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.
I love photographs like this one of Lewis’s Soda Fountain. Taken on 30 August 1933 at 9.12 (if the clock is right). Photographs like this tell us so much – the men in charge in their suits, in central position, with a large staff of seventeen young men and women looking, in the main, rather miserable for the photographer. Social photography like this is so often lost when family albums are thrown out. Lewis’s is an important part of Liverpool’s history and images like this, of just one department, show how big an undertaking it was at its height.
It is sad to think that everyone in the photograph has probably long since died. There is a poignant message on the back of the photograph: “To my Darling Mother with best love from your loving daughter”. No doubt she is one of the young girls – maybe the only one smiling on the front row.
Lime Street, 1978
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.
Lime Street, 1970
Sefton Park c1900
Caf?, Sefton Park, c1900
First of all, my apologies for not having updated my blog before Christmas. I am in time to wish all those who have taken time to read it the very best for 2015. It has been very heartening to generate such a good response to my posts and I can assure everyone that there is plenty more to come – starting with these two photos of Sefton Park from over a century ago. The caf? must be the earliest version – I presume it was on the same site as the current one.
One of my hopes for 2015 is that the Mayor sees sense and abandons his plans to build on Sefton Meadows. It is a dreadfully short-sighted proposal which will destroy the integrity of the park. There is no shortage of brownfield land throughout the city and using up green belt is not the answer.
I appreciate the City Council has to make tough decisions but not all work to the long-term benefit of Liverpool. One classic example was the decision to rebuild the St John’s Market area – for a new St John’s Market and a ridiculously over-ambitious civic centre. The destruction of a largely Georgian and early Victorian network of narrow streets and interesting squares removed in one blow the heart of the city. Below are two reminders of what was lost.
Great Charlotte Street c1960
Looking down Great Charlotte Street, the sandstone building on the right is the Fish Market, designed by John Foster as an adjunct to the main St John’s Market of 1822. Beyond, to the left of the Royal Court, is the Stork Hotel in Queen Square. In the foreground, I was unaware that Liverpool had a branch of Kendall’s – I had assumed that it was a Manchester shop only.
Roe Street c1960
This is a view of the back of St John’s Market. Picton made an interesting observation in his fascinating account of Liverpool’s history and architecture (published in 1873): To architectural merit it can hardly lay claim. The heavy carpentry of the roof and its division into numerous spans, give an air of lowness, almost of gloom. Allowance must be made for the period of its erection. As yet railway stations with vast iron roofs and enormous spans were things undreamt of. The comparison between the roofs of St John’s Market and Lime Street Station will show what a vast stride has been taken in five and forty years.
Fast foward the best part of a century and it would be hard to agree that vast strides were made in removing the whole area.
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,
Lord Street c1887
Lord Street 1900
Lord Street 1955
Lord Street is a short street, litle more than a hundred metres from Whitechapel to Derby Square. According to Picton’s Memorials of Liverpool, in 1668-70, Castle Orchard ran from the castle down towards the original pool (where Whitechapel is today). The stream was crossed by a bridge with the path leading to the Great Heath (the land to the east of the pool and south of London Road). The land was owned by Lord Molyneux who fell into dispute with the Corporation as to the right of way. The dispute was settled by treaty and Lord Street (originally Lord Molyneux Street) was formed and a stone bridge was built across the stream. Intriguingly, Picton mentions that in 1851, excavations for sewers uncovered the arch of the bridge, which had apparently been buried a few feet below street level. The width of the bridge was about 15 feet. According to Picton, the bridge was covered up and still existed in 1873). Does it still remain? A fascinating prospect for a future Time Team exploration.
The top photograph was sent to me courtesy of Charlie Schreiner. He had bought it on eBay because the description suggested it was possibly a daguerrotype. In fact, the photograph is a peculiar hybrid but of a much later date (daguerrotypes had largely disappeared by the 1850s). Charlie forwarded me his scan of the photograph and it was soon clear that it was from the late 1880s (Hope Bros did not start trading at that site until c1887). The view up Lord Street terminates with the Church of St George,(1726-34), a fine building in the Classical tradition. A later addition was a fine east window by W.Hilton, described by Picton as one of the finest compositions of the English school. The council paid the artist ?1000 for the commission – a considerable sum. In Picton’s words: It is not often we have to record munificent encouragement of the arts in the proceedings of town councils. Let this stand to their credit.
The second photograph (courtesy of LRO), taken over a decade later, shows virtually the same view. There have been cosmetic changes to the buildings and the church is still there, although it had closed in 1897. Within a short time of this photograph, it had been demolished and the site cleared for the widely disliked (architecturally) statue of Queen Victoria. What happened to Hilton’s fine glass window?
The area around Lord Street suffered dreadfully during the war and virtually the whole of the left-hand side was blitzed. The 1955 photograph shows the extent of the damage and the start of reconstruction. Sadly, the 1950s replacements have little character compared to the fine Victorian shop facades.
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).
Houghton Street, 1964
Daisy Day, 1965
In May last year, I included a photograph of Houghton Street looking towards Clayton Square. The photograph today shows the street from the opposite direction looking down towards Williamson Square. Within a year, the whole site was cleared to make way for the new St John’s Market.
One shop caught my eye – Madame Foner’s corsetry shop. The shop relocated to Bold Street and, last year again, rather incongruously to the front courtyard of the Bluecoat Art Centre. The last move seems to have been unsuccessful and it has been replaced by a gift shop. Small shops come and go but Madame Foner has had a long lifetime for a specialist shop.
The second photograph is of a fundraising campaign for Merseyside hospitals. I only arrived in the city in 1970 and I cannot recall Daisy Days. The small girl dressed as a nurse would appear to be helping her dad.
Two more photos (and the last for the time being) from Pat Weekes. Would anyone else like to submit their photographs of old Liverpool? Any date, any subject – this is a perfect forum for getting them seen!
Ask any teenager in 1963 where they would most like to be and there was only one answer – Liverpool. But – when your grandmother starts strutting her stuff on the dance floor, it’s time for a quick exit. The Cavern re-opened, after shutting for financial reasons, in July 1967. Harold Wilson, the then-Prime Minister cut the ribbon with Jimmy Saville, Bessie Braddock and Ken Dodd in tow. Enough warning there to say this place is no longer cool. The centre of the creative universe just a few years ago had become yet another dull club living on past reputations.
The Swinging Sixties had a massive liberating effect on music, the arts and fashion. Sadly Miss Wartski seems to have hit the wrong tone. Lesson one in marketing – get a good, memorable name. Wartski somehow doesn’t sound quite right.
I am not sure where the shop was – I think Bold Street – but thanks again to Pat Weekes for two memorable images.
61 Lime Street, c1912
Church Street, 1928
In a much earlier post, I wrote that a history of shops in Liverpool was overdue. There is plenty to write about from the first purpose-built department store in Europe (in Compton House where M & S is now), the great Welsh retailers David Lewis, Owen Owens and TJ Hughes, the Vestey’s and their Dewhurst butchers chain, the once-exclusive Bold Street and so on.
Liverpool with its extremes of wealth and poverty supported a wide range of shops catering for those at either end and the ones in the middle. The first Woolworth’s store was in Church Street and Harrods were close to opening their only store outside of London on the site then occupied by St Peter’s church. They pulled out and Woolworth moved across the road and built the fine shop now occupied by Top Shop.
Marks and Spencer were another company attracted to the city and they opened a shop in Lime Street in 1903. The top photograph is of a slightly later date because The Picture House (later renamed The Futurist) built in 1912 is clearly visible next door. The facade above the shop front is showing signs of age – and it is no better today.
M & S had opened their first store in Manchester in 1894 and quickly built up a reputation for their high principles, buying only British produced goods and offering a no-quibbles returns policy that was unique at that time. In 1928, the company moved into a substantial part of Compton House and have remained there ever since. The store was extended in the 1970s and a further extension to front Williamson Square has been planned but not, as yet, carried out. Hopefully, the development will take place before too long and help revamp what is now a rather poor quality city square.