After a morning exploring Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral we spent an intriguing afternoon at the Hardman House. This is a National Trust property just a short stroll away at 59 Rodney Street. They recommend you book in advance, we did this just the previous afternoon, only a limited number of people at any one time can be accommodated in the house and so entrance is by timed guided tour. A gloomy Saturday seemed to be the right time to visit, we were able to take our pick as far as time was concerned. I read when booking the visit would take 1.5 hours, hard to believe looking at the house but it absolutely did. What’s more, every second inside was fascinating – we all agreed on that, Son was as captivated by this place as we were.
This was the home and business premises of a renowned photographer E Chambre Hardman and his wife Margaret. They lived and worked together for 40 years, were esteemed photographers and also (and most interesting for me) hoarders. This house is packed to the rafters with prints, books, postcards, toiletries, food (some dating back to the war years) and so much more. They kept everything and changed nothing. It is is like stepping back in time.
Rodney Street is impressive too – apparently known as the Harley Street of Liverpool due to the number of medical consulting rooms, the grand terraced houses are beautiful with wrought iron balconies. This house was also once a consulting room and there are a few washbasins in various rooms from those times.
We were shown around the house by four different and very well informed guides. The tour began on the ground floor in the room Hardman once used as a changing room. We watched a video about the photographer and his work and were then led into the front room – the office where they discussed portraits with customers.
The first floor has the photographic studio – all full of lights, cameras and framed photographs. There are toys spread around which they used to entertain children and so many cameras, lights and bits of kit. Son got to strike a pose in the chair and an excellent guide explained the workings of some of the old cameras – sounds dry but it was compelling. We also got to see the dark room.
We browsed a little while in the exhibition about Hardman and his time as a soldier in India but then came the piece de resistance – the couple’s living quarters.
The house is grand, beautiful and so impressive – except for the part where they actually lived. Just three cramped rooms, the Hardmans obviously did not believe in luxurious living. It is fascinating, even here they threw nothing away. In a bedroom drawer were hundreds of bars of soap – collected from hotel stays. The living room had piles of newspapers, magazines and in the tiny kitchen we saw one cupboard full of old food and Mrs Hardman’s false teeth.
The cellars were stuffed too – a massive pebble collection, an old bath and the staff dark room amongst other things.
We saw one last room where the portraits were finished and framed and then walked through the garden past an Anderson shelter on the way out.
An entirely fascinating and wonderful place, definitely an afternoon well spent. Afterwards another short walk to Liverpool’s China Town where we ended the day feasting on a delicious Chinese banquet.