Walton Breck Road, 2011
Walton Breck Road, 2011
First of all, my profuse apologies for the long period of absence. I went to New Zealand to visit my son and the time off threw me out of sync. Coupled with an enforced decision to stop publishing books about Liverpool, I needed time out for a rethink.
The collapse of the local book market is worrying. For the last seven years, the number of bookshops in the city centre (and throughout England) has been reducing at an alarming rate. When I started publishing in the mid-1980s, there were 14 or more bookshops I can reel off. One by one they have closed and now just Waterstones in Liverpool One and News from Nowhere in Bold Street survive as dedicated bookshops. It makes no financial sense to publish books with such a small number of outlets so, until times change, I have thrown in the towel and will concentrate on books about photo-journalism which I can sell nationally. Sad times for me, having published over 200 Liverpool titles over the years. I am proud of my back catalogue and hope that some of the books have helped educate and change attitudes about a great city. Maybe some new publisher will take up the challenge and keep alive Bluecoat Press’s legacy. I doubt it is possible but good luck to anyone who has a go.
Back to today’s images and the point of my blog. I have previously stated my hope that I can open it up to contributors who can add their images and commentary. Increasingly, I would like to post images and thoughts about Liverpool today – without ignoring historic images. Liverpool, arguably, is undergoing the greatest change in the last century. I am very positive about most things that are happening. There is a sense of confidence that I feel every time I walk around the centre. To take one example: I was cynical about the Baltic Triangle Creative Quarter when it was mooted. I was based there and thought it unlikely to attract new businesses in what was then a bleak place, albeit only a five minute walk from Liverpool One.How wrong could I be. There is a waiting list of businesses for space and cafés and performance venues have sprung up as well as an academy for 14-18s. Hats off to the people who had the vision to make it all happen – and this is just one project.
The photos I have posted were taken six years ago (when the two American cowboys announced that Anfield was to be rebuilt in Stanley Park). I decided to start recording match day as a historical record and was particularly taken by the fast food outlets around the ground. These are the kind of images I am looking for – images that will give a picture of everyday life in the 21st century. Send in your images with an explanation of where, what, when and who and I will hopefully take this blog in a new direction along with my publishing.
Looking north from the Cathedral tower, 1962
Looking south from the Cathedral tower, 1962
The view from Liverpool Cathedral’s tower is one of the best vantage points to observe Liverpool. I have photographs dating back to the early 1950s and it is intriguing to see how much change has taken place. The two featured photographs, taken in 1962, are a case in point, although the view north needs close examination. Much of the foreground is relatively unchanged. The domed church on the right is St Philip Neri on Catharine Street. Behind it is the old Women’s Hospital. Beyond, the rows of Georgian terraces have since been thinned out, almost to nothing. The massive chimney, top right. is near Crown Street. I have a history of it somewhere but cannot put my hands on it. I am sure someone will be able to both name it and give its location (and year of demolition). On the far left is the Lybro jeans factory on Mount Pleasant – removed during the extensive roadworks to improve access to the M62. The church tower on the horizon is Christ’s Church on Kensington.
The view to the south is dramatic. The river view is dominated by the two huge granaries, which were demolished in the late 1980s. Cain’s Brewery, immediately in front, is dominated by their huge bulk. On the left are the twin domes of the David Lewis Hostel and Theatre, another unnecessary 1980s casualty (to the inner ring road that was eventually abandoned). The roofs of the old Georgian houses that ran down from the western side of the Cathedral to Great Georges Street were all to disappear within twenty years. In fact, the only noticeable survivors of this view are Cain’s Brewery and the Contemporary Urban Centre (the large warehouse to the far right, which is now an academy. The building that intrigues me is the tall, turreted building to the left of Cain’s (on the edge of the photograph). Any ideas?
Enough of Lost Streets and the past for a while and on to what could have been (and still could be) the future.
In 1956, when the survival of Liverpool Overhead was being fought for, and lost, a model of its potential replacement was shown in Liverpool by the International Monorail Company. The £2000 model was for a suspended railway to run between London and London Airport, carrying 60 passengers at up to 70 mph.
I am a great fan of monorails. Their installation appears to cause far less disruption than trams and are visually more stimulating. They also have a wow factor which Liverpool is ideally suited to benefit from. Imagine a monorail linking the city along the waterfront out to John Lennon Airport! Liverpool needs ambitious transport infrastructure projects. John Alexander Brodie, as City Engineer, was a man of great vision – planning the orbital Queens Drive, the first major modern inter-city road connection (the East Lancs Road) as well as the Mersey Tunnel. He saw the necessity of building a proper transport network to ensure economic growth and the argument is no different today, with the pressure building up to extend HS2 into Liverpool directly. What is important is not just to cut journey times to London and provide faster and more efficient freight transport (particularly with the new L2 Container project well underway) but also to make sure we have a more efficient and environmentally sound internal network. I think monorails are well worth another look.
St George’s Hill 1967
Terraces, Everton, 1969
Unknown street, Everton, 1969
Three more views photographed by Alan Swerdlow in the late 1960s. I hope I am right about the first view being of St George’s Hill – if not, I am sure I will be quickly corrected. The newly completed tower blocks only add to the bleakness of the view. They have since been demolished and Everton Park now fills the space. I have made my opinion known before about the disastrous effect of the way in which the post-War housing clearances were imposed upon Liverpool and I know most readers share my views. Perhaps the point of disagreement is over the extent of the demolition. Looking at the other two photographs, I have little doubt that they had reached (over-reached!) their lifespan and had to go. The middle photograph, in particular, illustrates the remarkable ability of property speculators to cram in as many houses into the smallest space. The rich landowners made their millions out of capitalising on the misery of the poor. Rings a bell somewhere!
Havelock Street 1967
Cicero Terrace 1969
Michael and Alan Swerdlow will be well known to many. Their pioneering company, Modern Kitchen Equipment was a familiar site next to the Philharmonic Hall (and before that on the corner of Duke Street and Colquitt Street). Sadly it fell victim to the recession that hit hard back in 1999. In their time, they were well ahead of the competition and, had they survived just a few years, Liverpool’s recent restaurant boom would have seen them prosper and expand. Apart from his work with MKE, Alan was also Chairman of the Bluecoat Society of Arts and a keen photographer. Today’s photographs were taken by Alan and kindly supplied to me by his brother Michael.
More about MKE in a future post. To continue with the Lost Streets theme, the photograph of Havelock Street will hopefully lead to a few gasps of recognition from the children in the photo – who will all be in their 50s now. If readers put Havelock Street in the search box, they will be able to compare today’s image with Karl Hughes’s photo of a few years earlier.
The second photograph is of Cicero Terrace, less than a hundred yards from Havelock Street (off Northumberland Terrace). A suitably winter’s scene but hardly in the Christmas card category.
Old Post Office Place 1913
Hale Street 1913
I have been asked many times which were the most important buildings that Liverpool has lost over its relatively short life (little more than 300 years since it began its transformation from small market town to a world city. Only the Bluecoat Chambers of 1717-25 and the Town Hall – which was substantially reconstructed in 1807 – remain of its eighteenth century key buildings). Of course there is quite a list of buildings: the early city centre churches, the Custom House and the Sailors’ Home among the most important losses. However, it is not the individual buildings that I think were the biggest casualties but the overall townscape, such as the network of streets around St John’s Market and Queen Square and the old ‘sailors’ town around Canning Place, Wapping and Mann Island. These areas represented the early, haphazard port of the mid-nineteenth century, a maze of small streets and alleys off the main streets, housing hundreds of small businesses of a multitude of trades.
Old Post Office Place was one of these ‘lost’ streets. Its starting point is still there – the Old Post Office pub on School Lane – but its existence was wiped out after wartime bombing levelled the area. The site was purchased by Littlewoods for its post-War site and Post Office Place was absorbed into the new Church Street. In the photograph, the building at the end of the street is Bon Marché (later taken over by George Henry Lee – now John Lewis). The clock advertises Oldfields, diamond merchants and jewellers.
Hale Street is another street that has vanished under post-War development. It was a narrow alley connecting Dale Street with Tithebarn Street (it was between Moorfields and Vernon Street). Fortunately, other alleyways such as Hackins Hey, Hockenhall Alley and Eberle Street have survived and give character to the city’s commercial centre. The building at the top of Hale Street is Exchange Station but I do not know which factory the chimney belonged to.
First of all, best wishes for 2014 and with it my New Year resolution – to get back to a weekly (or thereabouts) blog. The last few months have been a difficult time but there is nothing like a New Year to get back on track.
Today’s image is by that prodigious producer of local views, Priestley and Sons. The family originated from Huddersfield, where they had a successful studio but relocated to Wallasey in the 1890s. For a couple of decades, the company produced hundreds of images of local landmarks on both sides of the Mersey, specialising in shipping subjects. The views were ‘popular’ subjects which could be easily sold – so there were plenty of images of St George’s Hall, the Town Hall and the Landing Stage.
This particular photo (number 1495) is of King Orry of Douglas, one of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s fleet. It was the second King Orry and was built in 1871. In 1912, it was scrapped and replaced by King Orry (3), which sank during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.
Liverpool has a colourful history. We all know its wealth was largely founded on the Slave Trade and the dreadful poverty of the nineteenth century had been well documented. Sometimes, however, shocking events just disappear into the mists of time without a mention in the history of the city.
The events of August Bank Holiday, 1947 showed a side of Britain that we may well wish to hide. Britain occupied Palestine and Jewish guerrillas were at war with the colonial power. Two British army sergeants were captured and, in reprisal for Britain’s hanging of captured Jewish fighters, hanged. A great outcry followed, and in a wave of anti-semitism, Jewish communities in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester were attacked. In Birkenhead, slaughterhouse workers had refused to process any more meat for Jewish consumption until the attacks on British soldiers in Palestine stopped. In Liverpool, crowds of angry young men gathered in Jewish areas and attacked shops and businesses.
My account is taken from Jerusalem Your Name is Liberty, by Walter Lever, a one-time Communist who lived in Manchester.
‘On Sunday afternoon the trouble reached Manchester. Small groups of men began breaking the windows of shops in Cheetham Hill, an area just north of the city centre which had been home to a Jewish community since the early 19th century. The pubs closed early that day because there was a shortage of beer and, by the evening, the mob’s numbers had swelled to several hundred. Most were on foot but others drove through the area, throwing bricks from moving cars.
Soon the streets were covered in broken glass and stones and the crowd moved on to bigger targets, tearing down the canopy of the Great Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road. All premises belonging to Jews for the length of a mile down the street had gaping windows and the pavements were littered with glass.’
By the end of the weekend, anti-Jewish riots had taken place in Glasgow and Liverpool, with minor disturbances in Bristol, Hull, London and Warrington, as well as scores of attacks on Jewish property across the country. A solicitor in Liverpool and a Glasgow shopkeeper were beaten up. Nobody was killed, but this was the most widespread anti-Jewish violence the UK had ever seen. In Salford, the day after a crowd of several thousand had thrown stones at shop windows, signs appeared that read: “Hold your fire. These premises are British.” In Eccles, a former sergeant major named John Regan was fined £15 for telling a crowd of 700: “Hitler was right. Exterminate every Jew – every man, woman and child. What are you afraid of? There’s only a handful of police.”
Arsonists in West Derby set fire to a wooden synagogue and the caretaker was attacked and badly injured when he opened the gates to the fire brigade; workers at Canada Dock in Liverpool returned from the holidays to find “Death to all Jews” painted above the entrance. The photograph shows the burnt-out wooden synagogue in West Derby Cemetery. Just two years after British troops had liberated Bergen-Belsen, the language of the Third Reich had resurfaced, this time at home. Anger about what had happened in Palestine was one thing, but it seemed to have unleashed something far more vicious.
First Communion, 1952
First Communion, 1953
Two more photographs from the same family album. I suspect the subject matter will resonate with some more than others but they portray one of the rituals that thousands of young girls undertook as an essential part of their religious upbringing. I cannot identify the locations – but the other family photographs are taken around Vauxhall Road, so they could well be there. The decorations in the second photograph will be for the Coronation – not for the First Communion. These kind of processions were not exclusive to Liverpool but they were a big event in Catholic parishes as is evident from the crowds of onlookers.
Naylor Street, 1934
Gladstone Street, 1934
After a short break, I am back in full swing with three photographs taken from a family album. I am fascinated by this kind of social photography. Amateur shots taken on (most probably) a Box Brownie purely as a family record. The real sadness is their anonymity. I have no idea of the names of any of the people in the photographs. If any of the children are around, they will now be in their eighties, for all I have is the street name and the date on the backs of the snaps. The group of children are in Naylor Street, which ran into Vauxhall Road. Gladstone Street was off Naylor Street running through to Freemasons Row. A very narrow street, it can be found in the Alan Godfrey Ordinance Survey map No 106.10 Liverpool North 1906. As you open the map it is in the bottom section in the 2nd fold.(Thanks to Alex Robertson – who emailed me with the location).
The young boy with a cat is standing outside Frank’s Café. Whether that was its actual name or the name of a family member who owned it is unclear (it is not listed under Frank’s Café in my 1932 Directory).
I would love to see a concerted effort to create an archive of such photographs that can be deposited in the Liverpool Record Office. They often tell us a great deal about the people of Liverpool and would be an invaluable source of reference to future generations. More to follow next time.