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5 February 2009


  • Last March the Board of Trustees of National Museums Liverpool informed its “Friends”, in a letter signed by the secretary of the Director of Development and Communications at the museums that NML was withdrawing the benefits previously accorded to them including the use of rooms for meetings, attendance of staff at meetings and the use of Mermaid House at Albert Dock as their headquarters. (The Friends, who had some 1,800 members, operated this as a public information centre). The Trustees’ decision gave the Friends (whose Chairman was Editor of this Newsletter) no alternative but to wind themselves up, which was duly carried out on 22 January.


  • The Friends of Liverpool Monuments have re-elected Robin Riley and Patrick Neill as Chairman and Secretary. Peter Cahill was elected Vice Chairman. The Chairman reported on the successful walks to observe various monuments which were organised during 2008.


·         Manchester University Press advertises a book entitled “The Empire in one City”. They say that though the city was frequently referred to in its heyday as “the second city of the empire”, its role within the imperial system and the impact on he city of its colonial connections remain underplayed. (Is this praise from the other end of the Mersey?  Ed)


  • National Trust properties are offering menus of high quality local produce including a Spring Special at Rufford Old Hall, near Ormskirk. The advertisement for this shows Linda Dawson, the Catering Manager there, pictured against the outside of the Hall – three times in one photo (the use of airbrush techniques or are they triplets?) Many people will welcome pride in British food being exhibited.


·         The long-awaited £6.5m Centre for Music, Performance and Innovation at Liverpool Hope University’s Cornerstone Campus in Shaw Street (off New Islington) was opened on 29 January by Sir Jeremy Isaacs, former Chief Executive of Channel 4 Television. It boasts ten music practice rooms, three music studios, three music technology laboratories, music therapy rooms, a Performance Hall with tiered seating for 300+ capacity, a library, an exhibition gallery, and extensive facilities for business incubation and a selection of teaching rooms extended across three floors. The new centre is a tangible legacy of Liverpool's Capital of Culture year, according to Cornerstone Provost Bill Chambers. The University will be working with a range of partners, including the European Opera Centre, Collective Encounters Theatre for Social Change, MusicSpace Trust Ltd and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.


  • An article in The Times had many compliments for the design of Liverpool One, the new shopping area. It says that shop rentals in city centres are higher than in out of town shopping malls, an indication of the preferences of consumers. Perhaps this confirms the thought that the building of out of town shopping malls has more to do with appeasing developers than with providing what the public wants. The Times says that the starting point was the enlightened brief given by the City planners who were keen to avoid inward looking structures and bland, lifeless façades. Hardly any of the historic fabric was destroyed.
  • Certain people want to designate the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the world’s first passenger route, as a World Heritage site. They may or may not succeed. There are also those who think there ought to be a full-blown museum to commemorate the historic nature of this railway but as there is, in the foreseeable future at least, no chance of this, they have opted for the next best thing a virtual museum: St Helens Council (evidently a local authority with an understanding that care for local heritage brings benefits to the local community), aided by Rainhill Railway and Heritage Society, launched this website telling about the birth of railways and its huge significance to the UK and global economy. A further step hoped for is to relocate the Rainhill Railway Museum, which is currently part of Rainhill Library, possibly to Rainhill railway station, a handsome and historic 1840s structure in a perilous state propped up by scaffolding. (It is adjacent to the world’s first skew arch, still carrying the busy A57 trunk road.) Before the railway came, it took six hours to get from Liverpool to Manchester by stage coach. The trials consisted of locomotives being tried out for speed and ability to complete the designated course. “Rocket” was the winner. The L&MR exceeded all expectations, and carried 460,000 passengers in its first year.


  • It is hoped that there will be another James Carling Pavement Art event this year. One of the great strengths of last years competition was working in partnership with different organisations including Liverpool Irish Festival, The Bold Street Traders, Maggie Mays, Editions, The Scottie Press, Open Culture and FACT. Support is invited.  See: or Ron Formby at Scottie Press.


  • The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is urging construction professionals to attend Heritage Works – the use of heritage buildings in regeneration, an event that will take place at FACT in Liverpool on 25 February. The conference will concentrate on a report commissioned by English Heritage, RICS and the British Property Federation and developed by property consultancy Drivers Jonas. Discussions throughout the day will be led by professionals from Urban Splash, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Drivers Jonas and more.


·         The outline 2009 HELM training programme is now available. Guided by feedback from course participants, it includes the popular courses on Conservation Areas, Cemeteries, Historic School Buildings and Farm Buildings. Further details will be uploaded onto the HELM website when available. Heritage Protection Reform training has begun with a series of four workshops on ‘Management Agreements for Heritage Assets’ in February and March. This are fully booked but a programme of HPR training is being developed including local lists, defining special interest, and Historic Environment Records. Details will be made available on the HELM website training pages. HELM training courses are free of charge. Courses are frequently oversubscribed, we therefore recommend that colleagues note their interest in a course by e-mailing to avoid disappointment.


·         The Queen’s Speech on 3 December did not include the hoped-for Heritage Protection Bill as part of government’s legislative programme for the 2008/9 Parliamentary Session but more than two thirds of the reforms proposed can still go ahead.  See the English Heritage website of contact email,


  • Stanley Park in north Liverpool is undergoing major refurbishment, due to be completed by about May of this year.  As well as much new planting, various bridges, shelters, walls and lakes are being put back into good order. The Gladstone Conservatory has been dismantled, all of the damaged frames and panes of glass replaced and the whole thing re-erected as a venue for events, rather like the Palm House in Sefton Park. The work is part funded by Liverpool Football Club - who hope to build a stadium on part of the park.


  • Chester Civic Trust are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2010 and they have many things planned for 2010 including a Jubilee Dinner to get things off to a flying start! It would like to know if any other Civic Societies are celebrating a similar anniversary as they would like to discuss joint work. Contact: 0207 539 7900



  • The rare Minton tiles at St George's Hall are being uncovered again, from 30 January to 15 February, 10am to 5pm every day.  They were last uncovered in April 2007 following the completion of the £23 million restoration of the Hall.


  • The Victorian Society has a morning visit on Saturday 20 June to two places of worship in Wavertree, St Bridget’s’ and the former Wesleyan Chapel, now the Sikh Centre. Contact 0151 728 8028. It also has a lecture by Joseph Sharples on Wednesday 18 February.


  • A 3-day course (20 and 27 April and 11 May) will be held at Speke Hall on “Speke Hall, F.R.Leyland & Art Patronage”. £30. Call: 0151 427 7231.


  • The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire has its AGM at 2 p.m. on 22 February in the Roscoe Room at Liverpool Central Library. A talk by John Herson on “The Liverpool Emigrant Trade 1825 – 1913” follows.

  •  Triumph, Disaster and Decay” is an exhibition at the RIBA gallery, Wood Street from 16 February to 6 March 2009, mounted by “SAVE Britain’s heritage”.
    Marcus Binney, SAVE's President says, ‘We have fought two of our most memorable campaigns in Liverpool, first rescuing the beautiful Regency Lyceum Club after consent to demolish had been granted and, second, taking legal action to stop the imminent demolition of the spectacular church of St Francis Xavier’. (It is scarcely believable that such demolitions could be proposed but they were, as was, some years earlier, the demolition of St George’s Hall, to make way for a car park. As bad if not worse was the demolition in 1958 of the shell of one of the city’s finest landmarks, the monumental Custom House, bombed-out in World War II, to ‘relieve unemployment’. For further information and for images, contact Robert Hradsky


·         Events at Sefton Park Palm House include  a concert by Maghull Wind Orchestra at 2 p.m.  on Sunday 1 March, a recital by Liverpool College  music students at 1.15 on Friday 6 March and a tea dance at 2 p.m.  on Tuesday 11 March. (£3.50 admission on the door includes a cup of tea and piece of cake.) Call  0151 726 9304 to check availability of tickets.


·        The North West Multi-Faith Tourism Association held a committee meeting in Liverpool last month. The organisation hopes to bring more tourists to enjoy the area’s heritage of noteworthy faith buildings (including the Princes Road Synagogue and the forthcoming Muslim museum in Brougham Terrace as will as the large number of Christian churches. It will link in with a new committee set up under the leadership of the Rev, Irene Cowell, Rector of Sefton, which will study the conservation and possibilities for increased use of Church of England in the Liverpool diocese.

Controversy rages in Wirral about plans to close a number of public libraries and museums in order to cut municipal expenditure. Without taking a position on the need to save money, observers are entitled to ask why there should be so many changes of plan and a lack of evident logic in the proposals. Among closures announced (but possibly subsequently cancelled) is that of Birkenhead Town Hall, currently known as Wirral Museum. We would repeat our suggestion that the Museum, dominating Hamilton Square and the Birkenhead skyline as seen from Liverpool, must be preserved as some kind of public facility. One option would be to close the poorly situated Williamson Art Gallery, sell the site and transfer the best of its contents to Birkenhead Town Hall, seeking to create there reminders of the town’s principal industries, shipbuilding and the making of soap. (As far as we know, there is no museum of ship building in Britain). Such a move could be part of a package of attractions to lure people off the ferries on to Wirral soil, the other elements being Hamilton Square, the Priory (the oldest Christian building in Merseyside), the tram museum, the Pacific Road performance area, the Pump House and the ferry terminal itself.


I remember one of Wirral’s political leaders laughing at me around 1980 when I suggested that Liverpool might become a tourist venue and that Britain’s oldest tram system – in Birkenhead – could be brought back to life.  Well, the tourists came in droves in 2008 and the trams are back – just about, as a modest tourist attraction. Have Wirral’s leaders got the vision to pursue the current challenges? As one of our readers said us, Birkenhead should be proud of itself and show off its heritage. It’s also about creating something which visitors will want to see and will then spend some money in our shops and restaurants while they are doing so.


The economic importance of heritage still seems not to be properly understood by people who should understand it. An academic luminary wrote to the Times recently pointing out (quite correctly) Liverpool’s poor performance in terms of jobs and income levels, insisting that dealing with this should be the focus of policy, not the preservation of old buildings. Did he not see the crowds of tourists who came here and spent their money here? What does he think they came here for, if it wasn’t our heritage and culture?


Come to Wirral Heritage & History Fair on 14 March and see Birkenhead’s historic Hamilton Quarter while you are there


If you are coming to Wirral Heritage & History Fair (of interest to Liverpudlians as well as Wirralians), have a general look around this part of Birkenhead and imagine what could be achieved if the will was there. The Fair takes place in Wirral Museum, (The Old Birkenhead Town Hall), Hamilton Square, Birkenhead on Saturday 14th March 2009. Your own heritage or history society could book a table at the event.  Travel by Mersey ferry or Merseyrail to Hamilton Square.  Wirral Museum is only 4minutes walk away. Contact Simon Petris on 0151 644 7863 or via


Meanwhile, Birkenhead’s Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, in Slatey Road,  some distance away from the town centre, Birkenhead, remains as the home of Wirral’s museum collections and temporary exhibitions. Until 29 March there is a display about Lee’s Tapestry Works, as it was known (or affectionately as ‘The Tap’), which opened in the town in 1908 and stood almost alone as a textile business in Merseyside. It produced high quality furnishing fabrics to decorate everything from domestic living rooms to Cunard liners, from country cottages to Royal palaces. Contact: 0151 652 4177 or