November, 2010 Archives

The Whitehouse, Duke Street

The Oakfield

Two more pubs from Kevin Casey’s new book Closing Time: The Lost Pubs of Liverpool.
The Whitehouse must be the best known closed pub in the city, thanks to the Banksy painting, and the Grade II building sold this week at auction for ?114,000 (probably much less than expected when Banksy paintings are so highly valued). Depending on where you read up on the graffiti, the mural is of a rat holding either a machine gun or a marker pen. The big problem is that the future of the painting is in the hands of planners – who must approve of any changes to the front of the building. Possible The Whitehouse will become a pub again – but the cost of renovation will not come cheap.
The Oakfield is a typical nineteenth century pub in the suburbs which has lost its customer base and is no longer viable. Kevin’s book is full of similar cases of once-flourishing businesses left high and dry by recession, changing habits and depopulating neighbourhoods. There no longer is room for a pub on every corner but what becomes of the empty buildings is anyone’s guess.

Athol Vaults

The Lambeth

Pub closures are nothing new. Hundreds shut in the 1950s and 60s as neighbourhoods were cleared in the massive slum clearance programmes. Now a whole range of problems has resulted in another wave that has led to many ‘locals’ putting up the towels for the last time. Faced with the smoking ban, cheap supermarket alcohol, changing social habits (more people staying in to enjoy home entertainment) and the migration of younger drinkers to the city centre – the pressures on pubs have never been greater (and that is not taking into account the effect of the recession).
Once familiar landmarks are being demolished or are standing empty with no expectation of reopening – and this inspired Kevin Casey to document their demise. Over 80 pubs are documented in his book Closing Time: The Lost Pubs of Liverpool and they represent just a fraction of locals that have closed in the last few years.
Should we care? That is a difficult question at a time when alcohol consumption is a national issue. But Closing Time puts forward the point that the neighbourhood pub had a controlling effect on those who drank there. Generally, people behaved themselves and drank sensibly because they were in their own community (and pub landlords were a tough breed). The pub was the centre of social and sporting activities and had a role to play in the community. Not all pubs are lost – but their survival (and fascinating architecture) is truly under threat. A book well worth buying (said the publisher).

Palace Ice Rink 1946

Silver Blades Ice Rink 1976

The Palace Ice Rink opened in 1931 in a site on Prescot Road, in Kensington, next door to the Casino cinema (shown in the photograph below). The building had originally opened as a roller skating rink but had reopened as an ice rink some three years later – changing its name to Silver Blades in the 1960s.
Much loved by generations of children and adults alike, it finally closed in 1986, when it became financially unviable (because of the cost of upgrading facilities). How ironic that when ?10 billion can be spent in London on a four week Olympic jamboree – the sporting facilities that are needed across the country by all generations to keep fit and tackle obesity are being savagely cut by virtually every local authority. Silver Blades is one early example of this short-changing of our children. When the company went cap in hand to Liverpool Council for financial help, it was turned down. Now the nearest ice rink is Deeside – completely out of range for most local people.
I only went once to Silver Blades in a well-meaning but disastrous gesture to a form of pupils I was teaching for a term at Archbishop Whiteside School on Silvester Street, off Scotland Road. (I use the term form of pupils advisedly – I am not sure what kind of form they took but it wasn’t quite what I was used to). They pupils were all part of the great ROSLA experiment (raising of the school leaving age) which had pushed up the leaving age from 15 to 16 the term before I started.
Feeling sorry for their predicament – they were bored and rebellious – I decided, against the advice of every permanent teacher, to take them on an outing to the ice rink. The place was tranquil as we entered – with a group of girls from a private school skating gracefully round the rink. Within minutes – mayhem! Like a scene from the Bash Street Kids, my bunch of micreants managed to start the ice polishing machine – which was picking up speed as it pursued the terrified girls. I am sure we weren’t the only school to be thrown out of the rink – but 15 minutes must have been some kind of record. Fortunately for generations of school children to come, I decided that teaching was not for me and I left a few weeks later to pursue a more suitable career.
Sadly, the ice rink and cinema have now both been demolished (in 2001).

Here is another Frank Dugan photograph from about 1953. Frank was only here for a couple of years – he was an American serviceman based at Burtonwood who married a Liverpool girl and stayed on for a short time before returning to the States. He lived in Anfield while he was here but could not remember where the photograph – of boys playing craps – was taken.

The main reason for today’s post is to ask for your contributions. I am planning a book on Liverpool in the 1950s next year – lavishly illustrated with dozens of previously unpublished photographs. However, I want to bring the book to life with people’s memories of the decade. I have already received some brilliantly evocative emails about childhood in 1950s Liverpool but I would love to receive more (about work, marriage, leisure time etc). It was a time of great change – especially after the immediate post-War austerity years. The massive slum clearance programmes started to change the face of the city, television began to infiltrate everyone’s lives, the consumer society was born along with the teenager, Teddy Boys and rock ‘n’ roll.

There must be so many memories out there and I want to publish the best. If you have photos to add to your stories, so much the better. If you would like to get involved, please send your stories to this site or to colin@bluecoatpress.co.uk. I cannot offer anything more than a free book for every entry used but I know there is a rich seam out there that can make the book come alive and give a real feel of the times.

Entrance to Liverpool Zoological Gardens, Rice Lane, 1975.

Brochure for Liverpool Zoo, Elmswood Road.



Map of Elmswood Road Zoo

Liverpool’s history never fails to throw up interesting subjects to research. Sifting through my photographs, I came across the (top) photograph of the entrance to Liverpool Zoological Gardens on Rice Lane – sandwiched between the then offices of Dunlop and The Plough public house. My knowledge of Liverpool zoos is somewhat limited but I did know there had been one off West Derby Road (between 1833 and 1863) as well as a number of smaller menageries of around the same time. In the twentieth century, two attempts – at Otterspool and Elmswood Road – fared little better.
The Rice Lane Zoo opened in 1884 but closed less than a decade later. I can find little about its layout or contents – but the entrance building still survives as a reminder of the area’s former life (I believe it is now the Cavendish Retail Park).
Liverpool Zoological Park in Elmswood Road had an even shorter life – opening in 1932 and closing in 1938. It had a varied but small collection of animals and birds – the star attraction being a chimpanzee named Mickey which escaped in 1938 and attacked (not seriously) a number of keepers and visitors before being shot at a nearby house. The zoo followed Mickey into oblivion shortly afterwards and the land was sold off for housing. The final page in the brochure is a full-page advert stating:
All Living Specimens of Animals, Birds and Reptiles on Exhibition at the Liverpool Zoological Gardens Can be Purchased. Apply for Prices to the Office. Now that is one way to run a zoo. Imagine walking home with a black bear in tow!

Kent Square

Kent Street

Pitt Street

The three images posted today were all taken by Father d’Andria, the parish priest of St Peter’s church in Seel Street. His small collection of photographs are all in the Liverpool Record Office collection. I had an email from Bob Manger asking about the area around White Street, where his grandfather lived. White Street is now just a short cul-de-sac next to the old churchyard of St Michael’s, Pitt Street, the magnificent church silhouetted in the second photograph (a victim of wartime bombing).
The area around Kent Street and Pitt Street was the centre of Liverpool’s Chinatown. Kent Square was once a very fashionable place to live and even into the early twentieth century it held its charm. Charles Reilly, the University’s dynamic professor of architecture described it as: ‘one of the most charming things in Liverpool .. it is a tiny square, not really a square but an oblong, with a single narrow street entering the middle of each of the two shorter sides … it is like a Cambridge court rather than a square only it is Georgian, with all the elegance that implies. The houses are small and refined. The doorways are in pairs, raised above the ground, and giving onto a stone landing .. each doorway is pedimented and the entablatures have varying motifs modelled on them, some ram’s heads, some urns, some flowers. Many of the doors – neat six-panel doors with raised panels – have even their Georgian knockers left.
It is altogether charming. At present one wise decorator lives in it and some Chinamen. If anyone, however, wants to found a settlement, and at the same time preserve a beautiful thing, let him buy these houses.

Sadly, no such visionary came forward to preserve the square for, within little more than a decade, the area was demolished to make way for council tenements, which lasted little more than fifty years before they too were reduced to dust.

Here are the final two photographs from the small collection of Dingle negatives I have been posting over the last week. Unfortunately, the photographer has left no details as to the location of either image – or about the event the children are dressed up for. Perhaps it is a Whit Walk – the outfits suggest the weather is warm enough for them to go out without coats. It is clearly a special enough event, since the photographer used a half-plate negative (for the other images, it was a quarter plate).
The three cyclists are clearly proud of their bikes and are typically over-dressed for an outing. I am not really well informed about bike technology – but when were brakes introduced? The bicycle was voted number one invention of the Millennium by a nationwide poll – beating photography, the computer and railways amongst many other options. A questionable result, perhaps, but the bike did have a profound effect on the nation’s gene pool, allowing people (particularly men) to travel far outside their normal area to find partners. Maybe not so important in cities like Liverpool but certainly a big factor in rural areas.

Wilson Street

Two more photographs from the photographer of Beresford Street and Park Hill Road. The top image is of Wilson Street, which ran parallel to Park Road and between Park Hill Road and South Hill Road. I think we are looking at the grocery shop of Mrs Mary Slade, on the corner of Drysdale Road, as it is the only shop listed on the street.
The second photograph is more of a puzzle. The only E. Welch (the name of the shop-keeper in the photograph) listed in the 1893 Gore’s Directory, is Ellen Welch of 201 Upper Frederick Street – just outside of the Dingle area.
However, no shop is indicated – which seems to suggest a different location. The property is much older than the Dingle properties I have posted, which suggests it is nearer to the town centre, however, so perhaps someone can pinpoint the location more accurately.

This shot of Park Hill Road is by the same amateur photographer who took the photograph of Beresford Road posted last week. The focus of the image appears to be the shop of Ann Young, confectioner and wholesaler of crumpets and muffins, at 64 Park Hill Road, with a young, delivery boy in the doorway. The street looks prosperous and ordered, clearly a respectable neighbourhood. I cannot work out the intentions of the photographer. I will post more of his/her photographs in the next few days and, hopefully, some connection will become obvious to a more sharp-witted reader. The only link appears to be shops – but that is rather a weak guess.
Whatever the reason, it is great to have ‘ordinary’ streets of areas such as the Dingle captured for posterity. The prevailing opinion that such districts were all poverty-stricken is clearly not the case. These are streets outside of the inner-ring of courts and tenements and my 1910 Gore’s Directory lists the next-door neighbours as John Rathbone, police constable (number 66) and Park Hill Higher Grade School (44-62). Other occupations on the street include joiners, a printer, pawnbroker, engine driver, teacher of music and coppersmith – a real solid mix of working-class trades.