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Posts Tagged ‘merseyside history’

The day after Terry and Vic wandered around some of the old derelict docks, and we’d  added the last post, the government announced the area was to be an “Enterprise Zone”. Obviously, Inspidered carries more weight than we’d realised.

The area has already been approved by Wirral Council as a site for massive “redevelopment” to include skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, shops and so on. Sound familiar? Some calculations reckon the total scheme will take 40 years to complete. Then both sides of the river will be able to admire each other’s skyscrapers, shops, hotels, apartments. Also, if Liverpool wins its current tiff with Southampton over berthing cruise liners, watching floating hotels come and go all week. Whatever, it’s a change from past and it’s history unfolding before our eyes, waiting to be documented.

Perhaps the fruits of “regeneration” behind the new waterfronts could also be documented?

 

 

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There’s a book not long out called Edgelands written by two poets. A couple of us have read it, and found it good in parts but overall probably not the best; still worth reading though as it gives ideas for looking into things we normally only see in passing, in this case the ‘edgelands’ between the city and the countryside. These are places where a surprising amount of nature has returned to; the history of the recent past is inscribed there; sewage farms, motorway service stations, conference centres, travel lodges, kids’ dens, surreal golf ranges…..

We’re inspired to look at something a bit like edgelands but those within the town and city. The alleys, the derelict industrial sites, rows of houses awaiting demolition, and the new businesses that spring up selling cars, carpets, sheds and pallets. Our first foray was into Birkenhead’s docklands. There is a definite sense of atmosphere as you leave the main road that runs by the park, head up Duke Street then cross into the dusty remains of the past, tangled wreckage of machinery, and the signs of life springing up as if at random. Here are some of the pictures we took.

 

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A stroll for five minutes, a few photographs, and then a little tweaking on the computer. The past and the present are intertwined. Images produced today evoke the same scenes from a hundred years ago. Ste L, Ste O, Peter, Duncan caught Liverpool in the snow.

Falkner Square

St James Cemetry

Falkner Terraces

Georgian Facade

St James Cemetry

Saint Brides

Georgian terrace

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Pavements, there beneath our feet. Just pavements. But nothing’s ever simple!

The pavements show the effects of time, some of them cracking up under the strain; others  coming apart. What was once neat and all fitted together starts to come apart. Maybe pavements have a story to tell, a sort of parable about how time is always working against our attempts to impose order. Incidentally, the word ‘pavement’ comes from the Latin pavere which means to ‘pound down’. We try to pound down the earth to fit our own design, but nature and time have a way of reclaiming things.

Pavements carry the ghosts of feet, of people long dead, the fleeting touch of shadows or rain that reflects the world above. Footprints caught in the cement of pavements: maybe in a thousand years an excited archaeologist from Mars will find one like we found footsteps on the beach up at Formby from thousands of years ago…

Leaves, apples, litter, all there and gone in an instant. A paving flag is like a picture frame of time.

And then there are the pavements people draw or write upon. Kids chalk drawings,, ‘arty’ stencil stuff, or the  drawings etched into the pavements on the new frontage of Lime Street Station done by artist Simon Faithfull to record a trip to Liverpoool in Nova Scotia, three thousand miles away.

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Pavements marked a path for thousands of feet over time. Very quickly when people no longer use them, they begin to disappear. Tracks that once meant something, were important, provided a way, become overgrown.

 

There’ll be a few more posts on pavements soon! We’re putting the finishing touches to a short video in which a group member reads a poem called Hell’s Pavements by John Masefield. It’s about a sailor who comes into Liverpool determined not to waste his money on women and drink. It ends with him sailing back to sea owning nothing but the clothes on his back. As if !

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A Job for Life

We were looking at the brilliant BBC History web pages (probably worth more than the television part of the licence as someone said), a real goldmine of interesting stuff, beautifully presented and easy to find your way around. Then we looked at the BBC Radio Merseyside History pages, again very interesting. In particular, we looked at an audio slide show about the Lewis’s Department Store that closed earlier this year. For most of us, the shop was part of our lives. Its passing feels like a more human historical event than the major “historical events”.

Lewis’s had their own flickr site where you can see some pictures relating to the store’s history.

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Disappeared

Is history fact or fiction, opinion and interpretation or “truth”?

Where to look for history? One place is in buildings and architecture. The building shown above was demolished during the construction of the Liverpool One development. Like many listed buildings it “got in the way”. In an article in The Times in March 2008, a writer, Tristram  Hunt gave the following opinion under the headline, Liverpool, Capital of Vandalism:

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Unfairly, Liverpool has often been accused of wallowing in the past. If only it did.

Under the past ten years of control by the Liberal Democrats, some 36 listed buildings have been lost to the bulldozers. Whereas Merseyside once enjoyed a Georgian building stock comparable to Bath, what little remains is now under threat. In addition to the terraces of Seel Street, there are numerous properties in Duke Street, Dale Street and Great George Square – as well as such listed landmark churches as St Luke’s, Berry Street and St Andrew’s – equally at risk. And that is excluding the Toxteth terraces and Welsh Street houses that remain under planning blight.

The difference this time is that the threat comes as much from property developers, whose lawyers and bully-boy chicanery runs rings round council officers, as grandiose redevelopment schemes. But the results are the same as buildings slip into disrepair, night-time demolitions “happen” and inexplicable planning permissions are granted.

Tristram Hunt is author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City

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The newspaper article is itself ‘history’. It’s a fairly stark example of how facts (the demolition of listed buildings) and opinions are mixed. How we see the past – and the present is part of the past – is shaped by who we are, something we discussed at our last session. What is important to one person may not be so to another. We make our own histories from what interests us.

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