Liverpool Through The Lens At The National Conservation Centre

By Narelle Doe | 26 March 2008
A photograph of the interior of a tunnel being built with men working.

Mersey tunnel construction. Courtesy National Conservation Centre, Liverpool

Exhibition Preview - Metropolis: Capturing Modern Liverpool at the National Conservation Centre, Liverpool, until August 10 2008.

Liverpool’s emergence from a Victorian city to a metropolis, embracing industrialisation and modernity, is portrayed in this exhibition of images from the archives of Stewart Bale Ltd, a photographic practice based in Liverpool.

Featuring over 60 images taken between the 1930s and 1970s, the evocative pictures reveal the sheer scale of change taking place in Liverpool, with landmark buildings, cutting-edge developments, great events and city life - captured on camera.

A black and white photograph of the outside of a large building, lit up at night.

Abbey Cinema. Courtesy National Conservation Centre, Liverpool

Stewart Bale Ltd, specialists in commercial and industrial photography from around 1911-1980, produced high quality images that provide an excellent social history record, primarily of Liverpool and the North West, but also nationally.

Highlights in this exhibition include images of stunning architectural projects such as Liverpool’s cathedrals, Martin’s Bank, and the George Dock building. There are rare views of groundbreaking engineering projects like the Queensway Mersey tunnel and Overhead Railway.

Detailed scenes of important city events - such as the launch of Mauretania II - transport the viewer back to the past, enabling them to see how the local population lived and worked. Beautiful shots of Liverpool attractions like the Abbey Cinema and the New Brighton Baths provide an insight into leisure pursuits, while photographs of Meccano Ltd and Ford’s factory portray the city as a thriving industrial centre.

A black and white photograph of the launch of a large ship with huge crowds watching.

The launch of the ship Mauretania II in Liverpool draws crowds. Courtesy National Conservation Centre, Liverpool

This is particularly relevant with Liverpool in its Capital of Culture year, 2008, a time of huge regeneration.

“Stewart Bale Ltd created a legacy of major importance, combining outstanding craftsmanship with a unique record of Liverpool’s changing face during a significant period of social and industrial change and development,” said Anne Gleave, curator of photographic archives.

“The photographs can be read as a visual record of their client’s aspirations and achievements towards modernisation and advancement within the city, whether it be the latest interior of a self-service shop or a major engineering feat such as the Queensway Mersey tunnel. The images are visually strong and look back to positive aspects of Liverpool’s more recent history.”

This is an exhibition preview. If you’ve been to see the show, why not let us know?

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