Tag: heritage

Why Liverpool could survive loosing its Unesco World heritage status

It looks like an own goal for Liverpool — not Klopp’s team facing the wrath of The Kop but the announcement by Unesco that it could strip Liverpool of its World Heritage status.

The port city of Liverpool is currently one of 32 Unesco World Heritage sites in the UK. The area stretching along the city’s historic waterfront and onto St George’s Hall was granted World Heritage status in 2004.

Yet controversy has raged in recent years about a series of dockland developments, leading to Liverpool being placed “at risk” by Unesco in 2012.

The heritage body this week expressed further concerns about the Liverpool Waters regeneration scheme and plans for the new Everton football stadium in a former dockland site, citing the developments had resulted in

“serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes”.

The City Council hit back, saying some £1.5bn had been invested in upgrading Liverpool’s heritage assets.

Living city

The delisting would be a blow to the city, of course.

Post-industrial Liverpool has reinvented itself as a city of tourism, culture, and nightlife. Some 37m visitor arrivals each year contribute to an annual economic impact of £3.3bn for the city, according to pre-Covid figures from Marketing Liverpool.

The Covid-battered cruise industry has just set sail again with around 80 cruise calls planned this year, including Anthem of the Seas amongst other.

Liverpool has a proud maritime history, serving as a global port during the Industrial Revolution and a hub for transatlantic crossings at the turn of the 20th century. The city boasts 27 Grade I-listed buildings and is touchstone for Britain’s seafaring story.

In 1912, the Titanic disaster was even announced to the world from the balcony of what is now room 22 at the Signature Hotel, the former headquarters of the White Star Line company.

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, says the Unesco debate is more nuanced than a simple heritage-versus-regeneration trade off.

“We want future generations to learn about the city’s maritime heritage, of course, but Liverpool is a living, breathing city. It’s about finding new ways,” she says, “of using heritage to evolve.”

So, can sites survive a delisting? Two places so far met that fate: the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany.

There are currently 53 locations on its heritage danger list, including the Bolivian city of Potosi and the Everglades National Park in the United States.

Unesco also warned that Stonehenge could be added to the danger list at its 2022 review if plans to reroute the A303 road in Wiltshire are not modified. Yet, Covid aside, these destinations continue to draw visitors.

Moreover, Liverpool has an innate ability to rise phoenix-like from the ashes.

As a teenager, growing up in the Northwest of England, I saw Liverpool through the wilderness years of the Eighties, bowed and monochrome.

I also witnessed the green shoots of recovery when the International Garden Festival converted a former household tip into the UK’s first ever garden festival in 1984.

And I watched from the crowd gathered in front of St Georges Hall as the former Beatle, Ringo Starr, played live on the roof to launch Liverpool’s transformative tenure as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

I find the city reborn these days. Tate Liverpool will host a summer-blockbuster Lucian Freud exhibition from July 24, hotels are relentlessly booked out for Premiership home games for both city teams and Bold Street bars are buzzing again with post-pandemic revellers.

Liverpool has some fight in her yet.

Seeking solutions

There’s one month left to reach a compromise before the final decision. Joanne Anderson, Liverpool’s newly elected mayor, says heritage and regeneration are not mutually exclusive and has invited Unesco to see the developments first-hand. She wrote on Twitter:

So, can Liverpool salvage its status as a maritime-heritage hub?

I hope so. It would be a shame for cruise arrivals, disembarking from the Cruise Terminal on the waterfront this July, to find that their gentle stroll through Liverpool’s Mersey-docked history, walking from the Three Graces to the Merseyside Maritime Museum in the Albert Dock, no longer gets the Unesco nod.

But I’m sure that Liverpool would rise again.

As Peter Colyer, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Tourist Guides Association, told me:

“Liverpool moves onwards and upwards. We would be saddened but the loss of status, but it would not impact significantly on visitor numbers.”

“The regeneration of Liverpool,” he added, “is an ongoing work in progress.”

So Unesco be damned. As any football fan knows, Liverpool may go one down at home sometimes — but they always fight back.

Read the edited story at Telegrpah Travel.

Facebook Live ghost tours live-streamed for the Chester Heritage Festival

The Chester Heritage Festival kicked off last weekend with a series of live and online events across the city.

My contribution was a pair of short Facebook Live videos from two haunted locations around the city.

It was based around my Haunted Chester audio tour, bringing a frisson of ghost-story spookiness to the heritage-fan proceedings.

Check out the videos:

And catch up with all the video content from the Chester Heritage Festival here.

Then download my self-guided tour to your smartphone via the VoiceMap app and explore Chester’s dark side with just my voice and a detailed map to accompany you.

It’s the ultimate in social distancing.

More about Haunted Chester.

A walking tour of historic Edgar’s Field Park in Handbridge, Chester

This site is one of Chester’s hidden gems.

Indeed, I used to regularly take my children to this local park, but it was ages before I realised there was a 2,000-year-old historical artefact just behind the swings.

The park is Edgar’s Field in Handbridge and the carving is the Roman goddess Minerva [pictured above].

The shrine is said to have been carved into the sandstone in the second century AD and is believed to the only site in Europe still in its original location, according to experts at Historic England.

Today we’ve come for an audience with Minerva.

Minerva was the patron of arts and craftsmen and, later in Roman history, she became the goddess of war with temples in Rome devoted to her.

She was often portrayed wearing a chiton, which is an ancient Greek garment, and a helmet. Many statues of her show her holding a spear and a shield, to represent her warlike qualities.

But she can often be found offering an olive branch to the defeated as Minerva was a compassionate victor, who had pity on those her armies vanquished.

This is now a quiet park on the banks of the River Dee but it was once a massive quarry, excavating the huge blocks of sandstone to build Chester’s Roman walls.

And this weathered rock shrine was once a site of ancient Roman worship.

The quarrymen, who carved the effigy, would have made offerings and prayed for safety during their gruelling, risky labour.

Sadly, Minerva looks a bit the worse for wear these days — the weather and vandalism have seen to that. But you can still pick out her figure holding a spear and wearing a helmet, an owl over her shoulder on the right.

The awning over the shrine is a 19th-century addition, placed there in the hopes of warding off further damage.

Edgar’s Field dates from the Saxon period and gets its name from King Edgar, the great-grandson of Alfred the Great, who held a council in or near the field in 973AD.

From here the king visited nearby St Johns Church, which was built in 689 AD. Writings from this time describe the scene of Edgar being rowed up the Dee by eight Saxon, Welsh and Viking princes as an act of submission — a romantic image forever associated with Chester.

Edgar’s Field was laid out as a public park by the first Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, who presented it to the City of Chester in 1892 as an act of philanthropy.

My children are grown up now — but I still come to visit Minerva.

I love the way that Chester may change yet Minerva stands, serene and stoic, keeping watch over the good people of Handbridge from her freeze-frame stone tomb.

Why the Wirral village of Port Sunlight is built on a bar of soap

He was the Jeff Bezos of his day, a polymath who founded a business empire — built on soap.

Lord William Hesketh Lever [pictured above] built up the Lever Brothers business that made its home on the Wirral, founding the garden village of Port Sunlight in 1888.

I visited the village for a preview of SoapWorks, a new family visitor attraction opening May 26 — just in time for the May half-term holiday.

The museum explores the science behind soap through a series of hands-on exhibits.

“He chose soap with good reason,” says the gallery curator. “He saw the opportunity that soap could make people healthier and happier.”

Lord Lever was an early-adopter health and safety champion, providing better quality housing for his factory workers, although he was motivated by ensuring they didn’t miss a day at the factory.

The village is still home to the research arm of Unilever, the British multinational consumer goods company that grew out of Lever’s Sunlight Soap.

Art abuse

Afterwards, I headed to the nearby Lady Lever Art Gallery, founded by Lever for his wife, Elisabeth, in 1922.

The current exhibition, The Last Bohemian: Augustin John, explores works by the Tenby-born painter, who went on to study art in Liverpool.

John famously painted Lever’s portrait in 1920 but the then Lord Leverhulme found it unflattering, sparking a scandal when he cut out the head from the canvas.

When the story was leaked to the press, art students took to the streets of London to defend the artist’s right to capture Lever as he saw him.

The two sections were finally reunited in 1954 for a retrospective of John’s work at the Royal Academy.

Lever died a very rich man but, today, the gallery continues to explore his connections to the slave trade in the plan oil plantations of the Belgian Congo.

Maybe John captured something of the man after all.