1908: Lewis’s Map of Liverpool from Aloft

This is a fascinating map of Liverpool for many reasons. Firstly it’s another bird’s eye view, so you can see the form of the buildings themselves (minus a bit of artistic license). In this way it has similarities with Ackermann’s Panoramic View of Liverpool (1847) and Brewer & Wyllie’s Bird’s Eye View of Liverpool (1885). I’d say it was more like the latter, with a definite sketchy feel to it.

Commercial concern

Lewis’s department store produced this bird’s eye view in around 1908, and they felt the need to write ‘Liver Building in course of construction 1908’ at the bottom. It’s funny to think this landmark building was not ‘on the map’ yet, at least in the metaphorical sense! Lewis’s ensured the continued usefulness of their map by including it in advance, next to the other two Graces. Though only the ‘Royal Liver Buildings’ and the ‘Dock Offices’ have labels here.

And the labels are perhaps the most fascinating element marking this map as unique. At first glance it makes sense: label things to show what they are. But considering that the Cunard Building has no label, while the Muir, Bley & Fawcett City Biscuit Factory does, something else must be going on here. Perhaps this is a commercial directory of sorts. Perhaps these enterprising businesses paid Lewis’s to be featured. How else would you know where the ‘Matchless’ Metal Polish Co. Ltd were, or the Grenville Peas L. P. Co.?

Generally, the labels only appear in the central district. Hope Hall, the David Lewis Northern Hospital and the David Lewis Hostel are the outliers east, north and south. Maybe these are all establishments that David Lewis himself had shares in? At least quite a few of the labels mark public buildings, like the Law Courts, the Municipal Offices and the Post Office.

Bird’s eye view of Edwardian buildings

All in all this is a clear map, with recognisable outlines of such buildings as the Customs House, Lime Street Station and St George’s Hall. Interestingly, the map shows the Anglican Cathedral with two towers, which was Giles Gilbert Scott’s original competition-winning design. In 1910, recently freed of his frustrating collaboration with the architect George Frederick Bodley, he submitted a new, more modern (less Gothic) design, which is what we see today.

By contrast, we see the site of the future Catholic Cathedral marked ‘Parish Workhouse’. In fact the buildings of this imposing structure fade into the mass of houses around Mount Pleasant.

Apart from these highlights, it’s the general detail that amazes. We see the ‘cricket ground’ and ‘review ground’ of Sefton Park. Toxteth Park Cemetery is surrounded by trees. The cutting and the railway ventilation tower on Smithdown Lane are present and correct. The terraces of Goodison Park and Anfield are picked out too.

In contrast to the imposing feeling of the Illustrated London News View of Liverpool (1865) to look at this map is to feel you’re floating above a care-free landscape of trees and houses and schools and recreation grounds. We know it was a very different place, even in this commerce-filled landscape. But it’s still a great way to get a feel for your Liverpool’s ancestors’ home.

A special mention…

I’d like to give special thanks to Glen Huntley of The Priory and the Cast Iron Shore (and Bygone Liverpool in cahoots with Daz White). His site is an excellent resource for the Liverpool historian, and he often uses my maps in his articles (and you can too!). He knows of my love of maps, and pointed out that this one had become available on a well-known auction site. I recommend visiting both his sites, and perhaps you’ll see this very map appear there soon!

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