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Revealed: The secrets of Smithdown

Exclusive sneak preview of that other long and winding road in pictures by Stephanie de Leng

Published on September 4th 2009.

Revealed: The secrets of Smithdown

DAFNA'S cheesecake factory, the Brook House pub, Toxteth cemetery and a host of ethnic food places, junk shops, hippy chick and an 86 bus smashing through muddy puddles every 30 seconds.

It's Smithdown Road - an excellent group called The Vernons even named an album after it back in the day - and National Museums Liverpool is opening a mini-exhibition this week as part of a big new project to uncover stories about one of the most diversely populated areas of the city.


Culminating in a special exhibition in the People’s City gallery of the new Museum of Liverpool, The Secret Life of Smithdown project will explore how over time, local shopkeepers have helped shape the neighbourhood.

Over the summer, Liverpool Confidential photographer Stephanie de Leng has been out and about taking pictures of the people who make up the rich fabric of the area for a special museum archive.

Here's an exclusive taster of some of the images which are as colourful as the stories of the people they depict.

They will be on display in the mini-exhibition that works retrospectively alongside old images of the road.

Indeed, this event has been set up so that local residents can find out more about the history of the area and contribute to the development of the show by sharing their own ‘Smithdown Stories’, photographs and opinions and assist the Museum of Liverpool which is currently undertaking historical research of the area utilising newspapers, trade and street directories, maps and old photographs to discover how the road has changed over time, and continues to change today.


You can find it at Oomoo Café, 349-351 Smithdown Road, throughout September. There will be special drop in days starting this Saturday, 5 September from 10am – 4pm.

Stephanie told us: “This is the second project I have worked on for the forthcoming Museum of Liverpool and it has been a fulfilling and humbling experience.

“Having had the way cleared for me by the museum made all the difference for people were open and genuinely excited to be documented in this honest and positive manner. In the process I learnt a lot about different communities and their daily lives."

Kay Jones, curator of community history for the Museum of Liverpool added: “Smithdown Road is home to many different vibrant and diverse communities, including students from Liverpool’s three universities.

“People across the city are really fond of the area and the independent shops that span the length of the road.”
*The Secret Life of Smithdown, Oomoo Café, 349-351 Smithdown Road, until September 30, 2009.


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37 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

'S. Richard' was a lovely, s****y upmarket shop that sold expensive electrical goods like colour televisions, radiograms and modern vacuum cleaners (still rare in most houses then, as indeed was full carpeting) things that people looked at and admired rather than regularly bought. The frontage was open with display windows on either side and it looked enormous to a small boy like me, like the entrance to a department store from the city centre. It needed no security shutters and bars in those days. It was on the corner of Scholar Street and the shop opposite in the photo was a greengrocer who also sold fresh fish and wrote his prices on his plate glass window in whitewash with a paintbrush. Naughty boys would lick their fingers and doctor the letters to make them into rude words. In summer all the shops had full canvas awnings to protect them from the heat of the sun.

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

Smithdown Road was very respectable until recently. When big international star George Formby died his funeral was performed by Williams Funeral Directors on the corner of Hartington Road. His funeral procession started from there and you can clearly see Underley Street across the road in newsreel film of the crowds thronging Smithdown Road for this big occasion.

Helen PSeptember 4th 2009.

Don't think so. That looks like the rundown end to me.

Richard oswickSeptember 4th 2009.

S Richard was a very special shop. The whole family gave excellent service to their customers. I think it amazing that they continued all this time, especially after the riots. Rember Michael as young man. Also remember the warmth and 'whistling that came from the old valve television sets.

The Secret Life of Smithdown RoadSeptember 4th 2009.

We're looking at businesses and neighbourhoods along the entire length of Smithdown Road - from the Lodge Lane / Town end all the way down to where it becomes Allerton Road. If you're interested in the scope of the project I highly recommend that you visit the facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/smithdownroad or pop into Oomoo during September.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2009.

has anybody got any pictures of the old alpha jiujitsu club over the pet shop on smithdown road in 1920s up to the 1950s

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DerekSeptember 3rd 2013.

where about was this pet shop was it on the corner of tunstall street.

DerekSeptember 7th 2013.

I think it use to be on the corner of Tunstall Street quite a few people have said it was I pet shop that had Monkeys in the window when the was kids going to Sefton Park

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

So it's just what used to be the 'posh' end then?

Balfour InstituteSeptember 4th 2009.

Apparently the Brook Farm pub's just been knocked down. It was named after the farm that stood on the site before Smithdown Road was developed. Scallies always called it 'The Mulliner' however after the grim street of ruffians upon whose corner it was located.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 20th 2014.

Do you have any pictures of the Balfour Institute

DigSeptember 4th 2009.

When did Bernie Eccleston pack in running F1 and start framing pictures on Smithdown?

Richard oswickSeptember 4th 2009.

I was an errand boy for Murphys at one stage, and used to love riding the delivery bike with a big basket holder on the front.

Helen PSeptember 4th 2009.

Nice pictures of a much rundown area of the city. Thanks

Norman KennySeptember 4th 2009.

Awesome pictures..

DJMSeptember 4th 2009.

Re Cliff-Edge Hill. My old Man - Des -was one of the Grocers in white coats you're talking about - In fact I wore one myself in his shop in the early 80's. His shop was on the corner of Greenleaf street - now knocked down - and he took over from his father in the 50's. Good people lived there in those days!

scrittipolittiSeptember 4th 2009.

How do you get a "Clay Oven Kebab" in your mouth?

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

Have you bothered to look at the top end, nearest town, where poor planning and ugly, shoddy Barratt houses have led to widespread dereliction and demolition? Into the 1970s the grocers wore white coats to serve customers and there was a huge range of shops.

miriamSeptember 4th 2009.

I remember richards well got my first black and white telly there in the 60's and thought i was the bee's knee's

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

What was wring with s-w-a-n-k-y?Ok then, 'posh'.

Cliff Edge-HillSeptember 4th 2009.

DJM - your shop was 'Murphy's' was it not! A white sign with maroon lettering.

DJMSeptember 4th 2009.

Re Cliff-Edge Hill. My old Man - Des -was one of the Grocers in white coats you're talking about - In fact I wore one myself in his shop in the early 80's. His shop was on the corner of Greenleaf street - now knocked down - and he took over from his father in the 50's. Good people lived there in those days!

Reilly05January 29th 2013.

i knew des ,barbara,john, i lived on that street for 14 years.was back in 2010 see knocked down ,was a good shop nice people.

SJBJune 17th 2013.

I was also a delivery boy at the shop in the 70's. Miss the people. Sad to see it all knocked down last time I visited. My family had the cycle shop (also gone) on the corner of Tunstall Street. Great memories.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
DerekSeptember 3rd 2013.

Anyone remember the corner shop on Tunstall street Smithdown road end being a petshop or a shop that had Monkeys in the window I've been told that there was would like to know i can only remember it being a bike shop cheers

spokesmanSeptember 3rd 2013.

Great Heavens! Not only was it a bike shop but as nippers in short trews we used to play with Philip Bliss the son of the proprietor! He'd be over fifty now!

DerekSeptember 3rd 2013.

do ya remember any of the lads from Tunstall street ...

DerekSeptember 7th 2013.

The bike shop in the corner of Tunstall Street use to be a pet shop that did have Monkeys in the window sometime between 1920s to 1950s.

spokesmanSeptember 3rd 2013.

Only Paul Williams and Christine Abbey. We were all in he same class at Webster Road School.

1 Response: Reply To This...
DerekSeptember 3rd 2013.

don't ya remember the Ormonds who also went to Webster road and Earle road don't know if our tommy or billy hanged around with paul or our Susan or Barbara was mates with Christine who we only lived two doors away from them.

DerekSeptember 4th 2013.

Plus have you seen your school photo when you was in Webster road ....

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2013.

Jeez, what's this, the Billy Butler show?

4 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleySeptember 4th 2013.

plumbing the depths.

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2013.

Ha! Just because you are so unpopular!

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2013.

And he's always holding his plums

Ray Di O'GagaSeptember 10th 2013.

There's nothing wrong with that. You'd have to be some sort of Wally, to let someone else hold them.

Brian GiblinNovember 17th 2017.

Any Phottees of the Balfour Institute ?? What was its main use Posh School I saw Boxing Club nights there in the 50's The Mulliner was the MULLINER long before Scallies We were the other end No. 3 opposite Earlr road school and St Dunnies cheers brian giblin [ now in New Zealand ] and now 74

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