The Liverpool Porcupine – Revisited

The Liverpool Porcupine

A heads up to a new and developing project from the History Dept. at Liverpool University has been brought to my attention and is well worth a visit: THE LIVERPOOL PORCUPINE [REVISITED]

About the site:

 The purpose of this site is to introduce the Liverpool Porcupine to a 21st century audience.  Revisiting the journal will hopefully demonstrate that – whilst the worldview of our nineteenth century ancestors can often seem quaint, strange or unenlightened – there is rarely anything wholly new in the world of politics and public affairs and issues and dilemmas’ that concern us now are not so very different from many of the preoccupations of the Victorians as they struggled to adapt to rapid social, economic and technological developments.  Contexts change;  human nature and fundamental values arguably do not!

The Porcupine:

Rarely referenced now other than as a source of ‘local colour’, the Liverpool Porcupine remained in publication for some 55 years, one of the longest-surviving of the ‘comic periodicals’ to emerge in mid-19th century England.

 Launched in Liverpool in October 1860…….. read more

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The Main Bridewell and Dale St shops site

The Main Bridewell, and the ‘Dale St shops site’ Liverpool

It is not every day that we can celebrate the preservation, restoration, and rebirth of an iconic and historic Liverpool building. This was indeed the case though following some superb restoration work by Jamworks Ltd and Vermont Construction on the Main Bridewell in Cheapside, with the stated and well publicised intention of opening as student accommodation.

The author of this blog supported this move to save and utilise an historic building such as The Bridewell. I praised the developers on the workmanship in restoring the Bridewell. I queried the change from the planned student accommodation. I wished the operators well for their hotel operation. I lamented the loss of Georgian buildings on Dale St but welcomed the proposals for redevelopment and ‘reassembly’. I live in close proximity to both sites discussed.

In September 2009 the Liverpool Echo reports that the Bridewell has been purchased by Wirral-based Students Lettings Point for £450,000.

The story then develops leading to some excellent restoration, but also to as yet unanswered questions.

Despite concerns relating to heritage listing and necessary works to modernise etc. the developers gained planning permission in January 2014 to convert the former prison into student accommodation. Main concerns centred around lowering of window sills – not sure if this actually happened as, I believe, students ‘right to light’ differed from that which would apply to a hotel.

Progress on the Main Bridewell was rapid and the quality of the restoration was praised by many. Jamworks actively advertised the forthcoming student accommodation:

Dale St shops site - Liverpool Echo

Dale St shops site – Liverpool Echo

However in March 2015 it was then announced via the Liverpool Echo, as a suprise to many, that the Bridewell would open as a hotel operated by a company called ‘Stay Central’ – whom have a website but appear to operate via Facebook. The hotel opened for Grand National weekend this year.

There was no mention in the Echo story as to why the plans for student accommodation seem to have been abandoned, and no mention of the lack of planning permission to operate as a hotel.

Even the architects Falconer Chester Hall said ‘didn’t know anything about it’


The Planning Dept. at Liverpool City Council did not know about this change of use either:

21st April‘The local planning authority has not received any applications to use the above premises as a hotel. We are trying to find out who the property may have been sold to so we can advise that such a use would require planning permission’

The Echo reported on this story this on 13th May 2015 stating that Liverpool Council had now contacted the operators informing them they needed to apply for planning permission to operate as an 85 room hotel

On 21st July 2015 this was later the Echo headline story : including

A letter to the council’s planning department on behalf of Jamworks explains: “The conversion to a hotel has overtaken the previously approved scheme for student accommodation on grounds of viability and long term objectives by the client company to deliver a unique brand of hotel accommodation within the city, comprising the ‘StayCentral.Com’ brand.”

A few weeks later on Aug 5th we see this on Twitter, again advertising The Bridewell as student accommodation:


Jamworks are also once again advertising it as student accommodation on their website

It subsequently comes to light from Liverpool City Council that:

‘An application was submitted on 5th of July but it was not accompanied with a correct set of plans or appropriate supporting information (information on management of the building, servicing and delivery strategy for a hotel use etc)’

The application is currently invalid awaiting the correct set of plans and supporting documents’.

It waits to be seen what happens in September.

Dale St shops site

Whilst all of the above is going on the Dale St shops site, purchased for £1, still sits vacant and increasingly litter and debris strewn.

Adjacent to the Bridewell this was another long neglected site – a Grade II Listed Georgian terrace of c1819 shops but sadly in a very bad state at the time this story begins.

In November 2013 Liverpool City Council announces the shops site will be sold to Jamworks for £1 :

‘The Mayoral Cabinet will be asked, on Friday 6 December, to approve new proposals which would see the Grade II listed ‘Dale Street Shops’ (87-95 Dale Street and 2-6 Cheapside) carefully restored and brought back into use.

 Jamworks Ltd are about to start work on the £5 million conversion of the adjacent Grade II* listed Bridewell building, and if the deal for the Dale Street Shops is given the go-ahead, they would deliver the two schemes in tandem, creating a combined site, comprising private residential units on the upper floors and office and traditional retails units on the ground floor.

‘As part of the deal, the city council would make a grant of £275,000 available to the developer from its Buildings at Risk Capital programme to make the project financially viable’ – Liverpool City Council

‘Robust background and financial checks will be undertaken by the city council, alongside full due diligence on the detail of the proposal.’

Demolition started in January 2014 and was completed soon afterwards. It transpires that the original named construction contractors, Vermont, who completed the successful and very well received restoration and refurbishment of the previously derelict Bridewell were not given the opportunity to complete the Dale st shops contract, and demolition was carried out direct by Jamworks. The reasons for this are not known, nor is it known if the Council were/are aware of this. Signage around the site name John Turner Construction as the new construction contractors.

I, as a local resident, have continually sort reassurances about the delays. Liverpool City Council has kindly responded to requests for information, none of which has been indicated as being confidential:

May 2015 ‘…..confident that the Council’s position is protected here – and, more importantly, the shops, from a heritage perspective. I understand from previous correspondence that the shops have been dismantled, rather than demolished, and can be rebuild – which is Jamworks intention. The City Council can step in, if the development is incomplete by the completion date.

– I’d caution against doing anything that could jeopardise Jamworks obtaining agreement on financing the development. It’s in everyone’s interest that this development is completed according to the timescale in development agreement. If, for whatever reason, the Council has to step in, it could take longer and cost more for the development to be complete – and the shops brought back in to use.’

May 2015 ‘… most recent correspondence with the developer ‘Jamworks’ concerning the Dale Street Shops site has indicated that financing is an issue and needs to be agreed with their external funders in order for the scheme to progress. I do not have more specific details. It is a surprise that the enabling works and site clearance commenced without the appropriate financing being in place to ensure completion of the scheme by the agreed long stop date…..

The developer has not yet responded to the question when the works are likely to recommence although there is no reason to suspect that the scheme has stalled indefinitely. As indicated there is a legal agreement in place requiring the scheme is delivered within a agreed period and any Council funding under the section 57 Listed Building grant is only eligible for payment once practical completion is achieved. I understand the Council, as freeholder, has step-in rights under the development agreement that would be triggered in the event that the development remains incomplete by the scheduled completion date’

May 2015 and the Echo runs a story…. ‘Work on Dale St shops site to ‘start in months’ despite demolition of historic listed building’

In July further correspondence from Liverpool City Council:

At August the site, on one of the city’s premier streets and directly facing the Council offices, is still an eyesore for both locals and tourists alike.

To date Jamworks have provided limited information on the delays other than this back on 19th June of this year:


This appears to be at odds with the Council message that the delay is due to issues with funding.

Dale St shops site - Aug 2015

Dale St shops site – Aug 2015


Dale St has had some notable successes of late and I hope this eventually joins them to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The Bridewell and ‘shops site’ do though raise possible questions, I’ll leave you to consider your own.

Main Bridewell - Aug 2015

The popular Bridewell Hotel- Aug 2015


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St Mark’s Church, Upper Duke St 1803

St Mark’s Church of England, Upper Duke St 1803 – 1908

What was one of Liverpool’s largest churches, and lasted over a century before closure and demolition, did not get off to the most auspicious of starts…… more

St Mark's c1910

St Mark’s c1910

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Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool

Laid out c1750 as a tree lined square and Ladies walk on land owned by the Wolstenholme family, the square has a fascinating history being built up since c1756. During the following 250 years it has gone through many phases as Liverpool developed. It suffered badly in the Blitz of 1941, has become a night club phenomenon, is home to Penelope, and  it is soon to see some re-development once again……

read more……..


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St Thomas’s, Park Lane, Liverpool

St Thomas’s Church, Park Lane, Liverpool

1750 – 1905

Despite being built in 1750, closed in 1905 and demolished in 1911, the Church of St Thomas is still closer to us than many people realise. Equally so are the legacies of many who were buried at the church. Just 0.5 of a meter below your feet as you walk around the Memorial Gardens at the end of Paradise St/Park Lane lay the remains of early ‘elite’ Liverpool citizens in brick lined vaults capped with gravestones. In the process of researching into St Thomas’ it has been exciting to uncover what appear to be some previously unrecorded facts, and be able to help fill in some gaps in previous accounts. Amongst some unrelated books I was fortunate to find …….read more

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Wellington Rooms, a place for dance and laughter

Another of Liverpool’s empty buildings that creates much discussion and debate, and one that holds many memories for many people. How fantastic would it be to see this gem alive once again with the sounds of laughter and music. What else could it be used for? Perhaps a Liverpool Medical Museum to celebrate the cities many contributions and firsts in the field?

Wellington Reading Rooms - opened 1816

Wellington Rooms – opened 1816

The Grade II* Wellington Rooms is a neo-classical building designed by Edmund Aikin, erected by subscription, and located on Mount Pleasant. It was built 1815 – 16 and the first function was the Ladies Charity Ball held on 31st Dec 1816. The Wellington Club became a key part of the Liverpool social scene in the 19th Century as a venue for dancing, drama, and other entertainment. Read more…..

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Liverpool Libraries and the City’s key role in the library movement

#supportliverpoollibraries – use them!

Andrew Carnegie, benefactor of many Liverpool libraries:

‘A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert’

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As Liverpool faces the very real and disturbing prospect of losing up to 11 of its public libraries due to government austery cuts it is worth reflecting on our city’s proud history with regard to library provision.

Timeline of Key Events

1715 – Seamen’s Library opens at the Parish Church of St Peter

1758Circulating library  starts in Princes St, moves to North John St then Lord St 1787

1800Athenaeum Library opened on 1st May

1802Lyceum in Bold St (newsroom and library)

1820 – Mechanics and Apprentices Library on School Lane

1850Public Libraries Act championed by Liverpool MP William Ewart

1852 – 18th Oct Free Public Library opens in Union News Room Duke St

1853 – At a council meeting on 21st Sept Liverpool’s Mayor, Samuel Holme, announced that William Brown had come forward with an offer of £6,000 to build a library and museum if the council would provide a site for it

1855 – Liverpool Improvement Act 15th July allows for work on Shaws Brow/William Brown St to accommodate museum, library

1860 – William Brown Museum and Free Library opened 18th Oct

1875 – Peter Cowell is appointed as Liverpool’s third Chief Librarian and is responsible for commissioning the Carnegie/Shelmerdine libraries

1879 – Picton Reading Rooms opens 8th Oct – named after Sir James Picton who had been chairman of The Museums and Library Committee for 25yrs

1882Bootle Town Hall, Library and Baths opens

1889 Kensington Library opens. Extended 1897

1896Everton Library opened. Closed as library 1998, empty sine 2002. GradeII*

1902Toxteth Branch Library – Gifted and opened by Andrew Carnegie 15th Oct. GradeII Listed

1903Wavertree Library

1905 – Kirkdale Branch Library – Brock St – opened 21st June by Alderman J. N. Stolterfoht – destroyed in The Blitz.

1905Lister Drive Library opened, again funded by Andrew Carnegie – closed 2006. ‘Lister Steps’ now working to restore via lottery funding

1906 – Hornby Library extension to rear of Picton Reading Rooms

1909Garston Library opened, funded by Andrew Carnegie. GradeII

1911Sefton Park Library opened by Andrew Carnegie on 3rd Aug. GradeII

1911 – 23rd Nov Walton Library opens

1914 – Oak Room added to Picton Library

1931Edge Hill (Lodge Lane) Library – closed 2012

1938 – Harold Cohen Library – Liverpool University – opens 21st May

1941 – William Brown Library was hit during The Blitz resulting in over 150,000 books being lost

1957 – 25th June – Queen Mother unveils plaque to mark rebuilding of William Brown Library

1974 – Sydney Jones Library – Abercromby Sq.

2009Toxteth Library becomes the 17th community library in Liverpool to have been refurbished in 10 year period

2012Library closures and reduced opening hours announced

2013 – May 17th – Central Library re-opens after major £50m refurbishment. 23rd Sept – HRH The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward unveils a special plaque, marking the official opening.

Thomas Shelmerdine – architect of many Liverpool Libraries

 #supportliverpoollibraries – use them!

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Time travel on a zip wire……

With the news that thrill seekers are going be offered the opportunity to speed down a zip wire high above Church Street here are few things they may see if they hit a few time warps!

All additions gratefully received!

Timeline for Church St

c1671 – Laid out
1671 – Bridge built across Whitechapel from Lord Sttemp 014 copy
1704 – St Peters Church built
1708 – School Lane in place – Bluecoat
1740 – 45 Parker St/Clayton Sq
1760 – paved
1780 – Dr James Currie lived here – site of TK Max
1782 – Dispensary- corner of Church Alley
1797 – No.40 Original Athenaum opens
1818-  mcadamised
1824 – No. 46 Pantheon Theatre
1828 – Hendersons Dept Store
1829 – No. 46 Liver Theatre – shops from 1850’s
1858 – No.25 – was Elkington’s
1867 – No. 83 – by date on building
1868 – Street widened, burials exhumed from St Peters
1872  -Seels Building
1884  -Bank of Liverpool 84 Church St – later Martins, then Barclays, now Santander
1909 – First UK Woolworths – No.25
1912/14 – Premier Bldgs – now LloydsBank, was Boots
1912/18 – Bon Marche rebuilt, upper floors added 1923ZipWire
1920 – Coopers Bldgs
1922 – Street widened, St Peters demolished
1922-24 – new Woolworths, also Burtons
1924 – widened, and original Athenaeum demolished
1928 – sweep around Parker St corner rebuilt
1930 – 17 Church St – Lloyds Bank, now Vodafone
1951-55  -Spinney House – Littlewoods, now Primark
c1957  – Bunney’s Store demolished, now site of ForeEver21
1960 – Henderson’s rebuilt after tragic fire
1974 – Pedestrianised
1994 – ‘The Great Escape – horse sculpture – removed 2006
2000-  C&A closes – after more than 70yrs

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‘To Demolish or not to Demolish that is the Question’

Heaps Mill – Liverpool

I wonder what Joseph Heap (1762-1833) himself would have thought about the current debate on saving his early-mid-C19 warehouse? I’m sure he would firstly be amazed that it has survived so many years including changes of use, fires, wars, and demolition all around.

AlPacino-Heaps 079 copyNew proposals for demolition and new developments so close to the Liverpool World Heritage site have raised a good level of debate both for and against saving the warehouse complex. The immediate outcome has been the Grade II Listing of the building by English Heritage, and the initial refusal by Planning for demolition.

What do you think? Are we in danger of losing what makes this city different? Should we  just get on with modernising and stop standing still? Are we disrespecting Liverpool’s rich heritage?

Read more here……….

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Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse

Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse – Built 1897 -1901

Whether viewed from the distant St Georges Hill in Everton or from the bascule bridge in its shadow, the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse is a structure of imposing and bewildering mass.

‘If any single building expresses Liverpool’s role in a great trading network, this is it’ – Storehouses of Empire, English Heritage

Read more here………

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