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Project Update and FAQs: June 2019

Written by Martin Gallagher, 7th June 2019

The Reader Mansion House is finally starting to look like a finished building and we can’t wait to offer a warm welcome to everyone who comes in to explore when the doors open later this Summer. Highlights from the last few months include:

  • The installation of a huge new sliding glass wall in the Garden Theatre, which will allow for use of the space as was originally intended when it was built in the 1940s, or as a large internal room.
  • The stonework steps and ramp, that will make the main entrance accessible and welcoming to visitors, have been laid.
  • The Reader Café seating area, on the South East side of the building is looking beautiful. When creating this area, we were excited to uncover the original cast iron fence posts that had been hidden from view.
  • The enclosure for the Calder Stones is now almost complete, with its living roof flourishing. This month the interactive elements of The Calderstones Story heritage attraction will be installed.
  • The first floor and basement are very nearly finished - lights are on, carpets are down.

If you’re interested in getting involved, we’re still looking for volunteers who want to help make the Mansion House a home – click here for details of the roles available.


Having signed a 125-year lease for the site, Calderstones is central to The Reader’s mission to bring people together and books to life. Later this Summer, following a £5M+ refurbishment, we will open the doors of The Reader Mansion House, a place where anyone can come to experience literature, find and share meaning, be nourished, develop new skills, explore creativity and, above all, feel valued as part of ‘something real’.

Joining the Storybarn and Ice Cream Parlour, The Reader Mansion House will include new reading rooms, heritage activities, space for workshops, exhibitions and community groups, a shop and Café. The refurbished Garden Theatre will be a licensed space where we can all enjoy engaging community events. It will also be available to hire for your own celebrations.


What is The Reader and why is it at Calderstones?

The Reader is a charity with a mission to bring about a Reading Revolution so that everyone can experience and enjoy great literature, which we believe is a tool for helping humans survive and live well. Everything we do – from our Shared Reading groups to our social enterprises, from our publications to The Reader Storybarn – creates lively, connected, warm communities, by bringing people together and books to life.

Working with Liverpool City Council, we are renovating the Mansion House in Calderstones Park to create The Reader Mansion House - a reading home with heart. A place where anyone can come to experience literature, find and share meaning, be nourished, develop new skills, explore creativity and, above all, feel valued as part of ‘something real’.

We have a 125-year lease on the site, and have raised £5M+ to refurbish the building. The Reader Mansion House will have new reading rooms, The Calderstones Story visitor experience including the Calder Stones, space for workshops, exhibitions and community groups, a shop and a new Café. The refurbished Garden Theatre will be a licensed space for community events. It will also be available to hire for your own celebrations.

I thought it was just for kids – is it for adults too?

Yes, Shared Reading is for everyone! While The Reader Storybarn is the home of our work with children and families, each week, across the country, we run over 500 Shared Reading groups for adults. By the end of the year, we’ll have 30 weekly groups at The Reader Mansion House, backed by a rich programme of activities for everyone to explore.

Who runs the Café and Ice Cream Parlour? Where do the profits go?

We do. Financially, the businesses are run by what is called a Community Interest Company, this is wholly owned by The Reader charity. The same ethos and values that drive The Reader, also drive the businesses. 100% of all profits are gifted back to The Reader to support our charitable work here at Calderstones and with communities across the UK.

What businesses will be run at Calderstones?

  • The Reader Café, which will be moving from the temporary containers into the Mansion House, will continue to offer good food and a warm welcome. The Café will open with a revamped menu, new possibilities and more seating (both indoors and outdoors). It won’t change too much though, you will still get a brew for £1, and well behaved dogs will be welcome in part of the Café.
  • The Ice Cream Parlour, which will be staying exactly where it is in its corner of the Coach House yard.
  • A Reader Shop, which is a new one for us, a small literary-themed shop so visitors of all ages can share the enjoyment of literature with their families and friends and take it home for themselves. The shop will include a range of curated books and gifts as well as a spotlight area where local artists and makers can sell their work.
  • Offices, we will be offering a small amount of office space to like-minded individuals and organisations who share our values, and who will bring vibrancy and diversity to The Reader at Calderstones community.
  • Event Hire, The Reader Mansion House will have a variety of spaces including reading rooms and a training room that can be hired for specific activities, as well as a larger, multi-purpose space for theatre performances, conferences, private events or celebrations.

What will be on at the Mansion House?

We are developing a full range of meaningful activities and events for everyone which will be held together by the golden thread of literature. The number of weekly Shared Reading groups on site will double to 30 by the end of year, while new wellbeing activities will include art for all, walks, Reader Retreats, yoga, a chance to help grow the mansion’s garden, and more.

Will there be a bar?

We have a small lounge area with a bar in it, and a licence to serve alcohol, but we will only be doing that as part of specific booked events. There will not be a public bar that people can just wander into from the Park and order a pint. Taking alcohol off the premises will also be strictly prohibited and carefully managed. Serving alcohol is a small part of what will be going on at The Reader Mansion House – it certainly isn’t a pub.

What about the Park toilets?

The main toilets for the Park will be in the basement of the Mansion House – they will be much better than the toilets have been for many years. They will be fully accessible and can be reached via the stairs or the newly-installed lift. On the ground and first floors there will be additional restrooms suitable for wheelchair users.

Elsewhere on site, we’ll have two further accessible loos, including a Changing Places facility, with entry granted via a radar key borrowed from the Ice Cream Parlour.

Will the building be fully accessible?

Making the building as accessible as possible has been a priority throughout the refurbishment and so all the public areas of the building will be fully accessible. This includes the basement toilet facilities, the whole ground floor and the majority of the first floor. A small number of first floor office rooms will not be fully accessible due to the shape of the nearly 200-year-old building.

Can I bring my dog into the Mansion House?

Well-behaved dogs will be welcome inside part of the Café and in the new outside seating area. Dogs won’t be allowed elsewhere in The Reader Mansion House. While we know that many people love their dogs at Calderstones, not everyone does, some people are allergic and their paws get so mucky!

What is happening with the Calder Stones and the glasshouse?

Over the last year the Calder Stones have been carefully restored by conservation specialists, Orbis. This crucial work was required following the deterioration caused by the time the Stones spent in the glasshouse.
They are now safely been installed in a purpose-built enclosure in the Mansion House’s rear courtyard. This new enclosure will protect them from the elements and ensure they are accessible to visitors, forming the heart of The Calderstones Story, a free heritage exhibition which tell the stories associated with the area. The Calder Stones remain the inheritance of all the people of Liverpool, we are proud to help to take care of them in partnership with Liverpool City Council, Historic England and local partners.

The glasshouse remains the property and responsibility of Liverpool City Council, and is not part of The Reader’s lease. We are not aware of any plans relating to it at the moment.


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