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22 February 2007

Newsletter 23              

There will be a general meeting of The Forum at 5.30 for 6 pm on Thursday 22 February in The Athenaeum (top floor). The main business will be to hold an exchange of information about what we know and what we are doing about the site of Liverpool castle and the seven original streets. You are invited to attend. We are grateful to the Athenaeum for the use of the room.  Kindly respect the institution’s dress code, which does not permit casual wear.

The Liverpool Heritage Forum is conducting a series of talks on aspects of the history of Liverpool at Liverpool Town Hall.  Heritage societies and groups are invited to undertake these talks.   Suggestions are urgently requested so the facilities can be booked.    It your society would like to offer to conduct a talk please contact us at the email address above or reply to this email as soon a possible..

■ Saturday 3 March will be a sad day, a day of failure. One that day, the Friends of the Historic Warships at Birkenhead have a meeting at which the future of the organisation will be decided in the light of its committee’s opinion that there is no possibility of the Historic Warships remaining at Birkenhead. This is a massive failure by various public authorities from Wirral Council up to the Department of Culture Media and Sport to understand the uniqueness and quality of the ships which the collection contained  -  a failure to see that heritage can bring in revenue and jobs, that it enhances the reputation of the locality and that it boosts local pride and the sense of involvement in local people. It does not say much either for Peel Holdings which owns the site and who might have been expected not only to be supportive of local heritage for its own sake but might have understood that the presence of the ships could enhance the interest value of the properties they intend to build on the site.  Of course all these bodies will say that they tried and that it is someone else’s fault but the net result is the loss of the best tourist attraction Wirral is ever likely to have. Only the Friends of the Warships come out of this with any dignity.

Let others take note. Too many of Merseyside’s heritage assets are under threat just as we celebrate Liverpool’s 800th birthday and as we prepare to welcome visitors in Capital Of Culture Year. These visitor will come to SEE things that figure in our culture and history. We must make sure that these things are not sold off or knocked down before the visitors get here.

Around and about

■ The Lady Lever Gallery has opened an exhibition of photographs of the interiors of some of the palatial houses built by Liverpool businessmen in Victorian days. This is recommended viewing for anyone who wants to understand the power and money of Liverpool at that time  -  a past which it is sometimes difficult to believe when seeing the way in which the city, until recently, declined.

One interesting house still existing but not shown (because it is not in Liverpool) is Hillbark, near West Kirby, now a hotel. Many Wirral residents know that this Victorian “Tudor” mansion was originally built  by a Liverpool businessman -  to designs loosely based on Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire  -  at Bidston and then moved bit by bit to its present location. Less well known is that is it was the inspiration of the Cecilienhof palace at Potsdam outside Berlin, the last palace built, (between 1914 and 1917) by Germany’s Hohernzollern rulers. This was where the Potsdam Conference was held in 1945 at which Churchill, Truman and Stalin decided the future of Europe after World War II. 

■ People comment on Liverpool’s glaringly purple wheelie-bins. Is this colour a compromise between the hues of the two football clubs? Or was it the only generally acceptable choice since green or orange might have upset Irish sensibilities and blue, red or orange might have suggested political leanings.

Yet colour allegiances can change.  The Conservative party campaigned under red banners (or at least rosettes) until the 1950s  -  as was the case in several other towns and cities. As regards public transport, Liverpudlians remember the olive green of trams and buses. Yet red (crimson or maroon) was the colour of the trams at least as far back as 1907 when a red livery with elaborate lining was the style adopted. This was changed in 1933 and the original Green Goddess trams (the first Liverpool trams to be carried on two four-wheel bogies instead of two fixed axles) were introduced. (The name Green Goddess apparently came from a play then being performed in the city).  Buses were green from 1935. Later, when the bus services for Liverpool, Birkenhead, Wallasey, Southport and St Helens were brought together into what was later named “Merseybus”, a rather blueish green livery was adopted. Local wits said that this colour was the result of mixing samples of the existing liveries in the proportion of the number of buses of each of the newly combined fleets. This could have been true of mixing Birkenhead’s blue and Wallasey’s yellow with Liverpool’s olive green but the red of the other two constituent fleets hardly fits. Nowadays of course, Arriva, Stagecoach and First use their national brands all over the country  -  except in London where, apparently, to get rid of the traditional red of London buses would have been a shock which Londoners could not have borne.

■ Liverpool Chamber of Commerce has set up an Arts and Culture Committee, designed to build bridges between the business community and the arts, focusing on the creative sector and improving the cultural, performance of the city, now ranked tenth in Britain.

Carnegie Publishing is intending to issue a reprint of Liverpool's first guide book (2nd edition 1797) by Dr William Moss of the Dispensary.  To the original text historian and Heritage Forum member David Brazendale has added explanatory annotations and the book will be illustrated with contemporary drawings and engravings, drawn from the archives of the Athenaeum.  Some of these illustrations are believed never to have been previously published. The book will be launched in May.

■ We are asked to include Alfred Rodewald, the Liverpool-based conductor and benefactor,  in the list of notable Liverpudlians of yesteryear in Liverpool Heritage Forum’s website. There is a Rodewald Concert Society  ( < and ). The RCS archives have recently been transferred to the Liverpool Record Office where they are being catalogued.  There is some information on him in the Jubilee Booklet (1960-61) and there are obituaries in the Liverpool Worthies collection.  One of the conference suites in the Phil is named after him. There are plans to put up a plaque on 66 Huskisson Street where he lived and died.

■ Our attention is also drawn to the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra Whilst all the scheduled concerts are in Birkenhead, it is the hoped that a suitable venue will be found to hold concerts in Liverpool again.  Possibly the re-opening of St George’s Hall might provide an opportunity. The Orchestra originally rehearsed and performed in the Bluecoat Chambers, Liverpool.  It currently rehearses at St Edwards College, Liverpool.

Andrew Pearce, Editor