It would take a hard man to beat Herdman’s Liverpool

herdman - earlies knwon view of liverpoolAbove: Earliest known view of Liverpool – probable date of this view is late 12th century though there is some doubt as to its authenticity. The drawing depicts the chapel of Our Lady standing on the exact site now occupied by St. Nicholas Church. On the right is shown the earliest representation of the Tower of Liverpool. These two building together with a few small houses are all that existed of Liverpool at this time.

William Gawin Herdman also known as W. G. Herdman  (1805–1882) was an English author and painter known for his scenes around Liverpool in northern England. Herdman was born on 13th March, 1805, the son of a Liverpool corn merchant. He was a self-taught artist who began sketching in his early teens, documenting the city of Liverpool and making notes about how its buildings were changing as the city grew.

Herdman lived for nearly all his life in Everton.  He died on 29th March, 1882 at the age of 77 and was buried at Anfield Cemetery.

During his career, he painted around 2,000 watercolours of Liverpool which were included in the book, Herdman’s Liverpool which appeared in several editions after his death in 1882. During his career:

  • He exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy from 1834 to 1861
  • He joined the Liverpool Academy of Arts in 1836
  • Left the Liverpool Academy over a supposed controversy over an annual award in 1857
  • Established the rival Institution of Fine Arts
  • Due to the conflicts within the “artistic community”, both Academies closed by 1870herdman - lime streetFeatured above is “Lime Street” (1857).

This plate provides an interesting historical comparison. The drawing depicts the principal buildings in Lime street and shows on the right the first facade of the Old Railway Station designed by John Foster. Next is shown the Carriage Works of Varty and Wilson, Garner’s Livery Stables and the Theatre Legs of Man Inn. Beyond, is London Road and Commutation Row. The spire in the distance is that of Christ Church, Hunter Street.  On the left of the drawings can be seen as a corner of St. George’s Hall with before it the area now known as St. Georges Plateau. The two tall columns were of polished red granite and nicknamed “The Candlesticks”. They were later removed and utilized in the gateway entrance to Sefton Park their place being taken by the stone lions which occupy the site today.

A wide selection of Herdman’s work is stored in the William Brown Library and Museum in Liverpool.

In short: It would take a hard man to beat Herdman’s documentation of Liverpool.

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