Recently in Tradition & Heritage Category

Wigan Pier canal historic statue of woman miller It's International Women's Day, an occasion for looking both back and forward. We have here some photos and text reminding us gently how grim life was for working class women and children in the mills (and often for their mining menfolk too) a mere century ago. Happily, Wigan Pier and the canals are now a tourist destination alongside a modern Investment Centre; but around 1910 a different story - not least about the uses of water - was being told. The challenge remains to secure the same progress as we've seen here, in ensuring healthy and constructive lives for women and their families everywhere, in the UK and across the globe.

Gender & Women, Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water.

Wigan Pier canal Trencherfield Mill historic notice

Here's the text of this notice, displayed by the towpath at Wigan Pier:

TRENCHERFIELD MILL
When cotton was king
as told by a cotton worker circa 1910

It's hot int' mill wi' lots o' noise. On a nice day, we'll take our lunch ont' towpath an' eat snaps* from't snaps tins.
It's a 5-and-a-half day week for us cotton workers, that's 12 hours a day and half a day on Saturday.
We've all got nimble fingers , especially the Piecers'. They're mainly children, who nip under the spinning machines to tie the broken cotton back together again.
Some of us work on the spinning machines and some on the carding machines. The mill takes a raw bale of cotton, cleans it, twists it and spins it into fine yarn.
The humidity in the mill keeps the cotton damp so it's easier to spin without snapping.
There are five floors of machinery - all powered by the Trencherfield Mill Engine.
The noise is deafening - we stuff cotton from the floor in our ears to protect them. We communicate using 'Me-Mawing' - a mixture of sign language and lip reading.
We work in our bare feet because our clogs could spark on the concrete floor and set the cotton bales alight.
We wake early doors to the sound of the Trencherfield steam whistle summonin' us t'mill for another day. But as they say - England's bread hangs on Lancashire's thread.

[* a snack favoured also by the men of Wigan, many of them miners, usually bread-and-dripping, with cold tea, carried in a flat tin called a snap-can - see George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier]

And here is the towpath which a century ago provided fresh air and respite for those mill workers as they ate their lunch-time snaps:

09.03.06 Wigan Pier canal & towpath

Wigan Pier Quarter & canals notice
[Public display boards by Wigan Heritage Services]

The power of water
And so, strangely, we come full-circle.

Water - the canals, the steam - was the power behind the early production of textiles, employing many women and children in horrendous conditions, as the full logic of the Industrial Revolution took its vice-like grip on the emerging economies of what we have come to know as the 'developed world'; but even now in other parts of the globe water remains both a critical force potentially for good, and often an almost unattainable resource.

Women as water workers
Vast numbers of women and children in the developing world continue to toil many hours a day just to obtain water to sustain their very existence.

Life in places like Wigan was harsh and short for women and men, alike, a century ago. It remains, as Oxfam tells us in the topical context of International Women's Day, particularly harsh even now for women in places such as Iraq, where water continues to be inaccessible for many.

The gendered meanings of sustainability
This is where we begin to understand what 'sustainability' is really about.... the just and equitable distribution of basic physical resources and accessible socio-economic opportunities, for everyone, women as much as men, the world over.

In terms of future global sustainability and equity, as the Gender and Water Alliance also reminds us, water remains a critically gendered issue.


Read more about Gender & Women and about Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water; and see more photographs of around Liverpool & Merseyside.

Hope Street Suitcases 214x113 The Hope Street 'Suitcases', installed by John King in 1998, are at the junction with Mount Street, by LIPA (the old 'Liverpool Institute') and Liverpool School of Art, opposite Blackburne House Centre for Women. The labelled suitcases 'belong' to many of Hope Street Quarter's most illustrious names and organisations.

Hope Street Suitcases, Liverpool: 'A Case History by John King'

This installation, entitled 'A Case History', was created by John King, and first on view in 1998. It is in the heart of Liverpool's Hope Street Quarter, an area with a wonderful cultural offer and many attractive restaurants and bars.

Its positioning was altered in 2006 in the course of the upgrade of Hope Street's public realm, when the area was levelled and seating and a tree were added. The view down Mount Street to the River Mersey is stunning.

There is a noticeboard (pictured in part below) alongside this public art installation with a numbered diagram which gives information about who or where the some of the suitcases and packages 'belong'. Those cases with 'owners' are demarked by labels which are explained on the noticeboard. Some further details and links follow:

Hope Street Suitcases (numbered)

1. Arthur Askey (1900-1982) comedian, who attended the Liverpool Institute for Boys.

2. Henry Booth (1788-1869) was a corn merchant and railway pioneer; he was born in Rodney Street and founded the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, opened in 1830 as the first railway line intended for passengers.

3. Josephine Butler (1828-1906), feminist pioneer in social welfare and the abolition of slavery.

4. Robert Cain (1826-1907), brewer, who built the Philharmonic Public House on Hope Street.

5. Anne Clough (women's rights champion, 1820-1892) and her brother Arthur Clough (poet, 1819-1861), who lived in Rodney Street.

6. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) the author, who lectured and gave readings in the Liverpool Institute.

7. Dr William Henry Duncan (1805-1863) Liverpool's first Medical Officer of Health, who was largely responsible for the 1845 Sanitary Act, and lived in Rodney Street.

8. Alan Durband (1927-1993), who taught English at the Liverpool Institute and was a founding mover for Hope Street's Liverpool Everyman Theatre.

9. Hahnemann Hospital*, an 1886 Queen Anne Revival building, and also the first Homeopathic Hospital in Britain, sited in Hope Street.

10. Kwok Fong, born in Canton in 1882 and a member of Liverpool's Chinese community, helped Chinese and Asian crews sailing from Liverpool.

11. E. Chambre Hardman (1898-1988), photographer, whose house and studio at 59 Rodney Street is now in the care of the National Trust.

12. George Harrison (1943-2001), musician and a member of The Beatles, who attended The Liverpool Institute.

13. June Henfrey (d.1992), the Liverpool University lecturer in Ethnic Studies in the Department of Sociology who came from Barbados and helped to establish Blackburne House Centre for Women.

14. Sir Robert Jones (1855-1933), introducer, with his friend Thurston Holland, of the medical X-ray at the Royal Southern Hospital and the Liverpool Radium Institute (now Josephine Butler House*) which in 1882 moved to 1 Myrtle Street, by the Hope Street junction.

15. John Lennon (1940-1980), musician and member of The Beatles, who attended Liverpool School of Art*.

16. The Liverpool Institue for Performing Art (LIPA), which opened in 1995/6 with strong support from Sir Paul McCartney, of which Mark Featherstone-Witty was (and is) Founding Principal.

17. The Liverpool Poets: Adrian Henri (1932-2000), who was a founding supporter and Patron of CAMPAM and HOPES: The Hope Street Association and who lived in Mount Street, Roger McGough (b.1937), and Brian Patten (b.1946)

18. R.J. Lloyd, linguist who attended Liverpool Institute and promoted Esperanto.

19. James Martineau (1802-1900), theologian who lived in Mount Street.

20. Sir Paul McCartney (b.1942), musician and member of The Beatles, who attended Liverpool Insitute and was co-founder of and still contributes substantially to the development of LIPA.

21. Brendan McDermott, who was a painter and print-maker and taught at the Liverpool School of Art.

22. Dr Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967), Principal Conductor of the (later, Royal) Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra between 1942 and 1963.

23. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), the architect who designed Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral.

24. (Lady) Margaret Simey (1906-2004), social and poltical activist who supported the founding of Blackburne House Centre for Women and for many years lived almost next door, in Blackburne Terrace.

25. Stuart Sutcliffe (1940-1962), musician and early member of The Beatles, who attended Liverpool School of Art.

26. Reverend HH Symonds (1885-1958), Headmaster of Liverpool Institute and countryside enthusiast who in 1934 founded the Friends of the Lake District.

27. Sam Walsh (1934-1989), Irish-born artist who taught at Liverpool School of Art.


See also
Hope Steet Quarter and the Suitcases
Liverpool's Two Cathedrals and
Camera & Calendar.

[* Please note that some of these buildings are to be - or when you read this may have already been - demolished or redeveloped for new use.]

Many of the people and places above are, as their weblinks reveal, inter-woven in fascinating ways. Liverpool's Hope Street area was self-evidently a knowledge quarter long before the term was coined.

Do you know more about any of these people and institutions and their history? Can you tell us more about how the 'Suitcases' were commissioned or installed? Or are there others also whom ideally you'd like to see celebrated via A Case History?

If so, please do share your information, recollections and ideas below. Thank you!

Liverpool At Christmas

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Liverpool Nativity 220x125 07.12.16 009a.jpg The few weeks as 2007 ended and became 2008 saw much festive activity in Liverpool. Here, the set for the BBC's special production of the 'Liverpool Nativity' was surrounded by excited onlookers well before the performance started, but alongside all the high technology Saint George's Hall stood serene, just as it has for the past 150 years.

St George's Hall Liverpool, Christmas 2007 495x467 017a.jpg

The Liverpool Nativity was a live performance commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the Christmas story in a contemporary context, as Liverpool prepared to become European Capital of Culture 2008. The set for the performance was in the open, at the bottom of William Brown Street.

Liverpool's St George's Hall, constructed between 1838 and 1854 (original architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes), is regarded as one of the finest examples of civic neoclassical architecture. Details of Hall opening times, features and events are available here.

For more photographs please see also Camera & Calendar

Xmas Tree & Piano 113x87 011b.jpg Sunday 23 December 2007 was the date for an occasion to remember: Carols Round the Christmas Tree at Sudley House, the historic home of a Victorian Mayor of Liverpool. The free singalong afternoon concert saw almost three hundred people came to enjoy the company and the carolling with Live-A-Music and the Children's Choir.

This event was supported by the National Museums Liverpool and offered a warm welcome to everyone. The musicians (Martin Anthony (Tony) Burrage, John Peace, Richard Gordon-Smith and Hilary Burrage) were all members of Live-A-Music, a group also known as Elegant Music. The children's choir of Mossley Hill Parish Church also performed.

Sudley House has an excellent tearoom for refreshments throughout the afternoon, and provides full disabled access. It is set in peaceful parkland and offers spectacular views across the River Mersey to the Wirral and beyond, to Moel Famau in Wales.

Visitor information and location and travel advice for Sudley House is available here.

See also:
Sudley House: Victorian Home Of A Mayor Of Liverpool

Liverpool's Ancient Chapel Of Toxteth, Dingle Gaumont Cinema, The Turner Nursing Home & Dingle Overhead Railway Station

Autumn Glory In Sefton Park

Sefton Park, Liverpool: Winter Solstice 2006

For more articles please visit History of Liverpool and The Music.

Sudley House, Liverpool 29 Oct. 2007 Aigburth is a long-established residential area within sight of Liverpool Cathedral. Amongst the many surprises in this enduring part of the city is the National Museum Liverpool's newly refurbished Sudley House, tucked away behind Rose Lane, Carnatic Halls and Mossley Hill Church. Bequeathed to the City by Emma Holt, daughter of a Victorian merchant, it offers a major art collection.

Mossley Hill Church, Liverpool, 1 Dec. 2007

Sudley House, Liverpool, 29 Oct. 2007

Sudley House veranda & conservatory, Liverpool, 29 Oct. 2007

Sudley House, Liverpool, view to the River Mersey, the Wirral & Moel Famau, 1 Dec. 2007

Sudley House, Liverpool, wall & stables , 29 Oct. 2007

Sudley House & Holt Field , Liverpool, 29 Oct. 2007Sudley House Hillsborough Memorial Garden, Liverpool 29 Oct. 2007Sudley House wallside walk, Liverpool, 29 Oct. 2007Sudley House conservatory, Liverpool,  29 Oct. 2007

North Sudley Road looking to Liverpool Cathedral (below Sudley House & Holt Field), Liverpool, 20 Jan. 2007

Sudley House contains works by artists such as Gainsborough, Reynolds, Landseer and Turner. This is the only surviving Victorian merchant art collection in Britain still hanging in its original location.

The earliest resident of the house was Nicholas Robinson, a rich corn merchant, who bought the land and built the original house somewhere between 1811 and 1823. The architect may have been Thomas Harrison. Robinson was Mayor of Liverpool in 1828-9. He lived in the house until his death in 1854, and his two daughters continued to live there until their own deaths in 1883.

Sudley was then sold to George Holt, a ship owner and merchant, who made many alterations to the property. He acquired the art collection which remains in the house, which, with its contents, was in 1944 bequeathed to the City of Liverpool by his daughter Emma.

See also: History of Liverpool

Carols Round The Christmas Tree At Sudley House

Liverpool's Ancient Chapel Of Toxteth, Dingle Gaumont Cinema, The Turner Nursing Home & Dingle Overhead Railway Station

Autumn Glory In Sefton Park

Sefton Park, Liverpool: Winter Solstice 2006

Please see additional photographs at Camera & Calendar

More information on Sudley House and visitor arrangements is available here.

St Andrew's Old Church, Kingsbury, Churches Conservation Trust notice (120x168).jpg Almost within throwing distance of the new Wembley Stadium in Brent there lies another, vastly older but sadly forgotten building - the 11th Century St. Andrew's Old Church, in the grounds of the present fine establishment. Father John Smith and his parishioners are working hard to renew the present grim Church Hall and to reclaim the old church and churchyard for the local community.

Father John T. Smith 07.8.23 (160x140).jpg St Andrew's Old Church red roman bricks (100x162).jpg For Father John Smith these small red bricks have a special significance; they suggest there was a church on the site of the photograph even back in Saxon times. The bricks are the original Roman evidence of the ancient (eleventh century) church which lies adjacent to the 'new' St Andrew's Church, Kingsbury, within the grounds of his incumbency.

There is a great ambition in the parish congregation for the 'old' church and, especially the churchyard, with its many historic graves, to become a place of rest and respite in this busy part of London. Local people are giving their time and energy generously to clear the pathways and make more evident the generous clues to the area's history which the overgrown graves can offer.

This plan, part of an intended programme to replace the past-its-best Church Hall with a lively and responsive building which will serve all who live in the area, is surely one which many will wish to support.

St Andrew's Old Church, Kingsbury, and graveyard with cleared path (480x360).jpg

St Andrew's Old Church, Kingsbury, H.W. Burgess family vault, 1861-1900 Grade 1 listed (260x197).JPG St Andrew's Old Church tower 07.8.23 (260x52).jpg St Andrew's Old Church, Kingsbury (front door view)  07.8.23 (260x217).jpg


St Andrew's Old Churchyard cleared paths (180x240) 07.8.23.jpg St Andrew's Old Church tombstones (180x230).jpg

'Temporary' Church Hall behind St Andrew's Church, Kingsbury 07.8.23 (160x213).jpg St Andrew's Church Hall, crack in wall corner (160x46) 07.8.23.jpg St Andrew's Church new access ramp (in keeping with style of church) 160x206 07.8.23.jpg

Cherry Blossom (small) 70x90.jpg The cherry blossom in Liverpool's Sefton Park has been very early this year; it has already offered much delight to those who stroll along the middle lakesides, the blossoms pink, cream, white and even cerise. But one tree is still in glorious full bloom as we reach May Day eve.

Cherry Blossom Sefton Park Liverpool 07.4.30 for MayDay 480x380.jpg























See also: Sefton Park's Grebes And Swans

Liverpool's Sefton Park, Swans, Herons And Grebes

Sefton Park, Liverpool: Winter Solstice 2006

Friends Of Sefton Park

Lips talking (small) 65x79.jpg Today is International Mother Language Day. Celebrated for the first time in the Millennium Year, it is a programme promoted by UNESCO, the 2007 theme being multilingualism.
But why is it important?

The promotion of multilingualism lies at the heart of International Mother Language Day. Introduced in 2000 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 21 February is the day in the year when we are asked to recognise the uniqueness and significance of the 6,000 languages known to humankind.

In doing this however UNESCO has not set itself against the grain of 'progress', for the other emphasis on this date is acknowledgement of the value of shared language, of the ability to communicate in more than simply one's own mother tongue.

Powerful instruments
UNESCO offers a strong rationale for its promotion of mother languages and multilingualism.

These are, it says, 'the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.... [helping us to develop a] fuller awareness of linguistic traditions across the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.'

Linguapax
A corollary of this approach is the on-going (since 1986) UNESCO Lingupax project, which aims to promote a 'culture of peace' through the promotion of multilingual education and respect for linguistic diversity.

In that respect it seems sensible that people resident in a country learn to speak its main, official language/s, that they are also encouraged to respect and use the language of their immediate culture, and that schools offer those who wish it the opportunity to learn languages which may be culturally and geographically far removed from immediate experience.

Idealistic but important
Idealistic and architypically platitudinous these notions may be..... but who could deny the truths behind them?

The need to talk meaningfully and insightfully with one another has surely never been more pressing.



Liverpool Toxteth Chapel (small) 100x143.jpgOne of Liverpool's most significant and fascinating historic areas is barely known even by the city's own residents; so Monday Women arranged a visit. The area lies in the heart of Toxteth - Dingle, comprising four adjacent sites: the early seventeenth century Ancient Chapel of Toxteth (the original place of worship of astronomer Jeremiah Horrox or Horrocks), the Turner Nursing Home built by Alfred Waterhouse in 1882-5, Dingle Overhead Railway Station, constructed deep underground and opened in 1896, and the Dingle Gaumont Cinema, erected on the site of the old Picturedrome in 1937.

Liverpool Toxteth Chapel inside.jpg
The general perception is that Liverpool has few really serious historic sites. Interesting architecture, Yes, in abundance; 'old' buildings, No. On Saturday 16 November 2006 several dozen members, families and friends of Monday Women and CAMPAM set out on a beautifully sunny afternoon to discover why this perception is not always accurate.

The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth
Liverpool Toxteth Chapel inscription100x312.jpg






We congregated first in the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, opened especially for us by its warden, Annette Butler. She and local historian Christina Clarke (to both of whom we owe enormous thanks) had a remarkable tale to tell about the history of this simple and appealing building, constructed variously at times between 1604 and 1618. The Chapel is now owned, and used, by the Unitarians, but was built and developed by Puritan dissenters from the Church of England.

The site of the Chapel is that of the thirteenth century royal hunting Park in Toxteth, sold late in the sixteenth century to the Earl of Derby. He in turn sold it to Puritan families from around the Lancashire towns of Bolton and Ormskirk who were seeking more freedom of conscience in their religious practices, using a place which had been Crown property and was thus not subject to parish law or to enforcement of regular attendance at the parish church. [See: The History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth, Lost Villages of Liverpool: Pt. 1, The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby 1826-93 and map Toxteth (Old O.)]

Liverpool Toxteth Chapel graveyard 180x225.jpgEven with sunshine outside, the inside of the Chapel feels dark and close (perhaps in part because the winters of the seventeenth century were bitter), the pews being closely placed, but with an appealing and open gallery area above them, and an impressively large pulpit at the centre of the south wall. Over the centuries the building itself has been considerably extended, not least to adapt the previous schoolhouse (built in 1611) into the access point for the organ loft.

In contrast to the closeness of Toxteth Chapel itself, our visit to the graveyard found it calm and airy, with dappled light through the mature trees, as we examined the columned arcade and headstones of such local luminaries as Richard Vaughan Yates , who devised Princes Park, and the cartographer Richard Horwood [A to Z of Regency London]. Many other well-known local family names, including the Mellors, are also to be found there.

Jeremiah Horrox or Horrocks (1618 or 1619 - 1641)
Liverpool Toxteth Chapel Horrox plaque-closeup.jpgAmongst other fascinating plaques inside the Chapel is one commemorating the brief life and momentous work of Jeremiah Horrox (as spelt on this plaque; or Horrocks as often spelt in the reference books). Horrocks was the youthful astronomer who first observed the transit of the planet Venus, on Sunday 4 December - 24 November by reference to the Julian Calendar then in use - 1639. (There is an anecdote, possibly apocryphal, that he calculated this rare occurrence and had to pre-empt much of the Curate's duties he may have performed in Hoole, Lancashire, that day, in order to observe the transit via a telescope he constructed himself, reflecting the sun's image onto a piece of card.) [Jeremiah Horrocks,Astonomer (1618? - 1641) and His Times: No.6 (Chorley Civic Society Occasional Papers)]

Dingle's Gaumont Cinema
Liverpool Toxteth Gaumont Cinema Dingle Lane & Park Lane160x216.jpgToxteth Chapel is on the north-western corner of Park Road (running parallel to the River Mersey) and Dingle Lane (which goes from Princes Park directly towards the river). On the south-western side of this junction is a cinema now unused for its original purpose, the Gaumont, designed by W. E. Trent FRIBA, FSI (Chief Architect of Gaumont-British) specifically to accommodate the large fan-shaped curve of the roads at this corner, and opened on 29 March 1937.

The Gaumont Cinema, an art deco building erected on the site of the old Dingle Picturedrome (photo in Edwardian A-Z and Directory of Liverpool and Bootle: South Liverpool Part 3; demolished 1931), must have been very impressive in its hey day - there are many features reminiscent of the famous Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Hope Street. It has (or had?) an orchestra pit and Wurlitzer organ console (again, the Phil has a fine organ, almost unique in rising from the stage). The cinema seated 1,500 people, 615 of them in the balcony.

It is said that the projection room was the first in Britain to have the Gaumont 'projectomatic' system which automatically changed the reels during projection of films, as well as controlling the houselights and stage curtains. There was also a Western Electric Mirrorphonic sound system.

Sadly, the Gaumont lost its originally intended function in September 1966, to become a Top Rank Bingo Club which opened in January 1967. We were not therefore able to go into the building to see more as we passed on to the south-eastern corner of this 'site visit' and the next venue of our Monday Women trip in November.

The Turner Nursing (or Memorial) Home
Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Turner Nursing Home 140x211.jpgThe story behind the Turner Nursing Home is very sad, but the outcome is a testament to the positive thinking of Mrs Charles Turner, wife of the Liverpool Member of Parliament who was also first Chairman of the Liverpool Docks and Harbour Board - the tale of which Board we shall continue at the next and final stop of our Dingle-Toxteth 'tour'. The entire Turner Memorial Home project commemorates Anne Turner's husband Charles Turner MP (13 June 1803 - 15 October 1875) and their son Charles William (16 October 1845 - 13 September 1880), who died tragically.

Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Turner Nursing Home sculpture 40x100.jpgIn memory of her husband and son Mrs Turner commissioned the architect Alfred Whitehouse to build a strikingly asymmetric and strangely attractive 'home' for retired and 'distressed' gentlemen - a function which it still has. In the entrance lobby there is a lovely marble statue of the two male Turners, father and son, created for the opening of the Home in 1885 by the London-based sculptor Sir William Hamo Thorneycroft R.A. (1850 - 1925). This sculpture seemed to fascinate our younger companions on this visit, perhaps because it is actually so sympathetic and life-like.

Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Turner Nursing Home chapel 140x281.jpgLiverpool Dingle Toxteth Turner Nursing Home turret 140x53.jpgThe red ashlar, turreted Home has a chapel, almost church-sized, with an arcade of octagonal columns and stained glass windows (by Heaton, Butler and Bayne); and beyond the spacious communal living areas we saw wide lawns sweeping down towards the River Mersey. This is a gracious reminder of times gone by, still of great value to the community, which shows us just how elegant Dingle and Toxteth must have been a century or more ago.

Dingle Overhead Railway Station
Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Overhead Railway Station (looking down)160x168.jpg Finally on this special afternoon, as the light drew in, we retraced our steps to Kedlestone Street, the road opposite the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, and to what appeared to be a short side-alley leading to a mechanics' garage. Few of us had any idea what would come next.... As we approached, the owner, Nigel, opened the doors and we were led down an alarmingly steep slope to another world - the world of the legendary Liverpool Overhead Railway designed by leading engineers of the time, Sir Douglas Fox and James Henry Greathead.... a return to the time of the 'Dockers' Umbrella' and Liverpool's great era of engineering and transport.

Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Overhead Station group 160x217.jpgThis was the site of Dingle Station, the final stop of the Overhead Railway route from Southport, Seaforth, Litherland and Aintree, via the city centre and the frantically busy docks, to the south end of the city. Interestingly, especially in the light of current-day debates elsewhere in Liverpool, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board had on a number of occasions from 1852 onwards had travel route proposals rejected or returned for modification in the light of the increasing demands for public transport to and from the city centre.

Liverpool 'The Dockers' Umbrella' book by Paul Bolger 160x181.jpgEventually however, in 1888, a group of prominent businessmen formed the Liverpool Overheard Railway Company and obtained the powers of the Dock Board by an Act of Transfer. Work on the elevated railway therefore began in October 1889. [See: Seventeen Stations to Dingle: Liverpool Overhead Railway Remembered; Liverpool Overhead Railway.]

Dingle Station opened for passengers on 21 December 1896 and closed to the public fifty years ago, on 30 December 1956. The station platform (a full 170 feet by 28 feet) has now been demolished, but the tunnel and entrance subway remain in use as a car repair business, Roscoe Engineering. There is also an astonishing extension to the station - a kilometer long passage from this point to an opening on the Herculaneum Dock 'down by the river', and thence to the docks via the factory site of the Herculaneum Pottery which, though the company closed in1840, must have triggered a lot of local industry.

Some of us, hugely curious, then made our wary unlit way down to the Herculaneum tunnel entrance and Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Overhead Station Tunnel to Herculaneum Dock 160x232.jpgback, and others, less nimble, used the time to learn more from our host Nigel about the remaining features of the station (the red buffer Liverpool Toxteth Dingle Overhead Station buffer 100x98.jpg hidden behind mechanics' equipment; the sturdy hooks and notices...). And finally we returned to Park Road as the day ended, much enlighted by our visit and debating energetically how future generations would see the places we had visited - places which (as evidenced by the enormously ambitious commissions in Toxteth - Dingle a century or so ago, engaging the most prestigious architects, designers and engineers the nation had to offer) had in times past witnessed great wealth and opportunity and then, nearer to the present day, distressing poverty and huge challenges.

'Which way now?' was the question on everyone's lips as we hit the road for home.

See also: History of Liverpool

Sudley House: Victorian Home Of A Mayor Of Liverpool

Read the discussion of this article which follows the book 'E-store'.....

May Day

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08.05.20 Sefton Park 028a 120x72.jpg May Day has been with us for centuries. Its overt meanings, and even the actual date, may change, but the sense of taking a day to do something different and more personal remains. People in every age and every part of the world have welcomed the onset of Summer and the chance to throw a party.

It's May Day today. The first of May, that unequivocal date which, unlike the contested first day of Spring (is it the vernal equinox on 20/21 March, or the newer BBC version on 1 March?), is firmly set in the European calendar.

When I was small I genuinely thought that May Day was about Morris Dancers and Maypoles. We lived in villages in Hampshire, Wiltshire and then Gloucestershire, and my father was a rural science teacher who took his local community involvement seriously - so we all enjoyed a flavour of the festive rituals of many centuries, and are none the worse for that.

Holding on to traditions and ideas
I suppose that in some ways that was the end of a very long period in history, already mostly shattered by global stife and the increasing grip of technology. Looking back, it might be seen as idyllic, though that it certainly wasn't; give me double glazing, wider horizons and lots of running hot water any day.

But there are vestiges of the 'old' May Day way of life which still resonate. The festivals (May Day, Harvest and what have you) were unselfconscious and for everyone. Our understanding of the seasons and cycles of the earth - I learned about crop rotation at a very early age, and about its history back to mediaeval times not much later - is something which still informs my perceptions, albeit now in terms of eco-systems. And the things we did were family inclusive; sometimes overly so, but at least everyone was there.

New meaning for old ideas
Only after I came to the city did I learn that there was also another 'meaning' to May Day - its use, on the first Monday of May, as a celebration of workers' rights. Thus, 1 May 1886 in the United States saw the very first International Workers' Day.... not to be confused with 1 September, which after historical debate is now set in America as Labor Day.

Such reinvention of celebratory events is not however confined to the U.S.A. In Liverpool since 1978, when the date first became a Bank Holiday, we have seen the first Monday in May used to underpin general festivities, to recognise Trade Unions and, occasionally, to celebrate shire horses. The scope is huge in a place with such long historical links to labour, but also with wide-open spaces such as Sefton Park right by the city centre.

Modern May Day
Activities this year for May Day are a million miles away from my hazy childhood recollections. There range from a demonstration in London to promote a Trade Union Freedom Bill, to a grass-roots Labor Arts Festival in Edmonton, Canada and a Maypole event at Liverpool's Tudor half-timbered Speke Hall and Morris dancers (yes!) outside our wonderful St. George's Hall, via big marches and strikes across the U.S.A. in favour of regularising the status of illegal workers.

Thus morphs the traditional May Day in a more politically conscious era, whether the objective be workers' rights or a determiniation to see celebration through the arts of community in a more fragmented world. We can only be glad, whatever the detailed argument about the causes espoused, that people still see fit to make the effort.

We have lost much of the original understanding of May Day, and I'd guess that many people active today are not even aware of its historical roots. But things change only in some ways. For every person involved in worthy trade union activity today, there are probably still hundreds carrying on the original idea behind May Day, taking a day off work and getting out their lawnmower or barbecue set, as they prepare for some family'n'friends time in the garden.

Let's hope the sun shines for everyone, demonstrators, gardeners and revellers alike.