Liverpool is a wonderful city in many ways, but it is well known for being run-down and deprived, in particular, areas such as Toxteth and Kensington. This may make it look unappealing to developers and visitors, but it provides a huge number of opportunities to explore and investigate the urban deprivation of the city and learn more about how it has changed over time.
By far the most interesting area I have visited is situated off Smithdown Road opposite the cemetery and near the building site for a new school. There are several roads there composed entirely of abandoned and decaying houses.
Between 2002 and 2011, as part of the Pathfinder housing renewal programme, the Labour government designated several residential areas across the north of England for demolition and re-building. This was in an attempt to encourage developers to reuse old sites rather than more affluent areas. Across Merseyside, this included areas such as Dingle, Granby, Arundel, Picton, Abercromby, Smithdown, Kensington, Tuebrook, Everton, Breckfield, Anfield, Vauxhall and Melrose.
However, the project was highly controversial since it forced many residents to leave unwillingly, a lot of Victorian heritage was destroyed and it was seen by many as a form of class cleansing. The scheme was ultimately largely unsuccessful and was abandoned in many areas. This has resulted in lots of streets of empty, red-brick, terraced houses with their windows boarded up with sheets of metal.
In exploring the area near Smithdown, we found that there were several houses which had been set on fire, leaving only the charred remains of the roof beams and stairs.
Many of the gardens had plants growing through the concrete. We discovered an outside toilet, demonstrating that although the houses were abandoned fairly recently, they had probably been built in the early twentieth century before the advent of indoor plumbing. Despite the peeling paintwork, mouldy wallpaper and chipped tiles, most of the houses still kept the remnants of the lives of former residents- sofas, books, documents, clothes and toys. It reminded me of photographs of warzones, places that people had to leave in a hurry.
Although we were continually expecting to meet some shady characters in the alleyways or darkened living rooms, the entire area was as desolate as the houses. Perhaps the most entertaining item we found was a needle kit with step-by-step instructions on how to inject drugs and advice on where to recycle it after use. You know, for those environmentally concerned junkies.