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OUR CELEBRATION OF 50 YEARS OF CONSERVATION AREAS IS A GREAT SUCCESS
Attended by the Mayor, many councillors and representatives of Conservation Areas and other societies across Wirral, our Celebration Event at Birkenhead’s iconic Town Hall in Hamilton Square on 9th November proved a huge success. A remarkable celebration cake, modelled on Hamilton Square, was provided by Julie Scrumptious cakes in Hoylake and kindly funded by the Chamber of Commerce. The Mayor, Cllr Ann McLachlan, kindly undertook to make the first cut and it was then enjoyed by all those attending with many coming back to take home an extra piece for their partners.
A brief Welcome presentation by Alan Chape, Chairman of Conservation Areas Wirral – outlining some of the themes CAW was working on – was followed by an inspirational talk from Ian Harvey, Director and founder of Civic Voice. Ian spoke about the problems CA’s were experiencing all over the country and also outlined some innovative ways in which councils and local societies were tackling those issues whilst experiencing cuts in funding. He was particularly pleased to see the Leader of the Council, Phil Davies, at the event and congratulated CAW on making positive connections with the Council.
Phil Davies then gave a short presentation about the Council’s aims for the regeneration of the Hamilton Square and Woodside area, also announcing that £50,000 of Council and Birkenhead Business Improvement District funding has been allocated to the production of a management plan for Hamilton Square Conservation Area – currently on Historic England’s “At Risk” register. The management plan will support the Council’s efforts to regenerate Birkenhead through the Wirral Growth Company and its financial backers. The Hamilton Square Conservation Advisory Committee will be working closely with them to give guidance as the plan progresses.
Alan Chape, in his summing up, also announced that the new Conservation Area Heritage Trail will soon be live on the Council’s website. He paid tribute to Robin Tutchings and Eileen Wilshaw of Wirral Council for helping to make this idea become a reality and the Merseyside Civic Society have recently announced that they are awarding CAW their Rita Cheeseman Award 2017 for the Heritage Trail initiative and our Blue Plaques scheme.
Many thanks to Wirral Council. The Wirral Society and the Chamber of Commerce for their support for the event.
CAW’S THIRD BLUE PLAQUE IS UNVEILED – COMMEMORATING ANN DAVISON
This blue plaque is to commemorate a remarkable woman whose achievements have been overlooked for many years. Born in Surrey, in 1914, Ann Davison had always had a taste for adventure and gained her aviation certificate in 1935 which led her to answer an advertisement for a joy-ride pilot at Hooton on the Wirral. She joined a team at Utility Airways which flew charter aircraft, did aerial photography and this was later extended to include joy-rides for holiday makers at Blackpool. As a result of this Ann ended up marrying Frank Davison, the owner, in 1939. However, the outbreak of war resulted in their house and the Hooton airfield being requisitioned by the RAF.
Frank and Ann moved to Mere Brook House on Thornton Common Road in Thornton Hough and lived there for several years before moving on to sailing, buying a semi-derelict ketch called “Reliance” which they worked on for two years before setting sail for Cuba! Sadly, their timing was poor as a massive Atlantic storm was brewing and after several days of appalling weather the boat was wrecked and Ann and Frank took to the liferaft. Frank could not withstand the intense cold and was swept away whilst Ann was later washed towards the coast and managed to return to land. For most people this would have been enough to put them off sailing for life but Ann was made of stronger stuff and remarkably – in May 1952 – she set out in her 23 ft sloop, “Felicity Ann” to conquer the Atlantic. By taking her time, with various stops along the way, she crossed the ocean to Barbados. It took her 65 days but she made landfall in Dominica on the 23 January 1953. A truly remarkable achievement and made her the first woman to sail the Atlantic single-handed!
The blue plaque commemorating Ann’s achievement was unveiled at Mere Brook House on 20 October, 2017 by the Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Ann McLachlan with representatives of the various sailing clubs on Wirral attending along with members from Ann Davison’s extended family, representatives from Wirral Borough Council and CAW committee members. David Allan, Vice Chairman of CAW, gave an informative and entertaining talk about Ann to those attending and there was also a display of pictures for visitors to look at. Ann’s boat, “Felicity Ann”, still exists and remarkably she is currently being restored at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, Washington, USA. When finished she will join the Community Boat Project fleet and next summer she will tour the Puget Sound with an all female crew to tell the story of her intrepid former owner, Ann. Mere Brook House has also been restored and is now a lovely hotel run by Lorna Tyson who has been a fan of Ann Davison’s since reading her book some years ago.
Flaybrick stabilising is a huge success
A lovely sunny afternoon on 3 July saw the Flaybrick stabilising work finally unveiled and what a success it has proved to be. The Mayor, Cllr Ann McLachlan, formally opened the site by cutting a ribbon by the new front doors. Formally introduced by Eileen Wilshaw, Heritage Officer for Wirral, the Mayor thanked all those who had been involved with this huge project including Historic England, Purcell who managed the contract and all those others who were involved – often in a voluntary capacity. Funded by Wirral Council and Historic England, the chapels have been restored beyond recognition with beautiful stonework, pointing and restoration of historic features that had previously laid in pieces on the ground. All that is needed now is some more money to get the roof on – however that will have to wait for another day! The chapels will be open for public viewing by arrangement but Wirral Council can certainly feel that they have had value for money in the quality of the workmanship that has taken place on this unique site. A Management Plan is currently being drawn up to decide where the project goes to from here but today marked a real turning point in Flaybrick’s fortunes.
2017 AGM report
Our 2017 AGM was extremely well supported with representatives from two thirds of the 26 Conservation Areas on the Wirral. We were also delighted to welcome two members from the Altrincham Civic Trust. Whilst CAW Chairman, Alan Chape, was able to report progress in some areas, others were more challenging with Green Belt building applications being made, poor decisions on key properties in Birkenhead Park being allowed to go through and a lack of enforcement where inappropriate development was taking place. Hamilton Square’s continued decline was commented upon and the problems of multi-occupancy in some of the bigger listed buildings in Clifton Park. However, CAW has launched the first section of the Conservation Area Trail which covers the North East quadrant of the Wirral. Working with officers from the Council, new maps have been drawn up showing roads and the listed buildings and these trails will be downloadable from the Visit Wirral website. CAW has also begun to implement the Blue Plaque programme with two having been installed in this financial year, the first for Dixie Dean at Tranmere Rovers football ground and the second at Birkenhead Park, commemorating Edward Kemp (see below).
The Chairman’s report was followed by a fascinating talk by Ian Harvey of Civic Voice, introducing his concept of the Big Conservation Conversation, commemorating 50 years since the first CA was designated in 1967. Ian’s enthusiasm and knowledge was extremely infectious and the audience were very appreciative of his ideas on how to take things forward.
The second presentation was given by Elizabeth Davey on Hamilton Square. After giving some of the history of the Square, Elizabeth highlighted many of the current problems experienced in the area and urged everyone to come together to save one of Wirral’s “Jewels in the Crown”.
Speakers: Ian Harvey (Civic Voice) “The Big Conservation Conversation”
Elizabeth Davey (CAW) “Hamilton Square – Wirral’s Crown Jewel?”
Read the Minutes of the meeting and summaries of the two speakers here. MINUTES OF THE CAW 2017 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
CAW’S SECOND BLUE PLAQUE IS UNVEILED – COMMEMORATING EDWARD KEMP
To celebrate 170 years since the grand opening of Birkenhead Park on 5 April 1847 and the work of the young man who laid out the park to the design of Joseph Paxton, a Blue Plaque commemorating Edward Kemp has been placed on the new Visitor Centre at the Park and was unveiled, today, 5 April 2017, by Cllr Pat Hackett, Mayor of Wirral.
Edward Kemp was born in Streatham, Surrey in 1817 and had served as an apprentice gardener at Chatsworth in the 1830’s. As a result, Paxton asked him to come and supervise the preparatory work for this new park in Birkenhead and also implement the design plans. In 1843 Paxton recommended that Kemp be retained as the Park’s first Superintendent and this was accepted by the Birkenhead Commissioners. Kemp was also provided with the Italian lodge as a home for him and his family although he later built another house for himself in Park Road West. Kemp was a well educated man who designed gardens and landscapes all over the country. His knowledge was also sought by the New York Commissioners when they created New York’s Central Park. Further examples of his work can be found at Flaybrick Cemetery, Anfield Cemetery, Lymm Hall, Stanacres Raby, Stanley Park in Liverpool, Hesketh Park in Southport and many more. Edward Kemp died in 1891 and is buried in Flaybrick Cemetery.
WIRRAL HISTORY & HERITAGE FAIR A GREAT SUCCESS
The Wirral History & Heritage Fair, held at the Town Hall in Birkenhead on 11 March 2017 was a huge success. With more stalls than ever and a very interesting range of exhibitors the public attendance was excellent. One of the youngest exhibitors had to be Rowan Patel from Bromborough with his new book “The Windmills and Watermills of Wirral” which he began researching at the age of 16 and which he has now published at the age of 24! A great achievement. CAW’s stand was very busy too, talking to people about the work we are doing, supporting the Conservation Areas around Wirral. The Mayor, Cllr Pat Hackett and the Lady Mayoress, also stopped by for a chat with Peter Bolt, a CAW Steering Group member. The Mayor is already booked to unveil CAW’s next Blue Plaque – for Edward Kemp – at the Visitor Centre in Birkenhead Park on 5 April at 12 noon.
FLAYBRICK IS RISING FROM THE ‘ASHES’
A partnership between Wirral Council and Historic England is bringing new hope for the future of Flaybrick Memorial Gardens which is one of England’s most important Victorian garden cemeteries and Grade II* listed. The work, costing £325,000, is being jointly funded by Wirral Council and Historic England. The leading conservation architects, Purcell, are carrying out the delicate work and once completed later this year, the chapels will be safe and secure until a future use is decided.
Designed by Edward Kemp (the then Superintendent of Birkenhead Park) and opened in 1864, the cemetery has seen over 100,000 Wirral residents laid to rest there – including Kemp himself. (Incidentally Edward Kemp is on CAW’s list of those deserving Blue Plaque recognition.) Burials stopped in 1975 and in recent years the cemetery and chapels have sadly been the target of sustained vandalism and anti-social behaviour resulting in Historic England placing the site on its At Risk Register. In 1993 a Friends group was set up who have done sterling work in recording the gravestone details of those buried there as well as trying to tidy the area up and keep on top of the vandalism.
Running alongside the repairs is the preparation of a Conservation Management Plan which will involve the wider community in consultation about potential future uses for the buildings and CAW is represented on the Steering Group by Peter Bolt, a CAW committee member and Secretary of the Saughall Massie Conservation Area. Thankfully the signs are that Flaybrick’s decline has been halted and a brighter future beckons.
The chapels covered in Scaffolding
The contractor’s notice
Inside the chapels
CAW’S FIRST BLUE PLAQUE COMMEMORATES DIXIE DEAN
Saturday, 12 November, 2016 saw CAW’s first Blue Plaque being unveiled at Tranmere Rovers Football Ground. William Ralph “Dixie” Dean was born in Birkenhead and played for a local football team in Pensby before joining Tranmere Rovers in 1923. From there he moved on to play for Everton FC, setting an all-time league goalscoring record of 60 goals in the 1927-28 season which has never been equalled.
The plaque in his honour was unveiled by the Mayor of Wirral, Pat Hackett, accompanied by Mark Palios, the owner of Tranmere FC, before Tranmere’s game against Chester and is the first of several that CAW hope to erect around Wirral to celebrate the accomplishments of some of Wirral’s best known former residents. Supported by Wirral Borough Council, CAW committee members will be continuing the programme and hoping to erect more in 2017.
One of the aims of CAW is to push conservation higher up the public agenda – to make people more aware of how important it is to conserve our past – for the benefit of future generations. Therefore we hope to get maximum publicity from our projects so that all of Wirral’s 26 Conservation Areas feel some benefit from keeping conservation in the public eye and this is why we deliberately chose the high profile figure of the legendary footballer, Dixie Dean, to be our first recipient.
If anyone wishes to put names forward for consideration please email Peter Bolt firstname.lastname@example.org
New Wirral Conservation Website Launched
Conservation Areas Wirral (CAW) has launched a new website for residents of Wirral’s 26 Conservation Areas, with guidance on the advantages and restrictions of living in one of these sort-after areas.
The site features advice on how to maintain and protect property in a Conservation Area as well as help for potential house buyers.
Each of the 26 Conservation Areas has its own page with photographs and descriptions as well as links to all the relevant information.
CAW is a voluntary-run organisation established in 2014 drawn from all of Wirral’s Conservation Area Committees, to work with Wirral Council and Historic England to promote and safeguard all aspects of the peninsula’s unique heritage.
The group holds regular meetings with Council officers to talk through and find solutions to the many common problems affecting these special areas.
Alan Chape, Chairman of Conservation Areas Wirral said, “The website represents a real step change in the way in which we communicate with residents and potential buyers and the professionals involved in the buying and selling of properties. A partnership approach with them and the local authority is essential to ensuring Wirral’s very special heritage can be enjoyed and studied both now and in the future.”
The new website has been made possible thanks to a £2,500 grant from Your Wirral. The grant has also contributed towards the development of a brand identity, the creation of a leaflet and regular newsletter, and the production of pop-up banners to take to events and fairs to raise the profile of the group and its work.
To find out more about the group, visit the new website cawirral.co.uk. You can also like us on Facebook: Conservation Areas Wirral.