The name of the pub could not be clearer – but where is it. The name Sefton appears on many pubs – usually the Sefton Arms (there were 8 in 1964). Only three were named Sefton Hotel – one on North Hill Street, one on Smithdown Lane and the other on the corner of Robson Street and Vienna Street. Checking through my photos, I have discounted both North Hill Street and Smithdown Lane – so that points to Robson Street. I have my doubts though. I am pretty certain the pub has been demolished – so it would be useful to know exactly where it was.
The photograph above, of Commutation Row, sums up the way Liverpool’s heritage has been treated in recent years. An interesting row of nineteenth century buildings, none of great architectural merit perhaps, could have been restored to enhance the magnificence of St George’s Plateau and William Brown Street. Instead they are pulled down to make way for an undistinguished block of offices for a housing association, which soon after vacated them. Why is it so difficult for decision-makers to understand what is worth keeping? Does developers’ money always get the last word? Let us hope the plans for Lime Street are not for wholesale clearance and replacement by nondescript architecture.
Although I never made use of its services, I was impressed by the exterior of the Ministry of Labour building on Leece Street (it also doubled up as the Ministry of Transport Driving and Traffic Examiners Department for much of its life). The Post Office has survived but the Labour Exchange was demolished shortly after being sold off to a property developer – who left behind a hole in the ground. How many times has the same scenario repeated itself – the most notorious case being the unforgivable destruction of the Sailors’Home? How do we get around this almost routine removal of buildings of note by both the private and public sector who promptly run out of money to take their ideas further? The mess of the abandoned Baltic Triangle development and the unfinished scheme on the corner of Sefton Street and Parliament Street are just two example of ill-thought out schemes without the money to complete them.
I have been a bit quiet recently (working on a new book), so here is another photograph of a lost building: the Berkely Arms on the corner of Upper Stanhope Street and Berkely Street (was this Hitler’s local? No – that is meant as a joke not a serious question). The pub is seen here in the early 1970s (I like the two versions of The Ghetto and The Getto on its wall – playing safe).Was the building with the balustrade part of the pub?
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 James Street 1980
Demolition, March 2013
The ex-Royal public house is first to go
I was shocked when arriving at work on Monday to see the demolition of the last nineteenth century buildings on St James Street. The block, on the corners of Watkinson and Bridgewater Street, had no great architectural merit but it was a surviving link with the days when the street was a main artery, full of businesses and warehouses. Liverpool was once lined with similar buildings, with the merchants and shop-owners living above their business premises. In 1964, the block being demolished housed a fishmonger, a butcher, tobacconist, hairdresser, grocer and greengrocer. With a captive audience nearby, including St James Gardens and other tenements, they offered the basics in one convenient short stretch. Going back to 1879, the block offered a clothier, bookshop, confectioner and fishmongers (but no public house). After over 150 years, all this history is reduced to a pile of rubble. Very sad,
Corn Exchange 1907
Adelphi Hotel 1892
Lord Street Arcade 1902
I was going to blog about Rapid Hardware going into administration (and probably out of existence) but I was surprised to discover I had no photograph of their once near monopoly of Renshaw Street. A poor state of affairs, really, not to capture what was one of the longest shop facades in Britain. The buildings still remain, of course, and other shops have taken their place since they moved to the George Henry Lee building.
It made me think how many other businesses and buildings have similarly passed into history without any physical record (although there will be plenty of photographs of Rapid, I expect).
The three photographs selected today show the value of the photographic record. Each building featured suffered different fates, with only the Lord Street Arcade surviving as the original building,
The Corn Exchange was a fine James Picton building constructed in Brunswick Street in 1851 (replacing a smaller exchange). Following the Repeal of the Corn Law in 1849, Liverpool grew ever more important in the world market and the new Exchange represented the aspirations of Liverpool’s merchants. Sadly, the building was destroyed buring the Blitz. The Corn Exchange that now stands there (completed in 1959) is one of Liverpool’s best post-War office blocks, although without a trading floor (or any corn trade).
The Adelphi Hotel illustrated is the first one (built in 1826 but modified later). One of the finest hotels in Britain, it was replaced by the present hotel in 1911. A more modest hotel in size (see my post of January 4th for an exterior view), it was famed for its lavish interior.
The exterior of the Lord Street Arcade survives but the interior has been converted into a single retail outlet. Back in the 1980s, I had an office on the second floor when the building operated as serviced offices. A suspended ceiling had replaced the fine cast-iron barrel-vaulted roof and the galleries had been floored over at each level. It made for a soulless interior and I only stayed for a few months. The architect, interestingly, was Walter Aubrey Thomas, whose most famous work, the Liver Building was built a decade later.
These are rare photographs – too much of our urban landscape has gone unrecorded. There really should be a more organised structure for methodically documenting our city for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
George’s Dock and Goree Piazza, 1891
Following on from my last post, here are three more stereographs. The card shown above can hardly be classified as one of Liverpool’s oldest photographs but it does show a scene almost unchanged from the 1860s. Sailing boats line the docks into the distance and horse drawn wagons trundle down the dock road with their heavy loads. The Goree warehouses with their arcades are on the right hand side (sadly demolished after the War).
An older photograph is that of the old George’s Dock (below) showing the Church of St Nicholas, the Sailors’ Church. The date is probably late 1860s, well before Mersey Chambers was built in the Old Churchyard in 1878. Tower Building is to the right (replaced by the present building in 1906). The image is not sharp but it is an interesting record of the Pierhead before the Floating Roadway and the Landing Stage were built (mid-1870s).
The third stereograph is easy to date (it is printed on the card). Lord Street is bedecked with bunting to celebrate the coronation of Edward V11. A nice, busy street scene with a new electric tram in the foreground.
Brunswick Dock c1865
Brunswick Dock detail
When I started this blog, I raised the question of whether any substantial archive of early Liverpool photographs existed. I posted an early photograph of St George’s Hall (1850) but have had no success in finding other images from that period. This is, perhaps, surprising because Liverpool supported one of the first photographic societies and there were some important photographers amongst its members, including Francis Frith.
The first relatively significant number of images in my possession are stereographs. These are two dimensional photographs of the same subject, slightly offset to separate the left eye from the right eye, which when viewed through a simple viewer give a 3D effect. Cards became available from the early 1850s and were still being produced well into the twentieth century. Stereo cards became very popular and were bought in their millions – which accounts for their survival. Local photographers, such as H. Sampson of Southport, could make a living from churning out local views and the image of Brunswick Dock is typical of his work. I am guessing the date is around 1865, although it could be slightly later. The windmill on Mill Street was still standing and the dock full of sailing ships.
The image below is of the old Adelphi Hotel, again by Sampson. The building on the right is a bedding manufactory owned by Catharine Sanderson. (The couple on the corner are wearing typical clothing of the 1860s). To the left of the Adelphi Hotel, on the corner of Copperas Hill (where the Vines public house now stands) is William Mardock’s pharmacy according to Gore’s 1865 Directory.
When people talk about Liverpool’s world class attractions, one of the best is rarely mentioned. The waterfront, two cathedrals, St George’s Hall are in there, along with The Beatles and football. To me, the magnificent swathe of parks along the city’s south-eastern suburbs should be right up near the top. Few cities in Europe can boast such magnificent green spaces, from Princes Park, through Sefton Park, Otterspool Promenade, Calderstones Park, Allerton Towers, to Clarke Gardens and Camp Hill.
Of all the parks, Sefton Park is a magical place particularly when the annual Lantern Parade is held. I used to take my two children there in the 1980s and can remember the pirate ship slowly rotting into the water. I never thought to take a photograph – perhaps thinking it would be there forever. Sadly, it was removed in the 1990s (I think) along with the vandalised statue of Peter Pan, now relocated in a safe area by the Palm House. How unbelievable that someone could hacksaw pieces off such a well-loved sculpture. Almost as shocking was the state of the Palm House at the same time, allowed to deteriorate almost to the point of no return. Thankfully, a group of civic-minded enthusiasts fought hard to attract funding and the Palm House has been superbly restored. More recent work has improved all the waterways, repaired the statue of Eros and built a sympathetic and attractive café. Perhaps the time is right to build a new pirate ship.
I have been a bit lax recently on keeping my blog more regular (I have been working on a number of book projects). My apologies and I promise to get back to a weekly schedule from January. May I wish everyone a great Christmas and New Year. Thank you for all your support in 2012.
Wellington Column 1875
Wellington Column c1900
Wellington Column 1928
Liverpool has many fine monuments which would take pride of place in any city. Some are badly neglected, like the statue of George 111 in Monument Place, outside TJ Hughes. I use the word neglected in the sense that it is no longer the best site for such a noble statue (there are very few equestrian statues in Britain yet Liverpool has four of them, more than any other city outside of London). I would like to see it in a more prominent place – perhaps at the intersection of Church Street and Lord Street – where is can become a focal point.
The Wellington Column is another fine focal point but, again, is rather ignored. It is no less impressive than Nelson’s Column and every bit as striking as Grey’s Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne (and Grade 1 listed). Possibly the setting for Wellington is too overbearing, with some of the best municipal buildings in the country surrounding it. More probably, it is the location away from the centre of the city. Grey’s Monument is in the heart of the shopping area and is an obvious landmark for people to meet, and Nelson’s Column has a fantastic location in front of the National Gallery and at a major traffic junction. Our Wellington is just a bit cut off now that traffic through Lime Street has largely been diverted. Sad too that the fine range of Victorian buildings on Commutation Road were so unnecessarily pulled down for the bland housing association building. (Incidentally, the church to the left of the column in the 1928 photo is Holy Trinity on St Anne Street, late eighteenth century and demolished in 1970. The church with a spire, on the right, is St Francis Xavier on Salisbury Street).
A Francis Frith photograph of Albert Dock and the Custom House. The date is approximate but it is certainly pre-1878 because Lyster’s Albert Hydraulic Power Centre (or The Pumphouse as it is now known) has not been built.
Frith is the great pioneer of Liverpool photography – and he was active from the early 1850s. Annoyingly, although there are hundreds of his early photographs of other English towns and landmarks (in particular cathedrals, abbeys and churches), I have come across no photographs by him pre-1870. I still hold out hope that there are photographs in some collection – there are still many unexplored sources. If there are 1850 photographs, they would coincide with the completion of St George’s Hall, so I would expect it to be the most likely candidate (Frith and Company photographed it many times in later years). I would hope that the waterfront would feature but, in many ways, the view shown above would have looked quite similar to a photograph taken in the 1850s. I would not expect to find heavily peopled photographs, photographic plates were far too slow to capture movement and photographers generally settled for unpeopled landscapes and building shots.
Nevertheless, the 1870s photographs give a strong impression of an important seaport and underline the great loss to Liverpool’s architectural heritage when the Custom House was first firebombed and then unnecessarily demolished after the War.