Tuesday, September 08, 2009

From Arraignment To Accommodation

Carted off to Liverpool's bridewell after a shambolig gig at the Mountford Hall in 1997, the conclusion of which was alleged to have been marked by the throwing of a mike stand into the audience, Shane MacGowan, arrested for said act but later released (http://www.shanemacgowan.com/articles/nme97b.shtml ), might have consoled himself with the thought that one of his heroes, Irish writer Brendan Behan, had also done time in the place. Alas, Behan was not familiar with the bridewell, on Cheapside just off Dale Street. Instead, the bibulous Behan was taken to Walton.
Nonetheless, the bridewell used to hold a particular appeal & repugnance in equal measure to several generations of miscreants in the city; some saw it as a badge of honour to have slept in its cells while others winced at the very mention of its name (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/nov/13/prisonsandprobation.ukcrime ).
[As a teenager I was told that my great-grandmother spent a night there after drinking a fair deal, singing Irish rebel songs & calling a police officer "a pot-bellied oul Orange bastard". Her husband interjected as she was dragged away, "Don't take away Ireland's hope." Whereupon he, too, was hauled off.]
For a decade it's lain idle, although that may well soon change (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2009/09/04/liverpool-bridewell-sold-at-auction-for-student-accommodation-92534-24604729/ ):
"A Merseyside property company bought the historic premises at auction yesterday, and now aims to sympathetically convert it into low-cost accommodation for university students." Sympathetically convert? Sounds ominous, doesn't it?
As the building is a Grade II-listed property, both the exterior and the interior need to be preserved as they are. The former won't be difficult to conform with, the latter, however, could well be more problematic.
On the Sunday of the Matthew Street weekend I was with friends at the Rose & Crown pub on Cheapside. I noticed that, despite the heavy rain, a steady stream of people queued up to have their photographs taken outside the rear entrance of the building. The link between incarceration & inebriation, many of the bridewell's "guests" were the worse for wear, was fleetingly invoked.

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