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Posts tagged ‘Archaeology’

Liver Birds, Imaginary Cities, and Open Doors

There’s all sorts popping up around the Internet recently for those of a landscape persuasion. From the dozens of liver birds dotting the streets, to poking around inside old buildings, there’s something for every urban explorer. Then there’s imaginary city landscapes… Read more

Merseyside Archaeology Service closes

The Merseyside Archaeological Service (MAS) has been shut down, and now there is no longer access to the Merseyside Historic Environment Record. According to the notice on the Liverpool Museums website this was due to the removal of funding by all partners.

The MAS was set up in 1991, and received funding from the five Merseyside local authorities (Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens). Historic Environment Records (HERs) grew out of the Sites and Monuments Records which began with Oxfordshire in the 1960s to cover the whole country by the 1980s. The change in name came in the last decade to reflect the increase in coverage and scope. Read more

Entering new eras in history

A photo of the Liver Building from Princes Dock, entitled Two of Us, by Eric the Fish via Flickr

Two of Us, by Eric the Fish via Flickr

Welcome back to the Liverpool Landscapes blog! I do hope you came checking every day while I was away ;-), but even if not, you’ll be glad to know I’m rested, relaxed and raring to go to bring you the most interesting bits of news concerning the history of Liverpool. The theme of this post seems to be milestones, in a way, so let’s start with politics…

The general election and history

The first occasion on the horizon is of course the General Election. As a civil servant, I should probably be careful what I say in the run up to May 6th, but it’s worth pointing out that the Museums Journal this month contains a short analysis of what the main parties intend to do should you vote them into power next month. (You’ll need to register to view the article, or pick up a copy of MJ in the local library).

All the parties seem to agree on free admissions to museums, a move away from targets, and on increasing access to arts and cultural institutions. However, Louise de Winter of the National Campaign for the Arts notes that Labour’s reliance on free admission to help with increased access is not enough.

The Conservatives emphasis on helping people to help themselves (“Big Society, Small Government”) may extend to the cultural sector, with an ‘arm’s length principle‘ being applied to supporting museums.

The Liberal Democrats also want to enable museums to be more independent and enterprising, and want to generate more arts and heritage money from the National Lottery through tax changes.

At the time of the Journal’s press, the Labour manifesto had not been released, but it noted that the party wanted to ensure all Britain benefits from the digital revolution, and to build on earlier schemes such as Find Your Talent.

English Heritage publish heritage protection paper

Even though the Heritage Protection Bill did not make it into the Queen’s Speech last year, work has continued on reforming the way the historic environment is cared for.

All you professional archaeologists out there will know about PPG15 and PPG16, the two documents which make rescue archaeology (and so the vast majority of professional archaeology occurring in this country) possible. These documents are both almost 20 years old, and have been replaced by Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 5.

The long term aims with heritage protection reform (HPR) are to replace the current system of listed buildings, scheduled monuments and other designations with a single, hierarchical system. This would make it easier to protect historic sites and buildings, as well as make it simpler for owners of such assets to find the information they need to effectively protect them.

The new document also covers such topics as approaches to planning, climate change issues, and the monitoring of the historic environment. It’s available to download from the Department for Communities and Local Government Planning for the Historic Environment page.

Somewhat related to this is the Government’s Statement on the Historic Environment of England 2010, which has a lovely picture of Canning Dock on the front (minus the new Mann Island developments it seems, but we’ll skip round that issue…).

In the rest of the news…

Well, those are probably the big stories of the day, but there are a few more tidbits to cover.

It’s International World Heritage Day tomorrow (18th April)! Now, I’m assuming that anyone reading this post is somehow interested in a certain World Heritage Site, and now’s your chance to raise awareness of where it is, and the work it takes to preserve and look after it.The Global Development Research Center (sic) has a few suggestions on what people can do to celebrate and commemorate.

Liverpool City Council have organised five tours of parts of the city which fit in with this year’s theme, which is the Heritage of Agriculture. Now, you may argue that Liverpool’s WHS has little to do with agriculture, but as the foremost port of the empire, merchants in Liverpool oversaw a huge proportion of the transport of the world’s agricultural produce. For details of the tours, download the leaflet from the Liverpool World Heritage web site. Places are limited, so get in early!

Speaking of mercantile heritage, the Old Dock is finally to be opened to the public on 4th May. As the BBC report, the remains of the dock wall were carefully preserved during the construction of Liverpool One, and can be seen through a window placed in the floor at the bottom of the steps from the Liverpool Wheel where the Liverpool Wheel used to stand [cheers for the correction, Adrian!].

From next month, there will be a “visitors’ facility” to allow you to view objects found during archaeological excavations there, a computer reconstruction fly-through, and the east section of the dock which has a tunnel suspected of linking to Liverpool Castle. More details are available on the Maritime Museum Liverpool web site.

And finally-finally, architects Baca have another masterplan to ruffle the feathers of the Liverpool Preservation Trust et al. This time the south docks are in the picture, and Baca want to “bring an interesting new approach to waterspace design that will unlock the potential of these wonderful docks and the World Heritage Site”.

As you know, I for one consider that the World Heritage Site needs its potential unlocking. It’s so… tied up there in those creaky old buildings.

Historic Liverpool on the Web

As things seem to be quiet on the ‘historic Liverpool’ front (that’s historic with a small ‘h’ – not my website!) I think it’s a good time to put down a few quick notes about where Historic Liverpool (the website!) and my interest in history on the web should be leading me in the next few weeks and months.

For those of you eager to see what additions will be made to the main site, I can tell you that I’m currently researching West Derby township. This includes the former villages of Tue Brook, West Derby, Knotty Ash and Broad Green, and will hopefully be online soon. Anyway, until then…

Every month new historical and archaeological resources go online (for example the Liverpool Wiki), and the ones that have been online for a while are constantly adding to their databases (see the Archaeology Data Service). Though the Council for British Archaeology’s website (recently relaunched) was a pioneer in making use of the web for archaeology, the historical and archaeological disciplines are only gradually making full use of the web, in particular “Web 2.0“, the interactive web. This new, user-generated form of the Internet is a big opportunity for history and archaeology, building on the participation seen in many amateur excavations in Britain for decades, and the discussion forums taking in Liverpool history amongst other city issues all over the Net.

It’s part of my job to know about what makes an attractive, usable, interesting heritage website, and I’d like to pass on what knowledge I can to help promote new archaeological and historical Web 2.0 sites. My own site, Historic Liverpool, shows my own modest efforts (more archaeology than Web 2.0!) but so much more sophisitcation is possible in this developing era that I really want to do what I can to help. With this in mind, I will shortly be launching a new website (to be named – watch this space!) dealing with [edit:] expanding this blog to include the wider developments in heritage on the web. There’ll also be a blog there, where I will put my thoughts down on the subject, along with longer articles on avoiding some of the pitfalls of building a complex or data-rich website aimed at the general public and interested amateur. After all, this is the advantage of the Internet, and the sharing of data and knowledge – anyone can become involved! Edit: for now I have little time to dedicate to a new website, so I’ll be mentioning interesting web initiatives on this blog until someone invents the 34 hour day and I have time to write two blogs!

Finally, while researching West Derby I read the relevant chapter in J.A. Picton’s Memorials of Liverpool, vol II, Topographical (1875). In it he details all the roads from Low Hill eastwards, and takes in Kensington, and Newsham Park. He rues the state of Wavertree Road:

Picton Road as seen by the Google StreetView car

Picton Road as seen by the Google StreetView car

“at present a somewhat unsightly entrance into Liverpool … flanked with shops and dwellings of an inferior class. Down to 1830 this road was a beautiful avenue lined with tall trees on each side, whose umbrageous foliage meeting overhead, imparted a grand and solemn character to the vista. The construction of the railway crossing the road … and the subsequent construction of the bridge … made the first inroad”

This fairly judgementmental description of the area is typical of this wonderful book, but the modern mapreader must note that whereas in 1875 Wavertree Road stretched all the way to Wavertree (of course), these days the length from Picton’s bedevilled railway bridge to the clock tower is of course… Picton Road.

Liverpool as blueprint for British culture capital

Although officially no longer the European Capital of Culture, Liverpool’s success in 2008 has led to it becoming the blueprint for an ongoing series of similar, British-based awards in the future. Culture Secretary Andy Burnham (a Blues fan, it has been noted) announced today that the new award would be presented every two years. Liverpool 08 mastermind Phil Redmond will be drafted in to lead a working party to explore the idea, which hopes to stimulate regeneration and investment in other parts of the country, in the way it did in Merseyside.

The impact of the Capital of Culture year will be debated at the University of Liverpool. Called Impacts 08, the event will be attended by Burnham and Redmond, and will discuss the effect of events like the Tall Ships Race and Paul McCartney’s concert Liverpool Sound, which brought in £5m. Along similar lines, Edwin Heathecote in the Financial Times examines the legacy of 2008 in terms of the built landscape, giving a fairly positive view of such developments as the Blue Coat chambers and the massive Liverpool One centre.

Finally, what English Heritage suspects is Britain’s first mosque is being regenerated, over 100 years after it fell out of use. It is hoped that this centre on Brougham Terrace, West Derby Street, will show the age of the roots of British Islam. The mosque was founded by and Englishman, Henry William Quilliam, who converted to Islam in 1887.

Independent – Britain’s first mosque to be reborn – after more than a century

BBC News – Revamp for England’s first mosque

A few more things for those of you who like your online resources:

English Heritage’s Heritage Explorer website includes a page on Liverpool as a case study for how to use their educational resources. The site concentrates on West Derby, and the project carried out by a Year 2 class to look at the historic environment around their school. The page includes a lesson plan, and some tips on how to get the kids studying. As well as this case study, the Heritage Explorer site is full of other historic resources for use in the classroom.

Another of English Heritage’s projects is featured on the Council for British Archaeology’s new website. The Aerofilms collection is a massive number of aerial shots of the whole of Britain, spanning nearly 100 years. Only a handful of images are currently available, including one of Liverpool’s old customs house and surrounding bomb devastation in 1946, but plans are afoot to get this amazing resource online in the future.

Also, for those interested in the archaeology hidden under Liverpool Bay, Wessex Archaeology are conducting a pilot scheme to investigate this body of water as part of their England’s Historic Seascapes research, in association with English Heritage. There’s a great summary of all the exciting stuff that should be found on the seabed on their site, and I’ll try to keep you up to date with their findings.

West Derby trams, new CBA website, and an end to 2008

The latest edition of the free Liverpool Link newsletter has a fairly long article about West Derby trams. Recently, roadworks on Mill Lane have revealed the old iron rails which the trams ran along – single lane with passing loops – and which were permanently visible until around 1970. Green trams (to Green Lane, of course!), and white first class trams ran along the route, until replaced soon after the last World War by motor bus services. Another still-visible reminder is a small junction box on the corner of the cottages leading to St. Mary’s Church. If I’d have read the article in time I would have tried to get a photo, but alas I was too slow before I had to leave Liverpool for New Year! If I find I’ve actually got one hidden on my computer somewhere, I’ll add it, but in the mean time go to West Derby village and have a look for it – it’s a reminder of a disappeared age!

For those of you interested in finding out more about history and archaeology on the Internet, the Council for British Archaeology has a new site (, which has been launched for the 2009. As well as a more modern layout, the site gives you links to online resources such as the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB), and publications such as the Council’s own British Archaeology Magazine, as well as advice on how to get involved in archaeology, or keep up to date with archaeology in the news.

Finally, it is now 2009. Liverpool is no longer the European Capital of Culture. That accolade belongs to Vilnius in Lithuania and Linz in Austria. But Liverpudlians took this year’s celebrations to their hearts, took pride in the events, and took personally any attack on Liverpool deserving such an honour. Ringo will certainly remember that. But the greatest challenge has always been what comes after. Liverpool One is all but complete, although Zavvi didn’t survive to see its new shop in the development. The new Museum of Liverpool is rapidly taking shape. And numerous projects have sprung up or been given new lifeblood by the injection of money and interest in the city. I can’t help but think that all this momentum will be carried on by the city. Despite the huge numbers of tourists who came to Liverpool in 2008, many more will not have been able to make it, and will come next year, or the year after. Thousands more will have told their friends, who will make the trip in the not too distant future. As long as we’re here to welcome in the same way we’ve welcomed people throughout our thousand year history, Liverpool will always be the Capital of Culture.

Woodlands Remembered and Created

There is a very strong woodland feel to events in Liverpool this weekend.

Mab Lane in West Derby is being transformed by the planting of tens of thousands of new trees on a brownfield site, in order to create “the world’s most colourful woodland“. Work is expected to start in Spring next year, and will cost £700,000.

Also this weekend, Liverpool’s Pool Project are celebrating that which first brought royal attention to the area, and which is largely forgotten today: the royal hunting forest of Toxteth. The idea is to recreate one of King John’s hunts through 21st Century Toxteth, and at the same time gather information about the archaeology, biology and botany of the area bounded by modern Upper Parliament Street, Smithdown Road, Ullet Road and Sefton Street.

Toxteth Park was part of a large area of land on the north side of the Mersey which was popular with medieval royalty for hunting and riding. For hundreds of years it was ’emparked’, in practice meaning nothing could be built on it. Only when this status was removed did large scale building begin in the area. In its early days it was the preferred suburb for rich Liverpool merchants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre. In later years these richer inhabtants of the city moved to other areas such as Rodney Street, north Liverpool/Kirkdale and West Derby. Toxteth became covered in vast swathes of Victorian terraces, built to house the ever-expanding working classes who kept the factories and docks going.

For more information, see the Toxteth pages of the Historic Liverpool website.

Liverpool’s Heritage At Risk

This week English Heritage released a list of historic sites, wrecks, parks and landmarks they deem most at risk from demolition, development pressure or vandalism. Numerous sites in Liverpool and the surrounding county feature on the list, as detailed in this Liverpool Echo story

Liverpool’s Docks and Railways

Although Liverpool is famous for its docks, and (criminally, to a lesser extent) the railways, taking a wider view reveals the interlinking threads which join the two transport systems, and gives a few insights into the buildings nearby. The recently revealed Manchester Dock (once under the car park of the old Museum of Liverpool Life) was one of the earliest docks on the river front, having originally been no more than a tidal basin connected to the river Mersey. The dock was used to hold the barges of the Shropshire Union Canal Company, and later the Great Western Railway, in order to transport goods between Liverpool and the rail terminal at Morpeth Dock in Birkenhead. In this way Manchester Dock played a role as a go-between, from the national rail network (connecting Liverpool – via Lime Street – to the industrial centres of Britain) and further ports of call on the other side of the river. The warehouses standing next to Canning graving docks – until recently the home of the Liverpool Museum field Archaeology Unit – still bear the name Great Western Railway on the canopies at the front.

Time Team are showing a’ Special’ on the Manchester Dock on the 21st April. Although the adverts would have you believe Phil uncovered this crucial piece of Liverpool’s (and indeed the world’s) maritime history, excavations have been taking place for a while. Read Liverpool Museum’s blog to stay up to date. Also check out their Flikr site.

Michael Palin is coming to Liverpool to open an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery on art and railways (Art In the Age of Steam, Walker Gallery, April 18 – August 10).

Oldest settlement, and Liverpool museum nominated for award

A couple of interesting pieces of news concerning the North-West’s heritage, ancient and modern:

One of the oldest pieces of settlement evidence in the north-west has come to light on an excavation near Junction 6 on the M62. Although the motorway scheme will go ahead unchanged, the site should remain hidden safe beneath the junction at Tarbock Island.

The new International Slavery Museum has been nominated for the Art Fund Prize for Museums
, formerly the Gulbenkian Prize. The highly praised museum only opened in the final part of last year, but has already attracted a great number of visitors.