A Bombed Out Book Tour of Liverpool City Centre: The Central Library.
Above Photo: The Picton Reading Room, Liverpool Central Library.
A friend recently asked to be taken on a tour of Bombed Out! book locations in Liverpool city centre. This was another stop on the tour.
“Went to the Library, the Grapes and Eric’s.”
In that short sentence from my 1979-1980 diaries, I could have been describing any one of hundreds of days when my girlfriend Liz and I lived our lives on and in the streets, parks, pubs and libraries of Liverpool City Centre, all focused on Eric’s Punk/New Wave club and seeing bands or working, rehearsing and hanging out down there.
Just a flick through my diaries shows how important the place was to us (see below extracts).
The above route map shows the course of our daily lives back in 1979 and 1980, ending up in the Grapes pub on Mathew Street, where we’d spend as little money as possible for the longest time possible, before getting into Eric’s for free.
The William Brown Library (now part of the Central Library) was completed in 1860, and this, and the magnificent Picton Reading Room were amongst our favourite haunts back then.
We’d sit in St. John’s Gardens for a few hours, then go to the nearby library for warmth, shelter and just for something to do.
In the library we’d read books we could never afford to buy and were exposed to writers we’d never heard of, and ideas we’d never come across before. And, for me, the legal section held great interest too. Our experiences back then made me a lifetime supporter of properly funded public libraries in the UK.
So for this Bombed Out! tour with my friend, we took in the exterior of these magnificent old buildings, as I explained their role in Bombed Out! and to my life in general.
Much of the funding for the William Brown Library was supplied by – surprise surprise – someone called Sir William Brown, a wealthy local merchant, in whose honour the street was renamed.
The Picton Reading Room was always a personal favourite of mine. Completed in 1879, exactly 100 years before Liz and I were using it, the building is Grade II listed and has a magnificent interior.
A couple of years ago the library underwent a GBP 55 million facelift internally and they removed some bog-standard 1950s floors and additions (not the magnificent interiors shown here). What they did to it looks amazing.
I’ve added some quotes from my July 1979 diaries, to give you an idea of our routine existence, and how important the library was to us. It’s not exactly Samuel Pepys material, but it does the job:
Monday – Liz called about 11am. We went to library, museum and art gallery.
Tuesday – Met Liz in town at 5pm. Went to library then to Grapes and on to Masonic and saw Modern Eon. Got last bus.
Wednesday – Was supposed to rehearse but I jacked it off. Liz rang in afternoon I met her at 4pm and went to library. Sat around and then went to The Grapes from 7.45 to 11.45 with 2 quid! I enjoyed it.
Thursday – Met Liz in town at 2.30pm. Went to job centre but it was crap. Library was shut so we went to the museum. Then we sat in St John’s Gardens for 1 and a half hours and went to the Grapes. Had 2 quid but we still left at closing time.
Friday – Met Liz in town at 7.30pm. Went to the library.
Saturday – Went to St John’s Gardens and had an ace chat with Liz. Went to the library then on to the Grapes and on to Eric’s.
Monday – Went to Lewises, bought crisps and sat in St John’s Gardens. Went to the library and to the Grapes at 6pm. Packed out, so we went to the Queen’s Arms, and back to Grapes, then into Eric’s.
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