Eye sore at Birkenhead's heritage preservation record

Flashback to August 2013: Fire crews tackle a major blaze at the former home of Everest mountaineer Sandy Irvine in Park Road South. Picture by Globe reader Ellen

Firecrews use an extending platform to get closer to the blaze

First published in News
Last updated
by , Geoff Barnes

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

Comments (7)

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2:26pm Thu 28 Aug 14

minimad69 says...

Nothing in the article to complain about - it is all true....

Mr Davies should be happy that WBC was appearing in 'Nooks and Corners' and not their similar but far more acerbic 'Rotten Boroughs'...!
Nothing in the article to complain about - it is all true.... Mr Davies should be happy that WBC was appearing in 'Nooks and Corners' and not their similar but far more acerbic 'Rotten Boroughs'...! minimad69
  • Score: 13

2:37pm Thu 28 Aug 14

Joeblogg85 says...

I'd stuck a Blue Plaque on Jerry Williams! Most useless of all Councillors.
I'd stuck a Blue Plaque on Jerry Williams! Most useless of all Councillors. Joeblogg85
  • Score: 4

3:26pm Thu 28 Aug 14

Growl Tiger says...

There does seem to be a pattern to the demise of these pesky listed buildings. The “burglars” go in to remove the desirable original features such as fire places, tiles and wooden floors which can be sold onto reclamation companies. The building then goes up in flames and becomes dangerous - blame that on vandals. It’s cheaper to demolish than to restore - blame that on government cut-backs. Thus we lose another historic building which is replaced by a characterless, cement apartment block. Job done.....again!
There does seem to be a pattern to the demise of these pesky listed buildings. The “burglars” go in to remove the desirable original features such as fire places, tiles and wooden floors which can be sold onto reclamation companies. The building then goes up in flames and becomes dangerous - blame that on vandals. It’s cheaper to demolish than to restore - blame that on government cut-backs. Thus we lose another historic building which is replaced by a characterless, cement apartment block. Job done.....again! Growl Tiger
  • Score: 12

5:09pm Thu 28 Aug 14

bigfoot says...

They don't give a .........Only themselves and their own vanity projects.
They don't give a .........Only themselves and their own vanity projects. bigfoot
  • Score: 7

6:32pm Thu 28 Aug 14

yesandorno says...

of course thats what happens , the powers that be must be thicker than they think we are if they think no one has seen through all these "accidents" ,dont know why the council dont just say "feck the rules" and bulldoze them , at least thats honest.
of course thats what happens , the powers that be must be thicker than they think we are if they think no one has seen through all these "accidents" ,dont know why the council dont just say "feck the rules" and bulldoze them , at least thats honest. yesandorno
  • Score: 7

1:48pm Fri 29 Aug 14

David Scott says...

“Wirral is recognised for the excellence of its heritage tourism and our open days activities in September are the second biggest in the country.”

The open days are great and there are some interesting historical assets remaining in Wirral, but the Private Eye article was specifically about Birkenhead. The points raised need to be addressed by the council, not brushed off.
“Wirral is recognised for the excellence of its heritage tourism and our open days activities in September are the second biggest in the country.” The open days are great and there are some interesting historical assets remaining in Wirral, but the Private Eye article was specifically about Birkenhead. The points raised need to be addressed by the council, not brushed off. David Scott
  • Score: 6

10:01am Sun 31 Aug 14

uncatom says...

What's the old saying? they would sell their Granny for a few coppers.
What's the old saying? they would sell their Granny for a few coppers. uncatom
  • Score: 1
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