Thursday, 19 March 2015

Our Winter Works

It's March! Spring is on its way, and more importantly, The Hardmans’ House is coming out of hibernation. Edward and Margaret’s doors re-opened to the public yesterday (Wednesday 18th), and we look forward to fascinating a new wave of visitors with the Hardmans’ life story over the coming months. We’re kick starting the year by running a series of blog posts giving you an insight into what happens in the house between November and March. What you might be surprised to hear is that in many ways, the 5 month period in which the house is closed, is busier than when we’re open to the public!
As much as we love the Hardmans’, they did have a tendency of never throwing anything away. Although this means we have a gloriously detailed collection to be put on display, it also means that there are around 13,000 artefacts that must be checked and monitored each year – no matter how small they may be! To put this into perspective, Speke Hall our neighbouring Trust property, has a mere 7,500 objects, despite its mansion house proportions. If you’re interested in seeing what intriguing objects we’ve got squirreled away in drawers and cupboards, you can view our collection online at, just search under 59 Rodney Street to find out more!
Over the Winter, our team of staff and volunteers dedicate their time to ‘putting the house to bed’. All renovation and conservation works have to be completed before the open season, so it can be a bit of a race against the clock to get everything done in time! The exhibition must be taken down and put back into storage, fitted dust sheets must be brought out to cover the furniture, and the whole house must be cleaned from top to bottom. We’ve also had some more adventurous projects to keep us on our toes this year. Our longcase clock has been restored along with many other of Mr Hardman’s watches and clocks. An inventory photography project got underway, with a studio being set up in the exhibition room to begin the mammoth task of providing online visual records of our collections. There were fire safety works to be done, dry rot in the skirting boards to see to, windows that had to be replaced, as well as having to reorganise and track the contents of the cellar after the woodworm infestation of last year. All in all it’s been a very busy Winter!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been drawing the works to a close, ready to put everything back in its rightful place for opening. Our wonderful new exhibition ‘From Street To Studio’ has been installed and the contents of the cellar have been brought back and put in their original positions after being in ‘deep freeze’ for several months.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what we’ve been up to at The Hardmans’ House, keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates from the blog. Or even better, come talk to our volunteers and see for yourself! Tours will be running Wednesdays – Saturdays, 11:00am – 3:30pm, why not book a place today?

Megan Thrift
Winter Conservation Volunteer
The Hardmans' House

Friday, 10 May 2013

In front of the lime light, behind the lens…

Hardman and the Playhouse have a long and fruitful history. Both sat firmly within the centre of Liverpool’s creative heartbeat, with the Playhouse commissioning new, exciting work with local artists, and Hardman capturing the famous faces, moods and moments of the theatre.

The Playhouse opened its doors in 1911 as the Liverpool Repertory Theatre. Before then though it had links to an earlier musical theatre, the Star Music Hall, which was established in 1866. In 1922, the ambitious pair of Kenneth Burrell and Edward Chambre Hardman, returned to England after serving in the Ghurkha Rifles. They had grand plans to establish a photographers' studio in the city, but to do this, they needed money, talent and appropriate social connections.

This is where Burrell came into his own. Hardman was new to Liverpool, but Burrell had the social connections and financial backing to gain entry to middle and upper-class clientele. This, when combined with Hardman's talent, helped to establish a reputation for producing prestigious works of photography. 

A year later the ‘Burrell and Hardman’ photographers’ studio opened in 1923. That same year they joined The Sandon Studio Society, the epicentre of Liverpool artists, photographers and architects. Unsurprisingly, portrait work for important figures in art and society was to follow. Hardman photographed fellow members of the society including the artist Henry Carr, Herbert Tyson Smith the sculptor of the Liverpool Cenotaph (and lifelong friend of Hardman), as well as important figures in the Playhouse such as Professor Charles Reilly.  This led to portrait work for members of the Playhouse, many of whom went on to become British film stars and household names.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Business Winds Down

In 1953, Hardman's business begins to struggle and as the number of clients dwindled, he applied for numerous jobs to supplement his income. The jobs he applied for included a job with Kodak, a position as senior lecturer at Guildford's School and as a secretary to the Bluecoat Society of Arts.

It was during this time that Kenneth Burrell died in 1953 - although his association with the business had ceased completely in 1929, the pair remained friends and kept in regular contact.

In 1958 (also the year Hardman's mother passed away) the decision was made to close the Chester Studio as it was no longer financially viable. The Rodney Street Studio remained open until 1965, when Hardman officially retired, although he did still take portraits if they were requested. At this time, the annual turnover for the business was at £900 per annum and only part-time assistants were employed. Hardman was also teaching photographic classes for the Army to subsidise his income.

Edward Chambre Hardman with Rolleiflex, taken by Mrs Hewlett in 1969

It was during one of these evening photography classes at Chester Army Barracks in 1969, that the well-known image of Hardman with his Rolleiflex was taken. For the assessment at the end of the course, each student was required to take a portrait of another member of the group. Due to the fact that there was an odd number of students, Mrs Hewlett (who was the wife of the course organiser Colonel Hewlett) was paired with Mr Hardman. For many years, the photograph was incorrectly attributed to Margaret Hardman.

Here are just a few of the photographs taken during Hardman's evening classes at the barracks:

Abstract Pattern - taken during the 1950s
 This pattern was made using the light traces created by a swinging pendulum. Hardman's notes on the back of the prine read:  'A very wide field of Photography is covered in the Army Photographic Classes.'

Combs and Shadows - taken in the 1950s
This photograph shows combs arranged on a table with light shining through them to create interesting shadows. This was a piece created as a class exercise in table top photography at the Army Photography Class Hardman ran in Chester.

Illustration for Christmas Card - taken in the 1950s
This photograph is another table top photograph taken at the Army Photography Class Hardman ran in Chester. It is labelled 'Illustration for Christmas Card, Class Exercise in Table Top Photography, No. 26 A.E.C. Photography Classes’

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Birth of the Ark Royal

Edward Chambre Hardman took the Birth of the Ark Royal in 1950. This is an article about the photograph written by The Hardmans' House Custodian, Sarah-Jane Langley.

The Birth of the Ark Royal - taken in 1950

Edward Chambré Hardman made Liverpool his adopted home in 1924, setting up his portrait studio at 51a Bold Street. At the height of his business he was able to move his home and studio to the more prestigious address of 59 Rodney Street, with a second studio at 27 St Werbugh Street, Chester. Hardman would work three days a week at each of these studios, commuting from his Rodney Street home. It was during these regular journeys to Chester that he was able to view the ‘birth’ of one of the most famous aircraft carriers, The HMS Ark Royal. Replacing her predecessor (which had been torpedoed in 1941), the ship had been built over the course of five years at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Tranmere, Birkenhead. By 1950, the time when Hardman was a regular commuter past this historic shipyard, the ship was completed and painted with a white undercoat that made it stand out amidst the gloom of its surroundings. As Hardman himself remembered, ‘it stood out from the smoke and muck of Merseyside, in fact it was the smoke and muck of Merseyside that attracted me to it’

Having settled on taking a photograph of the newly completed ship, Hardman then had to find a good vantage point from which to capture this image. As a pictorialist photographer, Hardman saw his work as pieces of art rather than documentary records and as such was looking for a suitably artistic composition in his finished photograph. He scoured the areas nearby, taking photographs from different viewpoints, until he settled on a location at the top of Holt Hill. From here he could capture the Ark Royal in all its glory, seemingly floating above the rooftops of Tranmere. Again, in his search for a perfect composition, he decided to wait for a suitable subject to fill the otherwise empty expanse of foreground – by chance, a small boy delivering papers began to walk down the hill away from Hardman. Again, a number of photographs were taken, each showing the boy at different stages on his journey with Hardman choosing the most suitable one to be worked upon in his darkroom.

As he saw his landscapes as pieces of art, Hardman would often work extensively on the negatives to create the perfect image. In retrospect Hardman stated ‘I was trying to recreate what I had seen, to produce an effect, and anything that goes against the effect I want, I rule out’. The Ark Royal was no different, with thorough alterations being made to details within the composition: the gable end of the house was whitewashed as it clashed with the Ark Royal’s undercoat - using a red dye on the negative, he darkened it to ensure the focus was the ship in the background; while walking down the hill, one of the boy’s socks had fallen down around his ankle, again using a dye Hardman effectively ‘painted in’ the sock up to the boy’s knee; Hardman also used dyes to carry out minor ‘touch ups’, deleting litter from the floor and darkening any details that appeared too bright.

Once this work was carried out, Hardman printed the finished photograph in his personal darkroom at 59 Rodney Street, exhibiting it under the title ‘Where Great Ships Are Built’. It was under this title that it appeared in the British Journal of Photography, 1959. At a later date it assumed the more familiar title ‘Birth of the Ark Royal’, the name by which it is still known today, and has come to be considered as one of Hardman’s most iconic photographs.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Rodney Street Studio

Staff on Doorstep of 59 Rodney Street - taken by E. Chambre Hardman in 1950

The lease on the Hardmans' Bold Street studio was due to expire in 1948, so the Hardmans decided to take the opportunity to improve their premises and move to a larger building. They sold their home in Barnston Village to fund this move and bought 59 Rodney Street on 14th January 1949 for £4250. At this time the business had a staff of 10 and an annual turnover of £3,800. Rodney Street is often called  'The Harley Street of Liverpool', housing many doctors and consultants and was an affluent and prestigious address. 59 Rodney Street was not only their business premises, but their home as well and the Hardmans occupied just 3 small rooms at the back of the house - a Bedroom, Living Room and Kitchen on the first floor with their Bathroom being situated on the second floor.

The Studio - Undated, taken by E. Chambre Hardman

They kept their Chester Studio on and Mr. Hardman continued to work there for three days each week taking portraits. The negatives would then be brought to the Rodney Street Studio to be processed and printed.

Here are a few of the photographs Edward Chambre Hardman took of Rodney Street:

Front Door, Rodney Street - Undated, taken by E. Chambre Hardman
Rodney Street from Upper Duke Street - taken by E. Chambre Hardman in 1960

Rodney Street - taken by E. Chambre Hardman in 1972

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Three Stacks, Barnston

Some time in the early to mid 1940s, the Hardmans moved form their rented flat on Hope Street to Barnston Village on the Wirral. They bought Three Stacks at 21 Private Drive. This was perfectly situated as it was positioned mid way between their studios in Liverpool and Chester. By coincidence, the designer of Three Stacks was Francis Xavier Velarde - a friend of Edward Chambre Hardman's.

Here are some of the photographs the Hardmans took of the Wirral:

Summertime on Bidston Hill - taken 1932
A Sand Yacht on the River Dee - undated

Capenhurst, Cheshire - undated

Country Lane and Bridge, Dibbinsdale - undated

Snowy Woodland, Barnston - undated

Thatched House on Wirral Peninsula - undated

Willaston Windmill - undated

Winter Sunshine in the Old Quarry - undated

Sunday, 8 July 2012

World War Two - Portraits from 1945

This is the last in our series of portraits of World War Two service people. These photographs were all taken in 1945:

Lieutenant H. G. Rowland - taken 23rd February 1945
Lieutenant H. G. Rowland of Pendower, Wrexham, in military uniform. Order placed on 12th March 1945 6 for 1 Special Small Gold Portrait.

Captain Rider - taken 17th April 1945
Lieutenant Rider of Cluny Cottage, Upton by Chester. Order placed 20th May 1945 for 3 small gold portraits and 3 miniature portraits.

ASO Wetton, RAF - taken 16th July 1945
Assistant Section Officer Wetton of Blackbrook, Heydock, St Helens. Order placed on 14th August 1945 for 2 Small Gold Portraits and 2 Special Small Gold Portraits.

Lieutenant N. F. Nicholson - taken 28th July 1945
Lieutenant N. F. Nicholson, of Wayside, Llanarmon, in Scottish Military Uniform sitting with his arms crossed. Order placed 19th January 1946 for 2 small gold portraits. Second order placed 15th August 1948 for 2 prints.