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Architecture: Josephine Butler....

....From champion of the oppressed to £4.9m car-park

Published on April 18th 2009.


Architecture: Josephine Butler....

It was revealed this week that developers paid £4.9m for Josephine Butler House, home of the UK's first Radium Institue, on the corner of Hope St and Myrtle St. Now it is set to be demolished and a 16-space car park laid in its place (that's £306k a space). Here, Hilary Burrage gives her appraisal.


THERE weren't many grand ladies who chose to spend part of their lives ministering to the needy, in the workhouses, in Josephine Butler's day. But she was one of them, protecting - and fighting for - the health and education rights of Victorian society's most vulnerable.

1604Jb3lg
However, slowly (and arguably too late) the name of this Liverpool College headmaster's wife, who was once described as “the most distinguished woman of the 19th century", is permeating the modern civic psyche of her home town. But for all the wrong reasons.

Josephine Butler has been remembered in archives and institutions around the UK and beyond; her achievements have not been totally lost on Liverpool either. There is a window in her memory in the Anglican Cathedral; the University of Liverpool has a named archive; the Hope Street / Mount Street 'Suitcases' commemorate her, and, until now, Liverpool John Moores University has also acknowledged our collective debt to her reforming zeal, naming one of its properties in Myrtle Street for her.

But recently things have changed.

More than a year ago, LJMU came to a £10m commercial arrangement with Maghull Properties which saw Josephine Butler House and three other buildings in the Hope Street Quarter, including the the Hahnemann Building, site of the first homoeopathic hospital, and the School of Art, transferred to the Maghull portfolio.

There was, at the time, considerable public concern about the plans which Maghull then presented for agreement by Liverpool city council - plans which included demolition of the LJMU Josephine Butler House.

The small patch of land on which it stands, at the corner of Hope Street and Myrtle Street, is the only non-conservation site in the Hope Street quarter - a surprise, not only because several organisations have been repeatedly urging the city council to rectify this oversight for years, but even more so because Josephine Butler House was, before its academic use, the home of the first Radium Institute in the UK.

Worse, however, was to come.

1604Jb1lgAs things stoodWhen the Maghull demolition plans were lodged, several bodies and individuals launched objections and a move was made to have Josephine Butler House listed (it would have been protected without further ado, if within the conservation area), or the permissions for the development refused. Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman called on the council to put a preservation notice on the building.

None of these actions was achieved.

Instead, before any of this could happen, and a few days before a city council planning committee site visit, scaffolding was erected around JB House, and hammers were applied to almost all the frontage of this, until then, quite useable building.



Amazingly, the city council - who might well be judged to have been cocked a snook by these actions - then capitulated to the planning request to demolish it, perhaps because by now the building was in a state of disrepair.

And this is where, a year later, things still “stand”. The tarpaulins have fallen from the building and the scaffolding has gone, leaving a huge, gaping, sorry and derelict building, previously a very decent example of the construction of its time, at the heart of Hope Street.

1604Jb2lgThe shroud goes onIn the latest move, the apparently-credit-crunched owners, Maghull, have succeeded in another application to the city council - to use the land it would acquire by razing Josephine Butler House, not to create a commercial, “boutique hotel” development as originally intended, but to lay... a 16-place car park.

Residents of the adjacent Symphony apartments, every visitor to the Philharmonic Hall, and, crucially, the very many travellers who every day pass through this prime gateway to our cathedrals, universities and city centre, none of them can miss the grim evidence of civic neglect which the shell of Josephine Butler House now presents.

It would be fair to say sympathy is limited for those who now wish to “develop” the Josephine Butler House site, credit crunch or not. Nor is there much evidence of sympathy for the city council, which gave the permissions which have allowed this situation to develop.

Why did no one listen to the many concerned voices? Perhaps some of them now rue overriding the deep concerns of many ordinary people and not “just” the usual conservation suspects.

The Josephine Butler House saga is not over. Many still wish fervently that it can be restored to good, sustainable use. How this might be achieved lies with the city council and commercial stakeholders in the building.

Knees up! Michael Hanlon, boss of the Maghull Group with Council leader Warren BradleyKnees up! Michael Hanlon,
boss of the Maghull Group
with Council leader Warren Bradley
But that is not all. Increasingly, and especially following the critial article by Ed Vulliamy in the Observer of 20 March, the eye of those further afield is also upon us.

What is happening to the memory of Josephine Butler and the building named for her is important for Liverpool, a city which claims to be restoring its civic pride and wider reputation.

Not everyone as yet knows about Hope Street's association with Josephine Butler, but most are aware of the connection between another of Liverpool's citizens, John Lennon, and the School of Art which he attended, a building bought and leased back by Maghull to LMJU until 2011.

Now might be a good time to reflect on how 'developments' may look in the longer term, if we do not take account either of the buildings which define the Hope Street area, or the sons and daughters of the city who have conducted their business for more than a century in this uniquely special quarter.

Past notes: Josephine Butler

1604Jb5lgJosephine ButlerHaving relocated to Liverpool with her husband, the scholar and cleric George Butler, when he became head teacher of Liverpool College in 1866,Josephine Butler (1828-1906) made Liverpool the family home for her threesons, her husband and herself.

Sadly, this family had originally comprised four children;but shortly before they came to Liverpool the six-year-old daughter, Eva,died in an accident. This tragic turn led Josephine - always the owner of astirring social conscience - to immerse herself even more in helping others, perhaps as a way of deadening her own pain.

Any consolation for Josephine cannot however have been as immense as it wasfor those whom she sought to protect and champion: women who had turned indesperation to prostitution, women who yearned for higher education, andnumerous others besides. There were not many grand ladies in Liverpool whospent a part of their lives ministering to substantive effect in theworkhouse.

And from these earnest endeavours emerged the image of Josephine Butler towhich later social reformers turn, that of the social pioneer whom thesuffragette Millicent Fawcett herself described as “the most distinguishedwoman of the 19th century".

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousApril 16th 2009.

my blood is boiling

RegApril 16th 2009.

What's with everything in bold. It hurts

angry of west derbyApril 16th 2009.

I am appalled at this! I have long wondered what was going to happen to this beautiful building when they started to remove the facade. Ignorantly I thought it must be dangerous and they had to remove it for repairs!!! How stupid I am. So its going to be knocked down. Sacriledge!My grandmother was treated for cancer at the Radium Institute. They saved her life back in the fifties. I can't believe they are doing this to an important part of Liverpool's hertitage! I'm well angry!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I Told You SoApril 16th 2009.

The dopes in the Council can only see the cheap (and quickly tarnishing) tinsel of the new developments. Proper buildings are disposable just because they are old and not made of trendy tin and cardboard. The tumbleweed is blowing through the so-called 'Liverpool One' already.

WarriorApril 16th 2009.

Could this be the same Magull Engineering that were invloved in the Beechwood Day school fiasco that invloved Degsy H in 1986 ,and had an investigation by the Fraud Squad

Cody LennonApril 16th 2009.

I am no valuer but £10M for 4 valuable bits of real estate seems undervalued and bad business if you are looking to use the cash for a £27m Design Academy. That’s a £17m loss. Surely 4 separate open market sales would achieve more? I hope tax is not subsidising the gap. And why is JBH at £4.9m worth similar to the 3 other JMU buildings combined? These 3 might be more maintenance needy, but they are massively bigger with greater ability for rental or capital returns. There is the site redevelopment value of JBH, but the site won’t be re-developed. So is there something more to the deal?And how can a bank sanction a £4.9m loan if the sole return is renting out car spaces? The income must be minimal compared to the repayments, so who is paying the gap, a partner, an insurance company? It seems odd.And why Maghull. Who are they? I thought they were a small family building firm? Why not Urban Splash, or someone with a proven track record and a great professional reputation.No disrespect to JMU, but when academics meet aggressive developers and the fundors are the aggressive and now failed Royal Bank of Scotland, and the fiefdom is the Exececutive Municipality of Liverpool what can we expect? So lots of question on dear old Dupe Street. But one more. If the taxpayers own the RBS, and if, as hinted, there are administrators sniffing around Hope Street, do the taxpayers also own Maghull? If so can we have our building back?

R.D OwenApril 16th 2009.

Having observed the trials and tribulations of my home city for many years, it long ago became abundantly clear that the city councillors are, in the main, philistines. Who is to blame? You, the voters.

AnonymousApril 16th 2009.

Well what happens is the papers do a story about it and then it goes away and then it happens. Thenl the next time somebody performas an act of civic vandalism, cheerfully waved on by our council, it will eventually appear in the media agin and then go away. If you really want to do something about it then write to the developer, like the tour guide Phil Coppell did, then you can get a reply back full of four letter words telling you what a tosser you are.

HerstoryApril 16th 2009.

Josephine Butler's date of birth was 13 April 1828; we should have been celebrating her this week. However, the C. of E. has a Lesser Festival for Josephine every year on 30 May - maybe time yet to show we care?

WappingApril 16th 2009.

Because, Sean, anyone who could stop it hasn't the slightest interest in doing anything of the sort. I don't think those in power are bright enough to make responsible policy decisions, they just fiddle while Liverpool crashes and burns.

GordoApril 16th 2009.

Well. this killed my serious review of Pierre ~whites gaff then....

Linus TypeApril 16th 2009.

Is it my eyes or is this entire article and ranting forum in 'Bold'?

PIGGYApril 16th 2009.

This fiasco has been covered extensively by the local media. It's a complete disgrace and makes me furious. But what can we do? Greed governs decisions in the city above and beyond anything else. Planning decisions have no rhyme or reason as far as us mere citizens can see. There must be some way we could get together and protest at the vandalism of our beautiful city/

Shaking headApril 16th 2009.

I suppose now that Maghull's construction arm as gone into admin there is absolutely no chance of the building being restored to its state 12 months ago. Instead, it will be left to rot until the market goes up and they will sell the land at a premium and JBH will be demolished as unsafe. Casartelli all over again.

ShaunApril 16th 2009.

So now it has been demolised. An absolute fukcing disgrace. Why is no one stopping this licenced vandalism?

AnonymousApril 16th 2009.

Excuse me, but is this the same Maghull Group who have displaced Crosby village traders after decades, demolished thier premises, told them to **** off and now tell the people of crosby that the redevelopment is off? That the bare land, once host to thriving businesses 12 months ago is going to be a pile of rubble indefinitely? Nice one councillors!

DigApril 16th 2009.

That was a review? I thought it was a scene from a Coen Brothers movie.

Livid of Leece StreetApril 16th 2009.

It really is astonishing that this sort of thing still goes on. Remember the Casertelli building which was left to rot into such a state of disrepair that it had to be demolished. And why? Because of the land valie. What I don't understand is why Maghull didn't create a hotel out of what they had. Can you imagine destroying a building like this, in a similar location in London? It would not happen. Gordon Ramsey or someone would have opened up in there. Has Liverpool not learned any lessons about destroying history after the debacle that saw the Cavern knocked down? And for what? Oh yes, a car park!

TourmanApril 16th 2009.

When Maghull Developments Managing Director, Michael Hanlon sent me an expletive strewn email in response to my objections to planning permission being granted for the Josephine Butler site.He stated, “There is more chance of John Lennon joining one of your tours than Maghull Developments suffering in the credit crunch”Well he was wrong, John Lennon has not joined one of my tours, but Maghull Developments have suspended their building programme because of the credit crunch.Maghull Developments started work on Josephine Butler House before planning Consent was given. The cladding was removed for “specialist restoration” Maghull should be required to restore Josephine Butler House to its former glory.The City Council should ensure that the other properties owned by Maghull, The former Art College and Hannemann Building on Hope Street are not allowed to deteriorate.Michael Hanlon is the Bill Davies of the present day and if we are not careful the buildings his company own will become a blight on Hope Street.In approving planning permission for flats and shops on Hope Street, the planners were meeting a need that is not there, with over 2000 empty flats in Liverpool City Centre it is obvious there is no demand for flats.There were over a thousand empty flats before the present housing downturn yet the Council carried on giving approval for unwanted developments and must take responsibility for this mess and stop approving any further new developments and start refurbishing existing properties, such as Anfield, the Welsh Streets and Kensington. Councils are supposed to serve, not smash, communities.The City Council must not grant permission for Maghull Developments to demolish Josephine Butler House to extend the car park otherwise developers will do what they like and expect to get retrospective planning permission.Philip Coppell

E. R. NosenthroatApril 16th 2009.

The creatures responsible and their lackeys in the City Council ought to be named and shamed and their addresses printed in the Echo. As we have seen recently, the City Council numpties appear to be immune from accountability - let the righteous mass of udge these vandals in a cheaper and more direct fashion!

Barr-eApril 16th 2009.

I had no idea about this. How come it hasn't been in the Echo?

Stanley StreetApril 16th 2009.

Oooooh! If this isn't deleted there's a chance here for some investigative journalism!

Tony B very angryApril 16th 2009.

How dare the council allow this to happen , Please publish, name and shame all those councillors who agreed to the capitulation and gave the (developers) wreckers permission to do this to a beautiful building named after such a noteable person.

TerryApril 16th 2009.

Good on you Phil Coppell! You are absolutely right with the Bill Davies comparison. There are a lot of greats and goods in Hope Street, but even they seem powerless to do anything about this. How on earth has this been allowed to happen? In fact, it appears to have the council's blessing. What a shower of numbskulls!

Rusty SpikeApril 16th 2009.

So, remind us all again...Liverpool UNESCO World Heritage City...well, its two fingers to all that then.

Stanley StreetApril 16th 2009.

R. D. Owen. How do work that out? We can only vote for the candidates on the ballot paper! We can't help it if internal party-political jiggery-pokery and seedy back-room deals see to it that the scum keeps rising to the top!Of course we the law-abiding citizens of Liverpool have been a bit lax on the lynching of these self-interested chumps and for this I can only apologise for my share of the blame.

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