Hands up all those who thought that Pawnbrokers with their distinctive three hanging golden balls were a thing of the past?
Yes me too, but how wrong we were! The new Tory/LibDem Coalition Government has seen their return with a vengeance. And my ward is a prime example of the terrible state that the country has got into, in two and a half short years.
Once upon a time, when we still had a Labour Government, Kensington, Liverpool was the happy recipient of huge sums of Regeneration funds.
Principle amongst the money that came into this downtrodden area were two funds; The Housing Marketing Renewal Initiative (HMRI) and the New Deal for Communities (NDC) in the shape of Kensington Regeneration.
Kensington was mainly built between about 1890 and 1910, urban terraced streets stretching out from the city centre towards what would then have been the fields between the city, Old Swan and all points East. Some of the very early housing, which was back-to-backs and two-up, two-downs were demolished in the 1970s to build the Phythian estate, but most of the area still survives relatively intact.
It had its heyday in the mid 20th century when people would travel to Kensington for shopping, leisure and social activity. There are still residents who remember it being a great place to live, who enjoyed welcoming keen young people from across the city to the Silver Blades Ice Rink or couples celebrating their wedding in the Tudor Rooms. Indeed there are Facebook groups which celebrate Kensington and neighbouring Fairfield in all their glory.
Unfortunately, like many places in the urban northern hinterlands, it saw a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s and by the beginning of the 21st century was an area blighted by boarded up properties, high unemployment and a High Street failure.
The two sources of Government funds, between them, aimed to revitalise the area's housing offer and general facilities. We have seen a new fire station, high school, several junior schools, a children's centre, sports centre, health centre (nearly finished), demolition of old buildings and houses (some very controversially, but that has been covered here many times before) and the building of new homes and shops.
One of the buildings to be demolished, as part of a row of rotten decrepit commercial properties on Kensington's main street (named imaginatively Kensington) was a pub called the Pawn Shop. It was an old pub, with a name meant to hark back to the old days when times were hard and people had to relinquish precious objects towards the end of the week, and take home a few shillings to help with household bills, before reclaiming them after pay day for the same sum plus a penny or two perhaps in interest.
You may have been to social history museums like the Castle Museum in York, or Preston Park Museum that feature pawnshops amongst the offering on their historic high streets from bygone years.
I don't have my own photo of the Pawn Shop to hand but I am sure that James Noakes took one for me in 2006, I would love to see it again, and all the others he took, if he knows where they are now. I have found this one on Flickr taken by SteHLiverpool, and if he would like to get in touch I will give him full credit for his photo. If he wants it removing, I will do so.
About two years ago, with the very last throw of the dice from the outgoing Labour Government, this row of shops - and the pub - along with the Holt Pub at the other end of the block, were demolished to allow the building of apartments in phase two of the Kensington Square HMRI development, a joint project between Riverside Housing Association and Lovells.
That should have signalled the end of the shame of Pawnbrokers/Pawn Shops on Kensington's main High Street.
As HMRI was eagerly demolishing and rebuilding homes across the area, so too was Kensington Regeneration playing its part in the refurbishment of the area. There was again a lot of controversy, covered before, however, what KR did to support the housing programme was to concentrate on the commercial and retail offer in the area.
With their own last cast of the dice, they agreed to set aside a few million pounds to support the building of some quality shop buildings on the site of the former ice rink.
The shops were built and much rejoicing was forthcoming by local residents when they learned that the anchor store was to be Iceland.
I think I am right in saying that there are 8 shop units in all. Iceland took one, Tesco Express took one, along with Greggs. They were joined by a chemist, and by Barnados. The latter ought to have been a sign of things to come.
The reason I am writing tonight and have taken you all around the houses, is to point out that two of the new shops to be have been signed up in the much trumpeted Kensington District Centre are in fact Pawn Brokers, 21st century Pawn Shops.
And another one, Cash Generators, a few units further down Prescot Road, very near to the charity shop.
The dreams of those who spent the Labour Government's funds in this area, never imagined for one minute the idea they were demolishing a symbol of Edwardian social repression by getting rid of the Pawn Shop pub only to see two new actual pawnbrokers take its place a few hundred yards away.
Pawnbrokers, Pay Day Loan Companies and Food banks, welcome to Tory/Libdem Britain.