Historic England: Liverpool

Historic England: Liverpool

Unique Images From The Archives
By Hugh Hollinghurst
Amberley Press, 96pp, £14.99

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

For this undertaking the author had the task of trawling through the 12 million plus photographs that make up the National Archive to make his selection. This book contains 160 plates, old, modern or impressionistic images of how the city has changed over the centuries since King John gave the then once village a Royal Charter in 1207.

It came into its own in the 18th century and its rise, fall and rise again since then provides the subject matter of eight themed chapters, starting with the Docks. Author Hugh Hollinghurst then follows up with chapters on the Waterfront, Transport, Business and Commerce, Culture, Worship, Homes and Leisure.

The best way to get a flavour of the contents is to breeze through the images before tackling the small print. If there is a reservation about this publication it is just that; for some readers the font size might be off putting, but there is a lot of detail to pack in.

The archive photographs though more than purvey what is still extant to admire. As a souvenir there are iconic images aplenty to remind tourists of their visit to the city. The Cathedrals, the Unesco World Heritage Buildings on William Brown Street, The Three Graces, Grade 1 listed Albert Dock, Lime Street Station, St George’s Hall, the Adelphi Hotel, the statue ‘exceedingly bare’ on the old Lewis’ store, the Radio City Tower, Bluecoat Chambers and the Philharmonic pub to mention but a few.

For locals there are also valuable insights into vanished glories like the site of the Custom House, and where to find the last remains of the ‘Dockers Umbrella’ Overhead Railway, or the preserved frontage of Exchange Station.

Why the Goree is synonymous with the Slave Trade, or what now resides on where the largest 18th Century workhouse in the country once stood, and what happened to the world famous Cotton Exchange are other anomalies that are answered here. The local detective can indeed gain valuable information from these pages.

Hollinghurst especially likes to use aerial images to show what was and now remains. For example, the site of the world’s first wet dock in 1715 became the location of the Custom House, opened in 1838, which itself was bombed into oblivion in the blitz of 1941. The site is now a major shopping mall.

In a view of the Adelphi Hotel environs from 1931 a glimpse of The street level Central Station and the Futurist Cinema are highlighted in the text. The former went underground in 1977 while the latter’s superb frontage has recently fallen foul of the city planners as Lime Street gets a much needed facelift.

All in all it’s a fascinating read and, although a subjective dip into what is available, there is enough here to justify the exercise in compiling this book.

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