Unusually for me it’s been a couple of months since I last managed to write a blog post. I’ll try to catch up with a quick whistle-stop tour through the recent past…
In mid-February Knowsley appointed Dorothy Bradwell as the Council’s new Conservation Officer. That position had been unfilled for some time, leaving THI Officer Owen effectively juggling a multitude of different tasks. Now Owen is able to focus solely on THI matters and keep me up to date with the latest goings-on in Prescot. I’ll also be able to pick up wider general conservation knowledge from Dorothy as we deal with development control comments, appraisals and other heritage-related matters across the borough. This will be particularly useful as I now have to begin moulding myself into a first choice candidate for jobs once my internship comes to an end in August.
I recently assisted in providing development control comments for the Railway Hotel, Kirkby
Comments from a recent interview with leading Manchester firm Purcell suggest that some good experience with the research and production of statements of significance would be very beneficial for roles involving heritage consultancy, so this is an area I am becoming more familiar with. I’ve just finished writing up a statement for 46 Eccleston Street. The property sits in the heart of the Prescot Conservation Area and a prospective THI building listed as a priority target in our original bid. I consulted a host of historic documents from trade directories to census records to help uncover the story of this building, its past occupiers and how it came to be.
Digging through the collections of Knowsley Archives was quite a challenge
This wasn’t totally alien as I’ve used these types of resources when conducting genealogical research for family history, as well my increasingly vast library of local history books and columns. My findings about 46 Eccleston Street will help provide a framework for the appropriate management of change and help to preserve significant features of this particular property. I have several other prospective THI buildings ready for a similar heritage-based audit.
46 Eccleston Street has been the subject of my first Statement of Significance
I also had the opportunity to attend a visit to one of our joiners where I witnessed a brand new shopfront in mid-production. Up until that point I hadn’t actually seen much of the practical side of the THI, so it was a new experience to handle the raw materials of what shall eventually be a very fitting addition to the Prescot streetscape. Eccleston Street in particular seems to be moving with some speed nowadays and it won’t be long before the ‘cluster effect’ of the scheme begins to make a very noticeable difference.
A brand new THI shopfront being made at the workshop
University has been something of a headache with coursework and presentations to keep me occupied to the early hours. I’ve handed in the dissertation proposal to my tutor outlining my plans for research, along with a short presentation. I intend to study how businesses approach historic buildings and attempt to turn them into viable commercial enterprises, with reference to J.D Wetherspoons in particular. I am often impressed by how the company manage to take on older buildings and bring them back into regular use without harming their historic character and appearance. North Western Hall in Liverpool is a particularly nice example, whilst further afield the old Palladium Theatre in Llandudno and the converted Newport Congregational Church on the Isle of Wight are also very intriguing cases of conservation mixed with adaptation. Fortunately, I have managed to secure a contact in the company’s development team who should be able to help with the research and the inevitable mammoth word count.
Liverpool’s North Western Hall has become a popular addition to the firm’s mix of historic venues
In other news, I’ve also produced a report investigating a problem or repair method for traditional materials. I went with timber resin repairs, due to the fact it’s quite a controversial method with as many supporters as critics. The report was accompanied by a peer-reviewed presentation which I felt went well at the time, and later received an overall mark of 74%. The Masters course is certainly helping me harness my presentation skills and talks are less and less nerve-wracking each and every time.
Speaking of talks, I joined our skills co-ordinator Lyndsey and Owen on a visit to Liverpool John Moores University to meet students of history, sociology, criminology respectively, and discuss how we all came to work in the heritage sector despite our very diverse backgrounds and experience. We were joined by a detective from Merseyside Police and an advisor from the drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction who gave similar talks regarding their own varied career paths. These past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that the old ‘job for life’ model just doesn’t work anymore. Researching census records has often revealed people in the same occupation from near enough cradle to grave, but today this is rarely the case. I suppose being exposed to different roles is all good experience and you never know where you might end up.
We spoke to students at Liverpool John Moores University about our career paths
I was able to discuss similar points in print via an article I penned for the Institute of Building Conservation’s latest edition of Context Magazine. ‘Breaking into Heritage’ discussed how Prescot THI is not only helping the built environment of the town, but how the scheme is also helping me progress with a career in conservation, equipping me with the skills and experience necessary to find work. This has certainly been the case for our previous intern Chris Han, and it’ll no doubt be a similar story for whoever usurps me in the coming months. I mentioned the article on the IHBC’s official Linkedin Group where it has received a very positive response and generated some good discussion on how different THI’s are helping people all over the country. IHBC accreditation is something I am working towards and I have taken the first step by becoming an affiliate of the organisation and featuring in the 2016 Year Book.
Breaking into Heritage, in IHBC’s Context Magazine looked at my journey in the field of conservation and the wider impact of Prescot THI
Aside from the work at the THI and university studies, I have been keeping up with a number of extra-curricular activities and outside endeavours. My 10th book, Liverpool in the Headlines was finally published and delves into some of the city’s most sensational tales from the archives of the Liverpool Echo newspaper. At the moment, Liverpool: A Macabre Miscellany (looking at some of the more salubrious historical goings on within the region) is with the publishers ready for June, and a couple more titles are in the pipeline all to do with history and architecture.
Liverpool in the Headlines was published earlier this year by Amberley Books
Further writing opportunities have come in the form of the Liverpool Echo newspaper, who have requested my help with the production of their Saturday history column. I’ll be writing both the Saturday and the Sunday features covering anything and everything to do with local nostalgia. Recent articles have focused on the history of Liverpool’s Royal Infirmary, the social and architectural heritage of Mann Island and the historical development and upcoming changes in Wolstenholme Square. It’s safe to say, if I can manage to forge a career in conservation and make it one of those lesser-seen ‘jobs for life’, I’ll be happy!
A recent feature looked into the historical development of the city’s Wolstenholme Square
I’ve still got so much more to talk about, and work on, but I’ll save that for another blog.