Holiday to Liverpool - Friday 10th – Tuesday 14th May


Friday

With the usual good time keeping by Marlow National Trust members we were quickly on our way from Marlow in the capable hands of our driver Tony and his immaculate Britannia coach for our adventure “Up North” to Liverpool. The journey went well and after a short break on the M1 we arrived at Shugborough Estate in time for lunch followed by an opportunity to explore the historic home of the Earls of Lichfield and before them the Anson family. We were able to learn how George Anson was the second Englishman to circumnavigate the world and capture a Spanish treasure galleon, which ultimately funded the Shugborough Estate. Some of us ventured into the below stairs area where there was a vast kitchen with an amazing display of copper pans and other equipment. We were lucky that the apartment of the late Patrick Lichfield, 5th Earl, was open and were able to view some of his famous photographs and also see how he relaxed and lived at the Estate after it was transferred to the National Trust. Unfortunately the forecast rain had arrived so the gardens were only viewed from inside the house. Then it was back on the coach with our wet coats and shoes and onwards to Liverpool.

A bit delayed by traffic but in dry weather we arrived at the Richmond Hotel. A rather chaotic event but we did all eventually receive a welcome cup of tea and the keys to our rooms and a menu choice for the evening meal. A rather prolonged dinner was the programme for the evening but the food was good as was the G & T! Went to bed hoping for a sunny day to explore Liverpool. It was!   Angie Magee

Saturday

We awoke to a glorious sunny day, just right for a magical mystery tour around the delights of Liverpool. I was not prepared for its cultural grandeur and its very many places of interest. Maria our excellent blue badge guide was both knowledgeable and interesting, which made it a most enjoyable trip. Our first encounter was with a yellow ‘SuperLambBanana’, the work of the Japanese artist Taro Chiezo, aimed at putting a humorous slant on modern day genetic engineering. It’s now an icon of Liverpool. The next port of call was the St Georges Quarter, which housed the neo classical and neo renaissance grade 1 and 2 listed buildings bearing testament to Liverpool’s illustrious Victorian past. They included St Georges Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, the World Museum and the Liverpool Central Library surrounding a green with statues of Victorian dignitaries.

After passing the magnificent Georgian Town Hall we reached the harbour where we came upon rows of ‘SuperLambBannanas’ and the glorious buildings called ‘The Three Graces’ which depict the port of Liverpool – the beautiful Italianate Port of Liverpool building, the art deco Cunard building, and the most famous Royal Liver building with its two liver birds, one looking seaward to the travelling migrants, the other landward to see when the pubs open, or so our guide said! She also told us that the Liver birds were a mistake, they should have been eagles, the emblem of bad King John in 1207, but the Liverpudlians of that time hadn’t seen an eagle so a cormorant had to do instead. Then up to see the Cathedrals, passing through the Baltic and Ropewalk areas to the LIPA art college, which John Lennon attended, next door to the local grammar school where Paul and George went.

The huge and imposing red sandstone Anglian Cathedral, built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott started in 1904 and finished in 1978! Apparently he had only designed a pencil box before or so his mother had said! Certainly a feat of engineering, designed around 4 B’s – no bodies, no blindspots (open views through the nave), no benches, but he did want bells, the highest and heaviest in the world housed within a 300 foot landmark tower. Probably his most famous building was the iconic red telephone box, one of which stands within the Cathedral.

Then on to the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral affectionately known as the ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ with its circular slanting tepee shape and the spikes protruding from it’s Lantern tower. The interior was breath-taking, with its vast space, its kaleidoscope of coloured glass, its floating crown and roof, its modern chapels, and its decorated floor, wall and altar – one of my abiding memories of the visit. Another of the guide’s stories was about two of Liverpool’s eminent bishops David Sheppard (Anglican) and Derek Worlock (Catholic) who did much to bridge Liverpool’s sectarian divide. They were referred to as ‘Fish and Chips’ - always together and never out of the papers. The great lantern window was designed by John Piper and executed by Patrick Reyntiens, whose studio was at Burleighfield House, Loudwater (information courtesy Kristian Perry).

After this show stopping spectacle we drove back down to the harbour docks passing through the Georgian thoroughfare of Rodney Street where a number of famous people lived including Brian Epstein, Nicholas Montserrat, and William Gladstone. Also there the house of a famous photographer Edward Chambre Hardman, now owned by the National Trust, and run as a museum. Apparently there are more Georgian houses in Liverpool than in Bath.

Then time to do our own thing until the ferry trip at 4pm. Tricia and I walked back up to the Anglican Cathedral. It has some fine decoration, but the overriding sensation is of enormity and of being overwhelming. We ascended the tower via two lifts and 108 staircase steps and were greeted at the top with some magnificent views across the city of Liverpool and beyond. We returned to the Museum of Liverpool, at the docks, ready for our final event, the ferry across the Mersey, accompanied by Gerry and the Pacemakers, and it was great to see the sights of the magnificent Liverpool harbour front from the water. Afterwards we returned to the hotel and a relaxing evening meal, but not before having our photos taken in front of the four lads from Liverpool who are displayed in larger-than-life bronze just outside the ferry terminal, festooned in red accessories, as it was Liverpool FC’s final game of the season with hopes of winning the premier league.       John Smith

Sunday 

At 9.30am on Sunday morning, we set off in bright sunshine; heading through the Mersey Tunnel in the direction of Birkenhead.  Our destination was Port Sunlight on the Wirral Peninsula, the ‘model village’ built by William Hesketh Lever for his workforce at the Sunlight Soap Factory. By the village green, we met local guide Jean, who boarded the bus and took us on a one-hour tour, telling us the history of some of the 900 homes with their different architectural styles and about the people who lived in them in Victorian and Edwardian times.  

She pointed out Royal Lodge, renamed after a visit from King George V and Queen Mary in 1914; The Gladstone Theatre, opened in 1891, still used for film shows; Hulme Hall, where Ringo played his first gig with The Beatles (18 August 1962) and No 60 Bolton Road, childhood home of BBC presenter, Fiona Bruce.  The houses with their authentic exteriors are often used as film locations.  Three hours just flew by as we explored a typical Edwardian worker’s cottage, spent time in the museum, admiring the Soap King’s talent for advertising, and stocked up on souvenirs in the shop, including Sunlight, Pears and Vinolia Soap, specially made for the Titanic’s first-class passengers.        

His wife, Elizabeth, is commemorated in the wonderful Lady Lever Gallery.  There simply wasn’t enough time to take in all the galleries, full of Victorian masterpieces by the Pre-Raphaelites; the collections of Wedgwood and Chinese porcelain; tapestries, pottery, sculpture, furniture; paintings by 18th and 19th century artists, like Constable and Turner, and a whole room devoted to Napoleon.    

After lunch, we retraced our route through Liverpool to Speke Hall, a splendid half-timbered Tudor manor house, where we spent the afternoon.  The house was restored in the 19th century by wealthy ship-owner, Frederick Leyland, a patron of the artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose influence can be seen in the Arts & Crafts style of the interior decoration.  The principal rooms span more than 400 years, from the Elizabethan Great Hall and secret priest hole of the Catholic Norris family, to the Home Farm with the latest in Victorian farming methods, commissioned by the heiress Miss Adelaide Watt.  She inherited the house aged eight, and, after she came of age, she capably managed the estate before eventually bequeathing it to the National Trust. Surrounding the house are lovely formal gardens and woodland where some of us enjoyed a walk, followed by tea and scones or an ice cream in the Home Farm Restaurant.  

Our ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ then turned into a Trip Down Memory Lane - Penny Lane, in fact - as Tony took us back to the hotel a different way.  With a Beatles sound track on the p/a system, we drove past ‘Mendips’, the house where John Lennon grew up, backing on to the Strawberry Fields children’s home and close to Paul McCartney’s former home, both now NT properties. Along the bus route to school of the lads from Liverpool, we spotted well-known landmarks, immortalised forever in their songs, which got us in the mood for a visit to The Cavern Club!       Kristian Perry

Monday

Another glorious day dawned and we set off, under the Mersey again, for Chester only about half an hour away. Our guide (another) Tom Jones gave us a potted history of this ancient town, which, as Deva Victrix in the AD70s, was once the largest Roman fortress in Britannia. Chester now boasts 600 listed buildings. We walked on part of the remaining city wall, admired the Eastgate Clock and the view of the streets below, through the famous ‘Rows’ and eventually arrived at the Cathedral. This impressive building has a history of almost 2000 years and contains items of evidence of its importance throughout. We discovered many of these – The Chester Imp (date unknown), the Consistory Court (c. 1590), Chapter House (c.l225), Westminster Windows (donated in 1992 to celebrate the cathedral’s 900th anniversary), Water of Life statue (1992) and even a couple of Triumph sports cars depicted tumbling out of containers which had fallen to the bottom of the ocean (2019) - an art installation named “Two Twisted” by David Mach.

Our A1 driver Tony took us back via Crosby Beach where we were able to see some of the 100 cast iron figures of Antony Gormley facing the sea. As they have been standing there since 2007 they are now green/grey-encrusted and certainly looking their age. They now also face competition from a distant wind farm! Back for dinner at the hotel where we joined up with those who had spent the day exploring more of all the wonderful buildings, museums and galleries which Liverpool has to offer.

About a dozen of us then ventured down the road to Matthew Street where, nestled amongst the many nightclubs still being inhabited by Liverpool FC supporters, we excitedly went down the steps deep into The Cavern Club. Sadly no Beatle was there to welcome us, but there was a great atmosphere and a singer (of varying ability). It was a great way to spend our last evening in Liverpool.   Alison Rae

Tuesday

Our last morning in Liverpool, and the sun was still shining, promising another lovely spring day. The long journey home was punctuated by two very different, but, both very enjoyable, activities. The first visit involved a boat trip along the Weaver river, a real hidden gem in the Cheshire countryside, followed by an amazing, totally unique experience, the Anderton Boat Lift. The glass topped river boat chugged leisurely along the Weaver Navigation to Northwich and back, then the boat was ‘parked’, still in the water, encased in a metal chamber, called a caisson, part of a huge, impressive iron framework, and raised some 50 feet to be re-launched on the Trent and Mersey Canal above. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind the hydraulic mechanism of this oldest working boat lift, but it was an amazing feat of engineering and truly awesome!

Suitable energised and excited by the experience, we re-joined the coach for the next leg of the journey, which took us to Trentham Garden Village. Here, we enjoyed an appetising “high tea”, including various tasty sandwiches, jam and cream scones, and a plentiful assortment of cakes. What a treat! The route from the cafeteria back to the coach involved a walk through some interesting retail outlets, allowing a final opportunity for a little more shopping. There were a few friendly disagreements regarding the answers of the quiz on the coach home, but we settled down for the final stretch of the journey, safe once again in the hands of our driver, Tony.

We arrived in Marlow with lots of happy memories, new friends and plenty to think about. Another successful National Trust holiday; on behalf of my fellow travellers, I would like to thank everyone who made it all possible.      Pam Butler