St Martin’s Cottages, 1954
St Martin’s Cottages, 1973
Housing is once again top of the political agenda (or near to the top if one excludes the European referendum, immigration and austerity measures) and so it should be. The population projections for Britain should be giving politicians nightmares – particularly in overheated London (where there could be a 40,000 shortage of school places within the decade). Too few new houses have been built and the cost of those available is out of the reach of most young people.
Of course, as with most things, nothing is new. Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century faced its own population explosion (mainly from Ireland) and the result was chronic overcrowding in slum housing (with thousands crammed into insanitary cellars). Disease was rife but the laissez-faire politics of the time made it impossible for local authorities to spend ratepayers money on practical solutions. That was until the Liverpool Sanitary Amendment Act of 1864 gave the Council special powers.
The first project was St Martin’s Cottages, a development of 124 dwellings opened in 1869. This was one, if not the first, municipal ventures of its kind. Hardly an earth-shattering initiative but a significant piece of history (the next Liverpool involvement was 16 years later in 1885 with Victoria Square – see my post of 13 August 2010 – which added a further 282 dwellings. In fact, by 1900, all the Council initiatives only added about 700 new dwellings).
The legacy of bad housing still persists. I am astonished by how generation after generation has had to endure substandard conditions at a time when Britain has generated so much wealth. St Martin’s Cottages were, in fact, condemned before the War but I can remember visiting an old man there in the mid-1970s, shortly before they were demolished in 1977.
My two pictures throw up a question. The 1954 block has a nameplate identifying the building as St Martin’s Cottages but the building is clearly only three storeys. To my knowledge the only blocks built were four storeys (bottom photograph). The building style is clearly the same but where was this smaller block? Can anyone throw any light on this?
Finally, I will be at the Look 15 Photobook fair at the Bluecoat Art Centre this Sunday (31st). If you are interested in photography, there are some interesting publishers attending and you can also catch Tricia Porter’s exhibition of her Liverpool 8 photographs.
Earle Road, 1952
St James Place, 1952
Shaw Street, 1952
Driving up Smithdown Road yesterday, I was impressed by the new Archbishop Blanch school that is rapidly nearing completion. Once the site is finished and landscaped, it will greatly improve the street. I have watched as rows of terraces have been demolished to make way for the school and was hoping, at the time, that the cleared space would become open space, offering a fine view of St Dunstan’s church on Earle Road (the church was built with the patronage of the Earle family , who owned the Spekelands estate on which it stands). The church is an impressive landmark (although a bit dingy inside) and can be seen in the top photograph of Earle Road in 1952, when it was a much more vibrant community.
The Earle Road photograph was in a group of other 1952 images, so I thought it would be interesting to post them together. St James Place is a continuation of Park Road, before it joins Parliament Street. The street still retained a variety of businesses, with Alentoff’s (fruiterers) prominent on the right (number 39). Next door was Leonard Thompson (dentist) with Excel Cleaners next to him. Further down were Peter Curtis’s barbers shop with its striped pole), Sami Morris – another dentist, Scott and Prescott, monumental masons, W F Bevan & Co., auctioneers and Charles Jones, sadler. A fascinating mix of trades in a short stretch.
The photograph of Shaw Street has the Collegiate School in the background but the overall impression is one of bleakness. I have always found the street depressing, perhaps because of the uniformity of the Georgian terraces (made worst by their abandonment). Hope University have greatly improved the outlook and some of the character of the original street remains.
A view from Everton c1960
From Everton Park 2015
I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the newly reopened Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The transformation is stunning, with fabulous new galleries making the most of their setting in Whitworth Park. The park is small but in a heavily populated area on the fringe of the university campus and Rusholme, it is an essential green lung. The new gallery enhances the space and reinforces the need for more creative uses of our cities.
Coincidentally, Professor Charlie Duff, a leading light in Baltimore’s regeneration, contacted me about the changes in landscape in post-War Liverpool. He visited a few years back and I took him to St George’s Church where I illustrated our visit with a series of photographs taken in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Looking over Everton Park, the changes were staggering. The rows of terraces were replaced by tower blocks in the 1960s, which in turn were demolished to create the park we have today. Charlie wanted to illustrate his talk to students at John Hopkins University with this sequence of changes, so I revisited the park and was delighted to see how far the trees had matured and how the landscape had taken shape. North Liverpool has had a poor hand dealt regarding open spaces and I hope that Everton Park is just a start towards the further greening of Liverpool.