Lost historic Merseyside street to be brought back to life

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A ‘lost street’ has been shrouded in mystery for a number of decades but a new project plans to unveil its secrets and bring it back to life.

The enigmatic history of Southport’s Nevill Street is a popular topic of conversation among local residents. It was raised in the 1900s to cover a bustling 19th Century highway in Southport, but theories still abound regarding its cobbles and old shop fronts with many believing they are preserved below.

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Today, Nevill Street is one of the main routes out of the town centre towards Southport Pier and has an array of different retail and hospitality businesses including fish and chip shops, and sweet confectioners. But the area has a rich history and featured a declining underpass leading down to the shore and was home to the Queen Victoria monument.

Set forward from the commercial terrace above, were rows of subterranean shops, pubs and traders and the continuing existence of this lower level has been the subject of much local debate for generations.

For context, Southport was historically prone to serious flooding and a number of extreme weather events were recorded throughout the 1860s and 1870s. There’s been much speculation on whether this was the reason the lower level of Nevill Street was covered over. Archive photos of the old road show today’s Nevill Street is at a level above the ground floor of the old buildings and shop fronts, leaving squat structures at street level.

Rumours persist about the underpass and some say it can be reached via certain basements beneath Nevill Street’s more historic buildings and numerous ‘urban explorers’ have claimed to have visited the area and looked around the abandoned shops beneath.

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Nevill Street To Underpass during the 1860s. Credit: Liverpool BIDNevill Street To Underpass during the 1860s. Credit: Liverpool BID
Nevill Street To Underpass during the 1860s. Credit: Liverpool BID | Liverpool BID

Undoubtedly, the area has captured the imaginations of local residents, visitors and historians alike – who will all be delighted to hear there’s an upcoming event centred around the legacy of Nevill Street. Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, this hidden piece of Southport’s history will be brought to life in the form of an interactive 3D artwork. The ‘Lost Street’ will offer a glimpse of pre-1900 Nevill Street; re-imagining the Victorian streetscape bustling with activity. The event is interactive and welcomes audience participation. Visitors will all be invited to pose for pictures ‘looking down’ over the street below.

The event is part of the Southport Townscape Heritage Project and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Southport BID and Sefton Council and will be in place on Nevill Street from Saturday May 25 to Monday May 27.

Acclaimed artists 3D Joe and Max have previously done work for brands such as Coca Cola, Disney Pixar, and Google and have been commissioned to create the eye-catching artwork. Joe Hill said: “We have created street art all over the world, and these events always generate a lot of excitement. Projects like ‘The Lost Street’, which reveal the hidden histories of our places, are extra special and fascinating to work on.”

Example of Joe and Max's work. ©3d Joe And MaxExample of Joe and Max's work. ©3d Joe And Max
Example of Joe and Max's work. ©3d Joe And Max | ©3d Joe And Max

Heritage Learning & Skills Co-ordinator, Sue Latimer works on the Southport Townscape Heritage Project. She said: “The story of lost Nevill Street and the buried shops has been fascinating everyone in Southport for years, so Southport Townscape Heritage Project thought it would be great to bring back the street and give people a chance to gaze down on the main route to the seashore in the Victorian period. We’ll be there with old photos and maps to explain the history of how the street disappeared.”

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