April, 2010 Archives

Two photographs – a before and after. The first was taken in about 1964 and shows a lively St George’s Place with the famous Guinness Clock. The architecture may not be first-rate but the setting has lived long in the memory of many I have talked to. This is where many had their first Chinese meal (at the Empress on the far right of the block). The two hotels – the Washington and Imperial – were landmarks which brightened up the entrance to Lime Street station.
The second photograph, taken about a year later, captures the last moments of a much-loved corner as the building of the new St John’s Market gets underway. It is interesting to see the old Lime Street station approach before its demolition to make way for the recently demolished tower block and shopping arcade. At least there is some ground for optimism – the new station entrance gives, at last, an appropriate setting for St George’s Hall and William Brown Street.

A depressing image for anyone who cares about Liverpool’s history. The Overhead Railway officially closed on December 30th 1956. Subsequent rescues failed and, in September 1957, the dismantlers moved in.
The photograph was probably taken at the beginning of the demolition process – although it might have been as late as 1958.
The cigarette booth is still trading but the scene is a melancholy one (the Goree Piazzas are in the background awaiting their fate). As I have mentioned before, the fate of the Railway was probably inevitable. Its original function of servicing the docks no longer was viable when set against the rapid growth of car ownership. Tourism was not an option and the cost of repairing the whole line was prohibitive. The 1950s was not a time for sentiment – the vision was of a shiny new city of concrete and steel with rapid transit road systems based on the American model. The Overhead was the past and although the campaign to save it was vociferous, no solution other than demolition could be found.

I have just returned from a few days in the North East, including a day spent wandering around Newcastle. Walking past Eldon Square, once one of Europe’s finest squares, it seems inconceivable that a magnificent Georgian townscape could be so ruthlessly destroyed for a concrete replacement. Much of the town centre was the work of architect John Dobson, the Newcastle equivalent of the Fosters (father and son) who dominated Liverpool’s emerging townscape in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Fosters had similar grandiose plans to reshape Liverpool and were responsible for many of the public buildings including the Custom House, the School for the Blind, the Oratory and St James’s Cemetery, St Luke’s Church, St Andrew’s (Rodney Street) and St John’s Market. The Market, regarded by the much-travelled artist James Audobon as the finest he had seen, was widely admired for its fine Classical detail, advanced lighting and engineering. Sadly, its fate was, like Eldon Square, to be replaced by an ugly concrete shopping centre which, like its Newcastle equivalent, had nothing in keeping with its surroundings.

You have to be over 60 to remember the Coronation. I was in Sheffield at the time and, along with thousands of other excited children stood for what seemed like hours only for a black limousine to flash past at 30 mph. So that was the Queen! At least we all got a small tin of chocolates and a crown (a five shilling coin to the unitiated) in a special plastic case. The chocolate soon went but I still have the crown, which is probably worth at least 50p today. My experience apart, it was a huge event for the nation and kickstarted the television age. Every village, town and city went overboard – with decorations, street parties and spectacular events.
The photograph of Barry Street shows the remarkable lengths local communities went to to mark the occasion. Barry Street is probably familiar to many Evertonians as it runs between Walton Road and Walton Lane close to Goodison. Will there be a repeat for the next coronation? I doubt it.