Walking the streets of Liverpool
Lime St Station seems smaller than it did when I arrived in Liverpool as a student so many years ago, and the garish advertising across the street is certainly new, but walking away from the station towards the left you pass the same sad block in which many of the buildings are derelict and boarded up. The Adelphi Hotel also seems to have shrunk, but the higher parts of Mount Pleasant retain their elegance, and at its top a ‘Science Park’ (actually it is a building) has sprung up. And around the curve comes into view one of the most distinctive buildings of the city. The Roman Catholic Cathedral (‘Paddy’s Wigwam’), completed in 1967, looks like a large funnel placed on top of a circle. Almost all the natural light inside has passed through stained glass, dark blue, green and a dash of red around the circle and the full range of colours in the sequence you see them in a rainbow at the top of the funnel, which gives the interior a very odd feeling of colorful gloom.
Just across the road is the building erected by the civic fathers when the University was established, dedicated ‘Victoriae Reginae’ and a fine example of the Gothic of the period, all redbrick universities being named from its beautiful dark bricks. I stroll past the student cafeteria where I used to eat, now a bit rundown, and Abercromby Square, surely at the peak of its beauty with the flowers of summer still bright and the leaves showing early autumn tints; unfortunately the gates are locked. Just a bit further is the row of terraces that housed the department where I studied. I well remember the feeling of trepidation with which I climbed the squeaky stairs for the first time to knock on the door of the man who supervised my work. He turned out to be not only of daunting intelligence but one of the kindest people I have ever met; sometimes he offered me sherry as we sat talking. May his memory be eternal. One floor down was a room where the research students met; one of them has become a distinguished historian of Christianity.
At the far end of Hope St the dauntingly immense bulk of the Anglican Cathedral lumbers into view. You can see it in the middle distance in the photo to the right on the home page of this site…it takes half an hour to walk there from the buildings at the front of the picture! The authorities seem at a loss how to fill its vast interior, and that sign in pink letters over the main door, ‘I felt you and I knew you loved me’, has got to go. I find its weightiness oppressive, and welcome the fresh air on leaving.
I stroll down off the ridge for a few blocks and come to the big arch that now guards the entry to Chinatown, more run down than such places usually are, but rather than turn into it I walk along Berry St to the site of St Luke’s, a church bombed during the war and derelict since then, and head down Bold St into the city. From there, the flow of the crowd inevitably takes you to Pier Head, from which you can take a ferry ‘cross the Mersey. A wonderful Museum of Liverpool has appeared, and to the north are new hotels and some high rise housing, I would guess catering for the upper end of the market. This, it turns out, is where the new building has taken place in the centre.
The population of Liverpool is about half what it was at its peak, and it remains a poor city. I love it.