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Photographs of Liverpool: The Palmhouse, Sefton Park

The Palmhouse in 1985...

The Palmhouse in Liverpool's splendid Sefton Park was a gift to the city by Henry Yates Thompson. It was designed by a Glasgow firm, McKenzie & Moncur ("hothouse builders and heating engineers to Queen Victoria") and completed in 1895.

derelict palmhouseDesigned in the tradition of Joseph Paxton's classic glass houses, it was stocked originally with a magnificent collection of exotic plants. There were nine marble statues on display inside together with a marble bench. On plinths around the outside there were a further eight bronze & marble statues by Charalliand of famous explorers and naturalists including Charles Darwin and Christopher Columbus.

...and how it appeared in 1990, a mere five years later- disgracefully boarded up, derelict and stripped of the sculptures loved by generations of Liverpool people.

At the beginning of World War II the Palmhouse was camouflaged in case the glass reflected the moonlight and thus act as a guide for enemy aircraft. Matt oil paint was used on the outside of the building- grey stripes were painted over the dome, and the rest was coloured green to blend with the surrounding parkland.

In the blitz of May 1941 a bomb fell nearby and shattered all the glass. It was reglazed in 1950 at the considerable cost of £6,163 and continued to be enjoyed by the people of Liverpool. From childhood on, it was for years one of this writer's favourite places to visit.

However, a period of decline and deterioration culminated in its closure in the l980s. Many at the time considered the deliberate neglect of the Palmhouse to have been an ideological act of vandalism by Derek Hatton's Militant Labour government.

In June 1992, a heated public meeting was held highlighting the dereliction and demanding the building's restoration. A petition of 5000 names was presented to the City Council by what had become the "Save the Palm House" campaign. For the first time ever this cause generated cross-party support from the Council for the refurbishment proposal.

A fund raising campaign was established, with a "sponsor a pane" programme generating over £35,000. This led directly to the conversion of Save the Palm House into a registered charity, the 'Friends of Sefton Park Palm House', later the Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust.

...and as it looked when it was new in 1899- the pride of the city

There was a feasibility study into possible uses of the Palmhouse and a number of events were held there- which were surprisingly successful in view of the unglazed state of the building.

Working in partnership, Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust and Liverpool City Council were successful in bringing together a funding package to restore the building and construct new facilities to ensure a viable future for the building. £2.5million was raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the European Regional Development Fund, Liverpool City Council and the Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust. The reconstruction started in Februrary 2000 and, in September 2001, the glorious palmhouse was at last officially re-opened to the public!

...and here it is in all its restored glory during the Summer of 2002

Some lovely Edwardian views of the Palmhouse are here. For the latest and best news, be sure to visit the official Palmhouse website

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