Liverpool and the Garstang Museum
Liverpool, as the man says, has pretty much everything you’d want and a lot you don’t want.
It has magnificent buildings
2 (TWO) cathedrals,
and music venues, all the shops you’d ever need, yet parts of Liverpool are shabby, dirty, there’s visible poverty, very run down areas, it was badly bombed during the 2nd World War, but it’s survived.
I love Liverpool, I love the contradictions, for the inhabitant’s sake I wish it wasn’t so poor but it’s visceral and vibrant. I’ve been going to Liverpool for decades. It was our nearest big city when I was growing up in North Wales, when I moved to Cardiff I’d come back for conferences or to see friends, now I live in the North West I tend to go to Manchester if I need city life but Manchester doesn’t have the same resonance. Liverpool, like London and Glasgow (and it is very like Glasgow), makes me feel more alive as soon as I step off the train. So it was with great joy that I realised I needed to go to Liverpool and see Jon –to deliver the post-PhD cake and my copy of Lives in Land for review, as in reviewing the book not the cake, although he’s welcome to review the cake too.
I fortuitously cleverly picked last Wednesday as the day to go, Wednesday is the only day the Garstang Museum is open and Jon knows where it is
– I doubt I’d have found it without him. Just as an aside, if you ever need to go anywhere – take Jon. He knows everything, seriously, and, even more amazing, he can remember names, dates, places, anecdotes. Where I flounder and wave my arms around and say ‘thingy’ a lot, he shows you the University of Liverpool’s sphinxes
the oldest post box in Liverpool
tells you tales of Augustus John’s time as an art lecturer at the University of Liverpool and how, had the invasion plan succeeded, the Nazis had earmarked this building to be the Liverpool Gestapo’s headquarters.
Walking through Abercromby Square
he’ll explain that it’s named after General Ralph Abercromby who died at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801 – the beautiful building in the garden is/was a tool shed. Then he’ll take you on a slight detour to 19 Abercromby Square,
the former Bishop’s Palace, and tell you all about Noel Chavasse, son of the second Bishop of Liverpool, Olympic athlete, member of the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1913 and the only man to be twice awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. As if that wasn’t enough, Jon will then explain that the exterior of No 19 Abercromby Square has the confederate star above the entrance and a painting of a palmetto tree
the symbol of South Carolina, in the lobby because it was built in 1862 for Charles Prioleau, an American Confederate cotton merchant. There was more, the Student’s Union
George Melly’s plaque
Photo by Julia
talk to you about teetotalism and pubs, Lutyen’s design for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral – only the crypt and treasury were built – and no doubt other stuff I’ve completely forgotten. But, we’re here to visit the Garstang Museum, not Jon’s encyclopaedic mind.
The museum is small, but fascinating. Although it’s called the Garstang Museum, it has always reflected the entirety of archaeological teaching at the University of Liverpool. They have an excellent web presence which you can check out here. It may be small but it packs a lot in. You walk past a beautiful stone sarcophagus as you enter – which I forgot to photo, duh! – turn a corner and there’s a fantastic display of photos and ephemera from Garstang’s excavations.
The museum has wisely chosen several beautiful photos, enlarged them and used those to tell the story of Garstang’s excavations and the university’s work.
It’s these photos that make the museum so special. The cases, while well displayed with gorgeous artefacts
– and this one was partially done by our own JT –
contain the sort of material you can see in any sizeable museum. That’s not a criticism, given the lack of space the Garstang Museum staff have done a wonderful job of showcasing the artefacts. But the photos
and Garstang’s documents
raise it above the ordinary for a historian of archaeology. It would have been lovely if they’d done the same with all of the displays. I’d liked to have known more about the all the excavations and excavators whose material is displayed here. But, I’m aware of the lack of space, funding, and that my interests aren’t everyone’s – damnit!
There’s very little detail about Garstang’s life away from his excavations, this is very much a museum of the results of people’s archaeological work. It’s a place of education about the past, the material presented in broad themes
a place for school children and undergraduates to get an idea about past societies and an understanding that the 21st century is not the pinnacle of civilisation. Again this isn’t a criticism, there is, as I’ve repeatedly said, very little space, however, I would have liked to know more about Garstang’s teaching. I’d liked to have seen something about the development of archaeology at Liverpool as an academic subject. This was one of the first places to teach archaeology and that should be acknowledged and celebrated through the displays.
Admittedly I could have spent more time here talking about Garstang and less about Liverpool and the wonders of Jon’s memory – but, hey people, context! Plus, there’s more information about Garstang on the website. I’m hoping Jon and I can get together and write a post about Garstang or one on the development of archaeology at the University of Liverpool, or both. I haven’t mentioned this to him yet. . .
Until next week, have a great weekend