2012: Friday Walks, Everton and Liverpool

Normally on Fridays, the day we walk rather than work, we set off for coastal places. But this week, being a momentous week in the history of Liverpool, we decided to walk closer to home. In the hills of Everton, and down the valley to Anfield.

Beginning in Shaw Street, in Everton, where some of the lovely Georgian houses have been renovated…
And some haven’t.

Prince Rupert’s Tower. Lock up or secret tunnel?
Along to what remains of Netherfield Heights.

I used to work up here as part of my first housing job, in the early to mid 1970s. Then the area was full of tower blocks, mostly now demolished.

How it looked back then.

It wasn’t a prosperous area. But there were thousands of people around. So it was always lively, and the corner shops and pubs busy. But now much of the place has been grassed over. And it’s empty and quiet. A great place to come running, but for me it always feels like running through a differently shaped past.

The views though…
Are magnificent. Here, looking across the river to New Brighton.
Nearby, close to where St George’s Heights used to be, some sandstone pokes through. The rock Liverpool is made of.

St George’s Heights. Used to be the highest place in Liverpool., until it was demolished in 1999.

From here we walked across the hill to an older part of Everton.

St George’s Church.
And gorgeous Everton Public Library.
Closed to the public in 1999. There are though, plans for restoring the building soon.

Next, walking down Everton Valley we enter Anfield. (And no, in case you’re wondering, we haven’t deliberately not shown you Everton’s football ground. Confusingly that’s not in Everton, but a mile or two away in Walton.

But we are approaching a football ground. This is Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club.

And these have been tough years recently in Anfield. Grand plans for the football club to move to a new ground in nearby Stanley Park were frustrated by the financial manoeuvrings of the club’s previous American owners.

Leading to serious blight in the streets around the ground.
Lovely yellow brick Liverpool terraced houses going to waste.

But arguing with my beloved Liverpool FC about this will have to wait for another day. Because what we’re here to witness matters much more than this. We are around the corner from a sacred place. And this is the week the Hillsborough Independent Panel released the report that has begun the process of finally delivering justice for the 96 Liverpool supporters who were cruelly killed at a match in Hillsborough, Sheffield, 23 years ago.

The Hillsborough Memorial, the names of the dead, and a flame that never goes out.
At last we have the truth. Liverpool and Everton scarves, together.

Children at the Memorial today.
‘At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of the lark’

While we are here others come and go silently, many leaving flowers, most in tears. This has been an emotional week for all of us in Liverpool.

We move on.

Round the corner, evidence of a resilient community, the Community Bakery.
Oakfield Road. The Sandon, where both Everton and Liverpool football clubs were formed.
But there is desolation here too.
St Domingo Vale. Good houses awaiting demolition. Why?
New building taking place. But it’s taken years.

In April 2005 we did some work with the people of Anfield. A film of how the place was then, and some workshops with our friends Urbed, helping them to imagine and design how they’d really like the place to be.

April 2005. Sarah filming from the roof of The Kop. Many of the streets she’s filming, the ‘V’ streets, are gone now.
And me, also in April 2005, very proudly standing on the roof of The Kop.

We didn’t then expect that seven years later the place would look like it does today.

We move on.

Back up the hill to Everton. And come upon this magnificence. Everton Water Tower.
Disused now, but a listed building. Built to the quality of a cathedral.
Then back towards the river and the beautiful views.

A wild man, in his place.
Then down the hill…
And through the city…

To lunch at our favourite café, Greendays. After a walk of mixed but many emotions.

And back home, while I’m writing this, British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy publishes this beautiful poem, about this week, in the local paper, the Liverpool Echo:

“THE Cathedral bell, tolled, could never tell;
nor the Liver Birds, mute in their stone spell;
or the Mersey, though seagulls wailed, cursed, overhead,
in no language for the slandered dead…
not the raw, red throat of the Kop, keening,
or the cops’ words, censored of meaning;
not the clock, slow handclapping the coroner’s deadline,
or the memo to Thatcher, or the tabloid headline…
but fathers told of their daughters; the names of sons
on the lips of their mothers like prayers; lost ones
honoured for bitter years by orphan, cousin, wife –
not a matter of football, but of life.

Over this great city, light after long dark;
truth, the sweet silver song of the lark.”

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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    1. Yes Jan, we were very glad to have it written for us. Public poetry, at the point of need. Reminds me of Laurence Binyon’s great First World War Remembrance poem:

      ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
      Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
      At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
      We will remember them.’

  1. What an emotional walk, and a journey through so much on a Friday afternoon. You have placed the Hillsborough tragedy and this week’s disclosures (hmm – can’t quite think of the right word) in the broader context of the great and diverse city of Liverpool. I remember the Hillsborough tragedy so well, watching in horror as it unfolded on the screen that Saturday afternoon so long ago.

    An incredible post – huge respect.

    1. Thank you Philippa, this walk was a pilgrimage. Having been at the Vigil, with the Hillsborough families on Wednesday night, we felt we couldn’t walk away from Liverpool, as we often do. This week, we were obliged to walk into the steady and beating heart of our place. To be with our place. And walking there, like on all good walks, brought everything about the place to mind.

  2. What a splendid account ! Your photographs of the buildings are superb and those long rows of beautiful derelict terrace houses are so poignant. The bay windows and little attic room are so attractive. What is the matter with shortsighted developers and bureaucrats who cannot or will not see that they have a building treasure trove that should be restored and sold to people who will love and care for those houses that have no doubt housed generations of Liverpool families. And words fail me when I look at that splendid Everton Public Library, surely that has to be one of the lovliest public library buildings in the Western world. If and when it is restored will it be used as a branch library again ????? I hope so. I note the library was built in 1896….perhaps from Carnegie funds ? I am glad the tower blocks have gone but I can understand that feeling of sadness you experienced as you remembered the time that the area bustled with life but that could happen again with the regeneration of those wonderful terrace houses and the opening of the ubiquitous corner shop. Oh I could go on and on on the subject of social planning but I’ll refrain and just say again how much I enjoyed this piece.

    1. Hello Mandy. In more recent years we knew a lot of the people who lived in the tower blocks, and strange to say, many of them loved living in them. They were terrible places to bring up children, but older people and those without children would show us the views, the quality of the light, the high quality of most of the buildings – and regret the fact that most of them were about to go.

      And you’re right, Everton Library was built with the help of Andrew Carnegie. But it doesn’t look as if it’s going to be used as a branch library after its restoration, but will instead be ‘a hub for local enterprise and culture’ (isn’t that what a branch library is?) See more about the plans here

      And the empty homes? Like in Granby, where we’re about to film today, it’s simply wrong. And I think a lot of what’s wrong can be put down to arrogance and greed. The arrogance of local bureaucrats, who say ‘the desire of people to live in homes like these in places like this has now ended.’ (This is a real quote, said to me many times by suburb dwelling job holders who think everyone should want to live their lives like they do.) And the greed of developers, who say they ‘need’ large areas of cleared land to make their new-build schemes ‘stack up financially.’ And in this case, sad to say, the greed of the football club’s owners.

  3. as a photographer, my interest in social documentary and industrial heritage has taken me to Granby and the Welsh Streets as well as the Edge Lane area. I understand that Granby is safe for the moment – not so the Welsh Streets (with just a token few houses due to be saved).
    I’ve not yet seen the ‘tinned up’ Anfield streets – your informative and well photographed Everton – Anfield walk has ensured that I set off in that direction very soon. Thanks for the blog – I have linked to you from my own Liverpool photo blog – Natural Light – http://darkhorseliverpool.blogspot.co.uk/

    1. Thank you Alan, and for the link. We’re just off to Granby now, where we’re making a film with the group of local residents responsible for ‘greening up’ the streets. A guerrilla gardening film!

  4. You’ve done it again Ronnie, I used to work around this area a lot as a part time ambulance driver. Prince Rupert’s Tower, the one on Everton fc`s shirts. And I remember the view from Netherfield Heights. I once commented to a patient that on the top floor where he was he was almost up in heaven, and he replied its not b****y heaven up here mate.

    And of course the sandstone, we are made of it, and it scrubbed so many steps in my Mother’s street!

  5. My first job was as a library assistant based at Great Homer Street and Everton Libraries, the latter had a basement full of treasures.

    It was 1974 and I had a bedsit over the Optician’s in Oakfield Rd where I could hear the Kop roar if I opened the window. Greg, a fellow library assistant from Birkenhead, took me to my first match against Spurs.

    I have taken my 5 sons to sit in the Kop but sadly it didn’t prevent two growing into Man U supporters and one a Gunner. Owen Michael, the youngest and one of the first kids to have Owen 18 on the back of his shirt, has stayed a true Red along with our first born, Jamie.

    Thanks for the memories guys!
    Pat Merrick,

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