This old twentieth century view depicts one blustery day beneath the outstandingly grand entrance to Birkenhead Park. The idea for a public park came from Liverpool shipping magnet and town commissioner Sir William Jackson. With the remarkable skill of design genius Joseph Paxton, work commenced to transform what was then just an area of unhealthy swampland into a blossoming Victorian paradise. In 1847, the project was finally complete. This was to be the first ever official public park in the world with over 100 acres of landscaped gardens, lakes and pathways made available for all. The colossal renovation took over 1000 men more than three years to complete at a cost of approximately £70,000. Here we see the main entrance on the corner of Park Road North and Park Road East. The gatehouse was built to the design of James Gillespie Graham, the mastermind behind Hamilton Square. Inside it contains two lodges, one on either side respectively known as the North and South lodges adding to the very imperial look of this inner-city section of Wirral. At the time this impressive gateway allowed Birkenhead to vie with such famous architectural wonders as London’s Marble Arch and the iconic Arc De Triomphe in Paris.
On visiting Birkenhead Park today you will notice that the imposing and robust stone gatehouse continues to stand with a truly awesome visual impact. The central archway stands at 43 feet high and temptingly draws the eye through to the gardens within. All of the original stone columns have survived and have been superbly maintained over the years. They provide a somewhat Roman influence to this Northern English shipping town. Looking up the date mark of 1847 can be spotted inscribed upon the top centre of the structure. The park was opened on April 5 of that year and was a day chosen to coincide with the opening of the Birkenhead dock system. On that date the surviving cobbles seen in the foreground of this image were trod by the great masses of people, 56,000, who had turned out to celebrate the milestone in their town’s emerging and growing history. The park became an international sensation and left a great impression on one American visitor, Frederick Olmsted. He came to Birkenhead twice in the 1850’s and it was here from where he drew inspiration towards the design of his own public project, the now world-famous Central Park in New York City.
This thoroughfare was named after John Colquitt, a customs collector and owner of a large plot of land in Hanover Street. His family made their fortune from plantations in America but these were later confiscated during the War of Independence. To the right of this image stand the remains of the Fanny Calder School of Domestic Science. In 1875 Fanny Louisa Calder began teaching cookery classes for adults at St George’s Hall aiming to improve the diets and lifestyles of the area’s more humble residents. So successful was her scheme that it was developed into a fully functioning school targeted towards young girls wishing to improve their abilities within the field of domestic science. Florence Nightingale was highly impressed and described Calder as the, “Saint of the Laundry, Cooking and Health.” Across the road several men can be seen loading a van outside the entrance to the Royal Institution. Based in Thomas Parr’s converted mansion, The R.I was established in 1814 to promote literature, science and the arts, with many varied lectures given by respected speakers and housing a number of important cultural works. The mass of rubble in the foreground is made up of Jason Carter’s property, theatrical furnisher, and the shop of Jacob Finestone, a tailor.
Colquitt Street still exists but looks a great deal different. The Domestic Science School was destroyed and its place stands an apartment block, Elysian Fields. This was built in 2008 by the Liverpool based Iliad Group and valued at £25M. It contains 105 individual flats and car park. Iliad claim their role to be that of architectural revitalises in a historic city of multiculturalism, arts and energy. They have created and refurbished numerous buildings across Liverpool with fashionable and sought-after properties in Stanley Street, Leeds Street and Madison Square to name but a few, featuring highly in their portfolio. The Royal Institution building also exists but is now hidden from view by the block of student flats which have arisen from the rubble. During the mid twentieth century the majority the institutions collections were moved to more accessible galleries and museums based around the city whilst other items were transferred to the University of Liverpool for educational purposes. The Royal Institution itself was formally dissolved in 1948. The premises now operates as offices for the children’s charity Barnardo’s with its upper rooms serving as yet more student pads for young academics of the nearby lecture halls of John Moores University.
This image shows two manual workers oiling one of the most famous roads in one of the most affluent parts of the city. Rodney Street was named after Admiral Rodney after a triumphant naval victory over the French in 1782. The battle helped strengthen Britain’s influence in the West Indies and boosted her stake in the controversial slave trade. These charming and luxurious Georgian houses were built over a number of decades by William Roscoe, one of Liverpool’s most pioneering and enterprising sons (who himself was ironically an opponent of slavery). The properties were soon swept up by the city’s elite and wealthy as an escape from the increasingly crowded and congested quarters of Liverpool. A number of notable residents moved into the street over the years such, as poet Arthur Clough, medical extraordinaire Doctor Duncan, the distinguished photographer Edward Chambre Hardman and four-times British Prime Minister William Gladstone, who was actually born at No. 62.
Today Rodney Street remains largely unchanged and makes up a conservation area, considered 'outstanding' in the national context by the Historic Buildings Council. In all there are over sixty Grade Two listed buildings in the street with many blue plaques from English Heritage adorning the walls. Edward Chambre Hardman’s former house has even been converted into a very interesting museum. Frozen in time, the house now reflects how it was during Hardman’s post-war heyday in the 1950’s. Visitors can view the very studio where he developed his famous shots and the rooms where he lived and worked with his wife Margaret. This image captures the corner of Rodney Street where it meets Mount Street. The picture shows No. 51, and it now houses Liverpool John Moores University’s European Institute for Urban Affairs. Inside are the offices of a committed team of consultant researchers who focus on areas of key concern to urban policy-makers across the globe. As the modern day photograph shows Rodney Street remains a fine looking road with some superb examples of classic Victorian architecture.
This photograph shows the terrible damage done to Charles Dashley’s butcher shop in Oxton Road. Charles, (real name Karl Deuschle) was a German national who by 1896 had moved to Britain seeking a better life. At No.35 he had set up shop as a pork butcher but in the May of 1915, the people of Birkenhead turned against him. That month saw some of the worst rioting the town had ever seen as the Cunard ocean liner, Lusitania was sunk off the coast of Ireland en route to Liverpool. U Boat U20 under the control of Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger fired a torpedo at the unarmed passenger ship causing her to sink in only eighteen minutes. The attack claimed the lives of nearly 1200 passengers from both sides of the Atlantic and caused a widespread public backlash against anyone suspected of German origin. Mr Deuschle’s shop was totally ransacked as crowds broke in and incinerated its contents. That eventful day turned this normally quiet part of Oxton Road into a scene of utter bedlam that even twenty policemen were unable to control. Many suspected shops in the area and indeed across the whole country suffered similar fates as Germany’s abhorrent naval actions turned the world against them.
No.35 Oxton Road bears little resemblance to its former twentieth century appearance nor does it exhibit any of the tragic scars it received during the chaotic riots of 1915. These premises also no longer operate as a pork butcher’s but have instead become a repair centre for domestic appliances such as washing machines and boilers. The area outside the shop has also changed somewhat with the installation of a public crossing and a set of traffic lights. The old shops of baker John Duff to the left and Mrs Ellen James’ confectionery store to the right have also altered. The insurance company Swinton occupies No.33-35 offering home, car, travel, business, pet, life and motor Insurance to the people of Wirral whilst a highly-signed Chinese takeaway stands at No.37.
Liverpool’s beautifully gothic Diocesan Church House was situated in South John Street, housing the offices of the local Diocese and its associated records and literature. The building replaced an earlier structure known as Clarendon Buildings and covered plot of over 1000 square yards. On the afternoon of August 1, 1899 the foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Derby who formally declared the commencement of this new and ambitious pious project. It was to feature a hall with enough seating for 400 people, a diocesan registry, bishop’s quarters, committee rooms, finance offices and even a library and reading room. Officials, (particularly Bishop Ryle who spearheaded the project) felt that Church House would be a superb addition to society, promoting widespread unity by establishing a common centre where the clergy and laity of the diocese could meet together. It is shown here in 1941 after a vicious air raid the previous year. Repair work can clearly be seen on the front portion of the construction where there was once an elaborate pillared tower. The lower rooms of the premises are also shown to have been totally destroyed.
After the war Diocesan Church House was demolished and replaced by a rather bland and lacklustre office block. It wasn’t until the 21st century that South John Street underwent a complete makeover when Lord Grosvenor’s development company invested £500 million towards the costs of the construction of Liverpool One, Britain’s largest open air shopping complex. Now the site is taken up by a very colourful branch of Costa Coffee with its vertical rainbow tubes creating a truly self-assured optical statement. Critics have applauded the design commending its unique confidence of combined art and architecture. To the right stands the large department store that is Debenhams which opened in Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year, 2008. They supply everything from Menswear and Womenswear to electronics and home furnishings. As shoppers stroll further into the complex they find that space in South John Street has been cleverly utilised using the very best in modern planning; the thoroughfare has been transformed into a two-tier street. Rows of stores, including the dimly-lit clothing shop of Hollister, a branch of the bank Natwest, a Lego store, Sports Direct, an Odeon cinema, and many more besides, are all linked by a series of lifts and escalators.
The normally happy leisure spot that was the Derby Pool in New Brighton is now yet more evidence of the desolation and sadness the Second World War brought to our shores. The Derby Baths opened seven years before the outbreak of hostilities and by that time a visit to the pool had become an all round family favourite. It had been opened by its namesake Lord Derby here in Harrison Drive on June 8, 1932 after £35,000 worth of construction. It was estimated that up to 1000 bathers could take a dip at any one time while another 2000 could laze carefree around at the poolside. The pool itself was 100 yards long and had depth of 7 feet. The surrounding Derby Baths buildings are depicted here after bombing in and around the shore line in 1940. Liverpudlian Louis Freeman died at a shelter based in Harrison Drive in the December of that year and Margaret Rogers of Danehurst Road was also fatally injured, dying from her wounds two days later in Leasowe Hospital. Further along the promenade past the Derby Baths the authorities had set up a mine field in the sand dunes for fear of invasion. Regrettably the only fatalities were to four young lads who had ventured onto the dunes not realising what terrible tragedy lay buried beneath the grain.
This vibrant view of the site of Derby Baths shows that the pool is sadly no more and now a pub and restaurant stands at the location. It is owned by the nationwide Harvester chain which just off Harrison Drive at a new address called Bay View Drive. Naturally it boasts some beautiful views across the bay and can be found packed with families on warm sunny afternoons. The pool site itself has been filled in and now a vast expanse of grass land helps create this pretty seaside vista. Its associated buildings that would have been situated to the foreground of this scene were also dismantled. The restaurant takes its name from the scene’s aquatic past and was officially named The Derby Pool. It was only built in the late 1990s but possesses an earlier Art Deco style appearance. The development team at Neptune are currently working on several multimillion pound projects in New Brighton with a new supermarket, a Travelodge hotel, a digital cinema, bars, restaurants and much more are soon to be kick-starting the resort’s renaissance. Their Plans also feature a brand new public pool reminiscent of The Derby Baths and its sister, the New Brighton Open Air Baths. The latter had been considered to be the largest outdoor swimming pool in Europe but in 1990 this too was demolished after serious storm damage.
This view shows Ranelagh Street from the corner of Church Street and features in the distance is the original Adelphi Hotel. The street derives its name from the gardens that once occupied the site since taken up by the Adelphi. It was a quiet place for the well-to-do to take tea, stroll around the greenery and admire the fishponds that emulated those in London. The park was named after the original Ranelagh Gardens of Chelsea and they could only be accessed after paying a small fee. A recollection from 1836 described the floral setting:
The gardens extended a long way back. Warren-street is formed out of them. These gardens were very tastefully arranged in beds and borders, radiating from a centre in which was a Chinese temple, which served as an orchestra for a band to play in. Round the sides of the garden, in a thicket of lilacs and laburnums, the beauty of which, in early summer, was quite remarkable, were little alcoves or bowers wherein parties took tea or stronger drinks.
To the left of this image are a number of businesses with their awnings protecting passer-bys from the temperamental elements of the weather. To the right is Central Station which first opened in 1874 to transport travellers the length and breadth of the country via the increasingly popular mode of rail.
Ranelagh Street is a busy crossing point for both cars and pedestrians moving in and about the city. The Adelphi still stands at the foot of Mount Pleasant after being rebuilt in 1912 by hotelier Arthur Towle into a luxurious Edwardian hotel. Today it has 402 rooms for Liverpool tourists and business travellers and is one of the largest hotels the city has to offer. Central Station is still in use but with long-distance travellers now departing on trains from nearby Lime Street. In 2009 Central Station was identified as needing some much-needed improvements and is in line to receive a share of fifty million pounds worth of national rail refurbishment money. To the left of the photograph stands Miss Selfridge, the ladies fashion store, and up ahead stand a series of shops including a bookmakers, shoe seller, a fish and chip shop by the name of the Lobster Pot, and a branch of the travel agents, Thomson.
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