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Soho Foundry, Sandwell Gates and W.T.Avery.
No, I don't mean that ugly brick built edifice that is currently making the news. There is no point, in keeping an unprepossesing and no longer needed building, standing idle. Better it goes to an enterprising developer who could turn it into homes for single parents, single males/females, a bail hostel, or a refuge for asylum seekers, who could then enjoy all the amenities the area of Old Hill, can offer. Like walks in the lovely park, just over the road. What I have in mind though, is the decision made by the Council, in March of this year, to return to Liverpool, a set of gates, that have been the subject of a few stories. All of them wrong.
The first story is that the gates were sent to a company in Smethwick, to be repaired, following war damage. This is untrue, and the assumption, that somehow the company concerned, W.T.Avery, " retained the gates illegally, is a terrible slur and insult to a fine and noble enterprise, who have been at the Soho Foundry, since 1895. The brief history that follows, is a matter of historic fact, which can be easily checked in company records, and from the archives held in Liverpool, as well as online.
In the 1840s, Liverpool was a very busy port, receiving Ships and Sailors from around the World. The amount of unsavoury guest houses in the City, caused the council to look at plans to build a proper place, where these Sailors could stay in safety. Work commenced on the Sailors Home in 1848, in Canning Place, near to the docks. With no expense spared, a set of elaborate entrance gates was designed, the casting of which, was entrusted to a local foundry, Henry Pooley and Son. So heavy were the gates, that they had to cast in several parts, and instead of the more usual swing gates, these were designed to slide open. The bottom haly of the gates were installed in early 1851, with the very fancy top parts being erected later in the year. When installed, they were called by all and sundre, " Pooleys Gates ". They have never been called " The Liver Gates ". Sad to relate, that in 1852, Mary Anne Price, 52, the wife of the gatekeeper, was fatally injured when the chains, which prevented the sliding sections from overunning the slides, failed, and the gates fell on her. In 1907, Police Constable Brownlow Locke, 26, suffered the same fate, while standing in the entrance of the Sailors Home, sheltering from a hail storm. The gates were damaged in the 1920s, presumable by some sailors, who got locked out of the home after lingering a bit to long in the many place's of " entertainment ", that Liverpool provided. During the last war, they were taken down and stored away, least they suffer further damage in the Blitz that Liverpool was subjected to. After the war, in 1948, W.T.Avery, purchsed the business of Henry Pooley, and were then approached by the Sailors home, with a view to repairing the gates. They did make a quotation, which was far to much for the Committee of the home, who then made an offer to sell Avery's the gates, for their Museum back in Smethwick. In May 1949, Avery's made the home an offer of 50 guineas for the gates, which, after much debate, was accepted. They were loaded onto a lorry in 1951, and delivered to their new home in the Black Country.
The gates stood at the factory until 2010, when it was noticed that corrosion was having a detrimental effect on the structure. At Avery's expense, the gates were again loaded on a lorry, and taken to the Wolverhampton firm of Barr and Grosvenor, where a full restoration began. Liverpool council then made an approach to Sandwell, and to the council's great credit, a deal was reached. They decided that the connection, was of far greater importance, than with Smethwick, and in August this year, painted in Green and Gold, the gates were rehung in Paradise Street, Liverpool, not far from the site of the old Sailors Home. So congratulations to W.T Avery, for the £32,000 cost, Barr and Grosvenor, for a superb job of restoration, and Sandwell Council, for putting preservation first, and making the citizens of Liverpool happy. Keep it up all, you're doing a fine job. There are 3 photographs of the Gates in the " Images from the Forums " Album, in the Gallery.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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