Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Analysis’ Category

Interactive Historic Maps of Liverpool

Historic Liverpool has always been primarily about the old maps. Well, now I’m starting to put interactive versions of the ones I own on the site for you to explore.

There are five maps on the Old Maps of Liverpool page now, but I’m hoping to add more as I get them scanned in (which isn’t the cheapest thing ever). Watch this space! Read more

A new year, an old controversy: UNESCO return their verdict on Liverpool Waters

Well, 2012 is just getting started, but UNESCO have set off the first fireworks in this year’s battle over the north docks.

After visiting the city in November, the UN inspectors are claiming that, should Peel’s plans go ahead, it would cause a “serious loss of historical authenticity“.

Read more

UNESCO visit to Liverpool: the future vs the past?

UNESCO this week are visiting Liverpool to assess the threat to the World Heritage Site (WHS) posed by the Peel Waters plans. Surrounding the visit there has been a lot of debate on the role of the WHS in a modern and changing city. Read more

7 ways in which Liverpool *is* the Museum of Liverpool

The new Museum of Liverpool opens this week, to great fanfare and after what seems like a long wait.

‘Museum of Liverpool’ is a very fitting name too, because this is a museum about the city, and about the people. It’s the largest national museum dedicated to a city in over a century, and opens in a year when the M Shed in Bristol, the Cardiff Story, and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum Project bring similar attractions to those places.

But just as the Museum of Liverpool will capture the city in a nutshell, the city beyond is a museum in itself. For starters, it contains objects that have survived from the past into a new use in the present, but unlike the museum, they’re not on here for display’s sake.

But, in a sense, Liverpool is the Museum of Liverpool: Read more

Toxteth – redressing the balance

July 2011 marked 30 years since the violence in Toxteth which would hang a cloud over the suburb of Liverpool for decades Read more

Liverpool Industrial Heritage at Risk

Plan of the Herculaneum Docks, South Liverpool, from the World War I Document Archive

The Herculaneum Docks, South Liverpool - industrial heritage no longer with us (from the World War I Document Archive)

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.

The industrial class of heritage is small but easy to spot: there’s the infamous case of the Stanley Dock tobacco warehouse as well as the Stanley Dock conservation area itself.

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

The 2011 Census: History and Research for Liverpool (or, Why fill in the census? A historian’s perspective)

Photograph of the Scandinavian Seamen's Church, Liverpool

20100626_Liverpool_views_013, by Friar's Balsam, via Flickr

This year sees another census taking place across the United Kingdom. Censuses have been carried out in the UK every ten years since 1801 (with the exception of 1941 – the Second World War) and are therefore are amazing sources of information for family historians. Alongside other sources they can also be useful to the local historian, and it’s becoming increasingly easy to get your hands on them.

A History of Censuses

The first census in England produced perhaps the defining document of the medieval country: the Domesday Book.

The Book was produced as a way of measuring the wealth, and therefore taxability, of the whole of England, and was perhaps the natural thing for a new, invading, king to administer. Some unconquered parts of England were not included in the survey (notably parts of Cumberland and Westmorland), but for the majority of the country, Domesday Book continues to be an important primary source of information, including as it does the size of land divisions, industry, animal holdings and land owners’ names.

It’s probably well known that Liverpool, having yet to be founded, does not appear at all in Domesday. But many places on Merseyside do, including West Derby, Toxteth, Aigburth, Croxteth and Garston.

The Domesday Book has been an invaluable resource for local historians for years, and is these days available in modern published versions (such as the Penguin Classics translated version). Also, you’ll find the Victoria County History (if you can get your hands on one) bases its organisation on the Book. In turn, I based Historic Liverpool on the VCH, which is why this history of Liverpool is is divided into the townships found in these Victorian volumes.

Modern Censuses

The first modern UK Census took place in 1801, and the exercise was repeated every 10 years after that (along with some at the five year point in between).

For family history purposes, 1841 marked an important change: whereas the first four surveys had simply collected head counts in all regions, this one included the names of all people living in each household.

The 1911 census, released two years ago is the first one where you can read the form filled in by your ancestors (see also www.1911census.co.uk).

The next census will take place this year, on 27th March. There’s a £1000 fine for not filling it in, but also remember the legacy you’re leaving for future family historians (one you’ve enjoyed yourself as a researcher, perhaps). Liverpool City Council is launching a campaign to encourage people to register as central government money is allocated based on population. So current and future censuses still play the role they did back in 1801.

Research using censuses

If you’re a family historian you probably already know the many ins and outs of research with censuses. Many of the older ones are available online (with newer ones becoming available gradually under the 100 year rule). So what can you do with the census data as a local (as opposed to family) historian?

  1. For city historians the censuses can be used in a similar to Gore’s Directory: if you’re studying a small area then cross reference the addresses with the professions mentioned, and you have a good idea of the character of an area. Was it a residential area full of dock workers? Were there corner shops in the area? Or pubs? Was it a richer area full of merchants, factory owners and diplomats?
  2. Landscape change over time: following on from the above point, perhaps you want to know how a residential area changed over time. In Liverpool, Everton, Toxteth and Kirkdale were the first suburbs, expanding to cater to the rich who wanted to escape the city. Later these areas were covered with terraces for dockworkers. Later still the slums were cleared and modern housing erected in its place. While old maps can show direct evidence for this change, the census adds an extra layer of detail.
  3. Immigration: for Liverpool as much as other cities, many events and the tale of expansion are related to the areas in which incoming migrants lived. In our city (‘our’ in the most inclusive sense!) Welsh communities could be found in the north and east, the Scottish in the north and centre, Jews first around Brownlow Hill and then in the southern suburbs (Childwall, Allerton and Gatacre), the Chinese in… well, Chinatown, and the Scandinavians in Liverpool’s ‘Sailortown’ (Park Lane area). Censuses fit in here as they contain information on religion and language, and therefore the culture of different communities.
  4. If you’re more technically minded, you might even make use of the National Archives’ Domesday on a Map, or its Domesday Places dataset.

Perhaps you have other suggestions for uses of census data in local history; feel free to share them with us in the comments!

Recommended Read

Book cover for Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors, by Mike RoydenIf you’re interested in finding out more about your ancestors (as is the most usual role for the census!) then there’s no better place to start than Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A guide for family historians, by noted Liverpool historian Mike Royden. Mike is the man behind the Local History Pages, and has also appeared on TV and local radio. The book also contains a lot of local history too, as historical context is ever important when researching your family tree!

Liverpool Central Village – a lesson from history?

Nighttime aerial view of how Liverpool Central Park will look

Liverpool Central Village, development by Merepark

This week the developer Merepark unveiled a slick video showing the world what the new Liverpool Central Village will look like. Central Village is the name given to the array of shops and flats which is to be built to the north of Bold Street, and which will take in the vacant Lewis’s building on Ranelagh Street.

The thing which struck me was how similar Central Village will look to Liverpool One. The architecture is modern but not brutalist (much). Random colour schemes and harsh corners, but no 60s Piggery nightmare. The brands are all familiar too, with Odeon Cinemas being the most prominent.

But the question raised by the video is ‘Does Liverpool need another (mini) Liverpool One?’ Joe Anderson rightly hails the thousands of new jobs which this development will create (during and after construction), but what can history tell us about how this may pan out?

The last great wave of investment

During the Second World War Liverpool was seen as a great place to site Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF), where munitions were produced for the war effort. It was away from the dangers of bombing which London suffered from, and out of town sites like Speke, Aintree and Kirkby were away from the bombs falling on the docks, yet well connected to those docks by rail, so easing the transport of raw materials coming into the port.

When the War was over the ROF sites adapted to become part of the new economy of the mid 20th Century. Tax incentives encouraged large companies to site factories in these areas which were unrestricted in their growth – there were few neighbours in the area and the land was flat.

There was also a ready-made labour force in the form of the thousands of people who were being moved out of central slums into new council houses, maisonettes and high-rise flats.

There were many problems with these out-of-town estates, and none more famous than the layoffs during the 1970s and 80s. Even then Liverpool was starting to develop its reputation as a city of strikers and protesters, and of a self-pity growing from a feeling of victimisation. Liverpool often asked itself: ‘Why always us?’

Part of the answer presents an interesting dilemma to those who are championing this new development. The problem with the closing factories was that they were branches of multinational corporations. These corporations ‘always’ chose Liverpool because it was the easy choice. There were no vested interests in the city, no love for the place or its people. They were here for the money, and when that left, so did they.

I don’t blame Joe Anderson for celebrating the continued surge in development in the city he loves (and this blog isn’t going to turn into an anti-Anderson moan despite the tone of recent posts!). You certainly can’t take the jobs away from the people who will definitely be employed to build the Village, and who will be staffing the shops and shiny cinemas once it’s complete.

But if history can tell us anything about our own time (and this is what this blog is about) then it’s that investment in an area is strongest when the investors have a stake in the place they’re coming to.

Having lived in places as diverse in beauty as Oxford and Swindon I’m well aware of the standard arguments against the effects of ‘clone towns’ on the quality of life in a place. One of the Liverpool’s strengths has always been its range of independent – and locally based – shops which make a trip into town an often rewarding one (think News from Nowhere, Hairy Records, Quiggins and even Wade Smith). The area around Bold Street is one of the best areas for this.

But the appearance and choice in clone towns is not the only issue, and the architecture is not in question here. The experience of those protesters at the gates of the automotive plants brings home the fact that, for long term success, a local economy must not be reliant on the continued interest of outside money.

What do you think? Will the new developments be unparalleled successes? Or is history doomed to repeat itself as Liverpool continues its transformation into a modern shopping destination?

Poor architecture, not heritage, is preventing investment in Liverpool

Photograph of Liverpool Pier Head looking north up the new canal extension

New development hand in hand with heritage, by Radar Communication via Flickr

Council Leader Joe Anderson has hit out at English Heritage for what he sees as the over-reaching influence and meddling of the ‘heritage lobbyists’ in the future development of Liverpool.

Anderson’s current gripe is related to the Liverpool Waters project, which English Heritage advised to be reduced. Since their input, the number of tall buildings has been reduced, and the centrepiece Shanghai Tower moved back from the waterfront.

The Daily Post has a balanced editorial stating that heritage matters should be considered hand in hand with development progress, and points out that many historic buildings have been brought back into use successfully in this and other cities. Coincidentally, part of the current Biennial art festival concentrates on the re-use of derelict buildings for public enjoyment.

So does heritage hold back development? As Naomi Peck, project manager of Peel’s Liverpool Waters development team said: “English Heritage would most probably be happy to see everything as it is, because that is what they do – they preserve old buildings… The scheme could have been perhaps a little more magnificent, but obviously we had to take into consideration it is a World Heritage Site.”

So, English Heritage preserve old buildings, and World Heritage Site = no magnificence, thank you very much.

Yes?

Developers preventing development

Looking at this from the other direction, is heritage really the stumbling block? Is the Albert Dock a less ‘magnificent’ development because of all the heritage? Or is the heritage key to its attraction? (OK, enough rhetorical questions.) The flats at the King’s Dock and in the former warehouses at the Waterloo Docks are massively successful examples of historic buildings reuse which have not harmed the historic environment. There are other developments – the very magnificent Great Court at the British Museum and World Museum Liverpool, for example – which have added modern architectural elements to historically important buildings.

However, Joe Anderson shouldn’t be surprised or dismayed when ‘heritage lobbyists’ kick up a fuss about wrecking a World Heritage Site with modern ‘ego architecture‘ (subscription required) – massive developments which are all about money and prestige, and nothing about quality of life in the long run. Anderson may have a different point of view, but I don’t want Liverpool to turn into the Shanghai/New York of the West/Europe. I want Liverpool to be The Liverpool.

The solution to Anderson’s problem is not to stop groups like English Heritage and the Civic Societies from airing their views. Rather it is for the architects to produce creative, attractive modern designs keeping in scale with the current landscape. Even completely new builds like Liverpool One can achieve this, and the Echo Arena for another great example: it’s unashamedly modern (and I’d say attractive), but it doesn’t try to take over the whole skyline.

Compare this imagined scenario to the original article:

He said: “The Wellington Rooms, in Mount Pleasant, and other listed buildings are lying derelict because of the poor designs by the architects would have trashed the building.

“The former Irish Centre was the subject of a planning application, which was even supported by the Bishop, to attach some sort of hotel on it. The architect, supported by the leader of the city council, stopped it going ahead by failing to produce a decent building, and now it is deteriorating in front of our eyes.”

OK, so that’s a bit of fun, but remember: it’s not investment that English Heritage are blocking, nor development. It’s poor architecture. There’s one easy way to get development going, and that’s to design something creative, with life-span and beauty, and which adds to, and doesn’t replace, the amazing architecture we have been left by those who came before us.

Note: all views in this post are my own.

Heritage in a tough climate – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Photo of University of Liverpool and the Cathlic Cathedral, by Neill Shenton

This and That, by neill.shenton via Flickr

I can’t help feeling mixed emotions about recent developments for Liverpool’s heritage.

Yesterday the first object – a carriage from the Overhead Railway – was due to move in to the new Museum of Liverpool (although it was delayed by the weather). But then today we hear that the ever-present ‘current economic climate’ (my, am I getting more sick of that phrase every day) means that the National Conservation Centre, a favourite of mine, and Sudley House are at risk from closure.

The shutting down of the North West Development Agency isn’t looking like good news for our museums and other cultural institutions either. Though they plan to continue their previously NWDA-funded projects.

What is your point of view? Will our heritage projects be nipped in the bud? Or can the museums, galleries and theatres come out of this stronger?

What are the long term implications?