I received an email via our blog from a gentleman whose parents where Bold Street traders during war-time Liverpool. Below is his account of Bold Street, its wartime damage and the effect war had on trade in Bold Street - amongst other interesting facts!
Prior to my parents purchasing the lease in the early thirties, probably about 1931, the shop had been a rather “select” haberdashery shop, run by an elderly lady. My parents changed it to a soft furnishings business, selling material for curtains (mainly Sandersons), making them up to customers requirements and fitting them. (At the age of four I went with my father to Deganwy to fit curtains at a house owned by a Lady Peacock. Changing trains at Chester we ventured outside the station where I caught sight of a green and cream tram so I must be one of the few alive who actually saw Chester trams, as they closed in 1929 I believe).
Lady Peacock was a relative by marriage. I think her husband was knighted having served as Mayor of Warrington for a long time. (Sounds posh. They were ironmongers!) My parents also sold carpets (the smell lingers still), cushions, curtain rails and other items which were then relavent to soft furnishings.
I kind of assumed I would take over the shop when I was old enough but it was not to be. The shop was double fronted, the windows filled (tastefully of course) with curtains and cushions etc; inside on the left was a display area and on the right a substantial counter with the usual brass rule inserted for measuring lengths of material. In the rear was an office and a sewing machine and in the large basement was a row of sewing machines, some being treadle and some being electrically operated. I took pleasure in pretending the electric one was a tram, using the pedal as a tram controller. There was a fireplace there too but whether that denoted former living quarters I don’t know. I reckon the properties were 18th century.
There was an upper floor but we cannot recall if there was another above, (from indistinct photographs I’m sure there was), and my sister seems to recall that the first floor could be used for interconnecting between the various buildings as she remembers her mother using this method to go to one of the other shops to buy chocolates.
Wetheralls had a retail establishment a few doors away towards the church, as well as having their factory behind Bold St. I remember at least two banks across the road and the back entrance to Allen & Appleyard’s large furniture store in Renshaw St, their shop now being in Knutsford.
By May 1942 we children had been privately evacuated to St Asaph , our first lodgings being in the house where the famous victorian poetess had lived - Felicia Hemans, then we were split up and lived quite separate lives. My sister hated it here and returned home. We had remained in the city until December/January 1940. In May 1941 my mother had come over by train for the weekend to see us and had great difficulty in getting back to Liverpool. With no Underground running, and having crossed by ferry she endured a very hazardous walk eventually making it to the bottom of Bold St amongst the chaos which existed at the time (a bit like Liverpool now!) to be refused admission to the street by the police although when she explained she had a business there they did allow her to venture up. No doubt she must have been very shocked; after recovering, she joined the Civil Service War Damage Valuation department and became very busy valuing damage in the Scotland Rd and dock areas. Prior to this my father had been called up. He was of the age when he was eligible for both wars, becoming a Captain in the first (Lancashire Hussars as a cavalry officer then Kings Liverpool as an infantryman), because of his age however (40’s) was given the choice: Army at old rank or Civil Service, so having a business to run he chose the latter. This didn’t do the shop much good as he had rapid promotion, ending up as Senior Valuer for South London. Being a “temp” he received no pension but did receive very good wages. He remained in the Civil Service until retirement. The shop was run by my mother after my father moved away as she had had to do at one time in the thirties when business was poor and father took a job as a salesman for an American company called Kirsch, selling curtain rails etc; (he also was a partner in a new invention - a fountain pen with a tiny roller of blotting paper at the end to dry the ink. Trouble was - once that was used it could not be replaced!)
During the depressed years of the 1930s they did not do very well financially. I remember about 1938 my mother showing me the shop accounts with a net profit of £300. By 1939, due to the shortage of materials, all they could sell was blackout curtain material, so in hindsight the bombing may have been their saving grace. In those days everybody travelled to work by tram, and the positioning of the “Fare Stage” was very important. For some years this was at the bottom of Leece St, so everyone alighted there in order to avoid having to pay another halfpenny, and they would then walk down Bold St towards the business area, thereby passing the shop, with the chance of a purchase. Great worries ensued (I recall the atmosphere in the house) when the Fare Stage was moved to Lewis’s! Though it did return to Leece St eventually little did the tramway authourities realise how important such matters were to struggling small shops. As children we spent much of our time in the shop after school as my parents seldom arrived home before 9pm; however we did have a housekeeper, a Miss Hanmer, to take care of us when we went straight home from school. We were independant kids, and I travelled all over the city by tram at a tender age, hence my good knowledge (and love) of Liverpool.
My parents also employed a manageress by the name of “Miss Wilson” a.k.a “Willy” a favourite with us, who lived in the then family orientated Granby St. She became a family friend and would join my parents in St Asaph when they eventually retired. As for myself. I returned to Liverpool in 1943, went to Skerrys College in Rodney St, took my School Certificate, worked as a junior clerk with chartered accountants in Castle St, got called up and the rest is history!
Thank you for Denys Owen for this insightful account into War-time Bold Street.