School Lane, 1970
Hanover Street, 1970
I worked in the Bluecoat Chambers for over 15 years and loved the small group of buildings at the Hanover Street end that had survived against all the odds. Too small to be commercially viable, they were, nevertheless, a very visible reminder of an earlier Liverpool. Hornby Lowe’s Cutlery Stores, with its superb frontage, was in business from at least 1879. The shop, with its macabre display of hunting, fishing and, I suppose, stabbing knives, was living on borrowed time but it had a character that greatly added to the streetscape. Looking at my 1867 Gore’s Directory, the buildings had previously been occupied by an oyster dealer, a chandelier maker and a gas fitter. In 1857, Charles O’Donnell, a policeman, lived in the Hornby Lowe shop.
Once land values began to soar in the 1990s, their days were numbered. Few property developers have any respect for history; what are a few eighteenth century buildings when there is money to be made. The row of very early houses and warehouses on Hanover Street were demolished one by one until the Liverpool One development swept away the last surviving building. Sadly, their demise followed the standard practice of removing buildings one by one on the grounds that they are beyond repair until there is no cohesion to the street, leaving the surviving building like a single tooth only too easy to extract. This sad pattern has removed whole layers of history – buildings not of great architectural merit but of importance because they were examples of Liverpool’s first great wave of prosperity. Had someone suggested in the 1980s that the Shambles in York should be pulled down because they occupied valuable development land, there would have been a national outcry. The shame is that Liverpool lost so much with hardly a whimper.