Category: Shops



Gallagher’s Stores, Crown Street, 1925

Irwins, Myrtle Street, 1920s

Commercial photographers had to be a versatile lot to survive. From weddings and portraits to the occasional commercial commission, it was never an easy occupation, particularly in the poorer areas where money was scarce. One common practice was to photograph proud shop owners outside their premises, ideally with all their staff so extra copies could be sold.
The photographs might be of often mundane premises but time has added an extra dimension. A proud Mrs Gallagher stands alongside her daughter in the doorway of her newsagents. Posters advertising films at Olympia and The Tunnel Picturedrome date the photograph to 1925. The second photograph of Irwins grocery at 68 Myrtle Street is probably of the same period. The staff of seven, all smartly dressed, were part of a large Liverpool chain with head offices in Orwell Road (Kirkdale) and over 100 outlets throughout the area.
Thanks again to Colin Weekes for allowing me to post these fascinating pieces of social history.

Another week and another Liverpool institution hits the buffers. TJs is the last of the great Liverpool department stores. Blackler’s, Owen Owen’s and Lewis’s have gone and George Henry Lee has been absorbed into John Lewis. Even that seemingly ever-present high street name Littlewood Stores is no more. Liverpool was once the centre for retail innovation (I have already covered the history of Compton House, now home to M & S, and its place in retail history).
Sadly, the charm and character of places such as TJ Hughes is being lost. Remarkably, in Liverpool, it had survived outside of the main shopping area by relying on its reputation and goodwill. That was clearly not enough. Its core business was to offer good quality goods at bargain prices. Today, Primark, Poundstretcher and Home & Bargains amongst other offer similar cheap and cheerful goods and the competition has clearly pushed TJs into a corner. Administration does not necessarily mean the end but the future of London Road will be bleak if the store closes its doors.

I have too few photographs of many suburban areas. The ‘Golden Age’ of postcards, at the turn of the twentieth century was a time when commercial photographers would trawl the streets for customers who would pay for small runs of real photographic postcards of their business, home and family. This view of Lawrence Road is one such postcard, which could be sold to any of the shops shown. The campanile of St Bridget’s church is to the left (a very interesting interior if you can get access – one of the city’s hidden gems) and the bakers shop of Walter Moore can be seen on the corner of Portman Road. The shops in view are a typical good mix of the times. On the far corner is James Hanson (dairy), a sub-post office, John Hughes (grocer), William Johnson (fishmonger), Daniel Higgin (butcher) and William Hargreaves (greengrocer). Just one small stretch of the road and all the basics provided for. It must have been a profitable area because Hargreaves had another shop two blocks further on, at the corner of Bagot Street. Lawrence Road must have been a thriving centre, in spite of being relatively close to the city centre. Other shops included a drapers, bookseller, tobacconist, shoe and boot dealer, stationers and chandlers.
How different from today with the almost unstoppable spread of the supermarket. I cannot imagine there is much money in selling postcards of Asda or Tesco.

Here is another previously unpublished photograph of Lark Lane in 1893. The horse-drawn omnibus is advertising the Liverpool Overhead Railway, which had commenced services in January of that year. The shops behind the omnibus are William Truesdale (grocer), Elizabeth Handley (tobacconist) and, on the right of Truesdale, Arnold Thomas (glass and china dealer) and the Wesleyan Chapel.
Back then, Lark Lane had a good mix of shops including bakers, shoe and boot manufacturers, a stationers, a saddler, milliner, fish and game dealer, grocers, butcher etc.
Sadly, like many similar suburban shopping streets, the diversity has gone; in Lark Lane’s case to be replaced by bars and restaurants. Perhaps with the ever-increasing cost of transport, people will look towards local areas more favourably, although the relentless spread of supermarkets has probably seen off all but a few specialists. How many more Tesco’s can South Liverpool take? Should we care? I think the list of trades in 1893 and the skills they represented says we should. Why can’t we turn back the clock and recreate suburban centres of specialist retailers who care about serving their community.

Lord Street suffered badly during the war, losing many fine buildings, particularly on the left side of the street in today’s photograph.
The right-hand side fared better and the most prominent building, the Lord Street Arcade (the brown and white striped building) is one of the better buildings that has survived. A rather strange building for its time (1901) and built in the Gothic style that was already falling out of favour, it was originally built as a galleried arcade, as is shown in the second photograph, which was taken just before it opened. The arcade was not a great success, probably because the individual shop units were too small. In the late 1980s, I rented a small office on the second-floor gallery, but I never liked the place. The original glass roof had been replaced by a suspended ceiling and the whole place felt claustrophobic. Soon after I moved out, the building was taken over by a sports chain who remodelled the upper floors.
Probably the most interesting fact about the building is that Walter Aubrey Thomas was the architect (not to be confused with Walter Thomas, architect of the Philharmonic Hotel). WA Thomas’s more successful buildings included the State Assurance (1905) on Dale Street, Tower Buildings (1906) and, his masterpiece, the Royal Liver Building (1911). Three very individual buildings – all stylistically quite different. All substantially better buildings than the British Home Store building, which can be seen in construction further up the street – a building totally out of sympathy with its neighbours with its brutalist front that epitomises the worst of the post-War architecture afflicted on the city.

First of all, an apology. In my last but one post, I attributed Dickson Terrace to Dickson Street in the heart of docklands. Researching today’s photograph, I realised that Dickson Terrace was actually off Soho Street, a stone’s throw from Scarlet Street. I have corrected the error, which does not change the general context of my post but does significantly shift its geography.
It is clear that both the Dickson Terrace and Scarlet Street photographs were taken at approximately the same time, presumably by a photographer on a press assignment to capture the essence of Liverpool’s slums. Scarlet Street, a short terrace off Mansfield Street near to its junction with St Anne Street, is by no means as ‘desperate’ as many streets around Scotland Road and the houses look relatively well-cared for. What particularly caught my eye were the two children with very strange hats, particularly the small boy on the right who seems to have a pair of shorts on his head.

At first glimpse, just a photograph of a Liverpool tobacconist – in this case 426 Edge Lane. Without the caption on the back, this press photograph would simply be a record of a shop advertising the joy of smoking (“For your throat’s sake – smoke Craven A”). The only clue to another storyline is the man with his back to the camera. Surely, if it was the proud shop owner he would be facing the photographer!
The caption reveals all (or nearly all – because I am missing the conclusion). The date is January 24th, 1939: “A member of Liverpool CID locking up the premises of 426 Edge Lane yesterday, The tobacconist occupier, Thomas Edward Kelly, aged 32, was arrested and charged at Liverpool yesterday with having in his possession four kegs of potassium chlorate. He was remanded in custody.”
On January 16th, the IRA launched a campaign of bombing and sabotage directed at government targets such as post offices, bridges and railway stations. The object was material damage – not civilian deaths, although a number of people were injured. Much of the campaign was targeted on London, although Birmingham and Manchester were affected. In the same year, 17 year-old Brendan Behan, a runner for the IRA, was arrested in Liverpool following bombing in Coventry. He was sentenced to 3 years in Borstal – an experience he used in writing Borstal Boy.
I have not been able to follow-up what happened to Thomas Edward Kelly (I need to spend some time in Liverpool Record Office) but it would seem a major bombing attack, possibly in Liverpool, had been averted.
Once again, there is a fascinating story behind a photograph. Sadly, too often, all we are left with is an image with no obvious thread to follow. A lesson to us all – always caption photographs for a future generation.
Postscript: Many thanks to R Walsh who has posted the following information:
Kelly was charged, with eight other Liverpool men of possessing explosives, weapons and ammunition with intent to endanger life and cause destruction of property. Kelly was later accused of being the adjutant of an IRA cell. Five of the men stood trial at Manchester Assizes on conspiracy to cause explosions. One, Hannon, was found guilty and sentenced to seven years penal servitude. The rest, including Kelly, were found not guilty and discharged.
426 Edge Lane stood one along from the corner of Binns Road, going towards town and just opposite The Barbers.

Wilson Street

Two more photographs from the photographer of Beresford Street and Park Hill Road. The top image is of Wilson Street, which ran parallel to Park Road and between Park Hill Road and South Hill Road. I think we are looking at the grocery shop of Mrs Mary Slade, on the corner of Drysdale Road, as it is the only shop listed on the street.
The second photograph is more of a puzzle. The only E. Welch (the name of the shop-keeper in the photograph) listed in the 1893 Gore’s Directory, is Ellen Welch of 201 Upper Frederick Street – just outside of the Dingle area.
However, no shop is indicated – which seems to suggest a different location. The property is much older than the Dingle properties I have posted, which suggests it is nearer to the town centre, however, so perhaps someone can pinpoint the location more accurately.

This shot of Park Hill Road is by the same amateur photographer who took the photograph of Beresford Road posted last week. The focus of the image appears to be the shop of Ann Young, confectioner and wholesaler of crumpets and muffins, at 64 Park Hill Road, with a young, delivery boy in the doorway. The street looks prosperous and ordered, clearly a respectable neighbourhood. I cannot work out the intentions of the photographer. I will post more of his/her photographs in the next few days and, hopefully, some connection will become obvious to a more sharp-witted reader. The only link appears to be shops – but that is rather a weak guess.
Whatever the reason, it is great to have ‘ordinary’ streets of areas such as the Dingle captured for posterity. The prevailing opinion that such districts were all poverty-stricken is clearly not the case. These are streets outside of the inner-ring of courts and tenements and my 1910 Gore’s Directory lists the next-door neighbours as John Rathbone, police constable (number 66) and Park Hill Higher Grade School (44-62). Other occupations on the street include joiners, a printer, pawnbroker, engine driver, teacher of music and coppersmith – a real solid mix of working-class trades.

I have a strong affection for this bookshop, even though it had disappeared long before I came to Liverpool. (It was demolished to make way for the new St John’s Market). It represents a lost world of retailing – where bookshops would survive happily in a mix of other small shops. Today, the chains have squeezed the life out of these small independents, along with impossibly high rents and rates. We may have more choice but at the cost of individuality and character.
The bookshop sticks in my mind because my old friend, Stan Roberts, shopped there during the 1950s and would buy his books by the pound weight (6p a lb). He stocked up on Gore’s Directories, in particular, which even at their weight were an astute purchase.
As a publisher, I would love more bookshops in the city. When I started publishing in the late 1980s there were over a dozen good outlets (Henry Young, Charles Wilson, William Potter, Hudsons, Central Books among them). Now, apart from News from Nowhere, we have Waterstones (x2), WH Smith (which has almost thrown the towel in regarding local books) and the Book Clearance Centre in St John’s Market (brilliant for cut-price local books). Times have changed! If Waterstones go – it will see off most small independent publishers and it will be no use browsing Amazon for the latest local titles. Perhaps I should have titled the blog A Publisher’s Lament – but it does feel like a Golden Age of publishing is rapidly coming to an end.