From Conway to Liverpool in the 1840s
The "Liverpool Daily Post," in a leading article, points out that had Julius Caesar been permitted to revisit Britain in 1801, he would have found little new of moment beyond a new religion and new weapons, but, if Caesar came back this year the daily life of men would be incomprehensible to him, and a whole lifetime would be too short for him to realise and understand the vastness of the changes that have altered the face of the world and profoundly affected the experiences of the human family since men, not yet very old, were born.
The "Post" then goes on to say
" Thoughts such as the foregoing are suggested by a delightful series of papers contributed by a veteran Old Boy to the Liverpool Institute Schools Magazine, and reprinted for private circulation by the writer, who prefers to be known as Diogenes although his identity will be no secret to persons who know anything about the great school in Mount Street. 'Diogenes' paid his first visit to the Institute 59 years ago. It was in 1842 that he left his native town of Conway to come for his education to Liverpool. The journey was a formidable one, and the only means of making it were a sailing smack by sea or a coach by road. Some years before this a small steamer had plied between Liverpool and Conway, but the enterprise was a failure, and the steamer had gone elsewhere. 'Diogenes' took the mail-coach from Conway to the Foryd, passing through Abergele on his way. At this time, Diogenes tells us, there was not a single house on Llandudno Bay. Indeed, a few fishermen's cottages must have been about the only buildings on the Welsh coast between the Great Orme and the Point of Air. At the Foryd Diogenes took a steamer to Liverpool, passing on his journey through the old Hoyle Lake, which in those days could float a fleet at anchor, even at low water.
The landing at Liverpool was by means of a miserable, dirty slope outside the mouth of the old George's Basin, by the side of which the town sewage poured out to meet the arriving visitors. Diogenes' made his way to the Queen's Arms, a large hotel which stood on the site now occupied by the Bank of England, in Castle street. The entrance to Cook street was crossed by an archway, and on the opposite side of Castle street were the offices of three newspapers, and a fourth was published in St. George's crescent, near what is now Penlington's shop. Pool lane had recently been widened, and several pieces of land in South Castle street remained unoccupied. These were the happy hunting ground of the penny gaff men, and in the evening their numberless lamplights, the sound of trumpets, the squeal of the fife, and the beat of drum, the pressing invitations of the showmen (male and female), and the noisy hilarity of the gaping crowd, were a never ending mystery, interest, and delight. Diogenes remembers another place in Lime Street, south of St. John's Lane, with another saturnalia of the same kind, but of lower character. Not far away the old Islington Market, in Commutation Row, where the Duke's statute and the Steble fountain now stand, was the home of panorama, cyclorama, and exhibition, so that all classes were provided with amusement. Behind what is now the Art Gallery, on high ground, stood a windmill, and Diogenes confesses that it was his fate to try to sleep for years under the noisy flapping of its wings and the hoarse grating of its grinding stones.
Among other sights which Diogenes was taken to see was a large, terribly frowning build in Great Howard Street, near our new Northern Hospital. It was called the French Prison, for in it were confined the captured soldiers and sailors in the wars with Bondy Bandy, our boyish name for Napoleon. The Zoological Gardens in West Derby Road, were then at the height of their prosperity. The road to them from the Necropolis eastward was a country lane, with a thorn hedge on each side. At the gardens Diogenes saw the great elephant Rajah of whose wonderful intelligence some dim fame has come down even unto the present time. If we remember rightly, Rajah, in a fit of anger, killed his keeper, and suffered the doom which the law prescribes for murder. A centrifugal railway, a fearsome contrivance revived in recent years, was in the grounds, and the evening of Diogenes's visit ended with a display of fireworks representing an eruption of Vesuvius a little pond in the gardens did duty on such occasions for the Bay of Naples.
The last evening of Diogenes's stay in Liverpool was spent at the Institute, where in twenty large rooms were displayed articles illustrating arts, sciences, manufactures, and curiosities of various kinds. In the lower school yard were a diving-bell and models of steam engines and steamboats. The boats had real engines which drove them through water in large iron tanks. To crown all, Samuel Lover, the author of Handy Andy, gave an entertainment in the Lecture Hall. Of his return to Conway, Diogenes may tell his own story. In the Canning Dock lay a pretty little brigantine loaded with salt, and to sail next day for Newcastle-on-Tyne. She had been built by my grandfather, and named by him after my mother and his other four daughters, the Five Sisters,' and was still owned by his family. The captain said he would take us to Llandudno Bay. It would be little out of his way, the weather was fine and bright, and the wind fair. We went on board and sailed early next morning. In the evening the ship's punt landed us at Llandudno (not one house on the bay then), a car met us, and so it happened that we escaped all safe to our starting point.