My next task was to find Joseph’s birth certificate. That would show me in which part of Liverpool Sarah and Harris Edellman had made their home.
The birth certificate confirms Joseph’s date of birth as 3 December, 1879, making him about three years and seven months younger than my grandfather. The family surname had been anglicised to Edleman and, in the Ashkenazi tradition of naming a new-born after a deceased relative, Joseph had taken his name from his late paternal grandfather. As witnessed by her mark on the birth certificate, Sarah had not yet acquired any proficiency in English.
The family was living at 63 Blandford Street, Sarah’s address at the time of her marriage to Harris. The street that seemed to have disappeared without trace…
A chance web search led me to a book titled The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900.
The book singles out Blandford Street for its “brothel that catered for old men with a taste in young girls”. Charming.
The density of brothels featured prominently in the book. At one stage, the surrounding area apparently housed 235 brothels and 460 sex workers, living in “tightly packed court housing”. By 1890, the Blandford Street district had become Liverpool’s “capital of debauchery”.
In 1894, Blandford Street was renamed Kempston Street, no doubt in an attempt to erase all evidence of its colourful past.
The riddle of the disappearing street had been solved.
Mention of “tightly packed court housing” had aroused my interest. Had my great-grandmother – and my grandfather – substituted a life in such housing in Sheffield for something similar in Liverpool?
I had no photos to rely upon. But there were maps covering the period.
From Google Maps, I knew that 63 Blandford Street was on the northern side of the street, close to its intersection with Gildart Street.
The above extract from the 1864 Liverpool Town Plan clearly shows the existence of court housing in that part of Blandford Street which was, at that time, called Finch Street.
A 1891 Liverpool Town Plan shows no change to the land use and housing layout. The courts are clearly visible – and marked as such – on the northern side of the street.
The housing has not survived into the twenty-first century. What stands in its place today – a nondescript late twentieth century industrial building – provides no clues about the area’s colourful past or the lives of ordinary citizens who inhabited the area over a hundred years ago.
For that I would have to look elsewhere.