Last Sunday I took a couple of visitors around Liverpool, stopping at Pier Head for a short walk around.
The place was packed, a fair was in full swing and there was a great atmosphere – perhaps lacking the ferries so evident in the photograph but reminiscent of its Victorian heyday when it was the place to go for a promenade and to observe the shipping. (Until the 1980s, most of the docks were out of bounds and Pier Head was the only public point of access to the river).

Pier Head was also a favourite place for the Victorian commercial photographer. Crowds and boats were guaranteed particularly on a fine sunny day (the photograph was taken close to midday judging by the shadows). The detail is fascinating; it might be summer but most of the women are dressed in heavy black full length dresses apart from the two standing out in white. The ferries are full and, in the foreground, two boys are playing.

I am guessing the photograph was taken in the early 1890s. It is surprising to see so many sail ships
lined up on the right – these were their last years. The river is Liverpool’s greatest asset – no other city has such a magnificent stage. So much more can be done to enhance it – the modern buildings are uninspiring, particularly when set against the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings. Somewhere along the years, that confidence has been lost – epitomised by the fiasco of the Fourth Grace and the subsequent Mann Island development. The city deserves better.

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