Helen Rose’s Walking Diary: Liverpool. April 2017
Helen Rose Diary.
I visited Liverpool over the Easter holidays. My main reason for going was to visit the Tate Liverpool Art Gallery but there was so much more to see and I just loved the city and the Liverpudlians. They were so friendly and helpful to visitors. The city was clean, litter free and the buildings were sparkling white as they did not have the black smoke blowing in from the industrial works we had to the west of Glasgow. Regeneration in Glasgow had to include extensive cleaning of the stone buildings.
Liverpool is a city in the north west of England and sits on the eastern side of the River Mersey Estuary. Its growth as a major port was paralleled by the expansion of the city throughout the Industrial Revolution. Along with general cargo, freight, raw materials such as coal and cotton, the city was also involved in the Atlantic slave trade.
Liverpool was home to both the Cunard and White Star Line and was the port of registry of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, the RMS Lusitania, Queen Mary and Olympic. We stayed at the Adelphi Hotel which was built to welcome back the Titanic from the voyage. One of the large rooms at the Adelphi is an exact replica of the Smoking Room on the Titanic which gives an idea of the elegance and size of the ship.
The first thing we did was to take the ferry over the Mersey, as immortalised in the song, and saw the Royal Liver Building. It is the iconic symbol of Liverpool, built in 1911 and at the time the tallest building in Europe. It inspired the TV series the Liver Birds.
Of course, the most famous sons of Liverpool are the Beatles and we had to take a tour of all the places mentioned in their songs, We started at the Albert Dock and travelled past the Adelphi Hotel and Lime Street Station to Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, which is particularly linked to John Lennon as he used to climb over the walls to the gardens where there was a children’s home. It is rumoured that his ashes are scattered there as it is the only place that Yoko and Sean visit when they are in Liverpool. This is speculation and the site is derelict and gated but there are plans to create a visitors’ centre there as it was such an inspiration to John Lennon. There is an area in Central Park, New York, called Strawberry Fields near the Dakota Building where he was murdered. I have been there several times. It is peaceful and people often sit and play the guitar.
We visited all the places and houses where the Beatles spent time including the Cavern Club which isn’t the original one but was built from the bricks of the old one.
Art Galleries and Museums.
The Albert Dock is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses. It opened in 1846, and was the first structure in Britain to be built from cast iron, brick and stone, with no structural wood. It was also the first non-combustible warehouse system in the world. The Tate Liverpool is situated there and at the time of my visit had a Tracey Emin and William Blake exhibition. Unusual bed fellows but linked by Tracey Emin’s work My Bed! Other exhibitions had America as a theme including Ellsworth Kelly. There’s a lot to see at the Albert Dock and I did not have time to go to the Maritime Museum and the Museum of Slavery.
In the city I managed a trip to the Walker Art Gallery with the largest collection of Pre Raphaelites in Britain. A gem of a gallery with lots of Victorian treasures. The Victorian Philharmonic Dining Rooms were also enjoyable as a B listed building with the gent’s toilet as A listed so peeked in there when it was empty to see the roseate marble urinals. There are many listed buildings in Liverpool but I only saw them from the tour bus.
Southport is a Victorian seaside town on Merseyside situated 16 miles north of Liverpool and on the Irish Sea. It has extensive sand dunes and it is literally miles to walk out to the sea when the tide is out. Southport Pier is referred to as the first true “pleasure pier”, being one of the earliest pier structures to be erected using iron. A design from James Brunlees was approved at a cost of £8,700 and on 4 August 1859 a large crowd witnessed the driving home of the first support pile. The opening of the pier was celebrated on 2 August 1860. It is the second longest pier in Britain at 3.633 feet with Southend the longest. A little train goes out to the end of the pier but we walked out in the bracing wind and called in at the Penny Arcade with the old slot machines. From the end of the pier we could still not see the sea but the sand was full of razorbills. Fortified by tea in the Original Tea Rooms we headed back to Liverpool.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. During the Great Irish Famine in 1850 the Catholic population of Liverpool increased dramatically. About half a million predominantly Catholic, fled to England to escape the famine. Many embarked from Liverpool to travel to North America while others remained in the city. A new cathedral was needed. In 1853 Goss, then bishop, awarded the commission for the building of the new cathedral to Edward Welby Pugin. By 1856 the Lady Chapel of the new cathedral had been completed.
Later, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed a new cathedral which was never built. In 1959 there was a competition to design the new Cathedral. The requirement was first, for a congregation of 3,000 (which was later reduced to 2,000) to be able to see the altar, in order that they could be more involved in the celebration of the Mass and second, for the Lutyens crypt to be incorporated in the structure. Gibberd achieved these requirements by designing a circular building with the altar its centre, and by transforming the roof of the crypt into an elevated platform, with the cathedral standing at one end. It is an amazing modern structure dominating the skyline. Oscar Niemeyer in designing The Cathedral of Brasilia in 1970 appears to have been inspired by the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool.
A long weekend in Liverpool is just not long enough to see everything and enjoy everything the city has to offer but hopefully I will return. It is about 5 hours by road from Glasgow with a refreshment stop.
Coming attractions; The Pentlands.
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