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18 December 2008

A networking organisation of voluntary cultural societies in the Liverpool area.

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We come to the end of a momentous year, a year that has hopefully cemented Liverpool’s position for the future as a major entry in any list of tourist destinations for people interested in culture and heritage. Notwithstanding the credit crunch, 2008 will surely continue to bring benefits in terms of tourist revenues and jobs, in positive media coverage and the city’s attractiveness to potential investors.


The Culture Company has published an account of 2008 under the title “The impacts of a year like no other” which charts the year’s high points. It will be an excellent sales tool for promoting Liverpool to the outside world as well as a happy souvenir for those who took part in or witnessed the events which took place.  Among statistics quoted are: 7,000 events held, a million visitors to the Tate and a million hotel beds sold, with occupancy well above the national average, still at a record 81% in October. The President of the European Commission has said “It’s turning out to be one of the most successful Capital of Culture programmes that we have ever had. We are now trying to create a network of European Capitals of Culture to build on Liverpool’s experience.”


Congratulations are due those who brought about the successes of 2008. The people who run the city’s religious, artistic and heritage establishments deserve our praise for the outstanding events which they laid on. The City Council is to be congratulated on greatly improving and decorating the streetscape (though some very visible eyesores still let the side down). As to Liverpool Culture Company, loved by few in its earlier days and now at the end of its remit, it can be said that 2008 would not have been what it was but for the co-ordination which the Culture Company effected.


The City Council’s Regeneration Select Committee has approved a draft Culture Strategy for post 2008. It insists that it is a strategy for Liverpool as a whole and its region, not just for the City Council.  The document is much better than the early drafts and now stands as a useful means of shaping future work. It now makes adequate reference to the importance of heritage and to the economic importance of tourism, of which heritage and culture will be the biggest elements. Overall, the recognition now given to the importance of culture in Liverpool is an astonishing turn around compared with fifteen or twenty years ago. Moreover, the increased and more positive recognition of Liverpool nationally and internationally, partly due to good work by the Culture Company’s media team, is a most welcome step forward.


One of the most vital recommendations in the report is for a senior Councillor to be made responsible for links with all partners - locally, nationally and internationally - on tourism and cultural issues. Provided that this is taken to include liaison with all relevant City Council departments (such as Planning and Street Cleaning), this is greatly to be welcomed. It must be a priority to learn lessons from the confusion, ineffective leadership and lack of access for voluntary cultural societies and members of the public generally to the decision-makers in the Culture Company in the early days of the 2008 project. 


Another recommendation to be welcomed is that there should be greater mutual understanding of the activities of cultural bodies, provided that this includes voluntary societies in general (not just those seeking financial support from public funds).  There is clearly a need for a means by which the public authorities can have a two-way dialogue with voluntary societies (not simply provide finance for them, though this will be welcome in certain cases). Letters written to the City Council’s Culture officials should receive responses!  Liverpool Heritage Forum is debating what its role in this should be.


An exercise of rebranding the city is in hand. At worst, branding can be a folly of consultants barely in touch with reality.  At best it can identify and highlight what we want the city to be renowned for. Supporters of Liverpool Heritage Forum will welcome suggestions that culture should be part of the city’s brand but we should avoid a competition for public attention between culture and other equally important objectives. Could we suggest “City of Business, Culture and Good Living”, as a slogan to bring together our key attributes and aspirations?  In the stricter context of cultural tourism, it is tempting to focus on the artistic and architectural achievements of Liverpool’s Victorian days (which is what brings many of the visitors here) but this looking back should be coupled with something which looks forward.


Reborn Liverpool can have a bright future.



Many “Friends” groups participate in Liverpool Heritage Forum. Their value is not always fully realised by the paid staffs of the various organisations they support. For example, at the AGM of the Members (i.e. Friends) of the Phil, it became apparent that the subscriptions had been altered without informing, let alone consulting, the Friends. Just a tiny blip in the extremely successful progress of the Phil in recent times. The difficulties of the Friends of National Museums Liverpool will become more readily visible within a short time. Various Friends are responsible for highly desirable projects which could not have happened without them. An interesting example is the “cherry picker” – a small truck with a platform which can be raised up to gain access to otherwise inaccessible parts of the of the Anglican Cathedral. This was purchased with the aid of funds from the Cathedral Friends.


An outstanding story is that of the foundation of the Maritime Museum. In 1980, the City Council had the courage and the vision to make a start on the provision of a maritime museum. A support group was formed from within the Friends of what was then Merseyside County Museum, which immediately raised funds to refurbish lamp standards around what was then a semi-derelict site at the Albert Dock. In 1981 the motor barge “Wincham” was sold to the Friends for £1 (yes, one pound). In 1982, the Museum bought a pilot cutter “Edmund Gardner” and a team of Friends brought their skills and experience to the task of refurbishing her.  Later that year , the County Council leased the Albert Dock site for use as a museum – which opened in 1984. Progress continued. In 1997, HM Bark Endeavour was moored in the Canning half tide dock for 10 days. Fourteen Friends were part of the team which welcomed 15,400 visitors during her stay.



·                     St John’s Gardens contains anything from 27,000 to 80,00 bodies (depending who you believe). These include some of the 4,000 French prisoners imprisoned in the city in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The cemetery was closed in 1854, the same year as construction of St George’s Hall began.  At one time it was the custom that when a French warship was in the Mersey a colour party would march to the Gardens to honour their fallen colleagues who are commemorated by a stone plaque. (The plaque was damaged some years ago by injudicious cleaning which took the sharpness off the lettering.)  The Friends of St Johns Gardens, one of about 20 such groups in the city, advise and assist the City Council to keep this major historical site with its formidable array of sculpture in good order.

·                     For an interesting cup of coffee in town, try Café Nero in Castle Street. The bronze doors alone are worth the visit. This was originally the Adelphi Bank which was eventually merged into the Bank of Liverpool,  then into Martins and finally into Barclays. The Bank of Liverpool was founded in 1831, partly in order to withstand attempts by Manchester banks to set up here. In 1918 it acquired Martins Bank and became the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, which was shortened to Martins in 1928.  Barclays bought it in 1969. Nearby was Heywood’s Bank in Brunswick Street. Founded by Arthur and James Heywood in 1774 in Hanover Street, it moved into Brunswick Street when the west side of Castle Street was widened in 1786.  The bank was sold to the Bank of Liverpool in 1883 for £400,000. Liverpool in those days was not a transit port like modern Dover or Felixstowe  -  a place where goods is shipped through.  It was a place where the business deals were made and financed and where the enterprising traders lived. Professional services in the city are still some of the strongest outside London and there is an organisation called “Professional Liverpool” which works to bring this fact nationally to the notice of businesses which could use these services.

·                     Among the enterprising traders were Messrs Brook & Co. On 19 February 1779 their ship Enterprise of 250 tons, 20 guns and 70 men and commanded by the Captain Pearce captured the ship Pauline, 450 tons, which was sailing from Cape Francois (off Haïti) to Bordeaux, It was carrying  sugar, indigo and coffee. On the 23rd of the same month Capt Pearce captured l’Hostilité bound from Bordeaux to Port au Prince (also Haïti) laden with provisions.  Both prizes were brought safely to Liverpool,


·                     We understand that Merseytravel will have some sort of visitor attraction (possibly to do with the Beatles) in the new (visually intrusive) ferry terminal at the Pier Head. The idea is evidently that all three points at which the ferry calls should have something for the tourist.  Seacombe has Spaceport. Birkenhead has potential for marketing Birkenhead Priory (Merseyside’s oldest standing building), the Pump House, the Town Hall, the tram depot and Hamilton Square as a package and as a reason for tourists to get off the ferry at Woodside.


·                     We hear that the restaurant at the Roman Catholic Cathedral is taking scouse off the menu. This is a pity because people in Britain (in Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire, for example) are beginning to appreciate the value of their regional styles of cooking and scouse has made a come-back on Liverpool menus. There were many kinds of German sausages and fried potatoes at the Christmas Market in Williamson Square but no scouse.

·                     The UK Maritime Heritage Forum took place 2-3 December at the Maritime Museum. Tony Tibbles, the Director there, spoke as did representatives of the Cornwall National Maritime Museum and experts from Tyne and Wear and the Shetlands.

In the last edition we noted the flying of the European flag in Liverpool. We now learn that it also flew over the Wirral Museum for the duration of the European Cemeteries Conference. In 2008 Liverpool has been, after all, the EUROPEAN Capital of Culture.

·                     Felice and Agnes D'Annunzio were just one of the many Italian families living in Liverpool prior to the turn of the 20th Century. 'Liverpool's Italian Families' (a new book written by Debra D'Annunzio) is a dedication to the many Italian immigrants that travelled to Liverpool during the mass exodus from Italy during the 19th and 20th centuries. The book depicts everyday family life within the vibrant community that became fondly known as 'Little Italy'. Info: Debra D'Annunzio at


·                     Rome is noted for its seven hills. Well, we have seven hills in Liverpool too.  Ken Pye refers to them in his book and DD “Discover Liverpool”.  There does not seem to be complete agreement as which they are but the list probably includes Mossley Hill, Olive Mount, Allerton Hill, Woolton Ridge, High Park/Toxteth, Walton Hill and Everton Brow. A visit to the Walled Garden at Woolton, near one of the hills, is rewarding and shows that the City Council can get its flower beds into first class condition even if its street cleaning owes a good deal to be desired in certain places.

·                     Readers surely enjoy the old photographs of Merseyside which are regularly published in the Daily Post. That of St Paul’s Church off Old Hall Street, demolished in 1932, is a reminder of the desecration of some of Liverpool’s architectural heritage in years gone by. The demolition of the old Customs House facing Albert Dock, after bomb damage in World War II, (some of its stones remain in Anfield cemetery) is another case in point.  St Paul’s had fine Doric pillars and a dome.  We hope that the need to preserve our heritage has been learned (heritage explains the present and creates pride in our future).

·                     The Kitty Wilkinson statue (commissioned by Scottie Press earlier in 2008) was displayed at Martins Building as part of a Capital of Culture 'Arts & Health Conference' on Friday 5 Dec. The statue is now at Holy Cross School Junior School, Fontenoy Street, Liverpool 3 - for a school project in 2009. It will move to other locations later. According to BBC research, community life in Britain has weakened over the past 30 years and neighbourhoods in every part of the UK have become less rooted and more socially fragmented. People have feelings of “not belonging” to (and more lonely in) the communities and neighbourhoods in which they live. The “The Changing Face of Local Communities” project which tackles this is featured in issues of Scottie Press Community Newspaper. Info: 


·                     Trains to London are being speeded up but we hear that the average speed of express trains from Liverpool to Manchester today is 34 m.p.h.  This was the speed of the train which killed William Huskisson at the Rainhill locomotive trials in 1830.

·                     Seven thousand Father Christmases ran round Liverpool on 7 December. A little startling if you were not expecting them but great fun.


►► Liverpool Welsh Choral has a St David’s Day Opera Gala at the Phil on 1 March at 7.30 p.m. Tickets from the Phil.  Or call 0115 652 6374.


►► There will be a talk on “Iron Churches in Merseyside” at Maghull  Town in Hall Lane organized by Maghull Local History Society at 8 p.m. on 16 March. 


►►There are tours of Liverpool Football Club’s stadium on weekdays. (£10). Info: 0151 260 6677. The brochure says that tours will not be going into the playing area on match days (which is hardly surprising!)


►► Birkenhead Choral Society has a concert at 7.30 p.m. on 21 March at St Saviour’s Church Bidston Road, Oxton.   Haydn, Kodaly, Vaughan Williams, Stainer. The conductor is David Holroyd with soloists from the Royal Northern College of Music.  £10.  Info: 0151 677 1129.


►►The English Speaking Union has a talk by Alastair Upton on the Bluecoat on 20 March. £14.  Info: 638 5512


►►, a new play, is at the Actor’s Studio in Seel Street from 19 – 24 January.  Info: 0151 709 9034.


►►The Village Hall at Parbold has a recital by Caroline MacPhie, soprano, and Joseph Middleton on 10 January at 7.45 p.m.  Info: 01257 421526


►►The Phil’s youth orchestra is always looking for new talent. Next auditions are September but enquiries can be made at any time.  0151 210 2895. The Phil also has a youth choir.


►►Hoylake Chamber Concert Society has a recital by Tom Kimmance, piano, on 9 February. Scarlatti, Bach, Haydn, Chopin, Rachmaninov.  7.30 p.m. Info: 0151 626 1865. At St Hildeburgh’s Church, Stanley Road, Hoylake.


►► You will get a good view from Eastham Ferry of the fireworks in Liverpool, seeing the Pier Head end-on. We are told by 08Place that the fireworks are on 10 January, at the Pier Head. A 1930 advertisement is displayed in Eastham for Wallasey Corporation ferry cruises  from Liverpool to Eastham via New Brighton, Egremont and Woodside.  These are no more but the all-day cruises this coming  summer from Liverpool to Manchester along the Ship Canal are highly recommended. 



Town Halls often have impressive silver on display.  Liverpool’s, in the entrance hall, is superb. Birkenhead Town Hall (opened in 1887 and now used as a museum but threatened with closure) displays Wirral’s silver and mayoral collections. Bootle Town Hall (opened in 1882) displays its civic silver beside the main staircase.  One piece is a silver model of Town Hall clock,  presented by Sir Ernest Royden MP in 1922. A miniature silver chair awarded to Joseph Harry at the Birkenhead Eisteddfod in 1922 is in a museum in far away Carmarthen.


The coat of arms of the city of Birkenhead in New Zealand includes a lion and a silver cross to signify the connection with our own Birkenhead and the sea. The blurb says that to mark the fact that Birkenhead was once an important tribal area and possessed several fortified villages, the coat of arms arms also shows a wooden fighting stick or stave. (We think this latter piece of information refer to the Birkenhead in New Zealand, not to our own Birkehead).


Silver (or “plate”) has long associations with the Church. Most Churches have or had silver chalices and patens for Communion.  All Saints Church Childwall has a silver flagon and salver made in 1722. The Communion plate in use at St Mary’s, Walton was given to the Church on 1901 on the demolition of St George’s Church (which was built on the site of the Castle). It was made in London in 1749, cost £240 and consists of eight pieces. A processional cross and other silver ware were stolen from Liverpool Cathedral after use in a service in 1978 attended by the Queen.   In 1998 a new Cross of Liverpool of silver and silver gilt  was dedicated.

Contrastingly, the Roman Catholic cathedral was visited by a silver version of the superlambana in mid 2008.

 Liverpool was not a noted centre of silver craftsmanship but it is recorded that there was a silversmith called Fazackerley in Pool Lane in 1748. His niece married John Sadler, the potter. 

“Plate”, was the word often used what we now call “solid silver” or more precisely “sterling silver”, 92.5% pure. (The word for silver in Spanish is “plata”). The purity of silver is Hallmarked by Assay offices (the process named after the Goldsmiths Hall in London where it was first carried out). The nearest Assay office to Liverpool was in Chester but this closed in 1961. “Plate” meaning sterling silver is to be distinguished from  electro-plated nickel silver (EPNS) which means a layer of silver applied to a base metal object such as a chalice made from another metal. The object is placed in a chemical solution in which silver is suspended (dissolved).  An electrical current is passed through causing the silver to adhere to the base metal object. “Old Sheffield plate” refers to base metal objects to which a very thin layer of silver is made to adhere by heat and hammering.




Liverpool was not famed as a manufacturing centre in the way that Manchester, Stoke or Birmingham were but there were shipbuilders in the city and also producers of equipment used in maritime trade, of food and drink and of general engineering products among other things. The Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum in February 1923 made references to “Liverpool wares” taking this as a generic term to refer to tin-enameled, cream-coloured pottery decorated with transfer designs.Some of this was actually made by potters elsewhere, including Wedgwood who sent his goods to Liverpool to be decorated. The Liverpool potters were evidently very market-oriented. Many of the decorations of products now preserved in America carry images relating to that country such as the spread eagle, the battles of the revolution and in the war of 1812. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin of May 1964 commented on the attribution usually given to John Sadler of Liverpool (1720-89) for the invention of transfer printing, which replaced painting by hand. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, acknowledging America’s independence, commemorative bowls plates, mugs and jugs poured forth from England’s factories including those in Liverpool. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs of December 1904 referred to the partnership of John Sadler with Guy Green. In 1756 Alderman Shaw and Samuel Gilbody certified that these two men printed upwards of 1,200 earthenware tiles of different colours in six hours. The pottery was in Shaw’s Brow, now William Brown Street, where the Museum and Central Library now stand.


The Retiro railway station is one of the main terminals in Buenos Aires Argentina.  It is built in the French style but designed by British architects Eustace Conder, Conder & Follet together with the engineer Reginald Reynolds. The steel structure for the building was made in Liverpool and re-assembled in Argentina. For many years it was considered to be the most important example of structural engineering in South America and architecturally one of the finest buildings in the world. In 1997 it was declared a National Monument.


Nuttall Fisher and Dixon of Liverpool was a printer of the large Bibles for Church lecterns. They printed from etchings of lords and ladies. They also produced a tract called “The female instructor or young woman’s companion”, which included a guide to “the accomplishments which adorn the female character which  includes recipes, poetry, biographical sketches and instructions on grammar, prayer, motherhood, marriage and housekeeping.” The firm had business in London but seems to have been based at 19 Duke Street, Liverpool.  One small Church Herefordshire has a copy printed in 1811. Other copies are on sale on the web for about £60.



 Who thinks we’ve got the only circular Cathedral in the world?  Here is another one, St Sebastian in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, pictured alongside ours.

The Cathedral of St Sebastian met2.jpg (215kb)



There were two terminal railway stations in the Wirral until the middle of the last century. Woodside, beside the ferry terminal had local trains to Chester, Ellesmere Port and West Kirby and expresses direct to London’s Paddington. (You could go at one time from West Kirby to Paddington without changing). The other was at Seacombe, next to the ferry terminal there, The track to Seacombe partly ran along the course of the modern M53 and connected at Bidston to the line to Heswall and Wrexham. There was also a goods line known as The Slogh from Rock Ferry through to the docks.  When it was being built in the middle of the 19th century, what were thought to be the foundations of a Roman bridge were found deep down in the mud.

A special map published by the Birkenhead News on 18 July 1934 for the opening of the Birkenhead tunnel that year claimed Birkenhead to have been the largest milling centre in Europe. Pauls, Spillers and Ranks were amongst millers there concerned. The charge for a car to go through the tunnel was one shilling. The Library in Borough Road, now threatened with demolition or change of use owing to economies by Wirral Council, was built that year as a replacement for a building of 1909 vintage which was demolished to make way for the tunnel.

·                     Following World War I many of the mansions built by Liverpool businessmen were sold off and the land developed for housing.  One such sale was of Frankby Hall near West Kirby  in Aug 1932 by the Dowager Lady Royden. The sale comprised 810 acres with an annual rental value of  a little over £2,000 including one smallholding, 16 cottages, a Post Office, a shop, a quarry and farmland. One of the cottages was Ivy Cottage which had an “EC” (earth closet?). Another was Lilac Cottage which had a WC. Until the mid-nineteenth century the site of what is now Royden Park was largely farmland. The land was purchased in 1865 by Septimus Ledward Esq. J.P. who built a sandstone house called 'Hillbark' between 1968 and 1870, on the site of an ancient tithebarn. In 1931, Sir Ernest Ryden moved the house he owned at Bidston Court (built for the soap manufacturer R.W Hudson in 1891), brick by brick, timber by timber, to Hillbark. Wirral Council bought the property and in recent years sold it for use as a luxury hotel.


In 2006, Welsh National Opera reduced its annual visits to Liverpool from two to one, offering three op