My apologies for the gap since my last post but I have just returned from holiday. After two weeks in the sun, it was inevitable that I would return to rain! Today’s photograph taken in Lord Street looking towards Church Street is clearly one of those rainy days. I am guessing it is in the mid-1890s. Bunney’s had not been built (on the corner of Whitechapel) but the other clues such as the clothes, omnibus, shop names only give an approximate date. The group on the left all look prosperous – especially the man with the top hat and his female partner. There is a wealth of detail there: look at the dog following the omnibus (below) and what a shame the magnificent lampposts weren’t saved.
I have had a lot of requests for photographs, which I am busy sorting out. My next few posts will be a catch-up on as many places I can find.
I have tended to concentrate on how the physical shape of Liverpool has changed over the years. Social changes are often a bit more subtle to capture on film. In today’s case, however, there is no room for any ambiguity. The carte de visite (probably 1880s) proclaims ‘the most wonderful child ever exhibited’. On the reverse: The INFANT JUMBO is only six years of Age, Weighs 206lbs!! Height 4ft5in! Circumference of bare Chest 50 inches!! and the rest of his body in proportion. Exhibited for the first time at Reynold’s Exhibition, facing St George’s Hall, Lime Street, Liverpool.
Reynold’s Exhibition was an early example of the American ‘dime museums’, where everything and anything was exhibited under the banner of education and entertainment including, displays of the body beautiful or grotesque, painted panoramic scenes, fasting men and fat women and magic and illusion tricks. Reynold’s was one of the most long-standing and prominent venues in the North of England. The original waxworks exhibition opened in 1858 and initially the attractions were based on the model presented by Tussauds in London. However, over the decades the main focus of the entertainments on offer became very different, comprising of live entertainment shows and their particular specialisation, freaks of nature. Despite the popularity of the waxworks, Reynolds continued to change and refresh the type of attractions on display perhaps in order to compete with the range and variety of attractions presented by rival concerns in Lime Street. The inclusion of live entertainment alongside anatomical models, waxworks and the chamber of horrors was bringing to the British spectating public the type of entertainments first promoted by Barnum in the ten in one dime show or museum. Opening hours in Reynolds followed this pattern of all day entertainments with patrons being admitted at 10am until 10pm. Cost of admission started at threepence with the price increasing to sixpence if one wanted to enjoy the entertainments that were shown twice a day (3pm and 8pm). Acts comprised of the performing fleas, the Norwegian Giant and Tiny Tim, and a vocal and instrumental recital by Miss Beatrice Vaughan, as well as a mystic magical entertainment by Major Devono. Children who were employed for entertainment purposes at this time included the Infant Jumbo, the ‘most wonderful child ever exhibited’, who at the age of six weighed over 205 lbs. By the late 1880s and early 1890s it appears that the show side of the exhibition was the means by which the exhibitors could constantly refresh the attractions on view. The use of novelties and freaks to entertain and educate the public was a continuation of a side-show tradition taken directly from the fairgrounds and shop-shows and marketed by Barnum to a higher level than previous attained, freak shows as presented by Barnum were not on the edges of society or part of illegitimate theatre practices but firmly within the mainstream and appealed to a family audience.
By 1894 live entertainment appears to be a mainstay of the attractions on offer. Princess Paulina, the Living Doll makes her first appearance at the exhibition, later modelled into a waxwork effigy in the historical waxworks hall. Ethnographic attractions also became a feature of the exhibition with both the Aztecs and the Circassisan Brothers thrilling audiences in October 1894. Reynold’s Waxworks Exhibition opened its doors from 1858 to 1922 and provided the people of Liverpool with a range of shows and attractions all within one fixed venue. Catering for a largely working class audience, it maintained its position as an arena for spectacular and entertainment for over seven decades all for the price of a sixpence. Incorporating waxworks, live performances, freak show exhibits and the latest technological wonders of the age, it contents may have been largely British in character but the exhibition was both inspired and presented through American showmanship and exhibition practices. (Taken from the National Fairground Archive).
Today, the idea of exhibiting an obese six year old to a paying audience is almost beyond comprehension. We may not like how the physical fabric of the city has sometimes changed but in the case of the exhibiting of so-called ‘freaks’, I doubt there is anyone who would call it entertainment.
Regular readers of my blog will be used to my posts about the unnecessary damage to Liverpool’s architectural heritage over the decades. Today’s image presents a different take on what has happened over the last 30 years. The key date was 1984 with the International Garden Festival, the Tall Ships’ Race and the most enduring legacy, the reopening of the Albert Dock. If anyone is in any doubt as to the significance of the latter event, the photograph above is a reminder of how far the neglect had gone, with the dock filled with millions of tons of silt following a Dock Board decision to keep the dock gates open. The photograph must have been taken only a couple of years before the re-opening (the police headquarters are complete and operational). On the left, the Canning Place complex can be seen (it was finally demolished c2000) and in front of the Cathedral, the land has been cleared prior to new housing being built (a shame, I feel, I would have preferred to have kept the site as a landscape park).
Without a doubt, Liverpool has improved beyond measure in the last three decades. The re-opening of the Central Library is further proof that the city is going in the right direction. I went to the opening night and was blown away by the refurbishment and rebuild. If you haven’t had the chance yet – go and be amazed.
The name of the pub could not be clearer – but where is it. The name Sefton appears on many pubs – usually the Sefton Arms (there were 8 in 1964). Only three were named Sefton Hotel – one on North Hill Street, one on Smithdown Lane and the other on the corner of Robson Street and Vienna Street. Checking through my photos, I have discounted both North Hill Street and Smithdown Lane – so that points to Robson Street. I have my doubts though. I am pretty certain the pub has been demolished – so it would be useful to know exactly where it was.
The photograph above, of Commutation Row, sums up the way Liverpool’s heritage has been treated in recent years. An interesting row of nineteenth century buildings, none of great architectural merit perhaps, could have been restored to enhance the magnificence of St George’s Plateau and William Brown Street. Instead they are pulled down to make way for an undistinguished block of offices for a housing association, which soon after vacated them. Why is it so difficult for decision-makers to understand what is worth keeping? Does developers’ money always get the last word? Let us hope the plans for Lime Street are not for wholesale clearance and replacement by nondescript architecture.
Although I never made use of its services, I was impressed by the exterior of the Ministry of Labour building on Leece Street (it also doubled up as the Ministry of Transport Driving and Traffic Examiners Department for much of its life). The Post Office has survived but the Labour Exchange was demolished shortly after being sold off to a property developer – who left behind a hole in the ground. How many times has the same scenario repeated itself – the most notorious case being the unforgivable destruction of the Sailors’Home? How do we get around this almost routine removal of buildings of note by both the private and public sector who promptly run out of money to take their ideas further? The mess of the abandoned Baltic Triangle development and the unfinished scheme on the corner of Sefton Street and Parliament Street are just two example of ill-thought out schemes without the money to complete them.
I have been a bit quiet recently (working on a new book), so here is another photograph of a lost building: the Berkely Arms on the corner of Upper Stanhope Street and Berkely Street (was this Hitler’s local? No – that is meant as a joke not a serious question). The pub is seen here in the early 1970s (I like the two versions of The Ghetto and The Getto on its wall – playing safe).Was the building with the balustrade part of the pub?
Queens Road Board School 1974
Harrison Jones Primary School, West Derby Street, 1979
St James Secondary Modern, Alfred Street/St James Road, 1977
It is no great surprise to me that my posts on lost schools have generated a high response. For most of us, our school days were the times when we made our first real friendships, had our minds stretched a bit and enjoyed (or endured) organised sport and other activities. Sad, therefore, that the places of such enduring memories have routinely been demolished, as is the case of the three schools featured above.
I have mentioned before the potential of a book about Liverpool’s schools – no more than a photograph and a potted history. Their history reflects the changing shifts in the city’s population. Inner city schools such as Harrison Jones and St James Secondary Modern lost their catchment area as the centre became depopulated in the 1960s and 70s. Built at a time when Liverpool’s population was over 750,000, they became redundant as it dropped to below 500,000.
The Board Schools are particularly interesting. To quote the internet: ‘Schools under the control of locally elected School Boards were made possible by the 1870 Education Act. Drafted by William Forster, Education Minister in the government headed by William Gladstone, the act stated that any area which voted for it could have a school board. These new board schools could charge fees but they were also eligible for government grants and could also be paid for out of local government rates.
Boards provided an education for the five to ten age group. In some areas, board school pioneered new educational ideas. For example, the London School Board introduced separate classrooms for each age group, a central hall for whole-school activities and specialist rooms for practical activities. In Bradford, Fred Jowett and Margaret McMillan pioneered the idea of free school meals for working-class children and, in Brighton, Catherine Ricketts developed the idea of increasing attendance rates by hiring women to visit mothers in their homes to explain the benefits of education. School boards came to an end with the passing of the 1902 Education Act.’
Liverpool had many board schools but, sadly, most of them, like Queens Road Board School above, have been demolished – the latest being Beaufort Street Board School only a few years ago.
A turn of the century photograph of the now demolished Aigburth Vale High School. It was demolished in the 1990s and the land used to build upmarket flats. Not a great deal of fuss was made at the time – mainly because the site was no longer green belt. The finished flats do not diminish the approach to Sefton Park, in my opinion, although former pupils of the school must be saddened to have important memories of their lives removed.
The proposal to develop Sefton Park Meadows just up the Drive are an entirely different matter. Mayor Joe Anderson had decided that the short term gain of a few million pound from developers is more important than the large triangle of land that most people have always taken for granted as part of Sefton Park, albeit on the other side of the road. I have constantly commented on how the city’s heritage is being chipped away piece by piece. As each piece disappears, it become easier to remove the next. There have been, as yet unfounded, rumours that the municipal golf course at Allerton is being eyed at for a similar sell off.
What next? Money might be tight but removing green space is a dangerous precedent. I notice there is an action campaign. I urge all right thinking people to get involved: http://saveseftonparkmeadows.blogspot.co.uk
Lodge Lane is going through a slow but noticeable revival. I have taken to buying my fruit and vegetables from the prospering International Stores – which lives up to its name serving a mainly immigrant community with foods from across the globe. Definitely worth a visit if you want an alternative to Tesco or Asda.
Today’s photograph, courtesy of Colin Weekes, is of Anakin’s Potato Stores, on the corner of Eden Street and Lodge Lane. In 1910, George William Anakin owned a small chain of shops in the area (Earle Road, Smithdown Road and Dudley Road). A Charles Anakin (brother or son? owned a similar small chain around West Derby Road). Eden Street was on the left hand side travelling from Ullet Road towards Smithdown Road (between Windsor View and Solway Street). The shop has a peeling sign on its other window advertising the shop as a fruit market. It must have been a hefty task to move all the baskets in and out of the shop every day but the three staff are all smiling for the camera.
I was reading a book written by Kurt Hutton, a German photographer who fled the Nazis and established himself in Britain as one of the great photojournalists on Picture Post magazine. He wrote that ‘a street is never of great interest to me if it does not show people who live in it. They are the essential thing. Perhaps for an architectural journal the case is different; but even here, to me the point seems to be that the street has been built, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the human beings who inhabit it.’ I couldn’t agree more – today’s photograph would be far less interesting without the three shop girls.
No doubt, in a hundred years time, people will look at photographs of the International Stores, with its food piled high outside, in a similar fascinated way.
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,