Mr Seel’s Garden

On the wall on the side of Tesco in Liverpool One shopping centre is this map of the garden that used to be there, the garden of Thomas Seel, slave trader and philanthropist.Mr Seel01

As you may know, or have read about in my 1775 and 1820 posts, in relatively recent times Liverpool was a place of contradictions and countryside. Philanthropists and slavers. Industrialists and farmers. And ‘Mr Seel’s Garden’ has been a project involving local community groups and academics exploring some of these contradictions. But not as a merely historical exercise. Dr Michelle Bastian, one of the academics involved, says:

“We are exploring whether knowing more about the past might inspire new ways of thinking about the future of local food in Liverpool.”

They’ve produced a lovely website about what they’ve found. Maps, stories, photographs, recipes and even an iPhone App which I urge you to have a look at. But today was the project’s final event after a year of exploring, cataloguing and story telling about food growing in Liverpool. So we went to see them, for their end of term report.

In the Bluecoat.

In the Bluecoat.

Our second slave trade connection of the day.Mr Seel03

As well as maps, apps and honey – which we’ll come to, there was story telling. First Duncan Scott, geographer, on ‘Uncovering Liverpool’s Cowhouses.’

Little end of terrace yards where a few cows would be kept.

Little end of terrace yards where a few cows would be kept.

At their height there were 900 of these in Liverpool. Tiny little local dairies most of them. Researched and lovingly written about in Duncan’s book ‘Urban Cowboys.’

Liverpool's last Cowhouse, 1975.

Liverpool’s last Cowhouse, 1975.

We watched this silent film of the last of Liverpool’s Cowhouses being emptied of its cows in 1975. This was in Marlborough Road, in Tuebrook. So recent and yet I’d never even imagined it before today. (The cows, by the way, were taken to a farm in the Lake District.)

A short break.

A short break.

A chance for a look at the rarely seen inner courtyard at the Bluecoat.

A chance for a look at the rarely seen inner courtyard at the Bluecoat.

Then a major treat. Co-ordinated by creative director Liz Postlethwaite, the Mr Seel’s team of local residents told us their stories. Of growing up, and bakeries and chippies, and food memories and getting the christmas turkey delivered from County Mayo in Ireland with an address label round its neck. Precious and enthralling stuff.

Food memories from the Mr Seel's team.

Food memories from the Mr Seel’s team.

Thank you for your stories. The Egan family, from Ballina in Mayo, via Hope Street, Liverpool.

Thank you for your stories. The Egan family, from Ballina in Mayo, via Hope Street, Liverpool.

Into the next room for a look at the iPhone App:Screen-Shot-2013-01-24-at-13.39.56

“The Mr Seel’s iPhone App lets you discover how we used to grow, make and eat food across Liverpool by scanning food products from the present day.

The barcodes on all food packaging are linked to a Universal Product Code database that gives information on what a product is. Supermarkets use these codes to access details about a product including its price.

When you scan a product with the Mr Seel’s App it links to our own database of memories and historical notes that tell you about how food was grown, cooked and eaten in the past. Just as the local food movement is transforming the global food system, our app seeks to transform Universal Product Codes into Local Memory Codes which uncover our local food heritage.”

You can download it here.

Next to the App stall, something perfectly in tune with us at a sense of place, Andrew Hubbard’s Post Code Honey. Honey from places very close to each other but tasting quite different depending on the pollen the bees have gathered in that precise neighbourhood. Sarah’s written more about this in a companion blog piece to this.

So for now, here it is, from the bees and the streets of Liverpool.

So for now, here it is, from the bees and the streets of Liverpool.

And we heard and found out more from the places the project’s been involved with:

Friends of Everton Park have recently set up a new community growing space, with the Faith Primary School, in Everton.

Friends of Everton Park have recently set up a new community growing space, with the Faith Primary School, in Everton.

Creating a 21st century version of a Victorian walled garden, with and for the community.

Sudley House, creating a 21st century version of a Victorian walled garden, with and for the community.

The Welsh Streets Home Group have proposed a community orchard, kitchen gardens, water collection and outdoor cooking for this area.

The Welsh Streets Home Group have proposed a community orchard, kitchen gardens, water collection and outdoor cooking for this area.

More and more talk. Of sustainabilty, permaculture, local food and, by the way, saving the planet by cutting carbon emissions. All in one afternoon in one project. Well done Mr Seel’s Garden. We had a lovely, inspiring time.

The above three images and the one at the top taken from a lovely set of post cards produced by Mr Seel’s Garden.

See also Sarah’s companion piece to this one: Pollen loads of the honeybee.

6 thoughts on “Mr Seel’s Garden

  1. cheethamlibMandy

    Talk about a contradiction, Thomas Seel, slave trader and philanthropist! But how many worthy projects have been funded and still continue to be funded by ‘worthies’ like him.But at least in the 21st century his garden has been the impetus of yet another fascinating community project from Liverpool.

    I loved the piece about the local dairies and was very happy that the cows from the last one went to a country farm. Obviously the people of Liverpool maintained their link with the countryside that had always sustained them throughout the dreadful process of industrialisation. No doubt that would be true of other cities too. Another excellent post….

    Reply
  2. Cathy Varley

    Great little website! My great grandma (and my gran and her brothers and sisters)lived on Cherry Lane from the 1920’s onwards and I’ve heard my uncles talk about being sent on errands to the local dairy when they were little. I always though it seemed a bit strange to have a dairy round there but apparently not!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Oy, less of the ‘little.’ We sweat blood over these posts, you know!

      Seriously though, welcome to here Cathy. I lived near Cherry Lane in the 1970s and the dairy was well gone then.

      Reply
  3. Helen Ball

    Hello Ronnie, what a fabulous article! I will also be on the look out for the cow houses on my travels now. I grew up in Clubmoor by Broadway Bridge in the late 60s / early 70s and I am sure we used to get our milk from Harrisons Dairy in Cherry Lane, although whether there was a cow(s) still in residence I don’t know. I still have a childhood memory of our milkman called Stan and he only had one eye.

    Ive tried to read Sarah’s artilce about the honey but link doesnt seem to work?

    Regards
    Helen

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Helen for noticing that, I’ve fixed the link to Sarah’s honey article now.

      I’ve also done a more recent post about the Cowhouses of Liverpool.

      As for Harrison’s they’re definitely still going. Someone from there knocked on our door about doing milk deliveries a few weeks ago! Sadly for them we don’t drink enough milk for it to be worth their while.

      Reply

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s