An evening on the Black Pearl

The sun had come out in the late afternoon as I wandered along the promenade at New Brighton on the Wirral. As you walk towards Wallasey Town Hall you see a sight which is quite unexpected.

The Black Pearl Pirate Ship is a community art installation situated on the beach near the Tower Grounds in New Brighton. It is based on a three masted pirate man-of-war ship. It has a good back drop across the River Mersey, looking up river are the giant cranes of Liverpool’s deep-water port and further down the river are the famous Three Graces of the Liver Building, Port of Liverpool Building and the Cunard Building.

It is constructed from salvaged materials including ships ropes and driftwood found on the beach and it is mainly used as a children’s play structure.

The Black Pearl is named after the ship in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films. It has a ‘sister’ ship the Grace Darling, which was built on the rocks by the new Hoylake Lifeboat station on the coast further round the Wirral Peninsula in Summer 2013.

It was originally built in 2013 by local artists Frank Lund and Major Mace. The two community artists received a Wirral Award from the Mayor of Wirral for creating the two pirate ship artworks in 2015. The Wirral Award confers civic recognition on people who live in Wirral or organisations based in the borough who have made an outstanding achievement.

The Black Pearl has now become a permanent landmark on the seafront attracting thousands of visitors a year.

There are many sculptures and carvings to be found on and around the ship. Some bits disappear, and other pieces are added. The ship and surrounding sands are cleaned every day to ensure it is fit for children to play on it.

In 2013 it was set alight by vandals in May and battered by high winds and storms in December which saw it washed away out to sea on one of the highest tides for some 30 years. The ship was re-constructed on both occasions through the great efforts from the local community and since then it has been continuously maintained and reconstructed by its creators and local volunteers.

Let’s hope it the Black Pearl continues to be berthed here for some time to come!

Advertisements

Wallasey Town Hall

On a bright Easter day I had a walk around Wallasey Town Hall. Originally built for the then new borough of Wallasey when it became a County Borough in 1913. It is now the main civic building for the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral created in 1974 from the merger of the county boroughs of Birkenhead and Wallasey, along with the municipal borough of Bebington and the urban districts of Hoylake and Wirral. Given this municipal history there are other town hall buildings in Wirral. Birkenhead is still used by the Council, there are plans to turn the Victorian Hoylake town hall into an arts centre whilst the more modern civic centre in Bebington has been scheduled for demolition and the site likely to be redeveloped. Heswall Hall and Library is now used as a community facility.

There was much competition as to the actual location for Wallasey Town Hall with the current site in the Seacombe district finally being chosen over other sites in Liscard and New Brighton by one vote. During the 1960’s two annexes were added on either side of the main building to increase the office space but they have little architectural merit.

The town hall was made a Grade: II listed building in 1990. The town hall cost £155,000 to construct. The site of the building is over 2 acres in area and is an elevated plateau some 36 feet above the promenade with commanding views of the River Mersey. It was said that it looked back to front as the fine steps lead down to the Mersey and only walkers along the promenade and passing ships see it at its best. From the main entrance on Brighton Street, it gives a far less imposing view.

The foundation stone was laid by King George V accompanied by Queen Mary on 25th March 1914 and the building was completed in 1916.

The building however was not opened for municipal use until 3rd November 1920 as it was used as a First World War military hospital from 1916 until 1919. Over 300 beds were placed in its rooms and corridors. Over 3,500 wounded men passed through the makeshift wards.

The town hall was built by Moss & Sons Ltd. of Loughborough, from the design of Briggs, Wolstenholme & Thornley of Liverpool who chose a ‘Neo-Grecian in a Beaux Arts tradition’ style for the building. It is faced with white Stancliffe stone from the quarries in the Derbyshire dales. The tower rises 180 feet above the promenade and at the corners are four groups of statuary, the central figure in each being a female draped figure representing respectively peace, courage, prudence and industry. These are ‘The Ladies of the Tower’ with each figure weighing around 8 tons.

The main entrance from Brighton Street leads through a decorated corridor to an imperial style central hall with a grand staircase with a bronze handrail supported on wrought-iron. This leads up to the Council Chamber. The finishes inside the are in white marble. There are offices to all floors arranged around small courtyards so that they maximise the natural light.

The ante room to the Council Chamber has a vaulted ceiling and fine oak panelled walls. The ante room houses the documents granting Borough status to Wirral and the grant of coat of arms to the Borough.

The large Council Chamber, 50 feet long by 34 feet wide, is panelled in dark oak. Over-looking it is a public gallery with seating for one hundred people. The Council Chamber has fixed seating for 66 members of the Council and seating for officers and the Press. The seats for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are at the head of the Chamber and are set into a beautifully carved oak surround which is impressive in the formal setting.

At the opposite end of the staircase to the Council Chamber is a Civic Hall which used to house an organ built by the famous ‘Father’ Willis, who provided St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, and Sydney Town Hall with their world-famous instruments. However, on the night of 31st August 1940 it was destroyed when the Town Hall was hit by a bomb during the Second World War.

On the promenade below the town hall are 12 cast bronze roundels set into the surface. They are set out in a grid pattern to reflect the formality of the town hall. The central roundel at the foot of the steps contains the Wirral coat of arms and the names of all of the borough’s mayors during the twentieth century. Other roundels contain seashore and other images. It is said that the installation, made to mark the millennium in 2000, is a game of ‘sport, merriment and diversion; a contest played according to specified rules and decided by chance, strength, skill or any combination of these’. I have to admit I couldn’t work out how the game was played.

Art in the docks

On a bright crisp late February morning I had a wander around the Twelves Quays area.

The ‘four bridges’ crossing of the docks between Birkenhead and Wallasey has been closed for some time whilst the Council’s contractors replace the aging bridge structures and renew the highway.

Close to the Wirral Met College Wirral Waters campus a public art installation has been put into place. Three double sided panels contain artwork commissioned by local Wirral Methodist Housing Association with a grant from the Arts Council of England and assistance from Peel Holdings who own the dock estate.

The art project called ‘And the River flows on’ involved professional artists led by Robin Woolston helping a number of groups in the community develop their artistic skills to paint images that tell the story of the history of Birkenhead Docks.

The area where the art panels have been installed is still derelict and undeveloped. The panels sit on land adjacent to the new college building.

The college on Tower Road opened in September 2015, with approximately 35,000 square feet (3,300 square metres) of space. It provides courses focusing on construction. Students were involved in every stage of the development which won a Royal Institute of British Architecture award in 2016.

The Museum of Liverpool

We went to have a look around the museum where you can explore how the port, its people and their creative and sporting history have shaped the city.

The museum opened on 19 July 2011 in a purpose-built landmark building on Liverpool’s famous waterfront. The design concept for the building was developed by Danish architect 3XN and Manchester-based architect AEW were later commissioned to deliver the detailed design. It has won many awards, including the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2013.

The Museum of Liverpool replaced the older Museum of Liverpool Life which closed in 2006. The original museum was housed in the old Pilotage and Salvage Association buildings on Liverpool’s waterfront, in between the Albert Dock and Pier Head. The new modern designed building now houses most of the original museum’s exhibits on a site close by.

National Museums Liverpool (who run seven facilities across Merseyside including the Museum of Liverpool) say that is the largest newly-built national museum in the UK for more than 100 years. The Museum quote a range of interesting facts about the building.

It occupies an area 110 metres long by 60 metres wide and at its tallest point it is 26 metres high and that makes it longer than the pitches at either Anfield or Goodison Park, more than twice as wide as the Titanic, and as tall as five Liver Building Liver birds placed end to end.

The museum’s frame is constructed with 2,100 tonnes of steel – equivalent to 270 double decker buses. The 1,500 square metres of glazing offer striking views of the city, especially from the 8 metres high by 28 metres wide picture windows at each end of the building. The museum is clad in 5,700 square metres of natural Jura stone, which if laid out flat would cover a football pitch. 7,500 cubic metres of concrete and 20 tonnes of bolts have been used in the construction. And 20,000 cubic metres of soil – equivalent to eight Olympic swimming pools – have been excavated from the site.

It is certainly a strikingly modern building.

The Museum displays are divided into four main themes:

  • The Great Port,
  • Global City,
  • People’s Republic, and
  • Wondrous Place

These are located in four large gallery spaces over three floors. On the ground floor, displays look at the city’s urban and technological evolution which includes the Industrial Revolution and the changes in the British Empire, and how these changes have impacted the city’s economic development.

The second floor looks at Liverpool’s strong identity through examining the social history of the city, from settlement in the area from Neolithic times to the present day, migration, and the various communities and cultures which contribute to the city’s diversity.

There are many highlights. I’ve noted some of these below.

Ben Johnson was commissioned to create The Liverpool Cityscape for the Capital of Culture year in 2008. He started the painting in 2005 and completed it during a public residency at the Walker Art Gallery in early 2008. It was originally displayed at the Walker as part of the exhibition ‘Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape 2008’ before moving to its permanent home in the Museum of Liverpool’s Skylight gallery.

The Liverpool Overhead Railway gallery tells the remarkable story of the first electric elevated railway in the world. The Overhead Railway was built in 1893 to ease congestion along seven miles of Liverpool’s docks. It was known as the ‘dockers’ umbrella’ as it also provided shelter from the rain. In the gallery you can climb into a carriage, which is fixed at the exact height of the original railway at 4.8m (16 feet) above the ground. The railway was eventually pulled down in the late 1950s.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway ‘Lion’ is an early steam locomotive which is on display in the Great Port exhibition on the ground floor of the Museum. In 2007 Lion, was moved by road from Manchester to Liverpool after being on loan to Manchester while the new museum was under construction. Some conservation work took place prior to it taking pride of place in the new museum. It starred three films the most notable being the 1953 film ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’.

There is an enormous model of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ 1930’s design for Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral in the museum. It is one of the most elaborate architectural models ever built in Britain. It represents the ambitious plan to build the world’s second largest cathedral, and it would have had the world’s largest dome, with a diameter of 168 feet (51 m). It was however far too costly and was abandoned with only the crypt complete. Eventually the present more modern Cathedral was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd with construction starting in 1962 with completion in less than five years in1967.

There are a range of exhibits displaying Liverpool Life over the ages. The social and community history collections include objects of local, national and international importance reflecting the changing history of the city and the diverse stories and experiences of Liverpool people. They include popular culture and entertainment, working life, labour history, politics and public health. The museum also has a large collection of oral history interviews and filmed video histories from local people with stories to tell.

Football is an important aspect of life in Liverpool. Liverpool Football Club Museum and The Everton Collection have both lent the museum an array of memorabilia. And there are exhibits from Merseyside’s other team Tranmere Rovers.

Whilst ‘The Beatles Story’ museum elsewhere in the Albert Dock has a large display to experience, the Beatles show at the Museum of Liverpool tells part of the story of the Fab Four in Liverpool which was the birthplace of a musical and cultural revolution that swept the globe.

At the time of our visit there was a special exhibition showing local music legends Gerry and the Pacemakers.

I took a number of images from the day, but there is much to see and experience and it will be worth re-visiting the museum to take it all in.

No hands o’clock

The hands have been taken off one of the clock faces on the Royal Liver Building for the first time since they were installed. The hands of the south-facing clock were taken off in October last year with the clock having been stopped earlier because it was losing time. I was recently visiting the Museum of Liverpool and took some photos of the strange sight of the clock without hands.

Workmen had abseiled down the famous clock to take off the minute hand and then they returned to take away the hour hand the following day. The mechanism behind has also been stripped back as there appears to be some issues with the bearings and the owners of the building didn’t want it to get worse.

These particular hands have never been taken off since they were put up 100 years ago. The hands and the clock mechanism have been taken to a specialist clock repair firm in the Cumbria.

The Royal Liver Building was bought for £48m in February 2017 by international property group Corestate which includes Farhad Moshiri majority shareholder of Everton FC. The company have ambitious plans to upgrade the building which provides prime office space in the city.

The Cumbria Clock Company says it is quite a challenge to repair Liverpool’s iconic Royal Liver Building clock. The clock faces are the largest in the UK and the minute hand alone is 14ft (4m) long. Both hands weigh 5 hundred weights (0.25 of a metric tonne) The clock is being repaired at their base in Dacre near Penrith.

The two clock towers form the high point of the Liver building, taking it to over 300 feet in height. The four clocks have a diameter of seven and a half metres and this made them the largest clock faces in the country, being larger than those on Big Ben in London, which are only 6.9 metres. Their size enabled sailors on the River Mersey to see what time it was as they entered port.

The original clocks were made by Gent & Co of Leicester, the faces of which are made up of separate 27 sections. The clocks were started on 22nd June 1911 at 1.40pm, the precise time George V was crowned. The clocks are electrically powered and are controlled electronically from the Greenwich Observatory. The building was opened officially on 19th July 1911 by Lord Sheffield. Electric chimes were added to the clocks in 1953 in memory of Royal Liver staff who had been killed in the two world wars.

Blog Stats for 2017

It’s end of year and as usual I reflect on what I’ve published on this blog during the last twelve months. I’ve uploaded ten new blogs during the year.

This year saw 9,828 views with 6,802 separate visitors from 83 different countries coming to the blog site.

The Top Ten countries viewing my blog were in order of views:

  • UK 6,481
  • USA 2,114
  • Australia 236
  • Spain 100
  • Germany 92
  • France 91
  • Russia 51
  • Canada 49
  • Netherlands 49
  • Italy 37

The most visiting postings during 2017 in order of popularity were:

  • Home page
  • On Four Bridges
  • The Welsh Streets Part 2
  • On Bidston Hill
  • Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
  • Littlewoods Building on Edge Lane Liverpool
  • About Wirral
  • The Hillsborough Monument Memorial
  • Birkenhead Tunnel Flyovers
  • Birkenhead Tunnel

I’ve uploaded 118 posts since I started the blog in March 2012 with 46,777 total views and 27,365 separate visitors during this time.

I will end by saying thank you to everyone who has taken the time to follow my blogs and photographs during the last twelve months and look forward to seeing you in the forthcoming year.

Best wishes to you all for 2018.

Fog on the Mersey

I took a few pictures of the River Mersey from Birkenhead just before the Christmas break. An early morning fog was burned off by the sun on both the Liverpool and Wirral riverbanks, but it refused to fade away over the river itself and by lunchtime it made for an eerie sight. The blanket of fog made the famous skyline of the city appear to be built on a low-level cloud.

The City’s two cathedrals, St John’s Tower and the both the old and new old Royal Liverpool hospital buildings can be seen clearly. However, the Albert Dock and Pierhead are under the mist, with only the top of the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre to be seen. The rest of the City is in bright sunshine.

Just another day on the river and with apologies to the Geordie band Lindisfarne who sang about the Fog on the Tyne… the fog on the Mersey is all mine, all mine, the fog on the Mersey is all mine.