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Posts tagged ‘landscape’

Formby dunes under threat

The Telegraph is reporting that the National Trust has identified the Formby dune landscape as one of ten threatened coastal features. Each piece of the coast so named will be significantly altered by the encroaching sea in the coming years, with sea levels expected to rise by up to 1.5 metres by 2100. The National Trust has given up hope of trying to protect them, and will let the sea and weather take its natural course over the coming decades.

The Formby sand dunes are part of a large scale landscape of Shirdley Sand which has been laid down by the wind since the last Ice Age. The coastal dunes spread from north Liverpool to Southport and beyond, and are only the most visible sandy features in a series which stretches inland in Sefton and Crosby, with some now-hidden dunes reaching up to 125m in height. The features are also havens for wildlife.

Book: Liverpool Gangs, by Michael Macilwee

Book: Gangs of Liverpool, by Michael Macilwee

Sadly not a British indie version of Scorsese’s grand piece, Gangs of New York (though this book does reference the other), Gangs of Liverpool is the 2006 book by Michael Macilwee that looks into the slums of late 19th Century Liverpool to reveal the criminal gangs that ‘terrorized’ the city. Although this is mostly a great social history of the time, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the way the landscape of Liverpool has changed in the intervening century.
The majority of the ‘action’ takes place in the north of Liverpool, and the opening chapter relates the events of the ‘Tithebarn Street outrage’ – the murder of Richard Morgan in August 1874. This acts almost as the spark that ignites an explosion of violent attacks over the next 20 or so years. The book then takes us through the development of more organised gang activity – from the informal gathering of ‘Cornermen’ to the infamous ‘High Rip’ gang whose notoriety spread to the national press.

As the Liverpool Landscapes website itself hopes to show, at the end of the 19th Century the Tithebarn Street/ Scotland Road area (View Larger Google Map) consisted of a mass of courts, narrow streets, dark alleys, and a pub on every corner. The photographs which dot the book, especially the generous number in the first two chapters, show how the main streets looked much more like Paradise Street or Castle Street, compared to the large office buildings which dominate today.
Another thing revealed in the landscape, and one which the Liverpudlians of the time were often only too aware, was the concentration of certain nationalities and religions in different areas. As might be expected, the Scotland Road area was often known as the Scotland Quarter, but it was the Irish community, many employed on ships or in the docks, that suffered much from sectarian violence. The Catholic community concentrated in the north of the area, while the Protestants (and Orangemen) were more likely to be found further south. This often led to conflict, with and without provocation, and at one point Macilwee relates the startling vision of 200 Irish navvies marching down the Leeds Liverpool Canal in the direction of Bootle village, with the intention of causing trouble with the Orangemen in Scotland Road. Just over 30 brave police constables managed to turn them around, but as they were being escorted back north, the numbers increased to around 1000. You’ll have to get your own copy to find out what happened next…
However, as with any study of the urban landscape, it’s easy to overstate the influence the physical city has on society. Many streets of course had members of both Protestant and Catholic congregations, and indeed the two intermarried. But the book sheds very interesting light on how the Victorian city looked, as well as the wider politics of defining the gangs, and the reactions of a police force often unable to properly deal with the problem.
The book is a scholarly, well-written with an eye for tense narrative. It reveals an often neglected contributor to Liverpool’s reputation for lawlessness and violence, including a great glossary of ‘Underworld Slang’, which I’m certainly going to make use of in everyday life. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone looking for an engaging peek into a violent past, and a bit of an eye opener for those who think the kids are getting worse.
Now, me donah’s grabbed the rasher wagon, so I’m off for a tightener…

Liverpool’s Trams Old and New

Everton FC’s controversial plans to move to a new stadium in Kirkby are strengthening the case for “line one”, the non-capitalised tram scheme from Liverpool city centre to the outskirts. This follows claims in mid-April that Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly was ready to approve the £328m transport link.

Of course, trams are nothing new in Liverpool, which can trace their history back to 1869, and the 16 horse-drawn trams which were brought into use then. The service stopped on August 14th, 1957, when Liverpool discarded the trams in favour of buses. The network left behind many remnants embedded in the towns fabric, from the central reservations of the suburbs to the cobbles under the tarmac of the city centre streets.

Another thing which stands in favour of recreating the tram system shapes the very city we see today. As I mentioned, many of the wide boulevards which snake through the suburbs, such as Edge Lane, Muirhead Avenue and Queen’s Drive. Hidden under the grass the tracks no doubt still lie there. Of course it wouldn’t make sense to try to re-use the rusty metal, but the long curves of the roads themselves lend well to the three or four carriages which modern tramways like those in Sheffield and Manchester. In fact, if you look at a map of Liverpool, you can see how the tramways of the last century, and the routes people took into work – the financiers, traders and sailors – had an influence on the growth and development – the very shape – of the city in its boom era.

Some news about the main website: I’m releasing all the information on the website under a Creative Commons License, specifically the Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa), which means you are allowed to create works based on my work, as long as it’s not for commercial reasons, and you are willing to share what you’ve created too. It’s all in the spirit of sharing! For more details on what the license means, read the easy and short version, or the longer, legalese-heavy code.

What did King John do for Liverpool? New Mersey crossing and the Dockers’ Umbrella under fire

The Liverpool Echo has fun suggesting that last year’s 800th anniversary might have been 15 years too late. Deeds have been donated to the city which show that the area was populated as far back as 1192, over a decade before King John granted his charter. However, the evidence of this old habitation is still to be seen in the landscape, in both Liverpool itself and the surrounding areas. Birkenhead Priory has been in existence since the 12th Century. Evidence of Roman trade has been excavated in parts of southern Liverpool and to the east of the city, in addition to Iron Age evidence on the Wirral. The best evidence is in the place-names of Merseyside. Toxteth and Croxteth are of Viking origin, and indicate places where Toki’s and Croki’s people landed (staith = ‘landing place’). Aintree (the ‘lone tree’) has a name of Saxon origins. The last three letters of Garston, Allerton and Walton give the game away – tun started out to mean enclosure, or even fence, but soon came to include such a feature surrounding a farmstead or homestead. So it shouldn’t surprise you to find that people have been living in this area for a very long time. King John just made it official!

For almost 1000 years people having been looking for ways to cross the Mersey, from the monks of Birkenhead Priory, to the tunnel-builders and 20th Century bridge builders. A Transport and Works Order (TWO – planning permission) is being sought by Halton Council to allow purchasing of the required land, and the re-routing of the local road network, and the charging of tolls. Work could then be started on the latest crossing of the River Mersey.

The Liverpool Echo website has a short but very interesting article on the history of the Liverpool Overhead Railway (the “Dockers’ Umbrella”). I’m not sure why they chose today to write this, but it’s very informative nonetheless, concentrating on its trials and tribulations during the Second World War. The only curious fact is that “The bombings also left about 51,000 people in Liverpool homeless and 25,000 in Bootle”. These were certainly poweful bombs the Luftwaffe dropped on the city…

The joys of a landscape website

As there hasn’t been a lot of landscape-related news involving Liverpool lately, I thought I’d take this chance to discuss the joys and frustrations of creating the Liverpool Landscapes website. The site uses MapServer, a piece of software that draw the maps to show you where the listed buildings and scheduled monuments are, along with other points if interest. Using a series of layers, I can tell MapServer how to draw the maps, and the user – you – can have some control over how those layers are displayed. The points and shapes representing the monuments are free to use and easy to come by on one of English Heritage’s websites. The boundaries of the townships were traced from an old map I found Googling around the ‘Net at Christmas. However, I think the map has limited use until I find decent street-level map. In Britain, mapping is produced by the Ordnance Survey, and that organisation has very protective rules over the re-use of its data, despite opposition to this. Despite the fact that they seem to be creating some more permissive licensing, I’m still a bit wary over how I’m allowed to use any maps I can find, unless I shell out more money than my salary allows. I’m still researching the best way to get MapServer compatible maps of Liverpool to use as a backdrop, without breaking the bank. Considering I’m not making any profit from this site, I’d be fascinated to hear of any suitable ways of getting hold of this data. Meanwhile, the best option looks like New Popular Editions.

Anyway, apart from the problems of creating the maps, there are the small details that come out when looking at the landscape of Liverpool. Recently looking at the development of Everton, and the Welsh community that grew up in the area during the 19th Century, I came across a row of streets built near Goodison Park by the father and son team Owen and William Owen. Read the initials of the roads starting from Oxton Street, heading north.

More interesting snippets on the way!