The Neolithic Calder Stones, one of the region’s most important archaeological artefacts, are embarking on a vital conservation journey this week lovingly overseen by national charity, The Reader. The excavation of the Stones is the centrepiece of a series of public engagement events taking place in Calderstones Park to celebrate Heritage Open Days.
The Calder Stones, which are as old as Stonehenge and provide evidence of the earliest known settlement in the area, originally formed part of a megalithic tomb over 5000 years ago. The six Stones were displaced in 1845 and arranged in a stone circle on the Calderstones estate by owner Joseph Need Walker. Since 1964, the Stones have been housed in the Harthill Vestibule, a glasshouse where rapid changes in temperature and humidity have accelerated their deterioration.
Since 2014, The Reader has been working on realising a £5 million project, supported by the National Lottery, to conserve the Stones and redevelop the previously derelict, Grade II Listed Calderstones Mansion House as the International Centre for Shared Reading. Working in partnership with Liverpool City Council and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the removal and reinstallation of the Stones will be carried out by experts Orbis Conservation with the full permission and oversight of Historic England and with Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent.
The Calder Stones are one of the oldest artefacts on this year’s Heritage Open Days programme. Regular tours throughout Thursday 13 and Friday 14 September will allow visitors the opportunity to observe the removal of the Stones, learn more about the conservation process and explore the rich history of the surrounding park including the 1000-year-old Allerton Oak and the heroic war veteran, Jet the dog.
Councillor Alice Bennett, Mayoral Lead for Heritage, who will attend a tour alongside the Young Heritage Champions group, said:
“I am delighted that our Young Heritage Champions will have the opportunity to see the city’s greatest ancient treasures located to their new home. It will be a real thrill to stand in close proximity to these monuments, to learn their history and to understand the impact that relocating will have on their preservation and their future as a major attraction.”
The Stones will return to Calderstones Park in Spring 2019 where they will be installed in a specialist Heritage Centre at the rear of the Mansion House. Their new home will make them more accessible and put them at the centre of a wider heritage offer which will provide an engaging learning experience for visitors of all ages. The Reader’s Calderstones and Heritage Development Manager, George Hawkins said:
“The planning for this work has been in the making since 2012 so this is a hugely exciting development. At The Reader we’re all about bringing people together through great literature and the power of storytelling – these Stones have a nationally important story to tell, our earliest stories here in Liverpool, it’s right that they should be properly looked after and protected for future generations. It’s an honour for us at The Reader to make that possible.”
Bookings for Heritage Open Days tours can be made on The Reader’s website. There are also opportunities for the local community to be part of this project to secure the future of the Calder Stones.
The Reader invites anyone who is interested in supporting the project as a volunteer or donor to get in touch by calling 0151 729 2200 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.