The Engineer?s Department was formed as a result of the Liverpool Sanitary Act of 1846. This Act enabled the appointment of three officers to suggest and implement solutions to problems connected with sanitation, public health and housing in Liverpool. A Medical Officer of Health, a Borough Engineer and an Inspector of Nuisances were appointed in 1847. James Newlands was appointed the first Borough Engineer. Dr. William Henry Duncan became the first Medical Officer of Health in Britain. James Newlands worked closely with Dr. Duncan, planning reform of cleansing, sewerage and road improvements throughout the city. Mr. Fresh was appointed Inspector of Nuisances. The passing of the Liverpool Sanitary Act in 1846 gave statutory support to a progressive policy of improvements.
In 1896 the Department decided to keep a photographic record of its work. The City Engineer began commissioning photographs in 1897 to document aspects of the Department?s activities. This resulted in the development of a major photographic archive, assembled between January 1897 and November 1995 and consisting of 158,383 images. A selection of these images is included on this CD-Rom.
The photographs were initially used to record and support the work of the City Engineer, the Surveyor, the Housing Department and the Medical Officer of Health, showing everyday work such as road improvements, refuse collection and the laying of sewers. There is a record of major projects, such as the infilling of Georges Dock to build the Liver Building and the reclamation of land to construct Otterspool Promenade. There are also photographs of the work of other departments, major events and general developments in the City. This wider coverage increased rapidly from the 1940s onwards. A total of 20,000 photographs were taken up to 1960, but by 1970 the overall total had increased to 45,000 and by 1980 to 90,800.
This collection is of immense value nationally, as well as locally. It represents a detailed profile of almost every aspect of the development of the city. Liverpool was significant as the second commercial city in England for much of the period in question. The collection provides a comprehensive record of the work of the City Council, which in the first half of the twentieth century provided services such as water supply, electricity supply and hospitals. It is particularly important on a national level in recording the city?s pioneering work in town planning, housing, public health and transport. It also records in detail the multi-faceted and outstanding work of Professor John Alexander Brodie, City Engineer from 1898 to 1926.
The collection consists of 158,383 photographs with both negative and contact prints for the majority of the photographs. Most of the earliest negatives up to about 1960 are glass plate. The first 9,400 in the series are 8.5 x 6.5 inches, whilst the later series are 7 x 5 inches with some 5 x 4 inches. At some point in the past some of the glass negatives were scrapped. However, an almost complete series of high quality contact prints survives. The latter part of the collection is a mixture of 35 mm and 3 x 2 inch negatives. The photographs are black and white up to the late 1970s and colour thereafter.
Liverpool City Engineers Department ? Suggested Reading:
Liverpool City Council ? A Century of Progress 1847-1947: An account of the development of the Liverpool Water Supply Undertaking.
An account of the development of the Liverpool City engineers and surveyors department.
An account of the development of the Liverpool Public Health Department.
Source: Liverpool City Council Records Office