Category: Children

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

Frank’s Cafe

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.

Boys with comic, 1940

Tenement living, 1940

Mersey ferry, 1954

Professor Codman, 1955

Four more photographs from my new book Bert Hardy’s Britain, courtesy of Getty Images. This is the centenary of Bert’s birth and his images brilliantly capture life in the 1940s and 50s. The tenement he photographed with the two girls is, I am informed by Tom Slemen (who should know since he was brought up there) is Myrtle Gardens. Many will remember Professor Codman, who was still performing (or at least his son was) in Williamson Square well into the 1980s. The son, who also took on the Professor Codman name, came to see me in the late 80s with the idea of publishing a family history. I recall he was thinking of retiring because of the stress of earning a living in an increasingly hostile world. I doubt the book would have been a best-seller but it is a shame it never saw the light of day – another piece of social history lost.
The book is available in local bookshops and on Amazon:

Again my apologies for taking a month off. I have been moving out of my offices (to work from home) and have found it more tiring than I had anticipated. Now I am back to normal service – and will start with Sefton Park’s well deserved recent award of Grade One status. For many generations, it has provided the city with a taste of the country and must be one of the most used urban parks in Britain. The recent renovations have seen its waterways improved, new cafe amenities and, thankfully for cyclists, the resurfacing of the drive around the park (which, I had not realised, was unadopted). Regular events including Africa Oy?, the Liverpool International Festival and the Liverpool Food Festival, now attract tens of thousands. The launch of the Music Festival, with the Philharmonic Orchestra climaxing the evening with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by a stunning firework display (and for free) was an amazing experience.
Perhaps the only question mark must be over the future of Sefton Meadows. It seems incredible that the harmony of the park could be jeopardised by allowing luxury flats to be built on greenfield land for the sake of short-term monetary gain. Liverpool needs more open space, not less and this is not the place to build flats. The fact that the housing on the Garden Festival site has not been commenced seems to indicate that any demand for upmarket flats is purely speculative anyway. Awarding Grade One status should be telling the Council quite clearly – this park is exceptional, don’t compromise its uniqueness.

Sefton Park, 1950s

I have tended to concentrate on how the physical shape of Liverpool has changed over the years. Social changes are often a bit more subtle to capture on film. In today’s case, however, there is no room for any ambiguity. The carte de visite (probably 1880s) proclaims ‘the most wonderful child ever exhibited’. On the reverse: The INFANT JUMBO is only six years of Age, Weighs 206lbs!! Height 4ft5in! Circumference of bare Chest 50 inches!! and the rest of his body in proportion. Exhibited for the first time at Reynold’s Exhibition, facing St George’s Hall, Lime Street, Liverpool.
Reynold’s Exhibition was an early example of the American ‘dime museums’, where everything and anything was exhibited under the banner of education and entertainment including, displays of the body beautiful or grotesque, painted panoramic scenes, fasting men and fat women and magic and illusion tricks. Reynold’s was one of the most long-standing and prominent venues in the North of England. The original waxworks exhibition opened in 1858 and initially the attractions were based on the model presented by Tussauds in London. However, over the decades the main focus of the entertainments on offer became very different, comprising of live entertainment shows and their particular specialisation, freaks of nature. Despite the popularity of the waxworks, Reynolds continued to change and refresh the type of attractions on display perhaps in order to compete with the range and variety of attractions presented by rival concerns in Lime Street. The inclusion of live entertainment alongside anatomical models, waxworks and the chamber of horrors was bringing to the British spectating public the type of entertainments first promoted by Barnum in the ten in one dime show or museum. Opening hours in Reynolds followed this pattern of all day entertainments with patrons being admitted at 10am until 10pm. Cost of admission started at threepence with the price increasing to sixpence if one wanted to enjoy the entertainments that were shown twice a day (3pm and 8pm). Acts comprised of the performing fleas, the Norwegian Giant and Tiny Tim, and a vocal and instrumental recital by Miss Beatrice Vaughan, as well as a mystic magical entertainment by Major Devono. Children who were employed for entertainment purposes at this time included the Infant Jumbo, the ‘most wonderful child ever exhibited’, who at the age of six weighed over 205 lbs. By the late 1880s and early 1890s it appears that the show side of the exhibition was the means by which the exhibitors could constantly refresh the attractions on view. The use of novelties and freaks to entertain and educate the public was a continuation of a side-show tradition taken directly from the fairgrounds and shop-shows and marketed by Barnum to a higher level than previous attained, freak shows as presented by Barnum were not on the edges of society or part of illegitimate theatre practices but firmly within the mainstream and appealed to a family audience.
By 1894 live entertainment appears to be a mainstay of the attractions on offer. Princess Paulina, the Living Doll makes her first appearance at the exhibition, later modelled into a waxwork effigy in the historical waxworks hall. Ethnographic attractions also became a feature of the exhibition with both the Aztecs and the Circassisan Brothers thrilling audiences in October 1894. Reynold’s Waxworks Exhibition opened its doors from 1858 to 1922 and provided the people of Liverpool with a range of shows and attractions all within one fixed venue. Catering for a largely working class audience, it maintained its position as an arena for spectacular and entertainment for over seven decades all for the price of a sixpence. Incorporating waxworks, live performances, freak show exhibits and the latest technological wonders of the age, it contents may have been largely British in character but the exhibition was both inspired and presented through American showmanship and exhibition practices. (Taken from the National Fairground Archive).
Today, the idea of exhibiting an obese six year old to a paying audience is almost beyond comprehension. We may not like how the physical fabric of the city has sometimes changed but in the case of the exhibiting of so-called ‘freaks’, I doubt there is anyone who would call it entertainment.

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 (

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.

Anfield Cemetery

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