Liverpool, England – September 1999

Liverpool really does have something for everyone. Last time I wrote about The Beat Route – the history of popular music and the on-going club scene.

Bill Bryson, in his “Notes from a Small Island” waxed lyrical about the pubs in Liverpool and referred, tongue in cheek, to the Festival of Litter.

The Festival of Litter is winding down and the restoration of Victorian

Liverpool is speeding up. The three universities; Liverpool, John Moores and Liverpool Hope have done much to restore and adapt old buildings for new uses and funds from the European Community have been matched by private investment to produce multi-use buildings inside old shells.


These include restaurants to satisfy all tastes. I ate recently at Armadillo in Mathew Street and, while it is not cheap it has very good Nouveau Cuisine.

The best restaurant I have found is The Left Bank which is out in the

suburbs at One Church Road, Allerton, near Penny Lane, of Beatles Fame. It is small, with a remarkable French-style menu and excellent, friendly, service. If one must eat cheaply I recommend the cafeterias at The Bluecoat Chambers during the day and The Everyman Bistro under the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street, in the evening.

History in Architecture

For history buffs, Liverpool is a delight. It scarcely existed in the early 1700s, but then expanded rapidly with the growth of international trade and shipping.

The Georgian terraces and huge semi-detached houses, built around the

perimeters of parks are evidence of the money made from exports of the products of the Industrial Revolution – textiles, metal products, china and chemicals – and from imports of cotton, sugar and timber. One example of a public park around which big houses were built is Birkenhead Park across the River Mersey from Liverpool.

This park was designed by one Joseph Paxton and funded by the nouveau riche who wanted to look out on landscaped space. It was so successful that it inspired Frederick Olmstead, an American who subsequently designed New YorkÂ’s Central Park and MontrealÂ’s Mount Royal Park.

Just walking around Liverpool, one finds fascinating bits of history not

always shown in guide books. One example is a brick tower on Crown Street, a now nondescript road behind some university residences. On the tower are plaques and pictures commemorating the first public railway station in the world which opened 15 September 1830.

That was when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened but the City of Liverpool would not allow steam locomotives in the city. The rich people could build their big houses around the edge of a park but they did not want dirty, smelly, steam locomotives in their back yard.

However, the rich people did want to take the train to Manchester so, the carriages (railway cars) ran downhill under gravity from Crown Street station to the Edge Hill Engine Station where they were coupled

up to a locomotive. On the return journey, the locomotive was uncoupled at Edge Hill and the cars(carriages) were pulled up hill to Crown Street by ropes wound by a steam powered winch at Edge Hill. This was 60 years before the time when a man, with a red flag, was required to walk in front of a horseless carriage (automobiles).

A item of particular interest to Canadians is a building on Myrtle Street which was the Sheltering Homes, established by donations in memory of 70 Canadian soldiers who had been in Liverpool before being killed in the First World War. The names are listed on the building. The strong historical connection between Liverpool and Canada continues to be recognised by the fact that one of the large docks still

operating is the Canada Dock.

A modern sculpture that amused me is on Hope Street, between the two

cathedrals. It is called “A Case History” and consists of many pieces of baggage representing the many people who passed through the Port of Liverpool on their way to Ireland or North America. I doubt that Paul McCartney went to North America by ship but one of the guitar cases is alleged to be modelled on one of his.

Lady Lever Art Gallery

Birkenhead Park is not the only interesting location on the other side of the River Mersey. If one has a car, or is prepared to walk as I do, there is the Lady Lever Art Gallery located at Port Sunlight Village, about 5 miles (8km) from Liverpool. The gallery has an outstanding collection of English 18th Century furniture, superb Wedgewood ceramics and romantic paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

The gallery building is itself a work of art and the two circular galleries contain Greek and 19th Century sculptures. The men can appreciate the fine female nudes in one gallery and the women can

appreciate the superb male nudes in the other gallery. I particularly

enjoyed seeing the display of Wedgewood murals, vases and tableware in all the colours that Josiah Wedgewood used; blue, green, black and a brown in which he tried to copy ancient Greek vases with new technology.

The gallery is located in a garden village built for those working in the Sunlight Soap factory in 1900. What luxury compared with how workers lived in Liverpool in those times.

Boat enthusiasts can travel on to Ellesmere Port where the Inland Waterways Museum is located. This is at the point where the Shropshire Union narrow canal meets the Manchester Ship Canal. Again this shows the history of the Industrial Revolution – superbly done with real barges and working locks as well as well documented displays.

Sudley House

Back across the river and out into the suburbs of Liverpool again is Sudley House, one of the eight museums, operated by the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, for which one pays only one entrance fee – £2.50 = US$4 = Cdn$5 = A$5.

Sudley House was the home of a Victorian magnate who was so rich that he did not have to build his house at the edge of a park. He built the park right round his house. The furnishings are just as they were when the merchant, George Holt, lived there. He collected paintings by British artists of the time including Landseer, Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough.

Walk on to Allerton and you can eat at Sgt.PepperÂ’s Bistro, just by the seat on which Paul McCartney is alleged to have drafted the lyric to Penny Lane.

ThereÂ’s something for everyone in Liverpool.


If you can get to Liverpool this September or October there are special

events in Pop and Classical Music and in Contemporary Art.

From 24 September to 7 November, Liverpool is organising BritainÂ’s first Biennial of Contemporary Art. Over 60 artists from 25 countries will be taking part in the exhibition which will be housed at many locations from the Anglican Cathedral to the Tate Gallery at the Albert Dock.

Also, a team of radical artists will be taking to the streets with their contributions to the event; film, video and performance art combined with more traditional painting and photography in venues such as car parks, warehouses and alleys around the city, challenging

viewers to rethink stereotypical views of Liverpool.

More than the Beatles

In Liverpool, there is more to Pop Music than the Beatles. Among LiverpoolÂ’s best known current bands are Cast, Space and the Lightning Seeds with Ooberman close on their heels. Liverpool has over 25 recording studios so new bans can make demo tapes.

Liverpool Now is held at The Picket Live Music Venue in October. Phil Hayes, who runs The Picket says “If we decide that a band is good enough, they get a weekend slot. If they pull more than 30 people they get paid too!

Then, for wrinklies like me there is The Philharmonic Hall. But listen to how the season starts – with Van Morrison and Lonnie Donegan! The Royal

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has a full season under Petr Altricter who commutes from Germany to conduct this world class orchestra.

This wrinkly writer will be going on Wednesday, 22 September to hear a concert with Scottish flavour:

ArnoldÂ’s Overture Tam OÂ’Shanter, MendelssohnÂ’s Symphony No 3 “The Scottish” and Maxwell DaviesÂ’ “Orkney Wedding with Sunrise”. On October 3rd, there will be Paul Brady in Concert for lovers of Celtic music.


General Info

The writer lives in suburban Liverpool and sometimes sits on a wooden seat outside the bank in Penny Lane where it is said that Paul McCartney drafted the words to the famous song.

The fire station with its clean machines is long gone but the house where Paul and his mates wrote many of their earliest songs may be

visited by booking through The National Trust, Britain’s leading

conservation charity.

The former McCartney home, at Forthlin Road must be reached by minibus from Speke Hall, another National Trust property which is quite a contrast with the terraced house in which young Paul lived.

Speke Hall was built in 1490 and is one of the finest, black and white, half timbered buildings in Britain. To do justice to Speke Hall and Forthlin Road you will need a full day.

To see the sights of Liverpool will need a minimum of two more days so you will need to stay for three nights at the Liverpool Youth Hostel.

Phone 0171 248 6547 or FAX 0171 236 7681 (UK Central bookings).

A bunk there will cost you £11.75 = US$19.00 = Cdn or Aus

$30.00 per night and you must be a YHA member or carry a Hostelling International Card.

If you are chronologically no longer a youth, don’t worry. Many hostellers in Britain are, like me, youths of the 1950s and 1960s.

Public transport around Liverpool is excellent. To get to Speke hall take a number 25 bus from the City Centre.

Liverpool is 200 miles, 300km, North West of London. Get there by train from London Euston, but buy your ticket at least 7 days in advance. It will then cost you £20 return.

Chester is 30 miles South East of Liverpool. Get there by train or bus.

Liverpool is 30 miles (50KM) west of Manchester which is served by Canada 3000 out of Hogtown (Sorry, I mean Toronto). Various US Airlines fly directly to Manchester. From Amsterdam, KLM UK flies directly to Liverpool, Speke Airport.

There is some juxtaposition between Speke Hall, built 1490, and the old Liverpool Airport, purpose built in the 1930’s and the new Liverpool Airport built recently. The Old Hall is surrounded by runways but you can not see them from the house or the gardens.