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The Importance Of ‘The Strand’ In Its Early Years

Scally Mag Team

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1968 was a huge year in global politics. It was also a huge year for development in Bootle as two new construction projects were completed. With calls for the Strand to be discontinued growing louder, and the Girobank set to be demolished, David Bond recalls his memories of the local landmarks and looks back on what they meant to the area when built…

When I was younger Bootle Strand inspired a strange fascination in me. Buses bore its name – often shortened to simply The Strand – and my Nan spoke about it fondly. From as far back as I can recall, I was aware of its existence and curious about what it was, but as someone from the other side of the tracks I had more questions than answers.

What was this place – this far-off, end-of-the-line location? Why did everyone seem to be going there? What the heck was a Strand?

I didn’t know, but it towered tall in my imagination, standing strong at the terminus, a destination unknown but desired. If all roads led to Rome, all buses seemed to lead to The Strand.

As I got older I learnt that it was something called a shopping centre and it was considered to be an eyesore, especially compared to the flashier locations of L1, Speke, or Edge Lane. It was old and it was boring. It didn’t have a Hollywood Bowl.

I was taught that my desire to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the map and see for myself the ultimate destination was silly and naïve. ‘There’s nothing there worth going for’, people would say.

And when I finally went to The Strand, after visiting the Girobank for work, I realised that they were kind of right: The Strand was old, it was anachronistic, and all those straight lines did look a bit odd. Yet as I stared at the short, squat precinct, its acute angles at odds with the sky, I thought to myself: “This is anything but boring. This is boss.”

Honestly – have a look at the Strand, the Girobank, and the Triad Building next time you’re nearby. They’re mental; the three sorest thumbs you’ll ever see. Like big brutalist spaceships, these monoliths dominate the area and stand as a reminder of a different time, a time when Bootle was the face of the future. 

So, with potential plans to demolish The Strand and the Girobank in the offing, I thought it would be interesting to look back at when they were built and see what people thought of them then.

The Strand and the Girobank were both completed in 1968. At the time, these projects signaled a huge coup for the area in its attempts to rebuild after the Second World War.

Both would bring jobs, prosperity, and futuristic new technology to the locale. Moreover, the projects brought an air of optimism captured in The Echo at the time. On the opening of the Girobank, Prime Minister Harold Wilson spoke of how the postal service would modernize the national banking infrastructure, and the Mayor of Bootle boasted of the jobs it would bring, gloating that they had beaten local rivals to the contract. ‘Huyton was after it too’, he chuckled to a reporter.

The Giro was indeed futuristic – being the world’s first fully computerised bank and ushering in a new, accessible banking system for UK citizens.  It isn’t hard to imagine the feeling of the future coming to town for local residents.

The Bootle Zeitgeist of 1968 is further captured by an Echo article announcing the opening of the Strand shopping centre on 4th October. The excited writer notes that The Strand is already ‘Bootle’s most prominent landmark’ and luxuriates in the new entrance hall – claiming it ‘could be the entrance to a ballroom or an opera house’. They admire the grey marble, the last of its kind as the Italian quarry it came from was exhausted in the building process. But above all else, the hope that a forward-thinking development can bring to an area is spelled out proud and clear by a buoyant journalist:

“It is more than an ordinary shopping precinct. It is a new centre of the town’s life, marking the transition from war-scarred depression area, to proud new town”.

It is amazing how perceptions change.

Returning to the modern day, it is interesting to consider these concrete monuments for what they were: positive, optimistic developments that aimed to improve the lives of people in the town, delivering best-in-class services to people who needed them. Levelling up, if you will. They’re visually stimulating and tell us about a time when local areas could expect investment and look to the future with pride. Enjoy them while they’re here, and maybe even consider taking public transport on your way. Buses lead to the Strand for a reason.