Trying to catch up

Monday, July 24th 2017

The other day I was contacted by a friend. (Yes, even misanthropic old SilverTiger has managed to accumulate the odd friend…) He was worried because he had not heard from me for a while and, on looking at my blog, had seen that the latest entry apparently dated back to a couple of months before. It looked as though I had slipped quietly from the scene…

I was able to reassure my friend that I was still alive and reasonably well. I explained that we had made so many trips and visits in recent months that I had fallen seriously behind in writing them up. I was doing my best to catch up and was in fact posting regularly. This might not be obvious because I always give my blog posts the date on which the events described took place, not the date of posting. This is why it might seem, at a casual glance, that I have not posted anything recently.

At this moment, I am still writing up the last days of the month of May which were filled with our trip to Liverpool. That means I still have two months or so to catch up. If and when I do manage to bring the blog up to date, I shall probably delete this post as it will no longer serve any useful purpose.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Liverpool 2017 – Day 1

Saturday, May 27th 2017

Today we are setting out to spend four nights, and the five days enclosing them, in the renowned city of Liverpool. The map below shows its location relative to London.

Liverpool on the map
Liverpool on the map
(Click for Google Map)

The area now known as Liverpool was inhabited no later than the Iron Age and probably long before. In more recent times, the favourable position of the city at the mouth of the Mersey, caused it to grow and become one of the principal British sea ports. This in turn, caused the population to increase, bringing in many immigrants from abroad, mainly from Ireland which contributed something like a quarter of the populace, helping to create Liverpool’s unique character and accent. (For more details of its history, see Wikipedia’s History of Liverpool.)

The origin of the name Liverpool is disputed. ‘Pool’ presents no problem, referring as it does to that branch of the Mersey that was to become the city’s harbour and docks. It is the first part – Liver – that has caused arguments. Many strange and unlikely derivations have been proposed for this, though I find none particularly compelling. The one I like best (though that is no proof of its correctness) is that found in John Corry’s The History of Liverpool (see here). His suggestion is that the first part of the name derives from a local word, lither, meaning ‘lower’. In evidence, he cites another local name, Litherland, meaning ‘lower land’ and, more tellingly, quotes from the 1173 charter of Henry II wherein the town is said to be that ‘which the Lyrpul men call Litherpul’. (‘Lyrpul’ is one of the many variant spellings of the town’s name found in documents of the period.) Personal preferences aside, though, I think we must describe the name’s origin as ‘uncertain’.

It takes around two and a half hours to make the journey from Euston to Liverpool Lime Street Station. The train was full and we had to occupy our reserved seats which, for people like us with long legs, were rather cramped. At journey’s end it was pleasant to unfold ourselves and resort to the station’s branch of Costa Coffee, while we planned our next move. This was to find our pre-booked hotel and dump our bags.

The Nadler Liverpool
The Nadler Liverpool

Our hotel is the Nadler Liverpool in Seel Street. I was intrigued by the style of the brickwork of the hotel and surrounding buildings as they seemed quite unique to me. It turns out that in times past, this quarter was where ropes and cables for ships were made. The streets are straight and – we were told – the same length as the finished ropes that were put out in them to dry.

The Nadler is unusual among hotels in that it has no dining room. On the other hand, each bedroom has a kitchenette including a sink, kettle and microwave. (Cooking in the room is discouraged in most hotels but in this one, on the contrary, they provide the means!)

We had booked one of the smaller rooms, thinking this adequate as we were not going to do more than sleep there but when the receptionist saw two rather tall people coming to check in she thought it right to warn us that the room we had reserved was really small and that we might perhaps prefer to larger one. We inspected the room and saw she was right: it was tiny. So, despite having to pay more than we had planned, we swapped it for a bigger one. That, however, was not the end of our room-swapping adventures, as I shall recount in tomorrow’s episode.

Street view near the hotel
Street view near the hotel

Our luggage stowed, we made tea and had a little rest, then went out to explore. Now that ropes are no longer manufactured in this area, it has released some rather large buildings for other purposes. There are offices, restaurants and entertainment venues. The latter made me a little nervous because I thought the noise of night clubs might keep us awake at night – something we had experienced on a trip to Blackpool (see Blackpool 2009). In the event, there was no problem at all and we were no disturbed by music or any other noise.

Bem Brasil
Bem Brasil

This building in Hanover Street currently accommodates the restaurant Bem Brasil but was obviously built originally for other purposes, perhaps as a factory or warehouse. Utilitarian it might be but it was also carefully styled and finished. People cared what their commercial premises looked like in those (presumably Victorian) decades. It’s a pity that some of their aesthetic sensibility has not rubbed off on modern architects whose main preoccupation seems to be to foist on customers the ugliest structure they can persuade them to accept.

Penelope
Penelope
Jorge Pardo, (installed) 2004

In Wolstenhome Square we spied this rather striking piece of public art. It consists of coloured sphere on twisting stalks. It was made as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2002 and is by Jorge Pardo, the title being Penelope. The square was fenced off for building or repair work, and we could not come any closer to the installation than this.

Liverpool Sailors' Home Gateway
Liverpool Sailors’ Home Gateway

In complete contrast with the foregoing is this beautifully made gate, both a work of art in its own right and a reminder of Liverpool’s maritime history. The gate once belonged to the Liverpool Sailors’ Home, founded in 1850, that stood in the area known as Sailor Town (the site is now occupied by John Lewis). The decorative panel above the gate proper features a Liver Bird, the symbol of the city. Designed by John Cunningham and cast at Henry Poole & Sons’ Albion Foundry, it was finally removed in 1951 but has now been restored and re-erected as a memorial to the thousands of seamen who passed through Liverpool and lodged at the Home between voyages.

12 Hanover Street
12 Hanover Street

This strikingly handsome building is known simply as 12 Hanover Street. It is currently owned and inhabited by the Liverpool Housing Trust but was built in 1889-90 for Ellis & Co, ship-owners and merchants. The architect was Edmund Kirby (1835-1920) of Liverpool, who used red brick and terracotta to good effect. The ground floor contained offices and the upper floors served for warehousing. The unusual turret shape adds to the charm of the Grade II listed building.

The Liverpool One Steps
The Liverpool One Steps

Liverpool One is a large (42 acre) shopping, residential and leisure complex. Among other features it boasts this large stairway between John Lewis and Chavasse Park. Its central section has been imaginatively carpeted with Astro Turf, turning it into a meeting place, a hang-out spot and a venue for organized and impromptu events. The idea of climbing the steps was tempting but we were dissuaded by flagging energy levels!

The Arcade
The Arcade

Known more generally today as 81-89 Lord Street, this building with the beautiful red and orange variegated façade was built in 1901 by Liverpool architect Walter Aubrey (1864-1934) as an office block with retail units on the ground floor. Its original, and nicer, name was The Arcade. Unsurprisingly, it is Grade II listed.

The Lyceum Post Office
The Lyceum Post Office

This building, now looking a little sad and neglected, caught my attention because of the unusual name boldly displayed in bright metal letters: The Lyceum Post Office. Post offices are more commonly named after the area they serve or their position within the network. ‘Lyceum’ seemed to raise questions.

Lyceum reliefs
Lyceum reliefs

It turns out that this this Neo-Classical style edifice, designed by Chester architect Thomas Harrison 1744-1829) and built in 1801-2 was intended for a quite different purpose, that of subscription library and news room, though it later also became a gentlemen’s club. The Lyceum was designated a Grade II* building in 1952 but was sold to developers who in the 1970s applied for permission to demolish it. A campaign was mounted to save the Lyceum and its situation became more secure when the Post Office bought it in 1984.

The Lyceum's columned entrance
The Lyceum’s columned entrance

The Post Office found it necessary for economic reasons to close the Lyceum in 2004 and sold it. The new owners became bankrupt and sold it in their turn. The Lyceum’s fate now seems now to hang in the balance though its listing must, we hope, provide some protection from predatory developers. The entrance is at present hosting an exhibition entitled Dolce et Decorum Est, about the Battle of the Somme with items donated by the public. (More details here.)

The Radio City Tower aka St John's Beacon
The Radio City Tower aka St John’s Beacon

Continuing on, we passed under what is now a famous Liverpool landmark, the Radio City Tower also known as St John’s Beacon. Designed by James A. Roberts Associates and built in 1969, it is 138 metres (452 ft) tall and provides accommodation for the Radio City radio station and a restaurant and observation deck above it, though the restaurant is now closed.

St George's Hall
St George’s Hall

If we needed proof that Classical style architecture never goes out of fashion we can cite in evidence Liverpool’s splendid St George’s Hall. The Hall was built in 1841-56 as a public hall for concerts and other events but also included law courts (no longer used as such). The design was by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes (1813-47), based on the concept of a Classical temple of the Corinthian order. Elmes died before the project was completed and was relayed, first by John Weightman and Robert Rawlinson and finally by Sir Charles Cockerell. It is Grade I listed.

Lime Street Station
Lime Street Station

Our walk had brought us back to where we had started our visit earlier in the day, Lime Street Railway Station. Liverpool’s first station was at Crown Street but Lime Street was commissioned when it was realized that a station was needed nearer the centre of town. The new station was opened for use in 1836 but several stages of expansion and rebuilding followed, including the installation in the 1840s and 1860s of the magnificent glass roofs.

Crown Hotel
Crown Hotel

Dehydrated railway passengers arriving at Liverpool will be cheered by the sight of the Crown Hotel a few steps away from the station entrance.

Doorway, the Crown Hotel
Doorway, the Crown Hotel

The Crown Hotel was built in 1905 on the site of a previous pub called the Midland. The name of the architect seems not to be known which is a pity as he deserves to be credited for the what is apiece of that is authentic Art Nouveauin both the exterior and in the interior fixtures and fittings. Among other features, the pub is known for its elaborately moulded ceiling. The Grade II listed building is an Art Nouveau treasure.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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The Millennium Dome and Woolwich

Saturday, May 20th 2017

The Millennium Dome, aka The White Elephant, was built at the end of last century on Greenwich Peninsula (see map below) to house an exhibition called The Millennium Experience held during the year 2000. The project to build the Dome was controversial from the outset continued to be so in view of the fact that ticket sales and other income failed to cover the cost, leaving the taxpayer to pay the debt. Once the exhibition closed, there was uncertainty as to the future of the Dome and demolition seemed a likely outcome as nobody could be found to take it on. Its appearance is hardly prepossessing as it looks more like a deflated balloon supported on crutches than what I imagine when I see the word ‘dome’.

The current ownership of the Dome and surrounding area is a complex issue that I will not go into but that you can read about here. Suffice it to say that that Dome now forms part of an entertainment, dining and shopping complex bearing the name The O2.

The Dome and Woolwich on the map
The Dome and Woolwich on the map
(Click for Google Map)

We travelled to the Dome/O2 on the Jubilee Line tube. North Greenwich Station is close by the site. The Dome of course, does not stand in splendid isolation but is surrounded by other buildings. We did not explore these. Their presence does make it a little difficult to get agood photo of the Dome as a whole. The best way to do so seems to be from the air, a tactic currently beyond our means.

The Dome aka The O2
The Dome aka The O2

My name for this lame piece of architecture is the Cowpat, because I think its looks like a cow’s dropping with straws stuck in it. A more unsuitable structure for an exhibition or for use as an entertainment centre is hard to imagine.

Approaching the entrance
Approaching the entrance

From a distance you wonder whether there is even any space underneath the curved roof which seems to hug the ground with the intention of keeping people out. There is a strange ‘Tardis effect’, however, for when you arrive, it gives the impression of being bigger on the inside than on the outside! This was fortunate as confined spaces make me feel uneasy, especially when crowded.

On entering you are greeted by courteous and friendly uniformed security staff who politely request to see the contents of any bags you may be carrying. Some people regard this as an intrusion into their privacy – which it undoubtedly is – but given the dangers of the times in which we live I consider this a quite reasonable precaution and am happy to go along with it. (If you really do not want to undergo a bag search then you can refuse but in that case you will probably be denied admission.)

We walked around the interior intending to make a complete circuit but this proved not to be possible. There are considerable building works in progress inside the Dome and you eventually reach a dead end and have to go back. There follow below eight of the photos that I took as we went (photography is allowed) without comment as none seems needed. Some are multiple frames stitched together and may show a small amount of distortion. (Click to see larger versions.)

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

The O2 interior

As mentioned, we did not explore the other buildings on the site though this colourful structure, which looked as though it had been made out of Lego, caught our attention:

'Lego building'
‘Lego building’

We continued along the south bank of the Thames in the direction of Woolwich and thus arrived at what must be the oddest of the Thames crossings.

Emirates Air Line
Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line is a cable car service crossing the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks on the north bank. As well as providing a transport link, it is advertised as giving superb views of London and providing an exciting experience in itself. I cannot testify personally to these advertised benefits as I have not yet used the service though I hope to give it a try one day. The service has operated since 2012 and was planned and built by TfL (Transport for London) who operate it. Costs, as happens too often with public projects, quickly escalated from the initial estimate of £25m to £60m and public finance was sought. Emirates, the airline company, offered £36m in a deal that included branding the service and cars with the Emirates name for a ten-year period. The name ‘Emirates Air Line’, though perhaps appropriate for a cable car service, is obviously a transparent pun on the company’s business name.

Looking down the Thames
Looking down the Thames

The Thames engages in a huge meander in this area, first making a loop to the south, creating the Isle of Dogs, and then a loop to the north, making the Greenwich Peninsula. As we look downstream from here, the river makes two swings to the left carrying it out of our line of sight. I marvel at how different the Thames looks at different points along its length.

Cormorants drying their wings
Cormorants drying their wings

I was happy to see two cormorants perched together drying their wings. Cormorants are fascinating birds who use their wings to ‘fly’ under water in pursuit of fish. If they catch one, they bob to the surface and swallow it there. (The Chinese have a tradition of using trained cormorants for fishing, putting a ring around the bird’s neck to prevent it swallowing the fish.) Unlike other diving birds, cormorants need to dry their wings after fishing and they do this by holding them open to the wind and sunlight. Cormorants are often seen flying low over the surface of the water or floating and paddling along. They dive from a floating position, giving a little jump to help them on their way. They often reappear at the surface quite some distance from their entry point and it’s easy to miss them altogether on a crowded Thames. I once watched a cormorant fishing and tried to hold my breath each time it dived until it reappeared. I didn’t always manage to do so! The presence of colonies of cormorants is a sign of how much the once poisonously polluted Thames has recovered and now supports aquatic life again.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park

A little further on, we came the the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, which is run by the Conservation Volunteers, and walked some way into it. It provides a habitat for wild life species that like a marshy environment.

Human habitat on the edge of the park
Human habitat on the edge of the park

There are human dwellings on the edge of the park in what looks to be a very pleasant setting.

Royal Arsenal Gatehouse
Royal Arsenal Gatehouse

The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich was established in 1671, initially as a facility to store gunpowder and other materials and to carry out the proofing of fire arms. Over the following two centuries it grew, acquiring new roles. The Royal Arsenal Gatehouse was built as its main entrance in 1829 (with later modifications) It is also known as the Beresford Gate in honour of General William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford (1768-1854), who was Master-General of the Ordnance and Governor of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. It is Grade II listed.

Former County Court
Former County Court

When I first saw this building with the royal coat of arms at the top and the cipher of George V incorporating the date 1935, I thought it must be an old post office, though it did seem unusually small for that. It turned out to be the Woolwich former County Court. It has been closed and is now up for sale. This is not an isolated example of a courthouse being declared redundant: there are many such all over the country being put on the property market as witness this site.

Public Library
Public Library

This lovely library with its unusual bay window was obviously going to attract my attention. It was built in 1901 by Church, Quick and Whincop in a tasteful combination of stone and red brick. Its days as a library are over, however, its duties having been taken over by a newer Central Library, and it has been repurposed. Happily it is Grade II listed so, all being well, it is protected for the future.

Former Town Hall
Former Town Hall

Woolwich’s old town hall was built in 1842, as an inscription declares. It is relatively unpretentious in its classical style but, I think, elegant in its way. Woolwich was to grow and develop quickly in the latter part of the 19th century and its administration soon outgrew its accommodation. A new town hall was built in 1903 and continues in use. This one, given over to other uses, is Grade II listed.

Woolwich Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute
Woolwich Polytechnic Young Men’s Christian Institute

I was intrigued by this building with its terra cotta decorations. Over the door we can read the legend

WOOLWICH POLYTECHNIC
YOUNG MEN’S
CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE

I think this must have been founded by Quintin Hogg (1845-1903) who is better known for the YMCI in London that became known as the Polytechnic of Central London (now part of the University of Westminster). This Grade II listed building was erected in 1890-1 and includes a gymnasium. I do not know anything more of its history other than that it is now part of the University of Woolwich.

The main focus of today’s outing was the Millennium Dome, aka the O2, and we spent relatively little time in Woolwich. Perhaps we will return on another occasion and pay it more careful attention.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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