to undertake similar surveys, so he has posted details of how to conduct a gargoyle survey on the Leicestershire County Council website: www.leics.gov.uk/gargoyle.
Abbey Road zebra crossing listed
Following the decision this time last year that the Abbey Road Studios in London should be listed Grade II, John Penrose, Minister for Tourism and Heritage, has now decided to give the same designation to the nearby Abbey Road zebra crossing ‘as a testimony to the international fame of The Beatles ... and their iconic Abbey Road album cover.’ Penrose went on to say ‘This London zebra crossing is no castle or cathedral but, thanks to the Beatles and a ten minute photo-shoot one August morning in 1969, it has just as strong a claim as any to be seen as part of our heritage. As such it merits the extra protection that Grade II listing provides.’ Which begs all sorts of questions. Will listed building consent be needed to refresh the white lines or retarmac the surface? And is the Minister aware that the crossing has moved several metres since the original photograph was taken? Comparing the scene today with the album cover shows that the crossing was closer to No 3 Abbey Road than its present site at the junction of Abbey Road and Grove End Road. Will this give rise to a new version of Thesius’ paradox, which dons still use to test the logical faculties of Oxford and Cambridge entrance candidates, the original of which asks, ‘if all the old planks are replaced, is it still the same ship?’
Roger Bowdler, head of designation at English Heritage, said ‘the crossing has international renown and continues to possess huge cultural pull – the temptation to recreate that iconic 1969 album cover remains as strong as ever.’ Given that Abbey Road will soon be rendered unusable by traffic because of the sheer numbers of tourists taking photographs of each other on the crossing in Beatle-like poses, perhaps English Heritage should be applying now for planning permission to erect ticket booths, a visitor centre, shop and restaurant – after all, it needs to plug that 32 per cent cut in its budgets somehow.
On the other hand, English Heritage has decided that the house at 9 Madryn Street, Liverpool, where Richard Starkey (better known as Ringo Starr) was born on 7 July 1940, lacks sufficient historical or architectural interest to justify designation, despite appeals from such august bodies as SAVE Britain’s Heritage to list the building.
All is not lost, however: Grant Shapps, the housing minister, has asked Liverpool City Council to postpone plans to demolish this and adjoining properties until alternative schemes to preserve the street have been considered. Shapps also wants the
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people of Liverpool to have a say in what happens to what many consider to be a culturally important building for the city (for this we might be willing to forgive him for the corny pun in his statement that ‘the people of Liverpool should decide whether they want Ringo Starr’s house to be demolished or to Let It Be’).
Private developers have expressed an interest in acquiring the so-called Welsh Streets, where Starr’s birthplace is located, to renovate for rent or sale as starter homes, a scheme supported by SAVE Britain’s Heritage. In the meantime, the birthplace has been boarded up to stop Beatles’ fans from plundering it for mementoes – left unprotected, souvenir hunters, who had already removed bricks from around its windows, would soon ensure that there was no house left to restore.
Traditional building owners
Talking of house restoration, Historic Scotland has published an excellent series of technical information sheets on a wide range of topics, from staircases to paint finishes,and window frames to plaster mouldings, intended to help the owners of Georgian, Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian homes to restore them sensitively and in authentic style. The only problem is that their appeal might be limited to Conservative-voting Mail and Telegraph readers, because the series is entitled ‘Information for traditional home owners’. Perhaps there is a parallel series for Guardian readers and those whose sympathies lie to the left of the political spectrum, called ‘Information for radical home owners’.
Standing up for robust names
Tony Burton, director of Civic Voice, the umbrella body representing civic trusts and local heritage groups, has criticised local authorities for bowdlerising historic street names because residents are embarrassed when asked to give their address. Butt Hole Road, in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, referring to a communal water butt, is now Archers Way, for example. Admittedly the inhabitants of Butt Hole Road had to put up with coach loads of tourists visiting to have their pictures taken near the road sign with their bottoms bared (there is even a Wikipedia page devoted to the road), but that is no excuse, according to Civic Voice, which says ‘a bit of quirkiness and surprise doesn’t go amiss. We don't want to lose the character and distinctiveness that a variety of street names offer us. You would need a very good reason to wipe away that history’.
Other examples of name changes to save the red faces of inhabitants include Plymouth’s Bladder Lane, named after the bladderwort plant, which was changed to Boniface Lane at the request of St Boniface’s Catholic College; Bent Street, in Blackburn, now renamed Greenhurst Place; and Blackpool’s Brewery Street, the location of Blackpool College, which thought the original name gave the wrong impression, so it has been changed to the more sober University Close. Ca www.archaeology.co.uk | current archaeology