Still Greatie?

Eventually answering some of the market trader’s and residents complaints below, on 31st January 2015 Liverpool City council announced plans to expand the new Greatie site to create extra parking and space for more traders.
Greatie01Today Liverpool’s oldest and largest street market moved into its new home. So I decided to go on a circular walk which would include a housewarming visit to the new Greatie.

Getting off the 76 bus in London Road by TJ's.
Getting off the 76 bus in London Road by TJ’s.
Encountering the first street market of the day.
Encountering the first street market of the day.

Here in Pembroke Place
Here in Pembroke Place.

When I was a boy, in the 1960s, this was part of Liverpool City Centre. And visits to ‘town’ with my parents would always involve trundling between here and Lewis’s and Blackler’s. Then trundling back the other way if TJ’s up here had the right things at the best price, as they often did and still do.

This part of the city is the friendliest to people without much money to spare.

Bulky Bob's shop is here, for example.
Bulky Bob’s shop is here, for example.

Bulky Bob’s is the social enterprise in Liverpool that collects our unwanted bulky household items. And if they can be recycled they end up on sale here, together with other new furniture.

Crossing Islington looking back at the Catholic Cathedral.
Crossing Islington looking back at the Catholic Cathedral.
Turning into Haigh Street, at the back of Shaw Street.
Turning into Haigh Street, at the back of Shaw Street.

I used to sometimes work in one of those houses when it was the Council Repairs Office. I wrote about it in ‘Housing in Liverpool and me’.

“Some days I’d be sent off to the sub-office in Netherfield Heights, at the top of the hill in Everton. On the way up there I’d pass The Piggeries. These were three high-rise blocks, built as recently as 1965 and already on their way to being uninhabitable slums. Crosby, Canterbury and Haigh Heights, as they were really called, had recently staged a rent strike, because of the appalling conditions and the Council’s failure to maintain the blocks. Most Council employees entirely blamed the tenants, of course. But, spending some time at the local Repairs Office, on Shaw Street, I was shown how to prioritise and file repair requests. And told to put requests for Piggeries repairs ‘in that box down there’. At the end of the day ‘that box’ was emptied into the bin.”

Haigh Street back then, the Piggeries at the end there.
Haigh Street back then, the Piggeries at the end there.
Looking down from the Piggeries. On the balcony at Haigh Heights.
Looking down from the Piggeries. On the balcony at Haigh Heights.
Now, where the Piggeries were.
Now, where the Piggeries were.
Then, Haigh, Canterbury and Crosbie Heights.
Then, Haigh, Canterbury and Crosbie Heights.
Looking down from Netherfield Brow, the City.
Looking down from Netherfield Brow, the City.

Obviously when I worked up here you couldn’t see this view for all the tower blocks in the way.

This was always here though. The old Everton Lock Up.
This was always here though. The old Everton Lock Up.

Though then it was never looked on as ‘heritage’ – just a piece of old stuff that had somehow avoided being cleared. Probably what saved it was that it was, and still is, the symbol on the badge of Everton Football Club.

Eyes continually drawn downhill to the City.
Eyes continually drawn downhill to the City.

Along here, looking uphill is the site of the huge slab block that was Netherfield Heights.

It was here.
It was here.
And I worked in here in the Housing sub-office on the ground floor.
And I worked in here in the Housing sub-office on the ground floor.

Fair rents had just been introduced and my main job was to work them out and sort out the rent rebates many people had become entitled to. This of course caused widespread joy and made me briefly popular. Unfortunately, at the same time, the City had disastrously decided to impose a fortnightly rent system, which most people simply never understood. They’d obediently come in, once every two weeks – and pay their rent, their one week’s rent. Debts therefore quickly mounted and all of us staff’s popularity plummeted accordingly.

I did love the job though and would sing my way up Roscommon Street to work in the morning.
I did love the job though and would sing my way up Roscommon Street to work in the mornings.
There were tower blocks all the way down the hill here. This was Mazzini House.
There were tower blocks all the way down the hill here. This was Mazzini House.
Nearly at our destination now.
Nearly at our destination now.

And at the bottom of Roscommon Street here it is.

On Great Homer Street, the new Greatie.
On Great Homer Street, the new Greatie.

That’s right. It’s been branded up. Attractively too, but ‘Greatie’ was our word for it. Never written down, let alone graphically designed.

Anyway, I’ll cross the road in a few minutes to see how things are going. But first I want a look around on this side of the street.

Where Greatie always was.
Where Greatie always was.

Even on this side there was once an attempt to ‘tidy’ the market up.

In the 60s they built it this hall.
In the 60s they built it this hall.

But as you can see, it was never big enough and so people continued trading on the street.

One of the traders in those days was my Uncle Arthur. Arthur Gerrard, known to everyone as Gerry was the family spiv. Sharp suits and tiny moustache. Whatever you wanted Arthur could ‘put his hands on it’ for you. When Dad’s Army started on the television I was shocked. I thought Uncle Arthur had got a part in it!

Uncle Arthus or James Beck in Dad's Army? Hard to tell.
Uncle Arthus or James Beck in Dad’s Army? Hard to tell.
As I thought. Not all of today's traders have gone over the road.
As I thought. Not all of today’s traders have gone over the road.
Soon this place will be redeveloped.
Soon this place will be redeveloped.
But for now some of the traders still have use of the shop premises.
But for now some of the traders still have use of the shop premises.
As they have done for years.
As they have done for years.
Yo can get more or less anything!
You can get more or less anything!
After browsing a good while some women are good naturally told by this trader 'It's norra library, you know!'
After browsing a good while some women are good naturedly told by this trader ‘It’s norra library, you know!’ They all laugh.
And this huge plants stall is still over here in its traditional place.
And this huge plants stall is still over here in its traditional place.
While opposite, by St Anthony's is now all empty.
While opposite, by St Anthony’s is now all empty.
Waiting for this lot to arrive.
Waiting for this lot of corporates to arrive.

OK then, time to cross over and see the new Greatie in its new home.

On the corner of Great Homer and Dryden Street.
On the corner of Great Homer and Dryden Street.

Greatie29 Greatie30

Here we are.
Here we are.
Familiar faces in a new location.
Familiar faces in a new location.
Fair bit of parking space, not sure if these are just traders cars and vans.
Fair bit of parking space, not sure if these are just traders cars and vans.
Some of the trading area is covered.
Some of the trading area is covered.
Seats near to food stalls.
Seats near to food stalls.
And it's really busy.
And it’s really busy.

I talk to some of the traders who think the aisles are a bit narrow. Or maybe it’s this crowded because it’s the first day?

It does have a sort of bazaar feel to it.
It does have a sort of bazaar feel to it.
And a good variety of stalls.
And a good variety of stalls.
A friend Naomi approaches, in the hat, and confesses she hasn't been to Greatie for years but has come for a look at the new place.
A friend Naomi approaches, in the hat, and confesses she hasn’t been to Greatie for years but has come for a look at the new place.
Which is impressively full of stuff.
Which is impressively full of stuff.
Piled high with it.
Piled high with it.

One trader I talk to tells me of one teething problem. They were all only given access to the site at 8:00 this morning, very late for a market that opens to the public at 9:00. Must do better there, because obviously when the market was on the street access was no problem.

I asked him about the rents and he said that at the moment they’re the same as they were over the road but there’s a fear that Geraud, the organisers might soon raise them. (I’ve since been told by Liverpool Market Traders that the rents are being increased in December.)

Thinking of over the road, I keep wondering where those remaining traders would fit over here? Unless much of the parking area could be used the place is jammed full already.

There's an inside bit, as there was before.
There’s an inside bit, as there was before.
Mostly full of, erm, fashion items!
Mostly full of, erm, fashion items!

Though there’s also a juice bar in here and another café.

With space to sit down, and a public toilet.
With space to sit down, and a public toilet.
The aisles are once again popular and jammed.
The aisles are once again popular and jammed.

And it’s fair to say most people seem pretty happy with the new place. Trading seems brisk, and friendly as ever.

So well worth a visit I'd say.
So well worth a visit I’d say.

Though it’s not a street market any more. With space to expand along the road on busy days. And I’ll miss that. Last time me and Sarah came I called it ‘a swaggering beast of a street-market’ and had no idea that by today its swagger would be a little constrained and contained.

But it’s here, it lives and I’m grateful for that.

We haven't lost our Greatie.
We haven’t lost our Greatie.
And it's even been branded up!
And it’s even been branded up!

Right next to it is something else that would get in the way of further expansion.

The Wallasey Tunnel!
The Wallasey Tunnel!

The other side of where the tunnel is now used to be another market when I was a boy.

Cazneau Street fruit and veg.
Cazneau Street fruit and veg.

Greatie50

All that's left of Cazneau Street now.
All that’s left of Cazneau Street now.
Along St Anne Street are these lovely examples of early 20th century municipal housing.
Along St Anne Street are these lovely examples of early 20th century municipal housing.
Great Richmond Street Dwellings.
Great Richmond Street Dwellings.
And round the back.
And round the back.
Nearby, this carved ghost-sign.
Nearby, this carved ghost-sign.
Then back at London road, the circular walk completed.
Then back at London Road, the circular walk completed.

I decide to walk into town, there’s a Leonard Cohen LP to be bought.

Past the mighty Bullring.
Past the mighty Bullring, St Andrew’s Gardens.
Second Cathedral view of the day.
Second Cathedral view of the day.
Near Lime Street Station. I've always loved this cast-iron wall but never thought to photograph it 'til now.
Near Lime Street Station. I’ve always loved this cast-iron wall but never thought to photograph it ’til now.
The magnificence that is the roof of Lime Street.
The magnificence that is the roof of Lime Street.
Just next to it, Liverpool's most brutally ugly buildings. Student housing, inevitably.
Just next to it, Liverpool’s most brutally ugly buildings. Student housing, inevitably.
Finally, one more view of that lovely roof.
Finally, one more view of that lovely roof.

Time then to put the camera away and head down to Probe Records for that LP.

18 Replies to “Still Greatie?”

  1. Another fantastic post Ronnie, I love your insight into the housing history of Liverpool, I’ve just had a good conversation with Mr Westerside about Roscommon Street as he was brought up around there.

    We on site with a development further up Great Homer Street opposite the new Notre Dame school (hopefully it will be up longer than the Piggeries were!) let me know if you want to come and have a look around and we’ll sort something out.

    1. Thanks Peter. Yes John might have even watched me singing my way up the hill in the mornings. And if he did he he’ll no doubt have thought ‘Who’s that dickhead?’

      And I’d be glad to come and see what you’re doing up there now, give you the benefit of my Piggeries experiences!

      And by the way, much of Granby’s now on site and we launched our 4 Streets Community Land Trust there on Thursday.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing all the pictures. I do love a picture heavy blog post. My mum used to drag me around “Greatie” nearly every Saturday when I was a kid but I haven’t been there for years.

    1. This one particularly needed the pictures to show the changes in the area over the years, and the dramatic change in Greatie now. Glad you enjoyed it and hope you’ll get down to the market yourself one day soon?

  3. Though eager to find out what the new Greatie was like I enjoyed your preamble of reminiscences of the area. I loved the old market but must say I hadn’t been for a few years, it looks in good health – unlike Birkenhead market. I took my dad over there a few weeks back as neither of us had been for a long time. I was shocked and saddened by the empty stalls. I hope the Greatie doesn’t go the same way

      1. I was very fortunate to see Leonard Cohen in Manchester on his last tour. I have never seen an audience so intent on a performance and it was a privilege to be there.

  4. Good one that Ron. A cavalcade of great town planning disasters, and the city surviving and, despite the decimation of population and street fabric, even thriving, notwithstanding the civic indignities heaped upon it.

    Re. the infamous Piggeries, fascinating that repairs requests were filed ‘in the round file’ – i.e. binned.

    You probably know there was a famous test case when tenants took the council to court. Lord Chief Justice Denning himself visited the blocks and put his own experiences on record:

    “… I travelled to the ninth floor by lift. Half an hour later no lift was operating and I had to return to the ground floor by using the staircase: throughout the whole of its length there was no light. … It was still daylight outside, but down the stairs it was very dark. We had to negotiate about 90 to 100 steps … by holding on to the handrail, [counsel and then I] succeeded in negotiating them … but I heaved a very great sigh of relief when I finally did reach the ground level. How on earth a woman with two or three small children and possibly laden with shopping baskets could be expected to negotiate those stairs with any degree of peace of mind baffles me: and it is not to be forgotten that these premises are provided for the use, not of single persons or of married couples without children, but they are family houses.”

    He was there for half an hour – imagine that being your home.

    1. I do remember that, happened not long before I turned up and added considerably to the bitterness of the Corpy staff!

      So, ok, here’s another memory. One day, due to some error in the ‘filing’ someone actually went to one of the Piggeries to carry out a repair. Returning back to the office half an hour later with a bleeding arm. Surprisingly the lift was working that day. But someone had let a dog into it, which had savaged his arm. Response from the ‘manager’? ‘You fucking idiot, don’t you know better than to go in there with those deadlegs?’ True.

  5. Jeez, what a story Ronnie. No wonder people demanded ‘Brookie’ style semis and closes when they got the chance.

    Be interesting to hear from anyone who actually lived in the Heights.

    1. Unfortunate though that in sweeping away so much of the poorly built 60s blocks, nearly everything else was swept away too. By no means all of the blocks were poor and I knew many people over the years who loved living in them and were sorry to see them go. And it’s an abiding tragedy for the city that somewhere as treasured and iconic as Gerard Gardens – right on the edge of the city centre – was replaced by Brookie cul de sacs, rather than renovated for a new century.

  6. You are right – an abiding tragedy. Many babies thrown out with much bathwater!

    So much of the brow and Scotland Road area had already been swept away in the first round of clearances. The scale and pace of that change was the first mistake, with 70% of inner Liverpool’s housing condemned in the ’66 Housing Strategy, and the deliberate evacuation of c.160,000 people to the ‘overspill’ estates and new towns. Winsford is 40 miles away!

    The second error compounded the first, in that was that what was put back was entirely alien and experimental. Whatever good qualities the modernist ‘highways and high rise’ experiment had, it failed in the most extreme ways in the uninhabitable Piggeries and Radcliffe estates, inner motorway debacle etc. We are still paying the price two generations later.

    So the 1980s/90s round of clearance was born of desperation, sweeping away the modern slums but also the better blocks and tenements, in order to grass over the crime scene. The suburban Brooksides in the inner city that grew incrementally in the aftermath of the double demolition were not really part of a plan. I see them as a counter revolution fired by revolt at the inhumane consequences of the original redevelopment. It’s absurd to have those densities and defensive layouts along side the city centre, but you can’t blame those people for circling the wagons and digging in, or for wanting something like their friends in the suburbs. They are the communities that stayed in inner Liverpool when hundreds of thousands of others were leaving.

    Here’s another irony. The authorities blew up the three tall Sheil Road blocks near me, and Corinth Tower in Everton, as late as the mid 2000s, by which time speculative developers were actually building new residential tower blocks on the waterfront. I’m sure they would have taken on more of the best blocks, like they are in Sefton Park now.

    Public bodies like the Housing Action Trust and private firms like Legendary Property Company have shown that towers could be popular with the right management – basically a 24h concierge and lettings to old/young couples rather than families. Sheil Road is now lined by cul-de-sacs behind a brick wall – so much better if the three great towers had been done up.

    And another fine Liverpool irony re. Gerard Gardens and the Bull Ring ‘tennies’ etc – these cutting edge and exceptionally beautiful public housing projects were based on Vienna’s Karl Marx Hof – but in classic contrarian style were constructed by a Conservative Council and closed down by a Socialist one.

    (At least four of my neighbours here are Gerard Gardens exiles, and another from Fontenoy. One told me he his childhood there is still the last thing he thinks about before going to sleep every night).

    1. That memory of Fontenoy Gardens just brought me to tears, Jonathan. Reminding me why we started calling ourselves ‘a sense of place’ all those years ago. Places are not just ‘sites’ – they are where lives happen and, in the case of your friend, dreams remain.

  7. Love this, Ronnie. I happen across it by accident and hours later I’m still here and much enriched by the experience! Interesting discussion too. Is the Bullring still lived in and what was/ is it like to live there?

    1. Glad you’re enjoying it all! The Bullring is still here and now used for student housing. I never lived there but that and particularly Gerard Gardens of Liverpool’s tenements were much loved and are well remembered. I’m not on Facebook any more but I remember a very active Gerard Gardens group on there.

      Hope you’ll enjoy nosing round the other Liverpool posts on here. There are hundreds of them!

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