In the nineteenth century, Liverpool was second city to London, yet the wealth of its merchant classes is often ignored in local histories. I am as guilty as most of the others, finding the desperate poverty of most of the city’s population a more rewarding area of study. The huge disparity between the richest and poorest is today being played out against a background of bankers’ bonuses and is perceived largely as a London v the rest of the country. Back in 1890, Liverpool had a significant number of these ‘fat cats’ and the outer fringes of the city were dominated by the estates of merchants and landed gentry.
The Earle family was one such example. Having sold their extensive land of the Spekelands estate, which is where Earle Road is today (St Dunstan’s church was built by the family of the site of their family home), the Earle’s decamped to Allerton Towers (adjacent to Allerton golf course).
The Earle’s are probably best remembered for the statue of General Earle outside St George’s Hall. General Earle died in Sudan at the Battle of Dulka Island when storming the Height of Kerkebam in 1885. His brother, Sir Thomas Earle, lived at Allerton Towers until his death in 1900 and the family moved out to Sandiway, in Cheshire, soon after.
Allerton Towers was a rather dull mid-Victorian villa which was demolished in the 1930s. The orangerie and stable block have survived – although they are in a poor condition. The land is owned by the Council and is one of the city’s finest small parks.
This photograph of Havelock Street was photographed by Karl Hughes to be used as an illustration in
Liverpool author, Frank Shaw’s book ‘My Liverpool’, published in 1971.
What is immediately apparent is the traffic-free street, giving the children the freedom to play outside. With no open space nearby and other amenities very limited, the street became a focal point for the community in a way that no longer exists.
Twenty years ago, back in 1990, a tall, white-bearded American burst into my office holding a box of photographs.
His name was Frank Dugan, born in New Jersey in 1925. Frank joined the US Air Force in 1949 and was sent as a control tower operator at Burtonwood in 1950.
He met Mary Green, from Anfield, at Speke Airport and they married in 1953 after he had demobbed. Fancying himself as a photographer, he took wedding photographs for a living, finishing off his rolls of film with the occasional shot of Liverpool life.
As an American in a foreign city, Frank was fascinated by Liverpool, particularly the endless terraced streets and the poverty he witnessed. Frank returned to the States in 1955 to start up as an antiques dealer and his short career as a photographer was effectively over.
Back in 1990, Frank was hoping to have a book published but there weren’t enough images – so I used many of them in a calendar. The photographs all had that magic quality of freezing time that only photography can achieve. Frank died in 2003 but these images will stand the test of time.
The idea of this blog is to bring to a wider public the thousands of images that are hidden away in archives both public and private. My own collection (of over 5000 historical photographs) illustrates many aspects of Liverpool’s history – the social, topographical, economic and cultural – and I will be posting new images daily to create a unique perspective on the city as seen through the camera’s lens.
Please add your comments. Perhaps you know what happened to the three lads in the photograph. They look desperately poor – but how did they turn out? This is the great thing about the web – it creates communities and shares knowledge in a way that was inconceivable ten years ago.