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16 April 2007

NEWSLETTER No 26                                    16 April 2007 

Heritage Forum to hear about Liverpool’s Irish, Welsh and African communities

Liverpool Heritage Forum will have a meeting at the Athenaeum (Church Alley) at 5.30 for 6pm on Thursday 10 May. There will be presentations by representatives of the Welsh, Irish and African communities in the city of their histories  -  how they came to be in the city and what contributions they have made to the city’s life. There will also be an update by officials of the city’s celebrations.  All welcome. (Please respect the Athenaeum’s code which bars casual dress),

St George’s Hall re-opens

To mark the re-opening of St George’s Hall there will be series of series of twice nightly Son et Lumière displays running from 23rd – 29th April.  The half hour displays will be at 8.30pm and 9.30pm from Monday to Sunday, April 23-29. Tickets, priced £1.50 for OAPs and Under-12s, £3.00 for adults and £7 families of two adults and two under-12s are on sale at 08 Place, Whitechapel (0151 233 2008) or on the site from 6pm on event nights.

The refurbishment of the Hall has cost £23m.  A new heritage centre at the south end (St John’s Lane) will be open Tues-Sat (10-5) and Sundays (1-5). The centre tells the story of the city. Prisoners’ cells, the criminal courts, the judges’ quarters and the world’s first modern air-conditioning system will be on view.

City Council launches Action Team for 2008

■ The Daily Post carried a piece on 14 April announcing that an new team will ensure that everything is ready for Capital of Culture Year. This sounds like a good idea (not before time!), “joining up” different parts of the public service to achieve a common goal. But there are some provisos. The Post’s article mentions no actions or comments by the Culture Company, which is responsible for the Year, except that Jason Harborow is one of 19 members of the new team.  While the staff of the Culture Company are actively pursuing their various projects, are its Board members not involved? Since the Board is largely invisible to the public, will the new team make itself available to Joe Public, will it be seen in public  -  or will it like so many of the quangos in Liverpool just be part of a merry-go-round of public officials behind closed doors?  What a difference it would make if the Chairman of the Culture Company or one of his fellow Board members were to be frequently on hand at cultural functions and in touch with ordinary people!  A priority task should be cleaning up the litter and weeds which disfigure so many public places and private property highly visible to the public. Now if the new team would actually walk the streets and look for themselves…..! (Let Liverpool City Council take heed from Torbay about not getting its services joined up. A wildflower meadow was planted there in a bid for the Britain-in-Bloom title but its seems that no-one told the grass-cutting department of the same council and the wild flowers were all mown down. )

  EN”, the magazine for entrepreneurs, takes Liverpool City Council to task for having gone cap in hand to Environment Secretary Ruth Kelly for a £20m loan for the ’08 celebrations. Local firms are, it seems not coming up with the cash which  their oppo’s in London are willing to hand over. No surprise there, since so few large firms are actually based in Liverpool  -  as opposed to Merseyside more widely. Yet the prestige and publicity of ’07 and ’08 are already providing a major boost to businesses of Merseyside as a whole. It seems so hard in Britain for the public sector to see that investment in tourism (including heritage) can be a means to grow jobs, revenue and attraction to investors.

Speaking of local business, what signs of local shops gearing up for 2008 and currently celebrating 2007 have you seen? Are there banners in the streets, special displays in shop windows, special messages for non-English speakers and euro-spenders at the cashiers? Is the European flag displayed, bearing in mind that 2008 is EURPOPEAN Capital of Culture Year?  Liverpool Chamber of Commerce declined to lead any such campaign (even though the biggest beneficiaries of it would have been many of their own members! Will the Culture Company pick up the baton? After the big launch of the ’07 celebrations on 23 April, we really expect to see the city “en fête”, very evidently celebrating something. Getting this right for ’07 is a good dry run for ‘098 as well as being a celebration in its own right. 

Wirral: more heritage loss in Wirral but the volunteers are still active

The Roman Catholic Church is considering selling off the Grade II listed St Peter and St Paul Church, the monumental domed church overlooking the mouth of the Mersey in New Brighton. The possibility that it might be converted into flats stirred a storm of protest from local residents and more than a thousand people signed a petition calling for the scrapping of these plans. The building, in Classical Renaissance style, was designed by E Bower Norris of Sandy and Norris, Architects, of Stafford and London.

One can sympathize with the Church, faced with dwindling attendances, rising costs and a shortage of priests but may turn out to be further damage to Wirral’s sparse visible heritage. While Liverpool sorely needs more effective championing of its heritage than it gets from the Board of the Culture Company, Wirral shows an even greater failure to understand the potential gain in employment, revenue and investment from heritage tourism. Wirral’s heritage spokesman is not even on the Council’s cabinet where the decisions are made. Maybe a freebie trip to Venice or Florence for some of our councillors would make even them see that heritage tourism is good for the local economy.  By the way, voting for local councilors is coming up. Do your local candidates support heritage?

Meanwhile, Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society reports that National Museums Liverpool has bought a model of tram no. 752 from collector David Orchard -  who has donated model track to the tram museum in Birkenhead’s Taylor Street for use by visiting model trams.

Birkenhead History Society draws attention to its website www.birkenheadhistory which gives histories of Birkenhead and Rock Ferry, of the Laird family and has a programme of monthly lectures. (Contact:

Historic Oxton re-opens its secret garden

The historic village of Oxton on the Wirral will once again throw open to the public more than 20 splendid gardens within the Conservation Area.  This annual event attracts over 4000 visitors and raises large sums  for charity each year.  The 2007 event will be held on Sunday 13th May.  Visits to the gardens will be accompanied by a range of other all-day activities, including live music, art exhibitions, children’s entertainment, refreshments and a plant sale; local shops will be open for business.  Tickets (£5 if purchased in advance) can be reserved from 1st April by ringing 07963 248 268.  Further details can be found at

White paper offers new protection for historic buildings

The Heritage White Paper (a statement of government policy) was released on Thursday 8 March as the culmination of some 4 years of the Heritage Protection Review. Legislation will follow in due course.

A single, unified Register of Historic Buildings and Sites of England will replace the present, separate List for historic buildings, Schedule for archaeological sites, and Register for parks and gardens. Entries will be called Historic Asset Records or HARs. replacing ‘listed building’, ‘registered park’, ‘scheduled monument, etc. The existing listed building grades of I (one), II* (two star) and II (two) will remain and be applied to all Registered buildings and sites.

Future designations will prioritise thematic reviews, emerging from public consultation, rather than individual designation requests. Inclusion on the Register, to contain “national” and “local” sections, will be based on special architectural, historic or archaeological interest. Listing criteria have been condensed to two: architectural interest and historic interest (including association with nationally important people).

There will be new consultation and appeal procedures and interim protection while designation is being considered in the designation process. There will be formal consultation of owners, Local Authorities and national amenity societies. The right of appeal will be open to the above plus applicants for proposals affecting the building or site (28-day appeal period).

World Heritage sites will have to have a management plan and delineate a buffer zone (both of which Liverpool has done). Protection against minor ‘permitted developments’ will also be introduced (currently in place in Liverpool through Article 4 Directions for conservation area). New powers will be introduced for Local Authorities to protect locally designated buildings from demolition through the planning system.

English Heritage will produce guidance and training for Local Authority staff and “heritage champions” (have we got one?)  A new statutory duty for Local Authorities to maintain Historic Environment Records, or HERs, will be introduced. This is currently a function of the National Museums of Liverpool funded by the five Merseyside Local Authorities. Opinions on three questions are requested:

  1. Should Conservation Area Consent (control over demolition of un-listed buildings in conservation areas) be merged with general planning controls?
  2. Should there be statutory guidance promoting pre-application assessment for major schemes?
  3. Should Certificates of Immunity (whereby developers apply for a certificate guaranteeing a building will not be listed in the next 5 years) be expanded to include a site as well as a building?

Comments to be sent to Steve Corbett, Conservation Team Leader for Liverpool City Council, by 1 June 2007.

Liverpool carters and carthorses to be commemorated

For more than 250 years horses were used to move goods to and from Liverpool docks. At their peak more than 20,000 horses worked on the streets of Liverpool, more than in any other city outside London. Older readers will remember the splendid May Day parades with the huge horses bedecked with ribbons and rosettes. Now a Liverpool Working Horse Monument 'Waiting' has been designed by renowned equine sculptor Judy Boyt in consultation with the members of the Retired Carter's Association. It will stand approximately 16 hands high (1.80m, 6'), cast in bronze, on a rectangular slate base. The base will have the outline of a wagon and two horses plus a potted history of the Liverpool working horse sandblasted into the surface. The location for the monument has yet to be confirmed but the Carters hope for a position on the Albert Dock.

The estimated total cost for the monument is now £120,000 of which £76,000 has been raised to date. Donations please to Sharon Brown, curator of land transport at National Museums Liverpool on 0151 478 4064.

Heritage activities in the cathedrals

The new visitor centre at the Anglican Cathedral was opened in March. In connection with this, a Tourism Evening was held at which Blue and Green Badge guides were among the participants. Representatives of the Paris office of Visit Britain (the official national tourism agency) and of American tour operators were among visitors. (It is nice to be able to pick up this sort of information from Cathedral sources. Other organizations might copy this exercise of transparency. Ed!)

■ The Cathedral has announced a series of lectures organized by the University of Liverpool to mark Liverpool’s 800 years of history. (Details in the events section of this newsletter.) Lt Col Malcolm Hitchcott has been appointed 2007/8 Events Coordinator at the Cathedral from 1 May.  

The Catholic Family History Society has published “The Shergers of Liverpool – a history of the Sherger family from 1700-2000)”. The family, originally from Germany, came to Liverpool in 1846/7. Some single-family histories of this type contain information about the times in which the subjects lived which is of interest to people quite outside the family concerned.

American links

“Tales of Liverpool and the Sea” promotes The American Civil War Heritage Trail in Liverpool and poems and songs about the Mersey from various times. Contact Dave Tollerton on 0151 933 4992 or on

A DVD history of links between Liverpool and America can be obtained from website  It features a minister from Toxteth who became a founder of Harvard, a US Army camp at Knotty Ash, a boy from Dale Street who signed the Declaration of Independence and a Liverpool girl who became an Indian Scout.

Papers passing across the editor’s desk

■ Hugh Dovey’s paper on “Bone setters, Thomas and orthopaedic surgery” recalls how surgery in England can be traced back to the 14t century. In 1540, barbers and surgeons combined into a Barber Surgeons Company which dealt with outwardly visible ailments while internal problems were left to physicians. An early pioneer was Evan Thomas who left rural Wales in 1830 and became a docker in Liverpool and then a professional bone-setter. (An early example of multi-skilling?) He used a music box instead of anesthesia during manipulation. His son Hugh Owen Thomas, who at one time practiced at 11 Nelson Street, Liverpool (the building is no longer there) became a leader of orthopaedics in Britain and in particular in the use of splints.

Ann Clayton has edited a booklet of “Liverpool heroes – the stories of 16 Liverpool holders of the Victoria Cross). One of these was Noel Godfrey Chavasse, son of the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral, who was awarded the VC twice.

Liverpool Lighthouse  the UK’s first dedicated Urban Gospel Arts Centre, in the heart of Anfield, is spearheading an Amazing Grace Festival, to mark both the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the 800th birthday of the city. It was launched with the advanced screening of Amazing Grace, released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 23rd March. Events include Paul Field’s antislavery musical Cargo, a variety of Sunday Night Live concerts featuring the African’s Children’s Choir, the Stavanger Choir and local choirs from across the region and a Waterfront Festival.

The highlight of “City Sings Gospel” events will be the Waterfront Gospel Music Festival and a remembrance service on the 16th and 17th June. It will contribute to the annual Maritime Festival of Tall Ships. It  will be held in front of the Maritime Museum on the Saturday from 12-6pm featuring local and national artists and the remembrance service on Sunday 16th June on board HMS Albion. Info: 0151 476 2342 or 4062 and

Heritage on display

The wonderful model of the Lutyens Cathedral that was never built is still to be seen at The Walker up to 22 April.  Liverpool thought big in those days! The cross on top of the dome was to have been 520 above the ground, compared with that over St Peter’s in Rome at 430 feet and St Paul’s in London at 365 feet. 

■ Liverpool lovers will look forward with much expectation to the forthcoming, strangely-named “Magical Mystery Tour” at the Maritime Museum.  It will chart the city’s history from tiny fishing village to a bustling Victorian city of worldwide importance.

■ In 2008, the University of Liverpool will open the Victoria Gallery and Museum on Brownlow Hill in the Victoria Building designed by Alfred Waterhouse and from which the term “red brick university” originates. A variety of the University’s heritage collections will be shown including some associated with ground braking research carried at the University over the years.  Meanwhile, don’t fail to visit the University’s delightful art gallery in Abercromby Square.

Liverpool Record Office’s 2005/6 report reports on the £50,000 grant from the Lottery Fund which has enabled it to sort and catalogue the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic archive. The Record Office publishes  a range of information leaflets,  one of which is on hospital records.

And finally…

Leeds has its 800th anniversary this year as well as Liverpool. It too has plans for tall buildings. One proposed building would be 54 storeys high.

■ Have you been to Uluentune recently? (Its Domesday Book name was has since been changed to Woolton.) It is believed that there was an iron age camp there around 150BC, now known as Camp Hill. Woolton Woods in which Camp Hill stands was bequeathed to the City by Charles James Williamson in 1921.

■ The website claims to have been described by The Times as the best British art blog.

 Andrew Pearce