Fortunately, some things don’t change too much. Bold Street is one of Liverpool’s best loved streets and it is not difficult to understand why. It is a lively mix of mainly independent shops and restaurants and has an eclectic mix of buildings, ranging from the classical Lyceum (1800-02) at its foot, facing the early twentieth century HSBC bank (by James Doyle). Then we have the ex-Cripps shop (better known in recent years as Waterstones bookshop)and, further up, is the Music Hall (also a Waterstones in more recent years before becoming a bar). Elsewhere, there are good examples of modernist architecture (Radiant House), Arts and Crafts, even Graeco-Egyptian (number 92) and solid Greek Revival. It is a street that demands looking above the shop facades to appreciate how different styles can happily coexist and strengthen the urban landscape. And looking down on all of this is the Gothic Revival tower of St Luke’s church.
What a shame lessons are not learned. Bold Street succeeds because it is of a scale. No high buildings breaking its building line. Quentin Hughes used the expression ‘keeping in keeping’ and this is a perfect example. The destruction of the St John’s Market area was a disastrous misjudgment, replacing a warren of small streets with a lump of concrete that could be anywhere in the world. More recent examples, such as the demolition of Commutation Road and now Lime Street, show yet again that most developers are only interested in uniform developments that can be built from scratch. The recent plan for Renshaw Street, to include a large scale residential block, is another indication of this worrying trend to remove scale and variety from the city centre.
To get back to Bold Street. Until the last War, this was the fashionable shopping street where well-heeled ladies and gentlemen would shop (although, in contrast, there is a barefoot boy selling newspapers on the immediate left of the photograph). Van Gruisen, the first shop on the left, were pianoforte manufacturers. Next door was Arthur Medrington (photographer and artist) with another well known photographer (Barnes and Bell) next to him. (Bold Street was a centre for photography with several more having studios including Vandyke – whose sign can be seen on the opposite side of the street).
Fortunately Bold Street survives and it is this kind of street that gives Liverpool its character. So much has been lost since the 1970s on the grounds that the building fabric is beyond salvation (not only Lime Street but Seel Street, Duke Street and now Renshaw Street). How different Liverpool would have looked with greater consideration for the past.