Back in 2010, we reported that the birthplace of Ringo Starr was threatened with demolition. The rowhouse, located at 9 Madryn Street in Liverpool, England, has fallen into disrepair. As you can see from this photo, it hasn’t been lived in for some time and is all boarded up.
It’s not alone. The BBC reports that many of the homes in the neighborhood are abandoned and crumbling. The city government approved a £15 million ($24.4 million) plan to rework the neighborhood, building 150 new homes, knocking down 280 others, and restoring 37, including Ringo Starr’s. There have been calls to preserve the home as a bit of music history. While John and Paul’s childhood homes are now preserved by the National Trust, Ringo’s place doesn’t even have an historic plaque.
Now the city’s plan has been put on hold by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has called for a full review. That’s bad news for the few people still living in the area. They don’t know whether they should move, or pay their own money to restore their homes, or do nothing. It all depends what happens with the government funding, and nobody can answer that at the moment.
So will the homes be knocked down or will Ringo’s birthplace become yet another of England’s historic homes? We’ll just have to wait and see.
It may be a long wait.
Archaeologists working on a conservation project at Drum Castle near Aberdeen, Scotland, have discovered two secret chambers, one of which includes a medieval toilet complete with its wooden seat.
Drum Castle features a 13th-century castle keep that’s the oldest intact example in Scotland. Besides the hidden toilet, the team found a second secret chamber that’s reputed to have been where one of the men of the clan hid out for three years after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden. The chamber with the toilet was hidden by bookshelves installed in the 19th century, while the second chamber was a real-life safe room for rebellious Scots. Both were found in the medieval keep.
From 1323-1975, Drum Castle was the seat of the Chief of Clan Irvine. In addition to the keep, the property features Jacobean and Victorian additions. It is now open to visitors and is only 10 miles outside Aberdeen. Visitors can see the historic interior and stroll through the surrounding ancient oak woodland, a rare survival of primeval forest that’s been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Smithsonian Institution has received a unique donation – an intact slave cabin from a plantation in South Carolina. The cabin, which was on the grounds of the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island, was donated by the current landowners.
For the past month a Smithsonian team has been meticulously dismantling it and removing it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The reconstructed cabin will be the centerpiece of the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition when the museum opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2015.
While it will certainly make an interesting display and attract lots of attention, it’s a shame that it wasn’t left where it was. Historic homes and artifacts have a more immediate impact on the visitor when they’re left in the original location. The move has taken away the cabin’s context. It’s no longer in the area where the slaves worked, lived and died. Instead of experiencing the landscape – the heat, the insects, the thick undergrowth the slaves would have known – we’ll now see it in a modern museum thronging with tourists.
Perhaps it was impossible for the cabin to remain where it was. Perhaps the Smithsonian had to move it to save it, but we’ve still lost something.
George Orwell’s birthplace in Motihari, Bihar, India, is being turned into a monument and park, but not to the famous English writer. Instead, Art Daily reports, the new park will be dedicated to independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.
The ramshackle bungalow where Orwell was born in 1903 has long been the subject of discussion as to what to do with it. The local government said it would fix up the place in 2009 but nothing was done. A statue of George Orwell on the grounds has been damaged.
The move has drawn criticism from many Indians. The Hindustan Times reports that locals want the park dedicated to Orwell, saying it will draw foreign tourists to the area. Bihar is the poorest or second poorest state in India depending on what statistics you focus on.
Orwell, an outspoken socialist, frequently criticized the colonial system of which he was a part. His father was serving in the Indian Civil Service when he was born and Orwell himself served as a policeman in Burma. He later expressed his ambivalence towards British rule in Asia in essays such as “Shooting an Elephant” and the novel “Burmese Days.”
He also had mixed feelings towards Gandhi. He opens his essay “Reflections on Gandhi” with the line, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent. . .” and went on to say Gandhi was ascetic to a fault and that “his medievalist program was obviously not viable in a backward, starving, over-populated country.” On the other hand, Orwell praises his integrity and courage. For a deep thinker like Orwell, there were no easy answers, no quick labels.
What do you think should be done with Orwell’s birthplace? Take the poll!
[Photo courtesy National Union of Journalists]
When walking in London, keep an eye out for the Blue Plaques. These historic markers will tell you where famous people once lived, and occasionally make for strange combinations.
One blue plaque at 23 Brook Street in the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood tells how Jimi Hendrix lived there from 1968-1969. Next door at number 25 is another Blue Plaque, this time for Classical composer George Frideric Handel, who lived in the house from 1723 until his death in 1759. Sadly, there’s no record of what Jimi thought about living so close to an earlier and slightly different composer.
The upper stories of these two homes are now the Handel House Museum, which, as the name implies, is dedicated to Handel and not Hendrix. The house has been refurnished with period furniture and paintings and contains a collection of Handel’s personal items. The museum hosts many special events and concerts throughout the year, including weekly recitals. My wife is a big Classical music fan and taking her here to listen to a string quartet is something she still talks about years later.
One disappointment was not being able to see where Jimi Hendrix stayed. He loved London and loved his place, calling it his first real home of his own. At that time he had no neighbors and so he could practice his music as loudly as he wanted.
When the Handel House Museum opened in 2001, his apartment was restored to look like it had when he lived there, minus the large amount of drugs scattered about. Sadly, the apartment is now used as museum’s administrative offices and isn’t generally shown to the public.
[Photo courtesy David Holt]