The Ulster Queen, Woodstock, East Belfast.
Liverpool’s history is littered with forgotten and untold stories. I have eluded to some of these in past posts but today’s blog is one I only became aware of through my work with Stuart Borthwick.
We have started a Kickstarter project to raise funding for his brilliant book about the political wall murals of Northern Ireland – of which more later. The photograph and text below are from the his book The Writing on the Wall:
Liverpool has always been an outpost of Ulster loyalism, with a number of active Orange Order and independent loyal lodges. On 12 August 1971, three days after the introduction of internment, a report in the Liverpool Echo informed readers that supplies of food were being stored locally in preparation for “refugees from Ulster”. Although that day’s newspaper informed readers that no Northern Irish citizens had arrived on that date, a report the next day informed readers that a group of around 90 “Protestant women and children” from Springmartin in West Belfast had arrived on the Ulster Queen ferry at 6.30am, and were welcomed by members of the Liverpool Grand Lodges. The following day, a further 39 children and eighteen adults arrived from Springmartin and the Shankill on the Ulster Prince ferry “to escape sniper fire and threats of violence” (Liverpool Echo). By 17 August, the Echo put the number of evacuees at 35 – a figure later increased to 500 in a parliamentary debate a month later.
The dramatic mural shows the close connection between Northern Ireland and Liverpool and is just one of 150 examples illustrated in The Writing on the Wall. Stuart Borthwick’s book is the first major publication that looks at their context as a chronology of Northern Ireland’s troubled history as well as cultural expression of international importance and unique to the country. Please help fund the project if you are interested (or just to look at further images). The project is live on Kickstarter and all support is greatly appreciated.
Victoria Street from North John Street
Victoria Street at Temple Court
Victoria Street by Crosshall Street
It was heartening to read that the long-disused Produce Exchange on Victoria Street is about to be renovated and converted into luxury apartments. It is a few years since I last poked my head around the, by chance, open door to the auction room – only to withdraw sharply as a couple of rats darted across the floor in front of me. There was talk at the time of other uses but they came to nothing. Hopefully, this new scheme will bring back to life one of the city’s lesser known gems.
Victoria Street is one of Liverpool’s finest streets, yet rarely gets mentioned. It is also one of the city’s newest (if you can call mid-nineteenth century recent) main thoroughfares. It was cut through a densely populated area in 1867/8 to improve the flow of traffic from Castle Street. The map below shows the area in 1850 (the line of Victoria Street continued that of Temple Court before the latter turned at a right angle into Temple Place).
Living in that neighbourhood must have been unpleasant to put it mildly. There is a large iron foundry off Cumberland Street next to a soapery. Elsewhere are breweries, a tobacco factory and an incredibly high density of courts. Picton claimed that some of the last remnants of Crosse Hall could be found amongst the chaos of housing and industry before Victoria Street was cut through.
The final photograph show a section of street that is miraculously unchanged. In fact, I spend four years in Carlisle Building, seen on the left with the gargoyles. The terracotta faced building has an impressive frontage yet is basically a warehouse block. How long before it too becomes luxury apartments?
I don’t buy many photographs these days. Occasionally the odd item catches my eye but I have restricted myself to only exceptional images (usually nineteenth century) that add to my collection rather than duplicate what I already have. That said, I couldn’t help buying a lantern slide I spotted on Ebay a few weeks ago. The subject matter was familiar and not particularly outstanding but what interested me was the name in the corner of the slide: C Inston.
Charles Frederick Inston was one of Liverpool’s foremost photographers at the turn of the nineteenth century. Highly respected throughout amateur photographic circles for his street life and river photographs, he was the President of Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association (LAPA) as well as a valued committee member of the Royal Photographic Society. In 1979, I curated an exhibition of his work at Open Eye Gallery based on copies of a set of lantern slides belonging to LAPA. Thirty years later, in 2009, I published a book of his work: Liverpool Characters and Streets (sadly no longer in print).
Inston was an interesting man. Born in Birmingham in 1855 to a carpenter, he served an apprenticeship as a printer before, at the age of 24, trading in his own name as a lithographic and general printer at 72 South Castle Street (later moving to 25 South John Street – now absorbed into Liverpool One shopping precinct). He lived initially in Chapel Road in Anfield before moving to 15 Belmont Drive (off West Derby Road – the house still stands although now rather shabby and in multi-occupancy). He died at the age of 61 after a long illness and the best information about him can be found in the fulsome obituaries in the photographic press. The British Journal of Photography wrote: Inston, the man of character and organisation, existed side by side with Inston the technician in pictorial photography and the personal characteristics of the man were marked equally in both fields of his activities. He was no poseur. He loved artistic work for its own sake … His own pictorial work was characterised by a frankness and vigour …
The Amateur Photographer concurred adding … he was a keen pictorial photographer and lecturer, a leading exhibitor and judge and a clever worker in the bromide, platinum and bromoil processes and also one of the earliest and best demonstrators of the pictorial possibilities of the hand held camera.
The lantern slide I have purchased is not a great Inston – but it is my only photograph of one of Liverpool’s most important photographers. The sad truth is that little of his work is left. Liverpool Record Office has an album of contact prints (of variable quality) and the Royal Photographic Society has a handful of his exhibition prints of seascapes. These apart, the only other substantial body of work is the set of lantern slides I copies back in 1979. They were in the possession of LAPA’s archivist, Joe Williams, who died in the 1980s. LAPA merged with South Liverpool Photographic Society, so I hope the slides are safe – they are an important record of Liverpool and an important part of the city’s photographic history.
St Martin’s Cottages, 1954
St Martin’s Cottages, 1973
Housing is once again top of the political agenda (or near to the top if one excludes the European referendum, immigration and austerity measures) and so it should be. The population projections for Britain should be giving politicians nightmares – particularly in overheated London (where there could be a 40,000 shortage of school places within the decade). Too few new houses have been built and the cost of those available is out of the reach of most young people.
Of course, as with most things, nothing is new. Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century faced its own population explosion (mainly from Ireland) and the result was chronic overcrowding in slum housing (with thousands crammed into insanitary cellars). Disease was rife but the laissez-faire politics of the time made it impossible for local authorities to spend ratepayers money on practical solutions. That was until the Liverpool Sanitary Amendment Act of 1864 gave the Council special powers.
The first project was St Martin’s Cottages, a development of 124 dwellings opened in 1869. This was one, if not the first, municipal ventures of its kind. Hardly an earth-shattering initiative but a significant piece of history (the next Liverpool involvement was 16 years later in 1885 with Victoria Square – see my post of 13 August 2010 – which added a further 282 dwellings. In fact, by 1900, all the Council initiatives only added about 700 new dwellings).
The legacy of bad housing still persists. I am astonished by how generation after generation has had to endure substandard conditions at a time when Britain has generated so much wealth. St Martin’s Cottages were, in fact, condemned before the War but I can remember visiting an old man there in the mid-1970s, shortly before they were demolished in 1977.
My two pictures throw up a question. The 1954 block has a nameplate identifying the building as St Martin’s Cottages but the building is clearly only three storeys. To my knowledge the only blocks built were four storeys (bottom photograph). The building style is clearly the same but where was this smaller block? Can anyone throw any light on this?
Finally, I will be at the Look 15 Photobook fair at the Bluecoat Art Centre this Sunday (31st). If you are interested in photography, there are some interesting publishers attending and you can also catch Tricia Porter’s exhibition of her Liverpool 8 photographs.
Earle Road, 1952
St James Place, 1952
Shaw Street, 1952
Driving up Smithdown Road yesterday, I was impressed by the new Archbishop Blanch school that is rapidly nearing completion. Once the site is finished and landscaped, it will greatly improve the street. I have watched as rows of terraces have been demolished to make way for the school and was hoping, at the time, that the cleared space would become open space, offering a fine view of St Dunstan’s church on Earle Road (the church was built with the patronage of the Earle family , who owned the Spekelands estate on which it stands). The church is an impressive landmark (although a bit dingy inside) and can be seen in the top photograph of Earle Road in 1952, when it was a much more vibrant community.
The Earle Road photograph was in a group of other 1952 images, so I thought it would be interesting to post them together. St James Place is a continuation of Park Road, before it joins Parliament Street. The street still retained a variety of businesses, with Alentoff’s (fruiterers) prominent on the right (number 39). Next door was Leonard Thompson (dentist) with Excel Cleaners next to him. Further down were Peter Curtis’s barbers shop with its striped pole), Sami Morris – another dentist, Scott and Prescott, monumental masons, W F Bevan & Co., auctioneers and Charles Jones, sadler. A fascinating mix of trades in a short stretch.
The photograph of Shaw Street has the Collegiate School in the background but the overall impression is one of bleakness. I have always found the street depressing, perhaps because of the uniformity of the Georgian terraces (made worst by their abandonment). Hope University have greatly improved the outlook and some of the character of the original street remains.
A view from Everton c1960
From Everton Park 2015
I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the newly reopened Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The transformation is stunning, with fabulous new galleries making the most of their setting in Whitworth Park. The park is small but in a heavily populated area on the fringe of the university campus and Rusholme, it is an essential green lung. The new gallery enhances the space and reinforces the need for more creative uses of our cities.
Coincidentally, Professor Charlie Duff, a leading light in Baltimore’s regeneration, contacted me about the changes in landscape in post-War Liverpool. He visited a few years back and I took him to St George’s Church where I illustrated our visit with a series of photographs taken in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Looking over Everton Park, the changes were staggering. The rows of terraces were replaced by tower blocks in the 1960s, which in turn were demolished to create the park we have today. Charlie wanted to illustrate his talk to students at John Hopkins University with this sequence of changes, so I revisited the park and was delighted to see how far the trees had matured and how the landscape had taken shape. North Liverpool has had a poor hand dealt regarding open spaces and I hope that Everton Park is just a start towards the further greening of Liverpool.
Great George Place 1905
Great George Place today.
Great George Place looking towards the Cathedral.
Detail from 1898 map of Liverpool.
Where the David Lewis building was, stood St James’ Market (next door to Dr Duncan’s Dispensary, which was needlessly pulled down for the inner ring road in the early 1980s). Also of interest is the site of the short-lived St James’ Station, which campaigners are hoping to see reopen.
I regularly get requests for photographs of specific locations (and dates). Most I cannot help with, particularly early photographs of streets away from the city centre. The City Engineer’s Archive in Liverpool Record Office is the most likely source of early twentieth century images, otherwise it is largely a matter of chance. Chance intervened when Margaret Scotland asked: ‘My grandmother and her family ran a family business at 24 Great George’s Place opposite the David Lewis Centre. Do you have any photos from 1911 era?’
Well, it happened that I did have a print of a City Engineer’s photograph taken in 1905. (Credit to Liverpool Record Office). I have avoided using LRO images – my aim is to publish photographs from my archive – but this was a very appealing subject. I pass Great George Place everyday and have seen it change in the last 30 years. (Great George Place is not Great George Square – which is nearby). First the David Lewis building was demolished in 1980, along with the row of early nineteenth century buildings fronting Great George Street. Then the Nelson pub, attached to what is now The Wedding House, was pulled down only a few years ago, and the area around grassed over.
The main photograph is full of interest. The building in the centre is a public weighbridge with, on the left, a public urinal. The Wedding House building was then The London City and Midland Bank (numbers 3/4 Great George Place). The street numbers cross over to the other side of the street (the David Lewis side) and work their way round to the pub on the left (the White Lion) at 33. (Sadly number 24 the Cocoa Rooms run by Lewis Mark is out of shot). The building behind the weighbridge is also a Cocoa Rooms (Berminghams) but its address is on St James Street rather that Great George Place. Next door belonged to Meux Brewery – but is clearly just a retail outlet. Tudor Laundry is not mentioned but appears to be boarded up.
The area seems to be constantly changing. At the time of the photograph, it was the playground of Pat O’Mara (of Liverpool Slummy fame) who was born in Brick Street (the tall chimney sticking up behind Bermingham’s was just behind his house). Were he around today, I imagine he would feel completely lost, with only the bank building as a point of reference. Everything else has gone and the street is degraded as a result. The Baltic Creative is changing the landscape but this is yet another corner of the city that has been stripped of its history and character.
Lime Street, 1978
Lime Street, 1970
Back in January 2011, I blogged about the sorry state of Lime Street and the need to regenerate this important gateway to the city. I was glad that the City Council felt the same way (I don’t think I can take any credit) and announced a new scheme would be unveiled that would restore grandeur to the street. Sadly, the new proposals have not cut it with most commentators, myself included. Merseyside Civic Society have spoken up forcibly, describing the proposed scheme as ‘poorly conceived and entirely inappropriate’. The removal of historic facades (including the Futurist Cinema) and their replacement by bland, unsympathetic blocks is blasted: “It should not be beyond the wit of those concerned with conceiving a scheme for the development of the site to come up with a proposal that has more evident merit, while providing an equally attractive, if not greater, return on the investment involved.”
Strong words and I completely concur – this is yet another example of any development will do. Developers seems to hate different styles of building standing cheek to cheek. Look what happened with Commutation Row at the other end of Lime Street. A whole terrace of interesting Victorian buildings was removed to make way for the bland headquarters of a housing association (who should have known better). Now that building is empty after less than a decade and no amount of wishing will bring back the character of the buildings so needlessly demolished.
While I am on my hobby horse – what is happening about the ugly 1950s buildings on the other side of Lime Street? It must be the most depressing block in the city centre.
Lime Street, 1970
A young Elvis impersonator at Bridlington Elvis Convention
Working for Uncle Sam, Blackpool
Elvis tribute acts waiting for the cut, Bridlington
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.
The Cow Butter Shop
Enjoying a quiet pipe
Men outside an unnamed pub
Woman knitting in a street market
Children around the Steble Fountain
Woman selling birds
The Wellington Monument
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.