The Grand and Provincial Grand Officer’s Luncheon Club members were spoilt to the extreme at their luncheon as they were so fortunate in having as their guest speaker, local celebrity and historian, Dr Frank Carlyle.
His fantastic knowledge with regard to Liverpool area history, both of its populace and buildings, can have rarely been surpassed. He has been expanding the merits of Liverpool’s local history since 1990 and is regarded as one of the foremost national experts on the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
Appearing many times on television due to his involvement in numerous historical themes, he has also written a book on the history of Liverpool and produced a number of similar themed DVDs. Frank has a unique and uncanny knack of bringing his talks to life and involving his audiences, which was shown to good effect at the Luncheon Club.
As the Luncheon Club meets in the magnificent surroundings of Liverpool Masonic Hall, the centre of the Georgian quarter of the City, it was fitting that Frank started his talk with the story of ‘The Bodies in the Barrels’, which took place only a few yards away. Again, situated just across the road, the story rolled on and Frank informed all that the first purpose-built Medical Institute was right here in Liverpool. Also in Hope Street, we have the memorial to the band that played on the Titanic, situated very appropriately within the Philharmonic Hall, formerly the site of the house of the street’s early resident, Mr Hope.
Moving further along is Blackburne House, given to the city by Mr Holt as a place to educate women and was the first ‘all girl’s’ grammar school in the country. Either end of Hope Street are two ecclesiastical buildings, the monumental Liverpool Cathedral at the far end and nearest to the Masonic Hall and the Roman Catholic Metropolitan edifice designed by Fred Gibberd showing his Aztec influenced style which he adopted from the city of Brasilia. His other major achievements included the Didcot Power Station and Regents Park mosque.
It was from Liverpool University that Sir Oliver Lodge gave the first radio broadcast in the world, with a message to his wife, who was sitting in a ‘recovery room’ constructed within Lewis’s. The message for such a momentous occasion is recorded for posterity as: “My dear, I’ll be home later.” The Victorian buildings of Liverpool University gave rise to the now well-known phrase, ‘Red Brick University’, it being the first to have been built in that style, its clock was designed by Sir Alfred Waterhouse. The clock face itself was the first to be made as a mosaic and indeed is the only one in existence.
Running parallel to Hope Street is Rodney Street, (sometimes called the Harley Street of the North), is unique in itself as one thinks about all the brilliant minds who have lived here at some time such as Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain on four occasions, Thurston Holland who pioneered the first usable x-ray machine, author Nicholas Monsarrat, Arthur Clough the assistant to Florence Nightingale and Henry Booth an avid supporter of the early railway system who became a director of the London and North Western Railway and whose cousin was the famous actor Junius Brutus Booth. The younger son of Junius, John Wilkes Booth also an actor is better remembered for assassinating Abraham Lincoln, an American President and a supporter of the Unionist States during the American Civil War.
Also born in Rodney Street was Felicia Browne Heman, a celebrated poet whose first line of her poem Casabianca is known to all, ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’. This commemorates Giocante, the young son of Commander Louis de Casabianca, a boy somewhere between 10 and 13 years old who remained at his post on the French vessel ‘Orient’ at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 after the ship had taken fire and all the guns had been abandoned. He perished in the explosion of the vessel, when the flames had reached the powder, although another story has it that Giocante himself set fire to the ships magazine to stop it falling into British hands.
Frank Carlyle’s breadth of knowledge seemed to be boundless and the hours flew by, stories of the Confederate Consulate and Navy based in Liverpool, Ferranti living at the top of Bold Street, the first wet dock in the world, the overhead railway, St George’s Hall built on the site of what was the lunatic asylum, the necropolis at Grant Gardens. An afternoon that will long be remembered by all present and I should think that without doubt Frank will be invited to make a return visit at some time in the future.