British Museum FTW
It's always fun to find a new source, not least when it's a book written 200 years ago that triggers the search. Americal pioneer chemist and science educator Benjamin Silliman visited London in 1805 and was impressed by what he found at the British Museum (BM) if not by the rushed nature of the visit.
Fast forward 200 years or so and I decided to have a look at the BM website and, in particular, the Collections. I was surprised and delighted to find 183 images credited to the Herdmans. Some are familiar and some are outline sketches but they are an extremely convenient addition to those in Kay Parrot's book (among others) and, of course, various archives, websites and community boards.
It's important to remember that the Herdmans were active 30 or more years after the 5-year stint of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) Company's coach office in Dale Street so much could have changed. However, I doubt that the changes were as profound as those recorded by 1934 which is when the distant aerial view of the corner of Dale Street and Moorfields was taken.
By 1934 the buildings, a hotel and two shops, had been stripped back to their basic red brick. I'd some idea this wasn't true in the 1860s as a picture in Kay's book (also on the BM site) has them mainly in white (maybe paint, maybe stucco) but so small that it's hard to make out any detail. I was delighted then to find an image from the BM looking down Moorfields that provides much better detail.
Images from the BM website are available CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 with higher resolutions available via email post-registration. The collection was acquired with a few sketches by Herdman collaborators and in my view is best browsed using list mode.
What does the 1858 Moorfields image tell us?
Firstly I'm sticking to the idea that the coach office was in the middle of the Dale Street block (described as "adjoining" in the hotel's adverts) although we now see evidence of a third shop within the hotel itself that is accessed via Dale Street. The main entrance to the hotel is now a much grander affair in Moorfields and the hotel is much more regal as befits the name Eastwood's Royal Hotel (although the image shows it now owned by Powell). The hotel is notably absent from the 1824 map.
The hypothetical coach office is now a stationers although it is unclear whether it encompasses both shops. It was a hardware store originally and subsequently a drapers after the L&MR moved to Lime Street. The original OpenSim store was loosely modelled on hardware stores in nearby Stanley Street which were less refined than the one we see here. Of course, it's hard to know precisely how 1858 relates to 1830 but I think the more up-market appearance would have been a selling-point for the premium clients the L&MR was hoping to attract. I am guessing, however, that the hotel did not sub-let to other businesses initially and that the addition of the shop took place post-1836.
Important update: According to the book The Liverpool & Manchester Railway by RHG Thomas, the coaching office was located in rather than (as per adverts) adjoining the hotel. That suggests that the previous two paragraph are incorrect and that the office was probably the space sub-let. The book by Thomas was published in 1980 and I have only just obtained a copy. It is the most detailed and authoritative account I have seen.
[Update: Although its purpose almost certainly changed, a photo shows that the hotel appears to have survived at least until 1955 (Moorfields in general seems to have changed remarkably little over that timeframe)]
I have no idea why I didn't find this sooner but at least I'm glad I found it now. Is there another repository of Herdmans I've not seen? I will modify the build in due course and add an image here. It goes without saying that the pictures will be immensely useful for new builds.
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