Merseyside local history

Jul 22

The Giants Are Coming

Very soon, the giants will be back in our city walking the streets looking down on us with gargantuan delight. Our community has always held a soft spot for such tall visitors as the following Victorian tale will attest. Back in the summer of 1876 an exhibition was held at 112 Bold Street. It was of an extraordinary curiosity. Its shape was that of a colossal, unknown figure which caused quite a sensation when first found. The creature was said to have been discovered earlier that year in ground near to Ireland’s famous Giant’s Causeway. The exhibitor My Dyer stated that while engaged in prospecting for iron ore he accidently stumbled upon the figure buried several feet underground. Head to toe it measured over 12ft long with a huge cranium measuring 4ft across, massive arms of similar length and enormous legs. Overall it weighed nearly 300 stone! He supposed that this specimen was either some sort of fossilized Celtic giant or an unusual a piece of art lost in time. One peculiarity was that the right foot had six toes whilst the left only had five. Overall the figure was well proportioned with its bulky head tilted to the right and its arms lying solemnly across its huge chest. If a genuine fossil Mr Dyer believed it to be proof of the old tales that giants did indeed walk the land. Opinions differed widely of the validity of the find. If it was a fossil it was exceedingly well preserved and somewhat amazing that a creature could retain such herculean development as demonstrated by the visible tension of the muscles of the limbs. Also, the back part of the skull was missing and advocates of the giant theory claimed that this was no doubt due to ancient warfare. Those more sceptical in society considered the find just too good to be true and believed it far more likely to be some historic tourist piece from a sculptor’s studio. The question remained unanswered and the people of Liverpool flocked to Bold Street to see for themselves the remains of the mysterious Irish giant.

People flocked to see the Irish Giant

Aug 15

A Stylish Approach To City Tours – See Liverpool Tours

Visitors to Liverpool are in for a treat this summer as the distinctly debonair guides of See Liverpool Tours take to the city streets.

See Liverpool Tours will offer guided walking tours to locals and tourists alike with a dedicated selection of qualified blue badge guides. Guests will be wowed by the sights and sounds of our maritime metropolis sharing in the knowledge of not only Liverpool’s incredible past, but it’s very vibrant present and extremely exciting future.


Impressions are everything and the eye-catching team certainly have style. Each member is adorned in a luxuriously purple frock coat, black trousers, waistcoat, tie and matching top hat! They will soon become rather noticeable additions to the cityscape and have already caused quite a stir on several practice runs.

Dan Longman, managing director, said:

“We kept getting stopped by people asking if we could pose for photographs. Of course we couldn’t say no! We now know how the Beefeaters must feel in the Tower of London, or the guards at Buckingham Palace. It’s all great fun and gives that person a nice memory to take home with them.”

Dan, 25, a local author, founded See Liverpool Tours earlier this year after becoming disillusioned with the lack of opportunity in the job market. He said:

“I left university in July 2012 and discovered there was a serious lack of work out there. I was seeking employment for nearly six months and was becoming very despondent. It was then that the Centrel of Entrepreneurship at Liverpool John Moores got in touch and inspired me to create my own opportunity.”

Their maiden route, The Grand Tour, takes in many of the city’s most important locations such as the Albert Dock, the Pier Head and the Town Hall. Great for out-of-town sightseers, but also plenty of hidden gems to be discovered that even life-long Scousers may not have heard of. Did you know that the Albert Dock was the first fire-proof warehouse in the world, or that a ducking stool once stood over a pool at the entrance to the Queensway tunnel to punish petty criminals?

Dan’s love of local heritage is shared by Head Tour Guide, Richard Macdonald. Also twenty-five he is the city’s youngest blue badge guide holder, the recognised ‘Gold Standard’ qualification of guidance. He also has a genuine passion for the region and loves to share his vast local knowledge and anecdotes. He said:

“It’s the perfect role for me. We live in such a remarkable region, why shouldn’t we tell people about what we’ve got? Liverpool is fantastic; we should have the right to boast.”

See Liverpool Tours is collaborating with a range of local bars, restaurants, hotels and attractions across Merseyside as they prepare to showcase the very best of what Merseyside has to offer. There are also a number of specialist venues coming on board, so watch out for plenty of new and exciting destinations in future.

Tours currently run twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays and tickets purchased from or via the Tourist Information Centre at the Albert Dock or St George’s Hall.

For further information, email or call 0151 707 0729.

Aug 15

Liverpool Mapping

A map of the city from 1852

A good old historic map is fascinating. Much like a sepia-toned photograph they ooze nostalgia and reveal places that no longer exist. This map dates from 1852 depicts Liverpool as it was at the heart of the Victorian era. We can still see many recognisable places we know and love today, such as the Albert Dock, Clayton Square and Whitechapel, but even these familiar destinations would seem uncanny if we were ever to access them today by means to time travel. Then there are those places which have vanished from the landscape completely, like St Paul’s Church or the Leeds Street canal basin. Old photographs of certain locations around our city are few and far between or even non-existent, and we are left with only maps like this to gauge an idea of our geographical heritage. Hours can be spent just looking at the ancient street names as you try and decipher our 21st century layout against these early arrangements. Tracing the evolution of our city streets is a pastime in itself.

Jun 19

The Future of the Daniel Adamson

I recently paid a visit to the Daniel Adamson, a ship with so much potential currently lying in a state of dereliction in Sandon Dock.  The ‘Danny’ as it is affectionately known, is the only surviving steam-powered tug tender we have left. At one time her saloons were furnished in the latest Art Deco styles, but today she is a floating shadow of her former self awaiting much-needed reparations.

The 'Danny' in Sandon Dock. Its fate is still very much uncertain

She had originally been built in 1903 as the Ralph Brocklebank for the Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company by the Tranmere Bay Development Company. Her job was to tow barges and carry passengers between docks in Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.

In 1936 she was refitted considerably and renamed in honour of the first chairman of the shipping firm. From 1936 to 1984 the Daniel Adamson operated both as a tug and as the company directors’ inspection vessel as well as a venue for corporate hospitality.

After a spell in a boat museum where she narrowly avoided the scrapheap, the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society was set up to restore the vessel to her former glory. Its volunteers have given thousands of hours to repairing what they can but they are currently waiting news on whether a £3M Heritage Lottery bid has been successful. They wish to see the coal-fired ship restored back to public service offering pleasure cruises to paying passengers.The Art Deco lowe saloon pictured in more luxurious times

As such, she would be the oldest steam ship operating anywhere in the world. I for one would love to see such a luxurious and historic boat back on the water and she could become a genuine nautical asset not only for Merseyside, but for the whole nation.

For further information about the Daniel Adamson visit the official website at

Apr 30

The Eternal Drink Problem

Visiting town on the weekend can sometimes seem a somewhat perilous journey. Our city is famous, maybe even slightly infamous, for its multitude of bars and clubs making Liverpool a popular destination for coach parties of revellers from all across the country. Our council representatives are very much aware of the importance of finding a balance between a welcoming and accepting destination and a city of decadent pandemonium.

At the start of 2012 local media outlets reported that the number of licensed premises in the city centre had risen from 498 in 2007 to 683 just five years later. Merseyside Police warned that the awarding of any more licences could “see a rise” in alcohol-related crime, but just how do you manage a small fishing village that has grown to effectively become a 24 hour party capital? This balance is key to the success of any major city’s tourist industry, but is nothing new. It may surprise readers to discover that Liverpool nightlife has been the subject of close review for many years.

“The exceeding number of ale houses and tippling houses within this town is thought not only to be a great nourishment of idleness, but also a great occasion to many other disorders and inconBar Staff seen here at the Parrot Hotel, Scotland Road in 1908veniences.”

This scathing critique was recorded by officials in 1580 who were keen to bring order and sobriety to the neighbourhood. Yet the ale houses lived on, with the Master of Ceremonies of Bath penning his thoughts on his favourite trio of taverns on his visit much later, in 1760:

“There are at Liverpool three good inns. For ten pence a man dines elegantly at an ordinary, consisting of ten or a dozen dishes. Indeed, it must be said both of Cheshire and Lancashire that they have plenty of the best and most luxurious foods at a very cheap rate; their mutton is small and juicy; their fowl, whether wild or tame, brought in fine order to market, and of fish they have great variety in the utmost perfection.”

As for the alcohol, he added:

“I drank some ale of superior quality with Mr. Mears, a merchant in the Portuguese trade; his malt was brought at Derby, his hops in Kent and his water brought by express order from Lisbon. It was indeed excellent liquor!”

Society has perpetually sought to find harmony between the thrill-seekers and the day-to-day living and our present day concerns have been debated for centuries. It is undoubtedly a contentious issue that shall forever be with us.

Apr 23

The Not So Healthy Scouser

At the last census 2.1% of local residents described their health as ‘very bad’. Worryingly this is somewhat higher than the national average which stands at 1.3%. The health of our region has been of interest to statisticians for many years with mortality rates a key influence on local government policy.

A report by Dr Matthew Dobson in 1774 describes that, “the dryness of the soil, the purity of the waters, the mildness of the air, the anti-septic effluvia of pitch and tar, the acid exhalations from the sea, the frequent brisk gales of wind and the daily visitation of the tides” helped make towns around the Mersey some of the healthiest in the United Kingdom.  However as Liverpool grew in size and number, the state of the region‘s health declined rapidly.

Dr Duncan reviewed the health of Liverpool in the 1840sThrough the 1840s Dr Duncan took a far more detrimental view and asserted that Liverpool was now the unhealthiest town in all of England. He put forward the following unwholesome statistics.

The average age of death for a Liverpudlian in the mid-19th century was a youthful 17, whereas in Manchester it was slightly better at 19 with Londoners living until a distinctly venerable 26.5.

His view applied to all classes. The doctor’s research suggested that the Scouse gentry died on average aged 35, compared to their tradesmen who perished aged 22 and labourers still very much in childhood, aged only 15.

In older parts of the town the population included some 160,000 working class people of whom over a third crammed themselves into the 2000 courts that could be found rotting about the neighbourhoods. Of Liverpool’s 32,000 houses, each had seven inhabitants. Compared to a court these were positively spacious; these somehow contained 15 bodies.

By way of reasoning Dr Duncan stated, “if it is considered that each individual requires a daily supply of upwards of 600 cubic feet of pure air to maintain the healthy composition of his blood, there will be no difficulty in Court housing such as this contributed to the poor health of the regionunderstanding why, if 600 feet of tainted air be supplied to him instead, and that not for one day only, or occasionally, but constantly and habitually, the chance, or rather the certainty, is that he must die before his time.

Thankfully such unpleasant court dwellings are now long gone, but with our health still worse than the norm Merseyside has some way to go to enjoy the well-being and longevity 21st century living can offer.

Mar 26

Letters of Complaint

As any readers of the Echo’s letters page will know, we Merseysiders are not afraid to speak our mind. Through the years countless numbers of disgruntled locals have written to the press to air their niggling irritations. Here is a selection of Liverpool’s civic upsets across the ages:Letters of complaint  - an historic pastime

One anonymous writer known only as C.R took issue with nocturnal goings-on at the corner of Bold Street and Hanover Street way back in 1830:

“C.R protests against the noise in which disorderly females are permitted to make in many parts of the town, and in Bold Street especially. Our correspondent says that the respectable and orderly inhabitants of the neighbourhood of this nuisance are disturbed in their beds until a late hour every morning, the incessant noise and disorderly conduct of these unfortunate women and their associates.”

One Parker Street resident, Mr Saunders, penned an irksome letter in 1875 highlighting an issue with public health:

 “May I call your attention to a most abominable nuisance which is existing in our principle thoroughfares and which is a source of unpleasantness to the neighbours, besides being detrimental to health; namely the obnoxious gas penetrating from a sewer in the middle of the road through a small grid situated at the corner of Parker Street and Leigh Street. The place has been almost unbearable through the stench.”

Later in 1884, Mr. Newcome of Westminster Road bemoaned his experiences of what we would today describe as anti-social behaviour.

“I wish to draw your attention to boys from 10 to 17 who will give you a sharp cut with their top lashes, and if spoken to will use some imprudent or filthy expression in reply, and then runaway. On Saturday last in Scotland Road for instance, a lady was hit with a whip, and on remonstrating with the boys was called a foul name and told to get out of the road!” 

Mr Russell of Bedford Street made known his views on fireworks in a letter from 1893:

“Is there a law to prevent street vagabonds discharging fireworks in the public thoroughfare? Today this neighbourhood is noisy with fireworks and some ladies were seriously alarmed by having some of these abominations discharged in their path. Surely some kind of ought to be placed on these nuisances.”

It has been said that if one wishes to learn about any period in time, look to the literature. Letters of complaint offer honest and frank testaments to this advice and prove that life has never been easy or carefree. On the contrary, it has been full of maddening, disheartening and downright enraging problems humankind always had, and likely always will have, to deal with.

Mar 18

A New Wave of Liverpool Then and Now

I’ve recently discovered a fellow history fanatic in the form of shipping clerk Keith Jones. Born in Childwall in 1971, Keith has recently gathered quite a substantial online following all thanks to the nostalgic use of his camera.

The ‘Then and Now’ approach to taking pictures has proven a popular hit for many years now, but this style of documentation still demands huge interest from local communities across the country. Keith’s latest batch of work stands as pixelated proof to this assertion.

The Strand back in 1913 seen here blended with its century-old counterpart

The Strand back in 1913 seen here blended with its century-old counterpart

“I have great pride in the history and heritage of Liverpool and after taking up photography a couple of years back I found an enjoyable way to combine my two interests” says Keith. “With vintage image in hand, I return to the same location to ‘retake’ the photograph from the original, and importantly, comparable vantage point.”

As devotees of this approach know full well walking in the footsteps of a departed photographer is a peculiarly humbling experience. There is an acute sense of continuity as one stands in the very spot of their predecessor; it becomes very clear that ours will not be the last generation to carry out the act.

As time ticks on buildings crumble and environments alter. When once the chief hazard was the approach of a horse and carriage today we must negotiate life-threatening lanes of motorised traffic. It is such changes that make this hobby such an enthralling and absorbing pastime on which we can reflect in years to come.

Keith has begun to experiment with his methods by combining his shots in different ways. “Sometime I’ll merge the historic foreground into its modern scene, or I’ll splice old and new shots blending them both almost seamlessly.”

He clearly enjoys seeking out his urban subjects and has now produced over 900 ‘Then and Now’ style shots of Liverpool in the space of just three months.

Oxton Street, Walton, in the 1960s and as seen today

Oxton Street, Walton, in the 1960s and as seen today

“I love it!” smiles Keith. “I can think of no other city that has such a range of classical and modern buildings, nor such a mixed history of grand expansion, and widespread destruction. Merseyside is a fascinating place to record.”

Keith’s ever-growing collection of albums can all be found on his Facebook page  ‘Liverpool: Then and Now

Mar 10

Medicinal Excess

The April of 1876 saw an inquest take place examining the circumstances of Alice Dickman’s death. The nine year old had been the daughter of a fishmonger’s widow who lived in a house on Kirkdale Road. On the Sunday morning of April 12 the youngster complained of a headache and asked her mother for some whiskey to alleviate the pain. The time being only 9am, her mother was still in bed. “The bottle is in the drawer” she told her sleepily, and Alice went off to fetch the alcohol. Shortly afterwards the girl began to vomit and it was discovered that she had drunk far more than a medical drop. Alice had taken about half a gill of the spirit – the equivalent of ¼ pint.  She appeared to doze off but her health had actually taken a turn for the worse. At 2pm a doctor was called but his remedies had little effect. Alice died the next morning from apoplexy brought on excessive whiskey. A verdict was returned in accordance with the medical evidence.Kirkdale Road

Mar 05

Hip Hangout Signals Clues to City’s Past

In 2011 our very own Seel Street was named as the fourth most ‘Hippest Street’ in the whole of the UK. It beat a plethora of completion to reach the hailed top five with stiff competition coming from Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and the ultimate winner, Gateshead.

Our award-winning thoroughfare can be found in the fashionable Ropeworks area of the city and has been applauded for its mixture of bars, clubs and distinctive artistic style. However this street’s trendy road to bohemian flair has not been easy and clues to its past hardships can still be seen.Seel Street as seen in the 1940s

Seel Street itself owes its name to Thomas Seel, a local landowner who once owned an extensive house here in the Georgian Era. In 1790 it was decided that a thoroughfare was required for the increased traffic flowing through our growing maritime city and a route was chosen by the authorities to link with Berry Street. This new road would run through the land used by Mr Seel as part of his own personal garden, creating a rustic pastoral passage a world away from today’s urban chic. With the new road laid out, Seel Street was born.

During the war the street suffered sizable hardships as evidenced in this contemporary photograph. One of its major buildings can be seen lying flattened at the roadside with a medley of bricks and beams spilling out onto the pavement. This had been the North West business premises of Goodlass Wall and Co. colour and varnish manufacturers since 1840. Sandbags can also be seen piled up against the walls of the adjoining property in an effort to afford extra protection against bomb blasts and shrapnel. The sand inside was just a tiny percentage of the 150,000 tons taken from Formby shore to defend the many buildings across the city. Across the way bathed in sunlight is the firm of Duncan A.W and Co. printers with a small tobacconist shop positioned a short distance away on the corner of Concert Street. These were extremely lucky not to be lost to the German onslaught which brought chaos to shopkeepers and homeowners across the whole of Merseyside.

Seel Street today

Seel Street today

The second image was taken during the year of it fashionable accolade and shows that the blitzed building of times gone by was never restored. Curiously the question, ‘Do you believe in God?’ has been painted high upon the wall  This was placed here as part of the Visible Virals programme in 2008 in a joint venture between the Liverpool Biennial team and the Liverpool Culture Company. It is these unique artistic aspects, in addition to the numerous modern businesses which now inhabit this street, that have enabled this old merchant’s back garden to become one of Britain’s most trendy locations and a revered tourist attraction of which the city can be proud to boast.



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