Lodge Lane is going through a slow but noticeable revival. I have taken to buying my fruit and vegetables from the prospering International Stores – which lives up to its name serving a mainly immigrant community with foods from across the globe. Definitely worth a visit if you want an alternative to Tesco or Asda.
Today’s photograph, courtesy of Colin Weekes, is of Anakin’s Potato Stores, on the corner of Eden Street and Lodge Lane. In 1910, George William Anakin owned a small chain of shops in the area (Earle Road, Smithdown Road and Dudley Road). A Charles Anakin (brother or son? owned a similar small chain around West Derby Road). Eden Street was on the left hand side travelling from Ullet Road towards Smithdown Road (between Windsor View and Solway Street). The shop has a peeling sign on its other window advertising the shop as a fruit market. It must have been a hefty task to move all the baskets in and out of the shop every day but the three staff are all smiling for the camera.
I was reading a book written by Kurt Hutton, a German photographer who fled the Nazis and established himself in Britain as one of the great photojournalists on Picture Post magazine. He wrote that ‘a street is never of great interest to me if it does not show people who live in it. They are the essential thing. Perhaps for an architectural journal the case is different; but even here, to me the point seems to be that the street has been built, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the human beings who inhabit it.’ I couldn’t agree more – today’s photograph would be far less interesting without the three shop girls.
No doubt, in a hundred years time, people will look at photographs of the International Stores, with its food piled high outside, in a similar fascinated way.
The announcement that we are going to have a referendum on EU membership if the Conservatives win the next General Election might seem to have little connection with today’s photograph. The group of local councillors and arts administrators selecting the Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in 1938 is not exactly an image that has the serious implications of a plebiscite on Europe but there are similarities. Back then, the question of what was considered fit for our eyes and minds was heavily vetted not just in the case of the art on public gallery walls but also in the cinema, theatre and literature. Not only the Lord Chamberlain’s Office was involved but also the Board of Film Censors and, along the line, the local authority Watch Committee. If they objected to anything on the grounds of public taste, be it violence, nudity or whatever, they could put a banning order preventing public exhibition or sale (in the case of books). In other words, they did not trust the public to make up their own minds about what to see or read. Even as late as the 1980s, the BBC was banning the playing of records such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax amongst other records (with the inevitable result that it went to Number One).
The cries of anguish over the Referendum are of the same ilk – a refusal to believe that the British public can think for themselves. The committee of suited, mainly old and overwhelmingly male, Councillors might have made bold choices for all I know but it exudes the complacency of a paternalistic clique determining taste as they thought fit. Well, that is one way of looking at the photograph.
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 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/1908457120/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new).
George’s Dock c1875
New Brighton c1875
I have almost given up on John Sergeant’s television series. Four programmes in and Francis Frith has almost vanished from sight. Whoever conceived this vanity needs reminding that the central figure should be the pioneering Victorian photographer not a presenter showboating his amateur photographic skills. Harsh comment, perhaps, but I can only make comparisons with Michael Portillo’s excellent Great British Railway Journeys, in which he puts the subject before himself and reveals the magnificence of the Victorian railway system.
To further my research on Frith, I need to visit Birmingham Public Library, where the Frith archive is held. I want to get some handle on his negative numbering. I have in the region of 100 of his Liverpool photographs plus another 50 of ships in the Mersey.
Many are of familiar subjects, particularly St George’s Hall, which have limited appeal because they are places and buildings covered by many other companies. There were serious competitors such as Scottish firms James Valentine and Washington Wilson, as well as local Liverpool photographers. Their photographs were the postcards of the time and the popular attractions were the most saleable. Frith realised that liners were a good market and produced hundreds of the great Cunarders, Inman Line and other familiar ships. How active Frith was personally is difficult to ascertain, his company had grown substantially and he was in his late 50s when the real growth occurred.
The earliest photographic book on Liverpool I have come across was published by Philip, Son and Nephew in about 1875. It features some of the great buildings in Liverpool including the Custom House, Exchange Flags, the old Adelphi Hotel along with a liberal assortment of the new churches that were being built. The photographs, all by Frith, are hand-tipped in (this was before photo-mechanical printing was invented) and are rather lonely, uninhabited images (the exposures were so long that movement appears as a blur, as in the New Brighton photograph above, so the photographer chose to avoid people in the photograph whenever possible). I have reproduced a number of photographs from the album previously but here are two new ones, of George’s Dock and New Brighton.
Lord Street c1880
Detail of Lord Street photograph
I have been looking forward to John Sergeant’s series on Francis Frith, the Victorian photographer who helped change the way we look at the world. The first of a ten-part series started tonight on the pioneer who spotted the commercial potential of taking and selling photographs of every town and village in Britain.
Sadly, if the first episode is anything to go by, you will learn nothing about Frith. In fact, apart from a passing mention in Sergeant’s introduction, his name was not mentioned again. Instead, we had the master of the dance hamming his way through a few set cameos which gave no inkling of the life and contribution of the programme’s subject matter. This is a great shame because Frith is so important to the history of photography and his photographic life started out in Liverpool.
Frith moved from Chesterfield to Liverpool as a young man and established a wholesale grocers at 85 Lord Street. In Gore’s 1851 Directory, he is listed separately as a gentleman living at Beaumont Terrace, Seacombe. A founder member of Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association (along with James Newlands, Liverpool’s innovative Borough Engineer), Frith became enamoured by photography and sold his business at a substantial profit to pursue his hobby full-time. He made his name travelling to Egypt and the Middle East, where, under the most hostile conditions, he photographed the wonders of the Ancient World. His photographs were a sensation but, not one to rest on his laurels, Frith set about creating a photographic record of Britain that still survives largely intact to this day.
My disappointment in the first programme is that Frith has been relegated to no more than a prop. I have been researching his early life and was hoping to get a clearer picture of the man. Maybe, with nine more episodes to go, there will be something of substance but I am not holding my breath: the itinerary Sergeant has chosen on his round Britain trip does not even include Liverpool.
The photograph I have chosen today is by Francis Frith’s company and is of Lord Street c1880. The photograph has been slightly damaged as the result of being pasted on board. The glue has seeped through but fortunately only the sky in the background has been affected. The detail of the horse-drawn omnibus illustrates how well these prints (130 years-old) have survived.
Morning Star, Scotland Place c.1900
Patrick Byrne Fountain before removal, 1971
Patrick Byrne Fountain after removal to Pownall Square, 1973
In my last post, I bemoaned the apparent loss of the aluminium statue that once graced the Palais de Luxe in Lime Street. It might not have been a masterpiece but its disappearance is in keeping with the loss of a number of statues and ornaments that could have been saved with a more respectful approach. The single greatest loss is the sculpture by Charles Cockerell that once filled the tympanum on St George’s Hall. In their lack of wisdom, the Council decided it was unsafe and had it removed and, scandalously turned into hardcore. Another loss was the fine basalt pillar that once graced the entry to the Mersey Tunnel. Fortunately, the pillar at Birkenhead survives.
The fountain to Patrick Byrne does survive in a very much reduced form in the graveyard of St Anthony’s Church in Scotland Road. The base was rescued and turned into a memorial, although the handsome pillars were lost in the 1970s. Dandy Pat deserves much better – and his story is an essential part of Liverpool’s Irish heritage. His relatively short life (1845-1890) was full on achievement. Arriving penniless in Liverpool from County Wexford at the age of 17, he found work on the docks. Saving any spare money, he bought his way into the licensed trade, soon owning the lavish Morning Star public house in Scotland Place. His sobriquet, Dandy Pat, was in recognition of his smart and somewhat ostentatious dress sense.
A shrewd businessman, he was also a strong figurehead for his community, becoming an Irish Nationalist councillor for one of the two Scotland wards in Liverpool. He was a constant fighter against injustice and a benefactor to many Catholic charities. The fountain was erected from public donations and it is a sad reflection of the lack of care for his contribution to Liverpool that this important monument was treated with such a lack of respect. There is precious little to show of that great wave of Irish immigration that changed the character of Liverpool so fundamentally. I worked on an Irish Heritage trail some years ago – but it was eventually abandoned because so much of it had been destroyed, such as the birthplace of James Larkin, a revered figure in contemporary Irish history), or the original wash-house built for Kitty Wilkinson in Upper Frederick Street.
It’s all too late now but what a draw an Irish heritage trail would have been as part of the tourist mix. There really is a lack of imagination in the corridors of power.
I never get enough time for proper research. I have plenty of subjects on my list (such as the 1919 Police Strike), all potential book projects, but not at a stage I would like them to be.
Years ago, I bought a small booklet titled Arab: A Liverpool Street Kid Remembers by Andie Clerk. Self-published in 1971, it was a collection of reminiscences of a barefoot childhood at the turn of the twentieth century. Last year, I was prompted to assess it again having re-read Frank Shaw’s My Liverpool in which he has a chapter titled The Lollipop Man. Shaw describes how he was approached by Andie Clerk to put together his autobiography: ‘As a lad of 12, he earned his first coppers here (Lime Street), and behind in the warren of shabby streets, he wandered round as a barefoot boy. Nearby is the crossing he now guards as a lollipop man. Aged 73, he is a retired parson and lives alone in a small house in an Everton street which, if not exactly a slum, is shabby, indifferent and without grace.’
Frank did his best to try and put some style into the jumble of recollections but he struggled with the lack of structure and the absence of characterisation. The finished book was sent out to publishers but Andie Clerk grew impatient and decided to publish himself, adding his own slightly bizarre illustrations.
My interest suitably aroused, I revisited Arab with a view to possible re-publishing it. The first problem – who was Andie Clerk? The name is a pseudonym and clues are difficult to find. He was 12 in 1909 according to the book, so he was born in 1897. In 1913, he joined the army, fought at the Somme (as a sergeant) and left the army in 1928. He was then ordained on the prompting of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But who was he?
The book begins: ‘I was born somewhere in Liverpool. My father was no good. Like Judas he has gone to his own place. Of him I will say no more. My mother was just the opposite, so very good. This too is all I will say of her.’ On the facing page is a photograph of Andie as a young boy.
Underneath is the caption: A barefoot kid who sold papers on the Liverpool streets poshed up for this very early photograph.
So my research began to find out the identity of Andie Clerk and in my next post I will reveal my fascinating progress. The main photograph is of a group of ‘arabs’ enjoying a summer’s day by the Mersey in about 1910.
A headline in this week’s Liverpool Echo caught my eye. It appears that the Labour Council is attempting to have Wavertree’s Cricketer’s Club licence revoked after it hosted a conference of the British National Party. An interesting exchange of posts on the newspaper’s website came down heavily against the seemingly autocratic action being taken on the basis that freedom of speech was a value that must be upheld however abhorrent the views of the BNP.
This brought to mind today’s photograph, of a heavily bandaged Oswald Mosley photographed after being attacked at a rally in Liverpool. Photographed at Walton Hospital in October 1937, he was almost at the end of his political career. A member of the aristocracy, he became a Conservative MP at the age of 21 but fell out over the use of Black and Tans in Ireland. Crossing the House, he became a member of the Independent Labour Party and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Ramsay MacDonald’s government before, again falling out and establishing the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Heavily influenced by Mussolini, he quickly attracted influential support amongst both the Establishment and the working class. His more extreme supporters took to wearing black shirts and the Daily Mail published a famous headline Hurrah for the Black Shirts (not a lot changes with certain papers). Rallies held by Mosley provoked the kind of scenes that BNP rallies attract – although of a more violent nature. The Liverpool rally was described in The Glasgow Herald newspaper:
Sir Oswald Mosley was hit on the head by a stone and knocked semi-conscience immediately he stood on the top of a loud-speaker van to address an open-air meeting at Queens Drive, Liverpool, yesterday. As the van was being driven to a piece of waste land, hundreds of missiles were thrown, Sir Oswald, had not had time to utter a word when a large stone hit him on the temple and he fell on his face. Mounted police who were standing by in a neighbouring yard, immediately rushed out and charged the crowd back. A Fascist bodyguard stood by to guard Sir Oswald in spite of showers of bricks from large sections of the crowd.
Mosley was whisked off to Walton Hospital and discharged after a week recovering from concussion and a minor head wound. Twelve men and two women were arrested, although whether they were Fascists or Anti-Fascists is not stated. From 1937 onwards, the appeal of the Blackshirts rapidly waned and Mosley was eventually detained in prison in 1940 for the duration of the War.
Liverpool has an honourable tradition in the fight against Fascism. Around 130 local men, including two City Councillors, fought in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and 28 of them had died in the unsuccessful battle against Franco. One noted participant was Jack Jones, later General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. In light of the news item about the British National Party and its meeting at the Cricketers Club, it is a timely reminder to be vigilant of the dangers of extremism which often flourishes in difficult economic times.
Christmas in the Workhouse
Coopers, Church Street, 1930s
Back to the computer after a break away and may I thank everyone who has logged in, commented, and supported me over the last year. I did not have a chance to wish everyone a great Christmas but I am in time with New Year greetings. All the best for 2012.
Today’s posts cross over both occasions. Photographs of Liverpool’s Workhouse on Brownlow Hill are surprisingly rare. Sadly, it appears that the subject matter was not worth proper documentation. As we prepare for the duocentenary of Charles Dicken’s birth next year, no doubt we will be constantly reminded of the worst aspects of Victorian England. The workhouse might have offered shelter but it was a harsh life for all those who finished up inside its walls dependent on parish relief. The hardship is etched in the faces of the women. The single chain of decorations on the wall only add to the pathos.
The second photograph is of the ‘only wild haggis in captivity’. A curious crowd has gathered outside Coopers, the upmarket foodstore om Church Street. I remember Coopers just before it closed down in the early 1970s. It was a bit like Harrods/Fortnum and Masons in London, with a wonderful aroma of freshly-ground coffee. It was part of a larger chain, which had its headquarters in Glasgow.
Time was not on its side against the rise of supermarkets and it closed to make way for WH Smith (and more recently River Island).
On Friday, my book on Picture Post on Liverpool will be in the shops. It contains a fascinating collections of photographs, published and unpublished, taken by photographers of the famous but now defunct magazine.
During my research, I made many unexpected discoveries. The most interesting story was that of an article on Liverpool’s slums that was written by Fyfe Robertson in 1956 (who many older readers will remember for his dry humour and sharp reporting on television). He was supported by his future son-in-law, photographer Thurston Hopkins. I can find no trace of Robertson’s journalism on Liverpool as the article was rather scandalously ‘spiked’ by the magazine’s proprietor, Edward Hulton, after Liverpool councillors (presumably Jack Braddock and others) complained that the impending article was a slur on the city. So the feature never appeared but the photographs survived (now in Getty Images archive for whose permission to reproduce today’s image I am grateful). And what a magnificent series they are! All unpublished, they give a shocking insight into the real poverty that was so evident in many neighbourhoods.
Remarkably, Thurston Hopkins is still going strong at 98. (He actually apologised for taking time in replying to my questions because he was so busy!).
One photograph he particularly remembered was of the young girl in a bed covered with newspaper. The girl’s grandmother had tipped him off (another stunning photograph of an old woman in an alley – ‘like out of a Rembrandt painting’ as Thurston described her). He was accused later of having staged the photograph but he said it was real enough. Every day, the girl’s mother would cover the bed with newspaper to keep the rain from ruining the bedclothes.
How many others lived in such appalling conditions? No wonder the Council wanted the article buried.
The book Picture Post on Liverpool is available from Waterstones, WH Smiths, the Book Clearance Centre and other shops from Friday, price £7.99
Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1908457058