The Beatles song always struck me as strangely titled. Wikipedia informs me it refers to the wood panelling in a house in London, where John Lennon was conducting an affair. The novel I am working on at the moment ‘Fire Next Time’ has its final dramatic scenes in The Baltic Triangle. It is an area of Liverpool I wasn’t familiar with until very recently, and I have enjoyed finding out a bit more about the place, including its connections to…yes, you guessed it, Norwegian Wood.
The Baltic Triangle, is the area between Liverpool town centre and the Dingle, running parallel with the docks. This district used to be a rundown warren of warehouses and workshops off Jamaica Street, the names of other roads also reflect aspects of the sea trade. The triangle is promoted now as the centre of an artistic, cultural and digital renaissance. The old warehouses are perfect for transformation into small offices and workshops for aspiring craft workers and new IT startups and until recently open space bars. There are some amazing buildings including Cains brewery and the Nordic or Swedish church.
I spent a miserable day walking around the area in the rain- see here
As a side note, Dead Ink books referred to in the link above never replied to the letter I hand-delivered to their office that day, or to the emails I sent. Given that they claim to represent new writing from Liverpool, an acknowledgement at least would have been nice.
The origins of the name for the Baltic Triangle are imprecise but are thought to be related to the timber imports from Norway that were warehoused in the area. One of the things that surprised me was that Liverpool also once played a role in the whaling industry and that Greenland St references the waters in which the whalers operated.
Dr Chris Routledge has an interesting article here, discussing the history of whaling in the city and the naming of the ‘Liverpool Coast’ on Greenland;
With tens or even dozens of whales captured and returned to the city, streets like Greenland may well have run with the blood, guts, and blubber of the animals as they were stripped and processed for their many products, among them; lamp oil, bones for corsets, and meat for human consumption.
The high point of the whaling trade from Liverpool was the late 1700’s. By the mid-1800s, the area had been settled by rising numbers of mainly Irish migrants. The council cleared out the growing number of slum dwellings to make way for industrial development; booming docks and sea trade required ever more storage and space for the workshops that made everything you could find in a ship’s chandlers.
The links to Scandinavia in Liverpool are many and deep, historic and modern, apart from Labskaus the famous stew and origin of the term Scouser, the celebrated John Arnie Riise, Sami Hypia, and Jan Molby.
One of the things Liverpudlians from earlier in history would have been acutely aware of is how international our community, the working class has always been. It was taken for granted and largely accepted, the idea that Britain would be cut off from the world was anathema, it was the hub, the centre of Empire.
John Lennon started writing Norwegian Wood in a hotel in Sweden, and it was about an affair in London, but it is a sign of how easily and unconsciously the world connections of Liverpool and the UK had seeped into everyday life.
The Baltic Triangle, The Baltic Fleets, wars, trade, and people, wherever you look there are real connections. I will come back to it in another post- but the current outcry against migrants is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Choose any of the countries from which these small number of migrants are arriving and you will see a legacy of Empire.
They are coming here because we were there.