The story of those who lived in one house, from the time it was built until now. David Olusoga traces the history of the house in Liverpool from 1945 to the present day.
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When we live in a house, we're just passing through.
People have occupied it before us,
others will take our place when we leave.
100 human dramas played out in every room.
Every house in Britain has a story to tell, but in this series, I'm
going to uncover the secret life of just one -
a single townhouse here in Liverpool...
UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYS
..a city that rivalled New York in the late 19th century,
yet 100 years later was one of the poorest places in Europe.
In many ways, 62 Falkner Street is an ordinary house.
But as I'm going to show you,
in reality it's an amazing treasure trove.
He leaves them not just £100 but all also number 62 Falkner Street.
In March 1885, again in this house,
he grabbed her by the throat and assaulted her.
The life that you can see recorded in these old documents is
extraordinary. Delving into the archives,
I'll use the personal histories of the residents of this house to
reveal the story of Britain over almost 200 years...
..a period of seismic social change,
from the early years of Victoria's reign,
right through to the present day.
In this episode, the swinging '60s engulf Liverpool...
..a famous neighbour arrives...
The door burst open and the arrival of John Lennon, see.
The residents witness riots, destruction,
and the coming of an epidemic.
And the very existence of our house hangs by a thread.
And if the house is vacant, then it was at serious risk of
I'm going on the ultimate detective hunt, to discover lives that haven't
been recorded in the history books,
but which can tell us a new version of our nation's past -
a new history of Britain hidden within the walls of a single house.
Welcome to number 62 Falkner Street.
This Georgian-style townhouse was built as a gentleman's residence
in one of the Empire's great trading hubs - Liverpool.
The area in which it sits,
Liverpool 8, has gone from being a middle-class enclave to a mixed
neighbourhood where people of different races,
classes and religions live cheek by jowl.
The house, too, has slid down the social scale.
It's gone from smart, single dwelling house, to boarding house,
to a series of cheap rented rooms.
Its first resident - a Liverpool
customs clerk, had moved in back in 1841,
and since then, more than 50 people had called this house their home.
I want to find out what happened to the house from the post-war years
As well as sifting through electoral rolls, directories
for the first time, I'll meet some of the people
who actually lived there.
My search begins in the year 1945.
The house has new occupants.
The family living here are called the Stotts.
There's Reynold, who's 48 - he's an electrician.
His wife, Ada, who's 45 and a shorthand typist.
And their daughter, Audrey.
Frustratingly, we've been able to find very little evidence with which
to build up a picture of this, family.
and we can't find any trace of any living relatives.
But we've spoken to people who knew them at the time, and we do strongly
believe that they were the owners of 62 Falkner Street.
The family moved in in 1945,
when Liverpool was picking up the pieces after the war.
German bombs had left the city's docks in ruins,
and 6,000 homes either destroyed or beyond repair.
With a wave of service personnel returning from the war,
the pressures on housing were intense.
Many young adults had no choice but to share with parents
Rental accommodation was in short supply.
So it's no surprise that the Stotts decided to rent out rooms in
their large house.
The electoral roll reveals the names of their tenants.
They are John and Beryl Quayle.
And they move in in 1947, which is also the year that they get married.
And 62 Falkner Street is their first home as a married couple.
The Quayles were a typical young couple setting up their
first home together.
John was a returning serviceman.
He'd spent the war with the RAF's Fleet Air Arm,
repairing aircraft on a jungle airstrip in Sri Lanka.
He'd come to Liverpool to get a job as a motor mechanic.
His new wife, Beryl, was from the local area.
She worked as a dress fitter in a ladies' fashion house in the centre
We know the couple rented the two attic rooms at the top of the house,
originally used as children's bedrooms or servants' quarters.
So this is the top floor.
-This will have been your parents' flat.
Wow! Beautiful, big old house.
We have a wealth of information about John and Beryl's life here,
thanks to their son, Bill Quayle.
Never been inside the building.
I knew about it, anecdotal, from my parents, and they loved it here.
They were very, very happy here.
-And this is where it all began?
The Quayles moved in straight after their honeymoon.
Beryl was just 20, John 22.
The accommodation was far from grand, but it was a big step up.
This was the first time Beryl had lived away from her family home.
It was brilliant for them,
particularly for mother, cos she grew up with seven siblings in a
semidetached house with three bedrooms,
so she was used to sharing a room with four sisters.
So this would be palatial for her, cos she had her own room.
Her and my dad for the bedroom, and then the front room is like,
"Wow, we can actually stretch out in here and do what we want."
For her, it was paradise.
-So this was a really special place in your parents' life?
-It was their first home together.
But not an easy place to live, I imagine?
Well... Um, there was no water up here.
So they had to get a bucket of water and bring it up the stairs to use
for washing and stuff.
Cos they used to have a washstand in the bedroom.
And they used to have a Primus stove in the living area,
so they could actually make a cup of tea and do the cooking.
But they had to bring all the water all the way up the stairs,
and to go to the toilet, all the way down to the ground floor.
How did your parents get together?
The story I got told was the fact
that my mother was persuaded to go to a dance organised by the Army.
It was a TA dance.
1940s JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS
And my father was also persuaded to go, as well.
So they both went to the dance, and that's where they met.
They spent the whole evening dancing together.
And they went on from there.
It's a universal story -
a young couple meet, fall in love, marry, and set up home.
But what was different for the Quayles was that they were doing it
amidst crippling austerity.
The war effort had left the country with next to nothing -
it was bombed-out, exhausted and drab.
It's queue for everything.
In fact, it's far worse now than it was during the war.
One of the Quayles' biggest
challenges was furnishing their new home.
I think the thing that's interesting about John and Beryl
setting up home in 1947 is that furniture was in very short supply,
and it's restricted through the rationing system.
The couple's choices were very limited.
The production and supply of new furniture was tightly controlled by
the Government under its utility scheme.
Even if it's utility furniture for priority customers only on the
points system, we can all take it as a hint that peace production
is on the way.
The idea that peace and plenty would return together just wasn't true.
Beryl and John didn't go to a furniture showroom to choose the
furniture, because the furniture showrooms weren't allowed to have
any furniture on display.
They would have chosen, probably, from this utility furniture catalogue.
The local District Assistance Board would issue you 60 units
to spend on furniture.
Now you could only have these 60 units if you were bombed-out
or newly married.
And even then, there were restrictions placed on the kinds of
things that you could buy. So if you wanted a sofa bed,
you could only have a sofa bed if you lived in a bedsit.
You couldn't have one if you lived in a house or a flat.
So they were even able to control what the public were able to buy.
Despite the day-to-day hardships,
John and Beryl loved their rented rooms in Falkner Street.
But they didn't intend to be carrying pails of water upstairs
and cooking on a Primus stove forever.
They knew they wanted to start a family,
but as far as bringing kids up, this was not an ideal place.
So they knew they were going to be using this as a stepping stone
to save up to be able to afford the deposit on a terraced house,
because they wanted their own place.
As you get a bit of money, you try and get yourself something with a bit of greenery.
Like many post-war couples, the Quayles wanted an escape
from the grime and the bomb damage of the city centre.
Their aim was to buy a house in the suburbs.
And their route out of Falkner Street was through hard work and careful saving.
Beryl kept her job in retail,
John worked his way up from mechanic to bus driver.
And the man who has spent a lot of his life in uniform,
he looks quite at ease in his bus driver's uniform.
Yeah, he used to iron his own shirts every morning.
Yeah. He wore a uniform most of his life.
After saving for seven years,
the Quayles had enough for a deposit on their first house.
In 1954, they moved in.
Their new home had a separate kitchen,
a proper bathroom and a spacious living room.
It must have seemed unimaginably luxurious after life in Falkner Street.
It's difficult for us to entirely remember, even though
it's only 50, 60 years ago,
but back then, millions of people regarded houses like this as relics.
Of an age that they wanted to escape from, not commemorate.
A year after they moved in, Beryl gave birth to her son, Bill,
the child she had always wanted.
By fleeing the inner city, the Quayles were typical of the age.
The buses that John drove connected Liverpool to a whole series
of newly built settlements.
Housing developments were springing up in outlying towns
like Speke, Kirkby and Halewood.
New industrial estates provided jobs for their residents.
According to a post-war survey,
52% of women wanted to live in a suburb or small town.
This is the Daily Mail Book Of Britain's Post-War Homes,
based on the ideas and opinions of four-and-a-half million women.
And there's a lovely quote here, it says,
"Today, the women of the city are crying aloud, 'give us space,
" 'space in which to breathe, space in which to bring up our children,
" 'space in which to live, move and have our being.' "
After John and Beryl Quayle's departure, the house was rented out
to a succession of different people.
The landlords changed too.
When the Stott family left after 15 years in the house,
62 Falkner Street was sold to a local investment company.
Then came the '60s.
There was an explosion of painting, music, poetry and counterculture
from the coffee shops, pubs and art studios of Liverpool.
How can we account for this great outburst of creativity
in this city at that moment?
Well, for a start, there were lots of young people in the population,
thanks to the post-war baby boom.
And Liverpool being a port town, had always had strong connections to the
wider world and it absorbed lots of cultural influences.
But more than that, Liverpool has always had a very strong sense of
its own identity.
A creative, nonconformist streak
that's often found expression in the arts.
Not far from the house lives June Furlong.
She has vivid memories of the neighbourhood at the time.
If you walked that way, you get into all the art establishments.
You walked that way, you get into the Liverpool University.
And then you walked that way, and you got to the Rialto.
So it was all going on.
There were social clubs that were quite nice along there.
You just go up here and turn left - Falkner Square...
..and that Embassy Club...
In the daytime, it was a sort of eating club, you know,
dining club and all that.
At night, it was changed completely.
I'd go with a big group of artists
because you could get a drink after hours.
And the Gladray Club in Upper Parliament Street, oh, God.
I mean, the things you'd see there, we'd only go in for a drink.
That was all swinging.
It was a very good scene, really, in the '60s.
The nearby social clubs reflected the make-up of the neighbourhood.
Decades of immigration had led to a fantastic diversity
in the population.
So there was the Nigerian Club,
the West Indian,
the Polish and Mediterranean clubs,
along with many others.
They played the latest imported records -
R&B, ska, jazz and calypso.
In the hipster area of Falkner Street,
there were some famous neighbours.
John Lennon moved with his new wife, Cynthia, to number 36.
June got to know Lennon when she was working as a life model
at the art school.
I remember sitting in the room where I had sat all my life,
the door opened, burst open, and the arrival of John Lennon, you see.
And he looked at me and said, "My name is John Lennon,
"I'm enrolled to do a fine art degree here,
"and I'll be drawing you.
"Is that all right?" I said, "Well, that's all right, you know,
"get yourself an easel, get a chair and sit down."
He was very entertaining, but he used the place
like a big cocktail party, you know.
I mean, if I had kept all those letters that John Lennon,
who came here regularly looking for me to go to parties,
if I'd kept all those notes from him,
I'd be in blooming South Kensington now, I wouldn't be sitting here.
The street was at the centre of the city's social,
cultural and intellectual scene.
But the '60s didn't swing for everyone.
In 1962, a family moved into the house.
-Hi, nice to meet you.
-And this is...
-This is where you were born?
-I was born in that very house, yeah.
Robert Mercer Jr was born soon after his family moved into the house.
He spent the first seven years of his life here.
His father, Robert, did casual jobs,
his mother, Dorothy, was a former nurse.
He had three siblings, Trevor, Sandra and Jackie.
And what about the community that lived here? What sort of people had come to Falkner Street
-and the streets around?
-Well, there was a mix, really.
I mean, next door and around the corner in Bedford Street was a
friend of my mother's - Alice and her husband.
They were from Jamaica. He was a docker.
It was a nice community, you know, no problems.
It was really nice.
A nice mix of the different people.
Different ages, as well.
-Shall we go and see...
-Certainly, yeah, let's go in.
-..what it looks like now?
Wow! It looks a lot smaller.
-The house looks smaller?
-Yeah, well, I was seven when I left, wasn't I.
So, bound to be.
Hey, look at that, original, still.
Still the same original staircase that was fitted here.
The family rented two rooms and a landing on the first floor.
This is where we slept, in here.
The year after they moved in, Dorothy had a fifth child,
and soon seven family members shared this space.
-This was a bedroom?
-Yeah, with a difference.
It had a partition wall in.
Up, along and then down, with a doorway about here.
Mum and Dad slept in a bed there, and all five kids slept in there.
-Yeah. So they could watch telly as well as us.
-The television was about there, yeah.
Where's the bathroom?
Well, no bathroom. It's just a corridor,
at the end of the corridor was a toilet.
-Where did you wash?
-Well, we'd wash in the sink.
We were only little kids, so we would fit in the sink.
The Mercers' situation was mirrored all over the neighbourhood.
Families crammed into decaying,
old houses with nothing but the most basic facilities.
70% of the city's old housing was regarded as substandard.
A massive slum clearance programme saw houses demolished and residents
moved to new high-rise and overspill estates.
But the speed of rebuilding utterly failed to keep pace with demolition.
18,000 households remained on the list for council housing.
And huge gaps began to appear in the once-elegant terraces
around Falkner Street.
I would sit on the field, we used to have bonfires.
-When you say field, you mean an area that was bombed?
-It's hardly countryside!
-You mean a bomb site!
Yeah, a bomb site, yeah. Opposite, there was a little
corner shop, stood on its own.
Tobacconist/sweet shop, you used to go in there for sweets.
Stood on its own cos everything else around you was bombed-out?
Everything else, yeah. Stairs going up into the shop.
Certain things stick in your mind, don't they?
I've got this picture, which is from the late '60s,
taken in Liverpool.
Do you recognise these sort of conditions?
Yeah. The oven there, the stove on the landing, just outside there.
-Because there is no kitchen?
Exactly like that.
We'd get tinned potatoes, meats, peas,
put them all in the pan and make, like, a stew.
And it's tinned food because I'm not seeing a fridge.
No, never had a fridge.
It was just them times, wasn't it, you know?
Even though it wasn't the best conditions, was it fun being here as a kid?
Oh, yeah. It's home, isn't it?
If you didn't live here and then come here you'd think, "What a slum that is,"
type thing, wouldn't you? No, it was fantastic. We loved it.
In 1969, after seven years in the house,
the family moved out to a new home,
16 miles away in Runcorn.
After years of casual work,
Robert's father had got a new job at a chemical works.
The year that the Mercers left,
a photographer was travelling around Britain.
He'd been sent by the housing charity Shelter to all the most deprived parts of the country
to take photographs of the conditions there.
And perhaps, inevitably,
that journey took him to Liverpool 8 and to Falkner Street,
where he took a couple photographs, including this tragic image
of a young girl and her baby sister.
It looks like they got dressed up to have their photograph taken,
and yet they're standing in appalling conditions.
Broken windows, damp running down the walls.
These are the conditions of Falkner Street at the end of the 1960s
and the beginning of the 1970s.
This could be a Warsaw in 1944, but it isn't.
It's my own city, Liverpool, in 1972.
By the '70s, slum clearance schemes had moved 160,000 people
out of central Liverpool.
Entire streets were now abandoned.
This coincided with a downturn in the local economy.
There were multiple factory closures, huge sectors of the docks,
once the lifeblood of the city, were shut down.
In Liverpool 8, the neighbourhood around Falkner Street,
unemployment was rife.
There's no jobs anyway.
There is only them scheme jobs, and they're not...
Are you resigned to the fact that you'll never get a job?
62 Falkner Street in the midst of this blighted,
forgotten neighbourhood was sold again.
Another company, Rankmore Properties, bought it in 1971
Around two thirds of what it had cost back in the 1840s.
As far as tenants go, there don't appear to have been any.
On the electoral roll from the years 1970 to 1977,
there is no listing for number 62.
And if the house is vacant in those years in Liverpool,
then it was at serious risk of being demolished.
But there was hope for number 62.
Attitudes towards old Georgian and Victorian houses were beginning to
change, because many of the new estates that had been built to replace the
so-called slums had turned out even worse.
They had been built in haste.
They were unpleasant to live in.
Their residents felt isolated.
Have you any criticisms about the new sort of life you're living here?
You come out onto the landing to come to the shops,
you never speak to anyone.
You know, I never see my neighbours at all.
A few years ago, the architects and planners thought they'd got the
answer to all the problems of urban deprivation.
They roared their bulldozers up and down working-class streets,
destroying the traditional communities.
And now, while those architects are no doubt sitting at home planning their next project,
people have to remain in what's left of their last experiment.
It's not surprising some of the people get pretty angry about it,
not surprising to find messages scrawled up on the wall,
messages like, "Get us kids out of here".
What did this all mean for 62 Falkner Street?
I've unearthed a trail of evidence revealing what happened to it next.
Two events took place in the 1970s that were to save
number 62 Falkner Street.
The first took place in 1975,
when an inspector from the Department of the Environment walked down the
street and decided that all of the houses were of such architectural
significance that they had to be saved,
that they had to become listed buildings, Grade II.
And here's the listing for number 62.
There's not much here,
a brief description of the basement window band,
wedge lintels, the Doric doorcases,
but what this listing meant was escape from the wrecking ball.
The house was now protected in law for future generations.
Anyone altering or extending it without permission
could incur a fine, even a prison sentence.
The second event took place in 1976.
I have uncovered a planning application,
a proposal to turn 62 Falkner Street
from a single dwelling house into three flats.
It's been lodged by a social housing organisation called the
Liverpool Housing Trust.
During the '70s, the trust bought up hundreds of old empty houses in
Liverpool 8 and refurbished them for rental to low-income tenants.
And 62 Falkner Street was one such house,
which they bought for just £400.
I've tracked down their former director.
What happened was a recognition that actually investing money in existing
housing could save it,
and so Liverpool Housing Trust ended up buying
about 150 of these large properties, which made about 400 flats,
and, all told, the whole area was systematically tackled
over a period of about ten years.
These are the plans that were produced by the Liverpool Housing Trust
for the conversion of 62 Falkner Street.
Each floor is to become a self-contained, one-bedroom flat,
with its own bathroom and its own kitchen.
The basement, where the kitchen and scullery used to be,
was sealed up and used for storage.
The ground floor, originally the dining room and morning room,
became Flat 1.
The first floor, designed as a drawing room and master bedroom,
became Flat 2.
And the small attic bedrooms became Flat 3.
Now what's of course lost in all of this are the original features,
the ceiling rose, the cornicing, the panelled doors,
all the things that really mattered to the first Victorian owners
of this house are, I'm sad to say,
stripped out, put in a skip and thrown away.
Of course, now we value period features and houses,
so we might think of it as cultural vandalism,
but I think if we see it through the lens of the time,
it was about looking forwards.
And of course, lots of the kinds of furniture that people were now using
were a bit incompatible with these older houses.
What we wanted to do is put in these lovely, tall, fitted units,
and then the focal point of the room really changed, as well.
The family would no longer sit around the fireplace,
they would be much more likely to all crowd around the television as
the focal point. So maybe there was no longer the need for this kind of
decorative focus in the room.
By 1979, the conversion was complete.
The most radical transformation in the house's 130-year history.
The first tenants moved in.
An elderly railway engineer lived in Flat 1 on the ground floor.
A single woman, remembered only as Miss French,
lived in Flat 2 on the first floor.
And on the top floor lived Brian Nicholson,
who worked as a printer for the local paper.
We tracked Brian down, and his ex-partner, Gale Ewart,
who still live locally.
So what first brought you to Falkner Street?
I was lucky enough to get a flat, the offer of a flat,
from Liverpool Housing Trust, which was 62 Falkner Street.
So I moved in. That would probably be '79, somewhere around there,
so I would be about 28 at the time.
It was a nice place.
And then, sometime later, you moved in with me, didn't you?
Yeah, I moved in in about 1980, when I was 19.
I lived about half a mile away in the centre of Toxteth.
I eventually moved into that flat from home.
So this period in your life was the beginning of your time together as a
-We lived our lives, and then I got pregnant,
and we had a daughter there, which was fabulous, wasn't it?
In 1981, Brian and Gale brought their baby daughter, Kerry, home
to their tiny one-bedroom flat.
So this is Brian and I at the time, with our daughter in the bath.
And so this is her with our gorgeous fireplace.
It's amazing to see the inside of the house from that period.
-It was a nice flat. It was a happy place.
A new chapter in Brian and Gale's life was just beginning.
But outside their front door,
the area still faced desperate social problems.
One commentator said that a pall of defeat hung more heavily over the
neighbourhood than any place he'd ever visited.
Unemployment was running at nearly 40%,
and the local black community faced discrimination and harassment.
In July 1981, a few minutes' walk from Falkner Street,
the arrest of one young black man led to a scuffle
between police and the public.
This sparked a sequence of events that became known
as the Toxteth Riots.
# Babylon's burning
# You're burning the street
# You're burning your houses... #
'More than 100 white and coloured youths fought a pitched battle
'against the police.
'Ammunition was all around in derelict sites and empty houses.
'Police faced a hail of stones, bottles, iron bars and petrol bombs.'
What can you remember of that?
-Do you remember we were sitting in The Clock pub?
We were sitting in the pub, and we were looking out,
and there was a line of policemen with shields one side,
and a gang of young men the other side, sort of attacking them.
The police lines were shoved further and further back.
I can recall at one point bricks and things coming back over the police
line, they were actually throwing bricks back at the people who were throwing them at them.
A very strange night.
# ..with anxiety
# Babylon's burning
# Babylon's burning... #
The next morning, when you woke up, what did Toxteth look like?
It was the smell you noticed first before you actually came out,
you could actually smell burnt rubber, you know, that strange smell.
And there were cars and things dotted around.
The tarmac was just all burnt on Parliament Street,
and the buses had stopped running that way.
It was a main road through.
I remember the milk floats.
A dairy was broken into, and you know the electric milk floats,
they were actually driven at the police.
There were tensions the whole time, you know, my whole life as a child,
so I understood, we both understood why the riots at the time happened,
because of the way people were treated, and the way
society had sort of left local people behind.
It was not a good time to be young and black, I don't think,
in the early '80s.
So we understood, and we were sort of very aware of what was happening.
After the first four days of rioting,
much of the main battle ground on Upper Parliament Street
was in ruins.
150 buildings had been burnt down.
And injuries sustained, on both sides.
The causes of this mass uprising would be debated for months to come.
Members of the community were in no doubt about why it had happened.
Jimi Jagne was just 17 at the time.
What were the difficulties facing people living around here and in
Liverpool 8 in the years leading up to the riots?
There was no desire by the authorities
to assist people in breaking out of the community
and, in fact, on a social level,
whenever young black people tried to venture outside,
the racism that they'd encounter in surrounding districts was such that,
you know, you yearn for home, sweet home.
So you'd find yourself pushed back to Liverpool 8 because the
-welcome outside wasn't exactly warm?
-It was not good at all.
The biggest problem was the relationship between
the black community and the police.
The police in this city were practically masters of their own universe.
They were a very powerful police force.
They felt untouchable. We knew that they had a problem with us as black youths,
because they saw us basically as troublemakers.
How had things got that bad between the police and the black community?
It had always been bad for as long as I remember,
but growing up as a kid during the '70s,
it was obvious that there was a difficult situation with the police around here.
Their presence was felt all the time,
they'd be driving around in vehicles,
and you'd always hear stories of kids and teenagers and older people
being stopped on the streets by the police.
The Merseyside Police force had these problems,
now not all officers saw black people as criminals,
and not all the people who were living in L8 were black,
so this was a mixed community, wasn't it?
That's right, it was a very mixed community.
In terms of race, we were living really comfortably here,
everybody seemed to understand what the issues were for the next person,
and in fact those same issues more than likely impacted on yourself,
if not someone else in your family.
So there was no reason, really,
why there had to be any troubles here between people of different races.
We got along just great.
The disturbances of that summer, not just in Liverpool 8
but in Brixton, Moss Side and elsewhere,
were the result of years of simmering frustration and anger.
What we had was a system that seemed to rail against us so completely
that we had no outlets. There was no way that we could express ourselves,
outside of this particular situation.
There were no guarantees that all that we were going to fix or remedy
our problem, but you had to die trying.
Looking back now, 35 years later,
what was the significance of those events?
Although this neighbourhood suffered for so many years as a consequence
of those riots, it was a pivotal point in race relations in this country.
It was brought to the attention of the whole country that we had problems here.
The riots of 1981 were a low point in the relationship between the
police and the Liverpool black community.
But they also marked perhaps the lowest point in the decline of
Liverpool as a city, because in the aftermath of the riots,
a programme of urban regeneration and renewal was put in place.
There was no overnight transformation in Liverpool 8.
Social problems persist to the present day,
but the recovery had begun.
Money flowed into Liverpool to tackle infrastructure,
housing and employment.
More than 850 acres of dockland,
most of which had been closed for years,
was restored and reopened.
The city's famous Albert Dock began to trade again,
though the money came now from tourism, not shipping.
62 Falkner Street continued its existence as social housing.
The tenants during the late '80s describe it as a happy place.
Life followed familiar routines.
Visits from family, nights at the pub.
In the early '90s, I moved to Liverpool to study history at the university.
At that time, the area around Falkner Street was run-down,
but it was regarded as exciting, diverse and Bohemian.
So the next wave of people who were drawn to the area came not just
because of the cheap rents, but because of its vibrant culture.
And they weren't labourers and bus drivers, they were sculptors,
musicians and poets.
Among these new tenants was Jeff Young, who moved in in 1992.
Of all the people I've traced,
he was the easiest to find because he's an acclaimed playwright
What drew you to living in this part of Liverpool?
I just always wanted to live in Liverpool 8,
from when I was a kid.
I was drawn to it romantically, physically, architecturally.
The life on the streets, the whole West Indian feel to it, you know.
But many people outside of Liverpool would have thought that's where the
-Yeah, to me, the riots kind of fed into that atmosphere,
you know. You could feel the energy of the riots was still there.
A romantic, poetic, kind of Bohemian beatnik thing,
a little bit edgy, you know, after dark.
You know, but that's exciting, you know.
So this is you back in the '90s?
This is me probably in the mid-'90s, slightly wild.
Wild-eyed, glassy-eyed, I think.
And which flat did you live in?
I lived in flat two, on the first floor.
I've been looking trying to find some photographs.
These were both in the living room.
-That's me and my...
-You and your cats?
Cats and my dad. My reluctant father in the photo.
Then, if you looked at the front of the house, it was intact as a
Georgian facade, as a Georgian building.
Inside, it was like living in cardboard boxes, you know?
The, kind of, dividing walls were paper-thin,
and it was almost like the identikit structure that they slotted into the
inside of the buildings, you know?
As a freelance writer, the flat was Jeff's office,
the neighbourhood was where he found his inspiration.
So yeah, I was working as a writer.
I was working as a stand-up poet,
and then I got into theatre pretty quickly.
But it was the hanging-outness of it.
You'd get up late, you'd get some breakfast together, and then when it
seemed like a sensible enough time, you go to the pub.
You know, and you'd meet other people in the pub.
And you'd be sitting with a painter, or a musician and you'd talk.
And so, that was it. That was the height of the dream for me.
I was a deadbeat.
Can you remember the other sort of people who were living in the flats
-in Falkner Street?
-Yeah, you know, it's fluid, it changed all the time.
Upstairs was a musician and his daughter.
And downstairs was a guy who ran a tapas joint
up in the business quarter.
And he would play the organ in the evenings.
So quite often we would hear the music coming up from the...
Through the cardboard floors, you know.
He was very separate, he was very self-contained.
You would hardly ever see him.
But... I didn't get to know him.
I start a search for the mystery musical neighbour
from the ground-floor flat.
The electoral roll reveals his name, Mark Merino.
A native of Merseyside, of dual English and Spanish Basque heritage.
Although it's listed in an old phone directory from 1993,
Mark's restaurant no longer exists.
But then, I track down Mark's younger sister, Miranda,
who agrees to meet me.
My brother spent a bit of time living down in London
in the early '80s, and then he moved back up to Liverpool -
Falkner Street... and started the tapas bar.
Oh, it was just fabulous, the food, the atmosphere.
All the chefs were Basque.
Mark made a lot of effort.
You know, he would be up early in the mornings to go to the fish market, you know.
And he drove all the way to Valencia in Spain
to get the jamon serrano on the bone, you know,
because that is proper, proper, proper food.
And he'd put on flamenco evenings or piano evenings,
great musicians would come and play.
He was extreme and extravagant...
..but all in really good ways.
Mark's restaurant operated out of this building in central Liverpool.
His old friend Kath Charters used to visit back in the '90s.
So what was this place like when it was Mark's tapas bar?
Oh, it was really, really amazing because it was kind of a beautiful
spot in amongst a lot of not-quite-so-beautiful spots.
And it was, as well as being the first tapas bar,
it was part of the gay scene in Liverpool.
It was part of the gay scene in Liverpool,
I mean, all the piano players were gay, all the staff were gay,
and it was a place where people could go and be fed beautifully,
maybe have a little bit of quiet time, also have a little bit of fun time.
It was enjoyable and it was creative.
And what was the gay scene like in Liverpool in those days?
It was very joyous and very raucous.
I mean, there's always been and still is a camaraderie
in the gay community in Liverpool
that I don't personally experience anywhere else.
But in 1993, while the restaurant thrived,
Liverpool's gay community was in the grip of the HIV epidemic.
From just a handful of cases a decade earlier,
there were now around 150 new diagnoses every year.
Many of the people in Liverpool most affected by the virus lived within a
short distance of the house.
What was the impact of HIV on the gay community here in Liverpool?
It was very devastating, as it was in lots of places.
I mean, where I lived and where Mark lived,
there was maybe, like, five to seven streets around that area
where numbers of gay men lived, and you would just kind of begin
to be aware that you weren't seeing that person on the street any more.
There were just people, young men, dying all the time.
We were literally attending a funeral every couple of weeks,
if not weekly. And there was that sense of desperation at the time
that people were not going to recover from this.
Kath worked for a local HIV charity supporting people
living with the virus.
We had a very big therapeutic
team at that time.
And the people used to go and assist people with their shopping.
Maybe assist people cleaning, decorating the house.
Those kind of tasks that people may no longer be able to do.
But equally, that family members might be afraid to do.
Because people, even relatives, didn't want to go near their...
-Anyone who had HIV.
-Yeah, and there was that whole thing...
-And touch them.
-Yeah, or you might share cups with them, and that kind of thing.
This was thought to be a route of transmission, in those days,
by, you know, the outside world really.
In 1994, Kath came to 62 Falkner Street to support a new client.
Mark himself had contracted HIV.
Mark was someone you had known from this bar, from his restaurant.
-Then you got to know him in a different way, through your work.
Then I got to know him in a different way, yeah.
I was going out with one of the woman here in the bar.
I know the people who were actually associated with the bar would go
around to Mark's house when he was getting ill and we would cook and
talk to him and, you know, kind of be with him.
Mark got increasingly frail and he wanted to eat particular things
cos his big thing was to feed himself and food was his medicine.
So, we really spent a lot of time with him at home.
He didn't particularly want to be in hospital,
had a bit of an aversion to hospitals. He wanted to be at home.
So he was determined to spend his... What time he had left in Falkner Street?
Yeah, he wanted to be there.
-So you would sit in front of those big sash windows and...
-And eat and talk?
-Yeah, we talked a lot.
At that time, in the early '90s, HIV treatments were largely ineffective.
The majority of people diagnosed went on to develop AIDS-related illnesses.
Mark's health went into rapid decline.
He was living in Falkner Street and he was just getting progressively
more ill. His stints in hospital would be longer,
and then the time out in between
when he went back into hospital would be less and less.
He started deteriorating quite rapidly.
The end was very, very unpleasant and very painful for him.
And for the observers as well.
It was tragic.
We didn't waste time in being morbid.
We made every single moment
that we could spend together...
..as wonderful as possible.
Because it was going to have to last me a long time, those memories.
Mark died in November 1994.
He was 36.
Mark was not the first resident of 62 Falkner Street
to have had his life cut short by an epidemic disease.
But somehow, when such a death happens in the Victorian Age it
comes as no surprise to us.
And that's perhaps what was so shocking and disorienting about
AIDS and HIV, was that it took place at a time and to a generation
who had got used to the idea that medicine would always have an answer.
We had grown accustomed to the idea that it was other people,
at other times in the past,
who lived under the shadow of epidemic disease and not us.
And it makes it very real to me
to think that when I was a student living in this city,
my bus between university and home went down the bottom
of the street, that Mark was in this room facing the reality
of what HIV and AIDS meant.
I watched it on the news, I worried about the reports,
for him it was all too real.
In the new millennium, 62 Falkner Street was home
to a new crop of tenants.
The house was now one of 16,000 properties owned
by the Liverpool Housing Trust.
But when their funding began to dwindle,
the trust took the decision to sell off their most valuable houses.
After 25 years as rented flats,
plans were drawn up to convert 62 Falkner Street
back into a single dwelling.
The basement became two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The ground floor became a family kitchen and reception room.
The first floor, a play room and second sitting room.
And the top floor, three bedrooms.
The Falkner Street of today is unrecognisable from the place it was
in previous decades.
Liverpool's Georgian and Victorian terraces are now amongst the most
desirable properties in the city.
Liverpool historian John Belchem lives in such a house himself.
Falkner Street, or at least the parts of it that survive, look today
as beautiful as they must've done when it was first built.
This has been, has it not, an amazing story of regeneration?
It is a very successful story of regeneration
and an area of regeneration to a city centre.
Yes, as tastes have changed and people have come to appreciate
Georgian, early-Victorian architecture, a lot of care has gone
into restoring them and making people realise that
the architectural aesthetics of this really do
make a lovely area in which to live.
It's hard to imagine that these beautiful houses were ever seen as
-not having enormous value, but they were.
because they were sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time, as it were.
But in a strange way it has come back full circle,
because that's what it was built to be.
Precisely, this was built to be exclusive.
I mean, it looks as if we might be going back that way.
So it is becoming more monocultural, and I think that is the downside
of what otherwise is a wonderful process.
So the sorts of people who can buy a house on Falkner Street today,
they are the modern equivalents of the Victorian merchants for whom
-these houses were first built.
-That is absolutely true.
Today, number 62 Falkner Street is home to Gaynor.
She lives here with her two children.
-How are you doing?
-All right, thank you. Come in.
-Nice to see you again.
So, tell me, how long have you lived here?
About seven-and-a-half years now.
We lived a little bit further out of Liverpool city centre but we
wanted to move into the city.
Just the character of the area, the space of the house,
so we could have friends and be hospitable and have lots of people around.
How much do know about the history of this house?
I don't really know much.
I know that the houses will have been very grand
when they were built.
And I know little bits because of what neighbours have said.
But I don't really know.
So, shall we meet some of your forebears who have called this house their home?
This house is almost 180 years old.
And the first resident moved in in November 1840,
and his name was Richard Glenton.
And this is a copy of the lease.
Oh, my goodness.
-So this is the first owner to live here.
That is interesting.
132 people have lived in this house
from the year 1840 until now.
There may be more, who never appeared in the records.
Customs clerk Richard Glenton walked through this front door
when the house was brand-new.
Then came James and Ann Orr, former servants who made a fortune.
the cotton broker who deserted his family for a new life in America.
Widowed Elizabeth Bowes rented rooms to Danish immigrant Edward Lublin.
the wife of the drowned watchmaker Alfred, gazed out of these windows.
The Snewing children slept in these rooms at the turn of the 20th century.
In the 1940s, Jack Greenall would have climbed these stairs
after a hard day at the docks.
And John and Beryl Quayle would have collected coal for their fire from
Does this make you feel like you are part of a story?
Because you are one of these people that we have traced?
You are the latest chapter.
The history has been put here right in front of me.
And it is not until you hear stories like these folk here
that you realise that actually the variety of people that lived in the
house because of the changing times.
And actually it makes you think about the situations that they found
themselves in and how they went about their life,
and how they conducted themselves.
And what they thought was important.
You can empathize with the situations that they were in.
And that's, that's quite special.
It's the end of my time at 62 Falkner Street
uncovering the extraordinary life of this house
and the people who called it home.
Just like us, the residents of 62 Falkner Street lived in uncertain times.
They had no idea what events lay ahead of them and their lives were
gloriously messy and unpredictable.
But if you stand back and you look at this long chain of people spanning two centuries,
they are far more than just a random collection of individual stories.
The life of each resident is a chapter in a bigger historical story.
One that links the history of this house to Liverpool,
to Britain and the wider world.
And all of this told from behind one front door.
In the final episode of the series, historian David Olusoga traces the history of the house in Liverpool from 1945 to the present day. He finds that these are challenging times for the city, when poverty and dereliction are widespread and the neighbourhood struggles with record unemployment. David begins his search at the year 1945, when Liverpool's multicultural community is recovering from the war and housing is in short supply. He meets the son of a young pair of newlyweds called the Quayles, setting up their first home in the attic during the postwar austerity years.
David then tracks the rapid decline of the house in the mid-20th century and meets one of a family of seven who lived in two rooms in the house without the most basic facilities. He then sees how the house was abandoned and narrowly escaped the wrecking ball by a strange twist of fate. David then pieces together the evidence to discover what happened to the house during the 1970s, when the house is apparently abandoned, only to be rescued by an enterprising group of local activists and converted into a new home for creative people. These include a successful playwright and a young restaurateur who was part of the Liverpool gay scene at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
He then sees how the house, after decades as a boarding house and a shabby set of rooms-for-rent, is restored to its former glory as a single home, and reveals its colourful history to the current owner.