My last post has generated a very interesting and divergent theory: the photograph is in celebration of the Boer War. I have an open mind – but it is a convincing argument. If it is the Boer War, I am inclined to believe it would be in celebration of its end (in 1902) rather than marking the lifting of the Siege of Mafeking (in May 1900).
The photograph above leaves no room for error; the location is Exchange Flags and the single banner proclaims Relief of (not legible) Good Old Baden Powell – We’re Here to Stay. The wearing of straw boaters indicates it is springtime. Colonel Baden-Powell was the man tasked with the defence of the town, which was not of any great strategic importance to the course of the War. Baden-Powell, whose previous record in combat had been far from noteworthy, managed to save Mafeking from being overrun and became a national hero as a result, with the British newspapers desperate for good news. (Subsequently Baden-Powell was removed from any further combat command).
The celebration of Mafeking was of significance almost entirely for its morale-boosting. Visitors to the Philharmonic pub might have noticed the two stained glass windows by the fireside facing the main entrance. One is to Baden-Powell and the other to Commander-in-Chief Lord Roberts. Lord Roberts, the far more competent soldier, is now largely forgotten but Baden-Powell resurrected his career in founding the Boy Scout movement in 1908.
Getting back to the Scotland Place photograph; the Boer War ended in May 1902, but boaters have clearly gone out of fashion. I could speculate about the two men wearing bowler hats, for the bowler hat was the traditional wear of Loyalist orders. However, they could just be city workers on their way to Castle Street, the business quarter and the tram’s destination. Suffice to say there is more work to be done on deciphering the photo. Why don’t people label their photograph?
Before I write about today’s photograph, it is with great sadness that I heard about the death of Richard Whittington-Egan. Richard was the author of dozens of book: a world renowned expert on Jack the Ripper, fascinating writer of Liverpool’s often murky and mysterious history and one of the foremost commentators on the history of crime. His groundbreaking work about Liverpool’s history, started with Liverpool Colonnade in 1955, followed by Liverpool Roundabout (1957) and Liverpool Soundings (1969). I was fortunate to publish six books with Richard, including his fascinating account of Teresa Higginson (The Devil in Bootle), the religiously obsessed woman who claimed to have confronted the Devil and who is still being actively promoted for sainthood by a band of followers.
Richard was an unforgettable character I felt privileged to have met and spent time with. Always incisive and knowledgeable, he was incredibly generous with his time and help. He was still writing until two months ago (at the grand age of 91). Indeed, Liverpool Landfall, his last book about Liverpool, was published earlier this year. Thank you, Richard, for your friendship and inspiration.
I carefully chose today’s photograph with Richard in mind. His family background was fascinating, including Irish judges, pathologists and musicians. (A direct ancestor was James Zeugheer-Herrmann, the first conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra).
The photograph is of a demonstration or rally in Scotland Place. The setting is important, for the Morning Star was the public house of Dandy Pat (Patrick Byrne), Irish Nationalist councillor for one of the two Scotland Road wards. Byrne died in 1890 but Scotland Place continued as a focal point for the Nationalist community with the 98 Shop (also called The Irish Depot) a key centre for literature and meetings.
The photograph shows a crowd including a number wearing uniforms with the prominent banner proclaiming: ‘They sneer and jeer it’ above a Union flag. Unfortunately, I can only make out ‘fear it’ underneath. I can’t date the photograph but my thinking is that it could be in response to the sectarian disturbances of 1909, when Liverpool was compared to Belfast and resulted in the segregation of Catholics and Protestants as a long-standing feature of the city. In 1910, The Times wrote that ‘The Roman Catholics have driven the Protestants from the Scotland Road area; the Protestants have swept Netherfield Road clean of Roman Catholics. It is almost incredible in regard to a great English City, but these clearances are affected by actual violence.’
The worst day of violence was 20 June 1909 when there were violent clashes in the streets following an incidence when a proposed march from a local Catholic church ended in riots when Protestants tried to block the route. Days of trouble followed and Liverpool was dubbed the Belfast of England.’
Of course, I could be completely wrong but probably only about the date. Sectarianism is part of Liverpool’s dark history but, in these times of changing public attitudes towards immigrants, is a timely reminder of where intolerance can lead.
Thanks again to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liverpool-1886-Andrew-Gill/dp/1533188947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473848694&sr=8-1&keywords=liverpool+in+1886
It is over five years since I blogged about the rundown state of Lime Street and the urgent need to upgrade it. I suppose it is a case of be careful of what you wish for; having seen the proposed replacement development, I am hesitant to lavish any praise on what seems to be a bland and uninspiring proposal.
What is slightly reassuring is that most buildings have a limited life – maybe 50 or 60 years in many cases, especially if the economy is booming. The photograph of Lime Street was taken at the turn of the twentieth century, just before the east side of Lime Street underwent a similar radical change. The Vines pub (more widely known as The Big House) is named after its landlord, Albert Vines, who built this pub in 1869. The new Vines dates from 1907 and is one of Liverpool’s finest gin palaces. The Adelphi Hotel, on the right, was the second one on the site, replacing a Georgian conversion of two houses on the site of the former Ranelagh Gardens.The current hotel was built between 1911-14 to the design of Frank Atkinson and was regarded as the finest hotel outside of London.
Both the Vines and the Adelphi are undoubted fine additions to Lime Street and show how streets can change for the better. It does not always have to be a backward step, Developers take note!
Regarding the dating of the photograph, the early tram to Toxteth Park indicates a date of between 1899 and 1906. Liverpool introduced electric trams in 1898 (the first tram was to the Dingle) and rolled out a complete system within six years. Those were the decisive times when Liverpool Corporation had an open hand in planning the city with key personnel, such as City Engineer John Brodie, who had vision and drive and were backed by its elected officers.
Many thanks to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available
I have had this photo in my files for some time. With no information to go by, I thought it would be just a few minutes work to locate the place in my Gore’s Directory. Some 30 minutes later, it began to make sense. There was no category for pet suppliers or anything else that came to mind, so I concentrated on the faint shop sign on the right, which I decided was H. Middlehu (there is no more on the photo.
Using my 1887 Directory was enough to pin the name down to Henry Middlehurst, seedsman of 11 Manchester Street (near to the corner where Manchester Street meets Dale Street). There, next door were William Johnson (naturalist) at number 7 and Seward Holmes at number 9. Two competing businesses, it appears, rather than one. The shop on the right (Seward Holmes’s) looks the more run-down but it was the only one mentioned in the 1911 Directory.
The photo makes you realise what an intensive trade there was in exotic birds. In the mid-nineteenth century, the trade in caged birds was for finches and other English native species almost to the point at which certain birds were almost driven to extinction here. The same fate befell parrots and other colourful birds in the twentieth century. After all, this is a snapshot of just two shops in one city in Europe. The trade must have been huge.
Sadly, the exploitation of animals continues in any number of ways. The decimation of elephant and rhino populations for nothing more than superstitious belief in the power of their tusks and horns, the decimation of the gorilla populations for bush meat and the drag-netting of our seas and oceans are just some of the depressing realities of today.
To finish on an entirely tangential note, the building next to Middlehurst’s is not shown in the photograph but it housed the solicitor William Henry Quilliam, now better-known as Abdullah Quilliam, founder of the first mosque in England on Brougham Terrace. But that is another story.
Fortunately, some things don’t change too much. Bold Street is one of Liverpool’s best loved streets and it is not difficult to understand why. It is a lively mix of mainly independent shops and restaurants and has an eclectic mix of buildings, ranging from the classical Lyceum (1800-02) at its foot, facing the early twentieth century HSBC bank (by James Doyle). Then we have the ex-Cripps shop (better known in recent years as Waterstones bookshop)and, further up, is the Music Hall (also a Waterstones in more recent years before becoming a bar). Elsewhere, there are good examples of modernist architecture (Radiant House), Arts and Crafts, even Graeco-Egyptian (number 92) and solid Greek Revival. It is a street that demands looking above the shop facades to appreciate how different styles can happily coexist and strengthen the urban landscape. And looking down on all of this is the Gothic Revival tower of St Luke’s church.
What a shame lessons are not learned. Bold Street succeeds because it is of a scale. No high buildings breaking its building line. Quentin Hughes used the expression ‘keeping in keeping’ and this is a perfect example. The destruction of the St John’s Market area was a disastrous misjudgment, replacing a warren of small streets with a lump of concrete that could be anywhere in the world. More recent examples, such as the demolition of Commutation Road and now Lime Street, show yet again that most developers are only interested in uniform developments that can be built from scratch. The recent plan for Renshaw Street, to include a large scale residential block, is another indication of this worrying trend to remove scale and variety from the city centre.
To get back to Bold Street. Until the last War, this was the fashionable shopping street where well-heeled ladies and gentlemen would shop (although, in contrast, there is a barefoot boy selling newspapers on the immediate left of the photograph). Van Gruisen, the first shop on the left, were pianoforte manufacturers. Next door was Arthur Medrington (photographer and artist) with another well known photographer (Barnes and Bell) next to him. (Bold Street was a centre for photography with several more having studios including Vandyke – whose sign can be seen on the opposite side of the street).
Fortunately Bold Street survives and it is this kind of street that gives Liverpool its character. So much has been lost since the 1970s on the grounds that the building fabric is beyond salvation (not only Lime Street but Seel Street, Duke Street and now Renshaw Street). How different Liverpool would have looked with greater consideration for the past.
In the early nineteenth century, Liverpool adopted a number of place names from London. Soho Street and Islington being two obvious ones. I assume naming a church St Martin-in-the Fields is another nod to the capital city and, at the time of its consecration in 1829, it would have drawn respectful comparisons with its counterpart. Erected by the Government at an expense of £20,000, it was designed by John Foster Jnr. who, along with his father John Foster Snr., was responsible for much of Liverpool’s Classical Revival. Between them, their list of buildings is astonishing, although some of their finest examples no longer survive, amongst them the Custom House, St John’s Market and St Catherine (Abercromby Square), St Martin’s Church is another lost building – like St Michael’s (Pitt Street) and St Luke’s (Berry Street) a victim of the 1941 May Blitz.
It is a forgotten church and images of it are quite rare. My lantern slide is inscribed The Black Church, by which it was locally known Surrounded by Silvester Street (the church on the left is St Silvester), Vauxhall Road, Blenheim Street and Limekiln Lane, it occupied a large tract of land. My 1835 map of Liverpool shows it surrounded by newly laid out streets, with industry and housing rapidly encroaching. It was built of red sandstone but had turned black thanks to its proximity to local industry (although most Liverpool churches had similarly turned black – it was clearly a local landmark). It would appear that its congregation had largely deserted it by the early twentieth century. This is not too surprising, by the mid-1840s it was in the heart of Catholic Liverpool following the mass Irish immigration resulting from the Irish Famines.
The church remained a shell until the early 1950s and was eventually cleared to make way for a children’s playground. St Martin’s Cottages (the first purpose-built council housing in Europe) were obviously named after then (and they suffered a similar ignominious fate, although at the hands of the Council, in 1977).
The main objective of my blog is to reveal the way photography has documented the history of Liverpool in the last 150+ years. Photographs are taken for all kinds of reasons – to document progress, mark celebrations, to reveal social deprivation etc. My interest is in examining photographs to find out what they can tell us about both the photographer’s intent and, of course, the subject matter.
The photograph I have chosen is not a difficult one to determine the purpose of the photographer. It was taken by the firm of James Valentine, a Dundee-based company that rivalled Francis Frith in the selling of photographs commercially. Before the advent of postcards, real photographs were very popular as keepsakes and companies like Frith and Valentine sought out views that they could sell to the general public. Frith was the market leader (Francis Frith, as I have written about before, started his photographic career in Liverpool in the early 1850s before selling up his business and embarking on a career as a full-time photographer) but Valentine’s competed keenly in the same territories.
So why take a photograph of Myrtle Street. The clue is in the building next to the Gymnasium: the Liverpool Eye Hospital, which had just opened (1880). It is still there, with its fine terracotta exterior, although it has been converted to flats. Liverpool led the world in its provision for the blind and the specialist hospital was an extension of the other innovatory services it had developed during the nineteenth century. No doubt Valentines saw a potentially lucrative market from grateful patients.
The Liverpool Gymnasium was featured in my blog of 14 February 2010: How the Olympic Movement Started in Liverpool. The brainchild of Charles Melly and John Hussey, it was opened in 1865 as host to the first meeting of the National Olympics Association. Now, 150 years later, the whole world can enjoy a sporting spectacle that had its roots in our city.
Two other buildings are worth commenting on. The building just visible below the Eye Hospital is Myrtle Street Baptist Church. The preacher Hugh Stowell Brown was an electrifying preacher who attracted thousands to his sermons. It is reassuring that his statue, paid for by public subscription on his death, has now returned to its former home as part of the new student accommodation (having been recently found in the stables of Croxteth Country Park).
Finally, a rare sight of the roof of another church – St Philips, Hardman Street, which stood on the site of what was Kirklands (Fly in the Loaf). By 1880, it was already in a dilapidated state and was auctioned off and soon after demolished.
The photograph was taken from the site of what is now the Philharmonic Hall. Here is a section of an 1881 map of the city. The section of street we are looking at is just below the green plot of land.
Back in March, 2011, I posted a photograph of a church asking if anyone could locate it. Quite a few replied naming it as All Saints, Bentley Road near to Princes Park. I have just come into the possession of two further photographs – of the exterior and interior – which add further confirmation (not that it is needed) that the identification was correct.
The Victorians obsession on reverting to a medieval style of architecture is somewhat bizarre given the inventiveness of science and industry. I can appreciate that ecclesiastical thinking was a reaction to the seismic changes in society (and thinking – especially Darwinism) which had thrown traditional beliefs into turmoil but the churches they built were generally austere and forbidding places. I can appreciate the craftsmanship but a Sunday spent on those hard benches, especially in winter, would have been purgatory.
My eye is caught to the building on the right. It has the name John Wilson – who is listed in my 1893 Directory as a dealer in horses and job master.Bentley Road was a solid middle-class area with a good mix of nationalities: Hermann Straus (merchant), Myer Kuno (professor of languages), Auguste D’Almeida (wine merchant), Decio Ferreira (wine merchant), Josef Hanliezek (chemical manufacturer) living alongside surgeons, engineers, surveyors and printers. I have avoided all mention of Brexit but here is proof, in one short street, that Liverpool was a bustling cosmopolitan city well over a century ago.
Over the years I have been writing my blog, the posts that create the highest response rates are hospitals and school. The former is mainly ex-nurses who trained and worked at the now demolished Northern Hospital (a very positive experience for most). The schools posts – there have been a number – have created their own Friends Reunited mini-sites. I wrote a long time ago that a photo book on Liverpool schools was well overdue. Perhaps I should have published one but the opportunity seems to have slipped by.
It is surprising how relatively short-lived most schools are. The raft of buildings built in the wake of the 1870 Elementary Education Act have largely disappeared. A small number have been replaced by more modern buildings and their names kept but most have simply vanished. Chatsworth Street School, pictured above is a rare survivor (although now called Smithdown Primary School). I pass it most days on my journeys up and down Upper Parliament Street and marvel at how it has managed to survive intact. Its neighbourhood has changed considerably in recent decades but the school is a constant presence. The Gothic-influenced building was built in 1874 for the School Board and is a rather unusual building for Liverpool with its pale sandstone facing. Having survived for nearly 150 years, hopefully it will continue to light up what has been a rather drab and desolate corner of the city.
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of taking my good friend Professor Charlie Duff around Liverpool. Charlie is a leading figure in Baltimore’s revival and sees many comparisons between Liverpool and his hometown. Both are of a similar size and have suffered comparable post-War declines. Anyone familiar with The Wire will have a certain knowledge of the level of urban decline parts of Baltimore have suffered.
Of course, like Liverpool, there are plenty of very pleasant areas but the media are always more interested in the dysfunctional. Charlie was particularly keen to look at how our city’s urban fabric knitted together (especially after he had spent a couple of days in Leeds and Manchester), so we set out on a journey in glorious sunshine to explore as much as we could in a day. I loved it – nothing is better than showing someone round your city when the light is perfect. An amble through Liverpool One to examine how it had brought the Albert Dock seamlessly into the pedestrian flow, followed by an examination of Castle Street/Water Street and Victoria Street to marvel at the great commercial architecture and ponder on why Manchester and Leeds had taken away Liverpool’s role as a banking and insurance centre. Charlie had an endless stream of questions about how I saw Liverpool’s future – which I am still pondering. Rental yields in Manchester and Leeds are substantially higher than Liverpool – which equates to developers looking there rather than here (and both cities are regarded as being more business friendly).
With heavy questions on my mind, we headed towards the University and Georgian Quarter, stopping at 19 Abercromby Square (now part of Liverpool University) to admire the remaining symbols of what was the unofficial consulate of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, before heading off towards Falkner Square. The light was perfect and I stopped to photograph the fine terrace in Back Falkner Street South. We could have been in Knightsbridge or other exclusive London areas. Whatever Liverpool’s future is, it has the physical assets that few other British cities have. I felt a great sense of pride walking along Canning Street and Huskisson Street before heading down to the Baltic Triangle to examine how creative businesses were transforming a previously semi-derelict area.
We continued with a tour of Port Sunlight – one of the most astonishing housing experiments in Europe – and that forerunner of all public parks, Birkenhead Park, before crossing back to look at the vast empty acres of Liverpool Waters by Stanley Dock. If this is the future of Liverpool, it would be good to see some activity, the place is eerily deserted and raises so many questions about Peel’s intentions.
Fortunately, we finished on another high as I drove round Sefton Park. There was a wedding in the Palm House and everything looked magical. A great day to be a tourist in my own city.