About briansimpsons

A fifty something living in the Wirral UK

End of Year statistics 2018

Well 2018 is drawing to an end and the sixth year of this blog. At this time of year, I usually summarise the activity and interest in the website.

During 2018 there were 6,239 visitors to the blog with 9,437 individual views. In the year I published twelve blog posts out of a total of 131 on the web site. Since the website has been going there have been 56,254 views and 33,444 total visitors.

The top six most popular posts during the year were:

• The Welsh Streets Part 2 – ‘Peaky Blinders’
• On Four Bridges – around Birkenhead Docks
• Littlewoods building Edge Lane Liverpool
• On Bidston Hill
• Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
• The Hillsborough Monument Memorial

In terms of visitors during 2018 they came from 85 countries across the globe with the top six countries being:

• The UK with 4,726 views over the year
• The United States with 3,130 views
• Australia with 184 views
• Canada with 126 views
• Netherlands with 113 views
• Germany with 99 views

For 2019 I hope to get out more to capture a wider range of images and stories across Wirral and Liverpool.

Thank you for all those people who have visited my blog site during 2018. I hope to see you during 2019.

Best wishes and a Happy New Year.

Remembrance Sunday 2018

This year, Sunday, November 11 marked the centenary of the end of the First World War. I went to Hamilton Square in Birkenhead where the cenotaph saw the Mayor of Wirral Councillor Geoffrey Watt joined by service men, women, their families and armed forces representatives at 10.55am for the start of the remembrance service.

At 11am, Birkenhead fell silent as the hundreds who turned out paid their respects. It was difficult to get any good photos given the size and depth of the crowd. The sizeable crowd marked the two minute silence impeccably.

The service on Sunday was the final act of remembrance this year. Across the Wirral a number of events had taken place to mark the 100 years since the end of the First World War and poignant ceremonies to remember those who had fallen had been taking place for more than a week.

In local churches, ‘Tommy’ silhouettes were placed to mark those who lost their lives from individual parishes while in Little Neston, a remembrance bench was unveiled.

The annual Remembrance Cavalcade took place in Thornton Hough which saw 100 horses meet to mark the centenary in which eight million horses gave their lives besides soldiers, acting as cavalry, ambulances, artillery carriers and transportation.

Many schools held events to mark the First World War and as part of a nationwide campaign, Bidston and Leasowe lighthouse lit up to mark the end of Remembrance Sunday.

An event of more national significance saw the unveiling of a statue by local actress Patricia Routledge and MP for Birkenhead Frank Field on November 4 to pay tribute to Wilfred Owen on the centenary of his death on 4 November 1918 – just a week before Armistice was announced on 11 November 1918.

The statue, based at one corner of Hamilton Square, was adorned with poppies after residents placed them there as a mark of respect.

The statue is named after one of Owen’s many war poems, ‘Futility’. It was cast in bronze at a Liverpool Foundry by sculptor, Jim Whelan. The statue represents an exhausted World War One solider. Frank Field said that “The height of the soldier is extremely important to me. It is not just a sculpture, it is a soldier that we can touch, and I think we should do that.”

Lieutenant Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, MC was one of Britain’s most celebrated war poets. His short career was directly inspired by the conflict and the horrors of war – he composed nearly all his works from August 1917 to September 1918, many published posthumously.

Owen has strong links with Birkenhead. Whilst he was born in Oswestry on the Welsh borders he was brought up in Birkenhead and later Shrewsbury.  Owen’s grandfather had been a successful business man and the family had a good life in Oswestry however they suffered hard times and their substantial house at Plas Wilmot near Oswestry had to be sold to pay off his grandfather’s creditors. The family went to live in a much more modest home in Birkenhead in 1900, when Owen’s father managed to secure the job as stationmaster at Woodside rail terminus in the town.

Wilfred was seven when the family arrived in Birkenhead, and he was enrolled at Birkenhead Institute, where he remained a pupil until the he left the town. Wilfred flourished at the school, working hard at his studies (excelling especially at English and French) and winning several prizes. The family lived initially lived at 7 Elm Grove and then 14 Willmer Road in Tranmere before moving to 51 Milton Road, in Higher Tranmere. This would be the family home until 1907, when they left Birkenhead after his father gained a promotion to a more senior post with the railway company in Shrewsbury.

After the family moved from Birkenhead Wilfred continued his education in Shrewsbury and worked as a pupil-teacher and a private tutor in France before enlisting in 1915, a year after the outbreak of war. He joined the Artists’ Rifles before receiving a commission in the Manchester Regiment in June 1916 leaving for France in December 2016 with the Lancashire Fusiliers.

In March 2017 he suffered a head injury and, diagnosed as having shell shock, was sent to a hospital in Edinburgh, where he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, an important influence on Owen’s work.

He returned to France in September 1918. In October he was listed for the award of the Military Cross for gallantry during an attack on a well-defended position that caused so many casualties among officers that he took command and held the line. However, he was killed in action a few weeks later on 4 November during a battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors, a week before the end of the war. The news of his death reaching his parents on Armistice Day. In 1919 he was posthumously awarded a Military Cross. Owen knew before his death he had been recommended for the award which he had welcomed as he thought it would add authority to his anti-war views. These, and the poems that express them with such vividness and power, are much admired now, but this recognition only came after his death. Only five poems were published during his lifetime, and the first collection of his poems did not appear until 1920.

The statue in Hamilton Square was made possible by the efforts of the Birkenhead Old Boys Institute. 600 men from Birkenhead were sent to fight in World War One
with 88 Old Boys of Birkenhead Institute losing their lives in the conflict. Following the war the Ingleborough Road playing fields in the town were dedicated in 1926 as a War Memorial to the 88 Old Boys of the School who did not survive the Great War and then subsequently those who lost their lives in later conflicts. Tranmere Rovers the local football club who subsequently became the owners of the playing fields obtained planning permission to build houses for sale on the site with the proceeds going toward the creation of a state-of-the-art training facility for the club elsewhere in the Wirral. This meant removing the memorial status of the playing fields. As part of this arrangement the football club agreed to work with the Birkenhead Institute Old Boys to replace the memorial playing fields with a fitting tribute to all those that sacrificed their lives during the war. This has culminated in the creation of the new memorial which was unveiled on the corner of Hamilton Square which is dedicated to the 88 Old Boys of the School including the school’s most celebrated Old Boy, Wilfred Owen. The statue now speaking to a wider audience about the futility of war.

During the 1918 – 2018 commemorations Wilfred Owen had become a major focus on both regional and national news channels. Owen had links with another area which was featured in the 100-year commemorations. Film-maker Danny Boyle marked the 100 years since Armistice and the end of the First World War through a live exhibition of art called ‘Pages of the sea’. On selected beaches around the UK, over the course of several hours, a portrait of an individual from the First World War was sketched out in the sand. And then, as the tide came in it was washed away as the crowds of spectators took a moment to say a collective goodbye.

Owen first left for the front from Folkestone on 29 December 1916, having written a letter in the Metropole Hotel the previous day. In the final hours before his embarkation from the town in 1918, Owen swam in the sea and described the experience in a letter home. So, to mark Wilfred Owen’s contribution to our remembering of the First World War his picture was marked out on Sunny Sands, in Folkestone in Kent one of the thirty two beaches across the UK to feature in ‘Pages of the sea’.

Wilfred Owen’s family’s three houses all survive however the Birkenhead Institute, was demolished in the 1970s when the school moved to Claughton, but that too has now gone, replaced by houses and a new road called Wilfred Owen Way.

Liverpool and Wirral Giants 2018

Over the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th of October Liverpool and Wirral welcomed the Giants for the third time and what is said to be their final visit.

Royal de Luxe, the street theatre company from Nantes, France who specialise in using giant mechanical marionettes returned to what many feel is their second home for a spectacular and unmissable event.  And this time the event included a day on Wirral as well as Liverpool city centre.  The theme for their final visit was ‘Liverpool’s Dream’ as part of Liverpool, celebrating ten years since its designation of European Capital of Culture.

Liverpool’s Dream is commissioned by Liverpool City Council and funded by Liverpool City Region and Arts Council England with Liverpool and Wirral hosting the largest street theatre event to take place in the UK this year.

The first Giants event in Liverpool, ‘Sea Odyssey’, was held in April 2012 to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.  The event had an estimated attendance of around 800,000 spectators.  In July 2014 the Giants returned to Liverpool for ‘Memories of August 1914’ Liverpool’s World War I centenary commemorations which attracted an estimated one million visitors.  This year’s event ‘Liverpool’s Dream’ celebrating the ten-year anniversary of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture seemed to have an even larger attendance, it was difficult to get a space anywhere along the route and official sources suggest a total of 1.3 million spectators watched the event.

Royal Deluxe started their Giants spectaculars way back in 1993 and they have preformed in France, Belgium, England, Germany, Iceland, Chile, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands and Ireland.  They have performed to over 3 million spectators at shows in both Santiago in Chile and Guadalajara in Mexico but the Artistic Director and founder of Royal de Luxe, Jean-Luc Courcoult, has announced that this event in Liverpool will be their last as the current family of puppets will retire after the event.  It has been said that they are now working on a new show featuring a silverback gorilla.

For this year’s event there were three street marionettes.  The Giants are controlled by dozens of Lilliputians.  The Little Boy Giant was new to the City this year.  He was inspired after working in African villages, Royal de Luxe created the Little Boy Giant in 1997 which was premiered in Cameroon. He is 20-foot high, weighs 600kg and needs 27 Lilliputians (23 from Royal de Luxe and 4 local) to manipulate him.

Returning to the City for the third time was the man Giant who is a massive 33-foot high and weighs 2.5 tonnes. Able to move at 2km an hour, he needs 44 Lilliputians (30 from Royal de Luxe and 14 local) to move his body which is made of steel, lime and poplar wood.  His hair is made of horsehair, eyelashes made of broom hair and his eyes are streetlamp lights moved by small motors.

And also returning for the third time was Xolo (pronounced cho-low).  A very playful dog scampering up and down the city streets is a firm favourite with many spectators.  He is 9ft tall and weighs 200kg.  The fastest of all the giants, he can travel at 4km an hour and needs 23 Lilliputians to operate him (19 from Royal de Luxe and 4 local). He is made of steel and papier mâché.

I managed to get to see the Giants on each the three main days of activity.  The action kicked off on Friday morning in Liverpool on St George’s Hall Plateau with the Little Boy Giant and Xolo waking up and then setting out across the city.  At the same time the man Giant was on the other side of the Mersey in New Brighton in Wirral waking up at Fort Perch Rock and then exploring the promenade and sea front. I managed to get here to watch him explore the town.  The crowds were out in force and I could not get to see him lying on the beach where he had been ‘washed up overnight’.  There was a brass band on the beach and a lone violinist played the ‘Leaving of Liverpool’ sat in a dump truck full of violins.

From laying on the beach overnight near to Fort Perch lighthouse the Giant was hoisted up from and fitted into his mobile framework and then he walked from Fort Perch along the main promenade, along the way he was given a drink by passing Firemen.

On his return to the Floral Pavilion in the afternoon the Giant was transferred onto a lorry and he would be taken over to Liverpool where he was discovered on a raft floating in Canning Dock on Saturday morning.

On Saturday all the Giants came together in in Liverpool and they spent the rest of their time in the city together.

I managed to negotiate the long queues at the local railway stations to get in and back out of Liverpool City Centre to see the giants in the afternoon sunlight along the Strand where the usual heavy traffic was absent.

On the Strand the Boy Giant and Xolo had a street race along the dual carriageway between Liverpool One and the Albert Dock.

The crowd joined in the excitement as the two sets of puppets controlled by the Lilliputians sped down the Strand and back performing a half dozen circuits, the boy giant with his special googles and steering wheel and Xolo in his running vest.

The show culminated on Sunday with a focus on the waterfront and a parade finale.  I managed to get along in the morning to watch proceedings again from the Strand next to Salthouse dock.  At the end of the morning procession the Little Boy Giant who was inside a giant sandal was dropped into Salthouse Dock and in tow to a small boat he was taken off in a cloud of smoke.

The Giant and Xolo continued their journey up to Brunswick Dock where they had a siesta before returning back to Canning Dock where they too were to leave the City once again.

We were told that as this is Royal de Luxe’s final ever time in the city, we could expect some surprises.  Well I missed the main one which happened in the final part of the spectacular which took place on Sunday afternoon with a surprise appearance of the Little Girl Giant.  She was dressed in a new red and blue patterned dress.  Her old green one had been spotted hanging on washing line along with her yellow sou’wester coat suspended between Viva Brazil and Castle Street Townhouse on Castle Street which the Giant was lifted over on Saturday.  Many people had expressed their disappointment that she wouldn’t be returning on social media, when this year’s Giants line-up was announced.

There were many other elements of street theatre during the course of the Giants weekend.  Elements that I saw included the lone violinist in a dumper truck full of violins playing the leaving of Liverpool and a car with a fork sticking through it was spotted on Leece Street and I’m told a single decker bus was cut down the middle by a large knife near to St Georges Hall.

And after three full days the event was over and the streets of Liverpool returned back to normal once more. But I’m sure many people would like to see the Giants return again…

Lost Castle of Liverpool

A rather belated posting from the weekend of 9 to 12 August when I visited the ‘Lost Castles’ in Liverpool city centre, one of the installations from the first community cultural art project to involve all six boroughs of the Liverpool City Region.  This saw hundreds of volunteers work with renowned French artist Olivier Grossetȇte to create monumental structures based on medieval forts or historic structures which were in the region at one time.  All the structures were made of cardboard, tape and community spirit!  The art installations were another part of Liverpool 2018 celebrating ten years since being European Capital of Culture.

The hundreds of volunteers worked with thousands of cardboard boxes to build monumental castle-inspired structures.  Anyone who signed up to help create these magical structures was able to join in the fun of toppling them at the end of the weekend.

The cardboard buildings were over 20 metres high, with each borough using their own heritage as inspiration.  Creative director Olivier Grossetȇte, researched the history of the six boroughs and came up with designs which he hoped would do the heritage of each area justice.  In interviews he has said that it is rewarding to work on a project which brings together a community in producing a unique piece of art which reflects where they live and then to have the fun of the demolition at the end so that within hours it is like the castles never existed and it was just a ‘wonderful dream’.

In Wirral in Ashton Park West Kirby, a Viking stave church was built to celebrate Wirral’s unique Viking history and Norse connections. The area is thought to have been almost a Viking state with its own borders, customs, trading point and language.  I had hoped to get along here but couldn’t make it and during heavy rains late on Saturday the structure collapsed.  The whole event here was featured on BBC1’s ‘The One Show’ on national television.

In Knowsley Safari Park a structure taking its inspiration from Elsinore Castle which features in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and celebrating the Elizabethan and Jacobean heritage of Knowsley was built.

In Halton at Norton Priory a construction inspired by Halton Castle, a medieval ruin a mile and a half away in Halton village was built.

In Victoria Square, St Helens saw a partial recreation of Stuttgart Old Castle built to commemorate the 70th twinning anniversary between St Helens and the German city of Stuttgart – which was the first post-war twinning to take place between a British and German town.

In the Borough of Sefton Bootle Castle, also known as Miller’s Castle, was recreated in North Park, along with two nearby Bootle landmarks – the obelisks which in the 1800s acted as a navigation point for ships entering the Mersey.

In Liverpool where I went, a castle was built inspired by Liverpool Castle which stood at the top of modern day Lord Street.  It is thought to have been built early in the 13th Century – around the 1230s.  The re-creation was built in nearby Williamson Square near the centre of the city centre.

During Saturday there was a fairy-tale themed programme with knights in shining armour, juggling and stilt walking jesters, princes, princesses, kings, queens and a dragon to entertain the crowds. There was story-telling throughout the day along with live music supplying a medieval soundtrack to the activities.

On Sunday 12 August communities were encouraged to come together once again to topple the structure.  As an exciting finale, each castle was laid siege, destroyed and then the environmentally-friendly ‘Lost Castle’s’ will be responsibly recycled.

It was interesting to watch shoppers and visitors exploring the cardboard castle in Williamson Square and going about their business on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Across Storeton Fields

Earlier this month when we had a long sunny day we walked from Storeton village to Thingwall across the fields. This entails using public foot paths maintained by the local council.

There are around 75 miles of public rights of way in Wirral, taking in woodlands, heathlands, parklands, promenades, beaches, country parks or paths like these across farm land.

On this occasion we couldn’t go all the way on our usual route as urgent work to replace the Stanley Wood footbridge across the stream that leads into Prenton Brook some half a mile away near to where the M53 motorway crosses Landican Lane and the Bidston to Wrexham railway line.

Walkers in many cases take it for granted that footpaths are maintained so that we can get out and enjoy the countryside.

The old timber bridge was in a poor state of repair. The 12m wooden footbridge in Stanley Wood received emergency repairs in the summer of 2017 to extend its life until July 2018 with a replacement bridge being designed and priced for replacement this summer. Back in March Wirral Council announced that dozens of roads and bridges across Wirral would see major improvements as the council said it would allocate more than £2.5m to improve highways.

The bridge at Stanley Wood is included a long with more than 150 roads being upgraded including surface dressing and foot way works. The Council has said like most highway authorities, that its roads network was deteriorating, and action was now needed to reduce spiralling costs in future.

The Council’s funding allocation includes £150,000 worth of works to bridges including Stanley Wood Footbridge and bridge retaining walls at Storeton Road and Brimstage Road.
With the very heavy rains in late 2017 and early 2018 the path across the fields from Storeton to Stanley Woods became quagmires. Without major expenditure, there is little that can be done to ensure better draining after substantial rainfall. The Council are looking to make some surface improvements although on our walk after a prolonged hot summer the ground was as hard as concrete!

The bridge across the M53 motorway is now quite overgrown as it is not used by very many farm vehicles but walkers in the main.
We can be grateful in this age of austerity that our less well-known rights of way are continuing to be protected for our communities to use in the future.

The Terracotta Warriors

The World Museum in Liverpool have pulled off a major coup.  They have successfully arranged with Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and the Shaanxi History Museum and a range of other Chinese institutions to bring a small selection of the World-famous terracotta warriors from China to Liverpool.

Liverpool was selected as host due to its standing as the home of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe.  This exhibition is a major part of Liverpool’s 2018 celebrations marking ten years since the City of Culture and Liverpool will be embracing its Far East links during the exhibition’s run.

The Exhibition ‘China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors’ is on from 9 February to 28 October 2018.  I managed to get along this month and take a few photographs.

It’s a very intriguing story; for over 2,000 years, an underground army of life-sized terracotta warriors secretly guarded the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, until a chance finding in 1974 made one of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries.

The exhibition spans almost 1,000 years of Chinese history; from the conflicts of the Warring States period to the achievements and legacy of the Qin and Han dynasties.

Many objects have never been on show in the UK before.  The material from museums and institutes from across Shaanxi Province have been excavated over the last 40 years from the Imperial Mausoleum and other tombs.  The artefacts show how the Emperor pursued immortality and how he prepared for the afterlife.  The 10 Warriors making up the centrepiece of the display are the highlight of the 180 artefacts that are on the show.

The team at the World Museum have completely transformed the existing gallery into a dark, dramatic space with the Chinese artefacts displayed in light and temperature-controlled conditions.

A life-size terracotta horse welcomes you as you enter the exhibition together with a middle ranking officer from the Terracotta Army.  It is part of the collection first discovered by chance in the burial complex of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, in 1974 with further pieces still being unearthed to this day.  The burial mound had been deliberately hidden unlike other mausoleums which were built as a statement such as the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids.  Once all the artefacts had been placed into the tomb which would enable the Emperor to continue into eternity the artisans and craftsmen were locked inside with him and the site was planted over and remained hidden for centuries.  The discovery was made in 1974 by local farmers digging a well who broke into a pit containing 6000 life-size terracotta figures. Further excavation in 1976 revealed two further pits both filled with terracotta warriors.

The terracotta army was guarding the tomb of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang who lived over 2200 years ago. He became famous for unifying the warring states into what is now China, and for becoming the country’s first emperor. He is remembered for instigating the building of the Great Wall of China, as well as for his fanatical fear of death and an obsessive quest for the secret of immortality. This craze for life and the fear of death ultimately has given us the legacy of the terracotta warriors.

Each terracotta warrior is unique they are life size standing up to 2 metres tall and weigh up to 300 kilograms.  They are individually modelled in clay and the detail of the figures is astounding.  We can observe the construction of body armour and clothing and their hair and facial features.  The hands and the heads of the terracotta warriors were made separately, and each head is reputed to be different and individual.  Originally, they were painted with bright pigments in line with their uniforms and general attire  They were then placed in the pit in military formation and equipped with bronze weapons.  Each one bears the stamp or the carved name of their maker.

Although all the warriors were in the pits they had been buried in, many of them were in pieces and have had to be restored. The technicians and craftsmen who undertook this work often had to remodel parts to restore areas of the figures that were too badly damaged to be reconstructed.

The Terracotta Warriors discovered number almost 8,000 figures which include both warriors and horses. The warriors comprise of various types including crossbowmen, charioteers, officers, stable lads and generals.

The Terracotta Warriors form an army whose purpose was to protect the Emperor and his 300 wives and concubines who followed him to his tomb. The army was made to accompany the Emperor in his last journey and to help him rule the new empire in the afterlife.

The construction of Emperor’s tomb and Terracotta Warriors began around 247 BC, that is – when the Emperor came to power aged 12 years old and finished shortly before his death in 210 BC aged 49 years.  It took 37 years and 700,000 workers and craftsmen to accomplish this work.

After the death of Qin Shi Huang a peasant uprising and civil war ensued which were finally quelled in 206 BC and a new emperor was proclaimed in the Han dynasty which lasted for a further 400 years.  The second half of the Han dynasty is considered a golden age in Chinese history.

Whilst quite a small display it is purported to have cost the World Museum in Liverpool over £5m to stage the exhibition.  It has been sold out on most days attracting visitors from far and wide and is predicted to cover its costs and make a surplus.  It is certainly well worth a visit!

On Two Bridges

I’ve blogged about Wirral’s Four Bridges which cross the Birkenhead dock system before (see my article ‘On Four Bridges’ at the attached link: https://briansimpsons.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/on-four-bridges-around-birkenhead-docks/)  Work has been on-going to replace two of the four bridges and last Thursday the two new bridges that link Alfred Dock and the East Float in the docks between Birkenhead and Wallasey finally opened to the public some six months after the original target opening date.  There has been no through traffic along Tower Road, which goes across the docks between the two towns, since the end of March last year.

The two old bridges were replaced because of outdated features including height and weight restrictions and they were requiring more frequent and costly maintenance works to keep them functioning.

The works saw the “C” bridge which is the bridge closest to Wirral Met College – replaced by a new structure.  Most motorists will drive across it now without knowing it’s a bridge, the old ‘girder’ style bridge has been replaced with an uninteresting flat crossing with a set of protective barriers either side, technically called a flat deck bridge.

There was more complex work to replace the “A” bridge, the lifting bascule bridge which allows ships access to the Wirral docks from the River Mersey.  It was originally expected to take until the New Year to complete but technical difficulties were encountered.

I’ve taken images from when the old bridge was in place and during the replacement works as well as today of the new structures.




The initial delay to the project completion was caused by the discovery of an obstruction behind the dock walls – uncovered during excavation work – which meant the permanent foundation for the new ‘A’ bridge had to be moved.

Then in February the planned ‘floating-in’ of the new structure had to be postponed due to snow.  With that part of the project requiring a full closure of the docks to shipping for a week, the earliest this could be rescheduled with dock owners Peel Ports was April.  The replacement lifting bascule bridge was lying in wait in the contractor Dawnus Construction’s yard on Dock Road during this time.

Since the bridge was successfully moved into place in April, contractors have been completing the remaining works and putting the structure through testing.

Both the original bridges were constructed around 1931.  The original steel truss opening bridge (the A bridge) has been replaced with a new semi-through steel box girder single leaf rolling bascule bridge built by Dawnus Construction from Swansea.

The original fixed truss bridge has been replaced with a new pre-stressed-reinforced concrete composite flat deck bridge.  The other works completed were the highway improvements including improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

As for the ‘A’ bridge I have taken photographs of the original ‘C’ bridge as well as during the construction work and following the installation of the new structure.




I have to say when you compare the new structures with the original bridges they have very little architectural merit, they are modern and functional but lack anything to get your heart racing.  The original structures were landmarks their replacements are not unfortunately.  The new opening bridge looks odd with no wider supporting structure around it.  The original bridge was a product of its time when British engineering was still world famous and the industrial revolution was in its last throes.  I suppose the new one is a product of its time too.

Liverpool Tall Ships 2018

During the Late Spring Bank Holiday from 25th to 28th May an in international fleet of tall ships were berthed in Liverpool for the Liverpool Tall Ships 2018 event. This forms the start of the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta 2018.

This is so called as the ships visit three ports in three different countries as part of their planned race route. From Liverpool the tall ships race across to Dublin, Ireland before heading south via the Bay of Biscay for the finale of the Three Festivals Regatta in Bordeaux, France.

The event in Liverpool was taking place to celebrate the Liverpool Capital of Culture tenth anniversary. The tall ships event was one of the highlights from the 2008 celebrations.

The sailing ships were berthed at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal, Canning Dock, Canning Half Tide Dock and Albert Dock during the festival weekend.

The highlight took place on a sunny and hot Bank Holiday Monday with the parade of sail when the seventeen strong ships escorted by a couple of Mersey tugs and the Royal Navy’s HMS Somerset a Type 23 frigate (F82) sailed down the Mersey and out to sea. There was a flotilla of other smaller craft accompanying the tall ships.

The two Mersey Ferry boats also had special trips up and down the river packed with sight seers.

The event started at 12 noon as the HMS Somerset announced the event by four firings of its canons.

The seventeen ships taking part were: Adventure Wales, Arawak, Atyla, Belem, Belle Poule, Brian Ború, Hosanna, Juan de Langara, La Malouine, Lord Nelson, Maybe, Morgenster, Pelican of London, Royal Helena, Sir Stelios, City of London and TS Royalist.

There were massive crowds along the Pierhead and waterfront in Liverpool and at New Brighton on the Wirral side at the mouth to the River Mersey. I decided to go down to Woodside Ferry on the Birkenhead waterfront which was still accessible. I managed to get a few shots of most of the ships heading down the river with the various landmark buildings of Liverpool in the background.

After an hour or so the tall ships had passed by and the crowds dissipated going home after seeing a spectacular display of ships under full sail. Till next time…

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!

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.