Category: Commercial Buildings

Prince-William

Royal William, Crown Street, 1979

Alexandra-U-Hill-Street

Alexandra, Upper Hill Street, 1976

A happy New Year to all followers of my blog.

When I started the blog over six years ago, I had no expectation that it would have more than a couple of years life in it. Time really does catch one out. I was at the Open Eye exhibition launch last night which was a celebration of its 40th year. When I founded it back in 1977, I was just 29. It really makes me think where those forty years went. One thing is certain though, I won’t be posting when I am 102.

The blog started out of my interest in the photographic record of Liverpool and a determination to make public not only my collection of photographs but, also those in other collections, both public and private. In the latter respect, I have not been too successful – so this year I will be making greater efforts to infiltrate other archives. This is our history and there is so much material that would interest a wider public.

In this context, I have make another resolution, and that is to respond to the many requests I get for specific locations. Not all are possible but I will do my best; after all, one of the best features of the blog is the comments section, which makes me feel that what I am doing is striking a chord.

So, on to today’s requested images. The Royal William, on the corner of Crown Street, is one of those unfathomable losses that the city has suffered in recent years. A fine Regency period building, it was named after the transatlantic paddle steamer, built in 1837. In most other cities, it would have been listed and appreciated. Not so Liverpool where it was demolished in 1998 and left as a piece of wasteland.

Another loss is the Alexandra public house on Upper Hill Street, which has been replaced by housing. A neat, typical Victorian pub, it served its neighbourhood for generations. I appreciate there were far too many pubs in Liverpool, particularly after the population collapse from the 1960s onwards, but too many good buildings were lost when they could have served another function. Which brings me back to Open Eye and its original location – the former Grapes Hotel on the corner of Hood Street and Whitechapel. The layout of the building proved perfect for an arts project with plenty of accessible public space and in a prominent location. The Royal William could have certainly had an alternative use had the will been there.

13482-pembroke-place-liverpool

Pembroke Place is a rather forgotten area. I imagine most readers will have visited TJ Hughes at least once in their lives (it is to the left of the photograph)but the rather shabby area offers little for the urban explorer. This is sad because there is so much potential to make more of its situation. It is close to the city centre, it has interesting Victorian buildings, relatively low rent retail outlets available (especially around Stafford Street behind TJ Hughes, and it has a large, if transient, population of students and hospital workers.

Pembroke Place is the road that heads up towards Crown Street. Monument Place is the area in front of Myers & Co. (general outfitters), the impressive building shown in the photograph.The monument (out of picture) is the equestrian statue of George 111, by the famous sculptor Richard Westmacott. It was originally intended for Great Georges Square, at that time the most desirable residential area in Liverpool, but was relocated to London Road in 1822. Liverpool is well represented with equestrian statues having 4 (if one excludes Christ on an Ass at St Nicholas Church), London has 17 and there are 18 in the rest of England.

In my 1884 Directory, the area was a centre for the furniture trade but also had the usual array of small tradesmen from oyster dealers and cigar importers to cycle makers and chandlers. Even today, there is a sense of the past pervading the area. Sadly, it has had its losses, including the elaborate interior of The Monument public house, photographed by David Wrightson in the early 1970s.

Monument

In the early days of my blog, I railed against the neglect of Lime Street. Now something is being done to rectify that problem (I take no credit especially since the solution is not one I can endorse). Maybe someone will listen to my plea for Monument Place. With imagination, it could become an exciting alternative retail/small business area. After all, it is only a stone’s throw from Lime Street, St George’s Hall and William Brown Street. The Baltic Triangle has been a huge success and is running out of space, so why not London Road?

Thanks again to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liverpool-1886-Andrew-Gill/dp/1533188947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473848694&sr=8-1&keywords=liverpool+in+1886

13478-Clayton-square-Liverpool

I was in the city centre yesterday checking up on how the refurbishment of Clayton Square is getting on. There is still some way to go but much of the new paving is already down. The new steps are still a work in progress, so it is difficult to make a judgement at this stage. I imagine work will be completed in time for Christmas.

Clayton Square has been badly treated. The 1980s redevelopment was seen as a mark of progress at the time: a futurist shopping mall in the centre of the city. Unfortunately, it did not work out too well. Most of the retail units were too small for major retailers and too expensive for small independents. The two key ‘anchor’ stores were Boots and Virgin Records but they were not enough to create the excitement a new retail outlet needs.

There was considerable opposition at the time but the demolition of the nineteenth century east side of the square went ahead. Rather than refurbish to existing buildings (which were big enough for national retailers) that would have created a far more interesting townscape, the whole lot went in a misplaced effort to modernise the city.

This is not a new story, of course. The Lyceum, at the bottom of Bold Street, nearly went in the hideous redevelopment of Central Station and the unspeakable damage resulting from the building of the new St John’s Precinct is a prime example of the danger of giving developers a free hand in determining the shape of our city.

The photograph is of the west side of Clayton Square. The row of shops on Houghton Street was demolished in the mid-1960s for the St John’s project and the building on the immediate left was replaced by a late 1920s Portland stone faced building that housed Owen Owens and, more recently, Tesco. The shops are fascinating. The late-Victorian vogue for all things Japanese is reflected in Clayton Brothers caf? and bamboo furniture shop but it is the next shop that is particularly striking with its large sign Habit Makers. I can imagine thousands of nuns writing in from all over the world for the latest in habit fashions. A niche business today, perhaps, but obviously big business a century or more ago.

Thanks again to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liverpool-1886-Andrew-Gill/dp/1533188947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473848694&sr=8-1&keywords=liverpool+in+1886

Adelphi-Hotel-Lime-Street-liverpool

It is over five years since I blogged about the rundown state of Lime Street and the urgent need to upgrade it. I suppose it is a case of be careful of what you wish for; having seen the proposed replacement development, I am hesitant to lavish any praise on what seems to be a bland and uninspiring proposal.
What is slightly reassuring is that most buildings have a limited life – maybe 50 or 60 years in many cases, especially if the economy is booming. The photograph of Lime Street was taken at the turn of the twentieth century, just before the east side of Lime Street underwent a similar radical change. The Vines pub (more widely known as The Big House) is named after its landlord, Albert Vines, who built this pub in 1869. The new Vines dates from 1907 and is one of Liverpool’s finest gin palaces. The Adelphi Hotel, on the right, was the second one on the site, replacing a Georgian conversion of two houses on the site of the former Ranelagh Gardens.The current hotel was built between 1911-14 to the design of Frank Atkinson and was regarded as the finest hotel outside of London.
Both the Vines and the Adelphi are undoubted fine additions to Lime Street and show how streets can change for the better. It does not always have to be a backward step, Developers take note!
Regarding the dating of the photograph, the early tram to Toxteth Park indicates a date of between 1899 and 1906. Liverpool introduced electric trams in 1898 (the first tram was to the Dingle) and rolled out a complete system within six years. Those were the decisive times when Liverpool Corporation had an open hand in planning the city with key personnel, such as City Engineer John Brodie, who had vision and drive and were backed by its elected officers.

Many thanks to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available
from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liverpool-1886-Andrew-Gill/dp/1533188947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473848694&sr=8-1&keywords=liverpool+in+1886

Manchester-Street-1900

I have had this photo in my files for some time. With no information to go by, I thought it would be just a few minutes work to locate the place in my Gore’s Directory. Some 30 minutes later, it began to make sense. There was no category for pet suppliers or anything else that came to mind, so I concentrated on the faint shop sign on the right, which I decided was H. Middlehu (there is no more on the photo.
Using my 1887 Directory was enough to pin the name down to Henry Middlehurst, seedsman of 11 Manchester Street (near to the corner where Manchester Street meets Dale Street). There, next door were William Johnson (naturalist) at number 7 and Seward Holmes at number 9. Two competing businesses, it appears, rather than one. The shop on the right (Seward Holmes’s) looks the more run-down but it was the only one mentioned in the 1911 Directory.
The photo makes you realise what an intensive trade there was in exotic birds. In the mid-nineteenth century, the trade in caged birds was for finches and other English native species almost to the point at which certain birds were almost driven to extinction here. The same fate befell parrots and other colourful birds in the twentieth century. After all, this is a snapshot of just two shops in one city in Europe. The trade must have been huge.
Sadly, the exploitation of animals continues in any number of ways. The decimation of elephant and rhino populations for nothing more than superstitious belief in the power of their tusks and horns, the decimation of the gorilla populations for bush meat and the drag-netting of our seas and oceans are just some of the depressing realities of today.
To finish on an entirely tangential note, the building next to Middlehurst’s is not shown in the photograph but it housed the solicitor William Henry Quilliam, now better-known as Abdullah Quilliam, founder of the first mosque in England on Brougham Terrace. But that is another story.

Bold-Street

Fortunately, some things don’t change too much. Bold Street is one of Liverpool’s best loved streets and it is not difficult to understand why. It is a lively mix of mainly independent shops and restaurants and has an eclectic mix of buildings, ranging from the classical Lyceum (1800-02) at its foot, facing the early twentieth century HSBC bank (by James Doyle). Then we have the ex-Cripps shop (better known in recent years as Waterstones bookshop)and, further up, is the Music Hall (also a Waterstones in more recent years before becoming a bar). Elsewhere, there are good examples of modernist architecture (Radiant House), Arts and Crafts, even Graeco-Egyptian (number 92) and solid Greek Revival. It is a street that demands looking above the shop facades to appreciate how different styles can happily coexist and strengthen the urban landscape. And looking down on all of this is the Gothic Revival tower of St Luke’s church.
What a shame lessons are not learned. Bold Street succeeds because it is of a scale. No high buildings breaking its building line. Quentin Hughes used the expression ‘keeping in keeping’ and this is a perfect example. The destruction of the St John’s Market area was a disastrous misjudgment, replacing a warren of small streets with a lump of concrete that could be anywhere in the world. More recent examples, such as the demolition of Commutation Road and now Lime Street, show yet again that most developers are only interested in uniform developments that can be built from scratch. The recent plan for Renshaw Street, to include a large scale residential block, is another indication of this worrying trend to remove scale and variety from the city centre.
To get back to Bold Street. Until the last War, this was the fashionable shopping street where well-heeled ladies and gentlemen would shop (although, in contrast, there is a barefoot boy selling newspapers on the immediate left of the photograph). Van Gruisen, the first shop on the left, were pianoforte manufacturers. Next door was Arthur Medrington (photographer and artist) with another well known photographer (Barnes and Bell) next to him. (Bold Street was a centre for photography with several more having studios including Vandyke – whose sign can be seen on the opposite side of the street).
Fortunately Bold Street survives and it is this kind of street that gives Liverpool its character. So much has been lost since the 1970s on the grounds that the building fabric is beyond salvation (not only Lime Street but Seel Street, Duke Street and now Renshaw Street). How different Liverpool would have looked with greater consideration for the past.

65-Renshaw

Noodle-Bar

Following up with the last post, here is another fascinating interior. This time, I know the exact location and year it was taken. The year is 1890 and the location is 65 Renshaw Street. Had you asked me what the interior was, I would have suggested a rather upmarket fashion shop (although they were mainly on Bold Street at that time). Checking my Gore’s Directory for 1893, all becomes clear. The premises were occupied by John Wannop & Sons, decorators. Obviously more than mere house decorators – more like interior designers. They were still there in 1910 but my next Directory for 1932 has BNB Radios occupying the shop.

Renshaw Street is somewhat off the main stream of footfall for it to be thriving. The loss of Rapid Hardware (on the opposite side of the street) diminished its appeal. I am somewhat surprised, it could be an exciting area for a good mix of independent retailers. At the moment, 65 is a rather sad looking Noodle Bar, with empty properties all around. Once the redevelopment of Lime Street is underway (hopefully saving a certain cinema facade), attention needs focusing further along to the east.

Bluecoat655

It is time to move on from the last post – the chocolate must be long past its sell-by date.

Today’s image intrigues me. It was taken by J. Mayle, photographer of 28 Bold Street. The date is probably mid-1870s. Mayle lived in West Derby from 1864 to 1872, working as a photographic artist, before moving to Derby (Derbyshire). The firm continued in Liverpool under the name J.Mayle and Sons until at least 1908 – so the dating of the image might well be out by a few years.

It is, however, the subject matter that is interesting. Of course, there is always a strong possibility that the interior is not in Liverpool at all. It has a grandeur that could only match it to a very limited number of buildings. The Town Hall and St George’s Hall are both ruled out (I know what they look like). The Custom House is a possibility but it was built in a strict Classical style to the design of John Foster, the Town Surveyor. James Picton, in his Memorials of Liverpool (a must read reference book – even if published in 1873), was unimpressed by the building, which he considered dark and dingy. The dome was supported internally on Ionic columns – which rules the Custom House out of consideration. This leaves only one secular building with a dome – the now demolished Exchange Newsroom. The Exchange Building (on Exchange Flags) was originally a fine Georgian building, which opened in 1808. After fifty years, it was decided to replace it with a more commodious building and in 1862 work started on its replacement, a Gothic building designed by TM Wyatt in a style described as Flemish Renaissance by Picton – who added that the Newsroom “is a noble apartment, free from all obstructions and well-suited for its purpose.” The new building opened in 1867 yet, like its predecessor, was to survive for little more than half a century with work starting on its replacement (the current Exchange Buildings) in the 1930s. The War stopped work temporarily and demolition and replacement was completed by the early 1950s.

I have searched in vain for an interior photograph of the Newsroom. The date of its opening is close to the date of the photograph – so it would have been of interest as a symbol of the new Liverpool. Can anyone throw any light on this?

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Lime Street, 1978

Lime-Street-1

Lime Street, 1970

Back in January 2011, I blogged about the sorry state of Lime Street and the need to regenerate this important gateway to the city. I was glad that the City Council felt the same way (I don’t think I can take any credit) and announced a new scheme would be unveiled that would restore grandeur to the street. Sadly, the new proposals have not cut it with most commentators, myself included. Merseyside Civic Society have spoken up forcibly, describing the proposed scheme as ‘poorly conceived and entirely inappropriate’. The removal of historic facades (including the Futurist Cinema) and their replacement by bland, unsympathetic blocks is blasted: “It should not be beyond the wit of those concerned with conceiving a scheme for the development of the site to come up with a proposal that has more evident merit, while providing an equally attractive, if not greater, return on the investment involved.”
Strong words and I completely concur – this is yet another example of any development will do. Developers seems to hate different styles of building standing cheek to cheek. Look what happened with Commutation Row at the other end of Lime Street. A whole terrace of interesting Victorian buildings was removed to make way for the bland headquarters of a housing association (who should have known better). Now that building is empty after less than a decade and no amount of wishing will bring back the character of the buildings so needlessly demolished.
While I am on my hobby horse – what is happening about the ugly 1950s buildings on the other side of Lime Street? It must be the most depressing block in the city centre.

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Lime Street, 1970

Tobacco-Warehouse

Stanley Dock and Tobacco Warehouse, 1920s.

I had an interesting conversation with one of Liverpool’s leading urban planners last week about how much Liverpool had improved in the last decade. Take retailing, for example. Before Liverpool One opened in 2008, the city was languishing in 25th spot as a shopping centre – alongside Stockport and Bolton. Now it is up to 5th place – almost up to its pre-War position. By any measure this is a remarkable achievement. What is particularly impressive is how Liverpool One has fitted almost seamlessly into the urban fabric, opening up the riverfront and Albert Dock along the way.

Our discussion shifted to the ‘next step’, the development that could make an even bigger impact on Liverpool’s future: Peel’s Liverpool Waters. It would appear that this is the year in which progress will be made. Peel are committed to pushing forward the development of the neglected docklands north of Waterloo Dock – although the plans are still largely under wraps. I am very much in favour of Liverpool Waters in principle. Threats to remove World Heritage status are largely a red herring – after all London built The Shard which impacts on three World Heritage sites in London (Palace of Westminster/Tower of London/Greenwich). It appears that the commissioners have chosen to pick a fight with Liverpool – a softer option than the centre of power and finance. The bottom line is what is more important – an accolade that is being increasingly handed out and will eventually become almost meaningless or a major regeneration of a neglected area of Liverpool that could create 1000s of jobs and a sustainable future.

My photograph is of Stanley Dock and the gigantic Tobacco Warehouse. A decade ago, plans seemed to favour demolishing the monument to smoking (it has very low ceiling heights and conversion seemed beyond the resources of any willing developer). Now it appears that Harcourt Development are pushing forward with plans for apartments, retailing and offices within the giant building. Their successful renovation of the Jesse Hartley warehouse next door into the 153 room Titanic Hotel is just the start of their ambitious plans. A point of interest in the photograph is the Overhead Railway, which connected the city centre to the network of docks from Dingle to Seaforth. Now word has it that a tramway is proposed to link Peel’s planned development with the centre (after all, improved transport is essential to the success of the scheme).

This is the start of a new phase in Liverpool’s history. The waterfront has been almost criminally neglected since the 1960s. We now have an opportunity to create a new and spectacular face to the river. I hope the developments are worthy of the setting.