I don’t buy many photographs these days. Occasionally the odd item catches my eye but I have restricted myself to only exceptional images (usually nineteenth century) that add to my collection rather than duplicate what I already have. That said, I couldn’t help buying a lantern slide I spotted on Ebay a few weeks ago. The subject matter was familiar and not particularly outstanding but what interested me was the name in the corner of the slide: C Inston.
Charles Frederick Inston was one of Liverpool’s foremost photographers at the turn of the nineteenth century. Highly respected throughout amateur photographic circles for his street life and river photographs, he was the President of Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association (LAPA) as well as a valued committee member of the Royal Photographic Society. In 1979, I curated an exhibition of his work at Open Eye Gallery based on copies of a set of lantern slides belonging to LAPA. Thirty years later, in 2009, I published a book of his work: Liverpool Characters and Streets (sadly no longer in print).
Inston was an interesting man. Born in Birmingham in 1855 to a carpenter, he served an apprenticeship as a printer before, at the age of 24, trading in his own name as a lithographic and general printer at 72 South Castle Street (later moving to 25 South John Street – now absorbed into Liverpool One shopping precinct). He lived initially in Chapel Road in Anfield before moving to 15 Belmont Drive (off West Derby Road – the house still stands although now rather shabby and in multi-occupancy). He died at the age of 61 after a long illness and the best information about him can be found in the fulsome obituaries in the photographic press. The British Journal of Photography wrote: Inston, the man of character and organisation, existed side by side with Inston the technician in pictorial photography and the personal characteristics of the man were marked equally in both fields of his activities. He was no poseur. He loved artistic work for its own sake … His own pictorial work was characterised by a frankness and vigour …
The Amateur Photographer concurred adding … he was a keen pictorial photographer and lecturer, a leading exhibitor and judge and a clever worker in the bromide, platinum and bromoil processes and also one of the earliest and best demonstrators of the pictorial possibilities of the hand held camera.
The lantern slide I have purchased is not a great Inston – but it is my only photograph of one of Liverpool’s most important photographers. The sad truth is that little of his work is left. Liverpool Record Office has an album of contact prints (of variable quality) and the Royal Photographic Society has a handful of his exhibition prints of seascapes. These apart, the only other substantial body of work is the set of lantern slides I copies back in 1979. They were in the possession of LAPA’s archivist, Joe Williams, who died in the 1980s. LAPA merged with South Liverpool Photographic Society, so I hope the slides are safe – they are an important record of Liverpool and an important part of the city’s photographic history.
St Martin’s Cottages, 1954
St Martin’s Cottages, 1973
Housing is once again top of the political agenda (or near to the top if one excludes the European referendum, immigration and austerity measures) and so it should be. The population projections for Britain should be giving politicians nightmares – particularly in overheated London (where there could be a 40,000 shortage of school places within the decade). Too few new houses have been built and the cost of those available is out of the reach of most young people.
Of course, as with most things, nothing is new. Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century faced its own population explosion (mainly from Ireland) and the result was chronic overcrowding in slum housing (with thousands crammed into insanitary cellars). Disease was rife but the laissez-faire politics of the time made it impossible for local authorities to spend ratepayers money on practical solutions. That was until the Liverpool Sanitary Amendment Act of 1864 gave the Council special powers.
The first project was St Martin’s Cottages, a development of 124 dwellings opened in 1869. This was one, if not the first, municipal ventures of its kind. Hardly an earth-shattering initiative but a significant piece of history (the next Liverpool involvement was 16 years later in 1885 with Victoria Square – see my post of 13 August 2010 – which added a further 282 dwellings. In fact, by 1900, all the Council initiatives only added about 700 new dwellings).
The legacy of bad housing still persists. I am astonished by how generation after generation has had to endure substandard conditions at a time when Britain has generated so much wealth. St Martin’s Cottages were, in fact, condemned before the War but I can remember visiting an old man there in the mid-1970s, shortly before they were demolished in 1977.
My two pictures throw up a question. The 1954 block has a nameplate identifying the building as St Martin’s Cottages but the building is clearly only three storeys. To my knowledge the only blocks built were four storeys (bottom photograph). The building style is clearly the same but where was this smaller block? Can anyone throw any light on this?
Finally, I will be at the Look 15 Photobook fair at the Bluecoat Art Centre this Sunday (31st). If you are interested in photography, there are some interesting publishers attending and you can also catch Tricia Porter’s exhibition of her Liverpool 8 photographs.
Earle Road, 1952
St James Place, 1952
Shaw Street, 1952
Driving up Smithdown Road yesterday, I was impressed by the new Archbishop Blanch school that is rapidly nearing completion. Once the site is finished and landscaped, it will greatly improve the street. I have watched as rows of terraces have been demolished to make way for the school and was hoping, at the time, that the cleared space would become open space, offering a fine view of St Dunstan’s church on Earle Road (the church was built with the patronage of the Earle family , who owned the Spekelands estate on which it stands). The church is an impressive landmark (although a bit dingy inside) and can be seen in the top photograph of Earle Road in 1952, when it was a much more vibrant community.
The Earle Road photograph was in a group of other 1952 images, so I thought it would be interesting to post them together. St James Place is a continuation of Park Road, before it joins Parliament Street. The street still retained a variety of businesses, with Alentoff’s (fruiterers) prominent on the right (number 39). Next door was Leonard Thompson (dentist) with Excel Cleaners next to him. Further down were Peter Curtis’s barbers shop with its striped pole), Sami Morris – another dentist, Scott and Prescott, monumental masons, W F Bevan & Co., auctioneers and Charles Jones, sadler. A fascinating mix of trades in a short stretch.
The photograph of Shaw Street has the Collegiate School in the background but the overall impression is one of bleakness. I have always found the street depressing, perhaps because of the uniformity of the Georgian terraces (made worst by their abandonment). Hope University have greatly improved the outlook and some of the character of the original street remains.
A view from Everton c1960
From Everton Park 2015
I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the newly reopened Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The transformation is stunning, with fabulous new galleries making the most of their setting in Whitworth Park. The park is small but in a heavily populated area on the fringe of the university campus and Rusholme, it is an essential green lung. The new gallery enhances the space and reinforces the need for more creative uses of our cities.
Coincidentally, Professor Charlie Duff, a leading light in Baltimore’s regeneration, contacted me about the changes in landscape in post-War Liverpool. He visited a few years back and I took him to St George’s Church where I illustrated our visit with a series of photographs taken in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Looking over Everton Park, the changes were staggering. The rows of terraces were replaced by tower blocks in the 1960s, which in turn were demolished to create the park we have today. Charlie wanted to illustrate his talk to students at John Hopkins University with this sequence of changes, so I revisited the park and was delighted to see how far the trees had matured and how the landscape had taken shape. North Liverpool has had a poor hand dealt regarding open spaces and I hope that Everton Park is just a start towards the further greening of Liverpool.
Great George Place 1905
Great George Place today.
Great George Place looking towards the Cathedral.
Detail from 1898 map of Liverpool.
Where the David Lewis building was, stood St James’ Market (next door to Dr Duncan’s Dispensary, which was needlessly pulled down for the inner ring road in the early 1980s). Also of interest is the site of the short-lived St James’ Station, which campaigners are hoping to see reopen.
I regularly get requests for photographs of specific locations (and dates). Most I cannot help with, particularly early photographs of streets away from the city centre. The City Engineer’s Archive in Liverpool Record Office is the most likely source of early twentieth century images, otherwise it is largely a matter of chance. Chance intervened when Margaret Scotland asked: ‘My grandmother and her family ran a family business at 24 Great George’s Place opposite the David Lewis Centre. Do you have any photos from 1911 era?’
Well, it happened that I did have a print of a City Engineer’s photograph taken in 1905. (Credit to Liverpool Record Office). I have avoided using LRO images – my aim is to publish photographs from my archive – but this was a very appealing subject. I pass Great George Place everyday and have seen it change in the last 30 years. (Great George Place is not Great George Square – which is nearby). First the David Lewis building was demolished in 1980, along with the row of early nineteenth century buildings fronting Great George Street. Then the Nelson pub, attached to what is now The Wedding House, was pulled down only a few years ago, and the area around grassed over.
The main photograph is full of interest. The building in the centre is a public weighbridge with, on the left, a public urinal. The Wedding House building was then The London City and Midland Bank (numbers 3/4 Great George Place). The street numbers cross over to the other side of the street (the David Lewis side) and work their way round to the pub on the left (the White Lion) at 33. (Sadly number 24 the Cocoa Rooms run by Lewis Mark is out of shot). The building behind the weighbridge is also a Cocoa Rooms (Berminghams) but its address is on St James Street rather that Great George Place. Next door belonged to Meux Brewery – but is clearly just a retail outlet. Tudor Laundry is not mentioned but appears to be boarded up.
The area seems to be constantly changing. At the time of the photograph, it was the playground of Pat O’Mara (of Liverpool Slummy fame) who was born in Brick Street (the tall chimney sticking up behind Bermingham’s was just behind his house). Were he around today, I imagine he would feel completely lost, with only the bank building as a point of reference. Everything else has gone and the street is degraded as a result. The Baltic Creative is changing the landscape but this is yet another corner of the city that has been stripped of its history and character.
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
The Cow Butter Shop
Enjoying a quiet pipe
Men outside an unnamed pub
Woman knitting in a street market
Children around the Steble Fountain
Woman selling birds
The Wellington Monument
Selling clothes on the street
I have just received a request from Pete O’Keefe regarding a set of lantern slides I commented on back in October 2010. I have long been fascinated by this series, which was commercially sold by Riley Brothers of Bradford, the largest mass producers of lantern slides in Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. Pete has just put his boxed set on Ebay and comments:
I have a set of these Magic Lantern Slides (Slums In Our Cities) and I have No. 1 to 54.
They are in their original wooden slide box. It is my belief that this was possibly a set of 60. as there are 60 sections in the box – and asks whether I have any record of any missing images.
Not an easy question – I have the total number listed as 52 – but there could have been subsequent editions. Pete’s slides on Ebay show images not in my list so I am reckon the full set might well have been at least 60.
What I do know is that the photographs were taken by Thomas Burke, a city councillor for Vauxhall and a keen amateur photographer. He donated an album of 27 silver prints from his negatives to the City Library – where the quality is vastly superior to the poorly hand-coloured slides I have copies of (and which Pete is selling on Ebay).
If one can ignore the crude colouring, the slides are very interesting examples of street photography using a hidden camera. The subject matter is more street people than slum living – the slums are hardly seen in fact. Some are in well-known sites, such as St John’s Market and William Brown Street. Many show street traders such as women selling fish, clothes and caged birds. Overall, a fascinating record of Liverpool at the turn of the nineteenth century and of an early obsession of capturing the lives of the poor on film. Riley Bros. sold the complete sets for entertainment – at a time when magic lantern slide shows were popular with an audience who would be more likely to be amused by the images than stirred by social conscience. There would have been a printed commentary to be read out as each slide was projected – sadly I do not have a copy of what would be a fascinating read today (the evils of drink, the undeserving poor …).
Nothing much changes, with today’s announcement that the Grand National organisers are looking to throw out photographers who take derogatory photos of Ladies’ Day for the tabloid press. Sadly, there is a ready audience out there to be titillated by the lives of others – and Liverpool is always a magnet for photographers looking for easy images.
Harrington Board School, on the corner of Stanhope Street and Grafton Street, 1975
St Malachy’s School and Church, Beaufort Street, 1975
Beaufort Street County Primary, 1975
Parkhill County Primary, 1977
Windsor Street County Primary
Whenever I look through my collection of photographs of Liverpool in the 1970s (the decade I came to Liverpool), I am always amazed at the amount of change that has taken place in such a relatively short period of time – after all, forty years is within most of our lifetimes. When I arrived in 1970, the population of the city was 610,000. Now it is 464,000 (2011 Census). Going back further to 1931, the recorded population was 846,000: in 1961 it was 745,000. In other words, the demographic changes have been huge and the city has had to adjust in a relatively short period of time.
The casualties have been the many requirements of a more densely populated city: housing, industry, and public services such as hospitals and schools.
Schools have seen an incredible change, partly due to changes in education thinking as well as the plummeting school age population of the inner city. New schools have been built to replace crumbling Victorian board schools with the vacant buildings usually being demolished. Quite a few still survive and they are an essential part of our heritage. Universal education was heralded in with the Elementary Education Act of 1870 – which is one of the great milestones of social reform. Local authorities were legally obliged to step up their provision and the result, in Liverpool, was an impressive stock of well-built schools throughout the borough.
The photographs captured some of the many schools in the Dingle. Harrington Board School was one of Liverpool’s earliest schools (dating back to 1815 or earlier as Harrington Free School). The building was late nineteenth century (it was on the site of what is now Cain’s Brewery car park). I have no demolition or closure date but it must have been one of the largest primary schoolS in Liverpool. St Malachy’s survived as a school until 2010 (St Malachy’s church and school have recently been demolished and housing built on the site by Gleesons – thanks to Graham Calderbank for this information). Beaufort Street school, on the same stretch of road, was less fortunate and burnt down a few years after closing in 2000 (when it merged as a new school with Parkhill Primary (the new school has since closed down). I have fond memories of Beaufort Street Primary (the Bewey – the local pronunciation was Bewfort – not Bowfort). My wife taught there for many years and I often visited – and took photographs as it was about to close in 2000.
Windsor Street School was originally the Wesleyan Day and Sunday School. I don’t have a closing date but I do have photographs taken by Bert Hardy of Picture Post magazine as part of his feature about the British race relations in 1949. The playground is the roof area on the right (inside the railings). Can you imagine that being allowed today?
New Brighton Baths, 1947
In my lifetime, I have seen many changes to the way people live. Technology is one of the most profound – in everything from computers and the internet to medicines and their impact on life expectancy. Amongst other changes is greater affluence and how we use our leisure time. Looking at the two photographs of New Brighton, taken in 1947, it is a fading memory for many of us (those who remember the 1950s and 60s – and earlier) of how basic holidays were. In the difficult years after the War, a few days at New Brighton, or a similar resort, were all that could be hoped for for most people. Even on the beach a dress code applied – with suits and ties almost de rigeur.
The idea of an evening at the open air baths would fill most people with horror but this was all part of a good day out. It brings home how hard our parents’ and grandparents’ generation had it and how hard won were any real luxuries in life.
By way of contrast, today’s generation have a totally different take on holidays and enjoyment. I have just embarked on a Kickstarter campaign with photographer Peter Dench to raise funds for his brilliant book The British Abroad. This is a fascinating look at an aspect of our culture and really shows the difference is attitudes between the post-War generation and young people today. Have a look at the project and why not subscribe to one of the great rewards.
Albert Dock from Salthouse Dock, c1885
Albert Dock from the Landing Stage, c1885
The Albert Dock is now the centre-piece of Liverpool’s historic docklands. That has not always been the case. When the complex was opened by Prince Albert in 1846, it was a giant step forward in dock design – the first enclosed warehouse system that allowed loading and unloading directly to and from ships berthed in the dock. No other dock could boast such a monumental structure of cast iron, brick and stone and its fire-proof and theft-proof benefits proved instantly attractive to ship-owners wishing to protect their valuable cargoes.
However, the construction of the dock had not foreseen the rapid technological changes in shipping design that saw the replacement of sailing ships with steam-powered iron ships within little more than a decade. The tight entrance to Canning Dock was too narrow for the new ships, and the dock network spread out to the north of Pierhead to accommodate them. Albert Dock was still used for storage but its use began to diminish from the 1860s. A century later, it was a romantic, brooding mass made even moodier by the silt that had been allowed to accumulate as a result of leaving the dock gates open.
What might have happened next is the stuff of horror movies. A London property developer came up with the plan to demolish to complex, fill the dock in and build a skyscaper and car park. By good fortune, it came to nought but the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board were ready to sell without any concern for the historic fabric. Today – forty years on – it is hard to image what the waterfront would look like without these stunning buildings. It is just a shame that the clock tower (designed by Hardwick and removed in 1960) has not been replaced. It is surprisingly difficult to find nineteenth century images of Albert Dock. Possibly because they were part of the Dock Estate, and therefore not open to the public, photographers turned their interest to more accessible areas where commercial sales could be more guaranteed. Both images are by Francis Frith’s company and date from the mid-1880s.