Glimpse history through old images of Toxteth, Liverpool.
Originally part of Toxteth Park, which was a hunting forest and royal park for about 400 years, the area of Toxteth developed from the 17th century and beyond into first an agricultural area, and then streets of houses and factories.
Today it’s a suburb to the south of Liverpool’s city centre. Moss Lake, the old Pool, the river Dingle and the inlet called Knotts Hole disappeared as development took hold.
The book illustration shown above is of Lower Lodge Farm, where the astrologer Jeremiah Horrox was born. There’s a memorial to him in Westminster Abbey. The lodge was demolished in 1863 to make way for Otterpool Station.
In 1985, an episode of Panorama examined the diverse and financially deprrived community in Toxteth, which had experienced rioting years earlier, and more recent clashes with police. It was a time of large unemployment, and a lot of racism.
Leroy Cooper, a young local poet, was one of the contributers interviewed about life in Liverpool 8, alongside Merseyside Community Relations Officer Rachid Mufti, and self employed builder Delroy Burris.
We also see Michael Showers, then described by local police as Toxteth’s ‘godfather’. (The next few decades saw him arrested and imprisoned in Denmark, Turkey, and the UK, as the former bank robber turned international drug dealer).
Shopkeeper Halima Mohammed’s positive contribution is followed by lovely images of children singing at grandby Street school. The narrator then spoils it all as he states education officials believe black children and their families expect to achieve less and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Shopkeeper Cliff Cummings says children mix happily at school, but for some reason they then part company. Then the issue of unemployment is discussed, with Steve French of South Liverpool Personnel explaining why it was important to champion the cause of black unemployment. The County Council employed about 280 black people, in a workforce of more than 13,000 staff, and the examples went on.
The Liverpool 8 Law Centre, founded with the help of the Rt Rev David Shepherd, Bishop of Liverpool, also ran from the crumbling Georgian terraced houses. The Brotherhood of the Cross and the Star came to sing on the street.
Inspector Christopher Gale and Sergeant Derek Alty were interviewed outside the police station, saying it was not a no-go area, while the elderly Margaret Simey, Chairman of Merseyside Police Committee, talked about ‘rough and tumble’ of policing and talked of the area as the ‘ghetto’.
Kenneth Oxford, Merseyside’s Chief Constable, says the use of soft drugs across the county lead to advice, not criminal action. The programme then looks at the community’s attempts to keep heroin out of the area, including violent vigilantee raids.
After a brief consideration of slavery’s legacy, George Crighton, Chairman of the Merseyside Police Confederation, and Fred Leyland, Secretary of the Merseyside Police Federation, talk of violent episodes against police officers.
Toxteth, Liverpool BBC Panorama 1985 – Anton Chigur on YouTube