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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UK
City's Welsh streets face threat
Clare Gabriel
BBC Wales news website

Members of the group supporting the demolition of the Welsh streets
Many say it is time to have the Welsh streets demolished
A fight is on to keep a corner of Liverpool that has boasted Welsh street names for 125 years.

Up to 400 homes of Welsh brick, put up for Welsh dockers, face demolition.

But much of the original Welsh character has long-disappeared and the area is probably more well known as the early childhood home of Ringo Starr.

Regeneration plans are well-supported, but others argue a part of the city's Welsh heritage will be gone for ever if the bulldozers move in.

The Victorian terraced rows ranged off Toxteth's High Park Street have typical Welsh names like Kinmel and Voelas and were once home to migrants mainly from north Wales who went there in search of work.

There is a Madryn Street too, where former Beatles drummer Ringo spent his early childhood before moving over the road near the Admiral pub, which featured on his first solo album cover.

Admiral Pub in Toxteth
Ringo Starr's first solo album cover featured this pub

Around 80 houses put forward for regeneration are boarded up, at least one has been bulldozed long ago and a tin bath lies among the rubble it has left behind.

Some houses, built as early as 1881, still do not have an indoor toilet and are failing to meet government standards.

But, apart from the names, there does not seem much 'Welshness' in this corner of Liverpool.

Mary Huxham, 67, is a member of the Welsh Streets Steering Group, which has waged a four-year campaign to persuade residents to opt for regeneration.

The single mother-of-four has lived in Powis Street all her life. She says she still remembers Mrs Davies who used to sell Welsh cakes in a small shop over the road.

"But there's nothing Welsh about it all now," said Mrs Huxham, who also remembers a young Ringo Starr living round the corner.

Wynnstay Street, Toxteth
It may be Wynnstay Street but it is a long way from Wales

"All this Welsh thing has been built up as a myth to try to keep the homes. But look at them now, there's not much of a Welsh welcome here now".

The government body New Heartlands is behind the regeneration of this area and many other parts of Merseyside.

Chair John Glester said its proposals were based on "detailed plans and extensive consultation with local residents".

"Their views matter most and in the Welsh streets we have the support of 72% of local people."

Irene Milson chairs the Windermere Dovetail and Camelot residents' group and also keeps up the Beatles connection - the late George Harrison was her cousin.

She lives across the road from the homes chosen for demolition and has fought hard to persuade locals to accept the offer of full market price and incentives.

"People are still going to be living in the community, people are still being rehoused in the same area, but in better homes.

"We have worked with the developers and negotiated for what we want."

Reverend Dr D Ben Rees
Homes are a 'reminder of the tremendous Welsh influence', says Rev Rees

She said the familiar Welsh street names could also be retained and become a feature of the new development.

"The Welshness of the area can be retained by putting up the street signs as a feature of the pocket park there. So hopefully the history of the area will not disappear."

But others are not so sure. There is a Welsh Streets Home Group fighting the regeneration scheme and trying to find a compromise.

And Reverend Dr D Ben Rees, one of the leaders of the Liverpool Welsh Society, said it was important that the Welsh streets in Toxteth, and others in areas like Anfield and Vauxhall were retained.

He said two thirds of the city had been built by the Welsh. However, over the years the Welsh-speaking community "with more money in their pockets" had moved from the "close-knit" inner city areas to more affluent areas like Penny Lane and Allerton.

"One can understand that people do like improvements in their housing, but I don't know that they should do away with 20,000 houses in Liverpool," Revd Dr Rees said.

"Perhaps they can do it somewhere else and leave the Welsh streets alone,

"We still want these houses to remain as a reminder of the tremendous influence of Welsh builders in Liverpool."



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