The Hardmans’ House, also known as 59 Rodney Street, is a little gem in the heart of the Georgian Quarter in Liverpool. It is quite different from what one would expect from a National Trust property, but it does not disappoint. Located only a few steps away from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, 59 Rodney Street was the home of renowned photographer Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Ethel Margaret (née Mills), his former assistant and a photographer herself. Edward and Margaret moved in their new home in the late 1940s and a good portion of the building was rearranged to house a photographic studio.
The members of the National Trust staff at the Hardmans’ House care for a collection that includes over 13,000 objects and 140,000 photographic images. This immense patrimony risked to end up in a skip when Edward, in his later years, became too frail to look after himself. Margaret had died in 1970. The collection was then saved by Peter Hagerty, the first Director of Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, who convinced Edward to set a Trust that managed the property after his death in 1988. In 2002 the National Trust acquired the property that opened to the public two years later. The Hardmans’ House was restored to its 1950s/1960s appearance, during the years of Edward’s thriving business.
As part of the work placement experience for my MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the Hardmans’ House, I was offered the opportunity to design interpretive material for the garden located at the back of the property. I carried out intensive research and I learned a lot about Edward and Margaret, Rodney Street and the Georgian Quarter. I found out about many details in the history of Liverpool that I did not know. For example, the stone ornaments that decorate the garden ornaments are attributed to Liverpool-born sculptor George Herbert Tyson Smith, one of Edward’s dearest friends, who carved the Liverpool Cenotaph on St George’s Plateau, in front of St George’s Hall, and contributed to the building of the Anglican Cathedral, which Edward documented with his photo camera.
One of my favourite moments at the Hardmans’ House was when the house ‘woke up’ from its winter sleep. Every year, in winter the house is closed to the public for conservation and cleaning, and all objects and furniture are covered up. When I saw the house ready for welcoming visitors, I felt like I was setting foot in the building for the first time.