October 18 – A day trip to Liverpool

Tate Liverpool and Two Cathedrals

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we decided to visit Liverpool by train from the Hooton railway station which was less than a kilometre down the road. We could park there for an entire day for £1 and the return ticket to Liverpool was £4.50 each. It was about a half hour trip into Liverpool stopping at about ten stations on the way. On an average weekday, there are 187 trains per day travelling from Hooton to Liverpool James Street with a trip taking about 28 minutes. It is a very relaxing way to travel especially for Michael who does all the driving. We had not really planned much in advance so we got off the train at James St station and we walked onto Albert Docks. There are some massive buildings here and we visited the Museum of Liverpool and the Tate Liverpool. Along the Albert Dock are series of sculptures by various artists. One very cool one was The Ship’s Cat and Super Rat made by Faith Bebbington just this year and it was created out of 1000 recycled milk containers. Along the riverside, we found a padlock fence with thousands of padlocks, as signs of affection between couples, which went on for some distance. In the dry Canning Dock we saw the aptly named dazzle ship ‘Edmund Gardner’ and later we saw the Razzle Dazzle Mersey Ferry ‘Snowdrop’ designed by Sir Peter Blake crossing the river Mersey. We also visited the Tate Liverpool Museum where we saw some unusual artworks many of which we did not understand or enjoy although walking across the multi-coloured floor was a very strange and pleasant experience.

The Museum of Liverpool is a new museum which opened in 2011 and its intention was to tell the story of Liverpool and its people. In its centre is a huge circular staircase up to the different floors. It reminds me of pictures I have seen of the Guggenheim. There are lots of exhibition areas and one whole section was about John Lennon and Yoko Ono which I found very strange. I do not think I really understood a lot of it and it mentioned things that happened in the 1960’s which I have never heard of. I must have been slightly too young and it concentrated on the times after the Beatles phenomena. Their marriage certificate, white wedding outfits, various of Yoko’s artworks,  bed-ins for peace, wish trees for peace and a peace wall where you could take a crayon and write messages of peace anywhere on the wall. We laughed as a group of young people were sitting on each other’s shoulders in order to reach a piece of the wall which was unwritten on.

Did you know that Meccano was invented in Liverpool by Frank Hornby in 1898? Now that I think about it, being a household of girls I do not believe we had any. Maybe we saw it at Robert and Tim’s home. There was also an interesting exhibition called “Tales of the City” where there were artworks of drag queens by Ben Youdan made from sequins and jewels which were unlike anything I have ever seen before. I also found the “Votes for women” mosaic sculpture very interesting about women’s suffrage. A really meaningful piece of Mary Bamber, by artists Carrie Reichardt & Nick Reynolds, in 2011.

There was also a huge model of the original plans for the Catholic Cathedral designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens’ design was intended to create a massive structure that would have become the second-largest church in the world. It would have had the world’s largest dome, with a diameter of 168 feet (51 m) compared to the 137.7 feet (42.0 m) diameter on St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Building began in 1933 but with war restrictions, it stopped in 1941. In 1956 work continued on the crypt and was finished in 1958 but after that work ceased as it was too costly a design. In 1953 Adrian Gilbert Scott, brother of Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design a smaller cathedral but this did not go ahead either.

With this in mind we decided to walk up the hill to St James’ Mount to the cathedral but what we did not realise until we got to the Church of England Cathedral was that there are actually two cathedrals in Liverpool. The Liverpool Anglican cathedral is based on a design by Giles Gilbert Scott and was constructed between 1904 and 1978. The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel, is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world, its internal length is 160 yards (150 m). The Lady Chapel was built first and was consecrated in 1910. Both world wars brought work to a standstill owing to a shortage of manpower, materials and donations. The building was finally dedicated in October 1978. The cathedral is made mainly from local red sandstone and my overall impression both inside and outside was that it was very red!

The firm of James Powell and Sons (Whitefriars), Ltd., of London, provided most of the stained glass designs. John William Brown (1842–1928) designed the “Te Deum” window in the east end of the cathedral, as well as the original windows for the Lady Chapel, which was heavily damaged during German bombing raids in 1940. The glass in the Lady Chapel was replaced with designs, based on the originals, by James Humphries Hogan (1883–1948). He was one of the most prolific of the Powell and Sons designers; his designs can also be seen in the large north and south windows in the central space of the cathedral. Also, there are a series of fifty sculptures, ten memorials and several reliefs made by Edward Carter Preston between 1931 and 1961.

We then walked along Hope St to the Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral. On the way, we passed the Liverpool for Performing Arts and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and saw some wonderful art installations. We saw a portrait of the Beatles created from 15,000 jelly beans, A Case History: a sculpture installed by John King in 1998 and the intricate Sailors Home in cast iron by John Cunningham from 1851. Our favourite was a stunning wall mural of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk by Peter Curtis which was so lifelike. With the history of the Beatles and so many other artists, this is certainly a city for artist pursuits of all kinds.

As we entered the Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral our instant reaction was that of awe and wonder. The cathedral’s architect, Frederick Gibberd, was the winner of a worldwide design competition with construction beginning in 1962 and was completed in 1967. The Cathedral was built from concrete with a Portland stone cladding and an aluminium covering on the roof. It is circular and has a diameter of 195 feet (59 m), with 13 chapels around its perimeter. Around the interior are metal Stations of the Cross, designed by Sean Rice and he also designed the lectern of two entwined eagles. The stained glass of the lantern tower was designed by John Piper. We walked around the cathedral enjoying each of the chapels which are all so different. St Josephs Chapel had wonderfully painted wood relief carvings by Stephen Foster. There are amazing tapestries, sculptures, mosaics, carving and decorated wall hangings but each is displayed simply in its own space. We were really inspired by this beautiful cathedral and we even heard a choir practising in the basement which gave an extra element of emotion.

We did manage to find one geocache to mark our visit on the roof of the shop at the Catholic cathedral. By then we had walked enough for the day so we boarded the train at Lime St for the trip home. Such a wonderful day visiting so many places including two cathedrals built around the same time but so completely different to each other. A really inspiring day!! We loved Liverpool and hope to return again.