National Trust reopens Liverpool photographers’ 1950s ‘time capsule’ home and studio
After having to close its doors in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the National Trust is reopening one of Liverpool city centre’s hidden gems for visitors to enjoy special guided tours.
One of four properties owned and cared for by the National Trust in Liverpool, the terraced Georgian house of 59 Rodney Street was the home and photographic studio of Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret between 1949 and 1988.
All four floors of the property are still filled with cameras, studio equipment and other objects left over from their business, as well as the Hardmans’ personal items, including a kitchen stocked with decades-old food packaging and Margaret’s clothes and jewellery.
Irish-born Edward became the leading portrait photographer in Liverpool from the 1920s to the 1960s, taking portraits of many celebrities of the age including Ivor Novello, Margot Fonteyn and Patricia Routledge. Margaret Hardman, who was an accomplished photographer in her own right, managed their successful business.
Edward is also noted for his photographs of the British landscape and Liverpool’s mid-20th century transformation. After he passed away in 1988, the house and a vast archive of photographic prints, negatives and records were acquired by the National Trust in 2003. The house has opened on a seasonal basis for guided tours ever since.
“After having to close last year due to the pandemic, we’re delighted to finally be welcoming back visitors to explore this hidden gem in Liverpool,”
says Michelle Yunqué Alvarado, collections and house manager at the National Trust.
“The Hardmans were a fascinating couple and not only are their photographs a valuable record of mid-20th century life in Britain, but their home is a must-see experience in its own right.
“Many people from Liverpool and beyond came here to have their portrait taken by Mr Hardman, and those portraits might still be hanging on their children’s or grandchildren’s walls today. For some people, a visit to the Hardmans’ House is a personal journey. For most people, it’s a chance to truly step back in time to when photography was a rare art form.”
Visitors will be able to step inside the impressive Georgian house on Rodney Street as part of a guided tour. The tours last 45 minutes and take visitors to explore three floors of the property including the photographic studio, dark room and the Hardmans’ own living quarters.
Visitors can also explore Agency of Women, a new contemporary art exhibition by artist-in-residence Tabitha Jussa. It features a collection of black and white and hand coloured portraits of 17 women at the forefront of Liverpool’s arts and culture today, taken in the Hardmans’ studio early last year. Jussa has been inspired by Margaret Hardman, the female workforce employed by the Hardmans and the women who came to have their portraits taken at 59 Rodney Street.
Also on show is a new display of E. Chambré Hardman photographs, including Birth of the Ark Royal, one of his most famous photographs which shows a boy walking down Holt Hill in Birkenhead and a newly-painted white HMS Ark Royal in the distance. Earlier this year, the photograph was included in the new book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust, selected as one of the National Trust’s most important collection items.
Entry to the Hardmans’ House is by guided tour only on Fridays and Saturdays between 17 September – 6 November. Spaces are limited so booking is recommended to guarantee a spot on a tour.
Tickets can be booked online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardmans-house or by telephone on 0344 249 1895. Entry is free for National Trust members, but booking is essential.
Alongside reopening the property to visitors, the National Trust is continuing with a significant project that began in late 2019 to catalogue, conserve and digitise thousands of items in the E. Chambré Hardman Photographic Collection, the archive of the Hardmans’ life and work which is stored at the Record Office at Liverpool Central Library. To find out more about the project, go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardmans-house/features/revealing-the-archive