Back in March, 2011, I posted a photograph of a church asking if anyone could locate it. Quite a few replied naming it as All Saints, Bentley Road near to Princes Park. I have just come into the possession of two further photographs – of the exterior and interior – which add further confirmation (not that it is needed) that the identification was correct.
The Victorians obsession on reverting to a medieval style of architecture is somewhat bizarre given the inventiveness of science and industry. I can appreciate that ecclesiastical thinking was a reaction to the seismic changes in society (and thinking – especially Darwinism) which had thrown traditional beliefs into turmoil but the churches they built were generally austere and forbidding places. I can appreciate the craftsmanship but a Sunday spent on those hard benches, especially in winter, would have been purgatory.
My eye is caught to the building on the right. It has the name John Wilson – who is listed in my 1893 Directory as a dealer in horses and job master.Bentley Road was a solid middle-class area with a good mix of nationalities: Hermann Straus (merchant), Myer Kuno (professor of languages), Auguste D’Almeida (wine merchant), Decio Ferreira (wine merchant), Josef Hanliezek (chemical manufacturer) living alongside surgeons, engineers, surveyors and printers. I have avoided all mention of Brexit but here is proof, in one short street, that Liverpool was a bustling cosmopolitan city well over a century ago.
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?
Looking NW from Tunnel Road, 1970
First of all, my apologies for the long delay in posting a new blog. Unfortunately I had computer problems which have necessitated upgrading my system. All is well now and normal service is resumed.
I was interested to see that the Liverpool Echo has revived its Stop the Rot campaign. It is important that the city’s heritage is put under the spotlight. Too much has been lost unnecessarily and highlighting why buildings are important is essential to avoid past mistakes being repeated. As you might guess from previous posts, I am somewhat cynical about how far developers and public authorities are prepared to go once money is involved (the developers want to make it and the public authorities don’t want to spend it). That said, there are some ground for optimism. I have been helping with a publication about the Produce Exchange in Victoria Street – a building with a fine interior which is about to be converted into luxury apartments which will emphasise the original Edwardian details.
Other ground for optimism are the conversions of the Royal Insurance Building on North John Street, the ex-Municipal Annexe on Dale Street and the White Star Building on James Street into luxury hotels (with considerable respect for original features). This is all very promising, as are the pending plans for the Wellington Rooms (Irish Centre) on Mount Pleasant and the Welsh Presbyterian church on Princes Avenue. Not all buildings are safe but it is encouraging that in many cases, developers can see commercial benefits in not knocking down buildings to build the usual bland blocks of flats and offices (although Lime Street proves that they will only go so far).
The photograph shows the kind of ruthless approach that was adopted in the 1960s and 70s as Liverpool struggled to adjust to a falling population and an inherited stock of poor housing. The wholesale clearance of areas is even more shocking as time goes on. St Catherine’s church (More recently demolished) on Tunnel Road stands almost alone in a flattened landscape sandwiched between the two railway cuttings. On the left is newly opened Paddington School and, in mid-distance, the tenement blocks of Myrtle Gardens.
Perhaps there was no other way forward at the time. The problem was that there were no real plans to revive the area (and others like it). A great opportunity was lost to rebuild the city with imaginative and community-orientated housing schemes that might have prevented many of the social issues that we now face. Money again, I suppose. Rather than spend on quality, as was the case in the 1930s when some of the best council housing in Europe was built, everything got done on the cheap – which everyone knows is never a long-term solution.
90 Duke Street (site of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club) 1975
The Monro (on the opposite corner, 1975
Duke Street in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was one of Liverpool’s finest streets. There are still good examples of its past, although far harder to find than thirty years ago. The buildings on the corner of Suffolk Street are a good example. They had survived until early this year but were unceremoniously pulled down to make way for a new headquarters for ACL.
Some might say that is a positive sign of progress, that the old buildings were a blot on the cityscape with no apparent interest in their salvation. Others, myself included, see their removal as yet another attack on the city’s heritage. Alright, the buildings were no architectural gems, just survivors from the past with their own bit of maritime history. Number 90 was the headquarters of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, once one of the finest in Britain. It welcomed many an important dignitary (not that that is a reason in itself to save a building). More importantly, it fitted into the historical fabric of the street.
Could it have been saved? Well – it should have been. You only have to cross the street to admire the renovated and successful Monro gastro pub. That could just of easily been lost but someone had the vision to restore it and guarantee its future.
Liverpool’s heritage is threatened by these small, almost imperceptible, losses. The old eighteenth century block on Dale Street, the facade of the Futurist, the stable block at Cain’s Brewery. This is like the bad, old days, when any development was preferable to no development. There is a car park opposite The Monro, where an ugly 1960s block once stood. Wouldn’t a better solution have been for ACL to have built their block there?
The Strand c1865
The Great Dry Dock, 1890
Liverpool 800, that fine book published to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Liverpool’s first charter, describes the area around the Custom House as Sailor Town. Maybe it is not a commonly used expression but it is entirely appropriate, for this small area was the centre of Liverpool’s shipping trade. Sadly, although remnants of The Strand survived into the mid-1970s, there is little left to excite the keen historian wishing to make sense of the Port’s history. Only the Baltic Fleet survives of the many public houses that would have been thronged with visiting sailors. Heap Mill is a rare warehouse survivor in an area in which the predominate building was the tall, filing cabinet structures that lined every street.
The top photograph is an early view, with the Custom House’s impressive classical facade dominating the street. The position of the dome indicates what a huge building it was (although it apparently had a rather dingy and depressing interior). Its position is approximately where the Hilton Hotel now stands, facing the Albert Dock.
The second view shows the facade of the Custom House from the Albert Dock. The repair of the old wooden ships must have been coming to an end. There are two ships in the dry dock, with a small gathering of bystanders unknowingly watching a dying trade in ship maintenance.
St Martin’s Cottages, 1954
St Martin’s Cottages, 1973
Housing is once again top of the political agenda (or near to the top if one excludes the European referendum, immigration and austerity measures) and so it should be. The population projections for Britain should be giving politicians nightmares – particularly in overheated London (where there could be a 40,000 shortage of school places within the decade). Too few new houses have been built and the cost of those available is out of the reach of most young people.
Of course, as with most things, nothing is new. Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century faced its own population explosion (mainly from Ireland) and the result was chronic overcrowding in slum housing (with thousands crammed into insanitary cellars). Disease was rife but the laissez-faire politics of the time made it impossible for local authorities to spend ratepayers money on practical solutions. That was until the Liverpool Sanitary Amendment Act of 1864 gave the Council special powers.
The first project was St Martin’s Cottages, a development of 124 dwellings opened in 1869. This was one, if not the first, municipal ventures of its kind. Hardly an earth-shattering initiative but a significant piece of history (the next Liverpool involvement was 16 years later in 1885 with Victoria Square – see my post of 13 August 2010 – which added a further 282 dwellings. In fact, by 1900, all the Council initiatives only added about 700 new dwellings).
The legacy of bad housing still persists. I am astonished by how generation after generation has had to endure substandard conditions at a time when Britain has generated so much wealth. St Martin’s Cottages were, in fact, condemned before the War but I can remember visiting an old man there in the mid-1970s, shortly before they were demolished in 1977.
My two pictures throw up a question. The 1954 block has a nameplate identifying the building as St Martin’s Cottages but the building is clearly only three storeys. To my knowledge the only blocks built were four storeys (bottom photograph). The building style is clearly the same but where was this smaller block? Can anyone throw any light on this?
Finally, I will be at the Look 15 Photobook fair at the Bluecoat Art Centre this Sunday (31st). If you are interested in photography, there are some interesting publishers attending and you can also catch Tricia Porter’s exhibition of her Liverpool 8 photographs.
Great George Place 1905
Great George Place today.
Great George Place looking towards the Cathedral.
Detail from 1898 map of Liverpool.
Where the David Lewis building was, stood St James’ Market (next door to Dr Duncan’s Dispensary, which was needlessly pulled down for the inner ring road in the early 1980s). Also of interest is the site of the short-lived St James’ Station, which campaigners are hoping to see reopen.
I regularly get requests for photographs of specific locations (and dates). Most I cannot help with, particularly early photographs of streets away from the city centre. The City Engineer’s Archive in Liverpool Record Office is the most likely source of early twentieth century images, otherwise it is largely a matter of chance. Chance intervened when Margaret Scotland asked: ‘My grandmother and her family ran a family business at 24 Great George?s Place opposite the David Lewis Centre. Do you have any photos from 1911 era?’
Well, it happened that I did have a print of a City Engineer’s photograph taken in 1905. (Credit to Liverpool Record Office). I have avoided using LRO images – my aim is to publish photographs from my archive – but this was a very appealing subject. I pass Great George Place everyday and have seen it change in the last 30 years. (Great George Place is not Great George Square – which is nearby). First the David Lewis building was demolished in 1980, along with the row of early nineteenth century buildings fronting Great George Street. Then the Nelson pub, attached to what is now The Wedding House, was pulled down only a few years ago, and the area around grassed over.
The main photograph is full of interest. The building in the centre is a public weighbridge with, on the left, a public urinal. The Wedding House building was then The London City and Midland Bank (numbers 3/4 Great George Place). The street numbers cross over to the other side of the street (the David Lewis side) and work their way round to the pub on the left (the White Lion) at 33. (Sadly number 24 the Cocoa Rooms run by Lewis Mark is out of shot). The building behind the weighbridge is also a Cocoa Rooms (Berminghams) but its address is on St James Street rather that Great George Place. Next door belonged to Meux Brewery – but is clearly just a retail outlet. Tudor Laundry is not mentioned but appears to be boarded up.
The area seems to be constantly changing. At the time of the photograph, it was the playground of Pat O’Mara (of Liverpool Slummy fame) who was born in Brick Street (the tall chimney sticking up behind Bermingham’s was just behind his house). Were he around today, I imagine he would feel completely lost, with only the bank building as a point of reference. Everything else has gone and the street is degraded as a result. The Baltic Creative is changing the landscape but this is yet another corner of the city that has been stripped of its history and character.
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?
When I moved to Liverpool in 1970, I was shocked by the extent of dereliction once I walked a few hundred yards from the main shopping streets. Most Northern cities had their fair share of run-down areas but none as pronounced as Liverpool. A mere 100 yards behind Church Street and you were into an abandoned warren of streets with crumbling warehouses and the ever-present smell of rot and decay.
Wolstenholme Square, off Hanover Street, was one such area. I remember looking at one of the properties with a view to setting up my arts project. Everything needed doing – rewiring, re-roofing, re-plastering – it was dirt cheap to rent but beyond any resources I could muster (it is still there today seemingly unoccupied). What I do remember is that there was a magnificent Eagle Press in one of the ground floor rooms with its trays of metal type. Solid cast-iron, it was a thing of beauty but would have required a crane to lift it out.
That was typical of my many explorations of those neglected offices and warehouses. Most have since disappeared but some have been saved and converted to various uses. Suffice is to say that there is no longer a pungent smell of dry rot as I walk through the streets. Wolstenholme Square is one of the last places to be caught up in the developers’ web for the student accommodation bug appears to be moving in (do we really need another development?). For over twenty years, the Square has housed some of the best nightclubs in the country but it appears their days are numbered.
The photograph I have chosen pre-dates my time in Liverpool. The very un-Liverpool style building with its Dutch-style roof was built for Goodlass Wall (famous for Valspar paint) as a paint factory. It must have been a terrifying site when it went up in flames during an air raid in December 1940.
First of all an apology for getting the date of my last post out by 30 years and many thanks to John Massey for his excellent and detailed correction. I had dated the photograph on the superficial basis of the girl in the foreground (not very clear admittedly). What I did not realise was that the rather elaborate bell tower above the porch was only erected in 1926 as a memorial to the men of the parish who died in WW1. The date makes much more sense of the children’s playground – which is very much in keeping with its new date rather than being some forward thinking by the City Council in 1900.
I am avoiding dating today’s images of old Walton Village. I would hazard a guess at the 1910s looking at the lady on a bicycle but I could be out by a decade. It is hard to picture Walton as a semi-rural retreat – and by the 1930s it had certainly been overtaken by the outward sprawl of Liverpool – but it had retained a picturesque area around the parish church. Of course Walton has a long history (being named in the Domesday Book, unlike Liverpool which was not mentioned, and the parish church was in control of Liverpool until the consecration of St Peter’s church in 1699) and survived as a separate township until 1895 when it was incorporated into Liverpool. Sadly, most of the charm of old Walton has disappeared apart from the fine church and the facing seventeenth century Old School House.
I remember seeing an exhibition at the Walker in the 1980s of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French master photographer. There were three or four images of Liverpool he had taken during a visit in 1962, including a fascinating photograph of workmen in the semi-circular graveyard of St Mary’s church. Why he wandered out to Walton is a mystery – although he was part of a team documenting northerners. He wasn’t impressed: “Writing about the same people of the North at work amounts to the same as writing about them at play. Their looks are not so different neither are their clothes. There is no exuberance on their faces nor gestures. They are hard at it but in a resigned sort of way. Their vacationing seems just an occupation as any other.” Perhaps he should have returned the following year, when Liverpool became the centre of the cultural universe.