What a fantastic spectacle! The three day Sea Odyssey lived up to all the media build-up and, like the Giant Spider, brought out the crowds in their thousands. There have been negative comments – the money should have been spent on this, that or the other – but the same criticism always surfaces (remember the International Garden Festival being dismissed as a glorified garden centre in spite of attracting over 3 million visitors). For three days, the city has made international news, all of it positive, and its status as a ‘happening’ city continues to grow year on year.
But my post today is of a slightly tangential nature. What was particularly noticeable was the astonishing number of photographs being taken. It seemed as if everyone had a camera, mobile phone or, in a few cases, iPad. How many millions of photos were taken? More pertinently, how many of the images will survive over the next 100 years? The photograph below was taken in 1900 to celebrate the Relief of Mafeking during the Boer War. Colonel Robert Baden-Powell (who later founded the Boy Scouts) became a national hero when he led a force of 2,000 men and overcame the 5,000 strong Boer force who had held the small town for over seven months. The news was greeted with wild excitement in Britain and the celebration in Exchange Flags illustrates the patriotic response (the banner on the right proclaims Baden-Powell “We’ve come to stay”.
As far as I know, this is the only photograph to survive that commemorates the celebration. Can we be sure that our digital record of today has the same lifetime? I worry that, in spite of the proliferation of images, few will be archived in an accessible form. The first megapixel camera has only been with us since 1998 and digital photography has radically changed the way we take, look at and store photographs. It has been estimated that each one of us will collect over 50,000 images over our lifetimes but, unless they are probably organised and filed, it will be impossible to sort through such an immense volume of photographs. Interesting times indeed!
Royal visits to Liverpool are now so routine that only a few ardent royalists tend to turn out. Back in the nineteenth century, there were fewer visits and preparations were on a far grander scale. The photograph (and detail) above were taken on the occasion of the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales in September 1881 to open the newly built Alexandra Dock.
What I like about the photograph is that it has captured the excitement of the waiting crowd. On the left is St George’s Church (where the Victoria Monument is now). A grand arch has been erected to create a spectacular entrance to the Town Hall. The Graphic magazine covered the event and produced an illustration looking out from the Town Hall.
In the detail of the top image, a photographer can be seen sitting on a ladder in anticipation of a memorable photograph. Interestingly, The Graphic also has an illustration caption Photographers Going Home – with two urchins chasing the speeding carriage. Photographs of such events pre-1890 are surprisingly rare. There are quite a few of the key buildings such as the Town Hall, the Exchange and St George’s Hall but not of events such as this Royal occasion.
Houghton Street, 1964
Daisy Day, 1965
In May last year, I included a photograph of Houghton Street looking towards Clayton Square. The photograph today shows the street from the opposite direction looking down towards Williamson Square. Within a year, the whole site was cleared to make way for the new St John’s Market.
One shop caught my eye – Madame Foner’s corsetry shop. The shop relocated to Bold Street and, last year again, rather incongruously to the front courtyard of the Bluecoat Art Centre. The last move seems to have been unsuccessful and it has been replaced by a gift shop. Small shops come and go but Madame Foner has had a long lifetime for a specialist shop.
The second photograph is of a fundraising campaign for Merseyside hospitals. I only arrived in the city in 1970 and I cannot recall Daisy Days. The small girl dressed as a nurse would appear to be helping her dad.
Two more photos (and the last for the time being) from Pat Weekes. Would anyone else like to submit their photographs of old Liverpool? Any date, any subject – this is a perfect forum for getting them seen!
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.
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.
First of all, many thanks to all those who replied about the last post. Without any doubt, the church in the photograph is All Saints, Bentley Road (demolished in 1974).
Today’s photograph is of Coronation celebrations in Pitt Street. The scene is full of animation, in particular the group of children playing house in the foreground. They have made a kitchen out of a hole in the ground and borrowed a fireguard, table and teapot. The rest is all down to imagination. Behind the girl sitting on the right is a large builder’s mallet – so I guess the impromptu house was short-lived.
Will the next Coronation be celebrated so enthusiastically? That will be interesting.
You have to be over 60 to remember the Coronation. I was in Sheffield at the time and, along with thousands of other excited children stood for what seemed like hours only for a black limousine to flash past at 30 mph. So that was the Queen! At least we all got a small tin of chocolates and a crown (a five shilling coin to the unitiated) in a special plastic case. The chocolate soon went but I still have the crown, which is probably worth at least 50p today. My experience apart, it was a huge event for the nation and kickstarted the television age. Every village, town and city went overboard – with decorations, street parties and spectacular events.
The photograph of Barry Street shows the remarkable lengths local communities went to to mark the occasion. Barry Street is probably familiar to many Evertonians as it runs between Walton Road and Walton Lane close to Goodison. Will there be a repeat for the next coronation? I doubt it.