Park Hill Reservoir, 1975
One of Liverpool’s great problems is what to do with the many public, commercial and ecclesiastic buildings lying redundant throughout the city. As its population shrank, the nineteenth century legacy shrunk with it. After all, a city built for over 800,000 people has to change when its population drops below 500,000. Not just the change in population but also a social and technological revolution that has condemned churchgoing to a minority activity (and a small one at that), has removed the need for streets of warehouses and offices and so on (pubs, cinemas, dance-halls have likewise shut down as tastes change). Many of the major industrial employers of the 1970s and before have closed down, often leaving no trace (BAT, Tate & Lyle, Meccano, Dunlop and Plessey to name just a few).
So it was good news to read in the Liverpool Echo that an important legacy from the mid-nineteenth century is facing a new future. Park Hill Reservoir was built in 1853 to store water at a time when Liverpool was struggling to provide for its rapidly expanding population. The long term plans include ‘a glazed pyramid on top of the roof to house a bar and restaurant with spectacular views across the city and beyond.The immediate area could also be transformed, with a tree-lined boulevard and the creation of a new public space outside the reservoir and town hall. Small parcels of derelict and under-used land are incorporated into the masterplan to be used for new housing, green space and car parking.’ Of course, none of this might actually happen but it is encouraging to know that the reservoir is being given some priority.
I did not manage to visit the exhibition held there a couple of weeks ago so I have not had the fortune to walk round its interior. I imagine it looks similar to the one that was demolished in Breeze Hill a few years ago.
A spectacular interior – but I imagine a difficult (and expensive) space to convert (and into what). The emphasis appears to be to use its exterior space – which, with the right approach would take the attention off the dreadful Tesco building which dominates Park Road.
Once again, a plug for the second volume of The Streets of Liverpool.
I started off the Streets of Liverpool blog back in January 2010 with this picture of three boys and asked the question: Whatever happened to the Likely Lads? Now, after nearly three years, I have got the answer and a surprising one at that. A message on my answerphone at work revealed all. Bob Doyle, approaching his 65th birthday, had been browsing in The Book Clearance Centre in St John’s Market (the best bookshop for local history in Liverpool), when he stumbled across The Streets of Liverpool book. There, on the front cover was Bob – the tall boy on the right hand side – with two mates. The boy on the far left he identified as Johnny Flood – who later joined the Merchant Navy and died some twenty years ago. He was less sure about the small boy in the centre and will get back to me with more information.
Bob lived in a one-bedroomed house in Hutton Street, off Athol Street. He shared a bed with his parents and sister, with an army great-coat as a blanket. His father worked as a docker when he could get work and times were tough. Bob did the rounds of local primary schools, including St Anthony’s, St Silvester’s and Ashfield Street, but was clever enough to pass the Eleven Plus and earn a place at St Edward’s College. From St Edward’s, he won a place to study Geography (and English) at Sheffield University and returned to Liverpool to complete 30 years teaching at St Edward’s as a geography teacher known to generations of pupils as ‘Docker’ Doyle. (Bob says his moniker came about early in his career when pupils reacted with surprise to his strong Liverpool accent. “I’m from Liverpool and my father was a docker – and I’m proud of that” Bob told them – and so he became ‘Docker Doyle’).
Bob has promised to tell me more – but he did add that he thinks the photograph was taken on the corner of Hankin Street and Cranmer Street.
The timely mention of The Streets of Liverpool book brings me neatly around to my promotional plug. Volume Two arrived from the printers today and is another collection of photographs and blogs from the last year and a half (with additional previously unpublished items). Obviously the ideal present for Christmas – it is available from The Book Clearance Centre, Waterstones etc and directly from Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/1908457120/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new).
Wellington Column 1875
Wellington Column c1900
Wellington Column 1928
Liverpool has many fine monuments which would take pride of place in any city. Some are badly neglected, like the statue of George 111 in Monument Place, outside TJ Hughes. I use the word neglected in the sense that it is no longer the best site for such a noble statue (there are very few equestrian statues in Britain yet Liverpool has four of them, more than any other city outside of London). I would like to see it in a more prominent place – perhaps at the intersection of Church Street and Lord Street – where is can become a focal point.
The Wellington Column is another fine focal point but, again, is rather ignored. It is no less impressive than Nelson’s Column and every bit as striking as Grey’s Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne (and Grade 1 listed). Possibly the setting for Wellington is too overbearing, with some of the best municipal buildings in the country surrounding it. More probably, it is the location away from the centre of the city. Grey’s Monument is in the heart of the shopping area and is an obvious landmark for people to meet, and Nelson’s Column has a fantastic location in front of the National Gallery and at a major traffic junction. Our Wellington is just a bit cut off now that traffic through Lime Street has largely been diverted. Sad too that the fine range of Victorian buildings on Commutation Road were so unnecessarily pulled down for the bland housing association building. (Incidentally, the church to the left of the column in the 1928 photo is Holy Trinity on St Anne Street, late eighteenth century and demolished in 1970. The church with a spire, on the right, is St Francis Xavier on Salisbury Street).
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.