St George’s Hall 1851

This is a special post – my 100th. When I started in January, I had a reasonably clear idea of what I wanted to do, which was to highlight the importance of photography in our understanding of the history of Liverpool. What has been a passion of mine has found focus in this blog, which gives me the flexibility to move from subject to subject and place to place within a fairly loose structure.
What I could not predict was how my blog would be received and whether it would have the legs to carry on for any length of time. In fact, I have been overwhelmed by the response which, thanks to the internet, has come from all over the world. Thank you to everyone who has logged in and emailed me with suggestions, requests and corrections for the factual errors I make from time to time. Such a following brings its own pressures – so I have to keep upping my game.

Today’s post is, possibly, the most exceptional one I have made. It is the earliest photograph of Liverpool I have discovered in 30 years of looking. It is a copy – from a lantern slide of the original print. I found the slide hidden away in a drawer in LRO and I suspect it has not been seen for many years. Why is the photograph so important? There are newspaper accounts of photographs taken in Liverpool but I have never discovered any physical evidence, There were a number of amateur photographers in Liverpool, including Francis Frith, and some set up the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association in 1854. However, it is not until the 1860s that any images of the city begin to surface in any number (and not many at that). St George’s Hall is not surprisingly the subject matter. Most of us are familiar with Victorian photographs of the Hall but here it is still in construction with the original pillars being constructed along the plateau. What really strikes me is what the building must have meant to the people of the time. Its scale is so huge that it must have overwhelmed everyone that saw it. It was ambition on a fantastic scale. Today we may be more blase?about it – after all it has been around for 160 years – but the photograph gives us a window in time to its scale and original setting.
Now the pressure is on to find earlier images … I am certain they exist somewhere.

The oldest photograph of Liverpool

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