September, 2011 Archives

Victoria Street, 1965

Hackins Hey, 1965

One of the main reasons for starting my blog was to get more people involved in discussing Liverpool as seen through photography and to encourage greater sharing of collections. There is a wealth of material out there and the internet offers an ideal opportunity to involve a wide network of people. I have my own ideas of where I hope it will go and will be putting forward a plan for the future before long.

The response I have received is beyond my expectations. Sadly, I have not managed to meet everyone’s requests for images but I hope to rectify that in coming months. I know it might seem as if my collection is limitless but many of the photographs I have been asked about (of tenements/courts and backstreets in particular) are more likely to be found in the City Engineer’s Collection at Liverpool Record Office and they must be approached rather than me.

Today’s two images were, again, taken by Pat Weekes, who ran the memorable Merseyside Collectors’ Centre in Temple Court. The first image is of happy Liverpool supporters returning from the great FA Cup celebration held at the Town Hall. The soot-blackened buildings are very much in evidence. With the exception of Watson Prickard’s building on the corner of North John Street, all the buildings have survived and look much better for having been cleaned. The second photograph is of another street that remarkably has survived largely unchanged. Hackins Hey has no great architecture but it has the atmosphere of an older, lost Liverpool.



Two photographs of Lime Street taken from the same elevated position on St George’s Plateau and quite probably on the same day. The day is easy to pinpoint – it is July 12th and the Dingle Orange Lodges are heading to Exchange station for their annual bash in Southport. Pat Weekes has taken his time. Having set his camera, he has also captured the fine sweep of what was once St George’s Place – a natural curve of buildings that flowed down towards Roe Street. Only for one further year because they were to make way for the angular, unsympathetic contours of the new St John’s Precinct – designed without any sympathy for the grand setting of St George’s Hall.

You know my grumbles well enough by now – so enjoy two fine photographs of the 1960s.

The death of Ginger McCain caught my attention last week. He was, along with Red Rum of course, widely regarded as the main reason we still have the Grand National today. It is inconceivable to think that the race almost disappeared in the late 1960s. Under the ownership of Miriam Topham, the future of the racecourse had been constantly in doubt. The stand and course needed urgent funding in the days when there was no television money and commercial sponsorship on the table. The Tophams had owned the lease since 1848 but their stewardship was clearly coming to an end, although Grand Prix motor racing had been fairly successfully introduced during the 1950s.
1965 was a low point. Miriam Topham had had a major row with the BBC over live coverage and only backed down at the last moment. The race itself was won by Jay Trump (the first to be American owned, trained and ridden) but, judging by the photograph by Pat Weekes, there was a pretty thin attendance.
Thanks to Red Rum and Ginger McCain, the race recaptured its popularity and, with sponsorship and television money flooding in, it is now an international event watched throughout the world. Shame about the motor racing – what a boon that would have been to the local economy and profile if Formula One was staged here.

Ask any teenager in 1963 where they would most like to be and there was only one answer – Liverpool. But – when your grandmother starts strutting her stuff on the dance floor, it’s time for a quick exit. The Cavern re-opened, after shutting for financial reasons, in July 1967. Harold Wilson, the then-Prime Minister cut the ribbon with Jimmy Saville, Bessie Braddock and Ken Dodd in tow. Enough warning there to say this place is no longer cool. The centre of the creative universe just a few years ago had become yet another dull club living on past reputations.
The Swinging Sixties had a massive liberating effect on music, the arts and fashion. Sadly Miss Wartski seems to have hit the wrong tone. Lesson one in marketing – get a good, memorable name. Wartski somehow doesn’t sound quite right.
I am not sure where the shop was – I think Bold Street – but thanks again to Pat Weekes for two memorable images.

Hope Street is one of the few Liverpool streets that has improved considerably in the last forty years. Buildings have been cleaned up, the completed Cathedral makes a dramatic ‘ending’ to the streetscape, the Georgian buildings have found new uses and even newcomers, like the Hope Street Hotel, fit is seamlessly. Last weekends Hope Street Festival saw the area come alive, with dozens of food and craft stalls, live entertainment and open buildings, including the Masonic Hall. Having watched the Queen Mary depart last Thursday to fireworks and the cheers of thousands, it really does feel as if Liverpool is reclaiming its crown as England’s most exciting city.
What we need is more of these events, not paid out of the public purse but by self-interested businesses and organisations who all benefit. Liverpool has never been short of imagination, what these festivals and activities prove is that there is a willing audience prepared to give a good idea a chance.

I am very fond of the Bluecoat Chambers. I did, after all spend over 17 years there, running my different businesses. One thing that divided opinion was the Saturday art market held on the railings. How long it had been there, I don’t know but it was free pitch for any artist willing to brave the elements.
You didn’t have to like the art. Much of it was too garish to my eye but it brought a welcome dash of colour to the rather drab School Lane.
There were more than a few in the Bluecoat who wanted the artfest to disappear. It brought no money to the building and it probably upset artistic sensibilities. Whatever the reason, possibly the refurbishment which closed the building down for three years, or maybe the economic climate which made standing in the cold and wet rather unattractive if takings were low, the artists have gone.
I would love to see a determined effort to encourage them back. Liverpool city centre has changed almost beyond recognition; as a tourist destination in particular. Walking around, you are constantly aware of the different languages – French, Spanish, Italian, Polish etc. – and it feels that, at last, Liverpool has broken through into the consciousness of mass tourism. There is a constant need to add to the visitor experience and this is one (free) way of promoting the city and giving artists a chance to earn a living.

There is no doubt what the celebrations are about. The slides taken by Pat Weekes are all dated 14 May 1967 – an auspicious day for all Roman Catholics since it marked the consecration of the new cathedral. St Andrew’s Gardens, or the Bullring, in its shadow, made the most of the occasion with a giant street party and some form of theatrical entertainment.
The hardened news photographer had long left after taking photographs of all the going-ons at the cathedral but for the enterprising amateur photographer, the real action was elsewhere, as Pat’s photographs show. Photographs of official events are invariably dull – usually choreographed line-ups of dignitaries and staged events. Historically they provide a record but there is usually much more fun to be captured away from the main action – from children tucking into jelly and jam tarts to earnest priests explaining ecumenical matters to respectful parishioners.

Liverpool’s churches come in all shapes and sizes and most of them found their way into David Lewis’s Churches of Liverpool.
Some missed the cut and the Sailors’ Church in Wellington Road was one of them. I spent a good hour trying to locate the tin church and fortunately found another photographic reference. There was another church in Wellington Road, a Free Methodist chapel at which Silas Hocking, the author of Her Benny was an early minister. The Sailors’ Church is of a different order to that once fine Italianate building and presumably drew its congregation from the ships docking in the South Docks.
Liverpool had a long tradition of sailors’ chapels and churches, using no longer seaworthy ships as well as buildings like the one above. It is not a pretty building but the photographer, Pat Weekes, has captured it for posterity (and for future inclusion in the revised Churches of Liverpool.

61 Lime Street, c1912

Church Street, 1928

In a much earlier post, I wrote that a history of shops in Liverpool was overdue. There is plenty to write about from the first purpose-built department store in Europe (in Compton House where M & S is now), the great Welsh retailers David Lewis, Owen Owens and TJ Hughes, the Vestey’s and their Dewhurst butchers chain, the once-exclusive Bold Street and so on.
Liverpool with its extremes of wealth and poverty supported a wide range of shops catering for those at either end and the ones in the middle. The first Woolworth’s store was in Church Street and Harrods were close to opening their only store outside of London on the site then occupied by St Peter’s church. They pulled out and Woolworth moved across the road and built the fine shop now occupied by Top Shop.
Marks and Spencer were another company attracted to the city and they opened a shop in Lime Street in 1903. The top photograph is of a slightly later date because The Picture House (later renamed The Futurist) built in 1912 is clearly visible next door. The facade above the shop front is showing signs of age – and it is no better today.
M & S had opened their first store in Manchester in 1894 and quickly built up a reputation for their high principles, buying only British produced goods and offering a no-quibbles returns policy that was unique at that time. In 1928, the company moved into a substantial part of Compton House and have remained there ever since. The store was extended in the 1970s and a further extension to front Williamson Square has been planned but not, as yet, carried out. Hopefully, the development will take place before too long and help revamp what is now a rather poor quality city square.