Queens Road Board School 1974
Harrison Jones Primary School, West Derby Street, 1979
St James Secondary Modern, Alfred Street/St James Road, 1977
It is no great surprise to me that my posts on lost schools have generated a high response. For most of us, our school days were the times when we made our first real friendships, had our minds stretched a bit and enjoyed (or endured) organised sport and other activities. Sad, therefore, that the places of such enduring memories have routinely been demolished, as is the case of the three schools featured above.
I have mentioned before the potential of a book about Liverpool’s schools – no more than a photograph and a potted history. Their history reflects the changing shifts in the city’s population. Inner city schools such as Harrison Jones and St James Secondary Modern lost their catchment area as the centre became depopulated in the 1960s and 70s. Built at a time when Liverpool’s population was over 750,000, they became redundant as it dropped to below 500,000.
The Board Schools are particularly interesting. To quote the internet: ‘Schools under the control of locally elected School Boards were made possible by the 1870 Education Act. Drafted by William Forster, Education Minister in the government headed by William Gladstone, the act stated that any area which voted for it could have a school board. These new board schools could charge fees but they were also eligible for government grants and could also be paid for out of local government rates.
Boards provided an education for the five to ten age group. In some areas, board school pioneered new educational ideas. For example, the London School Board introduced separate classrooms for each age group, a central hall for whole-school activities and specialist rooms for practical activities. In Bradford, Fred Jowett and Margaret McMillan pioneered the idea of free school meals for working-class children and, in Brighton, Catherine Ricketts developed the idea of increasing attendance rates by hiring women to visit mothers in their homes to explain the benefits of education. School boards came to an end with the passing of the 1902 Education Act.’
Liverpool had many board schools but, sadly, most of them, like Queens Road Board School above, have been demolished – the latest being Beaufort Street Board School only a few years ago.
St Philip’s Band of Hope, 1910
When selecting photographs for my blog, I always look for images with a story behind them, whether topical or historical. Sometimes, as with today’s post, the topical and historical come together to add greater meaning.
The subject is alcoholism, a blight on society for the last three centuries. From the gin mania of the eighteenth century through to today’s grim statistics, alcohol has blighted the lives of millions. The harsh reality of the Industrial Revolution drove countless men and women into cheap alehouses to find some solace from life, nearly always to the detriment of their children, who could not escape the brutality of life so easily.
In 1847, a Leeds clergyman, Jabez Cunniclif, was shocked by the death of a young worker and decided to promote total abstinence from alcohol and aimed his efforts at children, who he hoped could be educated about the evils of drink. By 1855, the Band of Hope went national and the message of temperance attracted new followers throughout Britain. Remarkably, by 1935, the society had 3 million members (reflecting also the Prohibition movement in America). Culturally, being drunk in public was totally unacceptable and the idea of sobriety was universally upheld.
By the 1950s, however, cultural values had shifted and, increasingly, the idea of ‘signing the pledge’ (the commitment Band of Hope members made to abstain from alcohol) was seen as eccentric. The society rebranded itself Hope UK and took on a wider remit to tackle drug as well as drink abuse, and is still active in encouraging individuals – especially children and young people – to choose to make healthy choices about using substances. This is called “Primary Prevention” because the aim is to stop drug use before it starts.
Back to the photograph, which shows dozens of smiling children belonging to St Philip’s Band of Hope (Sheil Road) celebrating winning the 1910 Challenge banner. At the back, banners proudly display previous winners: Liverpool winning in 1894, 1896, 1898, 1900, 1902, 1903 and 1905. Manchester only managed two wins, in 1907 and 1908, although I cannot imagine a similar rivalry to match that of today’s football obsession.
Today, some might look at the photograph as somewhat quaint and the idea of temperance bizarre. Others might feel that the idea of actively promoting sobriety is not such a bad idea when the cost of alcohol abuse on our society is so high.
I started off the Streets of Liverpool blog back in January 2010 with this picture of three boys and asked the question: Whatever happened to the Likely Lads? Now, after nearly three years, I have got the answer and a surprising one at that. A message on my answerphone at work revealed all. Bob Doyle, approaching his 65th birthday, had been browsing in The Book Clearance Centre in St John’s Market (the best bookshop for local history in Liverpool), when he stumbled across The Streets of Liverpool book. There, on the front cover was Bob – the tall boy on the right hand side – with two mates. The boy on the far left he identified as Johnny Flood – who later joined the Merchant Navy and died some twenty years ago. He was less sure about the small boy in the centre and will get back to me with more information.
Bob lived in a one-bedroomed house in Hutton Street, off Athol Street. He shared a bed with his parents and sister, with an army great-coat as a blanket. His father worked as a docker when he could get work and times were tough. Bob did the rounds of local primary schools, including St Anthony’s, St Silvester’s and Ashfield Street, but was clever enough to pass the Eleven Plus and earn a place at St Edward’s College. From St Edward’s, he won a place to study Geography (and English) at Sheffield University and returned to Liverpool to complete 30 years teaching at St Edward’s as a geography teacher known to generations of pupils as ‘Docker’ Doyle. (Bob says his moniker came about early in his career when pupils reacted with surprise to his strong Liverpool accent. “I’m from Liverpool and my father was a docker – and I’m proud of that” Bob told them – and so he became ‘Docker Doyle’).
Bob has promised to tell me more – but he did add that he thinks the photograph was taken on the corner of Hankin Street and Cranmer Street.
The timely mention of The Streets of Liverpool book brings me neatly around to my promotional plug. Volume Two arrived from the printers today and is another collection of photographs and blogs from the last year and a half (with additional previously unpublished items). Obviously the ideal present for Christmas – it is available from The Book Clearance Centre, Waterstones etc and directly from Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/1908457120/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new).
Lander Road is a short road between Linacre Lane and Webster Street, not an area I am well-acquainted with. I was about to make the ill-judged remark that the school had probably long-gone but a check on Google satellite revealed that it is still there, although probably in a new building. I have commented before that an illustrated book on Liverpool schools would make an important addition to the bookshelves of those interested in local history – after all, we have all been through the system and most of us have happy memories, particularly of junior school. Looking at the top photograph, there is, perhaps, one girl who is not having her best day.
I can’t imagine her parents wanting to shell out for a print! What is noticeable is that the children are dressed in their best and a look at my 1910 Gore’s Directory reveals a solid aspiring working-class area with joiners, plumbers, mariners, tram guards, carters, tanners and dock gatesmen among the trades represented on Lander Road. Even the teachers have made an extra effort, particularly in the bottom photograph of girls exercising in the school yard.
Liverpool’s cemeteries are fascinating places, where the famous lie next to the forgotton, and the infamous next to the virtuous. Anfield Cemetery is no exception. It will be 150 years old next year and its imposing gate piers on Priory Road are (in Quentin Hughes’s words) ‘a fitting announcement for the final journey.’ Wander around and you will find the graves of Liverpool’s legendary managers Bill Shankly and Joe Fagan; one of England’s greatest barefist boxers, Jem Mace; James Maybrick, husband of Florence Maybrick, who was found guilty of his murder and served 15 years in gaol before release (he was more recently named as Jack the Ripper in suspect diaries found in Liverpool); and Bessie Braddock, the larger than life Labour firebrand. Look more closely at other gravestones and the names of those who never made the headlines predominate – which brings me to a fascinating email from Alex Robertson in response to the last blog about the Liverpool’s Seamen’s Orphanage. Alex wrote:
Having seen the photo on your blog of the Seamen’s Orphanage I thought you may be interested in the story of one of the inmates. The information was obtained during family history research.
Elizabeth Mitchell Ure (1882 – 1898)
Elizabeth was the seventh child born to Thomas Ure and Mary Ure (nee Robertson) on 28 July 1882. The family were living at 27 Woodbine Street, Liverpool when her father Thomas, a seaman was drowned off the Australian coast in May 1891. Her mother died a few months later in November, leaving Elizabeth an orphan at the age of 9. Her eldest brother, the only sibling that was married, Thomas and his wife Margaret took her in. She was attending Daisy Street School. After two years with her brother and his wife, the situation must have changed because, in June 1893, Thomas applied to the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution for Elizabeth to be admitted.
Thomas had to produce Elizabeth’s birth certificate, their parents’ marriage certificate, list her brothers and sisters and their ages and give reasons for her admission. He also had to give the name and owners of the ship from which their father drowned and he stated that his father, Thomas Ure senior, had sailed from the port of Liverpool for 35 years prior to his drowning. Elizabeth was examined by the orphanage medical officer and Thomas had to sign that she had been vaccinated against smallpox, had never had fits and was “free from troublesome habits during the night.” The application was supported by Allen Bros and Co., who were shipowners and trustees of the orphanage.
After two months the application for admission was approved and in August 1893 Elizabeth left her brother’s family in Walton Breck Road and her old school for a new life at the orphanage. Elizabeth would have been given domestic training at the orphanage prior to being placed in domestic service on leaving. Tragically she suffered two attacks of typhoid fever and died at the orphanage aged 15 on 15 May 1898. She was buried along with other children who died at the orphanage at Anfield cemetery in a double plot. There is a headstone with the names of all the children laid to rest there.
Elizabeth Ure’s name is half way down
The sad, short lives of more orphans
Peter Ackroyd, the noted biographer, likened walking on London’s pavements to walking on skin. I thought that was a clever way of capturing the human history of a city beneath the stone artefacts left behind. Walking the streets of Liverpool, I can understand the pull of the past – even if Liverpool’s history cannot match that of our capital city. My fascination with photographs is not simply with the changing shape of the urban landscape but with the people who made it come to life.
The photographs I have posted today are a good example of forgotten times and lives. The building is still there on Orphan Drive alongside Newsham Park, although derelict and waiting for a new use. Designed by that great Liverpool architect, Alfred Waterhouse, it was opened in 1874 to house some of the hundreds of orphaned boys and girls. By 1899 there were 321 children in the orphanage, while 508 were receiving outdoor relief in the form of monetary grants and clothing. Children of all religious denominations were assisted, with preference given to orphans of British seamen connected with the Port of Liverpool.
I think the photographs of the three classes pre-date the Newsham Park building. In 1869, the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution opened in temporary rented accommodation in Duke Street, and by the end of that year there were 46 boys and 14 girls in residence. The success of the orphanage persuaded the Council to give land in Newsham Park for a purpose-built institution but the building in the background of the three photographs suggests the earlier temporary accommodation. The photographs were taken by Simon Kruger, who had a studio at 171 Park Road in 1871.
I bought the three photographs together, which suggests they belonged to one person. Perhaps in each photograph is a member of the same family: three siblings facing an uncertain future as orphans. I imagine they were treasured before being passed on to the next generation and then the next until their family name was finally lost.
Strawberry Field, 1967
I live only a stone’s throw from Mendips, John Lennon’s home on Menlove Avenue. I moved into the area some 30 years ago and have watched with amazement how the number of people visiting has grown in recent years. In the late 1970s, I sold all of my Beatles’ memorabilia thinking their day had passed and it was time to cash in. A bad mistake! My fliers and programmes have shot up in value 20-fold and the passion for the Fab Four goes on and on. In the early days, it was just the occasional Japanese tourist wandering along, looking bemused at the unmarked semi. Now it is coach and taxi tours from early morning to late at night. The Beatles might have left Liverpool in their first flush of fame but the city has certainly benefited from them ever since.
Strawberry Field(s) is just behind Mendips and was John Lennon’s childhood playground. The top photograph was taken in 1967 when, perhaps, the group’s most haunting record was released. John would have been more than familiar with the austere Gothic pile, for it was a Salvation Army home from 1934. Every year, they would hold a garden party to which the young John would eagerly look forward to. In reality it was a grim place to bring up children and it was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by a more family friendly home (although only slightly in my personal experience). That too was eventually closed in 2005 and is now just a meeting place for the Salvation Army.
The nearest the public get is the splendid set of gates, splattered with graffiti by visitors from around the world. The view is largely of undergrowth and trees and is rather romantic. Had the original house survived, it would have added a rather melancholic background. However, I am not one to regret its passing. Like many other old children’s homes such as its once close neighbour Woolton Vale, it hid much sadness behind its doors.
For the time being, here is my ‘final’ post about Arab, that peculiar book about street life in the early years of the twentieth century. The book is illustrated by author, Andie Clerk’s strange drawings of his childhood, drawn from memory some sixty years later. A typical one is of boys and girls benefiting from the refreshing water of the Steble Fountain outside the Walker Art Gallery. The caption reads St John’s Fountain, we’d swim there weather and goms out of sight permitting.
The book is punctuated by Scouse slang he used at the time (there is a short glossary at the end of the book):
arab … street kid
gink … wrong ‘un
gom … policeman
mopus … a farthing, or small coin
plushbums … rich folk
yen … a homosexual
mugarly … food
mumtip … payment to keep quiet
rolling kids – kids who go stealing
A typical anecdote from the book: As young kids we’d been drunk many a time. Sailors, if in money, would pour stuff down us, me and Rhuie anyway, not so much Jim, he’d slaat it. We’d take all they’d give us and soon couldn’t stand or know what what they did with us. We’d wake up in some dirty place in a horrible mess. Just as there are drinking fountains everywhere so were there horse troughs … generally made of stone, long, much like a bath and as deep. We’d find such a trough, water passing through it all the time and wash ourselves and our rags in it and shiver while the things dried on us.
All very dramatic and direct stuff, even if badly put together without any structure. If it is accurate, it is possible the only account of a childhood living barefoot on the streets of Liverpool. (The Irish slummy, Pat O’Mara, was slightly ‘better healed’).
Here, unfortunately, I have problems. I have written already how I have identified Andie Clerk as Francis Peers, born into middle-class prosperity in Staffordshire, his father a wealthy vicar educated at Oxford. In 1901, he was still living in Staffordshire but then the trail goes cold. The 1911 Census has no record of either his father, mother or himself and his two brothers. He mentions joining the army in 1913, fighting as a sergeant at the Somme and being discharged in 1928. Again, a trawl through army record of the First World War reveal no record of him (did he use another pseudonym?). Finally, he mentions ordination in 1928 by the Bishop of Liverpool. Again there is no record in Crockfords, the listing of the clergy. Yet his letter to the Manchester Evening News in 1966 is signed Rev. Frank Peers, acting curate of St Thomas’s, Bedford, Leigh. His death is recorded as 1984, in Liverpool, at the age of 87.
So the life of Frank Peers is still an enigma, worthy of further research. For those wishing to find copies of his books, Liverpool Record Office has a full set: in addition to Arab, he wrote I have been young and now are old (1973), The Christmas Story (1974), Unquenchable Fire (1975), Then and Now (1976) and Suffer Little Children (1978). Disjointed, repetitive and imbued with Christian sentiment, they are, nevertheless a fascinating series of anecdotes about a black chapter in Liverpool’s history when childhood poverty blighted the city.
The photograph, today, is of a bandaged and barefoot kid posing on one of the pillars at St George’s Hall.
In my last post, I briefly summarised my research into the author of Arab. The named author of the book published in 1971 is Andie Clerk but that is not his real name. There were a few clues – he joined the army in 1913 and was discharged in 1928. He was then ordained as a priest and left Liverpool. The only other possible lead was that he had lived in the Trowbridge Street area, off Brownlow Hill. His recollections of streetlife, earning pennies by begging, selling papers, sleeping with sailors, offered no facts worth following up.
Having searched the diocese records for around 1928, I came up with a blank. Most of the priests had degrees or were the wrong age. Then I re-read the preface to Arab and there was a letter reproduced from a Mrs Dearden of Rochdale dated 12th October 1966:
I am an old age pensioner, age 73, living alone and my son brings he evening paper every morning after he has finished reading it the night before. Well what a thrill I got reading of your Ragged School …
She finishes off: Anyway it was your name what thrilled me. You see my maiden name was the same ..
A quick check revealed that the only evening paper in the area was the Manchester Evening News, so I made the trip to the Manchester Local History Library in Deansgate and started my trawl through October 1966. Within minutes, I had my answer. There was a letter and drawing by Reverend Francis Peers. I had my man! Now to fill in the gaps.
Using www.ancestry.co.uk, I quickly established the basic details and first surprise. In the book, he had stated, I was born somewhere in Liverpool. In fact he was born in 1896 at Rowley Regis in Staffordshire and was still there listed in the 1901 Census with his mother, Fanny, and two brothers. His father, Herbert James Peers (1865-1943) was listed as living at the Vicarage in Bertswich, Shropshire, as a visitor. The second surprise was that Herbert James was a reverend, educated at Worcester College, Oxford and vicar of Blackheath (Worcester) 1889-90, Stone (Staffs) 1891-93 and Birchfield (1893-96). Now the photograph of Francis Peers in the last blog made sense. He was smartly dressed because his family was far from impoverished.
The next piece of research answered the question. Reverend Herbert James’s father was Henry Robert Peers (1817-1893) who was living at 6 Bold Place Liverpool in 1871 as a retired secretary living off his dividends. These must have been substantial for, in the 1881 Census, he had moved to a villa in exclusive Elmsley Road in Mossley Hill.
Additional work on Reverend Herbert James revealed he left his post in the church in 1896, three years after inheriting his father’s fortune as the sole heir. From this point onwards, the last clue of family life is the birth of his third son, Theodore, in Dudley in 1900. After this, the Census of 1901 suggests he had left the family for his wife, Fanny, is named head of house. I can only surmise that the inheritance of a significant sum of money had turned his head and he decided a humdrum life in the church was no longer for him. The only two additional points of reference are from a 1929 Crockfords (the listing of clergymen), which gives an address courtesy of a bank in the Isle of Man and an intriguing mention in a passenger list of a ship arriving from Buenos Aires in 1935 which listed his country of residence as Monte Carlo.
So Francis Park (aka Andie Clerk) while not exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth came into the world in a respectable middle class family in a small Staffordshire town. My next post will reveal what I have unearthed about the barefoot kid’s journey through life.
Today’s photograph is a bit of a mystery to me. It is of a drinking fountain in a Liverpool street but I cannot place it. My immediate thought was the Dandy Pat fountain in Scotland Place – but it is completely the wrong shape. Any clues?
I never get enough time for proper research. I have plenty of subjects on my list (such as the 1919 Police Strike), all potential book projects, but not at a stage I would like them to be.
Years ago, I bought a small booklet titled Arab: A Liverpool Street Kid Remembers by Andie Clerk. Self-published in 1971, it was a collection of reminiscences of a barefoot childhood at the turn of the twentieth century. Last year, I was prompted to assess it again having re-read Frank Shaw’s My Liverpool in which he has a chapter titled The Lollipop Man. Shaw describes how he was approached by Andie Clerk to put together his autobiography: ‘As a lad of 12, he earned his first coppers here (Lime Street), and behind in the warren of shabby streets, he wandered round as a barefoot boy. Nearby is the crossing he now guards as a lollipop man. Aged 73, he is a retired parson and lives alone in a small house in an Everton street which, if not exactly a slum, is shabby, indifferent and without grace.’
Frank did his best to try and put some style into the jumble of recollections but he struggled with the lack of structure and the absence of characterisation. The finished book was sent out to publishers but Andie Clerk grew impatient and decided to publish himself, adding his own slightly bizarre illustrations.
My interest suitably aroused, I revisited Arab with a view to possible re-publishing it. The first problem – who was Andie Clerk? The name is a pseudonym and clues are difficult to find. He was 12 in 1909 according to the book, so he was born in 1897. In 1913, he joined the army, fought at the Somme (as a sergeant) and left the army in 1928. He was then ordained on the prompting of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But who was he?
The book begins: ‘I was born somewhere in Liverpool. My father was no good. Like Judas he has gone to his own place. Of him I will say no more. My mother was just the opposite, so very good. This too is all I will say of her.’ On the facing page is a photograph of Andie as a young boy.
Underneath is the caption: A barefoot kid who sold papers on the Liverpool streets poshed up for this very early photograph.
So my research began to find out the identity of Andie Clerk and in my next post I will reveal my fascinating progress. The main photograph is of a group of ‘arabs’ enjoying a summer’s day by the Mersey in about 1910.