Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Many families in Liverpool were and are among those affected by the sinking of the Titanic. The tense faces of those shown in the first newsreel as people wait anxiously for news provide haunting images that may remind us of more recent tragedies, and give pause for silence and rememberance.


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The above is a detail from the 1947 OS Map 108. It shows quite clearly the ‘white spaces’ beyond the Liverpool boundary, speaces that were soon to fill up with new housing estates to take people from the inner city. Similar white speaces exist at the same time around the tiny town of Kirkby.

Over the next month or so we’ll be looking at some aspects of the transitory time as countryside became built over. In particular, individual memories of childhood, of playing in rural surroundings, of visits to the riverside, of nature and adventure. We’ll look at Paul McCartney’s memories of growing up in Speke when it was being built and Western Avenue ended in fields and mud; we’ll look at his recall of happy visits to Oglet, an almost idyllic escape from urban life. Even today, a walk from Garston past Speke Hall – along the Mersey Coastal Path – reveals the remains of farming activity, second world war defences, and the Dungeon, a major salt waorks. See Mike Royden’s  excellent piece on Oglet and the Dungeon, and the importance of salt to the rise of Liverpool’s economy.

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Liverpool Hall of Science, Lord Nelson Street

In this, the City of Radicals Year, we remember here one of the city’s less well-known figures, John Finch. Radicalism is often associated with calls for wholesale structural changes – the word radical comes from the Latin for ‘root’ and suggests getting down to the basics rather than the branches or leaves; a famous example of radicalism is Marxism which seeks to change the whole capitalist system – root and branch. But it is well to remember that one of the most prominent radicals in recent British History was Margaret Thatcher who is associated with monetarism and weakening of Trade Unions. Certainly in the nineteenth century, it may be better to see key figures as radical reformers. Before the end of the year. we’ll look at many of these figures; some of them will be described on Hope Street Chronicles (several relate to the reform of health and conditions in the workhouse). The description of John Finch below is based on an essay by Professor R.B.Rose, details after the piece:

John Finch: Radical?.

John Finch is largely forgotten today yet his work in Liverpool during the mid-nineteenth century, as well as nationally, although it ended usually in failure shows him as a visionary for much of what he attempted to start took root shortly after his death. Born to a poor but respectable working class family in Dudley, he received a basic education at a charity school. From there and through several clerical jobs he became a self-made and successful businessman after entering the employ of Irvin and Sons, iron merchants of Liverpool in 1818. During the rise of the industrial revolution when iron was needed for engines, machines, railways and ships he began his own business in 1827.

Early co-operative movements in Liverpool largely dependent on Finch’s initiative, failed (although ten years after his death the Rochdale Co-operatives proved the soundness of the idea). Finch, as a Unitarian Christian, understood Christianity to mean practical action to lessen suffering, poverty and injustice. He was a fervent adherent of the Temperance movement, travelling great distances in the North and into Scotland to get people to take the pledge. Further, he wanted to understand what lay behind drunkenness, and sought its economic and social causes. Among the Liverpool docks he discovered that about 120 “Lumpers”, men who were given a certain sum to load  and unload ships took to ‘subcontracting’ the jobs at a lower rate. These secondary hires were done in pubs, so in order to have a chance of getting work men had to patronise the pubs; indeed, some of the lumpers kept pubs themselves.

Finch organised the setting up of a Dockers’ co-operative. He pointed out, successfully, to employers, that erecting shelters for men overseen by “a steady person” who would keep lists and assign work would remove what Rose calls ‘the endemic dishonesty of desperation, and the shoddy work of drunkenness.’ The Dock Labourers’ Society began successfully, recruiting 2,000 of 6,000 dock and warehouse workers. Wealthy merchants and sympathisers contributed so that the fixed wage went from two shillings a day to three shillings, and the cutting out of the middle man’s take also increased income. Branch offices were equipped with libraries and school equipment, and literate dockers were to instruct their mates during slack periods. (more…)

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New Liver Bird


A packet of Smarties if you can identify where this Liver Bird is  AND list where every other one in Liverpool can be found (but don’t include letterheads of Council Tax bills!

You’ll have to add one to the list. Derek spotted in the Liverpool Echo of 7 September an article on the discovery of another one – a stained glass version in St Lukes Church, dated from about the 1830s. You can about it and see a picture here.

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The above footage includes a pageant at Wavertree in 1907. It’s taken from a video we’ve looked at several times and well worth a watch. The footage below is of this year’s Brouaha parade down Princes Road. In years to come such material will be archive history. These days there are so many millions of photos and videos being taken everyday of ordinary, everyday life it will be extremely difficult for historians and others to go through them. On the other hand, they’ll be able to  gain a far more accurate impression of life in 2011 than we can of life a hundred years ago.   Every image we record is towards making history.


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A few months ago we looked at a subject called psychogeography which is a bit of a trendy word to describe the emotional effects that places have on us. If you search google you’ll find loads of stuff under the heading, and there are many books that fall into the category. Edgelands is one we looked at. We’ll post the handoouts we looked at soon. Whatever some of the more bizarre stuff found under the heading, all of us will recognise that certain places can have definite effects on our feelings, and this seems especially true of derelict buildings like the ones shown here.

There’s also urban exploration or UrbEx which can involve exploring anything from derelict buildings to long forgotten tunnels. Again, a quick google will give you a good idea.

In the gallery here, Mark just happened to be a-wandering and decided to explore this fine piece of derelict architecture on Scotland Road.

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The words reproduced below are themselves part of an historical document. They also have a very contemporary feel to them, making us think of how Liverpool is represented.


If these prejudices prevail in general history, their appearance in provincial descriptions of towns and places may be reasonably expected. The histories of Chester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and many others which have hitherto appeared, are evidently written with a view to please the inhabitants, and are therefore replete with eulogy and partial panegyric; nor can such proceeding cause astonishment, when we know they are wr1tten by natives, or such as by long residence may be called denizens of the place they describe; therefore however just and regular the descriptive part in these compositions may appear, the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and real constitutional state, is seldom truly represented; an author in this situation being dependant, is fearful to offend, whence adulation becomes the substitute of veracity, and ensures commendation and protection to the work,’ not for the merits of the performance, but for the tribute of praise it contains. The love of adulation is innate; vanity makes us receive it, while opulence disdains to examine on what principles we are justified to embrace and deserve it. Such historical compilation will undoubtedly please and gratify the vanity of the inhabitants, but at the same time mislead the stranger, who, in addition to amusement, expects to receive information from a perusal of the work.


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