The Liverpool Corporation is always doing something unusual to interest the citizens, and at present there is a fine exhibition in the Central library of paintings and etchings of Liverpool, by John PRIDE.
The paintings will be of the greatest interest to future generations for they were all made during the past few years. Piquancy is lent by the fact that adjoining are photographs of Liverpool taken in the pre-war days.
John PRIDE’S paintings include such subjects as St Michael’s-in-the-Hamlet, the Angel Hotel [soon to be demolished], Wood Street, Wavertree Green, a view of Wavertree painted from the top of the old mill, demolished in 1917, Woolton Village, West Derby Village, and Hoult’s corner, Old Swan, which is to come down in a week or two.
The painting made from the top of the old Wavertree mill is already a historical record, because the green vista has completely disappeared.
The Liverpool Corporation has a magnificent collection of photographs of the city as it was in the past. Many of them taken by the city engineer’s department. When any prominent building is to be demolished or any street to be widened or altered photographs are taken in order to provide a record. Photographs were taken when the Haymarket was demolished to make way for the Queensway Tunnel.
There is one picture in the possession of the corporation which proves that traffic problems are no new thing to Liverpool, it shows Lord Street from St George’s-crescent in the 1880’s. There is a cab rank down the centre and an emergency fire escape at the head of it! Horse-drawn omnibuses are trying to overtake each other, many private carriages are jammed together, and the pavements are crowded with people.
There is another fascinating photograph showing the water front from Brunswick Street. The old George’s dock is so full of sailing ships that the forest of masts obscure the sky.
There is a movement on foot to turn the Picton Lecture Hall into a library of historical Corporation documents. All the town books which date back to the 16th century and are complete, and other Corporation records are kept at present in the basement of the Municipal buildings. Every ratepayer has the right of examining these books, and many have found that the present method is unsatisfactory.
The law insists that these books shall be in the keeping of the Town Clerk, but, were they kept in a special room at the Picton they would still be in his keeping, as the Picton is Corporation property. The suggestion is that the Lecture Hall be turned into a complete record office and be connected with a spiral staircase with the Picton reference library on the floor above.
The Picton library is named after Sir James PICTON, who was chairman of the Libraries Committee for many years. The trowel with which he laid the foundation stone of the building in 1875 is preserved, and a very much embossed and imposing implement it is.
The Liverpool Public Library dates back to 1852, when a library was opened in Duke Street. The 13th Earl of Derby left his collection of natural history specimens to Liverpool and the Corporation obtained an Act to establish a “public library museum and art gallery.”
Sir William BROWN made possible the erection of the library and museum in Shaw’s Brow, and the name of the street was changed to William Brown St. In addition to these buildings were soon added and in 1857 Joseph MAYER left Liverpool his collection of historical and archaeological specimens. Mr A. B. WALKER gave the Walker Art Gallery to the city, and it is due entirely to the foresight of these men that Liverpool has such a fine row of public buildings.
Jan 17th, 1939
Now that the pantomimes have settled down to long runs it is interesting to compare them to some of the productions of the past. I have obtained recently, the librettos of two pantomimes which were classics of their kind. The great difference between their productions of the old days and the present day is that in the past the pantomimes were written exclusively for the town in which they were produced.
In, Aladdin in a New Light, produced at the Alexandra Theatre [now the Empire] in 1884, there were many terrible puns an d a whole host of local references. For example Aladdin and Widow Twankey are discussing their poverty:-
We are busted up and friends all shirk us,
The parish is our refuge or else the workus!
Parish the thought, no workhouse toke for me,
Better in Walton or Dale Street to be,
I see us setting off some afternoon
To Brownlow Hill, the widow-and-her-son.
Anderson? What, Mary?
No the workhouse master!
The reference was to Mary ANDERSON the actress then at the zenith of her fame. ANDERSON was also the name of the master of the workhouse which stood at the top of Brownlow Hill and is now the site of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
A little later on, the Emperor of China says to Aladdin :-
Upon this spot we give you princely mark,
Your title henceforth shall be Prince[s] Park,
And your estate shall reach to the rivers shingle
I will have my residence down in the Dingle.
But here, I say, don’t play me any lark,
And fever hospitals build in my park.
That is only done at Wavertree. You know full well
We would not do it to annoy the swell.
The following gem occurs when the wicked uncle is condemned to the lower regions:
Down in the Mersey tunnel he will be groping,
Come back and tell us when it will be opening.
The cast of the production contained many names which are recorded in the annals of the theatre. Jenny HILL, The Vital Spark, was Aladdin, Violet MELNOTTE, later known for her long and successful management of a London theatre, Letty LIND, Fred LATIMER, George LUPINO, forerunner of Stanley LUPINO and the Lupino Brothers, were all in the show.
The second libretto concerns, The Queen of Hearts, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Clayton Square, produced Christmas 1866. The strange thing about it is that advertisements are given throughout the dialogue to Liverpool shops.
When Prince Riquet is changed from an ugly dwarf into a handsome prince he says;
By jove, I feel a change. I feel as though
I’d left the saloons of Powell and Co.,
In Castle Street and Bold Street No. 53,
Where ladies’ heads more lovely made may be,
Fly not, Princess, now that I am a swell
Tis Powell’s Daphne perfume that you smell.
It is many years since Powell and Co, hairdressers and perfumers, gave up their premises. There are also references to Urquhart and Adamson, cabinet makers, who had a large shop in Bold Street, Compton House, and Cook and Townshend. The last firm had premises in Byrom Street with an additional entrance at the top of Dale Street.
Jan 30th, 1939
Sir Thomas JOHNSON
Now that the correct date of the death of Sir Thomas JOHNSON has been discovered, it is surely time that the memorial tablet in the Municipal Buildings was altered so that it reads correctly.
It was thought that JOHNSON, who virtually founded modern Liverpool, died in Virginia, U.S.A, where he had accepted the office of Collector of Customs on the Rappahannock river. Mr A. C. WARDLE of Liverpool Marine Research Society discovered while delving in the British Museum, that JOHNSON died in lodgings at Charing Cross, London and was buried at St Martin in the Fields. This discovery is regarded as the most important local historical find in the last 30 to 40 years.
The father of Thomas JOHNSON came from Leigh, and in 1659 was elected as Councillor. He was known in Liverpool as one of the hardest men in the town. He was elected Mayor in 1670, but having strong Whig sympathies he kept quiet until William 111, became King, when he again was elected Mayor.
Thomas JOHNSON was elected Mayor immediately after his father and soon became a Member of Parliament. Like his father, he also had strong antipathy towards the Jacobites.
JOHNSON became interested in the West Indian Trade and made a fortune out of tobacco. This fortune, however, was not made on strictly honourable lines, By means of trickery and bribes he was able to evade a great deal of Customs dues to such an extent that an inquiry was ordered. Mr SCARBOROUGH the Collector of Customs dues, was actually conducting an inquiry when he died. His death caused a tremendous sensation, and the coffin was opened to prove that his death was due to natural causes.
Nevertheless JOHNSON brought many benefits to Liverpool. He was one of the pioneers of the first dock, and it was through his efforts that Liverpool parish was separated from Walton. He was responsible also for the building of St Peters and St Georges churches. Both these buildings have been demolished. In 1708 he presented a loyal address to Queen Anne, and for this he was knighted.
It seems rather cynical that after all his tussles with Customs people he accepted Customs work, and it is all the more strange that the record of his severance from Liverpool and the reason for it is lost. Sit Thomas Street is the only commemoration of his name, and there is not even a statute to him, only the erroneously inscribed tablet in the Municipal Offices.
One of my London friends visiting the town remarked that the local brews of beer were exceptionally strong compared with the London beer. Liverpool beer has been famous for centuries. This was due to the particularly fine spring and well water in the north of the town. The water itself was so well known for its health giving properties that it was exported in the 18th century.
An old map of 1803 shows an amazing number of small breweries in the town, the majority og them being to the West of Old Hall Street and just north of Chapel Street. There was ROWLANDS Brewery, BROMFIELDS, KNOWLES, WHITEHEADS at the corner of Tithebarn Street and Exchange Street, East, THOMPSONS in Bixteth Street, SCHOLFIELDS, TURNOUGHS, Cheapside. UNSWORTHS and HARGREAVES.
Knotty Ash takes its name from a trade sign of a brewery, the building of which is standing in Prescot Road. Knotty Ash had more than one brewery, drawing its water from local wells. One of them was at Springfield, close to the present Springfield Gardens. Mr Joseph JONES also had a brewery and was at a loss for a trade sign, he struck on the happy idea of using a well known land mark, an ancient ash tree as his sign and, with the passing of time, the gnarled ash tree became knotty ash and the immediate area round the inn and brewery became known as Knotty Ash.
Feb 1st, 1939
The speed records constantly being broken and remade call to mind a flight which was a record for its period. This was the flight made by Robert LORAINE, the actor and aviator-aeronaughts they were sometimes called in those days-at the Blackpool flying festival.
Loraine entered the festival under the name of Mr JONES. On the first day August Bank holiday, 1910, the contestants were supposed to fly backwards and forwards in front of the crowds in an endurance test. Loraine took off in his Farman biplane with a Gnome engine, and flew south. He passed Formby point came to Liverpool and went south to Speke. From here he crossed the river, flew to New Brighton, turned round by the old New Brighton Tower, doubling back to Birkenhead, then again across the river and so on the return journey to Blackpool. He came to grief in the River Ribble at Preston.
The flight made Loraine more ambitious and a 6am on August 10th, he again set out keeping over the sea. At New Brighton he turned west and landed on a green at a golf course at Rhos-on-Sea. He had flown 60 miles without a break over the sea, and this constituted the world record in the history of flying up to date.
The crowds went frantic with admiration at his bravery. To a person familiar with the present day, planes, the contraption resembling a flattened umbrella, in which Loraine made his record, would look extremely unsafe today.
The next day Loraine attempted to fly to Ireland, on his trip he fell asleep, he eventually saw the Isle-of-Mann, but he also saw that his fuel was running low so he turned back and landed at Anglesey, crashing the umbrella plane. A month later he tried again to fly to Ireland and came down in the sea off Howth Head near Dublin. There was no protection in the early machines, he was belted in his chair and his only protection from the weather was warm sweaters and heavy clothing.. He also wore a lifebelt which nearly caused his death when he became entangled in it while in flight.
Robert Loraine was born in New Brighton, both his mother and father were theatrical and toured the country starring in such plays as “Black Eyed Susie” and “Belphegor.” Loraine went to school in Wallasey and made an appearance on the stage in the “Dive” at Liverpool. According to his wife he earned, 18s a week and he had to stand on his head an recite Shakespeare. A little later on he wrote a play a week.
Feb 8th, 1939
Roger FENTON, photographer and his, photographic record of the Crimean War, one must remember that in order to take his photographs FENTON had to carry a contraption on his back rather like a modern polling booth. The overthrow of his instruments were carried by pony. The pictures are remarkable for their liveliness, the men are all in natural poses. They show what camp life was like and the condition of the troops at Balaklava.
His first picture is of a woman soldier, in a heavy skirt down to her knees, with pantaloon trousers. She carries a rifle and has a grim expression on her face. Among his subjects are English Infantry Piling Arms, Tartar Labourers, The Cook House of the 8th Hussars.. Under the title, Hardship in the Camp, a number of British troops are sitting around a fire drinking what looks like Russian stout.
There is a great pathos in, Survivors of the Light Horse of the 38th Regiment, only 36 men are left as they parade before their commanding officer. There is also a picture of the famous Lord RAGLAN in a large white hat and a white bow tie. Most interesting is the photographs of the doctors, whom Florence NIGHTINGALE condemned.
Little is known about Roger FENTON, it is believed he came from a Rochdale family, certainly he took many photographs of the River Ribble and the River Hodder, some show men with beaver hats fishing near the Higher Hodder bridge.. He was vice chairman of the Photographic Society he made a tour of North Wales in the 1850’s and published his photographs of the River Conway., views of the Beaver Pool, Ponty y Pant, and the miners bridge on the Llwgwy.
One of the earliest photographs ever taken in the world was taken in Liverpool and shows a Liverpool worthy, Joseph WILLIAMSON. Williamson died on May 1st, 1840, at a ripe age, the picture shows a finely built man of middle years. Probably taken about 1830, and shows him sitting in a chair. He wears gaiters, untidily laced boots, knee breeches, a stock and a large beaver hat. His face is round and heavy, and he smokes a long churchwardens pipe. A sheet has been erected at the back to provide a background.
The original of the picture, a tinted photograph, 8 and a half inches by 6 and a half inches was found about 12 years ago at, 44 Mason Street in the house of WILLIAMSON. He lived at the address in the days when the whole north side of Paddington was an open heath. The picture was found in a pocket under the floor in a corner of one of the first floor rooms. In those days it was usual to have such hiding places constructed for the safety of documents and other valuables.. He was the person who was responsible for the underground passages and caves under Edge Hill. He had them built solely for the purpose of creating employment. They are still in existence partly filled with builders rubble. Many believe they will be ideal dug outs for use in an air raid.
Feb 17th 1939
While watching the crowd in one of Liverpool’s respectable hotels I was struck by the thought that a slave girl once stayed at the particular hotel. Her visit lasted three days but no one realised her identity.
It took place in July 1889 when Nas-ed-din, Shah of Persia visited Liverpool. He was such a fantastic figure, he had a white horse with a bright pink tail, that he originated a new phrase “Have you seen the Shah.” On his way to England the Shah was presented with a beautiful Circassian slave girl at Constantinople. The Shah accepted the gift in the same way as any ordinary person would accept the gift of an animal. He added the girl to his suite and ordered her to be well looked after and fed.
The Shah took the girl on his provincial tour of England as part of his suite, which was so fantastic in appearance and splendour that the girl was never noticed.. In fact during her stay in Liverpool she was mainly in her room at the hotel guarded by two eunuchs. She was dressed in dark blue trousers and a lamb’s wool hat, and she told a British diplomat in no uncertain terms that she thought Liverpool was a dull place. Her ultimate fate was marriage to some petty chief to whom the Shah gave her in exchange for a present of money.
The Shah’s visit to Liverpool lasted three days and on the second day he went to Eaton Hall to visit the Duke of Westminster, on his third day he went ton a tour of Liverpool, a sail on the Mersey and a banquet at the Town Hall. After that he left for Manchester.
Included in his suite was a particularly unpleasant boy who was his mascot. Some years before the Shah had taken refuge from a storm in a small hut. While he was there he heard a child crying outside and when he had gone to the door to investigate the roof collapse. The Shah promptly took the child whose cries had just saved his life and conferred honours on him, and added him to his suite.
The boy was dressed in a magnificent uniform and had a sword studded with diamonds. Unfortunately he had a vicious nature which could only be expected in such a spoilt child, but the Shah’s servants managed to keep him quiet by overfeeding him and thus lulling him into deep and heavy sleep.
Many fantastic stories are told about the Shah, but the passing of time has caused them to be confused with stories about Nasrullah Khan Shahzada, who was ruler of Afghanistan, and lived until 1919.
Nasrullah Khan could not understand western ways. When he was visiting England he heard that the Government had fallen, and there was to be general election. Thinking this meant revolution he fortified the hotel in which he was staying. He offered safe escort to the Royal Family and announced that he would attend the public execution of Lord ROSEBERY.
Nasr-ed-din used to suffer from insomnia and so he was massaged every night. One night the man who was massaging him insulted him and was promptly killed. The body is supposed to have been buried secretly in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
The Shah visited Newsham House during his stay in Liverpool Newsham at one time formed part of the township of Walton, protruding between West Derby and Everton. The estate used to belong to Richard CHORLEY of Chorley, who acquired it through marriage. He was involved in the rising of 1715, was found guilty of high treason at Liverpool and executed.
Feb 21st, 1939
It is being proposed that alterations be made to Williamson Square, old houses should be painted a uniform colour, trees planted on the south and west sides and the shelter for the cabmen improved. It is also suggested trees be planted on island strips and that benches be provided.
Williamson Square has several of the original houses standing, though all used now for commercial purposes, one has still a fine old Adams type doorway.
The square was laid out in the middle of the 18th century, it is recorded that the promoters asked for permission to hold a market in the square. This was granted on the understanding that the marsh in Frog Lane be filled in. Frog Lane is now Whitechapel, there is, however no record of a market taking place there..
The building standing at the corner of Tarleton St was at one time the York Hotel, having been built as a private mansion. At the corner of Dawson St was another mansion. At number 8 lived the Rev Thomas MOSS, Rector of Walton. He was a large shareholder in a canal company and bitterly opposed the construction of the Liverpool Manchester railway, believing the undertaking would be ruined by Chat Moss. So did many others, but Chat Moss was overcome, a story in itself.
The house at the corner of Tarleton St and Richmond St was occupied by Mr Thomas SHAW, Mayor of Liverpool in 1747. The old Theatre Royal, now the Cold Storage was built in 1772. The frontage was set further back than it is a present, and was brick faced and had houses on either side. The present frontage was built in 1803, the houses on the west side of the theatre were pulled down many years later.
In Marble St, a continuation of Tarleton St, across the square was built the Gothic Hall in 1780. This was to be a depot for Irish linen, but it was not a success and became in turn, an auction room, an exhibition hall, and a tobacco factory. Facing the Gothic Hall was a plain brick building known as the Liverpool Forum, started by Samuel RYLEY, a retired actor. He was fond of hearing his own voice and hit on the idea of forming a debating club where people could gather and air their views. RYLEY was chairman and kept the subscriptions for his own benefit. Eventually his friends subscribed a lump sum, and he retired to Parkgate. His Forum was then pulled down.
Feb 27th, 1939
The number 15 Croxteth Rd tramcar route is one of the oldest tramcar routes in Liverpool it is still carrying out the idea for which it was created. When the route was opened it was said there would be no halfway passengers as there are on other routes. On all other routes when the tramcar is full a peak times they invariably empty long before they arrive at their various termini. This is not nearly so noticeable on the 15 route. It is the shortest of all the lines.
In the old days before the Liverpool Corporation Tramways came into being travelling to and from town from the Princes Road, area was a picnic. Rival companies ran vehicles and the horse buses would pull up when ever they saw anyone waiting at the side of the road, and the conductor would ask if they wanted a lift. There was very keen rivalry in those days, it was a question of inviting them on the bus not refusing them if the bus was full as it is nowadays.. The conductors on the old buses were known as, Cadgers, and it was their job particularly in towns other than Liverpool to shanghai passengers. They frequently used such extreme measures that the abbreviation of the name to, Cad, was particularly appropriate.
The first tramcar route in Liverpool was from the Dingle to the centre of the city by way of Park Rd, St James St and the Customs House. The Croxteth route came soon after, but it holds the distinction of being the route for which the first class trams were created.
Larkhill, Mansion House
Larkhill, Mansion House was once the scene of one of the most ingenious burglaries ever carried out in Liverpool. The Mansion House is now the headquarters of a tenants association and its many rooms witness scenes of activities out of keeping with its early character. It was the home of Heywood JONES, the firm of Liverpool bankers, one of the, Big Five, in Castle St.
The robbery took place in the early 90’s on National night. The Heywood JONES were entertaining a house party and were at dinner when the alarm was given by one of the servants. She discovered that the bedroom doors were locked, they had been tied on the inside. The police were sent for and they surprised the burglars when they were going away. The police gave chase, but discovered to their humiliation the thieves had fixed ropes knee high across the front lawn. Over these ropes the police fell while all the thieves jumped over them. Eventually three men were caught and one got away. One of the men was caught by his stupidity, by the side of the front door was a heap of large stones, the man picked up an armful of the stones and as he ran threw them at the police. This impeded his progress and he was captured. The thieves succeeded in obtaining a tremendous amount of jewellery having completely ransacked the bedrooms.
The Larkhill, Mansion House is not a very fine example of an 18th century country residence, but the south aspect with its severe stone front at pleasant rose garden is attractive. It was built in 1777 by Jonathan BLUNDELL a member of the Ince Blundell family and owner of Pemberton Collieries. Richard HEYWOOD, banker, bought the estate in 1784, the rose garden was added some years later, it is believed on the east side where the playground now is was at one time a cock fighting pit. The picturesque old kitchen is now a lending library, altered beyond recognition.