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Make Yourself at Home at the Mansion House in Calderstones Park

Written by Rachael Norris, 13th September 2019

Once Upon a Time…

Way back in 2012, The Reader (we’re a national charity, headquartered here in Liverpool) successfully bid for a 125-year lease on the Mansion House and the other buildings in the park (you may already know the Storybarn or the Ice Cream Parlour?).

From then, we began raising the £5 million needed to bring the Mansion House back to life. In 2014, National Lottery Heritage Fund pledged the first funding for this, then came some philanthropic organisations, followed by funds from Liverpool City Council, as an investment in an asset owned by the City of Liverpool.

The building work started in early summer 2018 and our plan was to open by spring 2019. But, with a 200-year-old building to renovate, unpredictable things emerged, including the need for a new floor in the old café and a new roof!

New tiles and a lot of concrete later, we’re delighted to be able to open the doors of the Mansion House, and we’d love to invite you to come along to see us.

So what’s going to be happening at the Mansion House?

You may know that, during the build, the Calder Stones that give the local area its name were sent away for expert conservation. We’ve now got a purpose-built home for them in our garden, which is part of The Calderstones Story, a permanent heritage exhibit that tells their story, and that of the Mansion House and the people who lived here. It’s free – and we can’t wait for you to see it.

The Reader Café is now in the grand morning and drawing rooms of the Mansion. Beautiful it may be, but it will still be friendly, welcoming and accessible – with even more tables and chairs, a proper kitchen, plenty of plants and a new terrace. The Café is still dog-friendly, but there’ll also be a dog-free area too. So wave goodbye to the Café in the containers, but, the Ice Cream Parlour and benches will stay put.

New toilets! You’ll be glad to hear about the lovely new toilets in the basement of the Mansion – they’re through the front door, left towards the main staircase, then left again to head downstairs.

The magnificent Garden Theatre is back to its former glory and is now a licensed space for exciting community events, including theatre. You can also hire it for family celebrations and corporate events, and we can even lay on a spread from our new catering kitchen.

The Studio will offer yoga, chair-based exercises and other wellbeing activities. The Making Room will be a workshop for arts and crafts, and making of all sorts. We also have three, dedicated Reading Rooms, where anyone can come to experience the joy of great literature read aloud together.

And upstairs we have office and studio space to rent for individuals and organisations that share The Reader’s values, and want to actively support the warm, connected and kind community that’s growing here.

Shared Reading and Scouse…

If you haven’t been to the park for a while, we’d love to see you – come to the Café to sample Nick’s award-winning scouse, or a slice of home-cooked pizza – we’ve got some People’s Pizza at a pound a slice.

You can also find out about Shared Reading, which The Reader does with groups of people every week all over the country, including many here at the park. Or, talk to us about volunteering in the garden, in our shop, and more.

Discover the history of Calder Stones on a heritage walk, try a delicious ice cream, join our very welcoming Knit and Natter group (you don’t need to be able to knit or natter – just turn up!) and, of course, there’s always an exciting book-based adventure for little ones at the Storybarn.

There are lots of ways to get involved and we hope this new community space inspires you to volunteer, or become a Reader Friend, to help support the programme as it develops here.

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