Following on from my last post, here is another photograph of Church Street taken some 70 years later.
It takes a moment to work out the location, but the Bluecoat Chambers in the background is the giveaway. The whole area was badly bombed in the War and the empty site is where Russell’s, watch makers and jewellers, had their store. The building was well-known for a large ornamental clock attached to its corner with Church Alley (the corner of their building with part of the clock can just be seen on the far left of the previous 1880 photograph).
After the War, the site was acquired by the Littlewood empire and has since become Primark.
The street immediately behind the cleared site is Old Post Office Place, a dog-leg of a street, once a busy backstreet but since the post-War rebuilding little more than a service road for the shops fronting Church Street. The Bluecoat, too, was bombed but fortunately most of the shell survived. What a loss it would have been to have lost such a key, early building.
Watching BBC News this morning, I was made aware that today marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz. As always, the focus was on London – with just an incidental mention that other places in the country were also affected. I was going to post these photographs in November to mark the Durning Road tragedy but the news item made me reconsider the timing. The direct hit on the large underground shelter in Durning Road, Edge Hill, was the worst single incident in the Liverpool Blitz as regards loss of life.
In the early hours of 29 November 1940, during the heaviest air raid to date, a parachute mine hit the Junior Instruction Centre in Durning Road, collapsing into the shelter below and crushing many of its 300 occupants. Boiling water from the central heating system and gas from fractured mains poured in. Raging fires overhead also made rescue work extremely dangerous. In all, 166 men, women and children were killed. Many more were badly injured. Joe Lucas lost two brothers and two sisters in the tragedy and recalled that his traumatised mother did not speak for six months.
We are not very good at marking such events but there is still time to have some form of official recognition of such a terrible event. I am writing to the Lord Mayor – and I hope others will make some representation to have a small ceremony of some kind. After all, Liverpool did have the highest number of casualties of any city outside of London and it is important that there is recognition of such suffering.