Saturday, 30 July 2016

Synagogues, Nativity Scenes and Stones: Booker Avenue, Allerton

Allerton Synagogue,
Booker Avenue
Allerton
Liverpool 18





The former Allerton Synagogue, from Mather Avenue, Liverpool 18

The McCartneys left Speke in April 1956 moving into a council house on the new Mather Avenue estate where Garston meets Allerton. The house in Forthlin Road was built in 1952 and Paul would live there for the next seven years until moving to London. If Speke is where he spent the majority of his childhood, Allerton is where Paul spent his teenage years and it was here that his friendship with John Lennon blossomed.






Shops on Booker Avenue (circa 1955)


Plans for a synagogue in the Allerton area were conceived in 1950 by the Rev. Hyman Goldman. A suitable plot of land was found on the corner of Booker Avenue and Mather Avenue and purchased for the sum of £1,261.00, some of the funds coming from donations from members of the local Jewish community.
It was decided to build a function hall first, the idea being to bring in revenue for the funding of the new Synagogue. 

Construction work started on the hall in April 1955 and was completed during 1956 as the McCartneys were moving in less than a mile away.

In October 1958 building started on the synagogue, completed in 1959 and formerly opened in January 1960.




The synagogue viewed across the junction of Mather Avenue with Booker Avenue

Shortly after Brian Epstein became the Beatles manager he is rumoured to have used his connections in the Jewish community to  arrange a booking for them in the function hall adjacent to the synagogue. According to those who attended the group performed at a Sunday afternoon dance during December 1961.

Sundays fell on 3rd,10th,17th, 24th, and 31st December 1961. The 10th can be discounted because the Beatles were on their way home from London after a disastrous appearance in Aldershot the night before. They had no bookings on Christmas or New Years Eve so they might be likely dates but the Beatles often performed at two and sometimes three venues a day so December 3rd and 17th cannot be ruled out.

Like every rumoured concert appearance in the Beatles' story, until a handbill, advertisement or photograph turns up we can't be 100% sure.

Whatever the date, Paul didn't have far to walk home.


Saturday 9 December 1961: Live at the Palais Ballroom, Aldershot (Dick Matthews)


For Paul the quickest route to John Lennon's house was to cross Mather Avenue, go straight up Wheatcroft Road and then cut over Allerton golf course to Menlove Avenue. John would make the trip in reverse. If it was late and they didn't fancy crossing the unlit golf course the longer route was via Booker Avenue, Paul turning right at the Synagogue following Booker Ave into Yewtree Avenue and joining Menlove at the junction with Beaconsfield Road, where Allerton meets Woolton.



Paul McCartney, it has to be said, has made more than a few TV appearances and given interviews on hundreds of occasions since the Beatles made it in 1963. 

It also has to be said that over the last 50 odd years there are inevitably certain stories and events that he will recall time and time again to the point that they have become over familiar due to his constant retelling.  Like how he came to write "Yesterday" for example. If you haven't heard that story, or the one about John Lennon's favourite line in "Hey Jude", or what Steven Spielberg thinks about "Magical Mystery Tour" then simply Google it and you're in for a treat.

It was moment of unsuppressed joy for me then when Paul made a guest appearance on Ronnie Wood's radio show in June 2012, televised on the Sky Arts channel, and decided to tell a story I hadn't heard before. Not only that, a story about Liverpool. 

During a discussion about his early influences the subject of Buddy Holly and his horned-rimmed glasses came up. Buddy was especially influential on the bespectacled John Lennon, as Paul recalled:

(Buddy)... Now that was great for John, 'cause John wore horned-rimmed glasses, and he'd y'know, he wore them, but any time there was any girls around he'd whip them off... and then he couldn't see a bloody thing y'know, he'd be like as blind as a bat. And then when Buddy came out it was like "y'know, l'll put these on"  so it was like he legitimised the horn-rims. 






Paul: One day we were writing together, John and I, it was around Christmas, and he used to come down to me, and erm, we'd write in the evening and he'd walk back up to his house, which was like a mile away or something, and he's walking back one night, and 'erm, y'know, like I said, if there was any possibility of any girls around he wouldn't wear the horn rims.... and he's walking back...and I saw him the next day, and he said, 'Do you know, those people on that corner of Booker Avenue, they're mad!' 
He said, 'What time was it when I left you last night?' 
I said, 'I don't know, about 11.30 or something'. 
He said, 'Yeah, well I went past their house and they were out, still playing cards in front of their house'. 
I said, 'I can't believe this'. 
So I go by there later and it's a nativity scene!

Ronnie: He thought they were sitting outside their house...

Paul: Playing cards! It's Mary and Joseph bent over the baby Jesus. I said 'Get your glasses on, man!'

Ronnie: That is the definition of blind as a bat!

No wonder John didn't fancy his chances walking across the golf course at night



The Booker Avenue Card School!




You can watch Paul tell the story in the video above




A new Synagogue now stands on the corner of Mather Avenue and Booker Avenue. The house of cards is thought to be the bungalow with the flag pole on the left of the photo.

If you fancy some local history while you are in this area it's well worth making a short detour down Booker to have a look at the Robin Hood stone, a deeply scored two metre high monolith situated on the corner of Archerfield Road.












Inscription: "This monolith, known as "Robin Hood's Stone" stood in a field named 

the Stone Hey at a spot 198 feet distant and in a direction bearing 7 Degrees east of true north from its present position to which it was moved in August 1928. The arrow below indicates the direction of the original site. This side of the stone formerly faced south"

The stone was moved in 1928 to accommodate a new housing development. The map below shows the original position.








































So why is it called the "Robin Hood Stone"?


During the reign of King Henry VIII an act of Parliament was passed in 1512 decreeing that every township had to make a field available for men under the age of 60 to practice archery, thus maintaining a proficiency should the call to arms arise. 


Large stones would often be placed in a field specifically for the purpose of sharpening arrows and although Robin Hood is unlikely to have ever done so upon this stone it could suggest how both the Archer Stone and Archerfield Road got their names. Interestingly most of the deep grooves found were on the side of the rock facing the sun indicating that most of the shooting took place from that side of the field - the archers firing their arrows with the light behind them.


Interestingly when the Stone was excavated in 1910 archaeologists found a number of ring and cup markings similar to those found on the nearby Calderstones (six Neolithic or Bronze Age standstone rocks which once formed part of an entrance passage to an early Bronze Age burial chamber) suggesting it may originally have been part of the same tomb.

It may have been removed (or stolen) from the burial chamber by a local farmer in Anglo-Saxon times and placed in his field (or as it was called then, a "Hey" meaning an enclosure for grazing animals) the addition of the stone giving the field its name, apparently so that any of his animals that had an itch could scratch themselves on it!


The cup and ring markings are no longer visible, submerged under the layer of concrete that anchors the rock in its present position.


There were no railings around the archer stone when Paul and Mike McCartney lived in Forthlin Road. I'm sure they knew the story about Robin Hood and it fired their imaginations.


In 1997 Paul released an album of classical music entitled Standing Stone, with the cover showing such a stone in Scotland photographed by his wife Linda in late 1969 / early 1970. It amuses me to think that the first one he was likely to have set eyes on was around the corner from his house in Allerton.






Another view of Booker Avenue (c. 1955) 


There are also rumours that during the summer of 1961 the Beatles performed at the Max Morris Hall in Greenbank Drive Synagogue near Sefton Park a venue popular for local bands like Derry and The Seniors and the Remo Quartet*. 





Greenbank Synagogue


The synagogue had been badly damaged in May 1959 when a burglar had started a fire. The building was subsequently restored at a cost of £50,000 and re-consecrated in 1961. This was the synagogue Brian Epstein's family attended and I have read that the Beatles performance here was as part of a fundraising drive for the repairs. 


However, this doesn't fit the established time frame as Brian did not become involved with the Beatles until late 1961 so until further evidence turns up we'll have to file this possible engagement under "Unconfirmed". 


What is certain is following Brian's death in August 1967 his body was brought here for a quiet Orthodox funeral. The Epstein family asked the Beatles not to attend for fear that it would turn the private event into a media circus. Following the service, Brian was taken to the Jewish Cemetery on Long Lane, Aintree where he was laid to rest near his father.


Click on the above map to view most of the places mentioned in this post.


Notes:


*Both played a gig here on 13 March 1960 under a show headlined "Clok-Rok". The Quartet later renamed themselves the more poppy "Remo Four".

The Standing Stone CD cover art copyright is believed to belong to MPL Communications Inc. / Ltd

The second photograph of the synagogue © Copyright Sue Adair and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Victoria Hall and Ardmore

Victoria Hall,
1 Acorn Close,
Village Road,
Higher Bebington
Wirral, Cheshire
CH63 8RH








The foundation stone for Victoria Hall, Higher Bebington, was laid down in 1897, on land donated by Miss Catherine King for the purposes of building a hall to benefit the residents of Higher Bebington. Although Miss King had requested that it be referred to as the Village Hall the initial construction work coincided with the year of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and, as the Village Road upper elevation frieze reveals, it became another in a long line of parks, monuments and halls found all over England named after her longest serving monarch.



The Victoria Hall webpage provides some detail regarding the design and composition of the building:

The original hall is constructed of Storeton stone, a local sandstone quarried only a few hundred yards away at one of the Storeton quarries. The sandstone is of a pale creamy colour. The upper elevations are white rendered with intricately painted floral friezes to the top storey. The base and upper elevations are separated by red brick banding, under a series of red clay tile roofs.

Real thought was given to both the exterior and interior features of the building, providing a facility to enhance the lives of local people. The architectural style is similar to that seen in the work of Edward Ould, a local architect from the Liverpool firm of Grayson and Ould. Ould (1852 – 1909) is remembered for designing Wightwick Manor for Theodore Mander, a Wolverhampton paint and varnishes manufacturer, an Arts and Crafts Movement jewel in the National Trust’s crown. Edward Ould was considered to be a specialist of the ‘Old English’ style of half-timbering, clay tiles, stone and red brick.

The interior of the original building supports further the fact that Victoria Hall was constructed in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The beamed ceiling of the large hall harks back to the timber framed constructions of the Medieval Period. The low dado rail or chair rail is a further architectural feature of the large hall. Such rails were added to prevent chairs from damaging the walls. The turned staircase in the entrance hall has balustrades and spindles which suggest the unpretentious architectural elements of the Arts and Crafts era. The delightful windows in the two storey part of the building of 1897 enhance its beauty, as well as adding to the inventory of features which suggest it is built in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The late Victorian doors are constructed in simple tongue and groove style separated into two panels. Unfortunately, the metal furniture from each original door, which would have provided more clues, has ‘disappeared’.

In 1953, the original building was extended to serve a growing community. This provided a further smaller hall under a clay tiled pitched roof. A lounge, kitchen, washroom facilities and entrance hall were added in a flat roofed extension to link the two halls. With some further renovation and remodelling in 2012 Victoria Hall is well on its way to returning to its former Victorian glory, although much cosier due to the fitting of double glazed windows/secondary glazing throughout the building.

Higher Bebington is fortunate to have such an architectural gem in its midst.

Sadly all of this was probably lost on the Beatles when they arrived here on the evening of Saturday 4 August 1962.

The previous evening they had made their debut at the famous Grafton Rooms on West Derby Road. Advertised as "A Holiday Spectacular" the Beatles were supported by Gerry and The Pacemakers and The Big Three in what was the first rock concert ever to be held at this large ballroom which had capacity for 1200 dancers.   

By contrast the Bebington venue was so remote that few groups ever played there and initially even Brian Epstein didn't know how to find the hall. So little is known about the group's appearance here - there is absolutely nothing on-line about the show other than the confirmation that they played here - that one wonders whether anyone found the hall that evening.

The top five UK singles that Saturday are listed below. The Beatles are known to have performed at least three (1,4 and 5) on stage around this time and they may have featured in the set for Victoria Hall. 


The UK Singles Chart that week:

1. I Remember You (Frank Ifield)
2. I Can't Stop Loving You (Ray Charles)
3. Speedy Gonzales (Pat Boone)
4. A Picture of You (Joe Brown)
5. Don't Ever Change (The Crickets)

They were probably relieved to return to familiar territory the following evening, playing at the Cavern with the Saints Jazz Band and the Swinging Blue Jeans. They certainly never played Victoria Hall again.




The Beatles at the Majestic in Birkenhead 28 July 1962 a week before the Bebington appearance. Within a month Pete Best would be replaced by Ringo Starr.




In common with most of the Wirral venues where the Beatles played Victoria Hall has a plaque commemorating the group's appearance on 4th August 1962. It can be found over the main door.



Parts of Bebington were probably quite familiar to Paul McCartney as some of his extended family lived in the area (his cousin Bett Robbins lived in Higher Bebington). Reportedly Paul was known to enjoy a glass of wine with them at the Travellers Rest public house, situated on the corner of Village Road and Rest Hill Road.






John Lennon too would also have known the area as his Aunt Anne ("Nanny") lived close by on Old Chester Road, Rockferry, about 1.5 miles from Victoria Hall.


Ardmore
486 Old Chester Road
Birkenhead
L42 4PE





(Above) 486 Old Chester Road today, as viewed from the "front" and "back".


The only known picture of John with his mother Julia was taken in the garden of "Ardmore", Nanny's large Victorian house situated at 486 Old Chester Road during the summer of 1949. 

The last of the Stanley sisters to marry, Nanny had already spent a lot of time at "Ardmore" when it belonged to her sister Mater, brother-in-law Charles Parkes and nephew Stanley. When she finally married Sidney Cadwallader they bought the house from them. Nanny was finally free of her overbearing father "Pop" Stanley. 



Summer 1949 photographs:



Cousins: David Birch (3) and Michael Cadwallader (about 18 months) sitting on the knee of Liela Birch (10). Julia Dykins, John's half sister (2 1/2) sits next to 8 year old John.


Julia (visibly pregnant with Jackie) tickling John. Sadly the only known photograph of John with his Mum.

Incidentally, the 1939 census says that George "Pop" Stanley and his wife Annie (John Lennon's grandparents) were living here with Charles and Mater. The other Stanley sisters Julia, Anne (Nanny) and Mary (Mimi) were all living at 9 Newcastle Road. Mimi would marry in September 1939 and move out soon after, making room for her parents to move in. Although I can't be 100% sure that she wasn't there, I think Mimi is conspicuous by her absence in these Summer 1949 photos. Perhaps that's why there's a photo of John with his Mum at this family get together.



The photograph above recently turned up on a few Beatles web-sites. I was unclear which Lennon relatives these were, so who better to ask than somebody who was there when the photographs were taken, David Birch, John's cousin.

MA: Good morning David I hope you are well. I wonder if you could help me. This photograph has recently appeared on a number of Beatles' websites - one stating it's Uncle Norman with Harriet and Elizabeth. If this is the case would you mind confirming which lady is which? I know the photo was taken in Ardmore, probably the same time as the photos showing you with John, Julia, Liela etc (summer 1949?) I also know the house initially belonged to Mater and Charles Parkes and just wanted to check it's not Charles on the photo (or Sidney for that matter). Thanks for your help on this :)


DB: L to R. Harrie and Norman, and Anne Cadwallader aka 'Nanny'. 1949, taken at the same time as the other family photos at Ardmore. Nanny and her husband Sidney bought Ardmore from Mater and Charles Parkes. Not sure who took the photos, probably just passed the camera around. 


Harrie and Norman were David's mum and dad. There was something else that bugged me about the photographs - the house itself. The front facing Old Chester Road looks nothing like these photographs. Why are there bay windows on the back but not the front? I asked David:


MA: Thanks for clarifying that David. It's funny but I was looking at that house on Google earth the other day and you wouldn't think it was the same house. The front looks nothing like the back. (No bay windows in the front).


DB: The house has lost much of its' grandeur over the years. These pictures are taken in what was once the huge 'front' garden which faces Egerton Park. The back door faced OCR.


So, bizarrely, that is why the house looks so much posher in the family photos. At some point the front of this house, and the adjacent properties, became the back. Now it's been pointed out it's obvious that the house once had a long front garden overlooking Egerton Park. That's where the "Stanley" children were all sat that summer day in 1949. 



Nanny and her neighbours would later sell half of their gardens to a property developer and bungalow were built on the land (and are still there in Egerton Park today visible in the foreground on the above photo).






Notes:

* from Ian Forsyth's The Beatles Merseyside (1991)

Victoria Hall today:

Victoria Hall is well used by many local groups.  Dance, in a variety of forms, for tinies through to adults, is provided by a local dance school on a number of days. Photography, Zumba, Dru Yoga and Meditation are new additions to courses offered. Wirral 3Ls choirs and other activities are to be found here, as are local societies. It is a favourite venue for parties, other private functions and charity events.

http://www.victoriahallhrbebington.co.uk/about%20_us.html

Those interested in visiting Victoria Hall can contact them by email (above) or telephone 0151 608 1527.

How to find Ardmore from Victoria Hall: 

Head from Acorn Close turning Left onto Village Road and immediately left onto King's Road. At the roundabout take the 3rd exit onto Kings Lane. Continue for about 1 mile onto Old Chester Road (B5149).  About a quarter of a mile along on the left is number 486. 

Big Thanks to David Birch (and others who shall remain an omnibus)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Liverpool Echo 6 July 2016: Is this one of the earliest photographs of Paul and Mike McCartney?

Oglet Shore
Speke
Liverpool 24


This very blog received a mention in today's Liverpool Echo as it ran a story on the Oglet shore photo that may, or may not include a young Paul and Mike McCartney in the background:

Self-confessed "Beatles anorak" Peter Hodgson, from Kirkby, says: “I came across the photo in an archived story on the ECHO website about Oglet Shore receiving money to tidy it up. The ECHO story said that the McCartneys and George Harrison had often visited the shore as children, so I decided to enlarge the photo and examine it".

A few days before he had been reading my post about Stanley Park in which I'd reproduced two family photos of Paul and Mike in the park circa 1947. The McCartney family moved to Speke that same year. Peter thought the boys on the beach looked remarkably similar.

"A couple of days previously, I had been on the blog of my friend, Mark Ashworth, and it featured childhood photos of Paul and Mike – and they were wearing braced up shorts".
The more Peter studied the photo the more convinced he was it was them.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it’s them. Although they are not the focus of the photograph, Paul is facing the photographer – no doubt practising for what his destiny would bring – while Mike is looking out to the Mersey.
“What clinched it for me was the girl standing with Paul and Mike – she is wearing a white dress and has a white ribbon in her hair. I immediately remembered seeing a photograph of a young Paul sitting in his backyard in Speke, and next to him was a girl wearing a white dress and with a white ribbon in her hair. It’s got to be the girl on the beach with Paul and Mike!”
Peter decided to go to the Echo and try and get to the bottom of it. I told him that I'd first seen the photo in Ken Pye’s 2008 book Discover Liverpool, a Trinity Mirror publication so Peter duly informed his contact at the Echo who asked Ken what he thought. Ken replied “I can’t say whether it is Paul and Mike towards the back of the photograph, but I think that’s the charm of the story!”
Amazingly, the Echo decided that the only way they could solve the mystery was by asking one of the McCartney brothers for their opinion.
We showed the photograph to Mike McCartney, who told us: “I couldn’t say it is definitely us, but it might well be!



Mike also agreed to a filmed interview by the Echo's Paddy Shennan who had taken copies of the photo over to Mike's house on the Wirral. You can watch the video on the Echo's website - see the link at the foot of this post. In the meantime, this is what Mike had to say:
Mike: Here we are in our house and you won't believe this but Paddy and Carl have come all the way from Liverpool for the Liverpool Echo....echo...echo..... to ask me a question. What is that question Paddy Shennan?  
Paddy Shennan: These two young boys in the picture we've shown you, could they be you, and your kid?

Mike: (looking at the photo) I don't know, I don't know. It's Oglet shore, Oggie shore, where we used to play, it's summer, it's absolute magic there.... we're in the background, somebody else is taking the picture so we're just photo-bombing and er... it's very.. we used to wear trousers like that. We used to have hair like that, there's a little girl next door (when we ) used to live in 72 Western Avenue that looked like that, (I've) gotta picture of her, so it could actually be us.




Mike: (smiling) I don't know. What we should do is ask the people of Liverpool (if) anyone (is) on this fab pic and go forward and see if they remember.. but it's lovely, what is great is seeing the picture in the beautiful clean river Mersey when we had something called summer.




Off camera Mike said “I’d say there is a 50/50 chance it’s us. We did walk down to Oggie Shore a lot and, as for the clothes, my mum was a very proud woman and if those shorts with braces attached were worn by the young royals, then we should wear them! Our hair did look like that. And the height difference between the two boys looks right as our kid is 18 months older than me. There was a girl, whose name I can’t remember – she was our next door neighbour in Western Avenue, Speke (we were number 72, so she would have been 70 or 74). She was more our kid’s age, and she did look like the girl standing next to the boy in the photo who could be Paul. If it is us, then it must be one of the oldest photographs of us together that is in the public domain. But it is clear that we are not the focus of it – we’re in the background, so we’re very early photobombers!

It’s a fascinating story!”

It certainly is Mike.









Liverpool Echo (paper copy Friday 8 July 2016)

Watch the video here:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/watch-one-earliest-photographs-paul-11574286#ICID=sharebar_facebook