Hidden facts about the Liver Building and the Liver birds

EYEWITNESS 2015 blog by Aidan O'Rourke

Liverpool Liver Building and Pier Head with St Nicholas church

Liverpool Liver Building and Pier Head with St Nicholas church

In addition to my Eyewitness articles on Manchester, written for publication in the Manchester Evening News, I also write articles on Liverpool. That’s because I am interested in the history and heritage of Liverpool, and I run photo walks there. This article is written solely for the Eyewitness blog on the aidan.co.uk site.

The Liver Building is Liverpool’s most famous building. It’s a symbol of the city and home to the two Liver Birds that stand at the very top at both ends. It’s said that if they ever fly away, Liverpool will cease to exist.

It’s well-loved landmark in Liverpool but if you ask people “When was the Liver Building built?” “Who was the architect?” “Who designed the Liver Birds?” not everyone will be able to tell you, so here are a few facts:

It was built from 1908 to 1911 for the Royal Liver Assurance Company.

It was designed by architect Walter Aubrey Thomas.

The style is similar to buildings in Chicago and Shanghai.

It’s made out of reinforced concrete.

It was the tallest building in Europe from 1911 go 1932 and the tallest in Britain until 1960.

The Liver Birds were designed by German sculptor Carl Bernard Bartels

It is 322 feet tall. (98 metres)

The clock faces are 25 feet (7.6 metres) in diameter, bigger than Big Ben in London.

I have photographed the Liver Building many times from a number of different angles. From the distance, the clock towers are often seen above the skyline, silhouetted against the sky.

The Liver Building is one of the three magnificent buildings known as the ‘Three Graces’. Many people don’t know that the three buildings were built on three former docks, part of St Georges Dock, which was filled in to allow the waterfront to be extended out into the river. The ground plan of the building is the same shape as the dock.

In past times, the the Liver Building and its neighbours were blackened by smoke and pollution. In the late 1960s and early 70s they were cleaned. The Liver Building has a darker tone, which some people say makes it look rather drab. I disagree, its distinctive colour is part of its idenitity and makes it unique.

When I was taking the photographs for Liverpool Then and Now, I had the opportunity to go inside the Liver Building and unfortunately I was very disappointed at what I saw. Much of the original interior had been modernised. The walls on the inner courtyard have been covered with a modern glass facade.

I felt it was sad that such an important building has been compromised on the inside, even though it’s not visible from outside.

Despite that, the distinctive features of the building are much the the same as they were when it was first built and it continues to fascinate visitors and local people.

I would love to go up into the clock towers but I don’t think there is a tour of the interior of the building.

For me, the Liver Building is symbolic of Liverpool’s maritime heritage. Its very shape and location are influenced by the docks which were there before. It looks out towards the river and the sea, reminding us of Liverpool’s connections with other parts of the world, whether the Isle of Man, Ireland or across the Atlantic to North America and beyond.

Liver Building sketch by Aidan O'Rourke

Liver Building sketch by Aidan O’Rourke

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The Welsh influence on Liverpool and the Scouse accent

EYEWITNESS 2015 blog by Aidan O'Rourke

Althorp Street Liverpool with view of the Mersey and Welsh Hills

Althorp Street Liverpool with view of the Mersey and Welsh Hills

There are many connections between Liverpool and Wales. It’s said that Liverpool is regarded by many people in North Wales as their capital, not Cardiff. The Welsh accent has influenced the Liverpool accent, and the border with Wales is just twelve and a half miles down the road from Birkenhead.

You can see the Clwydian hills from many parts of Liverpool including Althorp street in Toxteth in the image above.

And the view down onto the Liverpool region from the A55 in Flintshire is magnificent.

There are Welsh communities in Liverpool and many people go on day trips to North Wales or for a longer holiday.

Welsh people started to migrate to Liverpool in the 18th century and it’s reported that by 1813 around 8000 people or 10% of the residents of Liverpool were Welsh.

People from Wales created communities around Liverpool and Welsh was the dominant language in those places.

As in other British cities there are streets named after places in Wales such as Denbigh Road and Barmouth way.

But the most important symbol of the Welsh influence in Liverpool is the area called the Welsh streets in Toxteth, next to Princes Park, about a 10 minute bus ride south of the city centre.

The street names include Kinmel Street, Rhiwlas Street and Madryn Street, former home of Ringo Starr.

These streets were built by Welsh workers around the end of the 19th century, but over the years they have become very run down.

There has been some controversy about the Welsh Streets area. In 2013 Liverpool city council put forward plans to redevelop the area. Some houses would have been demolished but new houses would have been built. The plan was rejected by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles. In early 2015, the future of the Welsh Streets is still uncertain.

The Welsh influence in Liverpool declined during the 20th century. According to the 2001 census, around 1.17% of the population were born in Wales, but there are plenty more people in the city who have a Welsh heritage.

VIew Everton Brow Liverpool with the Welsh Hills

View of Everton Brow Liverpool with the Welsh Hills

For me the clearest evidence of the Welsh influence in Liverpool is the accent. Compare the up-and-down intonation of the Scouse accent with the Welsh accent in English or the Welsh language and we can literally hear the influence of all those people who migrated to Liverpool in past centuries.

The patron saint of Wales is Saint David, or Dewi Sant in Welsh. Saint David’s Day is celebrated every year on 1 March.

See also this article: Welsh Arts Review – the Welsh of Liverpool by Jim Morphy

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Photo Essay: Silhouetted Scenes at Dusk

EYEWITNESS 2015 blog by Aidan O'Rourke

Wellington Grove off the A6 in south Stockport, silhouetted rooftops and street lamp at dusk

 
I love the effect of dusk light, when street lights, buildings are cast into shadow and appear silhouetted against the sky.

In the urban landscape of northern England, many of these buildings remind us of the past. Modern elements such as cars and fashions are excluded. We can only imagine what is in the black areas, it could be from the present or from our memories of the past. The sky is full of atmosphere, enhancing the nostalgic effect.

In this photo, taken from bus stop near where we live, a 50s style street lamp appears on the left, whilst the rooftops slope down from the corner of the picture. The chimney stacks look mostly as they did 100 years ago, except that there is no smoke.

Aerials are pointed north towards Winter Hill. Cables stretched over the street carry phone and internet communications. In a few minutes time the pink sky will have turned dark.

When photographing for silhouettes, it may be necessary to reduce the exposure compensation to minus one or possibly two. Here, there was an area of sky in the centre of the picture, so it wasn’t necessary. If the are had been dark, the camera would have tried to lighten the picture.

Silhouetted shapes generally look better when sharp, and so a narrower aperture will be better. This photo was taken at aperture f11, shutter speed 125th of a second, ISO800.

Atmospheric sky with street lamp and telegraph pole, Cheadle Heath, Stockport

The light in this photo was especially atmospheric, with dark clouds above and bright sunlight peeping below the clouds behind the house.

Even in the age of satellites, wireless hotspots and fiber-optic cables, 19th century telegraph poles continue in use. The street lamp almost looks as if it has already switched on, but it’s just a trick of the light.

This photo is taken in Cheadle Heath, on Kensington Road, near where I grew up as a child.

Stockport Edgeley spire of St Matthews church silhouetted against a rainy sky

This is the view from Platform 4 at Stockport’s Edgeley Station. I took the photo of the spire of St Matthew’s church, Edgeley after a heavy shower.

The spire of St Georges Church south Stockport silhouetted against a dusk sky

When silhouetted against the dusk sky, the spire of St George’s Church, Heaviley, Stockport looks exactly the same as when it was completed, in 1897. The angle emphasises the flying buttresses at the base of the spire. At the very top, the weather cock faces to the west. The spire is 238 feet high.

The tower of Birkenhead town hall silhouetted at dusk

Birkenhead Town Hall ahs a distinctive shape with a dome at the top. Nearby are the rooftops of the houses on Hamilton Square, and there is a flag, though it’s impossible to make out what flag is is. A visually fascinating element of the clock tower is the clock face, lit from behind. The time is 6.20pm.

Capture details: 1/125s f5.6 ISO800, 31 Dec 2005, 18:11:26.

Liverpool Municipal Buildings and the Unity Building silhouetted at dusk, seen from St John's Gardens

The view from St Johns Gardens, Liverpool faces towards the west and often the skyline is silhouetted. Here the tower of the Municipal Buildings on Dale Street points up into the dusk sky. On the right, a modern element is introduced.

It’s the Unity Building, the prestigious residential building, completed 2007. In the middle one of the high level lights illuminating the entrance to the Kingsway Tunnel.

Manchester Holy Name Church, Oxford Road seen against a dusk sky with tree branches

Manchester’s Holy Name church is seen here through trees and silhouetted against a reddish-purple dusk sky. The tree branches look like lace. The outline of the church is similar to a French cathedral.

I added a black border to enhance the silhouetted effect. It recaptures the excitement of viewing Kodachrome transparencies against the light. On the reverse side it was possible to see the imprint of shapes in the picture, caused by unevenness of the emulsion. This photo was taken on a digital camera, probably the Nikon Coolpix 990, on 22 March 2003.

It is impossible to take this view now. University buildings were constructed on the car park behind the trees.

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