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