Over many years of collecting, I have built up an archive of thousands of Liverpool photographs – from the 1850s up to recent years. My blog started because I believe these images should be shared. I hate the idea of boxes of photographs gathering dust, unseen and unloved. They should be brought out into the open so that everyone can add to their understanding of our city’s history.
My particular interests are in the candid photographs that started to appear in the 1890s as camera and film technology improved, gradually broadening the take-up of photography from the wealthy to the average worker. It is this shift – when the lens focused on street life – that is particularly interesting. We can learn a lot from examining such photographs: why they were taken, what is represented in the image and so on.
Today’s photograph fits these criteria perfectly. It is probably a commissioned photograph of proud business owner, John Bousfield, outside his dairy in Albert Street. His sign advertises his trade as Cow Keeper. To ensure that milk was delivered fresh, the answer was keep the cows locally. In cities and large towns there would be numerous cow-keepers each owning one or two cows. The cows would be milked early in the morning then driven to a stretch of common land where they would graze during the day and be driven home in the afternoon in time for milking again. Where John Bousfield kept his cows is not known but this was in the early 1890s and Liverpool was still confined within a relatively tight boundary.
The street is Albert Street – presumably named after the Prince Consort. Surprisingly, for its name, it is a rather mean street off Paddington (where the whole area is being comprehensively developed) leading to a plot of railway land (did he keep his cows there?).
My 1887 Gore’s Street Directory lists him and he was still there in 1893. By 1910, however, Thomas Mudd had taken over the business. The photograph was taken by WH Glassey, whose business was in nearby Smithdown Lane. Clearly John Bousfield was proud of the business he had build up with a visible staff of seven – all smartly dressed. Another piece of Liverpool’s ‘lost’ history preserved on a small cabinet card.