November, 2012 Archives

Park Hill Reservoir, 1975

One of Liverpool’s great problems is what to do with the many public, commercial and ecclesiastic buildings lying redundant throughout the city. As its population shrank, the nineteenth century legacy shrunk with it. After all, a city built for over 800,000 people has to change when its population drops below 500,000. Not just the change in population but also a social and technological revolution that has condemned churchgoing to a minority activity (and a small one at that), has removed the need for streets of warehouses and offices and so on (pubs, cinemas, dance-halls have likewise shut down as tastes change). Many of the major industrial employers of the 1970s and before have closed down, often leaving no trace (BAT, Tate & Lyle, Meccano, Dunlop and Plessey to name just a few).
So it was good news to read in the Liverpool Echo that an important legacy from the mid-nineteenth century is facing a new future. Park Hill Reservoir was built in 1853 to store water at a time when Liverpool was struggling to provide for its rapidly expanding population. The long term plans include ‘a glazed pyramid on top of the roof to house a bar and restaurant with spectacular views across the city and beyond.The immediate area could also be transformed, with a tree-lined boulevard and the creation of a new public space outside the reservoir and town hall. Small parcels of derelict and under-used land are incorporated into the masterplan to be used for new housing, green space and car parking.’ Of course, none of this might actually happen but it is encouraging to know that the reservoir is being given some priority.
I did not manage to visit the exhibition held there a couple of weeks ago so I have not had the fortune to walk round its interior. I imagine it looks similar to the one that was demolished in Breeze Hill a few years ago.

A spectacular interior – but I imagine a difficult (and expensive) space to convert (and into what). The emphasis appears to be to use its exterior space – which, with the right approach would take the attention off the dreadful Tesco building which dominates Park Road.

Once again, a plug for the second volume of The Streets of Liverpool.

I started off the Streets of Liverpool blog back in January 2010 with this picture of three boys and asked the question: Whatever happened to the Likely Lads? Now, after nearly three years, I have got the answer and a surprising one at that. A message on my answerphone at work revealed all. Bob Doyle, approaching his 65th birthday, had been browsing in The Book Clearance Centre in St John’s Market (the best bookshop for local history in Liverpool), when he stumbled across The Streets of Liverpool book. There, on the front cover was Bob – the tall boy on the right hand side – with two mates. The boy on the far left he identified as Johnny Flood – who later joined the Merchant Navy and died some twenty years ago. He was less sure about the small boy in the centre and will get back to me with more information.
Bob lived in a one-bedroomed house in Hutton Street, off Athol Street. He shared a bed with his parents and sister, with an army great-coat as a blanket. His father worked as a docker when he could get work and times were tough. Bob did the rounds of local primary schools, including St Anthony’s, St Silvester’s and Ashfield Street, but was clever enough to pass the Eleven Plus and earn a place at St Edward’s College. From St Edward’s, he won a place to study Geography (and English) at Sheffield University and returned to Liverpool to complete 30 years teaching at St Edward’s as a geography teacher known to generations of pupils as ‘Docker’ Doyle. (Bob says his moniker came about early in his career when pupils reacted with surprise to his strong Liverpool accent. “I’m from Liverpool and my father was a docker – and I’m proud of that” Bob told them – and so he became ‘Docker Doyle’).
Bob has promised to tell me more – but he did add that he thinks the photograph was taken on the corner of Hankin Street and Cranmer Street.
The timely mention of The Streets of Liverpool book brings me neatly around to my promotional plug. Volume Two arrived from the printers today and is another collection of photographs and blogs from the last year and a half (with additional previously unpublished items). Obviously the ideal present for Christmas – it is available from The Book Clearance Centre, Waterstones etc and directly from Amazon (