The Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse could possibly be described as the poster child of Liverpool’s failure to protect its heritage. But perhaps its fortunes are about to change with a project in the works to regenerate the whole of the north docklands.
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There has been a certain amount of interest in my post on re-using Liverpool’s derelict buildings and in particular the derelict tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock, which many (me included) would like to see regenerated. A few questions remain, such as the problem of too-low ceilings (are they too low? How low is too low?). If this is a problem, are there any other uses to which the huge building could be put (See ‘Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse below)?
There is also of course the larger problem of the isolation of the warehouse and other buildings down that part of the city. It’s handy for the town centre, but a little too far to walk, but possibly not worth driving in.
We could sit around here all day discussing the problems of regenerating the warehouse area, but I’d like to keep the focus on the wider issue of the redevelopment and re-use of derelict buildings, of which there are many around Merseyside. There are other cities in the country who have already taken up the challenge. Four of them are mentioned in the English Heritage (EH) publication Making the Most of Your Local Heritage: A Guide for Overview and Scrutiny Committees, downloadable from the HELM website (and which actually has a photo of our own fair city on the cover).
Although the booklet is aimed at those already involved in local heritage and planning issues, any of us can take its advice on how to make the most of our historic landscape and the buildings in it. Of particular interest is Case Study 3, Wolverhampton and Heritage at Risk: Protecting the Irreplacable (can you see where this is going? ;)).
Wolverhampton City Council recognised the considerable potential of redundant historic buildings when in 2004 a scrutiny panel was established to investigate how an increasingly uninhabited historic environment could be used as an effective impetus for regeneration. The review attracted widespread attention amongst the local press and community as the Panel sought to establish how new uses could be found for a significant number of historic buildings…
Their report found that a crucial factor for success was the partnership between the City Council and developers, and recommended a set of character appraisals for important sites and other areas at risk. Could this be a solution for Liverpool? Does Liverpool have a similar process or committee? And what role can local residents play in the absence of such organisations? (Check out the advice for Heritage Champions on the HELM website).
Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse
I’ve found an old Liverpool Echo story referring to plans to regenerate the whole warehouse area from Dec 8th 2003, with “1000 building and permanent retail jobs” by 2008. I think we all know what happened to that optimistic scheme. Originally, owners Kitgrove had planned to demolish the building and keep the north west supplied with bricks “for the next decade” (the warehouse is the largest brick building in Europe). Luckily heritage groups and the city council opposed the plans.
Another scheme to regenerate “starting in 2009” was reported in June 2008 (scroll down to Stanley Dock).
A problem both articles mention is that little light manages to make it into the centre of the building, requiring that it be cored out to create a central atrium, something akin to the entrance to World Museum Liverpool. Also the general complexity of the building means options are limited for re-use. Nevertheless, past projects were ambitious: “There will be an exclusion zone on part of the roof to provide a nesting area for peregrine falcons.”
Ownership of buildings in the Liverpool Mercantile City World Heritage Site (see p3): http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/Images/tcm21-32550.pdf
World Heritage Site Management Plan: http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/Leisure_and_culture/Tourism_and_travel/World_heritage_site/Management_plan/index.asp
This week we get an updated list of the heritage at risk on Merseyside, see a unique perspective on how Liverpool has changed over the last few decades, plus some personal points of view on Liverpool and its past.
Memories are liberally scattered around this week’s links. Photos of life in Liverpool, plus revealing the hidden corners of the city, and life on the Home Front. Read more
Great work has been done to improve the lot of certain vulnerable historic buildings in Liverpool. Four buildings have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register:
- North Warehouse, Stanley Dock Village;
- the ex-Royal Insurance HQ Building, North John Street;
- the Laundry and Laundry Cottage, Croxteth Park;
- the former St Andrew’s Church, Rodney Street.
You can read about the plans for these buildings in the not-proofread Liverpool Echo article: English Heritage praises Liverpool for historic buildings. Read more
English Heritage have released a new volume of their ‘Constructive Conservation’ series, this one entitled Sustainable Growth for Historic Places. It’s all about the benefits of re-using historic buildings for new purposes, and the effects not only on the bottom line of the developer, but also the ability of these buildings to attract customers and tourists, and the benefits of creating an attractive and enjoyable place to work in. Read more
Industrial Heritage at Risk is this year’s Heritage at Risk theme, launched today by English Heritage in conjunction with the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA). The annual Heritage at Risk survey launch is in October.
Liverpool is not always closely associated with ‘industry’ in the same sense as the wool industry of Manchester and Lancashire, or the coal industry of Yorkshire. Liverpool’s World Heritage Site is the ‘Maritime Mercantile City‘, and even though the Exchange buildings and the Customs house are closely linked with industry on a wider scale, it’s more accurate to class it as ‘commerce’.
However, commerce is difficult to see embodied in archaeology or buildings, and the buildings English Heritage are talking about are as often as not a product of industry, made possible by the Industrial Revolution, rather than playing a part in industrial production itself.
In fact, much of Liverpool’s built heritage fits this bill rather well.
[There is a lot more detail about the development of Liverpool’s small-scale industries (potteries, mills and the like) in the Liverpool and Toxteth sections of the Historic Liverpool website (or search for ‘mill‘ or ‘pottery‘ to see a whole lot more).]
Liverpool’s industrial heritage at risk
All the sites at risk in Merseyside can be seen via a search on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk microsite: . You can then break the list down into classes of ‘at risk’ heritage, including buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens.
But English Heritage wants a wider debate on this, rather than just promoting the current list of at-risk buildings. So, start here if you want (in the comments!) or visit the Industrial Heritage at Risk Flickr group.
Alarmingly there’s a photo of Albert Dock in the photo pool, but as I say this discussion is about a wider appreciation of industrial heritage. Remember, the Albert Dock was once indeed at risk of demolition, and is one of the best reminders of how historic buildings can be brought back into use successfully as modern developments.
The aim of the Flickr group is to bring people together to discuss which parts of their industrial heritage are most-loved, and those which perhaps should be added to the list come October. You can, as with any Flickr group, add photos and comments of your own.
So this is a call from one Liverpool historian to others: get your photos on there and promote the best of Liverpool industrial archaeology! Here’s a few suggestions to get you thinking:
- Albert dock (you can never have too much Albert Dock)
- Stanley Dock and the tobacco warehouse
- Liverpool Maritime Mercantil City World Heritage Site (plenty of room for discussion)
- Lime Street Station and the railway and tunnels to Edge Hill and beyond
- Former Bryant and May Match Factory
- The Three Graces
- Leeds-Liverpool Canal
On a national scale, and a counterpart to the HER, is the National Monuments Record (NMR) in Swindon, which has been part of English Heritage since 1999. The NMR holds millions of photos, plans and other documents, some of which it puts online.
When I first started work for the NMR I played a small role in the expansion of ViewFinder, and this is still my favourite English Heritage site. One of the best, but little-known features are the entrancingly-titled Photo Essays, one of which is called Liverpool: a port of world significance.
This is a short introduction followed by 12 images taken from the NMR’s archives, with captions written by Keith Falconer, one time Head of Industrial Archaeology for English Heritage.
It was written a little while ago now, and some of the pictures feel a little out of date (the view across from the Albert Dock to the Pier Head seems to be missing… something) but it’s refreshing to read about the city’s history and architecture from an author who doesn’t appear to feel the hot breath of passionate Scousers looking over his shoulder. He gives the city its due without hyperbole, and acknowledges that it was, indeed, a city of world importance.
As well as the Pier Head and Stanley Docks, Falconer takes in civic buildings like the Town Hall, and the under-appreciated Oriel Chambers, one of the first iron-framed buildings in the world.
Once you’ve read that, there are a couple of other Photo Essays which might take your fancy, but don’t forget to look at ViewFinder’s entire collection of Liverpool photos. There’s stuff from over 150 years of history, including photos that aren’t that old, but are already becoming important records of Merseyside’s past.
Found any gems?
It seems only yesterday that I was bemoaning the uncertainty of the future for Liverpool’s built environment (oh, wait… it was).
Now, on the same day that we can celebrate the historic Stanley Park and 16 other Liverpool parks getting a Green Flag award, there are confusing rumours of Peel Holdings’ plans to transform Merseyside’s docklands.
English Heritage have expressed their concern that the schemes – which originally wanted to erect dozens of skyscrapers across both waterfronts – would damage the context of the World Heritage site, centred on the Three Graces.
In response, Peel have scaled back the plans, now with just two groups of tall buildings between Princes and Clarence Docks. The number of tall buildings is lower than was planned in 2007, with the group at Clarence Dock being reduced from 15 to seven towers.
Meanwhile however, more success for Peel over the Mersey, with the Wirral Waters project expected to be granted planning permission by councillors next week.
In other news…
OK, if all that was a bit much for one day, here’s a more… lovely story.