Finding out more about Liverpool-born architect Alfred Waterhouse

I’ve blogged previously about Liverpool’s rather brilliant architect Alfred Waterhouse – here’s a link back to one of my previous postings:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/03/25/liverpool-alfred-waterhouse-the-citys-very-own-world-famous-architect/

If you’ve read my previous posting you’ll realise that I mention him being from the Liverpool district of Aigburth but that seems to be wrong as he was actually born in Everton. The background note about him below, which I was given on a Heritage Open Day tour of the Waterhouse buildings of Liverpool University last week, is very informative:-

Daughter Jen and I enjoyed, with around a dozen other folks, a 2-hour tour of the University’s Waterhouse buildings, and here’s a few photos I took during the tour – but firstly a map:-

These maps help with an understanding of the university campus buildings Waterhouse worked on.

Victoria Building

Victoria Building interior shot

Liverpool Infirmary’s porte cochère entrance

Liverpool Infirmary rear view

Liverpool Infirmary fact sheet

The Infirmary was laid out mainly with ‘Nightingale wards’ i.e. large rectangular wards with big windows but because of site/land ownership issues Waterhouse designed a couple of circular wards too. This is a view of one of them.

Waterhouse designed ironwork

Sunlight streaming into a refurbished corridor in the Infirmary Building.

I would highly recommend a Heritage Open Day Tour of Liverpool University’s Waterhouse buildings. We really enjoyed our visit, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and the buildings are quite wonderful to see.

Note – Please click on the information sheets (& photos) to enlarge them for reading

The last photo is amongst my Flickr photos at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Birkenhead – It’s rather lovely Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

I recently visited this art gallery and museum with daughter Jen and a fine place it is too. Sadly, due to austerity and money troubles for Wirral Council, it’s had more than a few threats to its continued existence but thankfully it is safe for now. Here’s a link to its website:-

williamsonartgallery.org/

I took quite a few photos of the exhibits and here are my personal favourites:-

Trams at Woodside by George Anthony Butler 1927 – 2010 – Painted in 1988

Winter Twilight by James Thomas Watts 1853 – 1930 – Purchased 1913

A beautiful display of pottery. The wooden and glass case is as beautiful as the exhibits

There are some cracking lasrge scale ship models such as these Mersey Ferries

An interesting former Birkenhead Corporation ferry poster

Well worth a visit I’d say. Can’t really understand why it’s taken me all these years to have my first visit, but glad we went.

Raised to the sound of a piano

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, a common theme was that often the background to whatever I was doing at home was the playing of a piano by my Dad George Robertson and sometimes by my Mum Sheila Robertson. It’s probably because of that playing that I am often drawn towards someone tinkling the ivories. I’m into smooth jazz and David Benoit playing ‘You read my mind’ (try the link below) is probably top of my list of favourites although I also love the playing of Bob James, Keiko Matsui, Joe Sample etc….

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrBYBffdG5g

Mum liked Charlie Kunz and Russ Conway whilst Dad was often playing church-related music as he was in two church choirs in his lifetime – St. Wilfrids Kirkby-In-Ashfield and St Andrews Maghull.

I’m told that they had a piano from when they first got married and moved into 14 Orchard Road K-In-A. I think this will be that original piano just visible in the background of a photo of my October 1958 Christening:-

Later they had a beautiful ‘Baby Grand’, a Gors & Kallmann, which I’m told came from family friends Millie* & Len Rodwell. That piano followed us from Kirkby-In-Ashfield to Rochdale and then on to Maghull as Dad’s jobs for Thomas Cook took us on a Cook’s Tour of northern England. And that piano was probably the most important piece of furniture in all 3 houses. It was French Polished on one occasion and tuned a couple of times each year. I recall watching the piano tuners at work, one of whom was blind.

The Gors & Kallmann Baby Grand in Mum & Dad’s Sefton Ln Maghull house.

I never learned to play myself and whilst I don’t do regrets in life in general I’ll make an exception over this. I should have learned.

But playing music had fortunately just skipped a generation as our daughter Jen plays the flute and is a member of Maghull Wind Orchestra. She can also play the piano a little and Dad would help her learn when she was little. Then one day we were at Mum and Dad’s house and I was called in to hear Jen play one of my favourite tunes, Forever Forever by Keiko Matsui and to say I was delighted is putting it mildly.

Then as in all families, the older generation fades away and I was left to clear Mum and Dad’s Sefton Lane house in Maghull but this house had a Baby Grand to dispose of! And what a task finding a new home for it proved to be. I’d assumed that a piano in such great condition and so lovingly cared for would be snapped up. Think again, no one seemed to what it so I contacted Sefton Council’s Music Service to see they had any contacts wanting a Baby Grand piano. They did, and the piano moved to Formby in 2009 finding another loving home for another little girl learning to play.

Jen, in particular, regretted us having to let the piano go but for the same reason I had difficulty finding a new home for it (even a Baby Grand is big) we just did not have the space to keep it.

I’m grateful that I was raised to the sound of piano playing as I find listening to the likes of David Benoit so relaxing………

* Millie, I understand, was a librarian at the Children’s Library in Urban Road Kirkby-In-Ashfield

** The people in the black and white photo are George Poskith Hadley (my great grandfather), Bill Robertson (my Grandad on my Dad’s side), George Robertson (my Dad), Walter Calladine (my Grandad on my Mum’s side), Annie Calladine (my Grandmother), Sheila Robertson (my Mum holding me) and Nellie Robertson (my Grandmother). George Poskith Hadley, Bill Robertson & Nellie Robertson lived at 36 Hampden Street K-in-A. Walter and Annie Calladine lived at 31 Urban Road K-in-A.

‘Life on Board’ Exhibition at Mersey Maritime Museum

Yesterday we went to have a look at this new exhibition which has recently been put tpgether by curators at Merseyside Maritime Museum. I say recently but it should have opened back in March however a certain lockdown stopped that happening. But with the relaxation of Covid 19 rules the exhibition indeed the Museum itself is now open for public viewing again, although it’s wise to pre-book your visit. It’s all free I might add.

‘Life on Board’ is a look into the lives of both crew and passengers of merchant ships and passenger vessels and it tells a story, indeed many individual stories, via the people who experienced work and travel by ship over many decades.

Now having been shown around this new exhibition by our daughter (one of the team behind it) means that my view of it must be biased; that said both Sheila and I really did find it fascinating and well worth the visit. What’s more, clearly great thought has been given into trying to keep visitors and staff safe during this awful pandemic.

I’m no maritime historian so the best way I can illustrate the exhibition is via the photos I took while at it. So here goes:-

There’s quite a bit about the loss of this ship including video interviews. So sad but the families got to the truth in the end thankfully.

The medal above was interesting to see as I’d blogged about Samuel Plimsoll a while back – Here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/21/plimsoll-the-man-the-mp-and-the-line/

I picked this shot of a Harrison Line poster due to it’s connection with my former home town of Maghull – Historic England says – Harrison Home [at the junction of Sefton Ln & L’pool Rd Sth] was named after Frederic Harrison, the President of the [Maghull] Homes in 1902 who operated a shipping line out of Liverpool. The home was constructed by Brown and Backhouse at a cost of £5421 and opened in June 1902.

To add to the photo above my Mum worked at the Harrison Home in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and I recall going into the building (which is Listed) at the time and thinking how beautiful it was and indeed still is. The Maghull Homes, as it was then known, was an epileptic colony and this was one of their buildings, it’s now known as the Parkhaven Trust.

I took a lot more photos as the exhibition covers many shipping issues and matters but the ones I’ve picked for this review are those which particularly interested me. Of course, other aspects will be of greater interest to others so if this review has piqued your interest it’s best to go see the the exstensive collection for yourself – I’m sure you’ll not be disappointed.

Please click on the photos above to enlarge them.

Museum of Liverpool – Covid 19 Mind Maps

Below you’ll find a link to a short Museum of Liverpool video on You Tube showing mind maps detailing the experiences of participants:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljTg1Sf6FF8&feature=emb_logo&fbclid=IwAR1WLyy_quCGIjhDZWF1ymXP479zspjHjSaE0FCL8E9QkOU7uDv8gDaSFAw

Our daughter Jen is one such participant and her mind map is at about 1.30mins into the video and it’s also at the head of this posting.

Click on the mind map grapic to enlarge for reading

Jo Grimond – Jen Robertson reviews his memoirs

Jo Grimond’s Memoirs were by published by Heinemann way back in 1979 and I read my own copy sometime in the 1980’s. One day whilst in a second hand book shop a couple of years back I saw another copy and purchased it for my daughter Jen, a radical green, feminist Social Liberal. Then only a few days ago I put a podcast on my Facebook page (linked here – www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMJscTUAXMI) where Iain Brodie Browne was being interviewed in his capacity of Chair of the Social Liberal Forum. Jen saw saw the podcast and it reminded her of the book because Iain referenced Jo during the interview. She dug it out together with the notes she’d made whilst reading it – you can tell she’s an historian and researcher by trade.

And so 41 years after it was published the memoirs of a long gone politician are being reviewed and indeed challenged by my bit of a leftie daughter. I hope you find her views about Grimond as interesting as I found them.

*****

Hearing Ian Brodie Browne mention Jo Grimond in his podcast interview reminded me of the book of his memoirs that my dad gave me, which I read last year.

It wasn’t really the kind of political memoir that leaves you inspired or fired up and I didn’t feel at the end like this was the work of a great Liberal statesman. What I did feel however was that it was the work of a man I’d rather like to share a pot of tea with. I suspect we’d have a fair few differences but he seems able to disagree well and he was clearly a man of deep thought on many things, a likeable man who would doubtless prove very interesting to chat with. Perhaps we should all be so lucky as to come across that way. Grimond raised some interesting points in his memoirs, though I have to say what seemed most interesting wasn’t actually his work in party politics but with United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) after WWII. He writes really well about it but not for long enough, I wanted more about that, especially as it seemed to sum up a lot of his Liberal ideas. There’s this great thing he says about:

“While it seems surprisingly easy to rebuild cities and industries, you cannot rebuild the lives of those driven from their homes.”

He sounds like he would have been a good man to have around to discuss the current refugee/migrant crisis of the last decade. He talks well about representation and diversity as well, saying there are “too few, not too may, Jews and immigrants in British political life.” I think that one bears repeating today!

To be honest quite a lot of it still feels relevant, there’s a great bit about the National Front where if you replace NF with the BNP it sounds like it could have been written in the last few years. Things don’t change. When he talks about the potential of a Lib/Lab pact in the 70s he says that electoral reform was the only thing that could justify it. We never did get bold enough on asking for that in collaboration talks, did we!

Of course he won himself some brownie points with me for his words on women. He says some wonderful things about how women have been overlooked and how slow progress has been. He also makes some remarks about male aggression and posturing in politics that mark him as probably a little ahead of his time for a wealthy white man.

However if that gained him points he certainly lost some when he touched on arts and culture.

“when I read that some British gallery has spent a million pounds on Italian pictures or French furniture ‘to save our heritage’ I think what fools it’s trustees must be.”

On this subject he rather exposes himself as a far too old-fashioned man of his time for my liking or comfort. He talks about wanting to see money invested in National Trust style properties, rather than in Chinese ceramics or the old Grand Masters (he literally says such thing are being hoarded ‘for the greater glory of curators’ which might be the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, as an insider I can tell you no one ever got into curating for the glory – not so politics!). He wants to see this change in investment because he views the National Trust type properties as ‘our heritage’ – basically proper British history. His idea of ‘our heritage’ is revealed here as pretty insular, not global in the least, and suggests an important lack of understanding on his part. A lot of Chinese ceramics for example were made for sale to the western market, it’s a fascinating early example of global supply and demand (these were often items that had no appeal in China itself, they were made purely for export) and became a key feature of British culture – what does he think we drank all that tea from! Where indeed does he imagine the tea and sugar came from? In reality British culture has been global for a long time, even when it didn’t want to admit it. He starts as though to make an interesting point about returning items to their place of origin (though again here shows no understanding of the fact some of these things were specifically made for export!) but then goes on to talk about it being better if you could go and visit a Canaletto painting on the Grand Canal i.e. where he thinks it should be, as though a trip to the Grand Canal were something anyone could just decide to undertake (a bit of rich white privilege rearing it’s head there)! It’s unclear if he really is making an early case for repatriation of significant artefacts looted by a colonialist Empire or if he just doesn’t think they’re of value here and ‘well why can’t people just go and visit them abroad’. Either way he makes the argument too ill (I mean talking about French furniture instead of say the Parthenon Marbles doesn’t suggest this is about ethics to him) and too briefly to have any merit. It’s in passages like this one he doesn’t come over well, I wouldn’t however imagine that many men of his time would do much better. And he makes an impassioned plea for saving architecture that I have to love. I too would like to see more investment in those National Trust type properties, but I don’t think they are the only example of ‘our heritage’, which is much more diverse than he acknowledges here. Let’s say he’s not a man I’d want representing us on culture. It also seems very much at odds with how open and global a person he seemed to be in all other regards.

I do love though that he seems to be a man of quiet conviction, that he thinks having values in politics is so important, and the way he says:

“Liberalism is not at bottom about the vote, it is about how human beings should behave to one another.”

Which might explain why he spends so little time in the book talking about actual politics, in his view I think you certainly see the political in the personal every day. It is a surprisingly politics light book for the memoirs of a political leader. I found a brief clip of a speech of his on youtube (about going in to Europe appropriately enough!) and he came over better than I’d expected. His writing is pleasant, he certainly comes over as a nice man, but not as a political charismatic force. He was more charismatic in person from the footage I could find.

One more thing he said, which I love and just think is very clever and very interesting was:

“had the computer been invented in the last century it would have been predicted that as the rise in population must require more horses we should all by now have been up to our knees in horse dung. Our children will profit from new inventions.”

It’s something I feel we could do with bearing in mind with climate change. The idea that we can’t use less energy because people’s lives would suffer, we need those fossil fuels to power hospitals, schools, industry! We don’t know that. We are trying to judge a possible future based on the understandings of today. Instead of wondering what to do with the horse shit, maybe we just won’t need the horses.

Boris Johnson, a man seemingly without a political compass, should maybe have read this.

Please click on the extracts from the book’s jacket cover notes to enlarge them for reading.