Everton stars on the bench

Walkers and cyclists making a pit stop in Everton Park will soon be able to take a seat next to some very special Liverpool icons, thanks to the completion of a new project.

Liverpool’s ‘Portrait Bench’ is unveiled on Thursday 18 October at 10am. The stunning timber bench features life-size figures of local champions, Kitty Wilkinson and Molly Bushell, joined by a local dock worker.

The eye-catching piece of public artwork is part of a national project from Sustrans, the charity enabling people to make more of their everyday journeys by foot, bike and public transport.

Everton and Kirkdale residents were invited last year to vote on which three important local figures they would like to see immortalised. Feedback from the community was co-ordinated by the project Steering Group, chaired by Councillor Jane Corbett, which meets regularly to discuss ideas for the route, secure funding and promote and monitor cycling and walking in the area.

The community chose Kitty Wilkinson due to her pioneering work in achieving lasting reforms in national public health, while Molly Bushell was seen as a fitting choice as the founder of the celebrated Everton Toffee Shop. ‘The Dock Worker’ was selected for his role as a vital labourer at the heart of Liverpool’s industrial revolution.

Now, the bench has been completed, and Councillor Jane Corbett will be joined by the Reverend Elizabeth Storey who is Kitty Wilkinson’s great, great, great niece, for the official unveiling event.

Councillor Corbett said: “This is a fantastic project, which has brought the community together to celebrate local history, heritage and culture, as well as giving them a direct say in the creation of a new piece of public art.

“The Portrait Bench will really brighten up this popular route. People from the local community and beyond can now visit Everton Park, sit on the bench and take in the fantastic panoramic views across the city, in the esteemed presence of some truly inspirational local icons.”

On 18 October, there is also a chance to join a leisurely bike ride or led-walk from Everton Park to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. The bike ride leaves the Breckfield Centre at 9.45am, stopping off at the park for the bench unveiling at 10am, before heading to the Leeds-Liverpool canal and ending back at the Breckfield Centre at 11am. Those wishing to take part in either event should be at the Breckfield Centre, Breckfield Road North, for 9.30am.

A limited number of pool bikes are also available. To join the bike ride, call Bob on 0151 288 8400. To join the led-walk courtesy of Bike Right! contact David on 0151 482 5700

Local people who do not fancy taking part in the walk or bike ride are still invited to come along to see the unveiling of the bench. All are welcome to attend the West Everton Community Centre, Bute Street at 9.30am for refreshments, before taking a short walk to the bench.

Catherine “Kitty” Wilkinson fought poverty and disease in nineteenth-century Liverpool, turning her home into a wash-house for her neighbours during the cholera epidemic and was responsible for opening the first open-air bath house in Burlington Street in 1895.

The Everton Toffee Shop on Village Street was established by Molly Bushell in 1753. The shop is where the famous Everton toffee was first made and from which Everton Football Club takes the nickname of the “Toffees”.

The bench is located just a few yards south of Northumberland Terrace, at one of the highest points in Liverpool. The figures are cut from Corten steel (like the famous Angel of the North) so they will rust and weather to become a natural part of the landscape.

The location for the Liverpool project, which is entitled ‘Everton Park and the Mersey’, was chosen because it provides a vital east-west link in the north of the city. It connects Everton Park – with its fantastic panoramic views of Liverpool, the Mersey and beyond – to the newly refurbished towpaths of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and eventually through to the rapidly transforming docklands of the River Mersey.

Sustrans’ national ‘Portrait Bench’ project has 79 different schemes across the UK.

Liverpool Waterfront