SevenStreets likes to get out of town now and then, and is delighted with the fact that, increasingly, there are places – within a few minutes of the city – where you can rest up, eat a decent lunch, and grab some lungfuls of fresh, scented air.

On a warm summer’s afternoon, there’s few better sights than sunlight glinting off Stanley Park’s renovated conservatory. All 1,500 panels of it.

Clipped terraces of box hedges, rose gardens and grassy lawns sweep up past the spic and span bandstand. Small children racing around in  well-maintained playgrounds. Freshly brewed coffee. Elegant wrough iron details. Forget Anfield, this could be Versailles.

The Gladstone Conservatory and Bandstand were later additions to Stanley Park, which was built in the same era of civic pride as the rest of Liverpool’s grand parks. This one, designed by Edward Kemp, was opened in 1870 and, give or take a few blips, had been left to wither since the end of the Second World War. Like the city that surrounds it.

The building, which cost only £12,000 to build and an eye watering £12 million to restore, now sits 1.5 metres higher than before. And rather proudly too, we’d say. The Isla Gladstone Conservatory rebirth is a genuine success story – and, whatever happens at the other end of the park – it’s something the entire city should be proud of.

A staggering £25 million was spent on the complete regeneration of Stanley park, but it’s the conservatory which – forgive the cliche – is the real jewel in the crown. And it’s about to turn 1 year old.  Sort of.

Managing Director, Gemma Hindley, is more than ready for a party.

“I’m elated with the success of the business since it opened one year ago. The venue has become a popular visitor attraction because of its superb location and historic links with the Gladstone family. From July to December 2009, the venue achieved 15,240 visitors and these figures have almost doubled this year.”

She added: “We would now like to thank the local community for all their support by hosting an event which all local residents can attend and celebrate the success of the conservatory together with us.”
stanley park night

Councillor Tim Moore, Cabinet member for the Environment on Liverpool City Council, commented: “The Isla Gladstone Conservatory has been a huge success since it was restored to its former glory. It has rightly re-established itself as the centre-piece of Stanley Park, and it is great news that it is proving so popular. The Isla Gladstone first anniversary event will begin at 7pm on Thursday 12 August, with a presentation by Gemma Hindley and drinks and canapés for the rest of us. The venue will also be hosting a first anniversary fun day on Monday 30th August from 11am to 4pm. And there’ll be hot air balloon rides, too, for the ultimate view over the park.

Iconically situated between Liverpool and Everton’s grounds, and enjoyed by reds and blues alike, maybe this is the template for a ground share of an altogether different development?

bandstand, gladstone conservatory

Maybe not.

The restored conservatory, named after a local artist – relation to William Gladstone, is now looking as good as new, possibly better (love those Canada Geese flying above the cast-iron struts of the ceiling). And the handful of local residents milling around looked flushed with pride when SevenStreets visited, on the eve of the restored landmark’s first anniversary (of its second life, if you get what we mean).

Still looking immaculate – and graffiti free –  we believe this is one new-build that’ll be taken to heart for many years to come.

So it’s good to see that our regeneration bodies had the foresight to save a few quid through the hard times, to ensure they were able to see through to completion one of the best examples of regeneration in the suburbs for some time.

Are landmark structures like this important? SevenStreets thinks so. Build something of beauty, and of value, and it becomes a totem for regeneration. And one far more powerful than the rotundas of Kensington, or the Tescos of Huyton. One with a bistro, a bandstand and a community centre warmed by refracted sunlight.

People like Malcolm Gladwell might call our Conservatory a tipping point…
It’s certainly more likely than some of the hastily knocked-up new housing we’re building in the name of regeneration.

When Liverpool builds ugly fortifications, such as the accommodation blocks blighting the top of Islington, or Bootle – who can really blame the odd drunk, lost on the way home, mistaking them for an open air toilet?

Anyone caught short outside the Conservatory simply wouldn’t dare.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. We heard of one local resident caught attempting to vandalise the structure. Turns out he was an unemployed chef.

Now? He’s working in the – excellent – Kemp’s Bistro.

Of course, we’re not suggesting throwing stones at glass houses is the way to find gainful employment – but it is good to see a community based project reaching out to help, in more ways than one.

Isla Gladstone Conservatory
Stanley Park, Liverpool
Tel: 0151 263 0363

  • Claire

    Kemps bistro’s cakes are delicious. What a shame it’s not open of an evening. North Liverpool is desperate for somewhere liike this.