Engage has recently met with residents who overlook Roscoe Gardens (see image above) having been invited by them to learn about the impact recent City Council decisions have made to their quality of life during the covid lockdown.

Roscoe Gardens Residents Association wrote an extensive letter to their local Central Ward Councillors explaining the situation in which they found themselves and in the preparation of which they did some amazing research. You can read the full letter which was sent on 25th April here.

City Centre and Waterfront residents might not know much about this rather forlorn and what has appeared to be at times a rather unloved and unkempt public park. It was formerly the burial ground for generations of Unitarians who gifted the space to the City for the public to enjoy as a tranquil accessible place in a very dense and built-up city centre. It is something of a forgotten space due in large part no doubt to the serious government-instigated budget cuts to the City of Liverpool since 2008.

Recently the burial ground has been licensed by the City Council to a bar in the former Wesleyan Methodist Central Hall that opens onto this public space. Again probably part of the same mentality that wanted to monetise the roof of Central Library with a Zip World attraction (that was successfully fought by local people and national organisations), this outdoor space became the focal point for drinking and socialising that seriously undermined the local resident’s possibility of  ‘the quiet enjoyment’ of their property to which their leases all state they have a right.

Unlike other places in the city like this one the graves were never disinterred and the bodies remain in the ground. Therefore as responsible and civilised citizens we would want to show sensitivity towards the people and community whose ancestors rest in this location. It has also become something of a focal point for memorialisation of William Roscoe whose name is attached now to the site and whose grave lies within this space.

William Roscoe lived from 1753 to 1831 and was MP for Liverpool from 1806. In 1807 he voted in parliament in favour of the abolition of the slave trade from a city that was known as the ‘world capital of slavery’.  It didn’t make him very popular at home. Roscoe was a Unitarian and belonged to a small circle of co-religionists who made a significant contribution to life in Liverpool. Their chapel on Renshaw Street was opened in 1811 and they moved to more modern and extensive premises on Ullet Road in 1899 donating their burial ground later to the city as open green space. Interestingly Mount Pleasant where Roscoe Gardens lies was also the birthplace of the same William Roscoe.

His is a fascinating story especially how his remembrance has shifted over the years allowing changes in civic understanding to change quite dramatically how Roscoe himself was understood and memorialised. But if you are curious about that the best thing you could read is the pdf below from Jessica Moody’s book The Persistence of Memory: Remembering Slavery in Liverpool, ‘slavery capital of the world’ published in 2020, her chapter entitled: ‘The Memorial Cult of William Roscoe – Remembering Abolition’ pp129-154:

Wm Roscoe chapter pp129-154 in 2020 book by J.Moody

In 1905 the Unitarians erected the domed monument (Grade II listed 1975) we see today to commemorate the church which stood near the site and the 367 people buried there. In 1931 on the centenary of Roscoe’s death his family donated all his private papers to the Picton Library and in 1953 at the bicentenary of his birth there was a wreath-laying ceremony at Roscoe’s grave in the Gardens led by the Lord Mayor and civic dignitaries.

The residents around Roscoe Gardens are the most recent humans to occupy this special place and they have a significant heritage of which they can be proud and on which they can build. As well, following the recent covid-related restrictions, the presence of open, accessible and rejuvenating green space has become essential in all our lives but especially in the lives of those who have no outdoor space that is their own. City Centre apartment living has been found wanting and the poor design of apartments has meant that there is little or no access to green spaces for people to enjoy, spend time in, to escape the few rooms of their apartment or for the children to play freely in – as is the case with the families who actually live around these gardens. Most apartments here have no balconies where at least one could stand outside and breath some fresh air. This small ‘pocket park’ must be restored so that nature can thrive there once again.