Stepping Back In Time At The Hardman House

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.

04.25.022 - Hardman House

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.

04.25.023 - Hardman House

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.

04.25.025 - Hardman House

04.25.026 - Hardman House

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.

04.25.027 - Hardman House

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.

04.25.029 - Hardman House

04.25.030 - Hardman House

04.25.032 - Hardman House

04.25.033 - Hardman House

04.25.034 - Hardman House

The cellars were stuffed too – a massive pebble collection, an old bath and the staff dark room amongst other things.

04.25.035 - Hardman House

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.

04.25.037 - Hardman House

04.25.039 - Hardman House

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.

42 thoughts on “Stepping Back In Time At The Hardman House

    • The living quarters were just fascinating – we hadn’t done any research about the place so didn’t know what to expect but like you say, it had a real twist and was a great place to visit.

    • I know – it seems like there was nothing they didn’t keep and collect!! Every time they stayed in a hotel they took the soap home and kept it in a drawer!! Makes for an interesting afternoon though to see all that “stuff” but don’t think I could live like that!!

    • It’s completely fascinating and just the amount of stuff and what they kept is mind blowing. Apparently every time they went to a hotel they took the soap home – a huge drawer packed full to the top with it and they never used any of the hoard – and that was just the start!!

  1. Went to see this a couple of years ago and, like you, thoroughly enjoyed it. Hard to believe that he was living and working there when I was at the University just up the hill.

    • It’s an incredible place, it was on my radar but took us ages to get around to visiting. We all found it fascinating – just the amount of “stuff” they had was incredible!!

      • We did the tour some time ago and enjoyed it. The houses are ordinary semis and done up as they would have been during the 60s, so brought back lots of childhood memories for me.
        A certain Mr Zimmerman booked on the tour a couple of years ago (anonymously) so you never know who you might end up sitting next to on the mini bus!

  2. This looks so interesting–almost like two entirely different places in one, wth the professional aspect and the personal. And I love that the decision was made to preserve the hoarding aspect and to show it all!

    • That’s exactly what it was like – 2 completely different places and quite intriguing to see how humble their living quarters really were compared to all the space they used for the business. The hoarding aspect just fascinated me – other people’s junk is just so interesting!

  3. I have never heard of this but it does sound fascinating! Like others, I can’t get my head round the idea of taking all that soap with no intention of using it. Two (separate) friends had neighbours who hoarded and their stories were horrific (eg a wall of used teabags) but those were single, elderly men. It must be more unusual for a couple both to have the same mindset I think.

    • My husband is a bit of a hoarder but we balance each other out – I throw things away when he’s not looking!! I know what you mean though, a couple both keeping absolutely everything from pebbles to all that soap. Makes for an intriguing afternoon though and it’s all so well preserved.

  4. What an interesting house preserved ‘in time’. I hadn’t heard of it so its nice that you have written about it. I just love visiting places like this and how intriguing with the humble conditions of the living space compared to the photographic business rooms. We’ve actually become National Trust members this week so that’s another good reason to visit sometime!!

    • This is a great one to visit – we’ve been National Trust members for years now and there are so many good places but this one is just that little bit different. I loved peeking into their living area, it was fascinating and the kind of place you could go back to as it is so hard to take everything in.

  5. What an absolutely fascinating place, just the type of place I enjoy visiting indeed. The photography angle lends an extra layer of interest for me. I have an interest in the history of photography as my Great-Great-Grandfather was a studio photographer from the early 1870s onwards. Indeed, in 1880-81 he was working in Liverpool.

    • You would definitely appreciate this place Laura with that family history! I loved all the old cameras and the studio – the darkroom was also fascinating but then the living quarters and the “junk” – it’s just a really special place and so well preserved.

  6. Joy, how fascinating is this house! Obviously, we didn’t know about this house when we visited Liverpool last summer! I can’t imagine seeing all the interesting things they hoarded. I so enjoyed reading your commentary and taking a peek inside!

    • It’s a bit off the radar Pam so with all the other things to see I’m not surprised you didn’t visit on your Liverpool trip. We’ve been to the city many times and only just visited ourselves – they underplay what there is too, I wasn’t expecting such a treasure trove – it’s incredible!

  7. I love those museums which preserve/recreate life as it was. Trouble is, the older I get I seem to recognise it more and more. Pebbles are interesting, I have got a driftwood collection!

    • Ha, yes starting to know what you mean a bit Andrew!! Lots of people commented about the pebbles and found it very odd, glad to hear about your driftwood collection – my husband and son also collect pebbles!! We have buckets of them from different places and carry them home from all sorts of expeditions. Strange but true…

  8. What a fascinating place Joy – somewhere I’ve never heard of but a real time capsule! Not sure about their hoarding habits though – I can’t imagine collecting all that soap and not using it at all! My late nanna collected sea shells, which she later used to decorate pots so there were always loads of shells lying around at her place. I think people used to have far more cluttered homes as they didn’t like to throw things out with rationing in the war era and afterwards. Items are far more disposable these days – having said that I do have my own piles of clutter!! I do clear things out regularly though! Hope you’ve had a good week after your trip and are enjoying the lovely weather 🙂

    • It was a case of waste not, want not wasn’t it Rosemary – I remember my granny never wasted a thing and could almost turn her hand to anything. I think maybe we’ve gone a bit too far the other way these days but the clutter in this house, great to poke around and see but it would send me right round the twist!! My husband is a hoarder though but I (try) and keep on top of his bad habits!! We’ve been loving all the sunshine, perfect to come back to although my son would say not so great for school!! Hope you have a lovely weekend too.

      • Yes I think there is a happy medium Joy – I could never be a minimalist I love books and a homely feeling in a house but the clutter in the Hardman house would drive me crazy! Enjoy the sunshine and hope it’s the start of a long hot summer! 🙂

    • It was just a really unusual place, we’re big fans of the NT places too but this was just a little more quirky and different than usual. What better than a Chinese banquet to end the day!!

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