The Stephenson Rocket Mural In Liverpool Edge Hill

Liverpool Edge Hill was the location, along with its Manchester, Liverpool Road counterpart, of the first public railway station, opening on 15 September 1830.  More recently this historic site was marked by a large mural of the ‘Rocket’ steam engine invented by George Stephenson (1781-1848) – an interesting vision in the grimness of our own contemporary Edge Lane access route into the city.

The Stephenson Rocket was one of four locomotives which ran in convoy on the fateful day when the route was launched, the day which also saw the demise of the reforming Liverpool MP William Huskisson (1770-1830), when he and the Rocket collided at Parkside station.

Sadly, the Rocket mural of more recent times is now in a state of some disrepair; but at least the Huskisson memorial remains, standing proud in the grounds of nearby Liverpool Cathedral.

Less appealing however are the many boarded and painted-over windows of housing about to be demolished along the Edge Lane corridor which passes through Edge Hill, where crass management of highways and the public realm has resulted for far too long in mass desolation along the main access route into Liverpool.

These attempts at jollification through ‘art work’ offer a very different message from the solid magnificence of Huskisson’s memorial – a celebration of the man and his work for the public good – or indeed the Rocket mural, an attempt made much more recently to celebrate the skills of engineering and invention which were the distinctive mark of northern British cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, two centuries ago.

Postscript (23 July 2009)
Excellent news for Liverpool and the whole of NW England: the Liverpool-Manchester route is to be electrified. As anyone who uses the M62 will know, the environmental value here is as important as the economic. Detailed planning work is to start immediately.

But there is already debate about which end of the line should be done first. Let’s just hope that this isn’t the start of another set of disastrous delays such as we’ve seen in developing the Edge Lane approach to Liverpool city centre. There has to be a better way, with mutual respect for views, based on real effort to communicate and get the right things done.


Posted on July 1, 2009, in Liverpool And Merseyside, People And Places, Photographs And Images, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Bertilla Cappelletti

    The ‘Rocket Mural’ is commemorating an engineering achievement of George Stephenson who was born with his natural gifts, and surely was a genius in his own right. At 17 years old he was already working as mechanical engineer; he understood quickly the importance of education and although he had busy working days he went to night school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic.
    Therefore,a man with no academic background but who put his passion and talent at the service of mankind(not for personal gain). By creating the first ‘Steam Locomotive’ and the first public railway he made a difference in the world; he made possible a faster way of communication between Liverpool and Manchester; he improved the quality of life of commuters and he complemented the canals route of transport; his own achievement benefited society for generations to come.
    However, Stephenson seems to have found unexpected opposition from academics.
    William Huskisson, an academic, politician and a reformer; a man with great influence particularly in the field of commerce and financial legislation, was a shareholder and beneficiary in the business of the canal boats. Therefore it seems to me that he had a direct conflict of interest leading to rivarly against the inventor of the railway.
    Huskisson, when ‘the Rocket’ was launched on 15 September 1830, although frail due to an operation, he reached Parkside, personally in another convoy. Probably behind the gesture to welcome the Duke of Wellington he tried to overshadow the first journey of the rocket but Huskisson became a victim of his own miscalculation.
    The houses of ‘Edge Lane’ were the assets and the patrimony of people who lived there for generations. The house is the place-the core of family life, the root and the stability of the community. Naturally, you feel attached and belonging to your community and this gives you stability and protection and these are important elements of sustainability.
    Demolition(=SOCIAL CLEANSING)is not the answer for community sustainability and I am convinced that the houses of Edge Lane could have been made safe and kept their unique character. If George Stephenson was still alive and there, I am sure he would have found a better solution – possible by building a net-work of underpasses leading into the centre of Liverpool.

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