It has been a rather busy two months for me starting as the fourth Intern with the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative, funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Being the final intern of the project has meant that I am coming to the THI at a stage where most schemes are already underway and some have already been finished. I’ve had the benefit of overlapping my time with Hannah Sharp, the third intern which has eased my settling into the role.
My background is rather different from previous interns; I have no formal qualifications in building, planning or surveying but rather come from a background of BA English and Theology at Leeds and nearly ten years in the heritage sector. After university I trained as a Blue Badge Tour Guide showing people around the Liverpool City Region and from that branched off to other heritage related jobs at Calderstones Park with The Reader , with the Museum of Liverpool and with Big Heritage in Chester. Despite my experience I found myself applying for jobs but lacking the higher qualifications they often required. The opportunity to undertake this internship was therefore the ideal chance for me to get that qualification and gain experience ‘on the job’. I am in effect, re-skilling and feeling rather old for an intern!
My first week was a bit of a whirlwind. Three days into my internship I was sitting in on a Progress Meeting with the HLF Monitor. These meetings take place every few months and are a chance to update the HLF on the progress of the project, see which targets have been met and which ones need more focus and generally make sure the project is on the right path. As you can imagine three days into the job meeting with HLF and the Head of Planning Services was a little bit overwhelming to say the least. Nevertheless under the good guidance of Owen I quickly familiarised myself with Prescot and visited a few of the historic properties that have already been restored through THI funding and those in the process of being restored (my previous knowledge being limited to the Elizabethan Fayre and a childhood visit to the old Clock Museum).
I got deeper into the history of Prescot than most that week as Dr Rob Philpott, was starting on digging Test-pits for the Market Place Archaeological Dig. Market Place had been the centre of Prescot for hundreds of years but of late had been sadly neglected. The redevelopment of Market Place is the biggest project funded by the THI and this cursory dig, followed by a more in depth community-dig is essential to establishing the historic context of the site. Now that the winner of the Market Place Competition has been announced it’s been a fascinating experience sitting in the meetings where the architects dream is being turned into a reality, along with all the utility, maintenance and cleaning concerns that come with it.
The rest of my time was spent reading up on the previous work done at the THI, reading the Knowsley Historic Environment Strategy and generally familiarising myself with how the planning department and planning policies worked.
Like previous interns I have begun work on a Conservation Area Character Appraisal this time for St Michaels Conservation Area in Huyton. This is one of Knowsley’s oldest conservation areas and also one of its smallest. These Appraisals are designed to record the special character and sense of place for an area and show why it needs special protections and a comprehensive management plan. Although Conservation Area Appraisals tend to (rightly) focus on the built environment they also aim to capture the more intangible assets of the area, its feeling or its spirit – in how the area is used by the people that live there. A perfect example occurred on one of my first walks around the area.
I was in the overspill graveyard of St Michels Church where group of boys were playing on a rope-swing. Seeing the obvious interest I was showing in the graveyard one of them approached me and asked ‘Had I seen the grave of the famous person?’ He was excited and rather proud that someone famous was buried in ‘his’ graveyard – it turned out to be the final resting place of Stuart Sutcliffe the fifth Beatle and best friend of John Lennon. The grave is now an impromptu shrine, visited by Beatles fanatics from all over the world. The enthusiasm of this young man in wanting to share his piece of local heritage really made me consider the importance of people in conservation and heritage, especially those who prejudice and ignorance would brand as ‘not interested’.
I am looking forward to the rest of my internship, there are many things I have yet to learn and many projects I look forward to working on and I hope to keep you updated on my progress through this blog.