, and the centrepiece Shanghai Tower moved back from the waterfront.

The Daily Post has a balanced editorial stating that heritage matters should be considered hand in hand with development progress, and points out that many historic buildings have been brought back into use successfully in this and other cities. Coincidentally, part of the current Biennial art festival concentrates on the re-use of derelict buildings for public enjoyment.

So does heritage hold back development? As Naomi Peck, project manager of Peel’s Liverpool Waters development team said: “English Heritage would most probably be happy to see everything as it is, because that is what they do – they preserve old buildings… The scheme could have been perhaps a little more magnificent, but obviously we had to take into consideration it is a World Heritage Site.”

So, English Heritage preserve old buildings, and World Heritage Site = no magnificence, thank you very much.

Yes?

Developers preventing development

Looking at this from the other direction, is heritage really the stumbling block? Is the Albert Dock a less ‘magnificent’ development because of all the heritage? Or is the heritage key to its attraction? (OK, enough rhetorical questions.) The flats at the King’s Dock and in the former warehouses at the Waterloo Docks are massively successful examples of historic buildings reuse which have not harmed the historic environment. There are other developments – the very magnificent Great Court at the British Museum and World Museum Liverpool, for example – which have added modern architectural elements to historically important buildings.

However, Joe Anderson shouldn’t be surprised or dismayed when ‘heritage lobbyists’ kick up a fuss about wrecking a World Heritage Site with modern ‘ego architecture‘ (subscription required) – massive developments which are all about money and prestige, and nothing about quality of life in the long run. Anderson may have a different point of view, but I don’t want Liverpool to turn into the Shanghai/New York of the West/Europe. I want Liverpool to be The Liverpool.

The solution to Anderson’s problem is not to stop groups like English Heritage and the Civic Societies from airing their views. Rather it is for the architects to produce creative, attractive modern designs keeping in scale with the current landscape. Even completely new builds like Liverpool One can achieve this, and the Echo Arena for another great example: it’s unashamedly modern (and I’d say attractive), but it doesn’t try to take over the whole skyline.

Compare this imagined scenario to the original article:

He said: “The Wellington Rooms, in Mount Pleasant, and other listed buildings are lying derelict because of the poor designs by the architects would have trashed the building.

“The former Irish Centre was the subject of a planning application, which was even supported by the Bishop, to attach some sort of hotel on it. The architect, supported by the leader of the city council, stopped it going ahead by failing to produce a decent building, and now it is deteriorating in front of our eyes.”

OK, so that’s a bit of fun, but remember: it’s not investment that English Heritage are blocking, nor development. It’s poor architecture. There’s one easy way to get development going, and that’s to design something creative, with life-span and beauty, and which adds to, and doesn’t replace, the amazing architecture we have been left by those who came before us.

Note: all views in this post are my own.

Black History Month and Liverpool

Carving of two black children at the entrance to Martin's Bank, Liverpool
Carving at the entrance to Martin's Bank, Liverpool, by Gadgetgirl2007 via Flickr

Black History Month is held in October each year. It’s origins go back to 1926, and the work of Carter G Woodson, editor for thirty years of the Journal of Negro History. It’s aims are:

  • Promote knowledge of the  Black History, Cultural and Heritage
  • Disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society
  • Heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people to  their cultural heritage.

Any student of Liverpool history (and any Liverpool child schooled in the history of the last 300 years) knows the role of black people in the growth, development and wealth of the city, particularly in the Victorian period.

At this time every year, however, a wider debate occurs as to whether Black History Month is still relevant. Is black history not worthy of study the rest of the year? Does the study of general history not include black people to the proper extent (and what is the ‘proper extent’?).

It’s probably not an argument that can be resolved conclusively, easily, or soon, but Liverpool for all its crimes during the height of trans-Altlantic slavery is in a well-placed position to enter the debate.

Black History in Liverpool

The award-nominated International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock is perhaps the major place to go to learn about Liverpool’s role in transatlantic slave trade, and was built on the success of the transatlantic slavery gallery in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

As the Vision for the museum states, despite the horrors that went on as part of that trade “the story of the mass enslavement of Africans by Europeans is one of resilience and survival against all the odds, and is a testament to the unquenchable nature of the human spirit.” The museum is telling an affirmative story of the people, who are depicted as humans, not simply victims.

Another story which is being told, and which has special relevance to the subject of this blog, is that by Eric Scott Lynch on the Black History Tours.

As their website explains, the tours encourage us to “raise our eyes from the ground, both physically and metaphorically”. This, coincidentally, was how I developed an interest in the physical urban history of Liverpool: by looking at the details of the buildings, the friezes above the great doors of the Victorian institutions and the road names dotted around the city centre, you can see generally the past written out for you, and specifically the role of slavery – enslaved Africans and the wealthy who traded in them – in the creation of Liverpool as it is today.

Speaking of street signs, you may remember that Laurence Westgaph wrote a leaflet called ‘Read the Signs’ back in 2007. The leaflet covered a number of streets in Liverpool who were named after those involved in the slave trade – either making money from it or campaigning for its abolition.

A debate surrounded whether these streets should be renamed – including Penny Lane and Bold Street – or whether by keeping the streets as they are we would be reminded of how history played itself out.

Further Information

There are events going on during Black History Month in Liverpool Museums. See the 2010 Events Programme for details.

You can download Laurence Westgaph’s Slavery Remembrance Tour as MP3s and an accompanying map from the Liverpool08 website.

There are a number of books covering the trans-Altantic slave trade and Liverpool’s role in it:

Liverpool Continuing Education

Another useful resource for your educational needs is of course Liverpool University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. They have an ongoing programme of courses, of which you may be most interested in History and Local History, or perhaps Irish Studies, which includes Finding the Liverpool Irish.

If you know of any courses which might be of interest to readers of this site, do get in touch. Or have you been on a course just mentioned, and want to recommend it? Let us know in the comments.

Visible in Stone: women’s history and the built environment

Photo of the marble Florence Nightingale Memorial in Liverpool
Florence Nightingale Memorial, Princes Road, Liverpool by Benkid77 via Wikimedia

English Heritage and London Metropolitan University today launch Visible in Stone, a project and online resource to explore the influence women had on the built environment during a century of intense social change.

After the Second World War, and the undeniably essential jobs done by women during 1939-45 occupying the gaps left by conscripted men, women had gained political and social rights perhaps undreamed of by their ancestors of one hundred years before. However, the journey to this point began to take off around 1850, and the Visible in Stone project seeks to publicise the archives and information which bring this journey to life.

How this ties in to this blog and the very phrase ‘visible in stone’ lies in the institutions and organisations which campaigning women and men formed themselves to fight for rights such as suffrage. An example is the meeting of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage in the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1868. As the English Heritage page says: “The buildings … are a monument to those women who had the tenacity and courage to argue for and capture their vision for our future.” Wash houses, lodgings, offices  and even shops were all arenas where women began to change their place in society.

I have to admit that my knowledge of this type of history in Liverpool is limited, although I know that the city is one of three (along with Derby and London) which has a monument to Florence Nightingale (at the corner of Princes Road). In addition, the first trained Nightingale nurses began work at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.

The Visible in Stone project is perfect for one such as I then, as they want your help. There is a Visible in Stone Flickr group associated with the project where you can add your photos of buildings important to women’s history. This should build into a collection of images to celebrate the journey from 1850 to 1950, and highlight the impact on the built environment this period and these people had. Do go and see if you can contribute.

But, while you’re here, are there any more places on Merseyside with an essential role for women between 1850 and 1950? Let us know in the comments.

Recommended Reading

Women's History: Britain, 1850-1945: An IntroductionA lot of the themes covered in this blog post, as well as Visible in Stone can be found in Women’s History: Britain, 1850-1945: An Introduction, edited by June Pervis. The book consists of chapters dealing each with a theme on the topic, and is an introduction to women’s history.

If you’d like to support this blog, please consider buying this book through the affiliate link. Click on the book cover to go to Amazon.

Heritage in a tough climate – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Photo of University of Liverpool and the Cathlic Cathedral, by Neill Shenton
This and That, by neill.shenton via Flickr

I can’t help feeling mixed emotions about recent developments for Liverpool’s heritage.

Yesterday the first object – a carriage from the Overhead Railway – was due to move in to the new Museum of Liverpool (although it was delayed by the weather). But then today we hear that the ever-present ‘current economic climate’ (my, am I getting more sick of that phrase every day) means that the National Conservation Centre, a favourite of mine, and Sudley House are at risk from closure.

The shutting down of the North West Development Agency isn’t looking like good news for our museums and other cultural institutions either. Though they plan to continue their previously NWDA-funded projects.

What is your point of view? Will our heritage projects be nipped in the bud? Or can the museums, galleries and theatres come out of this stronger?

What are the long term implications?

Liverpool Echo show first glimpse inside Mann Island shards

View of the Mann Island developments and the Pier Head, Liverpool
Another Graceful View, by Max/マックス via Flickr

It’s nearly here. You don’t like it, I don’t like it, but the controversial Mann Island development is forever nearer completion. The Liverpool Echo were granted exclusive access inside.

There’s mention of exhibitions, which must be good (though whether this will be a compliment to or a conflict with the new museum remains to be seen), and then there are the “half a dozen top restaurants and … major chains”. What Liverpool waterfront certainly needs are more major chains, right?

But this blog is about history, development and change, not economics (and certainly not shopping). What it’s also about is landscape, and it’s the context of this building which troubles me and plenty of other people.

As modern architecture goes, I quite like it. Sleek, modern, shiny, it’s like a big iBrick. It’s easier on the eye than the One Park West apartments across the Strand with their spidery framework on display.

But as news reports have highlighted recently, and other bloggers too in more personal channels, it has cut off expensive views from other buildings in the area, and destroyed the best, possibly most iconic view of the World Heritage Site from the said Strand.

Plans are afoot to turn the north docklands into a new Shanghai, and the area towards Stanley Dock in the north is a bit cut off, though development is moving in that direction. If this building had been put further north, although it would have clashed just as horribly with the massive brick warehouses, it would have been the right height for the city, keeping that intimate, human-scale feel that we all enjoy about our town, and increased the modern variety that those docks are getting.

However, keeping it away from the Three Graces would maintain that area’s all-important coherence, of proud architecture which has stood the test of time.

What do you think? Is this the right building in the wrong place? Where would you prefer to see it? North Liverpool? Kirkby? Shanghai?

Advice for Historic Areas Conservation

A view of Liverpool Museum and Mann Island from the Albert Dock, Liverpool
Liverpool Waterfront, by adebⓞnd, via Flickr

There’s a lot of bits of interest dotted around the place at the moment, so tonight I’m going to concentrate on the serious stuff, with a couple of more fun things later in the week!

Understanding your local history

Local groups are some of the most important people to help protect the historic parts of our towns and cities. Along with planners, developers and local government, they have the greatest influence on what happens (or doesn’t happen) to historic buildings.

English Heritage have recognised this in their latest guidance notes called Understanding Place (see the Related Publications link on the right). The documents focus on Historic Area Assessments, which are one method of ‘characterisation’ which aims to assess the significance of a historic place through objective research using maps and other documents (it’s a bit like what I do for Historic Liverpool!).

If you’re part of a community group, or it’s your job to study local history and archaeology in a planning and development context, download the free PDFs from EH’s website.

On a wider scope, English Heritage are also asking for your opinion on the National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP). There’s a survey linked to from their NHPP web page.

Merger questions for two of Liverpool’s major agencies

Liverpool Vision (public sector body dealing with regeneration) and the Mersey Partnership (part-public funded, concerned with tourism and investment) may merge as part of efficiency savings by Liverpool Council.

A report is being written by Professor Michael Parkinson of John Moores University, after the council’s new leader Joe Anderson ordered a review. The North West Development Agency (NWDA), as major funders of both bodies, are also in support of the report. Anderson said: “I want to make sure we are efficient and delivering the best possible services and that overlaps and duplication are taken out of the system”.

Do you think a merger will have a positive effect on Liverpool? Or will any cuts risk the city’s continued resurgence?

And finally…

What do you really think of the Mann Island developments? I mean – really? Now’s your chance to let Matt Brook, the man responsible for the “people-orientated approach for design” at Mann Island, know. For more, through-gritted-teeth, details, go to the new Seven Streets website.

They’re article Total Eclipse of the Heart is quite, well, heartfelt too.

How Merseyside’s Historic Landscape Helps During the Snow

Northwich Salt Factories (part 1), by DaveAdams via Flickr
Northwich Salt Factories (part 1), by DaveAdams via Flickr

The local landscape is playing a major part in snowy events on Merseyside this winter. Salt companies in Cheshire are finding a boom in trade as councils run low on supplies of grit for roads. British Salt Ltd in Middlewich is apprarently running 24/7 and still having trouble keeping up with demand.

Ineos in Runcorn is also helping out, with 12,000 tonnes of salt having already left their depot.

Salt has been an incredibly important industry in Cheshire since at least Roman times, and almost certainly prior to that. Middlewich, Nantwich, Northwich and Winsford are all historic salt mining locations. Middlewich was even called Salinae by the Romans, showing how important the location was for salt (salt was, in turn, of extreme importance during the Roman period. Salt could be used as currency, leading to the modern English word ‘salary’).

PS: Love that amazing HDR photo above, by DaveAdams!

Liverpool 100 years ago

The Echo are starting a new history series, looking at Liverpool 100 years ago. The first, introductory article talks about monarchs, strikes and riots, the Titanic and the Suffragettes.

The main photo in the article shows the Mersey in 1907. Of the major Pier Head/Strand buildings only the Port of Liverpool Building has been built, and it stands head and shoulders above everything else in the viscinity. What a change! This building now feels right in the centre of the commercial district, but at the beginning of the 20th Century this merely meant the docks and the Overhead Railway. The other two Graces, and Tower Building etc, are yet to be contructed, and yet to take their place as the centrepiece in Liverpool’s skyline.

Liscard Hall not to be rebuilt

Finally, news reaches us that Liscard Hall, which burned down in 2008, will not be rebuilt. The Hall was built by Sir John Tobin, one time mayor of Liverpool and successful trader. The grounds of what was once known as Moor Heys House became Central Park in 1891.

Plans now include landscaping of the gardens, and linking them more successfully with the nearby rose garden.

See the Geograph page for National Grid Reference SJ3191 site for a photo of the Hall and Central Park.

Liverpool’s Redundant Buildings (or, What future for Stanley Dock and friends?)

Stanley Dock, by Tim.Edwards
Stanley Dock, by Tim.Edwards, via Flickr

There has been a certain amount of interest in my post on re-using Liverpool’s derelict buildings and in particular the derelict tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock, which many (me included) would like to see regenerated. A few questions remain, such as the problem of too-low ceilings (are they too low? How low is too low?). If this is a problem, are there any other uses to which the huge building could be put (See ‘Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse below)?

There is also of course the larger problem of the isolation of the warehouse and other buildings down that part of the city. It’s handy for the town centre, but a little too far to walk, but possibly not worth driving in.

We could sit around here all day discussing the problems of regenerating the warehouse area, but I’d like to keep the focus on the wider issue of the redevelopment and re-use of derelict buildings, of which there are many around Merseyside. There are other cities in the country who have already taken up the challenge. Four of them are mentioned in the English Heritage (EH) publication Making the Most of Your Local Heritage: A Guide for Overview and Scrutiny Committees, downloadable from the HELM website (and which actually has a photo of our own fair city on the cover).

Although the booklet is aimed at those already involved in local heritage and planning issues, any of us can take its advice on how to make the most of our historic landscape and the buildings in it. Of particular interest is Case Study 3, Wolverhampton and Heritage at Risk: Protecting the Irreplacable (can you see where this is going? ;)).

A quote:

Wolverhampton City Council recognised the considerable potential of redundant historic buildings when in 2004 a scrutiny panel was established to investigate how an increasingly uninhabited historic environment could be used as an effective impetus for regeneration. The review attracted widespread attention amongst the local press and community as the Panel sought to establish how new uses could be found for a significant number of historic buildings…

Their report found that a crucial factor for success was the partnership between the City Council and developers, and recommended a set of character appraisals for important sites and other areas at risk. Could this be a solution for Liverpool? Does Liverpool have a similar process or committee? And what role can local residents play in the absence of such organisations? (Check out the advice for Heritage Champions on the HELM website).

Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse

I’ve found an old Liverpool Echo story referring to plans to regenerate the whole warehouse area from Dec 8th 2003, with “1000 building and permanent retail jobs” by 2008. I think we all know what happened to that optimistic scheme. Originally, owners Kitgrove had planned to demolish the building and keep the north west supplied with bricks “for the next decade” (the warehouse is the largest brick building in Europe). Luckily heritage groups and the city council opposed the plans.

Another scheme to regenerate “starting in 2009” was reported in June 2008 (scroll down to Stanley Dock).

A problem both articles mention is that little light manages to make it into the centre of the building, requiring that it be cored out to create a central atrium, something akin to the entrance to World Museum Liverpool. Also the general complexity of the building means options are limited for re-use. Nevertheless, past projects were ambitious: “There will be an exclusion zone on part of the roof to provide a nesting area for peregrine falcons.”

Useful Resources:

Ownership of buildings in the Liverpool Mercantile City World Heritage Site (see p3): http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/Images/tcm21-32550.pdf
World Heritage Site Management Plan: http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/Leisure_and_culture/Tourism_and_travel/World_heritage_site/Management_plan/index.asp

Conservation Areas – Conservation Bulletin

West Derby is one of nearly 40 Conservation Areas in Liverpool
West Derby is one of nearly 40 Conservation Areas in Liverpool. West Derby 2, by Mrs Magic via Flickr

Every month or so English Heritage releases a new issue of Conservation Bulletin (ConBull), and the latest issue is on Conservation Areas (available in PDF and Microsoft Word formats). Conservation Areas (CAs) were created with the aim of ‘preserving and enhancing’ the built character of a location, and it’s worth flicking through this ConBull for its relevance to areas of Liverpool.

The document is the collected work of experts in the field of conservation, though what is refreshing in recent English Heritage publications is the emphasis on a balance between preservation and development, which can often be in stark contrast to the most conservative Nimby opinion pieces (you know who you are!).

This issue thankfully takes into account the social and economic benefits of preserving historic urban and rural areas, which can only aid the argument for their protection. The whole publication aims to integrate CAs into a positive role as part of the planning process, partcicularly in struggling economies where CAs can easily be cast as an an obstruction to recovery.

What is revealed is that Conservation Areas, in the British sense, are unique in the world – other countries tend to include natural formations within the Conservation Areas definition (what we might in the UK call Sites of Special Scientific Interest, or perhaps Nature Reserves). Examples of this type can be found in China, Australia and Mexico, and this magazine visits all three areas for a comparative look.

Of major interest are the methods by which Conservation Areas are designated. Just as it is useful to know your chances of getting a local building listed, it pays to understand how the professionals judge the importance of CAs, and how the practice of dealing with threats to them works. This issue of ConBull is therefore useful if you live in and wish to help conservation efforts in a local CA.

As an interesting aside, it is reported in this issue that Sefton Park was valued by CABE at £105 million. I’m not sure what this price was based on, but it helps put the Park into context of the interest in economic value of CAs.

The most promising thing about this Conservation Bulletin, and a lesson for us all perhaps, is that it shows that English Heritage do not consider Conservation Areas to be ‘set and forget’ designations. They are part of the planning process, part of people’s living and working environments, and as such should be considered as evolving parts of the landscape, just like the cities in which they sit.

Do you live in one of Liverpool’s Conservation Areas? What are your attitudes to change? What’s distinctive about the place and what is under threat?

Conservation Areas were created in 1967 as part of the Civic Amenities Act. There are 9300 in England, nearly 40 if which are in Liverpool. The aim of CAs is to allow authorities to “determine which parts of their area are areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance” Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (c. 9) (c. 9)

Exclusivity: which parts of the city are Yours?

Quiggins Brooke Cafe, by Indigo Goat via Flickr
Quiggins Brooke Cafe, by Indigo Goat via Flickr

Nina Simon, a museum blogger I greatly admire and enjoy reading, recently posted on the topic of ‘exclusive’ places, and the odd way in which people find them more welcoming than more public spaces. She was referring to museums, which can be both public spaces and yet sometimes seem exclusive (to ‘museum-y people’), but everywhere in the landscape can have a sense of exclusivity, to a greater or lesser extent. There’ll be parts of Liverpool you love going to, and which you like because you know ‘your’ people will be there: those with similar interests, from similar backgrounds, of similar age or profession, even people dressed similarly. There’ll be other places which you’d never set foot in: either you simply never go to that part of town, or you avoid drinking in that pub, going into those shops/restaurants. These places make you feel awkward, out of place, nervous, or it may be that they just don’t ‘do’ what you like. Then there are places which change from one type to another over your lifetime: perhaps you grow into them (that pub again) or out of them (playground, playing fields, the street where you grew up).

You may go with friends, or alone, but they are all places which reinforce your feeling of who you are, and who you aren’t. You can share these special places with the right friend; you get that glow from sharing an exclusive place and introducing someone new to something cool.

When I was but a young geek, my friends and I would go to Palace on Slater Street, for all our collectible card game needs! The place was full of other weird and wonderful shops: antiques, piercings, records, books, junk… Quiggins, in its School Lane incarnation, was similar: I loved the cafe on the top floor, and exploring the darkest, strangest recesses of the other shops. Both those places I knew my parents, and my more ‘mainstream’ classmates, would never go. They were my places, and my friends’ places.

Then there is the garden behind Blue Coat Chambers. I was first taken there by a Geography teacher while on a field trip (with 29 other lads, I’ll have you know). It was a little-known backstreet oasis, with a couple of benches, plants and trees. Neglected, maybe, but not overgrown, it seemed like a bit of a secret getaway. This year I went back, possibly for the first time in (yikes) ten years, with my fiancée. It’s had a complete makeover, along with the Chambers themselves, but still maintained an air of quiet solitude, somewhere to escape the massive and modern Liverpool One just over the wall. I felt that sense of showing someone that place for the first time, a place which had been shared with me and a handful of (slightly rowdy) others years before.

There are countless other places which are ‘mine’: parks at Croxteth, Springfield, Sefton, Calderstones (and the corners within them), where I spent parts of my childhood, and which I still visit. If I choose to share these places, at the same time I want to keep them secret, and not to share them with too many people lest they lose that exclusiveness, that specialness.

Which are your ‘exclusive places‘? Are they, like in Nina’s examples, museums? Exhibits? A corner of a gallery? Or one of Liverpool’s parks, or independent shops? Are they big places, or small? Do you share them? Where do you feel you are most you, and how does the location of that place in the landscape affect this? Is it near home? Far from home? In a side street? Right in the limelight with the other trendy people?

Will you share it with the readers of some archaeology blog? 😉

Uses for Liverpool’s Listed Buildings

The Observer reports on a survey by McBains Cooper which suggests that giving Grand Designs-like makeovers to Britain’s vacant listed buildings could help with the shortfall of up 1 million homes.

The suggestion is that the hundreds of listed buildings which are currently out of use could be converted to flats and houses. However, the main objection is the red tape and hassle that owners expect to have to go through to get plans accepted.

Stanley Dock by Paul Holloway, via Flickr
Stanley Dock by Paul Holloway, via Flickr

Having seen, and mapped, the listed buildings most at risk in Liverpool, according to English Heritage, I know that a great many of them lay dormant, without use and without any plans for the future. My favourite is the tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock. This is a colossal building, and identical to all intents and purposes to the warehouses at the King’s Dock which are now plush and expensive footballers’ homes, and which ensure the preservation of these globally important structures. There seems no reason why the Stanley Dock warehouses couldn’t be put to similar use. New flats are also found all along Waterloo Road, occupying former derelict buildings. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Stanley Dock is converted. Maybe the owner has been waiting for the best time. But these kinds of projects need to be started sooner rather than later. How many flats could you fit in that warehouse, plus shops, parking and maybe offices on the ground floor? Granted, at the moment these buildings are a tad out of the way of the city centre, but the location must be attractive to many who would save on transport costs to the offices and shops in town.

There also has to be the one project which starts the regeneration of the entire area all the way up Waterloo Road to Nelson and Huskisson Docks. The main thing to remember, however, is that the housing shortfall is not with the wealthy King’s Dock flat owner types. It’s with the thousands of families who can’t afford a house, so it would be no good to create another ‘exclusive’ gated community. Could a Stanley Dock scheme both ensure the preservation of the warehouse structure and provide a more accessible housing scheme than Kings or East Waterloo Docks?

Of course, there are other vacant listed buildings in Liverpool, crying out for regeneration. What buildings in your area could benefit from such a scheme?

Liverpool ‘one of the earliest seaside resorts’

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found diary references to ‘bathing wagons’ and other leisure activities taking place in the growing town from as long ago as the 1750s, much earlier than other local towns like Blackpool and Southport became popular destinations.

Once Liverpool began to expand at a massive rate in the Victorian era, holiday-makers (those who could afford to leave) made their way from the dirty city to the clean air of the seaside. It was at that time that the surounding Lancashire towns became known for bathing and other seaside pursuits, and their popularity only increased with the spread of the railways and organised trips for the working classes.

Leave! Before it’s too late!

Although according to one report, it already is too late. Policy Exchange, a ‘right-of-centre’ Think Tank have branded Liverpool (among others) as beyond help. All the regeneration efforts are wasting money – this city on the north west coast will never be as rich as London, so what’s the point? Well, rather than telling us Merseysiders to do ourselves a favour and take a long run off the Pier Head, Tim Leunig and James Swaffield suggest we pack our bags for London. They go on to say that Liverpool has lost the very reason for its existence now that the port is no longer in its Victorian heyday.

Messrs Leunig and Swaffield have concluded that there is no other reason for continuing the rich adventure of life if you are not making as much money as possible. Now that the port of Liverpool is not what is was, Liverpool should just bite the bullet, and shut up shop. Then we can all move to London and start raking in the cash. Of course, Mr. Leunig is London based, but did come to Liverpool once, when researching “cotton towns”, so clearly he knows what he’s talking about…

The Liverpool Echo details the story, as I’m sure will many other sites who object to Bradford, Newcastle, Manchester and Sunderland being dismissed so easily. They also publish his email address: t.leunig@lse.ac.uk. Let him know what you think.