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2 June 2009

NEWSLETTER          No 59  : 2nd June 2009

The Forum

The Forum’s steering group meets shortly to continue discussions about the organisation’s future. Responses to the questionnaire we recently circulated (“thank you” to those who responded) were all of the view that the Forum was useful and should continue.  The only “sharp” note was opposition to the use of the word “Merseyside”. In the light of this the steering group will decide whether to prepare a formal status for the Forum. Despite words of encouragement we (and the city generally) lack a strong commitment to heritage from the City Council. If the Forum sets up a formal structure for the Forum, the City Council will have no excuse for not dealing with us properly.  It will be no use them saying that they have no money for the Forum.  The Forum has not asked for any money and cannot envisage spending more than a couple of hundred pounds a year (to send copies of the Newsletter to people who do not receive email copies) plus the facility to hold meetings in municipal buildings  - which would cost the Council nothing because the buildings are there any way. We seem to be hung on a criterion which says on the one hand that an organisation cannot be properly recognised by the Council unless it is approved for grants of public funds but on the other that no public money is available. This is not the place to comment on the politics of this. But we can legitimately ask whether the Leader of the Council is aware of this impasse.

The City Council

▀ The judgement of Liverpool’s civic leaders that the city’s year as European Capital of Culture was confirmed in an article in the staff magazine of the European Commission, of all places. It says that this even managed to trigger a wider debate about arts funding in the UK, which is widely believed to be dominated by a London art scene which devours both money and publicity, leaving other regions fighting for what remains. It says that holding the ceremonies for the Turner prize for contemporary art and the Stirling prize for architecture pulled Britain’s cultural elite a few kilometres beyond the M25, which some have traditionally considered the last frontier of civilisation against barbarism. It refers to a Conde Naste Travellers readers’ poll which placed Liverpool in third place, above Bath, Oxford and Manchester, in terms of tourist satisfaction. Your editor remembers suggesting to a leading Councillor in Wirral in the early 1980s that tourism would take off in Merseyside.  She laughed derisively in his face   at such a notion.

▀ An official consultation is taking place as to where in Merseyside new houses should be built. Of course no-one wants them next to their own property but it is nevertheless important to recognise that and increase in population would do the Merseyside economy much good.  In the inter-war years, nearly a million people lived in the city. The figure fell to under 450,000 but is now rising slowly.

▀ Within Liverpool City Council, Heritage and Tourism are administered by John Kelly, Executive Director for Regeneration with a mandate to “grow the economy”. Councillor Gary Millar is the Cabinet Member responsible for Regeneration.  Cllr Bernie Turner is Cabinet Member for Environment, including street cleaning. Cllr Peter Millea is Cabinet Member in charge of the City Council’s Buildings. The Select Committee for Regeneration, which John Kelly, Gary Millar and other Councillors attend to give briefings and answer questions, is chaired by Cllr Eddie Clein.  The meetings are open to the public and are held in Millennium House in Victoria Street.

▀ The Friends of St John’s Gardens were told that notices bearing the name of the gardens are shortly to be put up at the entrances.  These bear the World Heritage Site badge.  Surely few in Liverpool will recognise this badge, even though the city has a large World Heritage Site focussed at the Pier Head with three “fingers” leading up to the Anglican Cathedral, St George’s Hall and Stanley Dock respectively.  Can signs be put up to mark the entrances to the site?  The site is not only a collection of fine buildings but a memento to Liverpool’s importance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the greatest commercial port in the British Empire.

▀ Have you noticed how in many places the nice new paving stones in streets in the city centre are being replaced by ugly in-fillings of asphalt where excavations by the utility companies have taken place?

Travelling deep South i.e. beyond Runcorn..…..

▀ Birmingham has a very prominently located memorial to the 9,000 casualties, including 2,241 deaths, ensuing from 365 bombing attacks in World War II. In that same war,  4,000 Liverpudlians lost their lives in the blitz (including 2,895 people killed in the May blitz of 1941) the largest number of deaths outside London. Parts of an ammunition ship which blew up in the docks travelled a mile and half through the air to land in a park. The last German air raid in the city was on 10 January 1942.  One house destroyed then was that of Alois Hitler, Adolf’s half brother, at 102 Upper Stanhope Street (near Upper Parliament Street). It was the birthplace of Hitler’s nephew, William Patrick Hitler. Some people say that Hitler himself spent some months here around 1912, seeking to study art, but others strongly reject the notion. Where in Liverpool is there a prominent memorial to the city’s victims of the blitz?

▀ At Birmingham Moor Street station an old steam locomotive sits bedside one of the platforms. “Lion”, built in 1837 for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, was displayed at Lime Street Station in the 1930s. The Railway Heritage Trust helped with the renovation of the station.

▀ We sometimes wonder what architects think about.  The central part of Birmingham’s fairly new Bull Ring shopping centre, with St Martin’s Church prominent a one end, is pleasing to the eye. However, the approach to it from the main railway station, facing the back of the centre and other retail buildings, is ghastly. The back of Liverpool’s St John’s centre, facing Lime Street station was equally ghastly until covered over with a huge video wall. Why do Planning Committees allow the rear elevations of new developments be designed to be so ugly, especially when this is what most people see when they approach the buildings concerned. In this era of bankers and politicians being called to account for their deeds, would there be support for calling a few planners and architects to account for some of the ugliness they have inflicted on our city centres?

Architectural similarities even further South

Reading Town Hall immediately reminds a Liverpudlian of the Victoria Tower at Liverpool University. (We have remarked previously on how one of the buildings on the Shanghai waterfront  -  “The Bund”  -  reminds people of the Liver Building on Liverpool’s Pier Head, which to some extent inspired it.) Reading Town Hall of Reading was completed 1875, ten years before the Victoria Building. A dry run perhaps? Both were designed by Alfred Waterhouse who was born in Aigburth in 1830 and practised in Manchester and London. He also designed Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London. He was the brother of Edwin Waterhouse of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the accountancy firm.

Information
▀ We hear of more and more people looking into their family history. The Liverpool & South West Lancashire and the Cheshire Family History societies both offer research facilities and advice. Info regarding Liverpool:  treasurer@liverpool-genealogy.org.uk.  The Cheshire FHS has four branches in Wirral. Info regarding Birkenhead : 0151 648  3757.

▀ The City authorities have published a booklet “Liverpool 2009”, listing many of the area’s attractions. Contact: 0151 233 2008. Website VisitLiverpool.com

▀ In a Wirral pub we found leaflets advertising heritage  locations in Cheshire. There were also leaflets for Speke Hall and the National Wild Flower centre at Broad Green  -  and an official leaflet for attractions in Southport.  Nothing from Liverpool City Council.  If Liverpool want to join in, it could contact “Spread the word distribution” on 0151 334 7555.

Preserving our heritage I
Liverpool John Moores University sold four buildings to developers, having, we were told, no further use for them when the new Art & Design Institute is competed beside the Roman Catholic Cathedral. Now it seems that one of the buildings has now been temporarily leased back by LJMU. Another has been hacked about, its stonework ruined, but progress has stopped because of the credit crisis. This was Josephine Butler House.

So who was this lady? Undoubtedly, one of the city’s greatest nineteenth century citizens. Her main campaign was to combat Acts of Parliament of 1864, 1866 and 1869, applicable in certain towns, that women suspected of being prostitutes could be arrested, examined, placed on a register and subject to ongoing supervision by police officers.  The objective was control of venereal disease.  Once on the register, prostitution was often the only means these women had for making a living as nobody would employ them.  Many of the women registered were not in fact guilty of prostitution. The Act was repealed in 1886. Sanctions were not applied to the men using the prostitutes.

Josephine was born in Northumberland in 1828, née Grey.  She moved to Liverpool in 1866 when her husband became Head of Liverpool College. She died in 1906. She used to visit the Workhouse in Brownlow Hill, where 5,000 men and women lived. There are portraits of her in Liverpool University and at The Walker, which also has a bust of her. The Josephine Butler Society may be contacted at 314-320 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8DP.

A remarkable woman, well worth having a building named after her. A pity it is being knocked about.

Preserving our heritage II

Wirral Council, in the middle of a crisis of finance and muddled management is to sell off Birkenhead Town Hall and other cultural buildings near the river. As we have said before, it is strange that this Council apparently sees no interest in trying to tempt tourists across the river to enjoy these places when Merseytravel, in which Wirral Council has a share, is trying to encourage people to use the ferries and has put a U boat on display for tourists. If Wirral Council does not think that attracting tourists is the best chance of creating jobs in these testing times, what does it think is? Or is creating jobs not among its objectives?

Titbits

▀ We have mentioned Dr Poggi in an earlier edition.  He was a wealthy Italian who, passing through Liverpool, was attracted by and subsequently married the daughter of the then Port Medical Officer.  He settled down and set up a school in New Brighton, at which the sons of Garibaldi, the statesman largely responsible for uniting Italy from a collection on separate states into one large kingdom in 1865. He is buried at Audlem in south Cheshire. His former school in Magazine Lane was later used as a baker’s shop and as a warehouse before being demolished in 1899. This probably occurred during the building of Egremont promenade and  the development of the former Woodland Vale Hall into Vale Park. A shelter has now been built on the corner of Magazine Lane and the promenade and is named after Signor Poggi.

▀ The Daily Post had a piece on Liverpool connections of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, known as the Mormons. Mormon missionaries came to Liverpool in 1837. The Church’s first UK headquarters was at 42 Islington and its first European headquarters in Edge Lane where the Devonshire hotel now stands. Its longest established church is in Preston because it had in its early days no fixed base in America, where it originated, because of persecution.

▀ The row about National Museums Liverpool and the owners of the barge “Wincham” made it into the columns of Private Eye. The Eye reports that the Wincham Preservation Society was broke following the ending of regular subsidies from the Friends of National Museums Liverpool. This was the organisation which was wound up after NML withdrew effective contact with it. The Eye does not report any comment on the situation by Dr Fleming, Director of NML. The Eye reports that a £47,500 grant was made by the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the vessel so that it could be part of a permanent display in the Albert Dock tourist area.  The vessel was clearly part of Liverpool’s maritime history. It does not however fit well with current concentration on the social woes of the city in bygone times and on the evils of the slave trade.

▀ Ken Dodd has become a Patron of the Friends of St George’s Hall. It is really good when at least some of the many show-biz stars which Liverpool has produced put something back into the city of their childhood, as Ken does.

▀ St Francis Xavier church in Everton is a must for lovers of Victorian Church architecture. Charlie Chaplin attended the Church’s primary school, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins served the parish for two years from 1888. The last sighting of Spring Heeled Jack was on the Church’s roof.  Jimmy McGovern, musician, Elvis Costello and John Gregson also attended it.

Around town

▀ The North West Multi Faith Tourism Association (what a title!) campaigns for places of worship open to the public and to make better use of them for community purposes. There is a risk of theft and vandalism if such buildings are left unlocked but there is a counter argument that damage is more likely in a building in which members of the public are unlikely to be present. The NWMFTA sponsored a tourist trail around Lancaster taking in several Christian Churches and a Mosque. Something for self help groups to emulate.  Info: info@multi-faith.org or 017687 77671.

▀ The Culture Heritage Arts and Tourism group of the Liverpool Diocese has similar aims within the Church of England but not limited to. Info: church and society@liverpool.anglican.org. A government paper entitled “Church and Faith Buildings: Realising the Potential”  was circulated to its members. This deals with funding opportunities amongst other matters.

▀ One of the people attending the Roscoe lecture at St George’s Hall on 6 May was the sister in law of  the campaigner against dictatorship n Burma who has been under house arrest for years and has now been taken off to prison. These lectures attract attention at the highest level, thanks to John Moores University which runs them. Lord Alton, formerly MP for Edge Hill, gives the next talk,  on Gladstone, on 27 October.  Tickets form daro@ljmu.ac.uk or 0151 231 3888.

▀ A University of Liverpool historian has been awarded a  fellowship to research the American Revolution, using collections at the United States Library of Congress - the largest library in the world. Dr Holger Hoock, a Reader at the University’s School of History, has been elected to a Kluge Fellowship, to enable study at at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.  Dr Hoock will use the Library’s collections to investigate the practices and representations of ‘violence’ and ‘terror’ in the American Revolutionary War and their impact on American patriots and loyalists, British forces and their German auxiliaries, as well as Native Americans.  Dr Hoock, who is the Founding Director of Liverpool University’s Eighteenth-Century Worlds Centre, is also a recent recipient of the Philip Leverhulme Prize for his forthcoming book, Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850.

▀ We hear of interest in heightening the profile of the Laird family, the shipbuilders. Anyone interested?

▀ It is good news that the dispute about the Neptune Theatre has been resolved.  The 450-seat theatre will be reopened as a community theatre. The theatre was the cornerstone of the city’s amateur dramatics scene and hosted touring companies, live music and stand-up comedy shows.  The city is looking for an external partner to run the theatre on a brief to ensure community groups are part of the thinking.  While community groups will welcome this news, will the theatre add to the city’s cultural riches, which is what brings in tourists and creates jobs for the city’s people?

▀ The House of Lords debated tourism on 15 May. Many speakers highlighted the central importance of heritage in attracting tourists to Britain from other countries.  Several asked for government spending on advertising tourism in Britain to be increased, claiming that every pound spent caused fifteen ponds of additional income to come in.  However the government spokesman said that the cost of advertising was now lower than at any time since 1992 so the budget provided would go further than the same amount last year.  The Minister, Lord Carter, said several times that he hoped for better co-ordination of tourism funding between the Regional Development Agencies and local authorities, but without being specific as to which regions he was appealing to or the details of matters to be improved.

The UK visitor economy is worth over £85.6 billion. 32.7 million visitors came here from abroad spending 18.9 billion pounds. Tourism is the UK’s fifth largest industry, employing over 2.1 million people and accounting for 3.5% of the economy.

▀ Congratulations to campaigners in Maghull who have asked for Lottery money to create a museum to honour Frank Hornby inside Maghull Leisure Centre.  Hornby lived at Maghull, in three different houses at various times, all close to the railway station. His factory where the original Hornby and Dublo trains and Dinky toys were made was in Binns Road in Liverpool. Though we can no doubt expect something to remember him by in the new Museum of Liverpool at the Pier Head when it opens in 2010, it is surely remarkable that there is so little to remember him by in the city. His products were, after all, the benchmark by which toy trains and cars were measured for many years. But then this is the “good” side of Liverpool, at a time when it seems to be more politically correct to recall mainly the ”bad” side.

▀ We also congratulate Ian Meadows who had a proud article in the Daily Post about the 260 year like of RS Clare, the oil processing firm which he runs. This is is “good” information about the city’s history. There is a short article about him on the Liverpool Heritage Forum web site
 
▀ SOLA ARTS is an organisation bringing communities together by using the arts in training sessions and projects to promote understanding across diverse cultures. One product in 2006 by Tenzin Yonten in 2006 was a painting entitled “Buddha Meditating o Liverpool” showing a levitating Buddha between the Anglican Cathedral and the Liver Building with two small boats on the Mersey each carrying a liver bird. Info: solaarts.org or sola_arts@yahoo.co.uk
 
The Editor writes

▀ I sometimes think that there is too much about churches in these columns. However, it is just a fact that 45% of England’s Grade I listed buildings are centres of the Christian and other faiths.

▀ I went to a match at Goodison Park a few weeks ago, passing St George’s Church on the way. The church is built in the site of Everton Beacon, a guide for ships, which was built around 1220 and blown down in 1803. The beacon features on the club’s badge.  Everton was one of the twelve founding members of the Football League in 1888. Liverpool is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately, having only been founded in 1892.  (Oops!  Have I just lost some friends?) I join the general sorrow in Merseyside about the FA Cup result. We can comfort ourselves that Chelsea only won because of all that Russian money at their disposal.

▀ Forgive me if you have heard this before: three men were debating which was Britain’s second city.  “Of course,” said one. “I’m from Leeds and I can tell you without doubt that Leeds is Britain’s second city”. “Nonsense” said another. “I’m from Manchester. My city is Britain’s second city”  “You are both wrong”, said a third man. “I’m from Liverpool and I’ll you which is Britain’s second city.  It’s London!”.

Andrew Pearce, Editor

 



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