August, 2011 Archives

The high rise experiment was an almost unmitigated disaster. The motives were honest enough – clear the slums and give families modern, light flats with bathrooms and all mod cons. The model had worked well enough in France, Germany and Holland, so why not Britain?
The problem was that it was an imposed solution. Families and communities were not involved in the planning process. Their streets were demolished and the new flats in the sky considered a fair replacement. Of course they gave many people an immediate improvement in living conditions but at the cost of separation from friends and family.
An alarming problem is evident from the photograph, taken in the mid 1960s. The tower block is probably less than ten years old but it is showing marked deterioration. The concrete is showing staining and corrosion and is typical of such early post-war blocks built in a hurry with inferior materials. Another issue is the barren landscape, hardly an inspiring place to bring up children.
My question – to tax the brains over the Bank Holiday – is where was the tower block? The church must be the giveaway but I can’t place it. Any answers?

Gallagher’s Stores, Crown Street, 1925

Irwins, Myrtle Street, 1920s

Commercial photographers had to be a versatile lot to survive. From weddings and portraits to the occasional commercial commission, it was never an easy occupation, particularly in the poorer areas where money was scarce. One common practice was to photograph proud shop owners outside their premises, ideally with all their staff so extra copies could be sold.
The photographs might be of often mundane premises but time has added an extra dimension. A proud Mrs Gallagher stands alongside her daughter in the doorway of her newsagents. Posters advertising films at Olympia and The Tunnel Picturedrome date the photograph to 1925. The second photograph of Irwins grocery at 68 Myrtle Street is probably of the same period. The staff of seven, all smartly dressed, were part of a large Liverpool chain with head offices in Orwell Road (Kirkdale) and over 100 outlets throughout the area.
Thanks again to Colin Weekes for allowing me to post these fascinating pieces of social history.

Smithdown Lane

London Road

After recent events, I cannot resist taking another look back at the 1911 General Transport Strike. No doubt there will be some who can draw parallels between this months riots and the disturbances of a century ago. In most people’s judgment, I imagine clear distinctions will be made between workers fighting for an improvement in their working conditions and the violence and mayhem of last week. There is one common factor, however, and that is the reaction of authority under pressure. The threat of civil disorder spreading induced panic measures – as the rare handbill reproduced above shows: ‘Large numbers of persons have assembled in the disturbed streets for the purpose of seeing what is going on, and I warn all such persons that if the Authorities are called upon to act, innocent citizens are likely to be injured as those against whom any drastic measures on the part of the Police or the Military are directed.’
Many thanks for today’s photographs and handbill which are from the collection of Colin Weekes. The top photograph shows what appears to be a ‘scab’ carter taking provisions along Smithdown Lane. In the background is Daniel Higgin’s butcher’s shop. The impressive building on the right is a branch of the London City & Midland Bank. (Hard to imagine looking at Smithdown Lane today). The second photograph is of London Road looking up towards Monument Place. The church in the distance is St Silas. Looking at the shops, there is a half price sale on the immediate right, with an empty shop on the next corner. Further up, a pledge shop (pawnbroker) is advertising its premises high up on the gable end. At least somethings haven’t changed over the century.

Following the last blog, which produced a fantastic response, I have posted another picture of boys at a gate being shooed away by an old man. This time the location can be easily identified as Liverpool Cathedral. The photograph was taken by Peter Leeson in the early 1970s. It is quite a grainy image and was not included in his book Goodbye Scottie Road – but I thought it was an interesting follow-on from the last blog, which has been fairly conclusively identified as Princes Avenue facing Parkway. The gates have gone but the row of houses on Parkway in the background still stand, unlike the row of Georgian houses which lined St James’s Road below the Cathedral. They all disappeared in the late 1970s.

Stan Zabecki sent me today’s photograph. A lovely photograph, it was taken by Frank Dugan, the American GI whose work has appeared here before. It is not an image I can remember from the portfolio Frank showed me back in the early 1990s. My first reaction was that it was taken at Princes Park Gates – but the ironwork is not of the park gates and, anyway, there would have been a church at the junction behind until the 1970s. There is a wide boulevard behind with three storey houses, so it seems to fit the location, but it could be Newsham Park or another place entirely.
The photograph was taken in 1954, so the location might have changed since then. Any ideas?

Upper Dawson Street c1895

St John’s Gardens c1900

My last post emphasised child poverty at the turn of the twentieth century. Today’s photographs show two different aspects of life at that time.
The top photograph was taken at the back of St John’s Market. The street is thronged with traders and shoppers. McKenna’s bar is prominent (licensee Catharine McKenna), with Hassons (poultry and game dealers) next door. Out of 13 buildings listed in Gore’s 1893 Directory, 5 were public houses and one was a restaurant (or eating house). Apart from a hairdresser and a mariner, all the rest were in the food trade.
The second photograph is of St John’s Garden, which had just been laid out following the removal of St John’s Church. The bookshop shown in the previous blog had been demolished at the time of the photograph to make way for the Technical School. It is hard to work out the ages of the couple sat on the bench – I guess they look about 60 but they both look careworn and could be much younger .At least public statues have their uses judging by the number of men congregating on its steps.

William Henry Street c1895

William Brown Street c1895

I was going to write about the new Museum of Liverpool but my two attempts to walk round have both been aborted after less than 20 minutes each due to the amazing number of people visiting. With the outside temperature in the mid 20s, it wasn’t the time to make any critical analysis, so I will wait until September when I expect it will get much quieter. My initial impression is that too much space has been allocated to the entrance/atrium, which has created congested gallery space, but I need to see how the exhibitions work without such a volume of people. The very positive note is that over 100,000 people have been through already – an encouraging sign of the level of interest in Liverpool’s history.
Today’s posts reflect the darker side of that history. Child poverty has never been eradicated from Liverpool and these photographs of barefooted boys are a reminder of how tough life was a century ago. The first photograph is, I am reasonably certain, of William Henry Street. Blackledge & Sons had a small chain of bakers shops and this one seems to be the most likely location (on the corner of Canterbury Street). (The only other possibility could be Great Crosshall Street). I am not sure what the boy of the left is carrying – maybe a bunch of flowers for his mum.
The second photograph is of Bentley’s bookshop in Shaw’s Brow/William Brown Street (on the site of where the Technical School – now part of Liverpool Museum – was built a few years later).