Back in the 1980s, I bought a broken up album of Liverpool photographs. Taken in the early 1880s, they covered a rather eclectic range of buildings including the Masonic Hall on Hope Street, the Orphanage on Myrtle Street as well as the Custom House, Town Hall and Sailors’ Home. There is evidence of a photographer’s blind stamp on the edge of one photograph but it is indecipherable. The quality of the set does suggest a professional photographer, perhaps compiling an album of Liverpool views for his own interest.
The photograph of Water Street is typical, centering on the Cunard Company headquarters. Posters advertise voyages to New York on the Atlas (which was nearing the end of its life at the time having served the company since the early 1860s). Oriel Chambers is shown in its original street context and looks so well ‘bedded in’ that it is difficult to understand the criticism its architect, Peter Ellis, received from a hostile press.
I am fascinated by the enigma of Ellis. Why is so little known about his subsequent career? Did he really only design two buildings (Oriel Chambers and 16 Cook Street)? Is there any research out there that can add any meat to the bones? Please add a comment if you know more.

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