My (unofficial!) visits to St. John’s Beacon c1989
I was fascinated with the beacon since I saw it on my first visit to Liverpool for university entrance interview in 1986.
I soon realised when I arrived at uni in Oct 1987 that it was closed to the public and my requests to visit were refused.
In my 2nd year 1988-89 I noticed building work going on at the foot of the tower but it was just shopping centre refurb, ghastly garish green metal/plastic awnings were added and a false brick skin on the base of the tower.
I then had the idea of simply trying the door – then as always there is the silver metal door facing into Houghton Street, this is the stairs entrance. The lifts are on the North side facing away from Houghton Street (you used to be able to see their upper doors from the cafe terrace/window of the Liverpool Museum). Then there is the lifts entrance now to the left of the tower, made into a kind of reception area and sandwiched in beside that strange little escalator up-only to the shops. I think the lifts entrance porch was on the right as you look from the street before the refurbishment. Of course the lifts and stairs haven’t moved, just the way you are brought round the back to the North side to access the lifts.
Like a burglar trying every house or car and eventually one will be open, so it was with both stairs and lifts entrances of the tower, amazingly I don’t think anyone had had the nerve to try!!
My first trip – the stairs entrance door was ajar one day so I simply walked in. Inside there is a metal staircase rather than concrete formed stairs, rather like a proprietary fire escape stair which is structurally independent of the building. I started climbing – I think there was lights every now and again eventually coming to a self-closing fire door, surprised as I didn’t think I had gone far enough to be at the top. However this led to a small enclosed landing with 2 metal sliding shutter doors beside each other and another fire door at the other end. I later realised the metal doors led to the back of the lift shafts. The metal stairs then continued with another landing later then finally I arrived at the top gasping at the view and that I had finally made it.
There were some technicians working on telephone lines or something and they were surprised to see me but let me have a quick run round the circular restaurant floor before returning down the stairs with them when they finished their job. I realised that the landings were passed were at 1/3 and 2/3 stages of the climb and were to allow emergency/maintenance access to the lift shafts.
On further tries of the doors/spotting doors open I had a couple of trips up the lift (Northern) side of the column, to be continued...
PS is anyone interested in the floorplans I drew (on my later visits) of the main floors?