The World in One Street
It’s Liverpool takes a guided tour down Bold Street to unearth its fascinating past, and exciting future.
Get to know Bold Street, and you get to know Liverpool. Walk down its historic half mile or so with Chris Gibson, editor of the Ropewalks Liverpool website, and you’ll be scratching deeper than the familiar surface coffee shops, hair salons and sports outfitters too.
“This street is the engine room of Liverpool” says Chris as we begin our descent from the bombed out church into town.
But before we travel much further, we spot the Marie Celeste of Bold Street - the seashell encrusted ship, foundering in the window of the disused Antiques shop, around the corner from the legendary Cabin nightclub.
“This building is where Sebastian Ferranti was born” Chris points out, explaining that Ferranti was one of the pioneers of A/C electricity and, in turn, the man who developed the world’s first modern power station, using a system that remains in use today around the world.
Full of surprises.
The Street, once known as the Bond Street of the north due to its fine fashions, furs and jewellery stores, has seen many incarnations.
Originally a grimy, industrial thoroughfare of factories and warehouses (the street gets its name from the ship’s rope manufacturers - the rope would be stretched out in lengths to test its strength), the street is now Liverpool’s left bank, offering a fascinating roll call of studios, creative companies, cafes and independent traders - and, in FACT, the UK’s leading showcase of digital art and creative technologies.
But, as we walk past the sublime Bold Street Coffee, Chris tells It’s Liverpool that many surprises lay underneath our feet - “The street is riddled with tunnels” Chris says, pointing out a little side street, lair to an infamous gang of criminals in the 60s. “Tunnels run beneath the road, connecting shops on either side to each other, and it’s thought some run all the way to the docks.”
Subterranean excursions aside, there is far more to detain us above ground. Bold Street Coffee’s a perma-busy stop, as is the tea-shop made funky hang out, Leaf (once a grand ballroom), while, over the road, Forbidden Planet’s comics and collectibles is housed in a miniature mansion, complete with Greek pillars and grand balcony: “it used to be Leslies furriers,” Chris says, “which was where everyone got their mink coats from, before the war.”
Thankfully, some things do change.
Talking of which, new kid on this block is the Kazbah, a wonderfully authentic Moroccan tea room and restaurant: “Everything in here has been exported from Morocco,” Chris explains, pointing out the fierce looking statues on guard at its entrance.
Mattas, over the road, is another slice of authentic world-in-one-city atmosphere: and this year it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. Who says lentils and okra are faddy foods?
Shop in Little Red Vintage and you might pick up something that was made before Mattas sold its first pot of Tiger Balm - such is the eclectic array of yesteryear fashions on display.
But let’s look to the future…
With Merepark busy developing Central Village between Bold Street and Renshaw Street, there is an expectant buzz in the air: “when it’s completed, this area will really become Liverpool’s premier leisure destination,” Chris says. Central Village development’s include spacious squares, water features, a brand new Odeon cinema and tempting new restaurants. Development is well underway, hence this season’s closure of Central Station.
Bier, a new bar on Newington Temple, will open out onto this stylish new development - but now it’s a hidden gem, complete with a fine range of Latin American beers, and tasty bar food.
Talking of all things Latin, Bold Street was once proposed as a key stretch of a Liverpool Ramblas, progressing from the Philharmonic Hall to Mann Island. It never quite saw the light of day, but with debate still rumbling about pedestrianising the length of Bold Street, maybe we’ll get a taste of European cafe society at the top end of town anyway.
“You could imagine Bold Street with tables and chairs spilling out onto the pavements, as a really buzzing place to shop and eat all day long, and into the evening,” says Chris.
Yes, we could. But, then, whatever direction this indomitable little road takes, we think its future - as the most creative and colourful conduit into the centre of town - is secure.
Date created: May 1, 2012