65-Renshaw

Noodle-Bar

Following up with the last post, here is another fascinating interior. This time, I know the exact location and year it was taken. The year is 1890 and the location is 65 Renshaw Street. Had you asked me what the interior was, I would have suggested a rather upmarket fashion shop (although they were mainly on Bold Street at that time). Checking my Gore’s Directory for 1893, all becomes clear. The premises were occupied by John Wannop & Sons, decorators. Obviously more than mere house decorators – more like interior designers. They were still there in 1910 but my next Directory for 1932 has BNB Radios occupying the shop.

Renshaw Street is somewhat off the main stream of footfall for it to be thriving. The loss of Rapid Hardware (on the opposite side of the street) diminished its appeal. I am somewhat surprised, it could be an exciting area for a good mix of independent retailers. At the moment, 65 is a rather sad looking Noodle Bar, with empty properties all around. Once the redevelopment of Lime Street is underway (hopefully saving a certain cinema facade), attention needs focusing further along to the east.

Bluecoat655

It is time to move on from the last post – the chocolate must be long past its sell-by date.

Today’s image intrigues me. It was taken by J. Mayle, photographer of 28 Bold Street. The date is probably mid-1870s. Mayle lived in West Derby from 1864 to 1872, working as a photographic artist, before moving to Derby (Derbyshire). The firm continued in Liverpool under the name J.Mayle and Sons until at least 1908 – so the dating of the image might well be out by a few years.

It is, however, the subject matter that is interesting. Of course, there is always a strong possibility that the interior is not in Liverpool at all. It has a grandeur that could only match it to a very limited number of buildings. The Town Hall and St George’s Hall are both ruled out (I know what they look like). The Custom House is a possibility but it was built in a strict Classical style to the design of John Foster, the Town Surveyor. James Picton, in his Memorials of Liverpool (a must read reference book – even if published in 1873), was unimpressed by the building, which he considered dark and dingy. The dome was supported internally on Ionic columns – which rules the Custom House out of consideration. This leaves only one secular building with a dome – the now demolished Exchange Newsroom. The Exchange Building (on Exchange Flags) was originally a fine Georgian building, which opened in 1808. After fifty years, it was decided to replace it with a more commodious building and in 1862 work started on its replacement, a Gothic building designed by TM Wyatt in a style described as Flemish Renaissance by Picton – who added that the Newsroom “is a noble apartment, free from all obstructions and well-suited for its purpose.” The new building opened in 1867 yet, like its predecessor, was to survive for little more than half a century with work starting on its replacement (the current Exchange Buildings) in the 1930s. The War stopped work temporarily and demolition and replacement was completed by the early 1950s.

I have searched in vain for an interior photograph of the Newsroom. The date of its opening is close to the date of the photograph – so it would have been of interest as a symbol of the new Liverpool. Can anyone throw any light on this?

Easter-Eggs

First of all, apologies for a long absence which has been due to family circumstances. These are now behind me, so I am back with renewed energy. I will start going through the many requests I have received in the next couple of weeks.

The image above might surprise anyone born post-1953. On February 5th of that year, sweet rationing was abolished to the delight of children. According to newspapers, piggy-banks were emptied and shops were cleared out of stock in hours. Apparently, toffee apples, sticks of nougat and liquorice strips were the best sellers. Adults joined in, with 2lb boxes of chocolates and boiled sweets the favourites.

The photograph pre-dates this sugar rush. The sign states that this is their entire stock and no pre-orders can be taken in advance of the Saturday sale. How cruel for the three tots standing outside. From another perspective, with sugar such an issue today and with sweets available by almost every till in every shop, perhaps the idea of rationing might not be the worst idea for the sake of public health.

STREET-KIDS

Marie-and-lodger

Marie with her mother and lodger (who Marie was clearly unhappy with)

Patsy-and-pets

Patsy with his pet duck, Oswald, and hen

Bobbie-and-baby

Bobbie at home with her baby

I often get annoyed by the tiresome ‘enmity’ between Manchester and Liverpool. Football is tribal and the rivalry is understandable but I frequently talk to people who have an almost pathological hatred for the other city. Competition can fuel ambition but it can also hold back development. A united North is, in my eyes, far more powerful than a divided one. As someone who has spent all his life in three great Northern cities – Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool – I tend to see similarities rather than differences, positives rather than negatives.

In this light, I hope readers will forgive me for travelling 40 miles eastwards. Beeton Grove is in Levenshulme, near to the centre of Manchester. In the 1970s, Chris Hunt photographed the inhabitants of this wholly working-class terraced street in Manchester. However, the book is far more than a collection of great photographs because Chris also interviewed his subjects about their lives and hopes, giving a unique insight into life in a hard industrial city in the 1970s.

I only wish someone had done the same in Liverpool – although I am sure there would be many common factors in their lives. Beeton Grove is a very powerful statement and I have decided to turn the 100+ photographs and interviews into a book. Follow the link and find out more (and any support would be very gratefully received).

https://goo.gl/ykZ2By

1970-aerial-view

Looking NW from Tunnel Road, 1970

First of all, my apologies for the long delay in posting a new blog. Unfortunately I had computer problems which have necessitated upgrading my system. All is well now and normal service is resumed.

I was interested to see that the Liverpool Echo has revived its Stop the Rot campaign. It is important that the city’s heritage is put under the spotlight. Too much has been lost unnecessarily and highlighting why buildings are important is essential to avoid past mistakes being repeated. As you might guess from previous posts, I am somewhat cynical about how far developers and public authorities are prepared to go once money is involved (the developers want to make it and the public authorities don’t want to spend it). That said, there are some ground for optimism. I have been helping with a publication about the Produce Exchange in Victoria Street – a building with a fine interior which is about to be converted into luxury apartments which will emphasise the original Edwardian details.

Other ground for optimism are the conversions of the Royal Insurance Building on North John Street, the ex-Municipal Annexe on Dale Street and the White Star Building on James Street into luxury hotels (with considerable respect for original features). This is all very promising, as are the pending plans for the Wellington Rooms (Irish Centre) on Mount Pleasant and the Welsh Presbyterian church on Princes Avenue. Not all buildings are safe but it is encouraging that in many cases, developers can see commercial benefits in not knocking down buildings to build the usual bland blocks of flats and offices (although Lime Street proves that they will only go so far).

The photograph shows the kind of ruthless approach that was adopted in the 1960s and 70s as Liverpool struggled to adjust to a falling population and an inherited stock of poor housing. The wholesale clearance of areas is even more shocking as time goes on. St Catherine’s church (More recently demolished) on Tunnel Road stands almost alone in a flattened landscape sandwiched between the two railway cuttings. On the left is newly opened Paddington School and, in mid-distance, the tenement blocks of Myrtle Gardens.

Perhaps there was no other way forward at the time. The problem was that there were no real plans to revive the area (and others like it). A great opportunity was lost to rebuild the city with imaginative and community-orientated housing schemes that might have prevented many of the social issues that we now face. Money again, I suppose. Rather than spend on quality, as was the case in the 1930s when some of the best council housing in Europe was built, everything got done on the cheap – which everyone knows is never a long-term solution.

Lewis's-Soda-Fountain

I love photographs like this one of Lewis’s Soda Fountain. Taken on 30 August 1933 at 9.12 (if the clock is right). Photographs like this tell us so much – the men in charge in their suits, in central position, with a large staff of seventeen young men and women looking, in the main, rather miserable for the photographer. Social photography like this is so often lost when family albums are thrown out. Lewis’s is an important part of Liverpool’s history and images like this, of just one department, show how big an undertaking it was at its height.

It is sad to think that everyone in the photograph has probably long since died. There is a poignant message on the back of the photograph: “To my Darling Mother with best love from your loving daughter”. No doubt she is one of the young girls – maybe the only one smiling on the front row.

90-Bold-Street

90 Duke Street (site of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club) 1975

The-Monro

The Monro (on the opposite corner, 1975

Duke Street in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was one of Liverpool’s finest streets. There are still good examples of its past, although far harder to find than thirty years ago. The buildings on the corner of Suffolk Street are a good example. They had survived until early this year but were unceremoniously pulled down to make way for a new headquarters for ACL.
Some might say that is a positive sign of progress, that the old buildings were a blot on the cityscape with no apparent interest in their salvation. Others, myself included, see their removal as yet another attack on the city’s heritage. Alright, the buildings were no architectural gems, just survivors from the past with their own bit of maritime history. Number 90 was the headquarters of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, once one of the finest in Britain. It welcomed many an important dignitary (not that that is a reason in itself to save a building). More importantly, it fitted into the historical fabric of the street.

Could it have been saved? Well – it should have been. You only have to cross the street to admire the renovated and successful Monro gastro pub. That could just of easily been lost but someone had the vision to restore it and guarantee its future.

Liverpool’s heritage is threatened by these small, almost imperceptible, losses. The old eighteenth century block on Dale Street, the facade of the Futurist, the stable block at Cain’s Brewery. This is like the bad, old days, when any development was preferable to no development. There is a car park opposite The Monro, where an ugly 1960s block once stood. Wouldn’t a better solution have been for ACL to have built their block there?

The-Strand

The Strand c1865

Dry-Dock

The Great Dry Dock, 1890

Liverpool 800, that fine book published to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Liverpool’s first charter, describes the area around the Custom House as Sailor Town. Maybe it is not a commonly used expression but it is entirely appropriate, for this small area was the centre of Liverpool’s shipping trade. Sadly, although remnants of The Strand survived into the mid-1970s, there is little left to excite the keen historian wishing to make sense of the Port’s history. Only the Baltic Fleet survives of the many public houses that would have been thronged with visiting sailors. Heap Mill is a rare warehouse survivor in an area in which the predominate building was the tall, filing cabinet structures that lined every street.

The top photograph is an early view, with the Custom House’s impressive classical facade dominating the street. The position of the dome indicates what a huge building it was (although it apparently had a rather dingy and depressing interior). Its position is approximately where the Hilton Hotel now stands, facing the Albert Dock.

The second view shows the facade of the Custom House from the Albert Dock. The repair of the old wooden ships must have been coming to an end. There are two ships in the dry dock, with a small gathering of bystanders unknowingly watching a dying trade in ship maintenance.

Adelphi-Hotel

First of all, my apologies for the break in service. I am back refreshed and with a whole new batch of images to share.

Today’s photograph is of the original Adelphi Hotel, one of the great hotels of the Victorian era, My reason for posting it is that plans for the regeneration of Lime Street are moving a step nearer after the City Council approved the developer’s scheme this week. The news has hardly met with great rejoicing, in spite of the universal acceptance that something needs to be done to upgrade the street. As I have mentioned before, the new scheme removes most of the historic fabric, including early nineteenth century buildings as well as the important Futurist cinema facade (I accept that the actual body of the cinema is beyond salvation).

SAVEBritain’s heritage are now involved but whether the scheme is referred back in now up to the Communities and Local Government minister. I am not holding my breath.

Of course it is wrong to object to development purely for the sake of it. The Adelphi Hotel pictured above was unceremoniously demolished and replaced by the current hotel just before the First World War. But what a replacement! Under any criteria, the new hotel is an upgrade and a very welcome addition to the streetscape. I have mentioned Commutation Row before, where an ecletic row of buildings was replaced by a bland office block. The proposed Lime Street scheme seems little better – an unexceptional and unexciting block that could find its equal in any of a dozen cities. Liverpool deserves better.

On a final note, I am puzzled as to why the facade of the Futurist cannot be saved. Unless the brickwork is damaged beyond repair, why cannot it be dismantled and rebuilt as part of the new scheme. After all, this is the twenty-first century!

Untold-Story

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.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1911659007/the-writing-on-the-wall-0?ref=nav_search