Water Street, Liverpool c.1902

I recently purchased three photographs on eBay. They weren’t very expensive and aren’t particularly outstanding examples of the photographers’ art but they are very interesting and quite intriguing. They are quite small (about 4 inches by 3 inches) and at some point have been unceremoniously torn from an album or scrap book. This is a pity because not only has this caused a fair amount of damage it has also separated them from their provenance.

But there is no mistaking that one of them is definitely taken in Liverpool. This makes it likely that the other two are also taken in the same city. Of the other two one has a location that is virtually impossible to identify and the other one might be possible to identify but would take a lot of work.

The print that is easily identified is a view of Water Street in Liverpool. It is instantly recognisable and the vague outline of the entrance to the Town Hall at the top of the hill confirms the location. But in fact most of the buildings that can be seen have been replaced although the character of the street has hardly changed. Apart from the Town Hall possibly the only other building in the view that still survives is Oriel Chambers. Built in 1864 with extensive use of plate glass in its façade it was then and remains today a startlingly modern building. But it can hardly be made out in this print, situated at the end of the second block of buildings on the left.

1900 Water Street Liverpool b

What is clear from the image is that the street is decorated with bunting, suggestive of a high profile occasion being celebrated. In this era this would often mean a royal event which could be a royal visit or (judging by the costume, transport etc) the coronation of Edward VII which took place on 9th August 1902 after an earlier postponement. I would guess this to be the most likely occasion.

What’s interesting about this photograph is that it is so casually composed, it is clearly not professionally taken and is a typical snap probably captured on a box Brownie. These were introduced at the start of the century and made photography both instant and available to all.

1900 Water Street Liverpool b cropped 01

Detail from the photo

So this photographer stood upstairs on the back of a tram and, holding the camera at waist height, looked down into the viewfinder and took a picture looking up the hill as the tram trundled down towards the Strand. It is a moment in time and a moment of time.

The view reminded me of the recent BBC television series The City and The City starring David Morrissey. Water Street was one of the locations used to illustrate the two cities of ‘Beszel’ and ‘Ul Qoma’ which exist in the same overlapping space but enjoy quite separate existences. It was possible to pass from one city to the other but fraught with difficulties. Water Street provided the set for one of the places where it was possible to see across the border. Other parts of Liverpool provided many of the locations for one city or the other. It was an entertaining series based on a book by China Miéville which was certainly new to me. David Morrissey explains the story like this:

The concept is strange, it is a detective story told in this city, which is actually two cities that share the same footprint, but there are very strict regulations about the fact that one city cannot see the other city’s populace, they can’t look there, they can’t acknowledge them or interact with them and that creates all sorts of strange rules. Inside there is a secret police force called Breach and they are there to make sure that nobody breaks those laws of interacting between the cities.

Here is a screen grab from the programme showing Water Street:

TheCityandtheCity

Oriel Chambers is on the left

A stylish and imaginatively created set. But our unknown photographer, standing on the upper deck of a briefly stopped tram, succeeded in creating an atmospheric picture of his own at some point in the early years of the twentieth century.

1900 Water Street Liverpool b cropped 02

I will return to the other two photographs in another post.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

 

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Inch Abbey, county Down

IA Inch Abbey 04

Inch Abbey is located in what is a still remarkably peaceful and secluded setting. Founded by John de Courcy in the 1180s as his atonement for his destruction of Erenagh Abbey on the other side of Downpatrick, Cistercian monks were brought here to populate it from Furness Abbey in Lancashire. According to the tourist board it is (along with Grey Abbey on the Ards peninsula) “the earliest example of Gothic architecture in Ireland and finest example of Anglo-Norman Cistercian architecture in Ulster.” There was a monastery on this site before the present monastery, a timber church and ancillary buildings surrounded by an earth bank, founded as early as 800 AD. But this was plundered by the Vikings on at least two occasions and destroyed before its re-establishment under John de Courcy.

IA Inch Abbey 03

The nave

The view across the Quoile to Downpatrick and its cathedral gives an idea of its location near to the main settlement but quite separate from it.

IA view to Cathedral

Looking across the Quoile to Down Cathedral

The cathedral was also originally established as a monastery by John de Courcy in the 1180s with Benedictine monks from St Werburgh’s monastery in Chester (see https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/chester-cathedral-refectory/).

IA Inch Abbey entrance b

Entrance to the chancel

IA Inch Abbey base of columns at entrance

Base of column

The Cistercians followed a strict rule, with much silence, little music and a self-sufficiency that eschewed the use of meat. There would have been a plentiful supply of fish for them here, the site originally was an island.

IA Inch Abbey chapter house

Chapter house

Around the ruins of the Abbey there are the remains of what have been identified as the kitchen, a bakehouse, a guest house, the infirmary and a well. The Abbey was dissolved in 1541.

IA Inch Abbey well

Abbey well

Chapels of England, Buildings of Protestant Nonconformity

Chapels of England, Buildings of Protestant Nonconformity, Christopher Wakeling, Historic England, 2017, hardback, 312 pages, ISBN 978-1-84802-032-0, £50

Review

Nonconformist chapels, churches and meeting-houses have attracted an increasing amount of interest in recent years. They are an important part of religious and cultural history and remain a notable part of the topography of cities, towns and rural areas. The foundation of the Chapels Society has been a major contributor to this growth in interest as well as a great variety of publications that tell the story from denominational, local history and architectural points of view. Christopher Stell’s substantial four-volume Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting-Houses in England provided an essential guide to chapels all over England, many of which had disappeared. Unitarians are fortunate to have Graham and Judy Hague’s The Unitarian Heritage An Architectural Survey of Chapels and Churches in the Unitarian Tradition in the British Isles, published in 1986 and still an indispensable source. Across denominations there has been an increasing awareness of the need to preserve this aspect of our history and where congregations have been unable to sustain some buildings the Historic Chapels Trust has taken over their maintenance. With the publication of this new book, Chapels of England, Buildings of Protestant Nonconformity, by Christopher Wakeling, we now have a beautifully illustrated scholarly account of the patterns of chapel buildings amongst all branches of nonconformity from separatist, pre-ejection times up to the twenty-first century.

Chapels of England

The author brings a thorough architectural appreciation of these kinds of buildings and relates their historical development to the different denominations, the streams of theological thinking and liturgical practice within each of them, local architectural traditions and influences, and the interplay between dissent and the patterns of church building and the use of different styles by the established church. As such it is a tremendously impressive guide to what is a complicated and diffuse subject. Christopher Wakeling is well versed in the varieties of attitudes found within the different churches and sects that built chapels outside of the Church of England. Apparently the total number of surviving examples of Nonconformist chapels is still around 20,000 today, which is a significant number of buildings of one particular type. Dr Wakeling shows how chapel building accelerated at different times, such as the second decade of the nineteenth century when an average of five new meeting-houses were built a week, so that “nonconformist chapels became as characteristic a part of the Regency scene as cinemas were of the 1930s  or supermarkets have become today” (page 73).

Not all dissenters deliberately chose that path. In the first chapter Dr Wakeling makes good use of the sermon preached by John Fairfax at the opening of the Ipswich meeting-house in 1700 when he stated: “Had we the liberty of those places [ie. the parish churches], we should seek no other” (page 2).

And the Ipswich meeting-house with its spiral turned balusters and carved doves and cherubs worthy of Grinling Gibbons is clear evidence that early dissenters (particularly Presbyterians) were not averse to decoration.

But the whole book is an impressively thorough examination of the development of different styles of buildings as theologies changed, as denominations developed, as political circumstances evolved and as economic opportunity came and went. For Unitarians the Dissenters’ Chapels Act gave an added impetus to the frequent nonconformist impulse to build on the grand scale. Dr Wakeling quotes the preacher at the opening of Hyde Gee Cross in 1848 (not named in the text but presumably Charles Wicksteed) as saying the new church was:

Asserting the right of a Dissenting Chapel to look like a parish church, and to be used as a parish church without the least danger of our worship being interrupted (page 128).

But not all nonconformity took this form. Some was uncompromisingly evangelical and required a vast preaching station or a massive complex of buildings surrounding a central hall. In villages and towns small, unobtrusive chapels continued to be built throughout the nineteenth century. The period after the First World War and on into this century has brought a whole new set of challenges. Dr Wakeling shows how different circumstances, both local and national, produced these changes in architecture and the different types of building. The book is also peppered with ‘boxed essays’ which explain some of the terms used or the role practices such as communion had in chapel building over time or features such as seating and graveyards. This helps make for a very complete treatment of the whole subject since what might otherwise be a dry account of architectural history is, rather, rooted in the cultural, theological and liturgical experiences of the people who built the chapels. Consequently the book is also a history of nonconformity told through its buildings.

The book is richly illustrated in colour throughout, with page after page of striking photographs of interior and exterior shots, this is a particularly appealing feature of the book. If I was going to be hyper-critical I would say that the full-page picture of the chancel of Ullet Road Church (page 204) is astonishingly dark and gloomy, it is a much better lit area than this photo suggests. But this is to nit-pick, it’s the only disappointing picture in the book, generally the photographs are sharp and detailed throughout and are a really strong accompaniment to the text.

The author provides a glossary of the various nonconformist groups referred to in the book and is clearly familiar with the ethos and history of each of them, moving assuredly from one tradition to another. Historic England should be commended for producing such an impressive book, it is destined to become an essential publication for anyone with an interest in this aspect of religious history.

This review appears in Volume 26, Number 4, April 2018 of the ‘Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society’.

See

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/transactions-of-the-unitarian-historical-society-2018/

for details of how to subscribe.

 

Unitarian College Cluj/Kolozsvár

College LS 05

Kolozsvar Unitarian HQ 01

Recently I have published a couple of ‘then and now’ shots featuring Edwardian postcards and contemporary photographs on this blog. One featured a view of a street in Toxteth and one some of the churches in Banbridge. This is another ‘then and now’ view but, in this case, it is taken from a glass lantern slide of the Unitarian College building in Cluj/Kolozsvár.

I have an interesting set of magic lantern slides depicting notable sites in Hungary and Transylvania, some of them showing groups of people at what must be some sort of gathering, possibly international. The purpose of the collection, which is in a poor state and which is probably not complete, is to illustrate something about the Unitarian history and life of that region. They are not easy to date exactly but this slide helps enormously.

The Unitarian College was built in 1901, then a very modern, state of the art building which is still impressive and giving excellent service as headquarters, College as well as senior and junior schools.

It is right next door to the First Unitarian Church which can just be seen on the left of the photograph. This helps us date the slides since the College was built in 1901 and the church had the top of its tower replaced in 1908. In that year Lajos Pákey, the city architect who was educated at the Unitarian College and was also responsible for many of the prominent buildings and monuments in the town, redesigned the tower in its present baroque form. I had always assumed that this feature dated to the 1790s when the church was built and had never seen a picture of the original tower before finding this slide.

By chance I took a picture in January 2018 from the same place as the photographer of 1901-1908, not surprising since there are not so many vantage points for such a large building. But here we have the same view, separated by about 110 years.

As time and circumstance permit I will try and digitise the glass lantern slides and post them on here.

 

Postcard from Banbridge

Banbridge Post Card

Banbridge July 2017 ext 01

This postcard view of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Banbridge along with the Methodist Church and what was then the library in Banbridge must date from before the First World War. It is not particularly rare but I was pleased to pick one up quite cheaply recently. I must have had the view in mind when I took the picture of the same group of buildings in 2017 and, apart from the inevitable cars parked in the way, the view has essentially not changed in a hundred years. The First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Banbridge is a remarkably imposing edifice both inside and out, the four fluted ionic columns tell the visitor that this meeting-house is a significant place. Built between 1844 and 1846 it speaks of the confidence of the congregation building anew immediately after the Dissenters’ Chapels Act of 1844 and choosing a style of architecture that eloquently expressed their identity.

banbridge

A Victorian photograph of the exterior

St Patrick’s Day, Downpatrick 2018

Preparations underway

Preparations getting underway in the town

 

Going up to the Cathedral

Going up to the Cathedral for the service

 

Congregation photographed

The congregation gather for a photograph inside the Cathedral

 

20180317_131239

Processing up to the grave after the service

 

Laying wreath

Visiting Bishop Alf Cooper from Chile lays a wreath

 

St Patrick's grave

St Patrick’s grave outside Down Cathedral

 

Giant Saint 01

The giant statue of the saint

Two views of a junction in Toxteth

Park Road postcard

Park Road

Two views of the same place taken in Liverpool about 113 years apart. The postcard at the top is dated 1905 and was sent from Birkenhead to Miss D. Caulson at Grange over Sands. The view is of the Turner Memorial Home, a large hospital and nursing home built in 1884 on land originally owned by the Yates family. The Yates family were Unitarians and had links with the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, the corner of which outside wall can be seen in both pictures on the left hand side. They were ministers, radicals, campaigners and major benefactors to the city, Richard Vaughan Yates donating Princes Park to the city in 1842.

It’s a curving corner junction in both images although once, long ago, before Toxteth was developed, it was a country track. In 1905 tramlines curl around the corner. In 2018 traffic lights and traffic islands keep pedestrians and traffic apart.

The road has been widened since 1905 and the post box taken away. Thirty-two years after the first picture was taken the Gaumont Cinema was opened on the right. A striking art deco cinema it is a sorry sight today having been abandoned for twenty years. Seating 1,500 people it once was a key venue for the people of the Dingle. Sold at auction in the early part of 2018 it was listed on the market at £75,000. It looks like a private house occupies that site in 1905. Just seven years after the card was posted the first cinema was built on that corner, the Dingle Picturedrome, the predecessor of the Gaumont.

The postcard and the photograph tell the viewer very little about the Turner Memorial Home, an endowed gift from Anne Turner in memory of her husband and son to provide residential care for the sick, an institution which has remained in continuous operation ever since.

It is really a postcard view of a road junction, and a junction in time.

 

Chester Cathedral Refectory

Chester Cathedral refectory ph

British Cathedrals are often good places to eat. Mindful of providing the full experience for the tourist market most large cathedrals are well-attuned to the culinary needs of visitors. Sometimes the restaurants are squeezed into the holy places in a slightly insensitive way but cathedrals do often have the ideal space for a café in the form of the refectory. The best cathedral that I have eaten in is undoubtedly St David’s in Wales, where the refectory is a very pleasant place to go. But the most interesting refectory in use as a restaurant, even if the food isn’t great, is probably that of Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral refectory counter

The Early English Gothic refectory, originally part of the medieval Benedictine abbey, dates from the thirteenth century and is constructed in the red local sandstone used throughout the Cathedral and in many places in the region. It’s an impressive monastic space although the roof is entirely modern dating from 1939. For most of its recent history (from 1613 to 1876) the refectory was part of the King’s School, presumably used as the school dining room. But it has a very interesting ancient pulpit approached through a long arcaded staircase.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs crop

Here a monk will have sat reading the scriptures while his colleagues enjoyed their repast. The walls contain the carved graffiti of seventeenth-century scholars and the early twentieth-century east window contains a whole selection of saints at the centre of which presides St Werburgh, to whom the original abbey was dedicated. At the other end a colourful stained glass window commemorates the millennium under which hangs a rather tired looking Mortlake tapestry which is not well displayed. But the full effect of the refectory is a good one, although the over-priced sausage rolls are probably best left un-sampled.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs 02

Stairs to the pulpit

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit

Pulpit

Chester Cathedral refectory roof crop

Refectory roof

Chester Cathedral refectory tapestry

Mortlake tapestry depicting Paul and Elymas

Chester Cathedral refectory graffiti ph crop

Seventeenth-century graffiti

Kolozsvár/Cluj monuments, inscriptions and doors

Unitarian Church door detail

Unitarian Church door

Unitarian Church inscription

Unitarian inscription

Franciscan Church

Franciscan Church plaque

Lutheran Church inscription

Lutheran Church inscription

Door to St Michael's Church

St Michael’s Church door

Catholic building door

Roman Catholic parochial house door

Obelisk

Obelisk commemorating the visit of the emperor. Built in 1831.

Obelisk detail

Obelisk detail by Austrian sculptor Josef Klieber. The emperor and his wife visit the city hospital. Note the gas lamp.

Original city arms

The  original arms of the city

Plaque commemorating visit of emperor

Plaque commemorating the visit of Emperor Francis I and Princess Caroline Augusta to ‘Claudiopolis’ in 1817

Downpatrick First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church

Downpatrick 1 Oct 2016

Downpatrick is one of the finest 18th-century T-shaped meeting-houses in Ireland. Built in 1711 at the start of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin, a pioneer Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister who became a founder member of the Presbytery of Antrim, the church is one of the most notable buildings in this part of county Down.

It is not a new thing but it is worth flagging up the 360 degree virtual tour of the interior which was put online courtesy of VirtualVisitTours. The panoramic view can be explored here:

http://www.virtualvisittours.com/downpatrick-first-presbyterian-non-subscribing-church/