Sunday Sojourn – The Adelphi
Edward RushtonToday, I’m delighted to welcome Carol Maginn to the blog, to talk about the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. Over to you, Carol…
The Case of the Past….
My first novel, Ruin, is set in the indeterminate north of England, and most of the action in my second, Daniel Taylor, takes place in Rome – a city which was my home for a couple of years, and which is, of course, gorgeous.
But now I’ve moved into the past. And into Liverpool. And, specifically, into the Adelphi Hotel.
My hero in The Case of the Adelphi is the assistant manager there, and it, and the city, are major characters. This is despite the fact that original Adelphi was demolished and rebuilt in 1914, and that Liverpool, like every city, has undergone massive changes – including ferocious bombing during WW2 and equally ferocious town planning in the 1960s.
But it’s where I grew up. I was as familiar with St George’s Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, the Steble fountain, and St John’s Gardens as any of my Victorian characters would have been. I worked for a while in the Central Library’s local records office, immersed in information, and this developed my interest in the city’s history. I saw drawings of the original Adelphi, and read about its charismatic manager, James Radley. And as a writer, I realised that, whilst there are a number of novels set in 19th Century London, there are few set in Liverpool, despite its astonishing past.
Liverpool’s story is of extraordinary growth, unbridled capitalism, desperate poverty, and massive public works. There were huge initiatives and personalities – from Kitty Wilkinson, who, as a laundress in the 1830’s, helped to stop a cholera epidemic which was raging through the city, to Edward Rushton, blind radical and MP, who founded the pioneering School for the Blind, to Dr Duncan, the renowned Medical Officer of Health – the first in the UK to hold such a post.
It’s a combination of grandeur – Prince Albert himself came to open the Albert Dock – and chaos. In 1847, over 300,000 Irish immigrants arrived, fleeing famine. The only organisations even remotely equipped to help were the churches, who were quickly overwhelmed. It’s difficult to picture the desperation of that time, or the extremes of wealth and poverty which managed to exist side by side.
Since beginning The Case of the Adelphi , I’ve looked at Liverpool differently. The original seven streets of the city are all still there, and so are some of its grand, late 18th and early 19th century buildings. The Catholic cathedral now stands in place of the city’s main workhouse, and the river, once thickly populated with ships of every size, is peaceful. There are even fish in it.
It’s felt a little weird, trying to recreate a world long gone, especially as this is fiction and not history, but it’s also been a huge pleasure. And I hope my novel will be a tribute to my home city…
Thanks Carol! Look forward to reading the book! You can find out more about Carol and her work here.