Young-Elvis-3

A young Elvis impersonator at Bridlington Elvis Convention

Uncle-Sam

Working for Uncle Sam, Blackpool

Waiting-for-the-cut

Elvis tribute acts waiting for the cut, Bridlington

Young-Elvis-2

Elvis as a boy, Birmingham 2014

For the first time, I am posting nothing about Liverpool. Today’s post is about that other great pop phenomenon – the King himself. The Beatles and Elvis are the two great acts that have crossed generations and remarkably continue to attract tributes in spite of an almost complete radio silence (when did you last hear either played on national or local radio).
The proliferation of Elvis tribute acts (ETAs) is astonishing, with close to 15,000 worldwide. (How many Beatles bands there are is not a figure I can find). Every year, there are competitions up and down Britain, with the winner of the prestigious Blackpool contest going on to sing in the world championship in Memphis. Photographer Graeme Oxby has been recording the English Elvis scene for three years and Bluecoat Press are now raising funds through Kickstarter to publish his brilliant photographs.
Have a look at the link and look at some of the great rewards for supporting the project.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1356780082/the-kings-of-england

The Kings of England

The-Cow

The Cow Butter Shop

Woman-and-pipe

Enjoying a quiet pipe

Men-outside-pub

Men outside an unnamed pub

Woman-knitting

Woman knitting in a street market

Steble-Fountain

Children around the Steble Fountain

Bird-seller

Woman selling birds

Wellington-Monument

The Wellington Monument

Women-with-rags

Selling clothes on the street

I have just received a request from Pete O’Keefe regarding a set of lantern slides I commented on back in October 2010. I have long been fascinated by this series, which was commercially sold by Riley Brothers of Bradford, the largest mass producers of lantern slides in Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. Pete has just put his boxed set on Ebay and comments:
I have a set of these Magic Lantern Slides (Slums In Our Cities) and I have No. 1 to 54.
They are in their original wooden slide box. It is my belief that this was possibly a set of 60. as there are 60 sections in the box
– and asks whether I have any record of any missing images.
Not an easy question – I have the total number listed as 52 – but there could have been subsequent editions. Pete’s slides on Ebay show images not in my list so I am reckon the full set might well have been at least 60.
What I do know is that the photographs were taken by Thomas Burke, a city councillor for Vauxhall and a keen amateur photographer. He donated an album of 27 silver prints from his negatives to the City Library – where the quality is vastly superior to the poorly hand-coloured slides I have copies of (and which Pete is selling on Ebay).
If one can ignore the crude colouring, the slides are very interesting examples of street photography using a hidden camera. The subject matter is more street people than slum living – the slums are hardly seen in fact. Some are in well-known sites, such as St John’s Market and William Brown Street. Many show street traders such as women selling fish, clothes and caged birds. Overall, a fascinating record of Liverpool at the turn of the nineteenth century and of an early obsession of capturing the lives of the poor on film. Riley Bros. sold the complete sets for entertainment – at a time when magic lantern slide shows were popular with an audience who would be more likely to be amused by the images than stirred by social conscience. There would have been a printed commentary to be read out as each slide was projected – sadly I do not have a copy of what would be a fascinating read today (the evils of drink, the undeserving poor …).
Nothing much changes, with today’s announcement that the Grand National organisers are looking to throw out photographers who take derogatory photos of Ladies’ Day for the tabloid press. Sadly, there is a ready audience out there to be titillated by the lives of others – and Liverpool is always a magnet for photographers looking for easy images.

Harrington-Board

Harrington Board School, on the corner of Stanhope Street and Grafton Street, 1975

St-Malachy's-1975

St Malachy’s School and Church, Beaufort Street, 1975

Beaufort-Street-1975

Beaufort Street County Primary, 1975

Parkhill-County-Primary-1977

Parkhill County Primary, 1977

Windsor-Street-School-1975

Windsor Street County Primary

Whenever I look through my collection of photographs of Liverpool in the 1970s (the decade I came to Liverpool), I am always amazed at the amount of change that has taken place in such a relatively short period of time – after all, forty years is within most of our lifetimes. When I arrived in 1970, the population of the city was 610,000. Now it is 464,000 (2011 Census). Going back further to 1931, the recorded population was 846,000: in 1961 it was 745,000. In other words, the demographic changes have been huge and the city has had to adjust in a relatively short period of time.
The casualties have been the many requirements of a more densely populated city: housing, industry, and public services such as hospitals and schools.

Schools have seen an incredible change, partly due to changes in education thinking as well as the plummeting school age population of the inner city. New schools have been built to replace crumbling Victorian board schools with the vacant buildings usually being demolished. Quite a few still survive and they are an essential part of our heritage. Universal education was heralded in with the Elementary Education Act of 1870 – which is one of the great milestones of social reform. Local authorities were legally obliged to step up their provision and the result, in Liverpool, was an impressive stock of well-built schools throughout the borough.

The photographs captured some of the many schools in the Dingle. Harrington Board School was one of Liverpool’s earliest schools (dating back to 1815 or earlier as Harrington Free School). The building was late nineteenth century (it was on the site of what is now Cain’s Brewery car park). I have no demolition or closure date but it must have been one of the largest primary schoolS in Liverpool. St Malachy’s survived as a school until 2010 (St Malachy’s church and school have recently been demolished and housing built on the site by Gleesons – thanks to Graham Calderbank for this information). Beaufort Street school, on the same stretch of road, was less fortunate and burnt down a few years after closing in 2000 (when it merged as a new school with Parkhill Primary (the new school has since closed down). I have fond memories of Beaufort Street Primary (the Bewey – the local pronunciation was Bewfort – not Bowfort). My wife taught there for many years and I often visited – and took photographs as it was about to close in 2000.

Windsor Street School was originally the Wesleyan Day and Sunday School. I don’t have a closing date but I do have photographs taken by Bert Hardy of Picture Post magazine as part of his feature about the British race relations in 1949. The playground is the roof area on the right (inside the railings). Can you imagine that being allowed today?

Windsor-Street-roof

New-Brighton-1947

New-Brighton-Baths

New Brighton Baths, 1947

In my lifetime, I have seen many changes to the way people live. Technology is one of the most profound – in everything from computers and the internet to medicines and their impact on life expectancy. Amongst other changes is greater affluence and how we use our leisure time. Looking at the two photographs of New Brighton, taken in 1947, it is a fading memory for many of us (those who remember the 1950s and 60s – and earlier) of how basic holidays were. In the difficult years after the War, a few days at New Brighton, or a similar resort, were all that could be hoped for for most people. Even on the beach a dress code applied – with suits and ties almost de rigeur.
The idea of an evening at the open air baths would fill most people with horror but this was all part of a good day out. It brings home how hard our parents’ and grandparents’ generation had it and how hard won were any real luxuries in life.

Pete-Dench-pic

By way of contrast, today’s generation have a totally different take on holidays and enjoyment. I have just embarked on a Kickstarter campaign with photographer Peter Dench to raise funds for his brilliant book The British Abroad. This is a fascinating look at an aspect of our culture and really shows the difference is attitudes between the post-War generation and young people today. Have a look at the project and why not subscribe to one of the great rewards.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1042194258/the-british-abroad-hardback-photo-book

Albert-Dock

Albert Dock from Salthouse Dock, c1885

Landing-Stage-1885

Albert Dock from the Landing Stage, c1885

The Albert Dock is now the centre-piece of Liverpool’s historic docklands. That has not always been the case. When the complex was opened by Prince Albert in 1846, it was a giant step forward in dock design – the first enclosed warehouse system that allowed loading and unloading directly to and from ships berthed in the dock. No other dock could boast such a monumental structure of cast iron, brick and stone and its fire-proof and theft-proof benefits proved instantly attractive to ship-owners wishing to protect their valuable cargoes.
However, the construction of the dock had not foreseen the rapid technological changes in shipping design that saw the replacement of sailing ships with steam-powered iron ships within little more than a decade. The tight entrance to Canning Dock was too narrow for the new ships, and the dock network spread out to the north of Pierhead to accommodate them. Albert Dock was still used for storage but its use began to diminish from the 1860s. A century later, it was a romantic, brooding mass made even moodier by the silt that had been allowed to accumulate as a result of leaving the dock gates open.
What might have happened next is the stuff of horror movies. A London property developer came up with the plan to demolish to complex, fill the dock in and build a skyscaper and car park. By good fortune, it came to nought but the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board were ready to sell without any concern for the historic fabric. Today – forty years on – it is hard to image what the waterfront would look like without these stunning buildings. It is just a shame that the clock tower (designed by Hardwick and removed in 1960) has not been replaced. It is surprisingly difficult to find nineteenth century images of Albert Dock. Possibly because they were part of the Dock Estate, and therefore not open to the public, photographers turned their interest to more accessible areas where commercial sales could be more guaranteed. Both images are by Francis Frith’s company and date from the mid-1880s.

Tobacco-Warehouse

Stanley Dock and Tobacco Warehouse, 1920s.

I had an interesting conversation with one of Liverpool’s leading urban planners last week about how much Liverpool had improved in the last decade. Take retailing, for example. Before Liverpool One opened in 2008, the city was languishing in 25th spot as a shopping centre – alongside Stockport and Bolton. Now it is up to 5th place – almost up to its pre-War position. By any measure this is a remarkable achievement. What is particularly impressive is how Liverpool One has fitted almost seamlessly into the urban fabric, opening up the riverfront and Albert Dock along the way.

Our discussion shifted to the ‘next step’, the development that could make an even bigger impact on Liverpool’s future: Peel’s Liverpool Waters. It would appear that this is the year in which progress will be made. Peel are committed to pushing forward the development of the neglected docklands north of Waterloo Dock – although the plans are still largely under wraps. I am very much in favour of Liverpool Waters in principle. Threats to remove World Heritage status are largely a red herring – after all London built The Shard which impacts on three World Heritage sites in London (Palace of Westminster/Tower of London/Greenwich). It appears that the commissioners have chosen to pick a fight with Liverpool – a softer option than the centre of power and finance. The bottom line is what is more important – an accolade that is being increasingly handed out and will eventually become almost meaningless or a major regeneration of a neglected area of Liverpool that could create 1000s of jobs and a sustainable future.

My photograph is of Stanley Dock and the gigantic Tobacco Warehouse. A decade ago, plans seemed to favour demolishing the monument to smoking (it has very low ceiling heights and conversion seemed beyond the resources of any willing developer). Now it appears that Harcourt Development are pushing forward with plans for apartments, retailing and offices within the giant building. Their successful renovation of the Jesse Hartley warehouse next door into the 153 room Titanic Hotel is just the start of their ambitious plans. A point of interest in the photograph is the Overhead Railway, which connected the city centre to the network of docks from Dingle to Seaforth. Now word has it that a tramway is proposed to link Peel’s planned development with the centre (after all, improved transport is essential to the success of the scheme).

This is the start of a new phase in Liverpool’s history. The waterfront has been almost criminally neglected since the 1960s. We now have an opportunity to create a new and spectacular face to the river. I hope the developments are worthy of the setting.

Wolstenholme-Square

When I moved to Liverpool in 1970, I was shocked by the extent of dereliction once I walked a few hundred yards from the main shopping streets. Most Northern cities had their fair share of run-down areas but none as pronounced as Liverpool. A mere 100 yards behind Church Street and you were into an abandoned warren of streets with crumbling warehouses and the ever-present smell of rot and decay.
Wolstenholme Square, off Hanover Street, was one such area. I remember looking at one of the properties with a view to setting up my arts project. Everything needed doing – rewiring, re-roofing, re-plastering – it was dirt cheap to rent but beyond any resources I could muster (it is still there today seemingly unoccupied). What I do remember is that there was a magnificent Eagle Press in one of the ground floor rooms with its trays of metal type. Solid cast-iron, it was a thing of beauty but would have required a crane to lift it out.
That was typical of my many explorations of those neglected offices and warehouses. Most have since disappeared but some have been saved and converted to various uses. Suffice is to say that there is no longer a pungent smell of dry rot as I walk through the streets. Wolstenholme Square is one of the last places to be caught up in the developers’ web for the student accommodation bug appears to be moving in (do we really need another development?). For over twenty years, the Square has housed some of the best nightclubs in the country but it appears their days are numbered.
The photograph I have chosen pre-dates my time in Liverpool. The very un-Liverpool style building with its Dutch-style roof was built for Goodlass Wall (famous for Valspar paint) as a paint factory. It must have been a terrifying site when it went up in flames during an air raid in December 1940.

Walton-Village

Walton-low

First of all an apology for getting the date of my last post out by 30 years and many thanks to John Massey for his excellent and detailed correction. I had dated the photograph on the superficial basis of the girl in the foreground (not very clear admittedly). What I did not realise was that the rather elaborate bell tower above the porch was only erected in 1926 as a memorial to the men of the parish who died in WW1. The date makes much more sense of the children’s playground – which is very much in keeping with its new date rather than being some forward thinking by the City Council in 1900.
I am avoiding dating today’s images of old Walton Village. I would hazard a guess at the 1910s looking at the lady on a bicycle but I could be out by a decade. It is hard to picture Walton as a semi-rural retreat – and by the 1930s it had certainly been overtaken by the outward sprawl of Liverpool – but it had retained a picturesque area around the parish church. Of course Walton has a long history (being named in the Domesday Book, unlike Liverpool which was not mentioned, and the parish church was in control of Liverpool until the consecration of St Peter’s church in 1699) and survived as a separate township until 1895 when it was incorporated into Liverpool. Sadly, most of the charm of old Walton has disappeared apart from the fine church and the facing seventeenth century Old School House.
I remember seeing an exhibition at the Walker in the 1980s of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French master photographer. There were three or four images of Liverpool he had taken during a visit in 1962, including a fascinating photograph of workmen in the semi-circular graveyard of St Mary’s church. Why he wandered out to Walton is a mystery – although he was part of a team documenting northerners. He wasn’t impressed: “Writing about the same people of the North at work amounts to the same as writing about them at play. Their looks are not so different neither are their clothes. There is no exuberance on their faces nor gestures. They are hard at it but in a resigned sort of way. Their vacationing seems just an occupation as any other.” Perhaps he should have returned the following year, when Liverpool became the centre of the cultural universe.

Children's-Playground

Nothing is more annoying than to have an unlabelled image that you know will take hours to locate. I thought this image might have been relatively easy to caption – a church in a square with a large warehouse with the prominent sign Wool Warehouse, a photographic engravers, a bakers on one corner and a pub on the other. Okay, a pub on the corner was not exactly a rarity in Liverpool but I reckoned the other features would be easy to place using my Gore’s 1910 Directory.
Not so easy, unfortunately, although I did have an idea of where it could be. The square is the clue. Liverpool had a few but it clearly did not fit most of those I knew. I took a stab at Pownall Square, off Tithebarn Street, and everything fell into place. The church is St Mary’s – a building by Augustus Welby Pugin, originally built in Edmund Street in 1845. In 1885, the Edmund Street site was needed for the expansion of Exchange Station, and the church was dismantled and reassembled in nearby Highfield Street. (The Catholic Almanac described is as ‘a grand monument of architectural skill’) (Thanks to David Lewis’s The Churches of Liverpool for this information). The church was destroyed in the Blitz and replaced by a fine modern building by Weightman and Bullen in 1953 that has, in turn, been pulled down for an office development.
The feature of the photograph that caught my eye is the playground in the square. Offering a very limited choice of seesaws and swings, it is the earliest image of such a provision I have found. Inner city Liverpool was home to tens of thousands of children who probably spent their leisure time roaming the streets, so to discover a purpose-built play area shows that there was an official awareness of the need for better facilities.

Otterspool-Shore-copy

One of the great successes of Liverpool’s renaissance has been Otterspool Promenade. For much of the time I have been in Liverpool (since 1970), it has been neglected and uninspiring. Most cities would give a fortune for such a dramatic riverside site: I doubt Manchester would have allowed such an asset to be starved of investment. So it is great to see the recent changes – the adventure site with its impressive café, the new railings, the revived Garden Festival Gardens and the cycle hire. Much more needs to be done – I would love to see a linear sculpture park and the dreadful Britannia Inn replaced (it was only meant to last for duration of the Garden Festival in 1984 and is well beyond it lifespan) – but the crowds are coming back and that can only be good.
Originally, the shoreline was used by fishermen and the hand-coloured photograph shows the last relic of that cottage industry. Local historian, Mike Royden has compiled a fascinating history of Otterspool: http://www.roydenhistory.co.uk/mrlhp/local/otterspool/otters.htm in which he writes:

The cottage had been home to generations of fishermen who maintained their occupation despite many attempts to dislodge them. In the second half of the 19th century several such attempts were made by the Cheshire Lines Committee who had purchased the adjoining land, and in 1898 the Corporation tried to levy rates on the occupant, Mr.Samuel Kennerley. Fortunately for Mr. Kennerley, a judicial decision was made in his favour, which ruled that in the eyes of the law he ranked as a squatter. At the turn of the century, however, the day’s of the fisherman were over. Kennerley complained; “Twenty years ago, there was plenty of fish to be got on the Mersey waters. At this spot, salmon, codlings, whiting, fluke sole and shrimps (none better) – but now…”, he added with a sigh, “…the dirty water has driven them away. Garston Docks spoiled the fishery, and the Manchester Canal has given them the finishing touch”.
After his death in 1927, the cottage was occupied by his son- in-law, who no longer protected by squatter’s rights, was evicted in 1933. The Corporation, desperate to proceed with a new waterfront development, offered him employment and accommodation to encourage his departure. The cottage was swiftly demolished and the last tangible reminder of the Mersey fisheries was swept away.