Category Archives: History

In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?

“I hated being sent to collect me mum’s washing from the Kelton laundry. With a kid’s imagination it looked like Dracula’ s castle or maybe Colditz to my young eyes. You would knock on a huge door which was duly opened by a fearsome looking nun in full habit. Peering in as she went to fetch the wash, revealed a scene I thought was what hell must look like. A horrible smell of cleaning and lots of steam. Lines of women in pinafores and covered heads slaving away. A vacant expression of hopelessness on every face. I sensed evil even at my tender age.

The evil that was the Magdalene story”.
Phil Jones, October 2017

This comment turned up in my email early one Saturday in October 2017 about a blog post I’d written nearly four years earlier in December 2013. That post had been about a general walk around Aigburth in South Liverpool that had ended with me finding somewhere I’d almost forgotten from earlier in my life.

“Let me tell you a story, a true story, from half my lifetime ago.

It’s the mid 1980s and I’m delivering my beloved baby daughter to her nursery. It’s called Kelton and is just down the hill from a convent, called Kelton House. This morning I’ve noticed someone watching me as I drive past Kelton House. Someone who doesn’t look much like a nun. I ask one of the women who work in the nursery, an Irish woman as it happens ‘What is that place up there? I thought it was a convent.’ ‘Well it is’ she says ‘But it’s also a mother and baby home. It’s where the girls come to have their babies, off the Irish boats as often as not.’

So hurtful for them. Us bringing our much wanted and much celebrated babies to the nursery each morning, while they watch us from their hidden away lives.

I wasn’t sorry, then, when the nursery had to move to another place a few months later because the nuns, who owned the land, had decided to sell it off for housing.”

Continue reading

To get to here: Knoydart and the Hebrides

Knoydart_01

“But really, I thought, to even want to do this? To get to here….”

A guest post with reflections, by Sarah, on her wilderness walking last week.

“‘Walking’ is an understatement I feel. To get to places like this”

*

Knoydart_02

Knoydart_03

As I sat on the shore of Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, some 450 miles from home, having my lunch, I thought, ‘How long did it take to get to here?’ Loch Coruisk sits in heart of the Black Cuillin, it is surrounded by 22 peaks. It’s only accessible from the sea by boat, or on foot from two villages, both about eight miles away.

Today, the 15th of September 2017, it took nearly four hours from Doune on the Knoydart peninsula to get here. But including travel from home, more like two days. But really, I thought, to even want to do this? To get to here…. Continue reading

Streets Apart: A History of Social Housing

Early in May this year writer and journalist Lynsey Hanley, together with a producer from BBC Radio 4 came and interviewed me for a series of programmes they were planning about the history of social housing. I was glad to do this as Liverpool had a significant role in the early development of council housing.

Then a few weeks after our recording the Grenfell Tower Fire happened and in its still unfolding aftermath it seems more necessary than ever to look back at the history and development of social housing. Continue reading

Over the top: Walking to Leeds Section 12

The morning after our Leeds Liverpool Canal walk brings us to Barnoldswick we set off from there and begin our walk over the highest point of the canal and into Yorkshire.

Beginning by the former cotton mill that’s long been a Rolls Royce aero engine factory.

Sarah immediately encounters some canoeists.

And has an intense ‘on the water’ conversation. Kayaks are mentioned.

Continue reading

From Nelson to Barnoldswick: Walking to Leeds Section 11

All will be revealed later.

After a few dog days, sorry about that, I’m glad to get back to canal walking, returning to our Barnoldswick base that we’re using to cover the highest sections of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, through East Lancashire into West Yorkshire. Over this weekend it’s our intention to cross over the top of the Pennines and begin our descent into West Yorkshire and Leeds. Let’s go.

Getting the M1 bus back to Nelson where we left off a fortnight ago. The chimney the only thing left standing of this particular mill.

Through the pleasantly terraced streets of town.

Arriving back at ‘our’ canal.

Where Sarah helpfully points out today’s route.

Continue reading

Through Burnley to Nelson: Walking to Leeds Section 10

The morning after our canal walk into Burnley we’re back here again, on the bus from our base in Barnoldswick.

Burnley quiet on a Sunday morning.

Past the Mechanics Theatre.

Then round the corner and across a few roads… Continue reading

Arriving at Burnley: Walking to Leeds Section 9

Resuming our complete walk of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, by the end of this walk we’ll be very conscious that we are now walking through the heartland of the industrial history of the north of England. Burnley, as you’ll see from this post and the next one, is a fantastic place that is a privilege to walk through

These walks also mark the end of our doing each canal section as a separate day trip. We’re now too far from home for that, so have booked ourselves a long weekend away in Barnoldswick. A place so far into East Lancashire that it feels just like Yorkshire.

Barnoldswick, quietly lovely.

A friendly pub that we go to and a café that we don’t call their place ‘Barlick.’ so maybe all the locals do? We wouldn’t presume to know.

Naturally on our evening of arrival we stroll down to see that we think of as ‘our’ canal. It’s yours too of course.

We’re not expecting to reach Barnoldswick itself on this weekend’s visit, but definitely will next time we come to stay. Continue reading