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Published: November 11th 2019
River Mersey, Birkenhead view
Realization of teenage visions - Ferry Cross the Mersey (Gerry and the Pacemakers)
This morning I woke quite confused, thinking it was Sunday, wondering how I had missed out on a day in Liverpool. My final recourse was to check the internet for the date!
The walking tour of central Liverpool was entirely worth the 10 pounds cost. Two other people came, one from somewhere near Manchester and his friend from Liverpool who thought she should learn more about her own city. Much of the ground covered was the same as I had walked yesterday, only this time I learned some facts. The first was that the area around the Museum of Liverpool is named the Canada Dock
, so named in appreciation for Samuel Cunard
, a Canadian, and for the timber shipped from Canada. The three most imposing buildings on the waterfront are the Port Building
, the Cunard Building
and the Royal Liver
. And, they were built to be boastfully imposing.
At the top of the Royal Liver building, the Liver bird
, now a symbol of Liverpool, is not any bird in particular, but an imaginative representation of a cormorant. The Cunard building is decorated along the top level by the crests of allies, particularly the eagle of the then growing United States (1908). The dome of the
Eleanor Rigby 1982
Port building was originally designed for the Catholic Church, but time constraints dictated that something entirely different and cheaper be built for the church. Across the street at Pier Head
, in front of these grand buildings, was a fun fair with rides and booths of junk food that offended our guide’s aesthetic sense for six weeks every year.
We moved along to the Albert Dock
. Until the rehabilitation of the Docklands it was a dangerous location, and the ship mooring was silted and derelict. Originally it was designed to enhance trade by using a lock to avoid tidal displacement and by regulating tax collection. Essentially it is a mooring protected by the warehouses on all four sides. The Maritime Museum
and the International Slavery Museum
now occupy one side.
As we walked, our guide named several of the ultra-modern buildings I photographed yesterday. She mentioned that UNESCO has issued warnings regarding the World Heritage status of the Docklands. We visited Beatles-famed Matthew Street, which has indeed changed even more than I suspected last night. Due to construction of the underground, even the Cavern Club
has moved since the Beatles played there (played there 197 times, she said). The Grapes pub was the only remaining
Sailors' Home gates 1851
Beautiful remnant of the hard sea-faring life-style
original venue; the woman on our tour from Liverpool said it is still a nice, traditional pub. Nearby was a sculpture of (lonely) Eleanor Rigby
feeding pigeons, created by Tommy Steele
We moved along to the big pedestrian precinct, most of which is called Liverpool One
. Being a sunny Saturday afternoon, people were all over the many places to meet and shop with friends. Nearby, Liverpool’s oldest building still exists, the Bluecoat
(1717), originally a school for orphans, now housing restaurants and crafts shops. The design has a central courtyard – a peaceful shelter from the noise of the street. A short way along we walked on the steps where American sailors used to stagger off ships thirsty and on again drunk – the American consulate used to be around the corner where someone would take care of them. Only the ornate wrought-iron gates of the seamen’s mission remain, rescued from the garbage during the building’s demolition by a history-conscious passer-by.
Lunch was very much needed, but once again I had a hard time deciding what and where to eat. Unlike previous visits to Britain, I am having a hard time adjusting to the high prices for ordinary food. Five pounds
(8 – 9 dollars) for ordinary packaged sandwiches and almost three pounds for tea is difficult to reconcile with my expectations. My decision was to buy a “Mexican pepper chicken” baguette from a bakery that mostly traded in sugar-laden desserts. I made tea in my hotel room and had a picnic that included some of the fruit slice from the lunch break near Loch Lomond several days ago.
Fortified, and “chased out” by the cleaners, I walked the short distance to the Three Graces
, which is the collective nickname for the Cunard, Port and Liver buildings. My aim was to take photos of the detail on the buildings, created in the early twentieth century when the romance of conquest buoyed up the nation and enhanced trade in Liverpool. Looking through my lens drew my attention to some very unexpected details. Without yet arriving at the Three Graces, I noticed the mixture of slavery and Egyptian themed décor on Martin’s Bank, prosperity achieved through financing what would now consider despicable transactions.
The Egyptian themed décor (popular in the 1920s) carried over to a building just behind the Port Building. Upon reading the sign, I was astonished to realize that the
George's Dock Ventilation & Control Station
Part of the under-river tunnel venting system
monumental tower was one of two ventilation shafts servicing the tunnel under the Mersey River. The other was on the Birkenhead side and was visible as the only tall building there. The architectural interest transformed such a mundane function into art. Finally, I did explore the Three Graces through my lens, gratified to identify many of the coats-of-arms high on the Cunard Building, boasting of their far-flung sailing routes.
The International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock was almost essential to visit, especially after seeing the exterior of Martin’s Bank. The exhibits started with representations of life and art in West Africa, which made me suspicious that the controversial aspects of slavery were being skirted. They weren’t. Displays and artifacts portrayed the colonial and trade roots of the enslavement (their word) of Africans, as well as the horrible conditions experienced on slave ships and on plantations. Very thoroughly explored were the inhuman delays in enforcing emancipation; one installation told the story of a man who kept “aging out”, that is, the younger people were emancipated first and each time the laws changed he was too old to be freed. He lived to 115. Another telling story was about a
Igbo Wall Painting
Honouring people's origins
man who was asked to return from freedom in Ohio to his slavery plantation to help (without pay) the owner recover his operations. The free man wrote a wonderful letter, in part asking to be paid for his past 25 years of labour at his current wage before he would consider the request.
Once again, I have written these notes out of doors, sitting on a bench at the Albert Docks. In this location, lounging is encouraged. The day is now a bit cool but the air is pleasant. Both people and pigeons are about.
For dinner I wanted to try The Grapes, as recommended during the tour, but it was throbbing with noisy drinkers. Nearby, I peered into The Three Sisters - lots of free tables. As a cocktail bar, their food was towards the snack style; I ordered the chicken and bacon pie. It wasn’t a proper pie exactly, but the top was proper and fitted well on top of the casserole. Mushy peas and chips on the side. Walked back to the hotel in the rain and, since the bar was full, took my glass of wine to my room.
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