Myrtle Street Baptist Church
Driving up Hardman Street today, I noticed work was progressing rapidly on what was for a long time a car park facing the Philharmonic pub. In one of my earliest posts, I uploaded a photograph of the church that once stood there – Myrtle Street Baptist Church. For a Nonconformist church, it is surprisingly ornate – given the generally subdued architecture favoured by Baptists.
The church opened in 1844 and was very popular because of its charismatic preacher, Hugh Stowell Brown: so popular that the church was extended in 1862 to create more room for his followers. Folklore has it that the church was bombed during the last War. (I use folklore very loosely here – it is astonishing how short communal memory can be). In fact it was demolished in the 1930s – although its vacant site was used to site an air raid shelter.
I doubt the current development will lift souls either architecturally or spiritually. It is an important corner with a palace to culture and a gin palace on facing corners. A palace for students? We shall see.
Bombed Out, 1941
The daily news from Iraq, Syria and Gaza only reinforces the fact that there is no glamour in war. The targeting of non-combatants goes back to the earliest times but WW2 was the first major conflict in which civilian casualties exceeded those of the military. The German blitzkrieg (or lightning strike) was introduced as a tactic to overwhelm an enemy by massive bombing attacks on towns and cities.
Liverpool suffered more than any other city outside of London. There were 3134 fatalities in Liverpool and Bootle. Birmingham suffered 2147, Glasgow 710 and Manchester 611.
The Blitz could have succeeded but, as the photograph above shows, the reaction of the affected people was defiant and stoical. The family shown smile at the photographer as they carry the meagre belongings salvage from the wreckage of their house.
Unfortunately, the street name is impossible to decipher and I cannot name the location. The young girl will be in her 80s now if she is still around. I hope someone can identify the family.
The current humanitarian disaster in Iraq brought to mind one of my most poignant and interesting images – that of a group of emigrants waiting by the quayside in Liverpool. I am speculating that they are Russian or Polish Jews fleeing persecution in their homelands. (The photograph is probably late 1880s).
It is estimated that over nine million emigrants left Liverpool for the New World. Many left for economic reasons, leaving behind poverty in their European homeland to take their chances in America. Others, probably the ones in the photograph above, were fleeing for their lives. Anyone who visited the fascinating Chagall exhibition at the Tate last year will be familiar with the story of how Jews in Russia were confined to the Pale of Settlement – a geographical area covering an area that is now Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. Frequent anti-semitic pogroms and purges left Jews in fear of their lives and more than two million Jews fled Russia between 1880 and 1920.
Sadly, I can add no more information about the photograph. There are no names – only desperate faces. The two details below give some idea of what it must be like to flee with little more than the clothes on your back.
St John’s Market/Parker Street/Elliot Street 1964
St George’s Place 1960s
Standing in the throngs outside St George’s Hall last Saturday, I tried in vain to photograph the giants’ progress through the city. Too many people and I was in the wrong place. Standing opposite that awful advertising hoarding that shrouds the Lime Street side of St John’s Market, however, reminded me of a newspaper cutting I had saved for a future blog. New Giant in City shouts the Echo headline. But this is for 22 September 1962 and the giant was a dual proposal for the Ravenseft development to demolish the old St John’s Market area and another scheme to replace Central Station (and the adjoining Lyceum Club) with a 30 storey tower block (the Ranelagh Centre).
These were the swashbuckling days of out with the old and in with the new. Liverpool was to be modernised and history was bunk.
Fortunately the Ranelagh Centre scheme did not progress as planned, although Central Station was demolished and an awful low level development replaced it (the Lyceum was saved thanks to Michael Heseltine). What I find interesting reading the Echo is the unconditional support the newspaper always gives for such schemes. There is no hint of any sense that anything is being lost – simply that all such developments are good for a modern city. Ironically, the Chairman of the Development and Planning Committee was reported as saying: “We have been late in getting ahead, but the architects have possibly learned from some of the mistakes already brought about in other parts of the country and we have not only learned from them but have used it to advantage.” Lessons learned? That developers will promise the earth and fail to deliver, that shiny and new is not the same as good, that historic fabric can never be replaced?
In that context, yesterday’s decision to grant Heap Mill listed status is an interesting development. My fear is that the site will now be blighted because developers will walk away from the huge cost of any conservation project. It might appear my stance contradicts what I have written above but I do not think Heap Mill is a significant building and I would rather see the site redeveloped sympathetically. Oh dear! I am beginning to sound a bit like that Chairman of the Development Committee.