February, 2010 Archives

My?’Lost Liverpool’?has created quite a bit of interest and, in particular, incredulity that so many fine buildings have been demolished over the last sixty years. ?However, Liverpool has been luckier than most cities. Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow and Bath suffered wholesale destruction (remember T. Dan Smith and the wilful destruction of Eldon Square in Newcastle). Cities do require constant reinvention to accommodate economic and social changes and sometimes, as in the case of the Overhead Railway, the cost of preservation can seem to be far too high (not many people had a crystal ball predicting Liverpool would become a major tourist city). However, my point is that the buildings I have listed?had unique qualities that would have?graced any city and that by highlighting?such losses, it makes it more difficult to remove further pieces of our heritage for?usually short term gains. Today’s three buildings fit very much into that category.

12 Liverpool Central Station. Liverpool has Michael Heseltine to thank for saving the Lyceum at the foot of Bold Street. Sadly, he was not around to save the frontage of Central Station from being turned into one of the ugliest shopping malls you will find in any city. The magnificent interior also deserves a mention. (Manchester at least got GMex which proves that imaginative uses can be found for most buildings worth keeping).

13 West Dingle. A fine villa on the banks of the Mersey. Designed by Decimus Burton (he was the tenth child, hence his name), the architect of Kew Gardens, parts of Regents Park and also the new town of Fleetwood). Built as a house for Joseph Yates, it was allowed to fall into disrepair before being demolished in 1955.

14 The Old Hutt.? Although strictly in Halewood, this was a major architectural loss. The Old Hutt was a medieval moated house (not many of them around in Merseyside) – although only the gatehouse remained intact. Archaeological studies have indicated a substantial manor house with residential buildings grouped around a great hall. At the time of the gatehouse’s destruction (photographed here in 1949?), in 1960, only three buildings remained as well as fragments of the 14th century Great Hall . The house was part of the Ireland estate??(the Lords of Hale) and, although?it had been modified over the centuries,?was recognised as being a site of?national?importance. Nonetheless, when Ford built its factory, they were not prepared to modify their plans, even though the Old Hutt?was on an approach road rather than under the main building. Would such a destruction happen today with tighter listed building controls? I would hope?not – but?now there aren’t many medieval buildings left to protect in Liverpool.

Just a brief post to add some missing images of lost buildings. The photographs supplement the previous posts and give a better idea of why I have included these buildings in my blog. They are

Canada Dock hydraulic tower (photographed 1875)

Kent Square c1935

Goree and Overhead Railway 1947

Cotton Exchange 1907

With the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver this weekend, it is worth remembering Liverpool’s pivotal role in the Olympic movement. The two main protagonists were Charles Melly (an ancestor of George Melly), a wealthy philanthropist, and John Hulley. Charles Melly attended Rugby school at the same time as Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Like Hughes, Hulley was a firm believer in sporting competition and in the idea of Muscular Christianity. John Hulley was born in Liverpool in 1832, attending Liverpool Collegiate and later training under Louis Huguenin, a famous French gymnast living in Liverpool.
Melly and Hulley joined forces to form Liverpool Athletic Club in 1861 and, in 1862, held the first Grand Olympic Festival on the Parade Ground at Mount Vernon. Over 10000 turned up to watch a programme including running, walking, high jump, boxing, wrestling, fencing and gymnastics – a list of events that were very similar to those at the first Modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896.
Further Olympic Festivals were held, with increasing popularity and Melly and Hulley raised the funds to open Liverpool Gymnasium on Myrtle Street (photographed above c.1870). Following its opening on November 6th 1865, the first meeting of the National Olympics Association was held there, with Hulley on the committee. The NOA defined Olympism long before the foundation of the International Olympic Committee – and its ideas were to have a profound influence on a young Pierre de Coubertin.
Hulley was buried at Smithdown Road cemetery. As a result of the work of a group of enthusiasts (including Ray Physick – author of Played in Liverpool), Hulley’s damaged gravestone bearing the motto mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) was repaired and rededicated in June 2009. Thanks to their efforts, the huge, global impact of both Hulley and Melly can be more fully recognised.
For a more detailed account of both Melly and Hully, there are a number of helpful sites including:
www.johnhulley-olympics.co.uk or www.johnhulleymemorialfund.co.uk

Time to take a short break from Lost Liverpool to look at Liverpool’s darker past. The above two photographs are from a set of lantern slides I purchased from Frank Lenhan (whose own photographs I published in My Liverpool). Frank explained that he had inherited them from his father, who was a friend of the photographer N. Stephen, and that they had been used in Band of Hope temperance meetings to highlight the evils of drink. Frank remembered helping his father project the slides at meetings in the 1930s when he was a young boy.
By coincidence, I was recently researching the educational uses of lantern slides and came across a reference to the Church of England Temperance Society. Apparently the Society had commissioned hundreds of photographs (to be turned into lantern slides) of children in the streets with bottles/jars of alcohol – all taken in Liverpool. I have started looking into whether these slides are archived anywhere – but to no avail so far. Perhaps these photographs taken by Stephen around Scotland Road c1895 (I have about 20) were part of that collection – or does anyone have any further information that can help ‘rediscover’ these important images of Liverpool’s social history?

Following on from yesterday, my next choice is a building that has got progressively worse each time it has been rebuilt:
8 Exchange Buildings. The smaller photograph (taken in 1860) is a view of James Wyatt’s elegant building (1803-9), in perfect sympathy with the Town Hall (for which he was partly responsible). Tastes changed and, in the 1860s, the building was replaced by one in the more flamboyant (and less sympathetic) Gothic style (top photograph, 1886). Needless to say, the modernists had their way in the 1930s – replacing it with the current vaguely neo-classical building.
9 Duke’s Dock Warehouse. Built in 1811, this was one of Liverpool’s most grievous losses according to Quentin Hughes – who gave it considerable space in his seminal book Seaport. A magnificent early six-storey warehouse, it was demolished for no benefit by an insensitive Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.
10 Cotton Exchange. Another example of trying to modernise unsympathetically. The original building (1905/6 by Matear and Simpson) was a grand Edwardian baroque statement of the importance of the cotton trade. Its replacement is unintentionally a weak nod to the post-war decline in confidence.
11 Canada Dock hydraulic tower (1858). Perhaps Jesse Hartley’s weirdest building – a medieval castle on the banks of the Mersey.

I have often tried to picture what Liverpool would be like if it had kept some of its finest buildings. Does it matter if buildings are lost? To quote William Morris:
‘It has been most truly said that these old buildings do not belong to us only: that they belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with them. We are only trustees for those who come after us …’ . Clearly not a message that had any sway with several generations of politicians and planners in Liverpool.
I have by started listing my ‘worst losses’ in some sort of league table. They are:

1) The Custom House (1828-39) by John Foster the Elder. Photographed above in 1875. To me, the greatest architectural loss the city has suffered. What a magnificent compliment it would have made to the Albert Dock. Firebombed in the Blitz, it was left a shell that could have been renovated had the will been there.
2) The Sailors’ Home (1846-52) by John Cunningham. An eccentric building modelled on an Elizabethan mansion. The less said about its unnecessary demolition the better.
3) Liverpool Overhead Railway (1893). Not so much a building but a unique and exhilirating experience. Today, cities spent millions on so-called ‘landmark’ buildings that rarely deliver because they usually fail to deliver any useful benefit. Here we had an iconic ‘building’ that would have thrilled generations of tourists (and natives). Demolished 1957/58 for economic reasons.
4) St John’s Market (1820-22) by John Foster Junior. Not just the market but the whole area of tightly packed streets which fed into the main market (including the Theatre Royal and Williamson Square/the Stork Hotel and Queen Square). The kind of ubiquitous concrete malls are dead in the water. Planners now argue for keeping street patterns and a human scale. A bit too late!
5) Goree Piazzas (1787- rebuilt 1802 after fire).The first moden warehouses to be built (at the same time as George’s Dock. With its magnificent arcaded pavements it unfortunately occupied a key site in the post-War Shankland Plan mentality and made way for a road that lets us get to our destination 10 seconds faster.
6) St Michael’s Church, Pitt Street. I could add St George’s Church, St Paul’s Church and a dozen others – but this is my favourite. In an area now bereft of good architecture, it would have been an uplifting sight. Bomb damaged beyond repair.
7) Kent Square (and surrounding area). Charles Reilly wrote of the area ‘it contains some very fine houses and the finest square in town, Great George Square. It also contains that jewel in an ancient setting, Kent Square. Fragments exist but the character of this early Georgian area was destroyed in the 1930s for municipal housing. Imagine a fine cluster of Georgian housing with St Michael’s Church at the centre – a sad loss.

The next seven to follow – but please add your own ‘worst losses’, it should make interesting reading.

William and George Audsley have not been treated well in Liverpool. Amongst the most respected Victorian church architects, their two remaining Liverpool churches, Christ Church in Kensington and the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road, are in shocking condition. Possibly their finest work was St Margaret on the corner of Belmont Road and West Derby Road, seen above photographed in 1875 shortly after consecration in 1873. Pevsner, considered it ‘very powerful’ and its interior was widely praised for its detailing and decoration. The church burned down in 1961 and was replaced by the present green roofed church.
Checking through my notes, I found a list I had made of some of the churches demolished in a six year period – from 1970 to 1976. It makes dismal reading. I always though that the 1960s was the most destructive period for Liverpool’s heritage but perhaps need to reassess the scale of damage during the 1970s (which included the Sailors’ Home and numerous fine commercial buildings).

Chinese Church, Princes Avenue. Demolished 1973 after fire.
Prince’s Gate Baptist Church (1879-81 by Henry Sumners). Demolished 1974.
All Saints, Bentley Road. Demolished 1974.
St Cuthbert, Robson Street, demolished 1970 after fire.
St Chad’s Everton. Demolished 1973.
St Paul’s, Princes Park. Demolished 1976.
St Anne’s, St Anne’s Street. Demolished 1970.
St Timothy, Rokeby Street. Demolished 1970.
Methodist Capel, Great Homer Street. Demolished after fire 1974.
Welsh Methodist Chapel, Shaw Street. Demolished after fire 1974.
St Chrysostom, Queens Road. (1854 by Raffles Brown). Destroyed by fire 1972.
St Benedict, Heyworth Street (‘exceptionally good’ by Aldridge & Deacon 1887). Demolished 1976.
St John, Breck Road. Demolished 1972.
St Philip, Sheil Road. Demolished 1973?
St Domingo Methodist, Breckfield Road. Demolished 1972
St Philemon, Windsor Street. Demolished 1976
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Princes Road. Demolished 1974.
St Saviour, Upper Huskisson Street. Demolished for abandoned road scheme 1970.
Unitarian Church, Hamilton Road. Demolished 1972.

Back in 2001, I published The Churches of Liverpool. Written by David Lewis, it was a record of many of the city’s churches, past and present. I was not completely happy about the book; it was in the early days of digital photography and some of the images were bitmapped but, more inexcusably, the book lacked an index, which made navigation particularly annoying. That said, the book did present a topic well worthy of further work. The incredible explosion of church building in the nineteenth century was fuelled by a religious fervour created by the turbulence of the effects of industrialisation, scientific discovery and social uncertainty of the times. If Liverpool had a pub on every corner, it also had a church in every street, or so it seemed. These ranged from the simple mission ‘hut’ to the fully blown high gothic masterwork.
Of course many fine examples have survived but others fell victim to declining congregations, fire, war and civic replanning. Churches are, unfortunately, difficult to adapt to other uses without destroying their integrity and it is difficult to argue that, for most, they had outlived their use and could not be kept in a satisfactory condition without huge sums being spent on their maintenance.
Over the next few weeks, I will post some examples of what I consider to be the most important losses, starting with this fine photograph of St George’s Church in 1875. Designed by Thomas Steer, the dock architect, and consecrated in 1726, it was considered the most handsome church in Liverpool. Built on the site of Liverpool Castle, the church fell out of popularity in the late nineteenth century and closed in 1897, to be demolished two years later. The, to me, ugly and unexceptional statue of Queen Victoria now occupies the site – a very poor ‘swap’ for what would today be a beautiful building in a landmark position .

Two fascinating photographs from WW1. The factory of James Troop, a brass foundry, on Pleasant Hill Street (off Sefton Street), had evidently been turned into an aircraft factory. Although women had worked in factories and mines from the start of the Industrial Revolution, the necessity to recruit women as part of the war effort was to give the suffragette movement the momentum required to gain the vote (in 1918 for women over 30 but 1928 before they gained the same rights as men).

I received an interesting query regarding yesterday?s posting about Church Street. The question was about the white building protruding between the Compton Hotel and Bon March?. My first thought was that this was the original street line prior to the completion of Bon March?. The white building was clearly removed at some stage since today?s photograph clearly shows the whole building set back from the street. If so, that would date the previous photograph to 1877/78 ? well before my estimate of 1890 – unless the corner building was demolished a few years after the main Bon March? building was erected and replaced by an extension. Certainly a check in Gore?s 1887 directory shows AT Smith (fancy toy dealer) and Dixon & Moore (auctioneers) at that corner address. Unfortunately, my maps are either too early or too late to answer this question. Any answers?
By 1893 (as seen in the photograph), the corner site was owned by Richardsons, a shop selling mantles/furs and waterproofs. Bon March? appears to have no frontage to Church Street (its entrance being through the arcade on the left. The other premises to the street were The Avondale Caf? and Durandu, a well-known tobacconist.
Bon March? took its name from the famous Parisian store and had a very successful history. The original building was replaced in 1918-22 (by the George Henry Lee building) and the store was famous for its promotions (Gracie Fields appeared there during the 1930s selling stockings for fifteen minutes) and, in 1937, it introduced Younger Liverpool, an early example of a boutique style department. During the 1950s, its fortunes declined and, having been briefly owned by the Liverpool Co-operative Society, it was acquired in 1961 by the John Lewis Partnership, who decided to merge it with George Henry Lee.