St Philip’s Band of Hope, 1910

When selecting photographs for my blog, I always look for images with a story behind them, whether topical or historical. Sometimes, as with today’s post, the topical and historical come together to add greater meaning.
The subject is alcoholism, a blight on society for the last three centuries. From the gin mania of the eighteenth century through to today’s grim statistics, alcohol has blighted the lives of millions. The harsh reality of the Industrial Revolution drove countless men and women into cheap alehouses to find some solace from life, nearly always to the detriment of their children, who could not escape the brutality of life so easily.
In 1847, a Leeds clergyman, Jabez Cunniclif, was shocked by the death of a young worker and decided to promote total abstinence from alcohol and aimed his efforts at children, who he hoped could be educated about the evils of drink. By 1855, the Band of Hope went national and the message of temperance attracted new followers throughout Britain. Remarkably, by 1935, the society had 3 million members (reflecting also the Prohibition movement in America). Culturally, being drunk in public was totally unacceptable and the idea of sobriety was universally upheld.
By the 1950s, however, cultural values had shifted and, increasingly, the idea of ‘signing the pledge’ (the commitment Band of Hope members made to abstain from alcohol) was seen as eccentric. The society rebranded itself Hope UK and took on a wider remit to tackle drug as well as drink abuse, and is still active in encouraging individuals – especially children and young people – to choose to make healthy choices about using substances. This is called “Primary Prevention” because the aim is to stop drug use before it starts.
Back to the photograph, which shows dozens of smiling children belonging to St Philip’s Band of Hope (Sheil Road) celebrating winning the 1910 Challenge banner. At the back, banners proudly display previous winners: Liverpool winning in 1894, 1896, 1898, 1900, 1902, 1903 and 1905. Manchester only managed two wins, in 1907 and 1908, although I cannot imagine a similar rivalry to match that of today’s football obsession.
Today, some might look at the photograph as somewhat quaint and the idea of temperance bizarre. Others might feel that the idea of actively promoting sobriety is not such a bad idea when the cost of alcohol abuse on our society is so high.

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,

Exterior: 19 Abercromby Square

The stairwell

Ceiling of former dining room

Ceiling decoration: A cherub riding a turkey – a clue to the American connection

Following my last blog about Liverpool’s lost interiors, regular contributor, Julie Freeman, posted her recollection of the fine interior of the once Bishop’s Palace in Abercromby Square, now the University’s Department of Education. The building dates to 1862-3, later than most of its surrounding Georgian buildings, and was built for CK Prioleau, a South Carolina businessman whose firm supported the Confederate cause in the American Civil War.
It has a superb interior, which I photographed in 1999. At the time, I was slightly shocked by the insensitive siting of modern lights that spoiled the integrity of the painted ceilings – but I believe that the interior has been upgraded more recently. The vestibule ceiling has a palmetto tree (see bottom photograph), the symbol of South Carolina.Joseph Sharples, in the Liverpool Pevsner Guide describes the interior as the greatest surviving 19th century city house in the city centre. Sadly, it is not publicly accessible and remains one of Liverpool’s hidden gems.

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.

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 chose this photograph for two reasons: first of all, I have neglected Old Swan in my many previous posts (as well as quite a few other areas I hope to get round to) but, more importantly, because it is an image taken in the early days of three revolutionary changes to society – the motor car, telephone and the cinema.
Steggles and Mitchell’s gaarage has long gone. It stood close to the corner with Green Lane (heading out from Liverpool). The year is 1913 and the garage did not exist in my 1910 directory (the premises were used as dry salters).
I am not sure when the first taxi with an internal combustion engine appeared on the streets of Liverpool but in London, it was 1903. (In September, 1899, the first American died in an car accident. Sixty-eight year-old Henry Bliss was helping a friend from a street car when a taxi driver lost control and fatally hit him).
The telephone has a slightly older history, the first service started in London with just 10 subscribers and the early years were dominated by private companies on licences. However, in 1912, just before the photograph was taken, the Post Office was granted a monopoly once these licences had expired. The only exceptions were telephone systems run by local authorities at Hull and Portsmouth. Until 2007 only Hull’s service remains independent, Portsmouth’s was sold to the Post Office in 1913. (In 2007, Hull sold its remaining stake in its company for over £107 million).The photograph indicates that the taxi firm was one of the earliest subscribers with its number 185 Old Swan.
Liverpool had gained its first purpose built cinema only a year earlier – The Futurist, Liverpool’s first purpose-built cinema opened in 1912 (see my post for December 28th). The posters on the wall advertise Dynamited Love (an 1912 film) and Pimble’s Ivanhoe (1913). There is another poster advertising The Black 13 but I cannot trace this (there was a much later film of the same name where Black 13 was the number on a roulette wheel).
A year later, World War was to irrevocably change society. Did the three proud drivers survive the horrors of war? It is fascinating to examine photographs and search for clues. This one is a splendid example.

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.

I have commented before on the state of Lime Street. What should be a showpiece street for the city (as the first place many visitors see when leaving Lime Street Station) is an eyesore. The poor quality 1950s buildings on the west side are beyond redemption – they need pulling down (although the 1930s Art Deco Forum Cinema must be kept). On the other side of the street, it is a different story – for the buildings here have real character. Most date from the nineteenth century but among the neglected gems is the old Futurist Cinema.
I first visited the Futurist in 1973 to attend a press showing of the film Deliverance. It was a brilliant experience – just three of us in the Circle being plied with brandy by the manager as we watched what became one of my favourite films. I always had a soft spot for the place thereafter. A piece in today’s Liverpool Echo sparked off that memory – and, more importantly drew my attention to an important campaign being launched by Lesley Mullally and Sue Gilmore to save the building. The Futurist was Liverpool’s first purpose-built cinema and opened in 1912, the year of the photograph above. Its original name was The Picture House and a full history can be found on Lesley and Sue’s website:
What surprised me is that the building is not listed – which makes it vulnerable to redevelopment. There may not be an immediate threat but Lesley and Sue have started a petition to get something done. I take my hat off to them – many fine buildings lost in the last few decades might have been saved had more people taken the same active approach to our heritage.

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.