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Artwork of the Day – Merchant Palaces

merchant-palaces-1.jpgLiverpool art of the day – Friday February 16 2007. ‘Merchant Palaces’, 36 photographs by Harry Bedford Lemere curated by Joseph Sharples at Lady Lever Art Gallery until May 13 2007

Strange to see a suit of armour on a landing in a Merseyside home but this was about 100 years ago and its in Wilton Grange which was the home of the Cains Brewery family.

Another particularly interesting one is the marble bathroom belonging to Mrs Blackler of the old department store family, even the cistern is covered in marble.

There are 36 high quality photographs of 25 mansions, mostly in the Sefton Park area and a few on the Wirral including Dawpool, Thornton Manor and Bidston Court. There is a map available so that you can see exactly where the houses are – or where, a few have been demolished.

merchant-palaces-2.jpgVast wealth generated by trade at home and abroad meant that the business community was able to splash out on remarkable homes for themselves and their families.

They employed the finest architects, designers and craft workers to create residences reflecting their standing as successful merchants. The mansions and villas were not only homes but grand settings for social events where business deals were often struck.

The amazing interiors of these temples of plenty were recorded by Harry Bedford Lemere, a London-based specialist architectural photographer. He travelled the country recording the homes of the wealthy, sometimes for the owners, sometimes for the architects and designers.

All the original images in the exhibition are from the Bedford Lemere Collection held by the National Monuments Record, the public archive of English Heritage.

Joseph Sharples says: “Many of these photographs were taken when the homes were either brand new or freshly-decorated. The homes were status symbols, bolstering the confidence of the owners and showing their friends and colleagues just how successful they were. Some of these Victorian and Edwardian interiors may seem over-stuffed and over-decorated follies.

“However, they are remarkable images of a vanished world where wealth was expressed through extraordinary buildings and interiors. Several featured houses were the work of highly-sophisticated designers and provided settings for exceptional art collections.