Last Wednesday evening I went for a great walk with a great group.
We gathered on the roof of Central Library on what felt like the brightest and warmest day of the year so far – good walking weather. A group of 30 – some from Fazakerley, Walton and the waterfront – had turned up for the second in a three-part series of events looking at the boundaries of a place and why they matter. We were joined by Jon from Barcelona who, moments earlier, had been minding his own business before being roped into the tour by Gerry and Odie the dog. As we stood waiting for the group to gather, Gerry pointed out the Welsh hills, clearly visible in the distance. I took a photo to send to a friend.
Chris from Hidden Liverpool would be our tour guide, along with Gerry, as we passed from the library, down Dale Street and on to the Pier Head. I was excited to stretch out and learn new things about my city, to be newly proud of bits of it. Before we set off Gerry pointed out Millennium House, now the Shankly Hotel and its prominent roof extension, carried out by the current owners, Signature Living. We all agreed that from that vantage point, it looked a bit shit.
We strolled first past the Churchill Flyover, which is soon to be knocked down, learning new things about the Mersey Tunnel and the prominent boundary of 151 Dale Street. We learned about the history of the Municipal Buildings, the Conservative Club and one of the remaining police bridewells in the city. We saw the oldest dwelling in the city (built between 1765 and 1785) and still standing on Hockenhall Alley and passed the remnants of the failed Shankland Plan and its walkways in the sky – noticeably at Moorfields station, where you have to go up an escalator to the ticket office to go down again to the subway. The yellow brick road took us past the Artist’s Club and Garlands, based in an old Masonic Hall, to the Tempest building and the empty spaces surrounding it – the never-filled-in spaces from buildings destroyed in the Blitz.
By this stage, we’d passed several pubs and not lost a single person to a cold pint on a hot night. My will for abstaining was about to be seriously tested as we passed Ye Hole in the Wall, built in 1726, and Rigby’s, built in 1850 on the site of an old Quaker House. We lingered for a little while at Exchange Flags to talk old public art, sanctuary stones, cotton flowers and pineapples, before heading off past Martins Bank to see secret octopuses and hatches for the country’s wartime gold reserves; Oriel Chambers, a building that piloted the building technique that made skyscrapers possible; past the India Buildings, soon to be home to HMRC and on to the Pier Head.
We finished our walk at Pier Head for a gander over the Mersey to the Wirral. As I stood, I reflected on the boundaries we’d crossed as we walked – and the boundaries that I didn’t see at first. On the fact that the World Heritage Site covers some side streets and not others; sections of the walk, whilst in the site, are distinct areas within it – the cultural quarter and business district, as examples. But it also put me in mind of something we discussed in the first event of this series, the phrase ‘Outstanding Universal Value’. It was something I felt as I walked from the library to the waterfront, peeling back layers of history and crossing boundaries as I did.
The stories we heard along the way – the places and people that make up the history of our city – have created outstanding universal value here and elsewhere. Our story in Liverpool is a global story, a story of the world’s heritage, for good and ill. And we have the designation and recognition of a being World Heritage Site to prove it.
We’ll be picking up the chat about boundaries again in the third and final event in this series on July 17 at the Florrie. Beyond the boundaries will look at how the things that make the World Heritage Site have been shaped by heritage projects from across the city region, from outside its boundaries. I’ll look forward to seeing you there.