The Jewel of Edge Lane

Edge Lane01To most Liverpool people the fact that Edge Lane has a jewel will come as a considerable surprise. In fact, arguably, it has two.

A building.

A building.

And a garden.

And a garden.

And we’ll be back for a closer look at them both in a bit.

But this is a tale of two walks on Edge Lane this week.

One on a dull day.

One on a dull day.

And one on a sunny day.

And one on a sunny day.

And what I want to look at is a road and a whole area in continual transition over the past 200 years.

Edge Lane has long been the main road into and out of the centre of Liverpool. Indeed in the 1960s there was a plan to bring the M62 into the city along Edge Lane. That didn’t happen then, as I’ve written about in my ‘Lost and Found’ post. But it’s sort of happening now, as over the last few years much of the housing along Edge Lane has been cleared to allow the road to become an even more major highway than it already was. The photographs above look much like Edge Lane would have looked 10 years ago.

But round the next corner the houses have gone.

But round the next corner the houses have gone.

And the remaining side of a formerly hidden terraced street stands blinking at the future.

And the remaining side of a formerly hidden terraced street stands blinking at the future.

This did not happen without protest. And mention must be made here of Elizabeth Pascoe, a local resident, who fought Liverpool City Council very hard and very successfully for a long time to retain her mortgage-free home. In the end power prevailed and she now pays a mortgage of £80 a week in the new home she was forced to move to. That’s the way the reviled Housing Market Renewal Initiative worked – ‘renewing’ the housing market by sucking money out of people who thought they were all paid up.

In the acres of roadway and newly opened space there is something new though.

In the acres of roadway and newly opened space there is something new though.

The NHS Kensington Neighbourhood Health Centre.

The NHS Kensington Neighbourhood Health Centre.

With lyrics by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

With lyrics by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

And the M62, sorry, Edge Lane makes its way into town.

And from there the M62, sorry, Edge Lane makes its way into town.

The surprise survival of Clare Terrace. Precious Georgian houses.

Here, the surprise survival of Clare Terrace. Precious Georgian houses.

And next, a relatively rare example of HMRI land actually being built on rather than left as cleared fields.

Gladstone Road.

Gladstone Road.

Next to this sudden bit of suburbia, there is a fold in time.

'The Shipperies'

‘The Shipperies’

Much more than a disused pub and an empty fire station.

Much more than a disused pub and an empty fire station.

‘The Shipperies Exhibition’ which took place along here in 1886 was opened by Queen Victoria as a celebration of an Empire then reaching its zenith, with Liverpool as its principal port.

The Exhibition boasted ‘an African village, 50 natives of India and Ceylon and camel and elephant rides’ and sounds horribly racist and triumphal.

Her Majesty not looking too happy about things there.

Her Majesty not looking too happy about things there. Those were different times.

In fact we are walking through history now. Time folds back further.

Down to one of the places where railways began.

Down to one of the places where railways began.

This is the oldest passenger railway station in the world. From where Stephenson’s Rocket set off on its inaugural journey to Manchester in 1830.

Though it looked a little grander then.

Though it looked a little grander then.

Whilst being no slouch now.

Whilst being no slouch now. Look at that yellow door?

And much change has happened since.

And much change has happened since it was built..

It retains a glorious and tangible sense of place.

It retains a glorious and tangible sense of place.

And even has its own allotment. Run by some of the people who work here.

And even has its own allotment. Run by some of the people who work here. It’s not just a railway station.

Leaving the station, in the small looking but deceptively large Georgian warehouse up there is one of Liverpool’s most fascinating antique and furniture shops.

Edge Hill furniture and Antiques.

Edge Hill Furniture and Antiques.

Now we’ll set off for the two jewels back on Edge Lane.

Pausing on the way to notice this tinned up street of empty homes. Arnside Road.

Pausing on the way to notice this tinned up street of mostly empty homes. Arnside Road.

Back onto Edge Lane.

Back onto Edge Lane.

Past

Past this grand looking warehouse.

And into Edge Lane's jewel. The Botanic Gardens.

And into Edge Lane’s jewel. The Botanic Gardens.

Actually Liverpool's second Botanic Gardens.

Actually Liverpool’s second Botanic Gardens.

In 1803 a group of Liverpool botanists led by William Roscoe had set up the first, private, botanic garden near Mount Pleasant, which was then on the outskirts of the City. As the city expanded, in the 1830’s the garden was relocated here, to this 11 acre walled garden in Wavertree. When the project ran into financial problems in 1841 Liverpool Corporation took over and opened the gardens to the public in 1846.

The last time Sarah and I had been in here, on a winter’s day some time in the 1990s, the place had felt abandoned and edgy. Since then love, care and wise public spending have clearly happened.

And now the place is gorgeous.

And now the place is gorgeous.

A children's nursery in here.

A children’s nursery in here.

And this wall, what's left of it looks significant.

And this wall, what’s left of it looks significant doesn’t it?

It was the wall in front of this magnificent glasshouse.

It was the wall in front of this magnificent glasshouse.

Here on the original plans.

Here, the original plans.

Sadly we lost this in the bombing of World War Two. It’s never been replaced and so this is really only a partial botanic garden now. No longer housing all the botanic treasures it once did.

Still, it’s a magnificent place.

The original pathways restored.

The original pathways restored.

A laburnum arch, growing again.

A laburnum arch, growing again.

And behind where the glasshouse was?

And behind where the glasshouse was?

Probably a maintenance area.

Probably a maintenance area.

Now empty, still.

Now empty, quiet and still.

Maybe waiting for the day its glasshouse is returned?

Beautiful sunken gardens have been restored.

Beautiful sunken gardens have been restored.

Sarah tells me gardens like this were particularly fashionable with the Victorians. The patterns in this one reflecting the tiled flooring in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

The planting is lush and mature, being the best part of 200 years old.

The planting is lush and mature, being the best part of 200 years old.

Though Sarah pronounces the quality of it as ‘not up to much for a botanical garden. Over the years the place wasn’t much looked after, so there’s little here of botanical significance now.’

But there could be. It’s a beautiful, sheltered space that clearly has had interesting planting in the past, and could have some again, now the basic structure of it has been restored.

And it does have some very old trees.

And it does have some very old trees.

Sarah thinks this one's a peach tree.

Sarah thinks this one’s a peach tree.

'They do grow here. There's one on my allotment site. But I've never seen tham grow this tall.'

‘They do grow here. There’s one on my allotment site. But I’ve never seen tham grow this tall.’

So, a gorgeous place. Linking us all the way back to William Roscoe in 1803. And when we finally pull out of all this austerity nonsense, a great place for a botanic garden Liverpool can be even more proud of.

And just next to it?

Edge Lane's other jewel.

Edge Lane’s other jewel.

This is the now empty Littlewoods Pools Building. An art deco gem from 1938. As well as running the football pools and catalogue company, the buildings vast spaces were also used during World War Two to build parts of Halifax bombers. Teams of code breakers worked in here too, along with manufacturers of barrage balloons.

It’s been empty now for over ten years and various plans have so far come to nothing. Housing, offices, a hotel, schools. All have been rumoured. And signs outside the site say work is currently underway.

But all is quiet and still as I walk up to the building.

But all is quiet and still as I walk up to the building.

Nothing is going on here.

Nothing is going on here.

A magnificent place.

But it’s a magnificent place.

One of Liverpool’s many empty places. Waiting in stillness for a future.

A future based on innovation?

Could be?

Could be?

Though it's not much of a name for a road.

Though it’s not much of a name for a road.

Meanwhile Edge Lane roars on out of the city. Through retail parks soon to be remodelled.

To merge into the M62, a mile or so away.

To merge into the M62, a mile or so away.

So there we are. From William Roscoe to Elizabeth Pascoe, Edge Lane. More, much more than just a road.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “The Jewel of Edge Lane

  1. Gerry

    Another excellent peripatetic photo-journal, Ronnie. I like the way you are sensitive to the various changes and the history of the area. I never knew those Botanical Gardens existed – must go and take a look.

    Reply
  2. Helen Devries

    That was a most interesting tour…particularly for someone who knows absolutely nothing about Liverpool – or didn’t before following your blog.
    The link to the HMRI did not work…but that could well be my computer. I’ll look it up later.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Helen, It’s a tangential sort of link to Anfield, fixed now. The most devastated of all HMRI places. With technical links to legal references half way through the post.

      Reply
  3. Maggie Wallace

    I remember the botanical gardens from the late 1960s – a colleague lived in a flat in the street that ran alongside there, and I stayed over a couple of times after work parties. Remember the hum of traffic from Edge Lane when I woke in the middle of the night. Always meant to go back and take a look (I was too young to be interested in gardens back then) – maybe we will one of these days when we’re not called by the lottie weeds or clearing our old home ready for sale! Thanks for the memory.

    Reply
  4. Lucy

    I absolutely love this post! I drive past these places so often and have always admired the Littlewoods building and wanted to explore more. I must go to that park too

    Reply

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