Libraries and archives

Watercolour and photography archives

The watercolour and print collection includes works from the 18th century onwards, many of which document the changes as Liverpool grew from a small town with medieval buildings with limekilns, potteries and windmills to a substantial city with an expanding, successful port.

  • Watercolour painting of St George's Hall

It includes the Binns Collection, the Herdman Collection, works by Brierley, Tankard and other local artists.

Photos and small prints

This collection of illustrations of the city of Liverpool has been compiled from a variety of different sources and includes material dating back to the early nineteenth century. It includes photographs as well as small prints and engravings. The majority of illustrations are of Liverpool, although there are also sections for Lancashire and Cheshire. Sources include local photographers, the City Engineer’s Department of Liverpool Corporation, donations to the Record Office and some photographs commissioned by Liverpool Libraries.

An index to the different subjects in the collection is available. Topics include: Churches, Parks and Gardens, Theatres and Cinemas, Hotels and Inns, Docks, Commerce and Industry, Ships, Streets and Districts.

A selection of the most popular subjects in this collection have been laser copied and is available on a self-service basis. Other items from the collection can be consulted in the Search Room. We require at least 48 hours’ notice for the retrieval of photographs.

Housing department photographs

This collection (352HOU) of 12, 000 photographs was deposited by the Housing Department and includes the following:

  • Photographs of nineteenth century housing, such as St Martin’s Cottages, the first municipal tenements to be built in the city
  • Views of insanitary property, taken in the 1920s
  • Suburban housing estates built in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Larkhill, Norris Green, Speke and Woolton.
  • Tenements built in the 1920s and 1930s for re-housing in the central area, replacing demolished insanitary property, warehouse and industrial premises, such as South Hill Road, Myrtle Gardens, Fontenoy Gardens
  • Perspective drawings and plans
  • 1950s and 1960s compulsory clearance areas before demolition

City engineers photograph collection

In 1896 it was decided to keep a photographic record of the work done by the City Engineer's department. This major photographic archive (352 ENG) consists of 158,383 images dating from 1897 to 1995.

They were initially used to support the work of the City Engineer, the Surveyor, the Housing Department and the Medical Officer of Health, showing everyday work such as road improvements, refuse collection and the laying of sewers and major projects, such as the infilling of George’s Dock to build the Liver Building and the reclamation of land to construct Otterspool Promenade. There are also photographs of the work of other departments, major events and general developments in the city.

This collection is of immense value nationally, as well as locally and gives a detailed view of almost every aspect of the development of the City. It provides a comprehensive record of the work of the City Council, which in the first half of the twentieth century provided such services as water supply, electricity supply and hospitals. It is particularly important in recording the city’s pioneering work in town planning, housing, public health and transport.

The first 20,000 photographs covering the period up to 1962 are available and can be searched for in the archive catalogue.  Lists compiled by the City Engineer's Department give the negative number, but are in chronological order, which makes searching for a specific topic after 1962 very time consuming.

Chambré Hardman

A large collection of portraits and some landscapes and local scenes by Edward Chambré Hardman (1898-1988) is held here. Part of the collection is owned by the City Council and part belongs to the National Trust. A Heritage Lottery funded project led by the National Trust has catalogued a large number of the images.

Irish-born Chambré Hardman originally set up a photographic studio with Kenneth Burrell in Liverpool in 1923. The studio gained a reputation for portrait photography, although it was landscapes that enthralled Chambré Hardman. When Burrell left the business in 1926 Chambré Hardman continued to achieve notable success with both landscapes and portraits. He married his assistant, Margaret in 1932, she was also his business partner. They moved to 59 Bold Street in 1949, where they lived and successfully worked for many years. The house is now the property of the National Trust, they also own his many famous photographs which are held in Liverpool Record Office.

Archive collections

Many archive collections contain photographs and details are given in the lists of individual collections. They include records of John Holt and Co (380 HOL), Merseyside Fire Service( M388 MFS), Merseyside Development Corporation (M352 MDC), diaries and papers of the Molyneux family of Sefton (920SEF) and many more.

Requesting photographs

All of these photographs, except for the self-service selection mentioned above, can be consulted in the Search Room by booking an appointment. We require at least 48 hours notice. 

Copying photographs

Digital cameras can be used to copy photographs providing flash is not used. We also have a scanner and images can be scanned to a memory stick. Customers are asked to sign a form stating that these copies are for private use only. We can digitise most of our photographs for a fee and also charge reproduction fees for use of our images which are for publication in any form. Please ask the staff about this.

Use of photographs in publications and for anything other than private use is dependent on copyright and may be subject to a reproduction fee. Please always consult the staff.

Search the archive catalogue