I’ve mentioned my collection of Liverpool books before, and I thought today we’d take a close look at one in particular.
And the one I want to look at is the ‘Liverpool Official Handbook For Visitors’ From 1953 – 1954. Produced not long before I was born, most of this looks like a guide book to a different planet.
It’s the illustrations and adverts in the book that are of the most interest now. Much of the text is in the lugubrious ‘boosterism’ style beloved of Liverpool institutions then and now, so little of that need concern us here. Other than to note this very brief mention of the source of the City’s wealth:
“By far the larger number of the ships were employed in the West Indies trade, out of which sprang the slave trade which was wrested from Bristol.”
Oh, so that was ok then was it?
Shipping was still big news though, with regular sailings ‘to all North America.’
Some of the differences to now are more subtle. In those days, for example, we clearly didn’t expect all art galleries to be cafés too.
And up the hill, the Anglican Cathedral was still twenty five years away from completion. And still had older housing clustering around it.
And then suddenly a picture of somewhere that’s had its ups and downs since, but is now coming back to its best, the beloved park.
Then more shipping. Mention is made of the damage to the docks during the war years still needing to be repaired. But there is no suggestion yet that these are most of the docks late years. We are simply told ‘Liverpool – greatest export port in the UK.’ So there.
We’re also told that the best way to see all of the docks is from a trip on the Overhead Railway.
“Round trip. First class 1’6d. Third class 1’2d. Children reduced fares.”
No mention that within three years this precious wonder of the world will be gone.
Though we the people don’t feature much in the book, we are urged to care for our health by doing more swimming. A total of twenty three public swimming baths are listed. Anyone remember ‘Burroughs Gardens Baths and Wash-house, Liverpool 3’? Or ‘Netherfield Road Wash-house and Slipper Baths, Liverpool 5’?
And, finishing on a flourish, one of the great joys of the book, the adverts.
And given we’re 20 years before the local government re-organisation that would see Liverpool lose what would become Sefton and Knowsley, now we’re taken on a visit to the Richmond Sausage Factory in ‘Liverpool 21.’
But what of the future. We are warned of the necessity for what sounds like an inner ring road with access for ‘self-contained neighbourhood units’ and:
“Vast new housing and industrial estates, which are continuously proceeding, the fulfilment of these schemes may well occupy the next fifty years.”