Posts Tagged ‘merseyside history groups’

Hope Street is one of Liverpool’s most famous thoroughfares. Most people assume its name refers to Hope. The reality is more prosaic. It’s named after a merchant, William Hope, who built and lived in a house that stood where the Philharmonic Pub now stands.

Nevertheless, over the coming months we’ll be looking at Hope Street as it is today and as it was. The stories are many and fascinating – from the history of the Workhouse to the bodysnatchers who sent corpses to Scotland. Almost every brick and paving stone has a story to tell. Also the many side roads off Hope Street are part of Liverpool’s history.

Mark said he had seen in the Daily Post an article about the Masonic Hall on Hope Street opening its doors for the first time to the public. It’s a Grade II listed building. You can see a slideshow and read the article here.

Thanks to Jane for the photograph of Hope Street.


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Pavements, there beneath our feet. Just pavements. But nothing’s ever simple!

The pavements show the effects of time, some of them cracking up under the strain; others  coming apart. What was once neat and all fitted together starts to come apart. Maybe pavements have a story to tell, a sort of parable about how time is always working against our attempts to impose order. Incidentally, the word ‘pavement’ comes from the Latin pavere which means to ‘pound down’. We try to pound down the earth to fit our own design, but nature and time have a way of reclaiming things.

Pavements carry the ghosts of feet, of people long dead, the fleeting touch of shadows or rain that reflects the world above. Footprints caught in the cement of pavements: maybe in a thousand years an excited archaeologist from Mars will find one like we found footsteps on the beach up at Formby from thousands of years ago…

Leaves, apples, litter, all there and gone in an instant. A paving flag is like a picture frame of time.

And then there are the pavements people draw or write upon. Kids chalk drawings,, ‘arty’ stencil stuff, or the  drawings etched into the pavements on the new frontage of Lime Street Station done by artist Simon Faithfull to record a trip to Liverpoool in Nova Scotia, three thousand miles away.

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Pavements marked a path for thousands of feet over time. Very quickly when people no longer use them, they begin to disappear. Tracks that once meant something, were important, provided a way, become overgrown.


There’ll be a few more posts on pavements soon! We’re putting the finishing touches to a short video in which a group member reads a poem called Hell’s Pavements by John Masefield. It’s about a sailor who comes into Liverpool determined not to waste his money on women and drink. It ends with him sailing back to sea owning nothing but the clothes on his back. As if !

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A Job for Life

We were looking at the brilliant BBC History web pages (probably worth more than the television part of the licence as someone said), a real goldmine of interesting stuff, beautifully presented and easy to find your way around. Then we looked at the BBC Radio Merseyside History pages, again very interesting. In particular, we looked at an audio slide show about the Lewis’s Department Store that closed earlier this year. For most of us, the shop was part of our lives. Its passing feels like a more human historical event than the major “historical events”.

Lewis’s had their own flickr site where you can see some pictures relating to the store’s history.

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Is history fact or fiction, opinion and interpretation or “truth”?

Where to look for history? One place is in buildings and architecture. The building shown above was demolished during the construction of the Liverpool One development. Like many listed buildings it “got in the way”. In an article in The Times in March 2008, a writer, Tristram  Hunt gave the following opinion under the headline, Liverpool, Capital of Vandalism:


Unfairly, Liverpool has often been accused of wallowing in the past. If only it did.

Under the past ten years of control by the Liberal Democrats, some 36 listed buildings have been lost to the bulldozers. Whereas Merseyside once enjoyed a Georgian building stock comparable to Bath, what little remains is now under threat. In addition to the terraces of Seel Street, there are numerous properties in Duke Street, Dale Street and Great George Square – as well as such listed landmark churches as St Luke’s, Berry Street and St Andrew’s – equally at risk. And that is excluding the Toxteth terraces and Welsh Street houses that remain under planning blight.

The difference this time is that the threat comes as much from property developers, whose lawyers and bully-boy chicanery runs rings round council officers, as grandiose redevelopment schemes. But the results are the same as buildings slip into disrepair, night-time demolitions “happen” and inexplicable planning permissions are granted.

Tristram Hunt is author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City


The newspaper article is itself ‘history’. It’s a fairly stark example of how facts (the demolition of listed buildings) and opinions are mixed. How we see the past – and the present is part of the past – is shaped by who we are, something we discussed at our last session. What is important to one person may not be so to another. We make our own histories from what interests us.

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With all that’s happening at Liverpool Football Cub – today was a High Court hearing against the owners – a good time to watch again this short training video. It is made of photographs taken on one match day and one non-match day. The sounds were recorded on an H2 ZOOM and vision was edited on iMovie, sound on Audacity (a great free downloadable sound studio).

While to many “Anfield” means the place of a football club, to many others it’s a place to live. We have a few members of the group looking to develop more on Anfield in its wider sense. This video uses simple techniques to suggest history such as putting the sound of an old fashioned projector on, and making it look like old film in places. The video also seems to be making some points by contrasting certain images.

The Dixon Scott reference at the start of the film is to the writer of a 1907 guide to Liverpool. We looked about a year ago at some of the things he said about Anfield.

Click on continue below to read the full item.

Anfield (1907)

Walton’s drab neighbours on the other

side, too, have also their sporting as-

sociations, and, in consequence, some

measure of independent fame. Each

Saturday afternoon throughout the

winter grey clouds of sound drift over

all this northern district and out into

the country beyond : rivalling for a time

the brazen rumours from the River which

are always visiting these airs. They

rise from the great football-grounds at

Everton and Anfield, where some tens

of thousands of enthusiasts, incredibly

packed together (any number of the

worst-paid of L ‘s understudies

among them), indulge, week after week,

a passion for vicarious athletics.

There is always something rather

heartsome about the sound of distant

cheering, and in this case one welcomes

these tumults with an especial enthusiasm.

It would probably be unjust to suggest

that they stand for the most positive

moment in the lives of the cheerers, but

it is certainly true that they provide the

most positive note in the whole of the

dull regions that surround them. To-

wards Stanley Park, indeed, in Anfield,

there is a momentary touch of something

that is almost sprightliness ; and over

in Everton, near the hill from which

De Quincey admired the view of distant

Liverpool, there is a flavour of dignified

decay. But, for the rest, there are only

labyrinthine miles of gardenless, spirit-

less streets, neither new nor old, neither

vicious nor respectable — always tragically

null and inchoate. They involve Kirk-

dale ; they trail out towards Cabbage

Hall ; they trudge past Newsham Park,

and so away towards the south. The main

ribs strike across them here and there,

distributing a little colour — paper-shops,

tobacconists’, sweet-shops, the rich phials

of a drug-store, butchers’ slabs covered

with intricate runes of red and yellow ;

but these respites are desperately re-

stricted. The gleam dies away as quickly

as the sound of the car-gongs ; the web

slinks back into its old monotony, into

that grey neutrality which seems, some-

how, to be far baser and more vitiating

than the brute positive blackness of the

slums. (more…)

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It’s remarkable to think some of us in the group were kids and teenagers when this wonderful documentary was made. Made for the BBC in 1958 and transmitted in early 1959, it depicts working-class life in the back-to-backs of an unnamed northern city. Much of the shooting took place in Liverpool, but areas of Manchester, Salford and Stockport also make an appearance.

As said in previous posts, as well as the subject matter’s being fascinating, the history of documentary is important too. Here is an example which was very unusual for its time with no ‘voice over’ and the use of music and people’s own voices.

We tend to forget how close we are to the ‘olden days’. For some of us our parents or grandparents were around when the workhouses were still operating. One of the group members is working on a project looking at Walton Workhouse where his grandfather worked.

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