musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: St John’s Gardens

Loving Liverpool (9) St George’s Plateau

Still in Liverpool…

The area where the Liverpool Cenotaph is situated is called St George’s Plateau. This is the flat space between St George’s Hall and Lime Street station and it contains statues of four lions and monuments, including bronzes of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria by Thomas Thornycroft, and a monument to Major-General William Earle.

St George’s Hall

Liverpool Cenotaph

St George’s Hall really dominates the space though and right from the start I was curious about what was inside of it. Somebody told me that there were tours of the building available so I decided to try my luck, assuming I could find the door! 

The foundation stone was laid in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria, and the hall was designed by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, a London architect. The building would house not only a grand concert hall but assize courts too. Construction started in 1841 and the hall opened in 1854. The building and plateau was restored in the 2000’s and it was officially reopened on 23 April 2007 by Prince Charles.

Until 1984 the Liverpool Assizes (later the Crown Court) were held in the courtroom at the southern end of St George’s Hall. Lower down in the basement are cells for awaiting trial prisoners with a staircase leading upwards into the court. It is quite ironic that a grand concert could be on the go in the hall while down below prisoners were awaiting their fate.  

I was too late for the formal tours of the building but there was a self led tour that took in parts of it and was able to do that one. It was a very interesting place to see.

The Basement Cells. 

A short corridor has cells leading off to the left in the picture, while a whipping chair and flogging frame are against the right hand wall. The cells are all empty apart from displays, but I doubt very much if they looked as good when they were in use. They were mostly used to house prisoners brought from the prisons who were due to appear in court and not used for long term incarceration and have no facilities like sanitation.   

The objects stuck against the walls in the upper left hand image are mugshots as below. These were supplied by the Nottingham Galleries of Justice and are of unidentified prisoners from that era.The unpainted areas in the top right hand image still have graffiti written by the original inhabitants (and a few modern idiots have added their monikers too). The cell on the bottom left was a really a waiting room for those involved in minor cases. The poor soul on the right has probably heard her fate and has been left to await transportation to Kirkdale or Walton Prison.  

Above the wretches of humanity was the assizes court, and it was reach by a short staircase that opened up in the dock.

 

The Judges view

The accused’s view

The bewigged judge would be peering down from his high backed chair and of course various court functionaries and lawyers would be present and probably a few members of the public too. 

The courts were probably more biased towards the law and the luckless individual in the dock was in for a rough ride. Unfortunately a number of innocent people were caught up in this “system” and a vast amount of guilty ones were too. The judge may have even recognised a few of them from previous court appearances. However, justice must be seen to be done and the results are to be seen in the mugshots in the cells down the staircase. Prison was not a fun place, and from what I can read Kirkdale and Walton Prisons were very hard places to serve time in. There were no human rights lawyers waiting to shout the odds, although there were prison reformers who did their best for the prisoners. 

The Judge, having banged his gavel could retire to his chambers behind his bench, while the prisoner would be led downwards back to the cell and onwards transportation to serve their sentence.

Judges chambers

However, parts of this large building are a different world altogether. One of the purposes of the building was the provision of a hall large enough for civic functions, musical concerts,  balls and “society events”, and this was not a part of the self guided tour although you could look down into it from the gallery. It was being set up for a function and I could see quite a lot of what it looked like, unfortunately the huge chandeliers played havoc with the images so they did not come out the way I would have liked. What I was able to see what very impressive and there are places that can show the hall much better than my lousy images https://www.stgeorgeshallliverpool.co.uk

The image below is is an hdr photograph by Michael D Beckwith taken from St George’s Hall during the annual minton floor reveal. Located in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK 5 August 2014, 09:57:34

St_George’s_Hall_Liverpool_England

(Image By Michael D Beckwith [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)

There was also a Crown Court in the building and a smaller hall which was being used for a wedding on the day I visited.

The difference between the basement and main area of the building is astounding and I wonder how often the attendees of functions here ever gave a consideration to the misery down below; or how often prisoners would hear the magnificent organ in full blow up the stairs. It is an interesting contrast between the haves and have nots. The organ itself is a magnificent specimen, and is actually the 3rd pipe organ that I saw in Liverpool.

Finally, the lower areas of the building are interesting because the building had a very primitive air conditioning plant in the basement. It was devised by Dr Boswell Reid, and was the first attempt at providing air conditioning in a public building in the United Kingdom, Air was warmed by five hot water pipes which were heated by two coke-fired boilers and two steam boilers. The air was circulated by four fans 3m wide. It was controlled by a large number of workers opening and closing a series of canvas flaps. The operating levers are still to be seen in the cell block. 

And of course those areas far below make for interesting photography if your flash can penetrate the gloom.

It was a fascinating building, and make no mistake it is huge. It dwarfs the cenotaph and makes most buildings around it look small. Although those on the one side of it are equally old and beautiful in their own right.

It must have been spectacular when it opened over a century ago, especially when viewed as a member of society. “Underclasses” probably had a different view of it altogether. 

St John’s Gardens.

Behind St George’s Hall (1 on the map) is St John’s Gardens (2)

It is a very pretty place and quite a popular place to rest your feet surrounded by greenery and history. 

The statue that interested me was that of the Kings Liverpool Regiment as it commemorates the Boer War, although it would probably make the Boers upset. 

And that really sums up St George’s Hall. A mighty space it is indeed, although I do feel it is somewhat too large and heavy, it really needs some colour and windows. I hope to see inside it again one day, who knows, I may be adding an update in the future.

You can continue to the next page or have a squizz at my random images.

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Random Images.

DRW © 2018. Created 13/06/2018. Image of interior of St George’s Hall by Michael D Beckwith [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)

Updated: 19/06/2018 — 07:57

Loving Liverpool (1)

There are many places in the UK that are famous for their maritime history, and Liverpool is no exception. This was where Cunard sailed from and where the Lusitania and Mauretania were based. The Titanic was registered in the city, and of course Liverpool was home to the escorts that shepherded convoys across the Atlantic during the 2nd World War. And, like so many ports in the UK it became bereft of ships as the passenger traffic died away and containerisation replaced the conventional cargo ships that used to call this place their home port. 

Recently I have been mulling over making another short trip somewhere, similar to the one I made to London in 2016 and Liverpool ended up on the top of the list. The logistics of getting there are not huge: catch a train from Cheltenham, bail out at Birmingham, catch a different train to Liverpool Lime Street Station and voila! there you were. The biggest snag was timing though. My original plan had been to head out on the last weekend of May, but the Monday was a bank holiday and rates and ticket prices tended to be higher over a weekend, so I ended up planning for 29 May till 01 June instead. I found a hotel easily enough, booked my train tickets, paid my deposit and started the countdown. 

Early on the morning of the 29th I was at Cheltenham Spa Station. I had tweaked my train booking so that I had roughly half an hour to change trains at Birmingham, but the train was late arriving at Cheltenham and that cut my changing time down to 20 minutes. I was curious about what Birmingham New Street Station looked like now that it was finally completed as I had last passed through it in mid June 2015 and it was a real mess. Hopefully things were better now. 

Upon arrival I dashed upstairs into the concourse and out the main entrance to the station (I may be incorrect about it being the main entrance). I got very disorientated when I saw that they had added a giant alien eyeball onto the front of the station!

While inside resembled something out of a cheesy science fiction show.  

Still, it is a major improvement, and the platforms are much lighter now than they were before. It is still a horrible crowded and frenetic place

The train to Liverpool from Birmingham stopped at: Smethwick Gatton Bridge, Woolverhampton, Penkridge, Stafford, Crewe, Winsford Hartsford (Cheshire), Acton Bridge, Runcorn, Liverpool South Parkway and finally Liverpoool Lime Street. It was roughly a 2 hour train journey excluding train changes. 

When I was doing my navigation I had marked a number of places that I wanted to see, and I had planned to do them over the 3 days that I had. The big unknown was the weather though, it was overcast in Cheltenham when I left, although Liverpool appeared to be clear which was forecast to change. I would really have to play the weather by ear. My goals were: The waterfront with associated War Memorials and statues, the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, a ferry ride, the Cenotaph, museums, and anything else that caught my wandering eye.

I arrived at midday, and the sun was shining!

Liverpool Lime Street Station was yet another of those glorious cathedrals of glass but in total disarray as they were renovating it (and is going to be closed completely for 2 months).

The cuttings leading to the station were amazing, at least 3-4 stories deep, they are covered in vegetation and moss with bricked areas and bare rock all on display. It was quite a view but getting pics was impossible because of angles and reflections. It was one of those sights that leaves you with admiration for those who built the early railways. They laid bricks by the millions and gangs of men created these artificial caverns in the city.

Lime Street (what a great name) is probably the most well known station in Liverpool, although there are a number of stations in the city because it also has an underground rail network. 

Imagine this space in the days of steam…. 

My hotel was literally a quick walk “around the corner*, and I believe it is the 2nd oldest hotel in Liverpool. It was a nice hotel, although I did battle with hot water and the bed. The staff however were awesome, and the rate was a good one. I would stay there again if ever I came this way in the future.

I dropped off my bag and headed down the road to my first goal: 

St George’s Quarter.

The map below gives a rough outline of some of the structures in what is known as “St George’s Quarter”, although I am not dealing with all of them in these posts.

1 – St George’s Hall, 2 – St John’s Garden, 3 – World Museum, 4 – Central Library, 5 – Walker Art Gallery, 6 – Empire Theatre, 16 – Lime Street Station, 18 – Queensway Tunnel approach

Liverpool’s War Memorial was unveiled in 1930, it was designed by Lionel B. Budden, an associate professor from the university of Liverpool.  It is was placed on the plateau below St George’s Hall and is a long low rectangular structure with two long friezes. I will do a more detailed post on the memorial on allatsea at a later time.

St George’s Hall (# 1 on the map) was somewhat of a puzzle because it was a huge building that seemingly had no visible purpose although it had quite a number of secrets in it. The whole area around it had a number of bronze statues, and was very impressive. It was probably even more impressive when it was built, but the traffic in front and size of the building really makes it look like a large tomb. My first goal was accomplished and it was now time to find the waterfront. Behind the building is a very pretty park known as St John’s Garden (# 2 on the map), and in it there is a Memorial to the Liverpool Regiment that lists men who died during the Anglo Boer War, Afghanistan and Burma.

To the right of the park there were three very old and visually impressive buildings (3 – World Museum, 4 – Central Library, 5 – Walker Art Gallery,)

Walker Art Gallery

World Museum and Central Library

I visited the museum on my 3rd day and it was absolute chaos with all the crowds of people. I was very glad to get out of there! 

There are two other structures to mention while we are in the area, the first is: the former North Western Hotel building which stands almost attached to the station complex (# 16 in the map). Originally opened as a railway hotel in 1871 it was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and had 330 rooms. The hotel closed in 1933, and at the moment it appears to be student accommodation. 

and next to is the Empire Theatre dating from 1925, (i# 6 on the map)

My hotel was in Lord Nelson Street that was sandwiched between these two buildings. 

It was time to find the waterfront! I had spotted the Liver Birds at some point so really just headed in the general direction where they were because the waterfront is a large area and I was bound to hit it sooner or later. I detoured to a number of buildings along the way but eventually reached my destination, and it was not to disappoint. I entered the area through Water Street, with the famous Royal Liver Building on my right, and the equally beautiful Cunard Building on my left. 

The former is famous because it is really a unique landmark on the waterfront and it is topped by a pair of “Liver Birds”.  Legend has it that while one giant bird looks out over the city to protect its people, the other bird looks out to sea at the new sailors coming in to port.  It is said that, if one of the birds were to fly away the city of Liverpool would cease to exist, thus adding to the mystery of the birds. The are  eighteen feet high, ten feet long and carry a cast sprig of seaweed in their beaks. They are officially cormorants but will always be known as the Liver Birds.

Royal Liver Building

The three buildings along this spot of waterfront are collectively known as the “Three Graces” (Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building), and all three are spectacular.

Cunard Building

Port of Liverpool Building

I was able to get into the foyers of the Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings, and I was stunned. The  building dates from 1917 although Cunard left the building in the 1960’s.  In fact the Cunard Shipping Company of today is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and based in America. 

I would have loved to have seen this space back in the heady days of the Cunarders that used Liverpool as their base, but I would have ended up booking my passage in a very different looking room. The room in the images above is the 1st Class Booking Hall.

The Roll of Honour was placed in nearby Liverpool Parish Church in 1990

The Port of Liverpool Building was equally unbelievable. It was completed in 1907, and is a Grade II* listed building. The central area under the dome is where the passages lead off, and it reminded me a lot of a panopticon. But, unlike those it is much more beautiful.  

And seeing as I was at the pierhead I could check out the ships…  but unfortunately the only ship in sight was the Mersey Ferry “Snowdrop” and she was running cruises between the banks of the river spaced an hour apart.

Snowdrop

The queue was horribly long so I shelved that plan and went and hunted down some of the other items on my list. 

The Titanic Memorial with Royal Liver Building in the background

Captain Frederic John Walker RN. Memorial

The statue of Captain Frederic John Walker RN ties into the Merchant Navy Memorial in the two images below.  The escort groups he led sank more U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic than any other British or Allied commander, and he was instrumental in the Allied victory of the Battle of the Atlantic,  The statue, by Liverpool sculptor Tom Murphy  was unveiled in 1998 and shows him  in a typical pose on board his ship. Sadly he died of a cerebral haemorrhage in July 1944.

Many ships and men owed their survival to Captain Walker and the escorts of the Western Approaches Command. Their contribution to the war effort is often neglected, but these unsung heroes will always have a special place in my heart.  Most have no other grave but the sea. 

The Liverpool Naval Memorial is also close to these Memorials, but it proved to be a very difficult memorial to photograph.

Liverpool Naval Memorial

I also passed this statue of these 4 guys.. but they don’t interest me.

And having reached the point on the pierhead we shall turn the page to reveal more about my trip to Liverpool.  I shall however leave you with this Superlambanana to keep you company. Or you can just bite the bullet and turn the page

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DRW © 2018. Created 02/06/2018.

Updated: 18/06/2018 — 06:39
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