A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hooptedoodle #210 revisited - More about Jim and Ike and the Cowhouse

Back in February I wrote about when my Great-Grandmother left her farmer husband, and moved with her sons, Ike and Jim, into Liverpool, where they ran a dairy in Toxteth. The story is well known in our family, but the details have become a little hazy - one thing that has always irked me a bit is that I never knew where the dairy was.

As discussed in February, these little local dairies were important in poor districts of the cities - for one thing, we must remember, it was not a good idea to drink the water in those days - milk or beer or boiled tea, but never water!

Without wishing to become one of those dreadful genealogist people who bore you to death at parties, I bought some inexpensive DVD scans of old Liverpool street directories, and I very quickly scored a bull - or maybe a cow? I found Great-Grandma Ellen listed as a "Cowkeeper" in the 1900 directory, at an address which is given as 32 David Street and 2 Grace Street - which is simply explained by the fact that it was on the corner of David and Grace Streets, in Liverpool 8, and there were entrances in both streets.

I found some street views on Google Maps - David Street is still there - at least the North side including No.32 is still there.

32 David Street is the terracotta-coloured building with the modern shutter door. That
would have been the typical wooden gates, where the delivery carts and the
cows came and went. A quick study of the photo shows a lot of change in the
building frontage.
...now we are round the corner in Grace Street - there was obviously a door (the
shop door for the dairy?)  in the wall in a former time, and the back of the archway
is still visible, albeit bricked up, in the rear wall
My estimate of 1895 for their arrival in the city looks pretty close - in the 1894 directory, the business is listed as belonging to one George William Hollingsbee. In the 1911 directory, the next one I have later than 1900, the dairy has passed on to a Mr Stephen Robinson. Ellen died in 1910, aged 71, and her son Ike (my grandfather) was married with a young family by then, and he is listed as resident at 21 Cockburn Street. Ike, you understand, was the original owner of the watch which featured in Saturday's post.

I now know for a fact that you will run screaming if you see me at a party, but I have to say I'm pretty pleased, tracking down the old dairy without leaving my chair. Virtual reality, anyone?

***** Late Edit *****

This a fairly recent photo of the old Toxteth Reservoir mentioned in the Comments - definitely an odd thing to come across in the city streets. I recall that I was scared of it as a small child - in later life, for years, I wasn't sure if I had imagined it or if such a place existed! The dreadful problems with cholera epidemics in the 19th Century required radical solutions to get better water into the houses - this was one - pipelines bringing fresh water from well outside the city (Lake Vyrnwy, in North Wales, in particular) was another.


16 comments:

  1. Google, an amateur sleuth's trusted companion. Nice work!

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    1. Thanks Jon - for some reason, this is the kind of research that usually irritates me slightly when other people do it, but I guess we're all a mess of paradoxes!

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  2. I think its all very interesting, I'll have to use your super powers to track down some of my family!

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    1. It will cost you beer, and an invite to the Rejects, and we'll need some more street directories!

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  3. I agree. It actually IS interesting. And how odd that an American like me would even know about the location of Liverpool 8 and Toxteth. I've never been to Merseyside and Liverpool mind you. If ever we cross paths at a party, I'll have quite a few follow-up questions for you. So many, that you might run screaming. . .

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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    1. Liverpool 8 has had a kind of mixed press over the years - things didn't go well in 1981...

      When I was a nipper I lived next to Princes Park, which is a beautiful place in such a grim old town.

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  4. It is interesting to see how large cities of a certain age are palimpsests, continually redrawn and reimagined, with traces of the old remaining. I had never thought that there would be, basically, urban dairies, but as you note, it makes perfect sense. We get into a lot of fuss here in North America about the urban farming trend, people wanting to keep chickens and bees in their back yards - which tend to be larger than the ones on display in your photo. I am not quite sure why somebody would want to fence a 10' by 10' square of concrete in front of their house, but never mind.

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    1. Shrewd observation - in fact the original street would have had all the front yards fenced off with cast-iron railings - they were all taken away at the start of WW2 to help the war effort - since it turned out that cast-iron wasn't useful for anything other than railings (it made particularly unsatisfactory Spitfires), whole mountains of the stuff just rusted away. This not a great front yard, and the style of railings is all wrong, but this a failed attempt to restore history.

      I also tried to look at 21 Cockburn St on Google, but it's gone - just an area of grass. Whether that was the work of the council or the Luftwaffe is unknown.

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    2. Further thoughts - I have old maps of Liverpool, going back into the 18th Century, so I should be able to work out when the big residential development of Toxteth Park took place - the number and the spread of these dairies makes it obvious that, like the pubs, they were planned into the development. The number of them is explained by the fact that in the days of horse-drawn (or hand-pulled), non-refrigerated carts, there was a limit to how far you could get before this morning's milk went sour, so the correct model was lots of tiny dairies serving the surrounding streets rather then the big distribution complexes that existed when I was a kid. My grandfather met my grandmother because he delivered the milk to her house - they only lived about 200 yards apart! The important point is that the dairies were designed into the housing development. The history of Liverpool is interesting in many ways, but the expansion of the South end of the city seems to have coincided with a great awakening of concern about public health and wellbeing - Liverpool pioneered public laundries, public baths, charitable hospitals and clinics, public parks and a pile of other innovations which were regarded as remarkable in their day (we are talking 2nd half of the 19th Century here, so Victorian). The endless terraces which typify Liverpool's working-class housing from this period were noted for having outside toilets, which seems horrifying, but they were one-to-a-household, in the back yard (next to the coal shed), plumbed into the town's water and drainage, and they replaced the shared toilet facilities which were among the horrors of the old "court"-type housing slums which preceded this period. To put this in a proper perspective, Liverpool wasn't just full of do-gooders wishing to spend public money to immortalise their own souls - it was reacting to some of the worst infant mortality and general public health problems in Britain - it's also worth remembering that many of Liverpool's incomers were from Ireland (big families, and often raised in extreme hardship) and from agricultural areas of the North, who had little experience of this kind of life, so mortality rates were high.

      Sorry - I do not wish to suggest that the history of my particular native city is necessarily of interest - the development and growth of the place - especially of the disastrous mistakes that were made and the opportunities that were missed after WW2 - is really fascinating.

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    3. Fascinating stuff.

      I can't remember the name of the programme or what channel now, but earlier this year I saw a documentary about the development of Toxteth by a Welsh developer, using mostly (strictly Non-conformist, Catholics need not apply) labour from North Wales, and brick from kilns in North Wales. There were so many Welshman that they built themselves a new chapel in the area and this became a sort of informal labour exchange where new comers went to find work.

      I think it was nearly all speculative development (build it and they'll come). Even the 'lowest' standard housing was high for the times, as you say, and the German Consul for Liverpool lived in one of the grander houses.

      May have been a Dan Cruickshank programme.

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    4. Hi Chris - many thanks for the mention of the Dan Cruickshank series - I'll certainly check it out!

      There have always been a great many Welsh in Liverpool - it is a widely held fallacy that the city's strange accent is somehow a blend of Irish and Lancashire - not so at all - the typical Scouse accent (especially in the south end) is almost indistinguishable from the way they speak in Flint, or Connah's Quay, or St Asaph. Not for nothing was Liverpool nicknamed the "Capital of North Wales" when I was a kid. There were two Welsh chapels in Toxteth that I knew of - one of them was actually in David Street - it's now a house!

      David Street is right in the heart of the "Holy Land" (with Moses Street, Jacob Street, Isaac Street), which runs downhill from Park Road to the old Toxteth (or Herculaneum) Docks. A lot of this area was flattened in the air raids on the docks in 1940-41.

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    5. No longer on i-Player but it might be on You Tube

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    6. Thanks again Chris - I found the series on the BBC site - for £4-something I "bought" them, which means that I can sign on to the BBC Shop online and watch them as streamed video, or - if and when our broadband here is up to it - I can download them. Haven't watched the programme on the Toxteth terraces yet, but hope to do so this weekend.

      I see from the BBC's publicity blurb that Dan Cruickshank includes a visit to the Victorian Toxteth Reservoir, which is in High Park Street, about half a mile from Ellen's dairy. I haven't seen that building since I was very young, but it looks like a weird fortress from the outside, and I used to be a bit scared of it when I went past it with my mum - probably on our way to collect ration books from the local office in Windsor Street. This, you understand, would be pre-school for me, and I'd be walking along, holding onto the handle of my kid sister's push-chair. For years I've wanted to go back and look at the place - these days I'd probably be scared of being mugged, but a TV visit with Dan Cruickshank might be a good start.

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    7. Indeed it does look like a fortress! That pic you put up looks like a bastion with an overgrown guerite. Wouldn't surprise me if the architect didn't have that in mind. It was designed to protect the city after all.

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  5. Fascinating read, Tony... I think it is a part of the wargamer psyche that we do like to dig and investigate.. and to echo your comment the interweb (like life?) is mostly a wonderful thing as it allows us to do this so easily..

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    1. It certainly is useful - confused the life out of my poor old mum. I showed her this blog post (with the modern photos of the dairy building) on my iPhone, and she was very pleased and interested to see them, but couldn't understand how I had the pictures on my phone without having visited Merseyside - since it would take too long to explain, I changed the subject. When I start trying to think how to explain all this, I realise i don't understand it anyway...

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