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Green Light for Plans to Save Merseyside Landmarks

LONDON, ENGLAND.- Two of Merseyside’s historic buildings got a lifeline from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) today. Lowlands - the Liverpool mansion where the Beatles once failed an audition - and the Old Police Station were awarded Stage Two Passes worth a total of £1.2million. The news represents a green light for restoration plans.

The announcement takes HLF's investment in Merseyside's historic building and monuments to almost £93 million since 1994. Schemes range from Paul McCartney’s childhood home to St Georges Hall, which opens next month.

Peter Fellows, HLF Casework Manager for the North West, said: “Towns and communities change over time but landmarks such as these are a constant visual reminder of our shared roots. Our funding will breathe new life into these much loved buildings and ensure they are part of local life for generations to come.”

The West Derby Community Association has been awarded £975,500 of the funding for their plans to restore Lowlands. The Grade II listed Italianate style mansion was built in 1846 by local builder and architect Thomas Haigh in the West Derby area of Liverpool.

It was saved from demolition by a local councillor in the 1930s and was sold to the West Derby Community Association in 1957. From 1957 to 1966 the basement of Lowlands was home to the hugely popular Pillar Club. The Beatles – when they were the Quarrymen- famously failed an audition there and George Harrison played there as a 15 year old. The club also hosted performances from bands including Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Hollies. In 1962 part of the attic was converted to a coffee bar and became a meeting place for some of the rock bands who helped to create the Mersey-sound of that era.

Today the building is a lively community centre but it is in need of urgent repair and only the lower floors are useable. Thanks to the HLF grant, restoration works can now go ahead to save the mansion and bring the upper floors back into use. The grant will also pay for the creation of a History Room on the ground floor of the building, bringing the rich history of the landmark to life. A host of volunteering and training opportunities will be offered as work gets underway. Mrs Pat Blair, JP, chairman of the West Derby Community Association, says: "We are delighted that the Lowlands Renewal Project has been given the green light. Everybody is looking forward to the work beginning and seeing this much-loved building renewed and conserved. "The community has backed us all the way in this ambitious project which will see Lowlands returned to its 1890 appearance with the added attractions of improved access and facilities. Volunteers have played a key part at Lowlands over the past 50 years. There will be more great opportunities, including heritage conservation training, during and after the renovation work."

Meanwhile, £268,000 has been awarded to St Michael’s and Lark Lane Community Association to restore The Old Police Station. Standing within the Lark Lane Conservation Area, the prominent landmark was built in 1885 and served as a police station until 1974 when it was decommissioned. Since then, it has played a central role in local community life by accommodating kids clubs, adult education classes and youth work sessions. Structural decay now threatens the continued safe use of the police station, but the HLF grant will conserve it and ensure future generations can enjoy it.

Exhibitions will help highlight the history of the building and its role within the local community and local history. The front cell will be converted into a multi media display centre with publications, photographs and computer displays. Plans also include the creation of a local heritage trail from the Old Police Station to take in many of the other locally important features including King John’s Toxteth Deer Park, Sefton Park and the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth.

Centre Manager, Rupert Hale, said: “After years of planning, it is now exciting to be able to get on with the work. I feel this award is a tribute to the numerous volunteers who make the centre such a busy place. Around 1,600 people a week use the centre and we are pleased that they will benefit from improved facilities after the tremendous support they have given us over the years.”

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