December, 2014 Archives

Sledging-Sefton-Park

Sefton Park c1900

Sefton-Park-Cafe

Caf?, Sefton Park, c1900

First of all, my apologies for not having updated my blog before Christmas. I am in time to wish all those who have taken time to read it the very best for 2015. It has been very heartening to generate such a good response to my posts and I can assure everyone that there is plenty more to come – starting with these two photos of Sefton Park from over a century ago. The caf? must be the earliest version – I presume it was on the same site as the current one.
One of my hopes for 2015 is that the Mayor sees sense and abandons his plans to build on Sefton Meadows. It is a dreadfully short-sighted proposal which will destroy the integrity of the park. There is no shortage of brownfield land throughout the city and using up green belt is not the answer.
I appreciate the City Council has to make tough decisions but not all work to the long-term benefit of Liverpool. One classic example was the decision to rebuild the St John’s Market area – for a new St John’s Market and a ridiculously over-ambitious civic centre. The destruction of a largely Georgian and early Victorian network of narrow streets and interesting squares removed in one blow the heart of the city. Below are two reminders of what was lost.

Great-Charlotte-Street

Great Charlotte Street c1960

Looking down Great Charlotte Street, the sandstone building on the right is the Fish Market, designed by John Foster as an adjunct to the main St John’s Market of 1822. Beyond, to the left of the Royal Court, is the Stork Hotel in Queen Square. In the foreground, I was unaware that Liverpool had a branch of Kendall’s – I had assumed that it was a Manchester shop only.

Back-of-St-Johns

Roe Street c1960

This is a view of the back of St John’s Market. Picton made an interesting observation in his fascinating account of Liverpool’s history and architecture (published in 1873): To architectural merit it can hardly lay claim. The heavy carpentry of the roof and its division into numerous spans, give an air of lowness, almost of gloom. Allowance must be made for the period of its erection. As yet railway stations with vast iron roofs and enormous spans were things undreamt of. The comparison between the roofs of St John’s Market and Lime Street Station will show what a vast stride has been taken in five and forty years.
Fast foward the best part of a century and it would be hard to agree that vast strides were made in removing the whole area.

Bank-Smithdown

Martins Bank

Smithdown-CWHH

Liverpool Co-operative Society

Smithdown-Dacre-1976

Smithdown Road/Dacre Street

Smithdown Road is one of the most travelled roads in Liverpool. For generations of students, it was their familiar landscape on the way to and from the halls of residence in Mossley Hill. For most of us who live in the south end, it is a journey with its irregular points of interest: the Brookhouse pub, Toxteth Park Cemetery, and the long-disused Martins Bank at the junction with Tunnel Road and Lodge Lane. In 1966, it was still a functioning bank but by 1976, it was locked-up and up for sale. Just below it was a Liverpool Co-operative Society shop (also functioning in 1966) and, further down, Dacre Street and an already decaying row of shops.
Fortunately, the bank has survived but the rest of the road has been almost totally cleared to make way for what will be a new school for Archbishop Blanche. I had got quite used to the cleared site with the impressive St Dunstan’s Church highlighted against the cleared terraced streets. Another part of Liverpool has changed forever. I doubt too many people will mourn the loss of a few decayed terraces – they looked beyond salvation – and the school will no doubt become another familiar landmark (although to far fewer students once they have decamped to the city centre).

Tunnel-Road-1

Lock-ups, Tunnel Road

St-Catherine's-Tunnel-Road

St Catherine’s Church

Tunnel-Cinema

Former Tunnel Cinema

Tunnel-Road-Fruit_Veg-Depot

Fruit and Vegetable Depot

Driving along Tunnel Road last week, I was shocked to see the row of brick lock-ups which lined the east side of the road had been demolished, revealing a large area of railway land (presumably ready for a housing development). I do not know their history but have always assumed they must have been part of the original Edge Hill Station – the oldest working railway station in the world. They had been boarded up for as long as I can remember but they did represent a link to an older Liverpool and I could not allow their passing to go unnoticed.
Tunnel Road has undergone a transformation since the four photographs above were taken in 1973. Each photograph shows a piece of social and economic history of a once vibrant area. St Catherine’s church was a plain church, very much a working class place of worship. It was decommissioned in 1973 and survived for well over a decade before demolition. The cinema too has gone, although it had a final throw of the dice as a bingo hall. The elaborate gates of the Fruit and Vegetable Depot survived long after the Depot had ceased to operate. Again, I am do not know its history but presumably it was the servicing point for Queen Square and the central Liverpool markets in their heyday.
None of the buildings were of any architectural importance and their demise was almost inevitable, remnants of a Liverpool that has largely vanished. The 1970s was an immense period of change as the city contracted and was being re-shaped to accommodate a future (largely unsuccessful) vision of the future.