Continuing with what’s turned out to be a day of thinking about crossroads in Wavertree I’ve now spent an hour or so taking photographs of the one around the Picton Clock, a mile or so further out of the city than this morning’s bleak experience at Edge Hill. And we’re not dealing with bleakness at this one, though we soon might be.
And that’s because one of the buildings on one of its corners, a former cinema that was most recently a medium sized Co-Op supermarket, has been bought by Lidl, and they’ve got plans for replacing it.
So just to get you orientated I’m talking about this crossroads just by the Coffee House pub, where Wavertree High Street turns into Childwall Road, and half a mile or so from Penny Lane. It’s a place, all on its own. And I’ll be returning to this ‘place’ idea as a theme throughout what I’m going to say.
And the reason for the place talk? Well, there’s currently a local campaign, as you might have expected, to ‘save’ the building that’s threatened with demolition, which is the old Abbey Cinema looming behind the Picton Clock in the picture up there. A campaign I’m thinking might be made considerably stronger by some thinking about the importance of the whole crossroads, rather than focussing on a single corner of it. Which is what I’m here to contribute.
Here’s a map to start with.
It’s from a 1905 OS map, and there were trams here then, as you can see. But the shape of the crossroads is still as it was. The major change from then being that where there was a field beneath where the map say ‘Clock Tower’ is where the cinema got built during the twentieth century. Meaning that when you’re approaching the crossroads from any of its several angles, you get a very clear sense of where you are because you can see either the Clock Tower, the Abbey Cinema, or both. A sense of place, I’d say, as strong as anywhere else in Liverpool.
It’s a strange crossroads, with a probably ancient road pattern that no one would deliberately design today, and all the more precious for that. In the middle of a uniquely varied collection of buildings and neighbourhoods. Where terraced streets of inner city housing and shops begin to change into suburbs. Oh and with an actual village green still there in the middle of it all. Like nowhere else.
So quite a place. And not somewhere I for one would like to see reduced to a could be anywhere kind of place by, say, replacing that great big cinema building you can orientate yourself around, with a single-storey shop of no particular distinction? Because that’s the plan. And here it is:
With more about it here, just to be fair.
So what do you think?
My thoughts are that the film Lidl have made is weird and other- worldly. Other worldly certainly compared to the photographs of the actual place I’ve just shown you. Lidl’s version of the crossroads being all widened out and flattened, maybe to make what they’re proposing look bigger? More like it’s a significant contribution to the crossroads than it would really turn out to be? More like a replacement, in its scale and its impact, for this?
I don’t think so.
But never mind, they’ve thoughtfully included a curved front so we’ll barely notice the old Abbey’s gone.
But I think we would, Don’t you?
Because I think what’s proposed is poor. Of low mass, low quality, low impact and poorly designed. Particularly that Abbey pastiche of a lumpy bit stuck on the front. All in all precisely not what the crossroads needs. This special place where you know you’re entering the centre of Wavertree and can feel you’re well on the way into town.
So what about the Abbey then? The place local people want to save. Well others can and are putting forward some heritage arguments, and I’d like to speak up for a supermarket back on its ground floor again. I really miss the Co-Op being there. But it’s a huge building and will need more ideas to get it saved than that. So what do you think? What would you like? Otherwise all we’ll get will be what Lidl are currently proposing.
And that would be bleak.
See also “Bleak: At the crossroads” about what can happen when a crossroads fails.