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Home of The Cavern & Eric’s Club – Mathew Street, Liverpool: What’s In a Name?

Home of The Cavern & Eric’s Club – Mathew Street, Liverpool: What’s In a Name?

 Above Photo: How Pluckington Alley, the former Mathew Street, would have looked 300 years ago. (Painting by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872))

Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous music streets, if not THE most famous.

It was home to the Cavern Club, where the Beatles and many other Merseybeat bands played in the 1960s, and subsequently, in the late 1970s and early 1980, it was also home to Eric’s Club, which was the epicenter of the Liverpool New Wave and Punk revolution.

Detail of a 1577 Map of Liverpool (Dave Wood Flikr). Many places are referenced in Bombed Out! too, especially Toxteth to the south, and Kirkdale, Bootle and Crosby to the north.

Detail of a 1577 Map of Liverpool (Dave Wood, Flikr). Many places are referenced in Bombed Out! too, especially Toxteth to the south, and Kirkdale, Bootle and Crosby to the north.

I’ve always been interested in the history of Mathew Street, especially the thought that the buildings accommodating the Punk and New Wave scene, including the one that housed Eric’s, restaurants like the Armadillo Tea Rooms, rehearsal space such as we used in Temple Court when I was in a little-known band (outside of Liverpool, anyway) called Pink Military Stand Alone, and clothes and music shops like Probe, were originally built to store fresh fruit and vegetables imported at Liverpool docks in the nineteenth and early twentieth Centuries.

Formerly Punk record and clothes shop, Probe, around the corner from Eric's

Formerly Punk record and clothes shop, Probe, around the corner from Eric’s, in an old fruit and vegetable warehouse (Peter Alan Lloyd)

The Cavern was also located in a former fruit and vegetable warehouse on Mathew Street.

The entrance to the Cavern Club, in a Mathew Street warehouse.

The entrance to the Cavern Club, in a Mathew Street warehouse. (Inacityliving, Facebook)

I recently read a superb article by Scott Wheeler, which detailed an even earlier history of Mathew Street, from its earliest beginnings as a cart track, which passed over agricultural land owned by a Mr Mathew Pluckington.

This is a summary of that article. I have added photos for illustration.

The old walls of the Pool of Liverpool.(liverpoolmuseums.org)

The old walls of the Pool of Liverpool (liverpoolmuseums.org)

The Pool of Liverpool was a deep, narrow, natural channel that cut into the eastern bank of the Mersey near the present site of the Albert Dock and penetrated to the northeast, through the present-day city centre, into the area now occupied by Canning Place, South John Street and Whitechapel.

Map of Mathew Street Liverpool City centre and the docks in 1883 (Dave Wood flikr). I have circled Mathew Street in red, and marked out Whitechapel and North John Street where the Pool of Liverpool ended. Note the distance from the docks and River Mersey.

Map of Mathew Street Liverpool City centre and the docks in 1883 (Dave Wood, flikr). I have circled Mathew Street in red, and marked out Whitechapel and North John Street where the Pool of Liverpool ended. Note the distance from the docks and River Mersey.

The Pool provided a convenient means of travel and goods transport between the riverfront and the largely undeveloped land to the east, where Mathew Street now lies, and boats were actually built on the banks of the Pool at Whitechapel.

A view of Liverpool in 1813 (Gutenberg.org)

A view of Liverpool in 1813 (Gutenberg.org)

Mr. Pluckington’s path, or what is now called Mathew Street, ran from present-day North John Street to Stanley Street, lying only a short distance from the Pool. His parcel of land was practically waterfront property and therefore a prime piece of commercial real estate.

It is likely that cargoes of fruit and other imported produce were sailed straight up the Pool from the River Mersey, unloaded directly from its bank, and hauled away a few hundred feet up the slope along Pluckington Alley/Mathew Street.

More warehouses - on the corner of Mathew Street and Temple Court (Peter Alan Lloyd)

More warehouses – on the corner of Mathew Street and Temple Court (Peter Alan Lloyd). Note the three windows in the left of the building adjacent to the corner of Mathew Street.

The city reclaimed the land covered by the pool in the 1700s for residential and commercial development.

Within the space of only a few decades Mr. Pluckington’s humble dirt lane developed into a busy commercial thoroughfare — known for generations as Pluckington’s Alley, later renamed Mathew Street after Mathew Pluckington himself — with rows of warehouses built for the storage of fruit and other food products unloaded from the produce ships arriving daily on the Mersey.

Now Pluckington Alley sees an entirely different kind of traffic. Police and revellers on mathew Street. Note the three windows in the building to the right of the photo, in Temple Court.

Now Pluckington Alley sees an entirely different kind of traffic. Police and revellers on the corner of Mathew Street. (Peter Alan Lloyd)

By the early 1700s rows of imposing, multi-story brick buildings lined both sides of the former country lane, and a steady, noisy traffic of horses, wagons and pedestrians squeezed up and down the street, clambering over cobblestones greasy with trampled produce dropped from passing wagons.

Mathew Street and Temple Court in the 1970s. Note the same three windows in the Temple Court building again.

Mathew Street and Temple Court in the 1970s. Note the same three windows in the Temple Court building again. (Inacityliving)

Despite the overwhelming changes visited upon Mathew Street over the past three centuries, some of the present buildings stand on sites that have been used for similar purposes for hundreds of years.

Flannagan's Apple (formerly the Armadillo Tea Rooms) on the left, the Grapes pub on the right, looking up Mathew Street towards the Cavern, which was located ont he left, and Eric's which was located on the right.(calvers.blogspot.com)

Flannagan’s Apple (formerly the Armadillo Tea Rooms) on the left, the Grapes pub on the right, looking up Mathew Street towards the Cavern, which was located on the left, and Eric’s which was located on the right.(calvers.blogspot.com)

The Grapes pub was originally an inn, complete with pub and stables, as far back as the 18th century, and a public house may have been operating continuously on the site of for at least 300 years.

Eric's Club, 9 Mathew Street, located in an old warehouse.

Eric’s Club, 9 Mathew Street, located in an old warehouse. (Google)

The original Cavern Club building stood at 10 Mathew Street, almost opposite Eric’s (which was located in 9 Mathew Street), until it was demolished. The building housing the Cavern, like the one that hosted Eric’s, began its career simply as one more undistinguished produce storage warehouse among many.

Crowds gather outside the Cavern in the 1960s. Twenty years later, Eric's would open in the warehouse to the left of the photo, just past the large delivery bay.

Crowds gather outside the Cavern in the 1960s. A few years later, Eric’s would open in the warehouse to the left of the photo, just past the large delivery bay. (Inacityliving)

Another warehouse located further down the street at number 18, which now houses the Irish pub Flanagan’s Apple, took its name from the days when the building was used for storing large quantities of apples. Back in my day, it was called the Armadillo Tea Rooms and served up great food.

All the buildings mentioned in this article, and of course Mathew Street and the surrounding roads itself, are frequently referred to in my 1970s-1980s music, Liverpool, band and Eric’s memoir of growing up through that time, called Bombed Out!, which also highlights historical links between the city in the 1970s and 1980s, and other periods of Liverpool history stretching back much further in time.

Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php

The corner of Mathew Street and Temple Court in 1925. Note the same three windows in the Temple Court building (Inacityliving)

The corner of Mathew Street and Temple Court in 1925. Note the same three windows in the Temple Court building. The three men are standing where the police van is parked in the photo above. (Inacityliving)

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 www.bombedoutpunk.com © Peter Alan Lloyd

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4 Comments

  1. J lewis

    Queuing up outside the Cavern on a Saturday afternoon or during a school lunch hour to see the Undertakers or the Roadrunners in the early 1960s the area was alive as huge lorryloads of fruit were hoisted high into the warehouses in Matthew Street. Sometimes there’d be a lot of shouting and screaming as a huge tropical spider fell out of a load of bananas. The wait was further enhanced by the pungent smell of rotting oranges which littered the street. I can never think of the Cavern without these smells and images.

    Reply
  2. NVA (@SayNo2Violence)

    Why are you adding your logo to other people’s pics? I like the info, but that spoils your page.

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      So when my articles get ripped off and translated into Chinese and Japanese without any attribution to me, the photographers (where known) or the website, people can find their way back to my site and see the original article format. The Copyright Notice on my site contains further information.

      Reply

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