One of the destinations on the Unexpected Liverpool (June 1st-5th 2020) tour is the iron church of St George, Everton, which I first visited so long ago – in 1978 – that I could photograph on the opposite side of the road the Catholic Church of Our Lady Immaculate, the only vestige of Edward Welby Pugin’s Catholic Cathedral to be built in 1853-6.
Our Lady Immaculate was knocked down in the early 1990s but there are still other significant buildings to see in the vicinity of St George’s.
Almost directly across the road on a triangular site is Everton Library (1895-6), a bold, varied but taut freestyle design – a blend of Jacobean and Arts & Crafts – by the versatile Corporation Surveyor Thomas Shelmerdine (1845-1921) who, between 1871 and 1912 built several other branch libraries and the grand Hornby Library in the city centre, the ponderous gates to Sefton Park, the fire station and tramway offices at Hatton Garden, another fire station at Kirkdale, several schools and a couple of colleges and a tactful extension to the Town Hall. He laid out St John’s Gardens once it was decided that the Anglican Cathedral wouldn’t be built there.
Everton Library closed in 1996 and is now in a parlous state because of vandalism and neglect alike: [https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/stop-rot-plans-evertons-jewel-10961779 and https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/signature-living-plans-transform-decaying-15342770]. Repeated efforts to convert it into a community hub and enterprise centre have foundered, and it figures in the Victorian Society’s 2019 list of endangered buildings: https://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/everton-library-liverpool.
A few yards from the Library stands the lively, turreted half-timbered The Mere Bank public house (1881), bristling with terracotta panels and plasterwork, and until recently still trading, though they haven’t updated their Facebook page since Hallowe’en: https://www.facebook.com/MerebankPub.
In the distance, and visible for miles across the Mersey, is Everton Waterworks (Thomas Duncan, 1853-7) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTRfHTX0bJE], which consists of an underground reservoir and a Piranesian high-level water-tank, 90 feet above ground-level, holding 2,700 gallons, dwarfing the two Italianate pumphouses, built to provide a head of water in the time before 1891 when Liverpool took its water from Lake Vrynwy in mid-Wales. Everton Waterworks has been long disused, yet a mystery buyer purchased it for £71,000 in March 2019: https://lbndaily.co.uk/mystery-buyer-pays-70000-evertons-victorian-water-tower. It remains to be seen what they plan to do with it.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.