Surrounded by Architectural Glories; Make the Most of the Buildings around You as They Are among the Best in Britain, the Author of a New Definitive Guide Tells Peter Elson

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), May 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

Surrounded by Architectural Glories; Make the Most of the Buildings around You as They Are among the Best in Britain, the Author of a New Definitive Guide Tells Peter Elson


Byline: Peter Elson

IN A world which prides itself on being more visually aware and image-conscious, there is one conspicuous gap.

Not enough people care for the rich variety of buildings in Liverpool and southern Lancashire. That's the verdict of Richard Pollard, who has spent the past three years researching the definitive architectural guide to the area.

"Is the built landscape properly cherished in this part of the world? No, in a word," says Pollard, who has just completed entirely revising the Lancashire: Liverpool and the South West volume of the Buildings of England series.

This mammoth project was started by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner after the war to catalogue all the buildings of England of any worth, county by county. This is the first revision of the southern Lancashire volume since 1968 (some others have not been rewritten since the 1950s).

"Although it's not only in Liverpool that there is this apathy about the buildings around us," says Pollard, 34, who comes from County Durham.

"Unfortunately, on a small scale, it has a lot to do with wealth. There's a lot of self-regulation. If somewhere is very well-preserved, it's because the people who live there are actively doing it.

"You can't force it. You can have laws and regulations, but there's got to be desire by the local population to want to look after these buildings.

Pollard lived in the old Everton Collegiate School (converted by the leading inner city developers Urban Splash), doing his bit for conservation. Such re-use of historic buildings is trumpeted as the saviour of our city's core property stock.

"I was quite curious about the Liverpool loft lifestyle, but this flat was about all I could get at the time I needed a base in the c i t y.

"I found out that I can't live in these big, white blank spaces. I wanted a cosy mess, which doesn't work there. You've got to be a personality who wants everything spotlessly clean and put away all the time. But it did have fantastic views."

Working closely with Pollard on the book was Joseph Sharples, co-author, advisor and friend. In essence, he was repaying the favour of helping Sharples with the latter's excellent Pevsner Liverpool city edition, published a couple of years ago.

"I applied for the job and was surprised to get it. It seemed an impossible thing to do, rewrite Pevsner. I expected lots of rules and regulations, but there weren't any," says Pollard.

"I didn't know the area when I moved here in 2001.I drove around the place to get a feel for what it was and then keep revisiting to understand it more t h o ro u g h ly.

"We had the luxury of a lot of time to do it, whereas when Pevsner did it he just turned up, saw things and left.

"You wonder how you can compare with Pevsner's extraordinary knowledge and experience, but actually in the end it neither hinders nor helps. You start with his text and work backwards from there. Then you look at what you've written and it's all changed by the end."

There have been boundary changes, reflected in the book, such as Warrington's expansion south of the Mersey, so a little of Cheshire is included.

"From an urban designer and architect's point of view Liverpool is fantastic. Being on the river is wonderful and many cities would die for that position," says Pollard.

"There's this wonderful confidence of the buildings from about 100 years ago, and I hadn't appreciated how wealthy Liverpool had been. That wealth goes out into the suburbs to these places like Allerton.

"The other thing that I liked was Wigan and Leigh because I didn't know anything about mill towns. They're quite interesting. Not bad places, but very little was said about them in the 1968 first edition.

"It's difficult to say something fresh about famous landmarks like Speke Hall. Trying to find a new superlative or something that is not a clichA is very hard. …

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