Victoria Square 1954

Victoria Square (original layout)

St Anne Street 1937

Holidays over and time to get back to my blog!

One of the most fascinating aspects of Liverpool’s social history is that of public housing. Astonishingly, no comprehensive book has been written on the subject in recent years – I await one with great anticipation! – although the importance of the many initiatives undertaken is more than worthy of an in-depth study. The first major project was St Martin’s Cottages in 1869 – which survived until the 1980s. Victoria Square was the second initiative, although not until 1885. The Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 (imagine calling a piece of legislation that today) resulted in a rapid expansion of local authority housing – and Liverpool took the lead, including the St Anne Street flats of 1914, which showed the imaginative design using high quality materials.
Victoria Square was an ambitious scheme, considered a pioneering venture at the time. It originally contained 270 dwellings but, following war damage in 1941, these were reduced to 215. Substantial improvements were made in the early 1950s, including installing back-boilers for hot water and wiring for electricity. Particular care was taken to maintain the external features – but, in 1961, the original four blocks were reduced to two. Even these improvements were not enough to save the Square and it was demolished to make way for the Wallasey Tunnel.

I raised the point in an earlier blog about the opportunity missed to create a museum of housing. This was mooted at the time of St Martin’s Cottages future being considered and was dismissed on cost grounds (there was a similar proposal for Duke Street Terrace). Somehow, money has been found for the new Museum of Liverpool, a building I consider one of the best modern buildings in the city. However, I have serious misgivings about its proposed content – too early to judge but the advance information suggests style over substance. The collection of the old Museum of Public Health (now in the possession of NML) would have provided a substantial element to a real museum of Liverpool life utilising the structures of buildings which had been part of the great housing initiatives (imagine had Gerrard Gardens been used for such a purpose – and within walking distance of William Brown Street). Building expensive, ‘iconic’ buildings is one thing – history is another.

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