A Francis Frith photograph of Albert Dock and the Custom House. The date is approximate but it is certainly pre-1878 because Lyster’s Albert Hydraulic Power Centre (or The Pumphouse as it is now known) has not been built.
Frith is the great pioneer of Liverpool photography – and he was active from the early 1850s. Annoyingly, although there are hundreds of his early photographs of other English towns and landmarks (in particular cathedrals, abbeys and churches), I have come across no photographs by him pre-1870. I still hold out hope that there are photographs in some collection – there are still many unexplored sources. If there are 1850 photographs, they would coincide with the completion of St George’s Hall, so I would expect it to be the most likely candidate (Frith and Company photographed it many times in later years). I would hope that the waterfront would feature but, in many ways, the view shown above would have looked quite similar to a photograph taken in the 1850s. I would not expect to find heavily peopled photographs, photographic plates were far too slow to capture movement and photographers generally settled for unpeopled landscapes and building shots.
Nevertheless, the 1870s photographs give a strong impression of an important seaport and underline the great loss to Liverpool’s architectural heritage when the Custom House was first firebombed and then unnecessarily demolished after the War.