Archive for the 'History of Bold Street' Category

Hidden Liverpool, the Lyceum and other stories…

A few months ago I was contacted by a lady developing a new project for a company called Placed in Liverpool: Hidden Liverpool. Hidden Liverpool is a year long project supported by the Heritage Lottery which explores Liverpool’s empty buildings and how memories of the usage of these buildings could go someway to informing the reuse of them in the future. Amongst the buildings selected are Woolton Baths, the Tate and Lyle Sugar Silo, Liverpool School for the Blind and the iconic Lyceum Building on Bold Street.
The Thomas Harrison designed Lyceum has been empty since being vacated by its last tenants around 4/5 years ago and the marks of neglect are already starting to show. On last inspection I noticed parts of the steps had fallen away Its shocking that in a city that trades so much on its heritage buildings like the Lyceum are just left to rot whilst in the care of big corporations with little care clearly for the social and historical importance of the buildings in their care. Lets not forget that this building (reputably) housed the first lending library in the world, that the building of it in the first place was a sort of political statement made by dissenters and abolitionists William Roscoe, John Lightbody, John Currie and the Rev’d John Yates the signatures of whom you can find on the original deeds for the Lyceum kept at Liverpool Central Library Records Office. It was visited by Herman Melville (author of, amongst other things Moby Dick) who was promptly kicked out for looking too scruffy and if all of that is not enough it was completed in 1802 - making it 212 years old - all important reasons for the reinvention of this majestic Bold Street icon.

The exhibition will be on at The Colonades in the Albert Dock until 29th April read about it here http://www.albertdock.com/2014/04/peoples-history-exhibition-opens-albert-dock/

Some interesting banking stories

Some of the posts on the Bold Street blog attract much more conservation than others. Places like The Mardi Gras, the beautiful cafes and restaurants of Bold Street past (La Bussola, The Kardoma, Fullers and Reeces bringing up the most vivid memories) and of course, the Banks. Bold Street was a veritable who’s who of banking during the early part of the 20th century and right up until the 1970’s.

Liverpool Savings Bank (now Tesco) was once the place to go and get involved with your finances and has evoked many memories including these from Gordon below.

“Regarding the TSB `coin`, I believe I have one somewhere. I joined the Liverpool Savings Bank from school in 1953, and spent over 37 years in the TSB, latterly Lloyds TSB of course. I would think that the souvenir would be worth a few pounds to a banking ephemera collector. I have a recollection that they were issued in their thousands though to everyone who made a deposit in an account during the special week, being regarded more as a sort of medal than a coin.

Not sure if I can lay my hands on the medal, which from memory was about the size of a florin (2/- piece). They were issued I think to commemorate 150 years of Trustte Savings Banks, the first such bank being acknowledge as Rev. Henry Duncan`s in Ruthwell, Scotland, although I believe there is a case for the claims of an earlier bank in Edinburgh(?) which did however have a slightly different modus operandi and rules. Duncan`s model was perhaps nearer to the way the banks that followed were set up. The little medals/coins were neither silver or gold colour, but something between the two, sort of dull brass as I recall”

This bank was also the location of one of my most recent Bold Street experiences. Walking up the street I noticed that the door to the upstairs rooms of the old Liverpool Savings Bank was open and peering inside I noticed a rather impressive cast-iron staircase stretching some 40 feet up into the upstairs rooms. It turns out that these impressive rooms are now being renovated and turned into a short stay apartment.

I was shown round by the owner of the apartment Lawrence who had discovered some interesting artefacts whilst in the process of renovating the rooms upstairs, probably once offices and board rooms. The finds included a bank receipt for the withdrawal of £28,000 in 1918 and glass slides depicting child-like scenes probably used in a magic lantern as a toy.

It made me curious as to the origins of this building, its grandiose appearance and its now multi-use as Tesco and apartment. The apartment is actually called ‘The Masonic’ which alludes to its original use as a Masonic Lodge (and the reason the staircase bears a star motif?) which remains a popular members organisation in the city.

I am not sure when the building as transformed from a Masonic Lodge to a Bank but I have records showing it as a bank in 1875 so it must have been a pretty long-time ago, either way it now stands as a testament to a Bold Street that had a very diverse daytime activity and withdrawals of vast amounts of money.

Thank you to Gordon for sharing his pictures and memories with us and to Lawrence for letting us have a look inside the bank. You can see pics from this recent visit on our flickr here you can see more memories of the savings bank in other locations on the blog.

Memories of Phillip Berger Fur Coats

I was contacted by Irene a lady I work with in the North of Liverpool with a lovely story about her sister in law who now lives in New Zealand who once worked on Bold Street:

“She worked for Phillip Berger who sold mink coats the year was 1967/68.The T.V. celebs of the day used to come in to buy them and also the “Winter Brothers” came in to buy their wives coats and would give the shop assistant a great tip.Next door to the shop was a great Deli which also had a great cake counter in it.On friday we would cook Mr Bergers lunch always sausage and eggs.There was also a paper/magazine stand at the bottom of Bold street.My memories of Bold street is that it was a very attractive street with lots of really nice shops especially jewelery shops.”

Thanks so much for Irene for this story, I’ll keep my eye out for anything related to the shop.

From ponchos to pendolinos….!

Many people had spoken to me about the Virgin music shop on Bold Street during the 1970’s but I hadn’t yet had a full account of the interior of the shop.

That all changed when I received an email from Murray Greenberg who remembers the shop well and sent me the story below to bring it back to life.

I and three long- haired other friends who attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys from 1965 to the early 1970s (now Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for
Performing Arts (LIPA) ) would ‘escape’ and go down to Rushworth’s in
Whitechapel where you could listen to records in separate booths.

Then something happened !

About 1970 on the way down Bold Street we noticed that this new store had
opened. Virgin offered something different. As soon as you walked in you
could smell and see burning joss sticks. There were several sets of large
head phones and the ‘hippyish’ staff would gladly let you hear whole
albums. It was here I discovered Deep purple, Black Sabbath and Emerson
Lake and Palmer. You get imported albums, unavailable in the UK and albums
were up to £1 cheaper than in the other record shops. Then they expanded
and opened the upper floor. They sold flared jeans , loon pants and
;”Afghan” coats - big suede coats with sheepskin edging. Then the shop
got too small for the stock - the Virgin empire was growing and the shop
moved to the St Johns Precinct shopping centre

We are all in our 50’s now but the memory is as clear as yesterday!

The shop is now Maggie May’s cafe and has swapped beanbags for beans on toast! It is a favorite spot for refueling over a cup of tea and is soon to be the new venue for the William Carling Gallery. (more about that in another post!)

Thank you to Murray for his tales of the early Branson endeavors.

Maggie Mays

Al Peterson, protest, art school and coffee!

Al Peterson contacted me recently with a great story of radical Bold Street. Protest is in the fabric of Bold Street and so to have a story of one such event really crystalises this, thank you Al!

Starbucks

“Bold Street became my gateway to my involvement with Arts & Music ever since 1955 when I started to attend Liverpool Junior School of Art in Gambia Terrace and
Liverpool College of Art Hope Street (1960–1965) as well as visiting my late great friend Adrian Henri who resided at 21 Mount Street.

After Junior Art School we used to meet up with girls at the El Cabbala in Bold Street and there experienced my first taste of Espresso Coffee and Spaghetti Bolognese.

In 1977 my band 29th & Dearborn’s Sound Recording Studio was established at No 2 Mount Street.

My most recent escapade in Bold Street was with the Merseyside Stop the War Coalition to protest against Starbuck’s being the main supplier of coffee to the guards
and the other psychopaths that run that anomaly known Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
As you can see from the photograph we have adopted the much publicised fluorescent orange jump suits that the inmates are forced wear.
The protest lasted about 40 minutes before we were asked to leave by the manager accompanied by a security guard who had informed the police.


Merseyside Stop the War Coalition is a non-violent protest group that has organised numerous marches in London, Manchester and Liverpool.
They helped organise the largest Anti War Rally against the Iraq War that Britain has ever witnessed in London on the 15th February 2003.
News from Nowhere is the organisations main outlet for tickets and books for the various rallies and Anti-War information.”

Al also remembers El Cabbala coffee shop mentioned to me many times by different storytellers. This was obviously a really important venue for the youth of the 50’s & 60’s and deserves a blog of its own so watch out for that coming soon! (I am still trying to find an image of it!)

Al’s views are not to be confused with the views of FACT, tenantspin or The Bold Street Project.

Liverpool Savings Bank…a living memory.

Liverpool Savings Bank, at one time a prominent and familiar banking corporation in Liverpool once had branches spread all over the city. Bold Street was no exception, many of the Bold Street memories collected over the period of the project mention the bank once at 93, 95 & 97 (now Rapid Hardware Furniture Shop, coming down from the top on the right hand side) which was once the main bank for the depositing of wages by Bold Street workers. It was taken over in the 70’s by Lloyds TSB.

Lesley, a lady I met at The League of Welldoers (Lee Jones Centre) on Limekiln Lane mentioned to me that she had once worked at the Bank and kindly agreed to write a story about the experience.

“I went for my interview at Liverpool Savings Bank Head Office in January 1973 – the letter said to report to the side door – no front entrance for me!!

I was shown into a small office right at the back of the banking hall – the space was vast – high ceiling and so many staff, mostly men and all in suits. Voices echoed from the counter although from where I stood you couldn’t see it – there were so many screens and people.

It’s hard to explain the smell – but all traditional banking halls had the same smell – of marble, polish and money!!

After the interview I was taken through the busy banking hall, managing a quick look at the high wooden counters, and then through a door which opened into a large stairwell. A grand staircase swept up to a first floor boardroom and offices, the impact of such a grand sight immediately made you want to whisper if it hadn’t already struck you dumb!!

I passed my interview and was sent to work at Waterloo Branch but as ‘junior’ I would go to Bold Street one a week to pick up the branch ‘bag’ that would contain internal mail - a great way to meet all the other branch juniors! One day Bold Street’s manager called me to one side and asked where my suit jacket was – I explained I didn’t have one – he was appalled, his opinion was that a female in trousers should wear them as a part of a suit (similar to the male staff) – I made sure I was wearing a skirt on all my other visits!

Many years later I actually got the chance to work at the branch although by then it was called TSB plc with the head office in another part of the country. The impressive boardroom had become a staff lunch room but the high wooden counter was still there as were the wonderful staircase and that unforgettable smell!!

I’ve got really happy memories of Bold Street branch even the cellars, which were a bit dank and spooky but held so many secrets. The floor was always a bit damp being below the water basin and much of the paper had water stains and smelt a bit funny but it was an amazing place to ferret around oops I mean tidy up!!”

Thank you to Lesley for this wonderful story.

“Hawker-Owen”,118 Bold St.

War damage

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.

Bold Street in sunshine and hard shadows with David Lewis.

Painted Glass

David Lewis is an author and historian specialising in work relating to Liverpool. He very kindly agreed to contribute to The Bold Street Project and, one sunny day in June we went on an exploratory walk of Bold Street starting at the top of the street and working our way down to 52, former Music Hall, exclusive ladies outfitters (T.S Bacon and Jaegar) and now the home of drinking and dancing via themed bars Reflex and L1.

We wanted to focus on secret areas of Bold Street rarely seen by members of the public such as the interior of St Luke’s Church (opened at the moment by Urban Strawberry Lunch) Debbies Hair Design above Tabac, Busi & Stephenson (once a branch of Midland Bank) the basement area of Oxfam (former storage of the Rolls Royce car showroom Watson’s) and the Music Hall which in more recent times was a bookshop famed for its amazing hand-painted lead-lit window backing on to Wood Street. (See image)

David and I recorded our conversation (which can be accessed via this blog click here) the has also contributed a fantastic piece of writing - see below!

Bold Street Journey I

Bold Street in warm sunshine and hard shadows. A piece of found text on my way to the railway station set the tone for the walk; WHAT WAS PAST IS NOW. A touchstone, a mantra, a remembered line for the exploration of dead bank vaults, a burned out church, the dressing rooms of a Georgian concert hall, the soft cellar of a car showroom long concreted into shopped oblivion. Gloomy capitals and refurbished shops, a parade of shops and changing tenants, the gentle subtleties of change over two centuries. I stood in the FACT reception space and looked at old slate roofs, higgledy-piggledy chimneys, windows into empty rooms and attic flats, cool spaces and dead spaces. The newness of street art, Metroscopes; civic furniture, in a new urban space, Ropewalks Square; the pomposity of explanation derided by SK8BD graffiti, club stickers, underground movements, pictures of a leering Tony Benn advertising a Socialist rally, a discussion of democracy or a club night stealing the clothes of revolution.

The journey was to be from top to bottom or bottom to top. The buildings that would give us access to their hidden spaces and unknown floors visited in series as if on a journey, as if paralleling the street we would smash our way from one building to the next through a hundred first floor rooms; empty store room, office, unexpected bedroom, night club, bar, clothes shop, bathroom, brothel, concert room, classroom, hairdressers’; to emerge panting on Berry Street in a cloud of dust and falling brick, still twenty feet above the ground. Walking, the reality is always different. We saw more pigeon-spattered smokers’ haunts than I had expected. Met more people with stories, stoked more interest in unexpected people, broke the work crust to find interest and warmth beneath.

We began in the massive banking hall and redundant vaults of a dead bank that still gets customers; fine wooden doors, rich tiling, high plaster coving. Edwardian dignity broken now into cubicles, workstations, seating areas. Sunlight through dusty glass impossible to clean behind grilles, bars, mesh, the abandoned security apparatus of a building that stored gold bullion. The vaults were heavy, old fashioned, solid solid. Impossibly heavy doors that swung at a finger’s touch and had bolts the thickness of a man’s arm, open now and used for storing files. And behind the vaults, a second skin, brick walls and exposed pipework grimly suggestive of gas chambers. Walls that seemed to grow and shift in their subterranean darkness. They left grey corridors narrowing to nothingness, swallowed brick staircases, made spaces too small for live people and created overlooked rooms full of 1950s accounts, trade descriptions and arrangements with newly free African states; this on a street named after the slave-trading family that owned the land. (Distant earth-memories in damp and gloom, earth-memories of fields and trees and hedge-boundaries, rope walks and country lanes on the edge of the town.) Pale brickwork grey with moss, like a man-made world at the bottom of the sea, a place of endless darkness and soft strange creatures. The first of our ghost stories, a myth sprung to scare the young female office clerks, an erotic frisson connected to darkness and unexpected presence. Or the need to familiarise and populate that dead darkness, those indifferent shifting walls.

The street after such encounters seemed bright, temporary and fragile, a plane between worlds; the reaching walls and the attics and the gloom beneath the flags, the hopeless glass blocks, windows in the pavement, to allow some light into vault and cellar, as if they could stem the darkness, civilise the sheer underneathness. Another bank, large windows and tall iron columns hammered into a showroom for cheap furniture; stern glances and the lemon faces – Laura’s phrase – of disapproval. The street seemed warmer after that chilly room.

The unexpected pleasure of St Luke’s church, the crowning glory of Bold Street, visible the entire length. I have written about the church and explored its history but have never been inside. On this sunny day it was opened to the public by an alternative dance and workshop group, who had researched old photographs and commissioned new artwork. These stood at the base of the walls like abandoned placards from a demonstration. The open space, once aisle and chancel and organ loft, dominated still by the soaring reach of the Gothic tower. The walls were tall, proud, naked; amalgams of brick and stone and charred wood, the occasional tablet still smoke-blackened after fifty years of city rain, the occasional piece of stained glass that survived the bombing, as if the only glass to survive had been that which crept into the smallest niches. And an angel, a rare clear image, a face unaware of the incendiary device, a face still singing praises to God, a face alone in the walls of glass and colour; perhaps the second of our ghosts. A strangely unLiverpool experience, the inside of the bombed-out church. More European, or a London thing; in either it would have been celebrated many years ago, opened to the public, planted as a garden, a celebration of peace; here it has been shut away for half a century as if we are ashamed of this event, this scar on our history, shut away like the mad child in the attic. On this mild and sunny day the ground was covered with slow wild flowers and creeping plants but the crunch of glass and dust beneath, the iron window frames kicked up easily by our boots, they seemed to suggest that the building was only just safe to revisit, safe to walk in again, that the ground had only just cooled and that the charred wood was still dangerous, that walls might still fall.

The street seems different once you start seeing its secret places; it feels tilted, insubstantial. Back on Bold Street we found a narrow Georgian corridor, surviving plasterwork and heavily repainted doorframes; a tilt to the building as if the ground had shifted, unsettling staircases and joints, realigning floorboards. A hairdresser’s shop above the street, a great invisible dome of glass leaping out into space above the pedestrians, a woman full of stories and untold ghosts. Yet more support and interest, yet more unexpected enthusiasm. And yet stopping to stare you become an object of curiosity, an oddity. Who stops and stares on city streets? Who examines kerbstones and metal grilles, flagstones and drainpipes? Mad men and poets, thieves, drunks, charlatans. Who stops and stares at those already stopped? Bored secretaries, office staff, lonely men in dark flats, invisible yet aware of our presence, our analysis, our disruption of the street’s lack of self-knowledge or awareness.

The magnificence of the Oxfam building, built as a car showroom with a gigantic lift that took cars from ground floor to basement and back up to showroom. The slow soft bounce of rubber on smooth concrete, the smell of upholstery and leather, walnut and teak, the gentle purr of gigantic engines. An incarnation of the street as a place of commerce, a place to sell; in this instance luxury cars. Impossible to imagine the gleam of Armstrong-Siddeleys and Bentleys and Rolls-Royces in these tight, functional underground rooms, cluttered with boxes of books and rails of clothes. Only the brightness and sense of purpose survive, the hard work, the invisible energies. And yet the new electricity substation, installed this year by hacking a hole in the floor above – how useful the old lift would have been – is one of a series on the street whose smooth energy flow seems constantly disrupted, by power cuts, unexpected fusings, the sudden plunge into darkness. Stories of hidden rivers, lost power sources, perhaps of the street’s energy lines, the pull from top to bottom. As if the installation of underground boxes to channel electricity had jolted older power lines out of synchronicity, out of balance, and the power cuts were a result of this; or even as if the street itself, woken Quatermass-like by the digging, resented the intrusion. But these bright functional cellars held no stories, no mystery.

And then chance intervened, or the street decided we should see what we came to see. We took a chance and dived into Bar L1, that used to be Edward’s, that used to be Waterstone’s the bookshop, that used to be Macmillan’s nightclub, that used to be an exclusive clothes shop and a concert room. It was built from the 1770s, the earliest incarnation of the street, and sits on three sides of Bold Street, Concert Street (an unrelated echo of performance, this one commemorating outdoor music for the urban poor) and Wood Street. An iced wedding cake of a building, solid, square, punched windows crusted with sooty plasterwork. I was last in there when it was a bookshop, a quiet set of cream rooms lined with bookcases and collections of chairs, thoughtful emaciated readers and chubby girls in frayed jeans behind the counters. Today it is decorated like a jazzy gentleman’s club, a cross between deep leather elegance and glitter, a long sticky bar of granite resin. Upstairs the second floor of books had tall windows and was flooded with light like a piano nobile, a slower place than the ground floor, a place of reference books and classical music. It has become a 1980s club, a vivid swirl of a nightmare of epileptic glitter balls, electro-posters, drinks promotions, a giant’s causeway of platforms and raised dance floors under massive black walls. It felt as though, with difficulty, I had broken in to something that had slipped away through time, reclaimed a room that was no longer a part of my world, like revisiting the first house I lived in. But the elegant plaster ceiling has survived, painted a deep matt black, and the magnificent sweep of the staircase still takes dancers from the ground floor to the dance floor, as it always has. The tall windows are still there behind thick curtains, and the huge staircase windows, richly-painted rococo gold and orange swirls on great sweeps of leaded glass, have also survived; perhaps as garish to some as the glitter balls and 80s tat is to me. We were guided through a maze of rooms and staircases and corridors, bunches of keys and members of staff coming in the opposite direction. The last of our ghost stories, a woman called Mary alleged to haunt the upper floors; another myth of the upper floors occupied by prostitutes. Upstairs again to a tiny roof space, more pigeons and air-conditioning, and gazed up at walls towering another two floors above us. Hidden windows and unused roofs. Another staircase to the basement, the old Macmillan’s night club, memories of dark nights a quarter of a century ago, the ghost story of a Smiths gig here nearly thirty years ago, in a building that opened with a recital of Handel’s ‘Water Music’. (Like history, music always repeats itself; here where the music was played seriously to people for whom the Smiths meant something there is now a club that plays endless 1980s music to people who weren’t born when it first came out. Do the (modern, ironic) strains drift down the bricks to the basement, echoing damply through the walls into the building’s tiny, silent rooms? Does the building remember the Handel recitals? Perhaps in the future it will be possible to listen to the sounds stored in ancient brickwork.) It is impossible to reconcile the nightclub with the modern room-scape of beer kegs and offices and kitchens. And then, a kitchen store or was it an office; huge roof beams just above my head, the first sign of a Georgian building, rough beams fifteen inches square and twenty feet long; beams used in the earliest incarnation of the building perhaps but planted when the street was fields, in the 1690s. Their fields and woods have long gone but the beams survive, five or six of them visible in this neon food store office, built into the ground and history of Bold Street for two centuries and more. From them the ancient history of the building appeared; perhaps our enthusiasm persuaded the building to show us more. Georgian staircases reallocated as fire escapes, staff entrances, leading to empty rooms in the upper bowels of the building. Light through dusty windows falling onto bare wooden floorboards, the servants’ quarters. A vanished floor of rooms taken over by huge heating ducts and air conditioning systems, a recognisable building colonised by something alien and unwieldy. Long metal corridors, scales and warmth, the suggestion of nocturnal movement; holes punched in walls, floors ripped out to let the giant pipes slide from one space to another. But at the very top of the building, the very end of our journey, a long dusty corridor of rooms known as the changing rooms, perhaps used by artistes performing downstairs at the concert rooms. Servile decency, dignity, the threadbare grace of a butler’s room, a housekeeper’s pantry; large patches of overlooked sunlight falling onto empty corridors. I was reminded again of the high rooms in the city that are lit by daylight but see nobody from one year’s end to the next, a gentle rising of the sun, the sounds of rain on dusty glass, the hubbub from the street far below, the fading light, the orange street glow. At the very end, above us a roof of Georgian slates, unused chimneys, and a view through a skylight of high blue skies.

David’s Book Walks Through History: Liverpool published by The Breedon Books is available to buy from News From Nowhere on their website click here to access.

Bold Street in the 40’s

Continuing with the theme of Bold Street stories below is the story of Agnes Curnow (nee Smith) who remembers the Bold Street of Cripps, T.S Bacon and her own shop Drinkwaters.

Bold Street

In 1943 I started work at a high-class dressmakers in Bold Street. I was 14 years old and it was my second job. My first one had been for about eight months, in a printers in Wrexham, having been evacuated there on the 3rd September 1939 - the day that the war started.

When most of the bombing had stopped we return to Liverpool in 1943 and thats how I arrived at my second job of apprentice dressmaker, at the tender age of 14.

The dressmakers was very exclusive and called ‘Drinkwaters’ making top quality ladies’ wear and outfits for ladies who were going to be ‘Present at Court’ known in those days as ‘coming out.’

The name of G W Drinkwater was spread across the front window for all to see. The shop and workroom was on the first floor and was reached by a set of wide stone steps leading from the pavement.

Looking up Bold Street from the Hanover Street end it was not very far up on the left hand side. Next door to Waring and Gillow who sold quality furniture and almost opposite the Kardomah Cafe which specialised in coffee - the fragrance was very nice and seemed to travel the full length of the street.

Also on the first floor was a milliners, with the Elliott Clarke School of Dance and Drama on the floor above. It was all very posh to me in those days.

I was the youngest of the workers as most of the other were a lot older than I was except for a girl of about 19 who started about three years later. The others were what I thought of at the time as middle aged women.

The were probably the good-old-days of Bold Street and the high class feel of the area may well be gone now. I worked there until 1947 and when I left I joined the land army and was posted to Cornwall, where I have lived ever since.

Thank you so much to Agnes for sharing her memories with us.

Bearly there……

Troxler’s Swiss Cafe, home to beautiful cakes, harassed staff and the only stuffed bear on Bold Street.

In 1945/46 I was a young shorthand typist in Liverpool,
and every Friday, pay-day (27s.6d or £1.37p a week)an office colleague and
I would treat ourselves to a 3-course lunch at Troxler’s Swiss Cafe in Bold
Street. It cost us 2s.3d (11p!) which was the maximum the Government
allowed us to pay for a meal in those rationed days. Inside the entrance
stood a huge stuffed brown bear on its hind legs,looking a bit motheaten.
The meal was always very tasty, served up by a harassed waitress called
Bessie, who’d be about 40 then. We thought her rather elderly. The
clientele were quite fashionable - we all wore hats and gloves in those
days, especially when entering Bold St. As far as I can remember, I only
once ventured into one of those elegant shops, and that was to purchase a
silk Jaqumar headscarf - every girl’s status symbol then! Now at the age of
80, I often walk up Bold St. and find the mix of shops and people very
interesting. But what a difference from our young days! I hope my little
memoir will interest you, and that other people will remember Troxlers.
Good luck in your project.

Thank you so much to Audrey Thomas for this story.

Bold Street uncovered

I have had so many stories since I began this project, some are interwoven into the Bold Street exhibition itself (on in the Media Lounge in FACT until the 19th August) some are orally told via interviews, stories, songs and poems and some are still waiting to be told.

I thought I would post a series of blogs with stories I have been sent and told which have given me an amazing insight into the streets effect on the people who have visited it over its 227 year history.

The first ‘famous’ person I saw in Liverpool (I’ve only seen two and the other was an _enormous_ footballer) was on Bold Street - it was 1993 (or early 94?) and I had just started as a student at the University of Liverpool. Before I came to uni I used to hang around with this group of lads from Lancaster Boys Grammar School who were all a bit weird and their favourite viewing was Red Dwarf…

Hmm, Liverpool, Red Dwarf, ‘famous’ who could it be…?

…yes, you’ve guessed it, it was the world-renowned - ho ho - Craig Charles…

falling down the stairs and back up again (several hours later) at 2 of the best former clubs in Liverpool.

MacMillans- now a bookshop (and they call that progress!). The launchpad for many a Liverpool legend. Used to DJ in there and was once mistaken for superstar (at the time) DJ Terry Farley. I was over the moon until some weeks later when I saw a picture of him. Not the average male pin up it needs to be said.

And of course the legendary Mardi Gras (even more stairs). Two floors of pure joy. The most eclectic venue in the city for many a year. Home of the now legendary G-love events in 1989. Sadly closed due to probably failing every health and safety test possible. I can even remember carrying wheelchair bound friends up and down the many flights of stairs.

Tabac Cafe- Sadly I preferred it when it was not quite so upmarket and you felt ‘out there’ ordering a bowl of chilli con carne with garlic bread.

Walking down Bold street with my Dad and taking the mickey of out the “largest hearing aid in the world” chair and secretly never being sure if they were serious or not!! This would be late ’70’s/early ’80’s.

The Mardi Gras and dancing the night away with all the crowd from the Everyman back in 1988/89/90/91 - meeting some of the people who are still some of my closest friends now and meeting the first happy out gay people that I knew -

Going into News From Nowhere and hanging around the gay/lesbian section in the hope of being swept off my feet by a mad literary lesbian or two…I still see people doing that now! You can always tell they have only just realised they’re gay or have just come out by the books they are buying.

And of course, Maggie May’s as the FACT staff canteen - all the gossip going down over a plate of egg and chips surrounded by a mix of elderly ladies, workies and drag queens in their day clothes!


I remember when it was a proper street; then it was ‘pedestrianised’ with ugly oval plant holders and benches nobody ever sat on in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and now it looks like a proper street again.

I also remember a club called the Four Seasons by what is now Starbucks during the 1980s. it was dreadful cheesy place with lots of pale green walls and mirrors. I once went there when I was at college to hear a student friend called Debi Jones sing to some gangsters (friends of her husband) who might get her work singing in their clubs. She sang some standards and a song called Pete the Piddling Pup about an incontinent dog, which went down really well! Whether she got any work I do not know.

The Warehouse shop near the bottom used to have a café on the first floor which was one of the coolest places in Liverpool to have a coffee. The walls were plastered and painted to look like concrete. Café Berlin near the top was definitely one of the coolest cafés in town and popular with musicians and artists. It featured on the front of an Icicle Works album whose name I can’t remember. Café Society nearby was a clothes shop selling 1950s overcoats and Dr Martins boots, very popular with trendies in the mid 1980s. The top end was a little trendy enclave with the record shop (still there I think) and Café Tabac (coffee like dragon’s blood) as well as Café Society and Café Berlin further down. The shop at the very top used to have a boat made of shells in the window which has/had been there for decades; the shop itself is maybe a part of the old RAF club upstairs.

Mattas International Food Stores is a Liverpool institution selling Indian food and odd pastas and Greek bread and frozen fish and Chinese pancakes. It used to be renowned for its raisins in yoghurt and incense and its bags were once THE carrier bag to be seen with. Ian Perry might not have such fond memories of Mattas!

My partner then was a music journalist. I used to get so vexed because every single time we walked down Bold Street, someone from a band would rush at him with a demo tape.It took so long to get from one end to the other, we used to do “Musician Alert”, and hide in doorways.

I remember coming over from the Wirral to Bold street for my first ballet exam aged about eight. The dance studio was above one of the shops near the top and I was really nervous as I crossed the busy street filled with shoppers.

Mardi Gras

Cripps, Sons & Co

Cripps

Cripps, the name has been with me since my very first day on The Bold Street Project back in January. Cripps was an upmarket ladies’ outfitters based at the bottom of Bold Street (in what is now Waterstones) catering for the well-to-do of Merseyside and Cheshire society. I have records mentioning Cripps in its location 12, 14 & 16 Bold Street from the mid 1800’s - late 1900’s.

I was contacted by a lady who worked at Cripps, Maureen, who was a dressmaker in the store from 1962 - 66. For a dressmaker a job at Cripps meant you were set up such was the prestigious reputation of the shop.

Workers would arrive and leave through the entrance at the back of the buidling, onto Wood Street. Here a man would be waiting to sign you into work, Maureen generally remembers it being a very strict environment to work in with no talking amongst the staff and no music playing in the shop.

Cripps was known for making and altering clothing on site which stretched from hats and furs to specially made dresses for ladies who had specific physical requirements from their clothes.

Often ladies would have a new musquash, mink, rabbit or fox fur coat instead of an engagement ring from prospective husbands, although the irony was that most of the women working in Cripps were not married - expected instead to be married to their job.

Maureen particularly remembers a lady named Miss Delaney, her supervisor during her years at Cripps.

Cripps

Image Courtesy of Liverpool Record Office.

Story of a gas life.

Radiant House, former headquaters of the Liverpool Gas Co for me is one of the most interesting buildings on the street. So you can imagine my excitement when I was contacted by a lady who worked in the building from 1951 - 1983. She described to me a workplace furnished to the highest possible standards with a commissionaire called Fred guarding the front entrance.

Radiant House

Gladys started work straight from school and remembers it being very strict. She was based in the wages department on the 4th floor of Radiant House and recalls the boss coming round regularly to inspect handwriting and figure work.

The building had many different area’s apart from the main shop floor there was also a theatre/demonstration room where young women, known as service advisors, advised people on how to use the cookers (see Vegetable Pie, a film made in Radiant House by Service Advisors on www.youtube.com.) Areas for the overall administration of Gas, a staff canteen and boardrooms and offices for the Directors of the Gas Company.

The boardrooms in particular stuck in the mind of Gladys who remembers them as plush, luxurious spaces totally out of bounds to staff and served by their own chef who cooked lunch and dinner for the directors.

Boardrooms

The Golden Eagle, currently on display in the Media Lounge in FACT as part of The Bold Street project was actually once located in Radiant House - a veritable Bold Street celebrity!

Radiant Bird

Thank you to Gladys for sharing her story with us.

Down the Banks

Liverpool Union Bank

I received a lovely set of images from a lady at the Lloyds TSB group archives of the Lloyds branch at 66 - 68 (now Meet Brazilian bar & restaurant) and the Liverpool Union bank at 45 - 47 (now Quynny’s, Alharf Newsagent, Pizza Pronto and Mr Chip’s) which really show the flavour of Bold Street in the 1920’s.

The images are available to view on Flickr from today.

Tastes Like Happy…

We’ve recently acquired a film shot on Bold Street about the making of a Vegetable Pie in a post war Britain still in the grips of rationing. The film was shot in Radiant House which today houses HMV and Argos and is excerpt from Echo’s of the 40’s and 50’s.

Check out the fantastic soundtrack. Many thanks to Angus Tilston from Pleasures Past.

Beautiful “La Bussola”

A story submitted by Julia, a Bold Street Blog reader….

“Back in 1970 I travelled up and down Bold Street every day, being a young Lecturer in Art at the ‘College of Crafts and Catering’ in Colquitt Street, round the corner.

Bold Street had an air of individuality and excitement about it, leading uphill from the underground and the cafe at the bottom of the street, where the waitresses wore a uniform of black dress with white apron and cap, rather quaint even then but delightfully so. They also had tablecloths and hat stands and served tea in shiny metal teapots with hot water as well all on a silver tray, and sugar cubes with tongs to help yourself.

The rest of the street always seemed to me to be terribly smart, a little bit like London!! It just had that air about it. There were shops, I seem to remember a shoe shop, and at least one had a very fancy ‘old fashioned’ curved glass window.

Travelling uphill, on the right hand side and adding to the cosmopolitan feel of the street was the Italian restaurant ‘La Bussola’. This restaurant for me was a delight and for me it is the part of Bold Street I remember the most, holding many happy memories!  It was a far cry from the pizza parlours that abound nowadays and was a very special place to dine.

You went down some steps at the entrance and once inside you could sit in a small bar area before going to your table. I remember my favourite dish was veal a la marsala, followed by zabaglione. I was lucky enough to be taken there several times and probably chose menu this every time! It was always exquisite!

There was music, and next to the dining area was a small and intimate dance floor and this was a new phenomenon to me, being so young. It was wonderful!

Bold Street in the 1970s was for me a very special place, in a very special city!”

Blacklers’ Girls

blacklersgirls.jpg

Over the course of our research we have found a few amazing gems; this being one of them. The image is of staff who worked at Blacklers Department  Store on Bold Street in 1951.

Famous Fullers Cakes

Laura recently received this fascinating letter from a ‘Doreen of Huyton’, who describes her time working on Bold Street in Fullers.

“Dear Laura,
My memories began December 1944 I was 14yrs old and about to leave school. I was called in by my Head Mistress and asked if I would be interested in going for an interview to Fullers Cafe in Bold Street as they were wanting a cashier I went for the interview and was accepted for the situation. In the years I was there I have many happy memories.
Continue reading ‘Famous Fullers Cakes’

Top Ten

10 Interesting FACTS about Bold Street to dazzle your friends, you’ll be a hit in your local pub with these pearls of wisdom.

1. Bold Street was laid out in the 1770’s
2. The street is named after Jonas Bold a local slave owner, merchant and banker.
3. The Lyceum was built to house a gentlemen’s club and was the first subscription library in Europe.
4. Number 100 Bold Street was built to house Louis Daguerre’s Diorama and opened it’s doors in 1825.
5. C.Ferranit, father of Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti innovator in the development of electrical engineering was born at 130 Bold Street in 1864.
6. Phillip George Barraud developed the idea for the famous HMV logo His Masters Voice whilst practicing from 92 Bold Street
7. During the 1980’s, a development plan known as the Shankland Plan proposed to totally cover Bold Street in glass thus making it an indoor shopping area.
8. There are a few apparent secret passages underneath the pavement in Bold Street, one has been discovered running from Foners to an unknown location – the reasons for this are unknown.
9. Bold Street is the first place Doris Mercer (project contributor) saw a poodle.
10. Famous bands including, The Beatles, The Smiths, Maximo Park, the Stone Roses, The Swans, New Order, Midge Ure and Echo & The Bunnymen have all played on Bold Street.

Working with Chambré Hardman

We have been lucky to be able to include an insight into working with photographer E. Chambré Hardman. A trip to the Hardman House on Rodney Street recently uncovered an amazing audio interview with Mrs Betty Lindsay speaking about her work at E. Chambre Hardman’s studio in Bold Street. The interview was recorded at her home, 4th August 2004.

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Thanks to Sarah-Jane Langley at Mr Chambré Hardman’s Home and Photographic Studio, 59 Rodney Street, Liverpool.




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