Harpenden Evening Web Page

                                event Report           

Sunday 23rd – Wednesday 26th April 2023
A Tale of 2 Cities - The North West Highlights



A terrific trip organised by Avalon tours and our visits secretary Margaret Wood, to surprise and delight even Liverpool and Manchester cognoscenti with new experiences. A transformed Albert Dock and Liverpool waterfront dominated by the iconic Liver Building topped by its 12 foot mythical ; Media City at Salford Quays, no longer gloomy canals and warehouses, but soaring modern architecture, a feast of Lowry paintings set in a spacious gallery, and the wonky Daniel Libeskind-designed northern branch of the Imperial War Museum, and finally the glorious Manchester Victoria Baths, with their colourful tiling and exuberant Art Nouveau stained glass windows. North West Highlights were not a hype!

Day 1: 26 travellers set out by coach early on April 23rd. En route to our Haydock Park hotel, we visited Grade II listed Quarry Bank, a water powered cotton mill built in 1784 next to the lovely Bollin River by Samuel Greg, a wealthy Northern Irish immigrant with a paternalistic approach. Workers had housing, medical care from Dr Holland. Children from workhouses in crowded cities were brought to live in the apprentice house, receiving better food and accommodation, and some education, but working a 12-hour shift, 6 days a week, accompanied by the thunderous noise of machines and a risk of losing fingers and even arms in the machinery. There was little time for play.


Quarry Bank  Mill Looms

     Quarry Bank Mill on the river Bollin          Cotton Milling Machines

We learned a lot about the cotton industry, a source of wealth (for some), work (for many) and its inevitable decline with the arrival of new forms of machinery and competition from abroad.

This proved an outstanding visit, with time to explore the mill and the beautiful gardens and have lunch, before our guided tour of the Apprentice House, finishing with a glass of Bucks Fizz   and nibbles kindly provided by Lisa, our Avalon guide, before setting off in the coach to our hotel.



Here's where apprentices (and our group) paid attention in class








Day 2: Our Liverpool visit started with a Beatles heritage tour, past places where they grew up (quite middle class, as our guide pointed out, in pleasant green areas), including, of course, Penny Lane (where quite a lot of posing went on) and Strawberry Fields.

Penny Lane sign  Penny Lane
Paul McCartney has autographed the sign on the left


Later when we visited the waterfront, many of us visited the ‘Beatles experience’ in the Albert Dock. This portrayal in a nearby sweetshop used original materials ….
                    the Fab Four in jelly beans

Portrait in sweets  Beatle Satues


Our ‘Ferry ‘cross the Mersey’ was decorated in razzle-dazzle style, a wartime form of camouflage. We had fine views of the waterfront including the famous “three Graces “– the Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool building.

Mersey ferry  Liverpool waterfront


A breakaway group sneaked off to the two cathedrals. The Anglican cathedral in Gothic Revival style is the largest in Britain. Though begun in 1904 by architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who originally designed an even larger building, it was not completed until 1978. The Catholic cathedral, known locally as Paddy’s Wigwam, is in airy modern style by architect Frederick Gibberd. The stained glass is particularly lovely


Anglican Cathedral  Catholic Cathedral
Anglican Cathedral                                   Catholic Cathedral


Liverpool is famous for its football teams. Just a quick aside on the subject: Why are Liverpool’s refuse bins purple? Yes, you’ve guessed! So as not to offend either Liverpool FC (red) or Everton FC (blue).

Although the city council has now introduced blue bins for non-recyclable rubbish. Imagine what Liverpool FC is making of that!


Day 3: Another day another city
After a good breakfast and an earlyish start, off we go to the centre of Manchester. Our blue guide told us about the rivalry between our two cities especially over the ship canal connecting Manchester directly to the sea. Liverpool’s dominance due to its seaboard meant it could levy high customs duties on imported cotton and other raw materials. The ship canal was the largest in the world when it opened in January 1894, and enabled the new Port of Manchester to become Britain's third-busiest port despite being about 40 miles (64 km) inland, allowing Manchester to undercut Liverpool’s stiff levies.


Victoria Bath EntranceManchester’s industries flourished, reflected in many elaborate private and public Victorian mansions. This is the frontage of the Victoria baths, just one of 27 bathhouses to serve people without bathrooms in their homes. Opened in 1906, they were in use until 1993. This door is labelled ‘Females’. The 2 other entrances are for : 1st Class Males, and 2nd class Males. Make what you will of that. More on the interior later …

Manchester TramA modern addition to the city
The trams are popular and cheap to use.



Manchester Art Gallery Manchester Art Gallery

  You can see eager culture vultures rushing in for coffee and a very quick peek at the art

Salford Quays

A revelation, Salford Quays (Media City) is populated by BBC North, Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry, outlet shopping and many other attractions.

Salford Quays
Modernity of Salford Quays

The BBC studios here feature the sets of Coronation Street. Manchester City’s Emirates football ground at Old Trafford is also nearby.

Imperial War MuseumThe angles and jagged edges of the Imperial War Museum North are designed to echo the chaos that results from war 

No description of Salford Quays would be complete
without a picture by Lowry.                 So here it is.   Lowry Painting 







The Victoria Baths
These were a highlight of the Manchester visit. Earlier you saw the exterior and a few facts about them. The interiors were stunning. The biggest problem here is selecting the best views. But here goes …

Male Bath in the Victoria Baths  Victoria Baths Entrance
Class 1 Males bath                                     Entrance hall

For the sporting types:

Stained glass golfer  Stained glass footballer

A huge drive to save the baths from demolition was mounted after they closed in 1993, and the Victoria Baths charitable trust was set up. They clinched success in 2003 after featuring BBC’s Restoration Programme and now are a venue for public and private events – including weddings. The large baths are rarely filled, but the Turkish baths are popular.

The finest examples of the glass artworks can be seen in the Turkish Bath Rest Room where clients relaxed after their treatments.

Stained glass 1  Stained glass 2
                                                                        The Spirit of Purity

Day 4: Coming Home

We broke our journey home in Leicester, now famous as the resting place of Richard III for over 6 centuries. His remains have been reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, a more fitting place for a king than a car park. The Richard III Visitor Centre tells the astonishing story of his discovery and the work of archaeologists and geneticists who found his grave and identified his remains.

Richard 3rd bones   The body as originally found

The angle of the head looks strange. It is thought the grave was not quite long enough for his tall frame.

This visit, like every other, was superbly organised. A holdup on the M6 lost an hour, but Lisa contacted the museum which arranged for our speaker to give a detailed talk while we ate an excellent buffet lunch. The visit finished with a view into the actual spot where the grave was found.


Richard 3rd grave site

Here endeth the report, with a huge vote of thanks to Margaret Wood, and to Lisa and Colin of Avalon Tours who made the visit so enjoyable and worthwhile.