Over the years I have been writing my blog, the posts that create the highest response rates are hospitals and school. The former is mainly ex-nurses who trained and worked at the now demolished Northern Hospital (a very positive experience for most). The schools posts – there have been a number – have created their own Friends Reunited mini-sites. I wrote a long time ago that a photo book on Liverpool schools was well overdue. Perhaps I should have published one but the opportunity seems to have slipped by.
It is surprising how relatively short-lived most schools are. The raft of buildings built in the wake of the 1870 Elementary Education Act have largely disappeared. A small number have been replaced by more modern buildings and their names kept but most have simply vanished. Chatsworth Street School, pictured above is a rare survivor (although now called Smithdown Primary School). I pass it most days on my journeys up and down Upper Parliament Street and marvel at how it has managed to survive intact. Its neighbourhood has changed considerably in recent decades but the school is a constant presence. The Gothic-influenced building was built in 1874 for the School Board and is a rather unusual building for Liverpool with its pale sandstone facing. Having survived for nearly 150 years, hopefully it will continue to light up what has been a rather drab and desolate corner of the city.
First of all, apologies for a long absence which has been due to family circumstances. These are now behind me, so I am back with renewed energy. I will start going through the many requests I have received in the next couple of weeks.
The image above might surprise anyone born post-1953. On February 5th of that year, sweet rationing was abolished to the delight of children. According to newspapers, piggy-banks were emptied and shops were cleared out of stock in hours. Apparently, toffee apples, sticks of nougat and liquorice strips were the best sellers. Adults joined in, with 2lb boxes of chocolates and boiled sweets the favourites.
The photograph pre-dates this sugar rush. The sign states that this is their entire stock and no pre-orders can be taken in advance of the Saturday sale. How cruel for the three tots standing outside. From another perspective, with sugar such an issue today and with sweets available by almost every till in every shop, perhaps the idea of rationing might not be the worst idea for the sake of public health.
Marie with her mother and lodger (who Marie was clearly unhappy with)
Patsy with his pet duck, Oswald, and hen
Bobbie at home with her baby
I often get annoyed by the tiresome ‘enmity’ between Manchester and Liverpool. Football is tribal and the rivalry is understandable but I frequently talk to people who have an almost pathological hatred for the other city. Competition can fuel ambition but it can also hold back development. A united North is, in my eyes, far more powerful than a divided one. As someone who has spent all his life in three great Northern cities – Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool – I tend to see similarities rather than differences, positives rather than negatives.
In this light, I hope readers will forgive me for travelling 40 miles eastwards. Beeton Grove is in Levenshulme, near to the centre of Manchester. In the 1970s, Chris Hunt photographed the inhabitants of this wholly working-class terraced street in Manchester. However, the book is far more than a collection of great photographs because Chris also interviewed his subjects about their lives and hopes, giving a unique insight into life in a hard industrial city in the 1970s.
I only wish someone had done the same in Liverpool – although I am sure there would be many common factors in their lives. Beeton Grove is a very powerful statement and I have decided to turn the 100+ photographs and interviews into a book. Follow the link and find out more (and any support would be very gratefully received).
Harrington Board School, on the corner of Stanhope Street and Grafton Street, 1975
St Malachy’s School and Church, Beaufort Street, 1975
Beaufort Street County Primary, 1975
Parkhill County Primary, 1977
Windsor Street County Primary
Whenever I look through my collection of photographs of Liverpool in the 1970s (the decade I came to Liverpool), I am always amazed at the amount of change that has taken place in such a relatively short period of time – after all, forty years is within most of our lifetimes. When I arrived in 1970, the population of the city was 610,000. Now it is 464,000 (2011 Census). Going back further to 1931, the recorded population was 846,000: in 1961 it was 745,000. In other words, the demographic changes have been huge and the city has had to adjust in a relatively short period of time.
The casualties have been the many requirements of a more densely populated city: housing, industry, and public services such as hospitals and schools.
Schools have seen an incredible change, partly due to changes in education thinking as well as the plummeting school age population of the inner city. New schools have been built to replace crumbling Victorian board schools with the vacant buildings usually being demolished. Quite a few still survive and they are an essential part of our heritage. Universal education was heralded in with the Elementary Education Act of 1870 – which is one of the great milestones of social reform. Local authorities were legally obliged to step up their provision and the result, in Liverpool, was an impressive stock of well-built schools throughout the borough.
The photographs captured some of the many schools in the Dingle. Harrington Board School was one of Liverpool’s earliest schools (dating back to 1815 or earlier as Harrington Free School). The building was late nineteenth century (it was on the site of what is now Cain’s Brewery car park). I have no demolition or closure date but it must have been one of the largest primary schoolS in Liverpool. St Malachy’s survived as a school until 2010 (St Malachy?s church and school have recently been demolished and housing built on the site by Gleesons – thanks to Graham Calderbank for this information). Beaufort Street school, on the same stretch of road, was less fortunate and burnt down a few years after closing in 2000 (when it merged as a new school with Parkhill Primary (the new school has since closed down). I have fond memories of Beaufort Street Primary (the Bewey – the local pronunciation was Bewfort – not Bowfort). My wife taught there for many years and I often visited – and took photographs as it was about to close in 2000.
Windsor Street School was originally the Wesleyan Day and Sunday School. I don’t have a closing date but I do have photographs taken by Bert Hardy of Picture Post magazine as part of his feature about the British race relations in 1949. The playground is the roof area on the right (inside the railings). Can you imagine that being allowed today?
Nothing is more annoying than to have an unlabelled image that you know will take hours to locate. I thought this image might have been relatively easy to caption – a church in a square with a large warehouse with the prominent sign Wool Warehouse, a photographic engravers, a bakers on one corner and a pub on the other. Okay, a pub on the corner was not exactly a rarity in Liverpool but I reckoned the other features would be easy to place using my Gore’s 1910 Directory.
Not so easy, unfortunately, although I did have an idea of where it could be. The square is the clue. Liverpool had a few but it clearly did not fit most of those I knew. I took a stab at Pownall Square, off Tithebarn Street, and everything fell into place. The church is St Mary’s – a building by Augustus Welby Pugin, originally built in Edmund Street in 1845. In 1885, the Edmund Street site was needed for the expansion of Exchange Station, and the church was dismantled and reassembled in nearby Highfield Street. (The Catholic Almanac described is as ‘a grand monument of architectural skill’) (Thanks to David Lewis’s The Churches of Liverpool for this information). The church was destroyed in the Blitz and replaced by a fine modern building by Weightman and Bullen in 1953 that has, in turn, been pulled down for an office development.
The feature of the photograph that caught my eye is the playground in the square. Offering a very limited choice of seesaws and swings, it is the earliest image of such a provision I have found. Inner city Liverpool was home to tens of thousands of children who probably spent their leisure time roaming the streets, so to discover a purpose-built play area shows that there was an official awareness of the need for better facilities.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
It was only a month ago, I posted a set of photos by the master of photojournalism Thurston Hopkins. Sadly, within days, he passed away at the grand age of 101. I was privileged to have had a correspondence with him arising out of my book Picture Post on Liverpool, in which I included his magnificent series on the Liverpool slums. The assignment was never published; Picture Post proprietor, Edward Hulton, gave way to pressure from Liverpool City Council who were worried that the planned feature would paint them in a bad light. Ironically, the sequence won the following year’s coveted Encyclopaedia Britannica prize. The review in the British Journal of Photography (an august publication that has its roots in the original journal of Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association in the mid-nineteenth century). The reviewer wrote:
‘Here we have a set of 22 pictures of commonplace scenes; scenes which might possibly – in fact almost surely – be duplicated in a number of our great cities. They are pictures of everyday life; of men, women and children fighting for existence, struggling to maintain the comforts of home life and striving to retain some of the dignity of humankind under conditions which are appalling and which cannot be realised by many million whose lot has been cast in happier surroundings.
Thurston Hopkins has lifted a stone in our vaunted Welfare State and shown with unemotional clarity some of the things which many people would prefer not to see or know about. Here is superb photography, stark in its realism; an example of photographic journalism at its best. The pictures tell their own story, carrying their own message, and while being a damning indictment of the City Fathers of Liverpool are perfect examples of how it is possible to weld the trained eye of the cameraman to modern photographic technique in order that a civic conscience might be aroused. This sequence is the high spot of the 1957 Encyclopaedia Britannica exhibition, and should be seen and carefully studied by all photographers, whether amateur of professional.’
Over half a century later, how shall we judge the Welfare State? We need a Thurston Hopkins of today to stir the conscience of the nation. There is a willing publisher here.
Thurston Hopkins 1913-2014 RIP
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to put names to photographs. When I started my blog, I aimed to bring unseen images to greater attention in the hope that readers would add their opinions and information. Photography has a unique place in our appreciation and understanding of the past but only too often, the people in the photographs remain anonymous and one can only guess at their lives.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Mary Mclean, delighted to have found the picture of her (above) used on the cover of my book Picture Post on Liverpool. It was the first time she had seen the photograph, which was taken by Thurston Hopkins in 1956 as part of his unpublished assignment on the Liverpool slums. Mary is now 62 and a grandmother but that is all the information she gave. My attempts to contact her failed, as her emails bounced back as undelivered. So I know little more than her name and age and that she married and had children (and that the photographs were taken in the vicinity of Scotland Road).
Thurston Hopkins is still alive (now 101) and living in Susses with his wife, Grace Robertson, who was also a Picture Post photographer and daughter of the broadcaster Fyfe Robertson (who you will have to be in your 50s at least to remember). It was Fyfe Robertson who accompanied Thurston on their controversial story about slum living which Edward Hulton, proprietor of Picture Post, refused to publish after pressure from Liverpool Council (who thought the article would be a slur on the city).
Hopefully Mary Mclean will discover this blog (she has only seen the book) and reply with more information about where the photograph was taken and about her subsequent life. In the meantime, here are two more photographs from the same session that have remained unpublished until now.
Havelock Street 1967
Cicero Terrace 1969
Michael and Alan Swerdlow will be well known to many. Their pioneering company, Modern Kitchen Equipment was a familiar site next to the Philharmonic Hall (and before that on the corner of Duke Street and Colquitt Street). Sadly it fell victim to the recession that hit hard back in 1999. In their time, they were well ahead of the competition and, had they survived just a few years, Liverpool’s recent restaurant boom would have seen them prosper and expand. Apart from his work with MKE, Alan was also Chairman of the Bluecoat Society of Arts and a keen photographer. Today’s photographs were taken by Alan and kindly supplied to me by his brother Michael.
More about MKE in a future post. To continue with the Lost Streets theme, the photograph of Havelock Street will hopefully lead to a few gasps of recognition from the children in the photo – who will all be in their 50s now. If readers put Havelock Street in the search box, they will be able to compare today’s image with Karl Hughes’s photo of a few years earlier.
The second photograph is of Cicero Terrace, less than a hundred yards from Havelock Street (off Northumberland Terrace). A suitably winter’s scene but hardly in the Christmas card category.
First Communion, 1952
First Communion, 1953
Two more photographs from the same family album. I suspect the subject matter will resonate with some more than others but they portray one of the rituals that thousands of young girls undertook as an essential part of their religious upbringing. I cannot identify the locations – but the other family photographs are taken around Vauxhall Road, so they could well be there. The decorations in the second photograph will be for the Coronation – not for the First Communion. These kind of processions were not exclusive to Liverpool but they were a big event in Catholic parishes as is evident from the crowds of onlookers.
Naylor Street, 1934
Gladstone Street, 1934
After a short break, I am back in full swing with three photographs taken from a family album. I am fascinated by this kind of social photography. Amateur shots taken on (most probably) a Box Brownie purely as a family record. The real sadness is their anonymity. I have no idea of the names of any of the people in the photographs. If any of the children are around, they will now be in their eighties, for all I have is the street name and the date on the backs of the snaps. The group of children are in Naylor Street, which ran into Vauxhall Road. Gladstone Street was off Naylor Street running through to Freemasons Row. A very narrow street, it can be found in the Alan Godfrey Ordinance Survey map No 106.10 Liverpool North 1906. As you open the map it is in the bottom section in the 2nd fold.(Thanks to Alex Robertson – who emailed me with the location).
The young boy with a cat is standing outside Frank’s Caf?. Whether that was its actual name or the name of a family member who owned it is unclear (it is not listed under Frank’s Caf? in my 1932 Directory).
I would love to see a concerted effort to create an archive of such photographs that can be deposited in the Liverpool Record Office. They often tell us a great deal about the people of Liverpool and would be an invaluable source of reference to future generations. More to follow next time.