JANE Davis’ long and winding road from a Calderstones Park cherry tree to its Mansion House started long ago as a sleepless night.
“I did a one-off session at a drug rehabilitation unit. One guy said he’d seen me leading a group at Birkenhead YMCA,” she recalled.
“I asked someone what would happen to this young man and was told he’d probably fall back into his old life as a drug addict.
“I found this so disturbing I couldn’t sleep that night. He’d made huge efforts to clean himself up, but had nowhere to keep away from this destructive lifestyle.
“If you’re undisciplined (like myself) you need a purpose. I told my colleagues we must open a school where people could come long term.
“I went on so much they banned me from talking about it, as we already had a massive job on our hands.
“Then the city regeneration architect Richard Cass told my husband that Calderstones Mansion House was up for sale.
“We couldn’t believe the opportunity – it will be like inviting the public into Liverpool’s own Downton Abbey.”
Built in 1810, it was later owned by the McIver family, merchant princes from Glasgow and founding partners of Cunard Line.
The Reader Organisation will take a long lease from Liverpool City Council and aims to raise £3m-4m for converting the building and stable blocks, after use by the council parks and gardens department.
An Everyman Theatre-style bistro, a more formal restaurant, stable block bar and meeting rooms will help generate income.
Twenty study bedrooms will be created in the stables and the 1930s open-air theatre adjoining the house reopened.
“We’re developing our funding plans and had a very positive meeting with Heritage Lottery Fund,” said Dr Davis.
“Hopefully private philanthropists and local residents who see the Mansion House as an asset will also help.
“I’m wondering about a community share launch, so locals can be part of something wonderful happening.
“Liverpool’s Victorians did so much for the city by using public subscriptions, so why not revive that?”