A Francis Frith photograph of Albert Dock and the Custom House. The date is approximate but it is certainly pre-1878 because Lyster’s Albert Hydraulic Power Centre (or The Pumphouse as it is now known) has not been built.
Frith is the great pioneer of Liverpool photography – and he was active from the early 1850s. Annoyingly, although there are hundreds of his early photographs of other English towns and landmarks (in particular cathedrals, abbeys and churches), I have come across no photographs by him pre-1870. I still hold out hope that there are photographs in some collection – there are still many unexplored sources. If there are 1850 photographs, they would coincide with the completion of St George’s Hall, so I would expect it to be the most likely candidate (Frith and Company photographed it many times in later years). I would hope that the waterfront would feature but, in many ways, the view shown above would have looked quite similar to a photograph taken in the 1850s. I would not expect to find heavily peopled photographs, photographic plates were far too slow to capture movement and photographers generally settled for unpeopled landscapes and building shots.
Nevertheless, the 1870s photographs give a strong impression of an important seaport and underline the great loss to Liverpool’s architectural heritage when the Custom House was first firebombed and then unnecessarily demolished after the War.
My apologies for the lack of activity in recent weeks but I have been on holiday to India, where I spotted this marvellous sign. India is an experience like no other. Temples and palaces are falling down and, in the case of the palaces where I found the sign, over-run by monkeys. Yet the magnificence of the buildings is overwhelming. I was reminded of a newspaper article shortly after the Albert Dock re-opened in 1984, where the journalist derided the restoration as bourgeosification. He complained that by cleaning the soot-blackened bricks and stonework, the patina of decades had been lost and that the building was all the poorer for it. I was angered by the article at the time – like most people in Liverpool, the Albert Dock restoration marked a milestone in the city’s revival and a London-based writer’s observations seemed insensitive and gratuitous.
My travels in India, though, did chime with his sentiments to some extent. There is something romantic about buildings that are bashed around the corners. I remember the roads off Duke Street (Lydia Anne Street/Henry Street/York Street) which until relatively recently had the feels of the old seaport – you could almost imagine Charles Dickens on one of his Liverpool night trips with the police. They still exude an atmosphere but without the smell of rot and damp that once permeated the area.
Much has been done to improve Liverpool in the last decade but the idea of sustaining our heritage took a rather inglorious bash this week when the Victorian Society voted Langton Dock Pumping Station as one of its ten most important Victorian buildings at risk. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a photograph – something to rectify in the next few weeks. Isolated on the edge of a container park, it is a fine red brick building of 1879 by Lyster (although, surprisingly, Joseph Sharples omits it from his fine book on Liverpool’s architecture). Hopefully, Peel Holdings will put some effort into safeguarding the site (if it is their responsibility).
There are quite a number of buildings that are seriously at risk. Two I pass regularly are the Wellington Rooms on Mount Pleasant and the Welsh Presbyterian Church on Princes Road. Both are in a desperate state but not beyond salvation. The Wellington Rooms, in particular, could quite easily be restored as an arts venue. Better known in recent years as the Irish Centre, the building was erected in 1815 by public subscription following the Battle of Waterloo. Initially assembly rooms for dancing and concerts, the building has changed ownership on a number of occasions. After the last War, it became the Rodney Youth Centre, before being taken over by Liverpool’s Irish community.
Liverpool has precious few Georgian buildings of this quality. It really is time for action.
The Welsh Presbyterian Church is a more daunting prospect, since it has been stripped of its internal fittings and a large section of its roof. Its steeple is a magnificent sight but, unless action is taken, it won’t be there for future generations to enjoy.
First of all I must apologise for the dreadful error with my last post. As several readers have already pointed out, the photographs are of Richmond Fair NOT Cambridge Street Almhouses. Mea culpa! I have edited the post – so accurate information is now available. I can’t promise I won’t make mistakes in the future but please correct me when I do, there is nothing worse that putting out badly wrong information.
Today’s post was triggered by a walk past the now closed Lewis’s store in Ranelagh Street. Covered in scaffolding, it had a board up announcing a new Odeon cinema and a mix of fast food outlets to the Central Village. Having already dealt with the euphemistic term ‘Gardens’ when applied to tenements devoid of anything growing, I can’t help having a dig at whoever names these developments. No – it isn’t a Village – not in any context I understand. (Even less than Stockbridge Village). No cricket on the green or ducks in the (artificial) lake, I fear.
Nonetheless, I look forward to the development opening. At least Lewis’s has been saved and, hopefully, the statue by Jacob Epstein will look even better when set against the newly cleaned walls. Lewis’s original building was a victim of bombing in 1941. The replacement went up in 1947 – remarkably soon after the War ended. Materials were in short supply but the Portland stone cladding gives a quality of finish that must have been quite uplifting at that desperate time when the city was struggling to get back on its feet.
The statue by Epstein is another bold statement of a brighter future. Its official title is Liverpool Resurgent, although it is more commonly known as ‘Dickie Lewis’. I particularly fond of the three panels underneath, also by Epstein, of children at play.
I originally posted these photographs under the heading Cambridge Street Almshouses. An serious error on my behalf – so I am correcting all my previous text. Richmond Fair (off Richmond Row) was, in fact, originally opened as a trading place for Yorkshire woollen goods in the 1780s. It was galleried, like other markets at that time, and rooms were let out to other traders. The Town Council made efforts to close it down in order to preserve their control over local markets but they eventually backed down. How successful Richmond Fair was is not clear but, by the 1850s, it was run-down and had lost most of its tenants. Picton thought it conjured up images of Russian and Middle Eastern markets, although the clientele ge described lacked any romantic appeal.
The Fair was taken over as dwellings, particularly for washer women but, in 1910, it had reached the end of its life and was demolished.
Thank you for all the kind words about the new Fotolore site. Keep on checking it out – new images are being added every day.
Waterloo Grain Warehouse, 1875
First of all, I must apologise for the relatively few blogs in recent months. This has been for a positive reason – the launch of a new website dedicated to photographs of Liverpool. Fotolore has taken my son Matt and myself over two years to develop and offers a fantastic archive of images from the 1850s onwards. Unlike this blog, which only offers a limited number of images in a chronological order, Fotolore is an ever-expanding image bank that can be easily accessed with simple searches.
Fotolore is starting with a limited number of images (some 500 in total) because we need to test it out on you. We want you to look at it and comment on how easy (or difficult) it is to use and on any other issues you care to raise. That way, we can get rid of any bugs and problems before adding a further sizeable number of photographs (it is much easier to sort out 500 images at this stage than 1000s at a later time).
This is not just an archive to look at. All the images are available for purchase as prints* and there is a forum for comments which we hope you will use. It is very important to us that Fotolore develops as an interactive site where thoughts, memories and opinion can be freely exchanged. The site is about making local history alive and that is where you come in.
I also hope to catch up on many of the requests for photographs I have received from readers over the last two years. It will take time but my hope is that we can find images of most streets, schools, pubs and other familiar places over the coming years. The great thing about Fotolore is that is designed to keep on expanding so that 1000s of photographs will become available.
The Streets of Liverpool blog will continue and will get back to its old frequency now the new site is underway. Enjoy Fotolore – and don’t forget to add your comments.
* If you’d like to buy a print, use the code FotoloreBlog when you checkout and you’ll get 25% off until the end of September.
I have avoided writing about football so far (apart from a post about match day in 1953). Today’s photograph is more about the phenomenon of the travelling supporter. During the 1970s, an increasing number of young men/boys took to following their teams around the country. Some were hell bent on trouble, fighting and shoplifting, but to many it was the excitement of being independent, seeing Britain with a group of mates.
The photograph was taken by Jim Carter, well-known in railway circles as the ‘Footplate Photographer’. He took a camera wherever he went, although this photograph is not one of his usual subjects. Tantalisingly, he has not dated the photograph but the platform is the London-bound/arrival at Lime Street, so the supporters could be returning from a London match (although it looks too light a day for that) or arriving from London for a match at either Goodison or Anfield. It is interesting to note that team colours were out of favour at that time, so identification is almost impossible. Note also, the policeman peering out from a carriage (with the door open).
There is a vast number of photographs out there which reflect society and its preoccupations. Sport, particularly football, is a dominant one in Liverpool and it is interesting to see the activities of the supporters rather that the action on the field documented in this way.
Lander Road is a short road between Linacre Lane and Webster Street, not an area I am well-acquainted with. I was about to make the ill-judged remark that the school had probably long-gone but a check on Google satellite revealed that it is still there, although probably in a new building. I have commented before that an illustrated book on Liverpool schools would make an important addition to the bookshelves of those interested in local history – after all, we have all been through the system and most of us have happy memories, particularly of junior school. Looking at the top photograph, there is, perhaps, one girl who is not having her best day.
I can’t imagine her parents wanting to shell out for a print! What is noticeable is that the children are dressed in their best and a look at my 1910 Gore’s Directory reveals a solid aspiring working-class area with joiners, plumbers, mariners, tram guards, carters, tanners and dock gatesmen among the trades represented on Lander Road. Even the teachers have made an extra effort, particularly in the bottom photograph of girls exercising in the school yard.
Dingle Station, Park Road c.1910
The terminus for Liverpool Overhead Railway at Dingle
Two recent events prompted me to post this blog. On July 25th, the BBC reported a tunnel had collapsed in the Dingle and people in nearby streets had been evacuated. At the same time, I received a copy of The Times for February 6th 1893 from www.historic-newspapers.co.uk with a full account of the opening of Liverpool Overhead Railway by the Marquis of Salisbury – a coincidence I could hardly fail to avoid blogging about.
It is ironic that the Overhead Railway started (or finished) its route underground at Dingle station on Park Road and doubly ironic that the only surviving section is down below street level. In 1901, Dingle station was the scene of the Overhead’s worst disaster when an electrical fire on board an incoming train got out of control and, fanned by the tunnel draught, quickly engulfed the terminus. Six people died and such was the devastation that the station was closed for more than a year. Sometime after the Overhead closed in 1956, the disused tunnel was taken over by a car repair company and used to store dozens of cars. There are quite a few interesting photographs of the tunnel on the internet such as http://www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/tunnels/gallery/dingle.html. The extent of the collapse of the tunnel has not been reported but it would be a great shame if this last relic of an important part of the city’s history is not repaired and made safe for future generations.
I also acquired another newspaper from www.historic-newspapers.co.uk – an account in The Times again in February 1830 reporting the ‘Dreadful Accident to Mr Huskisson’ the first victim of the railway age: ‘Mr Huskisson, who was in a weak state of body, and was a little lame of one leg, either fell down in the agitation of the moment, or, which seems more probable, was, by the sweep of the door, knocked down on the road. He fell on his face, in the vacant space between the two lines. His left leg, which was extended, touched the rail on which the Rocket moved and one of the wheels catching it ran obliquely up the limb as high as the thigh, mangling, or rather smashing it in a shocking manner.’ They don’t report like that today in The Times!
Garston Library (opened 1909)
Toxteth Library (opened 1902)
Kensington Library (opened 1890)
Liverpool has a proud place in the public library movement. It was a Liverpool-born (and Liverpool MP), William Ewart, who promoted the first Public Libraries Act in 1850, which led to the first public library opening in Duke Street (the building is still there although now used for commercial offices). In order to get the Bill through Parliament, William Ewart was forced to make an important compromise: only boroughs with populations of more than 10,000 would be allowed to open libraries.
Sir William Brown MP realised the Duke Street building was inadequate and personally funded the entire cost of the Brown Library, which he opened in 1860 on Shaw’s Brow (now William Brown Street). The new library attracted magnificent donations, including the famous art library of Hugh Frederick Hornby.
Liverpool did not rest on its laurels and its pioneering library work continued. Books were loaned to prisons in 1853 – anticipating the prison library service and this was followed by book loans to hospitals (1856), books to the blind (1857) and music being issued (1859). Branch libraries were opened in Everton (1853) and Toxteth (1853).
The rate that boroughs could charge for libraries was increased to one penny in 1855 but it was not enough for councils to fund new libraries, and the growth of libraries was heavily dependent on the donations of philanthropists. In Liverpool’s case, Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born steel magnate, personally funded six branch libraries – Sefton Park, Walton, West Derby, Garston, Kirkdale and Old Swan. Without his help, libraries in Liverpool would have made no progress until after 1919, when the penny rate was lifted.
The three libraries illustrated above were all designed by the talented Corporation Surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine, whose motto was ‘modernise everything’. His work includes the Bridewell at Kirkdale, the Fire Station at Hatton Garden, Lister Road public baths, parts of Fazakerley hospital and the Hornby Library (within the William Brown Library). The opening of the rebuilt William Brown Library next year will show once again how much the city still values its libraries as a crucial part of its cultural and educational life.
First of all, my apology for the delay in adding a new post. I have been working on an exciting new Liverpool photography project which I will reveal before the end of the month.
The decision last week to save a total of 374 homes around Liverpool FC ground was received with widespread approval amongst residents. The saved homes, of which 168 are vacant, will all be refurbished. A further 224 houses, 116 of which are vacant, will be demolished. Hopefully, this will end years of uncertainty for the local community, which has seen the area rapidly deteriorate over the last decade.
I hope the plan works and gives Anfield a new face. Certainly the shabbiness of the approaches to Anfield do the city few favours. I had given little thought to the humble terraced house until last year when I spent a day taking Charles Duff, one of the leading lights in reviving inner city Baltimore, around Liverpool. He was particularly interested in terraced housing which, to my great surprise, is an almost uniquely British form of housing (apparently, there are some examples in Belgium and the Netherlands). I suppose terraced housing is so much a part of the landscape, particularly in the Northern industrial belt, that you just take it as an almost universal style. Not so, and we spent an afternoon looking at the Georgian terraces around Rodney Street before heading out to Anfield. I though I would shock Charles with the degradation of the streets but his reaction was one of astonishment. He loved the small houses and could not understand why they were boarded up. These were the kind of houses he felt could help regenerate Baltimore which had, like Liverpool, hit the bottom as industry had been sucked out of it in recent decades. (Anyone familiar with The Wire will have an idea of what parts of Baltimore look like).
The idea of the Anfield regeneration is to knock down streets to create garden space, to join up two houses into one to make bigger family houses and to improve the paving and streets. This has worked well in Salford and elsewhere and is an intelligent way of preserving the unique character of Liverpool’s built heritage for the benefit of the community.