Category: Industry

County Road, 1911

Sefton Street, 1911

Armoured Car

Cricket outside St George’s Hall

Over fifteen years ago, I published a book Near to Revolution by Eric Taplin on the 1911 Transport Strike in Liverpool (not to be confused with the 1926 General Strike). This year Liverpool City Council has launched its City of Radicals 2011 to mark not just the centenary of the strike but a number of other events (including the first Post-Impressionist exhibition outside of London at the Sandon Studios – now Bluecoat Art Centre, the death of Robert Tressell -author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists) – and the first International Women’s Day.
The strike itself should be seen against the background of a divided society, with 120,000 people owning two-thirds of the nation’s wealth. The Industrial Revolution had widened the poverty gap with millions living barely at subsistence levels. Liverpool was a hotbed of activism and there was a growing feeling that a united labour force could take over the means of production. Inspired by radicals such as Tom Mann and Ben Tillett, ‘War’ was declared and industrial action began to spiral out of control. Troops and police from other forces were called in, HMS Antrim was moored in the Mersey and, inevitably, two strikers were shot dead in the most violent strike action seen in Britain. Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, described the situation as ‘near to revolution’. Panic resolutions to settle with the different unions began to take the sting out of the strike, which had lost some of its willingness to continue after the police and military aggression coupled with the two deaths.
From a photographic point of interest, this was the first major strike to be fully documented photographically and cinematically (although only brief snatches of the film survive). Most of the photographic record is the work of the Carbonora company run by Gwilym Mills. His set of postcards published throughout the strike are now amongst the most collectible of postcards (reaching up to ?100+ per card). Unfortunately, the offices and workrooms of Carbonora were destroyed by enemy bombing and their negatives and archive destroyed (the company still survives as the Mills Media Group).
The top photograph shows a police and army convoy travelling along County Road in Walton. The shops on the left belonged to Robert Crease (a music dealer), Arthur Rattenbury’s tobacconist, and Elizabeth Ford’s hosiery shop. The second photograph, showing troops protecting food supplies in Sefton Street was an American Press print I purchased from a supplier in Dallas – which indicates the international importance of the strike. The other two photographs are my favourites: the rather inadequate riot car (although petrol bombs had not been thought of at that time) and the boys playing cricket on St George’s Plateau in the midst of all the mayhem.

Who would have believed 50 years ago that there would be no Tate and Lyle in Liverpool and that the company would no longer be in the sugar business? Last week’s news that the sugar business had been sold brings to an end a company history that started in Liverpool in 1859, when Henry Tate became a partner in a small sugar refinery in Manesty’s Lane (just off Hanover Street). My own business career started back in 1973 in a warehouse owned by Tate and Lyle on the site of the original refiners (although the warehouse was built in the 1870s and demolished in the 1980s).
The history of sugar in Liverpool is, I imagine, likely to cause more than a few readers to stifle a yawn – but, pay attention at the back, as teachers used to say in school, it really is an interesting part of the city’s history. Along with tobacco and cotton, the wealth of the city was built on the import of goods from the New World. Sugar had its own spin-offs. The famous Everton toffee mentioned in an earlier post was the fledgling start of a much bigger confectionary industry (Barker and Dobson amongst others) as well as providing the basic ingredient for the massive Hartley’s jam business.
The Love Lane Refinery was completed in 1873 and in its time employed thousands from the surrounding Vauxhall district. Other local refineries such as Farrie’s and Macfie’s could not compete with Tate’s and were absorbed into the sugar empire. Henry Tate, himself, was a benefactor on a significant scale – building the Hahnemann Hospital on Hope Street, providing the funds for Liverpool University’s library block, as well as generous donations to the Royal Infirmary and Liverpool Institute. His biggest gift was to found the Tate Gallery in London – now with its Liverpool offshoot. Ironically, the opening of the Tate Liverpool came only a few years after the closure of Love Lane in that brutal period in the early 1980s which also saw other great names including British American Tobacco pull the plug on their Liverpool bases.

Park Lane/Jamaica Street c1930

The same area 1995

Another dramatic comparison between the Liverpool of the 1930s and today (or, more accurately, the 1990s). Annoyingly, the plane’s wing is obscuring Brick Street where Pat O’Mara (author of The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy) lived and where I have my offices but, directly below the wing tip you can make out St Vincent’s primary school, with children playing in the yard (see post of May 27). Everywhere is industry, from the long sheds of Park Lane Goods Station to the countless warehouses. The large block underneath the plane wing is now the Contemporary Urban Centre – but all around are equally impressive warehouses (all demolished). Great Georges Square is just above the wing – and a couple of streets along is the Church of St Michael (bombed in the War). In the centre (to the left of The Contemporary Urban Centre) is a rather pitiful playground for the hundreds of children who lived in the immediate locality.

Compare the density of the 1930s photograph with the one I took in 1995. Liverpool’s population had peaked in the 1931 Census at 846,00. By 1991, it had shrunk to 470,000 (over a much larger physical area). Back in the 1930s, that wedge of streets around St Michael’s church (Pitt Street, Kent Street, Upper Frederick Street) was a concentrated slum of overcrowded terraces and courts – many were demolished in the following years to make way for tenements. Park Lane was a major thoroughfare, lined with shops and businesses – a very different city.

Strand Street c1958

Aerial View, 1952

In previous posts, I have referred to the Dock Road, or in this case Strand Street as this stretch was more formally named. My April 21st post about The Trawler showed one of the last pubs on this street before it was demolished. In the top photograph, it can just be made out next to the building with an advert for Golden Stream Tea. In mid-shot is the same cabin (selling Senior Service cigarettes) that appeared in the April 12th post about the Overhead Railway. Originally, the kiosk was part of the James Street station. Only the railway lines under the Overhead are left – which must date the photograph to about 1958.
The position of the photograph is made clearer from the 1952 aerial photograph. The block of buildings can be seen in the bottom right hand corner, with James Street to the left of it (and the White Star building standing in isolation). The street after James Street (just before The Trawler) is Red Cross Street – one of the old ‘lost streets’ of the docks. Elsewhere, in the aerial photograph, one can see the concentration of dock buildings around Canning Dock, the remains of the Goree Piazzas and, in the distance the Three Sisters (the chimneys of Clarence Dock power station). How the city has changed in 50 years!

Liverpool has made an invaluable contribution to the cause of dentistry through two of its great industries: tobacco and confectionary. They both have a long history, although little remains of either. Liverpool as a major importer of sugar was well placed to benefit from the spin-offs and, in the late eighteenth century, an Everton woman, Molly Bushell, decided to increase her income by using recipes from her local doctor to make toffee.
The business boomed and others started up in competition, including Mary Cooper in 1810. Trading from a cottage in Browside, her Everton toffee achieved national fame. In a local rhyme of the time:

Everton Toffee! Ever dear to lass and lad:
More certain cure than balm of Gilead.
Come friends, come buy – your pennies give.
While you keep sucking you’ll be sure to live!

Balm of Gilead referred to ‘cures’ of snake-oil salesman, Dr Solomon of Liverpool, who made a fortune out of his patent medicines. At least toffees gave a burst of welcome glucose!
The memory of this small local industry lives on in the nickname of Everton Football Club. I am not sure when the cottages on Browside disappeared although I have seen a late nineteenth century photograph of them in disrepair. The photograph above was probably taken in the 1880s. The style of cottage was very much the original vernacular Lancashire style, that was gradually replaced by Georgian and, later, Victorian terraces.


Two fascinating photographs from WW1. The factory of James Troop, a brass foundry, on Pleasant Hill Street (off Sefton Street), had evidently been turned into an aircraft factory. Although women had worked in factories and mines from the start of the Industrial Revolution, the necessity to recruit women as part of the war effort was to give the suffragette movement the momentum required to gain the vote (in 1918 for women over 30 but 1928 before they gained the same rights as men).