A Private Eye article that tears strips off Birkenhead’s preservation record has been challenged by Wirral Council's heritage champion Cllr Jerry Williams and town hall leader Phil Davies.
The satirical magazine says Birkenhead is an a far worse state than Liverpool and that much of the town’s historic fabric remains “under threat.”
It reports that Williamson Art Gallery and Museum – “a hidden treasure” – is also under the shadow of closure.
The article, in the Nooks and Corners section, says: “Almost the only positive thing (in Birkenhead) in recent years has been the restoration –with Heritage Lottery money – of Birkenhead Park, laid out by the great Joseph Paxton in the 1840s, which inspired Central Park in New York.
“Otherwise much of the historic fabric of Birkenhead remains under threat – and not from the deliberate stupidity which had done for so much of Liverpool, but more often it seems, from the danger of ‘going on fire’ as they say in Glasgow.”
Private Eye writes that that a fire at historic buildings in Wirral is often followed by demolition.
It points as examples to Woodside Hotel, built in 1834 and demolished after suspected arson in 2008, and Liscard Hall in Wallasey Central Park, a Grade II listed building that went on fire in the same year and was subsequently demolished.
Writer "Piloti" continues: “The latest casualty is a pair of semi-detached Victorian mansions in Park Road South close to Birkenhead Park, used as the ESWA Sports and Social Club until it closed in 2012.
“The following year the houses were bought by a developer.
"Soon after that they were burgled and 24 hours later they went on fire. The fire services suspected arson.
“The shell of the two houses now stands open to the sky and surrounded by hoardings. The plan apparently is to convert the structure into apartments, but so often in the Wirral a fire is followed by demolition.
“There are two good reasons why Wirral Council should insist of their preservation. One is that the houses are good examples of rumbustious and rather inventive Victorian gothic which contribute to the surroundings of Birkenhead Park.
“The second is that 56 Park Road South was the birthplace and childhood home of Sandy Irvine, the mountaineer who was last seen with George Mallory in 1924 climbing towards the summit of Everest.
“In London the house would be graced with a blue plaque and cherished. But poor Birkenhead is different.”
But councillor Williams insisted Wirral had a "proud" conservation record.
He said English Heritage had welcomed as “groundbreaking” the local authority partnership with 70 local heritage groups, and that the strategy adopted in Wirral was seen as a role model for the Northwest and beyond.
He said: “Wirral is recognised for the excellence of its heritage tourism and our open days activities in September are the second biggest in the country.”
Council leader Phil Davies said: “We are involved in talks with groups, including the Friends of the Williamson, about the possibility of transferring control to a trust. There is no chance the museum will close.
“With regard to the Park Road South building, the new owners are looking to keeping the facade and developing part of it as a small museum dedicated to the memory of Sandy Irvine.
“Whatever they do will be sympathetic to the heritage of the park.”
In August 2013, it was revealed that the Park Road South fire was started deliberately You can read our story here