The story of those who lived in one house, from the time it was built until now. David Olusoga follows the residents of the house in Liverpool from the 1850s to the 1890s.
Browse content similar to Episode 2. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
When we live in a house, we're just passing through.
People have occupied it before us
and 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 town house here in Liverpool.
A city that rivalled New York in the 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'll show you, in reality it is an amazing treasure trove.
Cos he leaves them not just £100,
but also number 62 Falkner Street.
In March 1885, again in this house,
"Grabbed her by the throat and assaulted her."
The life that you can see recorded in these old documents
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.
It's a period of seismic social change,
from the early years of Victoria's reign...
..right through to the present day.
In this episode, a terrifying disease stalks the house.
Lives are wrecked by domestic violence and adultery.
"This affair had been conducted at the Hanover Hotel,
"Hanover Street, Liverpool."
And a mysterious body is pulled from the Mersey.
"A man unknown."
I'm going on the ultimate detective hunt to uncover 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 62 Falkner Street.
It's a busy family home.
So far, we know it was constructed as one of a terrace in 1840.
In its first decades, the door number wasn't 62, it was 58.
It was designed to appeal to the rapidly growing middle classes,
in an upmarket, new neighbourhood.
But this oasis of privilege was just a mile down the road
from the city's lifeblood - the docks.
Here, trade and wealth
rubbed shoulders with some of the most extreme poverty in the country.
We left the house in 1853.
Cotton broker Wilfred Steel had just moved out.
Who would be the next resident?
To find out, I'm going to delve deep into the archives.
If you know where to look, official records,
old newspapers and court documents
hide clues about the past inhabitants
of every home in Britain.
But, in Liverpool, there's also a unique, local source.
This is Gore's Directory.
Believe it or not, this is the Victorian equivalent
of a search engine.
It lists all the businesses and all the businessmen in Liverpool
by street, by surname and by the type of business,
and this was updated and re-published every couple of years.
And it tells us that the new resident of the house is...
..one John Bowes.
Now, that's all this directory can tell us.
So we still need to find out who he was,
what sort of job he did and who else is living in the house with him.
The census reveals more.
It captures John just four years earlier living nearby.
So, this document tells us that John Bowes is married,
that his wife is Elizabeth Bowes.
And it also gives us his profession down here as brewer's agent.
Which means he's selling alcohol.
As an agent, John was the public face of a brewery,
convincing people to buy more beer.
At other times, he also sold wine and spirits.
He picked a great town to be plying his trade.
1850s Liverpool had a reputation for heavy drinking.
John most likely went all across town selling beer everywhere
from the most exclusive hotels
and poshest houses, to the hundreds of pubs
in the poverty-stricken streets behind the docks.
To live in such an expensive and desirable house,
John must have been earning far more than the average worker
could ever have dreamed of
and I think we need to picture this couple able to enjoy
all the trappings of the respectable, Victorian,
In fact, John and Elizabeth's new house
was the ideal place to entertain and impress potential business clients.
We think it had kitchen and a scullery in the basement
with a fresh water supply.
A dining room, morning room and a flushing toilet on the ground floor.
A grand drawing room and master bedroom
with en-suite bathroom above.
And an upper floor for servants -
most middle-class homes had one or two.
Researching how people in the past lived in houses like this
has been the life's work
of design historian Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan.
If I were visiting John and Elizabeth Bowes in the 1850s,
I would be let into the house by a maid, not Elizabeth.
I would be led along the hall, past the front room, the dining room,
up the stairs to the first floor.
And the drawing room is, of course, the best room in the house.
When Elizabeth and John Bowes were living here,
this would have been the formal drawing room.
It would have felt like a very feminine room
and it would have very much been Elizabeth's domain.
The central feature would have been the fireplace.
So we would have had a really grand fireplace.
This would have very much been a room kept for best,
to really show John's status and wealth.
This middle-aged couple seem to be well-settled in their new home.
This is the 1857 directory and, when I look up 58 Falkner Street,
what I find is that only Elizabeth Bowes is listed.
There's no mention of John.
Now, the couple only moved in here in 1854,
so it's a bit sudden and a bit of a mystery as to why John
seems to have disappeared.
This document provides the answer.
It's a death certificate.
It shows that John Bowes died on 15th September 1854.
So, not long after he's begun his new life in Falkner Street.
And it gives the cause of death as being the disease
that the Victorians feared more than any other - cholera.
John was one of 20,000 people to die in a cholera epidemic that ravaged
Britain in 1854.
It's a terrible way to die.
Uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea
are followed by severe dehydration.
Even a perfectly healthy person can be killed by cholera
in a matter of hours.
But the surprising thing to me is this disease was associated with
the dirt and squalor of poverty in Victorian times.
I want to find out how John -
well off, with an upmarket home - could have died of it.
Professor Sally Sheard
is a leading historian on health in 19th-century Liverpool.
John Bowes and the other residents of Falkner Street must have thought,
even though they could see cholera coming,
that they were going to be safer - they were in a cleaner part of town,
they were up on the hill.
Absolutely, the whole idea of disease transmission
at this time is that it's done by miasmas, by bad gases.
So they're convinced that all diseases are the result of smell.
So, the further away you can get from smell...
-The safer you are.
-..the safer, in theory, you should be.
So, this map is later,
but the earlier epidemics would have looked pretty much the same.
What you see on this map are the red dots,
which are cholera deaths, and there is a really clear pattern here.
There's a real cluster around here, down towards the docks,
in the poorest, working-class parts of Liverpool.
But the interesting thing is that around Falkner Street
and this Georgian quarter, there are very few cholera deaths.
Could this cluster be the clue to John's death?
This warren of streets contained many of the town's pubs.
We can't know for sure,
but it is likely John would have come here to sell beer.
Down here, very poor-quality housing.
You might have 10, 20 families using one cesspit privy
and the cesspit would only be emptied maybe once a year.
So you can imagine the smell.
Perhaps John took precautions to protect himself from bad smells,
but it would have been for nothing.
Because what he didn't know - what almost no-one knew at the time -
was that cholera wasn't coming
from the stench of human waste in the air.
It was coming from waste seeping into the water.
When he stops and has a drink of water,
he doesn't understand that that's the real risk?
No, he wouldn't have understood it as being a water-borne disease.
So, when the news that John Bowes,
the gentleman at number 58, had died of cholera,
there must have been a moment of real fear in the street.
I'm sure there was, yeah.
I think the sense would have been, "Well, if he can die,
"then none of us are safe up here."
The threat of this horrendous disease was just one of the fears
facing John's wife, Elizabeth.
The sudden death of her husband
meant she was now alone in their new house.
We can find no evidence that John left her any money.
She was 54 years old, with no obvious way of earning a living.
I've tracked her down in the census from 1861,
seven years after her husband died.
What this tells us is that Elizabeth is still in Falkner Street,
but now she lists her occupation as lodging house keeper.
Now, this was by far the best option available to Elizabeth -
a widow in the middle of the 19th century -
because she has a big house in a fashionable part of town
and it's in a port town.
It's in a city in which there are constantly people coming and going,
and in need of somewhere to stay.
So, thanks, really, to the house,
she's able to have a grip, a tenuous grip, on middle-class life.
The adverts that Elizabeth placed in the local newspapers still exist.
"Apartments to be let.
"To be let, a front sitting room
"with two or three bedrooms or partial board
"for two or three young gentlemen."
It's interesting that she doesn't want a family,
she obviously wants young men who are unattached,
who don't have children.
And what she would have offered them would be the drawing room here
to use as a communal space.
She would have kept the back room, the morning room,
for herself as her own space.
This would have been quite a change for Elizabeth.
And, all of a sudden, this space was no longer hers,
but was inhabited by these young men.
The drawing room would have been the place where they pursued things
like card games, smoking,
drinking, and it accumulated this clutter of masculinity.
I think Elizabeth may have been rather lonely in this set-up,
because although the income the young men brought
would have been very welcome to her,
in some senses, she'd lost her status as mistress of the house,
because she was occupying this very peculiar position
where she was undertaking some paid work as a landlady
and, of course, the lady of the house was supposed to be
a lady of leisure.
Elizabeth was seeking lodgers in a booming rental market.
She had some competition from other landladies in the street.
But there were still plenty of tenants to go around.
The town's population was expanding.
Over 10,000 ships a year were using the port.
And it seems Elizabeth's advertisements paid off.
The 1861 census reveals the house is full.
One of the three lodgers shown living with her in this document
is a 25-year-old named Edward Lublin.
By tracing Edward's family tree, we've found this image,
believed to be him, taken around the year he lived in the house.
This is the first time I've seen a photograph of one of the residents
of our house on Falkner Street.
It came from a branch of Edward's family now living in Australia,
but that's not where he himself started out.
What's interesting about Edward Lublin is his place of birth,
which is listed here as Nakskov.
Now, I'd never heard of that and I think we can be pretty sure
that the census officer in 1861 hadn't heard of it either,
because he writes it down and then he puts a question mark beside it,
as if he thinks he's misheard.
But it's a small town in southern Denmark.
And he won't have been that surprised to have encountered a Dane
on Falkner Street, because, around that point, there was a huge wave
of immigration from the Scandinavian countries.
Now, today Denmark and Sweden are famous as being
some of the wealthiest and happiest societies in the world,
but, in the 1860s, their economies were in real trouble.
Arriving as a young migrant, Edward found a ready-made community.
He was Jewish and became a member
of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation.
The house was just a ten-minute walk to their synagogue on Seel Street.
Here, Edward met some of the town's Jewish community,
Many were shop owners or merchants.
But I want to find out what Edward was up to.
By searching for Edward's name in the advertisements in the Liverpool
press, we can piece together how he was making his living.
He was a ship broker and frantically busy selling space for cargo
on vessels going to and from ports all over Europe.
Anything could be moved in these holds, from gunpowder,
to wool, to bricks, to gold.
But, as well as selling space, he was also selling goods,
because here's an advertisement where he is selling
railway and colliery grease - that's grease from the mining industry -
white sulphate of ammonia and lubricating oils.
These items may sound a bit niche,
but they tell us that Edward was trying his luck in one of the most
exciting markets of the 1860s...
The very first railway had opened just 35 years earlier.
And by the time Edward was in business,
a network of tracks had been built across the country.
Thousands of locomotives carried passengers and freight every day.
Like those now preserved at the East Lancashire Railway...
..where Paul McManus is a volunteer.
-Hi. You look like you would be able to tell me
what it is that Edward Lublin is trading in here.
This is railway and colliery grease, and lubricating oils.
How are they used on locomotives like this?
Any moving part on the locomotive requires
a certain amount of lubrication.
Everything that you see that moves needs oil.
So the lubricants are used on a daily basis?
Yes, every day. Depending on the distance that the locomotive
was travelling, you could use three, four, five, six gallons,
depending on distances.
-That's every day?
-Every day, yes.
-So this isn't like your car,
where you put in some oil when you remember every few months?
-Somebody like Edward Lublin dealing in these lubricants
would never have been short of customers, would he?
No, never. Never.
He's in a very good market,
a very good niche, and it will just continue to grow.
So I would imagine he'd become very rich.
By getting involved in the supply chain behind the railways,
Edward Lublin was staking a small claim in what was perhaps
the most dynamic and the most important industry of his age.
Because, increasingly, it was the railway that carried the goods
that landed in Liverpool around the country.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLASTS
That was wonderful.
But Edward wasn't all about hard work.
While his business was taking off, he also had a personal life.
The synagogue would have been a central pillar of his world.
The congregation he belonged to still exists.
Now it's on Princes Road.
-Pleased to meet you.
Senior warden Saul Marks is well-versed
in the community's history.
-If I can just ask you to pop that on.
The synagogue's archive reveals Edward met a young woman
named Esther Benas.
In 1865, they got married.
The bride was 18 years old.
Do you know much about this couple?
I can tell you a bit - I can tell you quite a bit, in fact.
They were married at Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation,
which is where we are.
This is actually the congregational marriage register.
So if we look in here...
-There we go.
-Oh! So this is the original.
This is their signatures on the page.
Where does the Benas family stand in this community?
Well, the Benas family is one of the most prominent families
in the community. They were particularly wealthy,
they were very well set.
The wedding of this well-known family's eldest daughter
to Edward Lublin was written up in the local press
as a kind of general interest piece.
It's entitled "A Jewish Marriage."
I'll read it out to you, if you like.
"The Jewish mode of marrying, as most people are aware,
"is a very extraordinary one and peculiarly solemn.
"The bride was dressed in a most chaste and beautiful manner,
"and elicited the admiration of everyone who saw her."
She comes from a good family, she's got a good wedding dress,
she looks the part.
"The Rabbi after this again prayed and chanted a hymn."
And we actually have recordings of the hymns that would have been sung.
So, in some ways,
you can actually feel like you were there at the wedding.
CEREMONIAL HYMN SUNG BY CHOIR
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Reverend, Mr Prague,
addressed a few remarks to the newly married pair
saying to the couple,
"We're relying on you to build a Jewish home, to stay together -
"you are the next generation of Jews in Liverpool."
And it actually says here,
"The remarks of the Rabbi were feelingly and solemnly expressed
"and the eyes of the fair bride were not the only ones
"that were filled with tears."
So, at this moment, Edward Lublin has really become a full member
-of this community in this city?
He is, he's married into one of most well-known families.
-And a wealthy family?
Edward's rented rooms at the house weren't right for the newlyweds.
But perhaps Esther and Edward liked Falkner Street,
because they set up home just a few doors down at number 82.
Within a year, they had a baby daughter
and two more swiftly followed.
Judging by the newspapers, Edward was busier than ever at work.
For an ambitious Victorian man in his 30s, life was going well.
But, then, something seems to change.
What I've got here is an article from The Times
and what it reveals is that Edward Lublin,
who, on the surface, was an astute
and adaptable businessman,
got into financial trouble back in 1869
when he racked up debts of £12,000.
Now, he appears to have come to some sort of gentleman's agreement
with his creditors. It says "a private arrangement".
And that would allow him to stay in business.
With a growing family to support, and creditors on his back,
it seems to me Edward must have been under enormous pressure.
His trading partners were mainly in France.
To get back on his feet, Edward desperately needed to
communicate with them quickly and reliably.
And, for that, he needed the electric telegraph.
By the 1860s, thousands of miles of telegraph wire
snaked around the globe.
Messages could be sent round the planet in minutes.
But, in the archives,
I've discovered Edward was having issues with this technology.
I've come to Milton Keynes Museum to meet Bill Griffiths,
an expert on Victorian communications, to find out more.
If I may, I'd like to read a letter that Edward Lublin sent
to one of the Liverpool newspapers in 1870.
Cos what he says is,
"Sir, permit me through the medium of your paper
"to make complaint of the present telegraphic system.
"It seems that instead of the promised efficiency
"in the transmission and delivery of telegrams,
"the rule is greater delay.
"I suffer prejudice and loss.
"I am, Sir, yours respectfully, Edward Lublin."
He sounds like me. I'm almost in tears
with half an hour without Wi-Fi.
And he sounds frustrated here.
From this, I deduce that the telegraph
is absolutely critical to Edward's business.
Yes, I think it must be likened to the internet today,
and the mobile phone, and all the things that we think
are wonderful and have changed our lives.
And I think people saw this as a great way
of expanding their business.
All of a sudden, they could communicate with each other.
And Edward's problem here is that this has
a real business implication,
that it's not working or it didn't work for one day.
Yes. I mean, information was key.
People could gain an advantage by just having an hour or two
so they could clinch the deal over someone else.
And if they lost that advantage, other people would beat them.
Someone would buy it from somewhere else. So it really was important.
As Edward battled to keep his business afloat,
he was hit by another circumstance beyond his control.
In 1873, in America, an investment bubble in the railroads burst,
triggering a run on the banks
and major panic on the New York Stock Exchange.
This was followed by a period that the Victorians called
the Great Depression.
A name it held in popular memory
until the crisis of the 1930s took that title.
Even under these circumstances,
he might have been able to keep his head above water
but what it looks like is that he keeps on taking financial risks.
And, in 1875, he's declared bankrupt and he loses everything.
For a proud Victorian businessman, this must have been a terrible blow.
And, at home, his relationship with Esther
also seems to have been under pressure.
This is the last will and testament of Esther Lublin,
made in the midst of Edward's financial crisis
when she was 36 years old.
And what comes as a bit of a shock reading this is that it says here,
"For many years, I and the said Edward Lublin
"have lived separate and apart from each other by mutual consent."
This must have been a really painful decision for the Lublins.
The society they lived in put huge pressure
on unhappily married couples to stay together.
But, interestingly, at the time they separated,
public opinion was starting to question if that was always
the right thing to do.
Perhaps Esther and Edward knew this,
and knew they had other options.
I've done some more digging and discovered that Esther
seems to have been someone who embraced new ideas.
The archives of the Jewish Chronicle reveal that she dedicated herself
to the education of her three daughters.
At a time when just a few universities
were opening up to women,
all three went on to study at famous institutions.
And in 1886, Esther and one of her daughters
were even introduced to Queen Victoria at the grand opening
of Royal Holloway College for Women.
The more I've uncovered about Esther,
the more exceptional she seems to me.
I want to know what happened to her in the end.
This document is Esther Lublin's death certificate.
What I've discovered is something
that I personally find really horrific.
She died young. She died at just 44.
And what killed her was a condition called Graves' disease.
That's when the thyroid gland in the neck just spins out of control
and it poisons the body.
And, by this list of symptoms,
Esther Lublin had this condition really badly.
And what is horrific about this, to me,
is that I've spent four years of my life, by chance,
living with the same condition.
I've had Graves' disease and I know something of the pain
that Esther Lublin will have experienced with this condition.
But what I can't imagine, what I don't know,
is how frightened she was.
Because, when I had this condition,
the doctors could tell me that it was probably going to be OK.
But, for her, she must have been told the opposite.
So, to hold the death certificate of a woman who's younger at death
than I am now, hammers home that point that we all know, in theory,
which is that a lot of things in life are just about chance and luck.
The reason... The reason Graves' disease killed her and spared me
was cos that she was born in the 19th century
and I was born in the 20th century. That's it.
After he and Esther had separated, Edward had stayed in Liverpool.
Living close to Falkner Street, he'd become a lodger again,
before eventually moving back to Denmark for good.
By now, it was the 1880s,
and the house was going through some changes.
Widowed landlady Elizabeth Bowes had moved out and lived
just round the corner until she left Liverpool
to set up home with her sister.
More buildings had been added to the street
and the houses had been renumbered. 58 had become 62.
Living next door were hard-working professionals -
a French teacher, a senior policeman, a tailor.
The house had become a single dwelling again.
And, in 1883, new residents had just moved in.
Alfred Robinson, aged 37, and his wife Ann, aged 32.
They were Liverpudlian born and bred.
According to the 1883 Gore's Directory,
Alfred worked as a watchmaker.
His business premises were in Church Lane.
This is my first clue about the Robinsons.
To find out more, I've tracked down
one of the last watchmakers on Merseyside...
-So, Alfred Robinson.
-I can stop that, if you want.
-That's rather lovely, I think.
The first document I've seen for Alfred Robinson describes him
as a watchmaker living in a pretty nice house in a pretty nice part
-Does it look like he's doing pretty well?
I think he's doing very well. Absolutely. I mean,
he's in a thriving community in Liverpool.
The demand for pocket watches at that time would have been high.
You know, if you had a job
and you needed to be somewhere at 12 o'clock,
the best way to tell that is if you have your own watch,
-your own pocket watch.
-They are incredibly intricate things.
-They are, yes.
-I mean, I imagine...
I mean, this is one I've been working on quite recently.
So, they are very small parts
and require a certain degree of dexterity.
But if you handle them right, as you can see straight away,
the watch will almost always work for you.
So, Alfred Robinson would have known most of these tools?
He would have known the majority of these tools, yes.
-And used them on a daily basis?
In the records, it says that his wife,
her job title is "watch examiner."
Is that like quality control?
It is like quality control, as far as I understand it.
In fact, I have a box here...
It's a tray from the Lancashire Watch Company.
-And, in the back, we can see...
On the back of it here is a label that has
all the different assembly stages on it.
And then the initial of the person who examined it.
So here's the relationship between the maker and the examiner.
The examiner. So the examiner was the last line of defence
for the production process being correct.
So it might have been quite cosy. There might have been Alfred
making the watch and then putting it along for Ann to check it.
-So, the future does look pretty good for them.
I would say so. Yeah. I think they would be doing
very well for themselves at that time.
When they move in to 62 Falkner Street in 1883,
life seems to be pretty rosy for the Robinsons.
The house was easy walking distance to Alfred's business,
just off the shopping hub of Church Street.
According to probate records,
he had recently inherited more than £6,000 from his father.
That's over half a million in today's money.
Perhaps Alfred and Ann were hoping the house would be the ideal place
to start a family.
But then things take an unexpected turn.
I found this document in the archives.
This is a divorce petition that Ann Robinson of 62 Falkner Street,
Liverpool, submits on the 10th day of June, 1885.
In this document, Ann claims that her husband Alfred
had committed adultery with Alice Savage, a widow.
And that this affair had been conducted for months
at the Hanover Hotel, Hanover Street, Liverpool,
and various other places in Liverpool.
I can only guess how devastating
it would have been to discover this affair.
But I find it remarkable that Ann took this radical step.
Divorce had only been available to people like her since the 1850s.
And when she filed these papers in 1885, it was still incredibly rare.
Ann was one of only 196 wives in the whole of England and Wales
who tried to get a divorce that year,
out of more than 4 million married couples.
How did she even go about starting this process?
Professor Rebecca Probert
has studied thousands of Victorian divorces and is the country's
foremost expert on the history of marriage law.
In 1885, if your marriage has broken down
and you want to obtain a divorce, there's just one court in England
and Wales that has the power to grant it.
-And that's here in London.
-So, no matter where you are in the country,
you have to come to the Royal Courts of Justice...
-..to seek a divorce.
And this building was very new in 1885.
It had only been constructed a few years earlier.
And, obviously, deliberately designed to be imposing
and quite intimidating.
Even today, it's not the warmest place I've ever been to.
It's not easy to get a divorce in 1885.
As a woman, she has to prove more than she would have to prove
-if she was a man. So...
..husbands can divorce wives on the basis of their adultery.
Wives have to prove adultery plus one of cruelty, desertion, bigamy,
incest, sodomy or bestiality.
So, it's much more difficult
for a woman to obtain a divorce in this period.
Ann had clearly stated that her husband had committed adultery.
And her petition goes on to reveal more details about their marriage.
Ann states on the 12th day of January 1885,
Alfred Robinson struck and assaulted her.
That she was severely bruised, and her neck and arms were scratched.
And then she says it happens again in March 1885,
again in this house in 62 Falkner Street.
That, again, she's bruised, her arms are scratched
and that Alfred has grabbed her by the throat.
"Severely bruised and scratched her neck."
And that on the 30th day of May 1885,
"The aforesaid Alfred Robinson dragged her by the hair of her head
"and violently assaulted her."
Middle-class domestic violence stayed firmly behind closed doors
in Victorian society.
But Ann was bringing it out into the open.
Clearly, adultery and there's clearly cruelty, as well.
-So she's got a case.
-She has a case for divorce.
And this document's full of payments, as well.
-So, Ann can afford to begin this process.
Well, that is an interesting point.
Because, at this stage, it's not Ann who's paying for the divorce,
it's Alfred. Because, traditionally, on marriage,
any property a wife owned became her husband's.
So, husbands had to pay the costs of their wives divorcing them.
But you can see how quickly the costs mount up in this case.
Even a simple divorce, costs may be £40 or £50.
That is more than the annual wages of the majority of the population.
Surprisingly, despite the nature of Ann's accusations,
the court papers reveal that Alfred didn't contest
her version of events. It looks like Ann could get a divorce
-cos Alfred's not going to pretend this hasn't happened.
-So, do we know what happens,
do the documents tell us that?
Well, they tell us that...
..upon hearing the solicitor for the petition,
the judge orders that the proceedings be discontinued.
It doesn't go to trial.
But we don't know why it's discontinued.
Because it does seem odd that it's undefended,
there seems no obvious reason.
It seems hard to imagine they reconciled.
I don't know why I find that difficult.
They were obviously a lot more forgiving people
in the 19th century than I can imagine.
Either a lot more forgiving or just fewer options.
I suppose so, that's the other thing.
The economic options of divorce mean that reconciliation might not be
about an emotional reconciliation but a...
"What else am I going to do?"
It's a financial calculation, in a number of cases, I imagine.
So, Ann and Alfred might be back together
because Ann's got no property, she's got nowhere to go.
Yeah. The professions aren't open to women at this period.
There's a limited range of, sort of, more manual jobs that she can do.
So it's poverty,
-or stay with a man who's been violent towards you?
To try to find out what happened to Alfred and Ann,
I've called up a copy of the census from the year 1891.
So, five years after Ann's divorce petition was discontinued.
And what it reveals is that they are still together.
They're still married and they're still living on Falkner Street.
But, more than that, they have two children.
Sarah, who's five, and Alice, who's just three.
It does seem that there has been some form of reconciliation,
and perhaps they have given their marriage a second chance
and gone on to have a family.
So, after a really horrible, unpleasant divorce,
this does seem like a second act
in their lives, and maybe a happier one.
The census suggests that their eldest child Sarah
might have been born soon after the divorce proceedings.
This document is the birth certificate of the older of the two
children who's recorded as living here in Falkner Street
in the census. Her name is Sarah Frances.
And under the column for father is Alfred Robinson.
But in the column for mother, the name that appears
is not that of Ann Robinson.
The name is Alice Adeline Brown.
And the birth certificate of the younger of the two children,
again, a girl,
her name is Alice and her mother again is Alice Adeline Brown.
The certificates shows that Alice Brown is actually Alice Savage,
the woman who was named as Alfred's mistress in the divorce petition.
And that she died.
Other records reveal she passed away just five weeks after
the second baby was born.
Alice's sudden death means that these two children
have nothing other than their father.
And that is the terrible set of circumstances that leads to
them being brought into this house
to live with Alfred and his real wife, Ann.
I have to admit, I am struggling to even imagine what took place
in this house in those years in the 1880s.
Because, at some point,
Alfred Robinson would have had to have walked through that front door
with his two illegitimate children.
A little girl of two and a baby in his arms.
And he was bringing them to live in the family home,
in the marital home. What on earth could he have said?
What on earth DID he say to his wife Ann at that moment?
Whatever he said, the girls and Ann did end up living together.
But probably not for long in 62 Falkner Street.
The Robinsons moved out of the house and set up home just next door
at number 64.
As far as we know, they lived here as a family for the next five years.
But then, Alfred disappears from the street directories.
This is Alfred Robinson's death certificate.
He was just 46. And his two daughters were still young -
six and eight. But after that, the information
on this death certificate becomes really confusing.
We only know it refers to Alfred because of a scribbled note
in the margin. Where his name should be it says, "A man unknown."
And, for cause of death, it reads,
"Found dead on the cattle slip of Bramley Moore Dock.
"Died from drowning.
"But there's insufficient evidence to show how he got into the water."
This is a document that raises far more questions than it answers.
For a start, I don't know how this mystery body
was even identified as Alfred.
But there's one man who might be able to help.
Retired detective superintendent Albert Kirby
worked for Merseyside Police for 34 years
and knows the docks like the back of his hand.
He's got an article from the Liverpool Courier
which appeared a few days after the body was pulled from the Mersey.
The deceased was 5'6",
proportionate build, dark hair,
whiskers and moustache.
He was wearing a black cloth-ribbed suit,
black tie and yellow Merino socks, quite stylish.
But the crucial information found on the body was this piece of paper -
part of an envelope with the name A. Robinson.
-So his wife might have read this newspaper report?
-Could well have.
-And then that would have led to his identification.
So we know how the police worked out,
or we can guess how the police worked out it was Alfred.
-But they still don't know what's happened.
-That's the mystery.
-That's the mystery.
As a watchmaker,
it's plausible that Alfred would go to the docks for work.
Ships' masters were reliable customers,
dependent on accurate timekeeping for navigation at sea.
Every day the one o'clock cannon was fired at the docks
for the ships to set their time by.
But I wonder if there might have been another reason
he came down here.
It feels like a place you go to be alone.
Maybe if you were feeling depressed.
Yeah, when you look around here now, it's just pure dereliction.
But all this lot here was just absolutely bustling with activity.
You have the cattle coming in,
the Bramley-Moore Dock was where all the coal was coming in.
It was just intense, the amount of work that was being done here.
It was just bustling.
So rather than being a melancholy place where you come to be alone,
this is a busy place and therefore a dangerous place?
It is dangerous because you can see where we are here now, can't you?
There's no protection along here now even.
-It's very easy to see how you'd fall in.
Like you, I feel giddy looking down there.
We don't know what his motivations are
but everything that you've learned as a detective
tells you this was a tragic accident rather than a suicide?
This place around here, and any docks,
was just a recipe for disaster and accidents.
And I think that that's probably what's happened to him.
He's come down here
and his death has been a dreadful, dreadful accident.
I suppose, what you have to hope, is that...
..the bond that we hope has developed between Alfred's wife
and his illegitimate daughters is strong enough
to survive his passing.
It's a strange family.
It's not the ideal situation.
But I guess I'm hoping that they've managed, despite all of this,
to form a bond that's going to keep them together now they're on their own,
even though Alfred wasn't there to provide for them.
I'd like to think that, as well.
Frustratingly, the records can't tell us for certain
what happened to Ann and the girls.
But I think Ann was courageous.
A pioneer of the divorce courts.
And I hope this courage stood her in good stead.
While all this was unfolding next door,
62 Falkner Street was transforming once again.
A new landlady had taken over - Catherine Robertson.
She'd carved the house into rented rooms again
and, in 1889, a new lodger had moved in.
Nathan was a widower in his early 60s with no children.
He was Jewish, born and bred in London's East End.
He'd been in Liverpool for many years.
He worked as an emigrants' outfitter.
In the late 1880s, thousands of people from across Europe
and the UK were passing through Liverpool
on their way to new lives in North America.
Nathan made his living selling these emigrants everything they might need
for their adventure, including tickets to make the crossing
on ships like the SS Great Britain, now in Bristol.
Nathan was a big player in this business.
To understand his world, I'm meeting Dr Nick Evans,
a leading expert on migration in the 19th century.
Nathan would have distributed these emigrant guides to his customers
to take away with them.
It's the type of information they needed.
What the new state-of-the-art vessel would have looked like
with steam and with sails,
but also what the trains in America would look like.
So, if there was an onward journey from New York to the interior of America, to the west,
then you would know exactly what information was provided.
As well as selling tickets, Nathan also sold equipment
that emigrants would need to take with them, from clothes to tools.
Hart would make a lot of money.
He was actually quite affluent in his earnings.
But there's an inherent moral hazard in this profession
because the man who's advising you what to take
is also the bloke who's selling it to you.
Yeah. And you could infer that there was some duplicity there
or there was some often underhand activity.
And certainly one newspaper from the time does paint a different picture.
If you see here, it's a charge against an outfitter.
"Nathan Hart, an outfitter of the emigrant area
"of Waterloo Road in Liverpool,
"was charged by an intending Irish emigrant
"of robbing her of nine shillings."
So this is Nathan in the newspapers being accused of doing over, really,
somebody who's supposed to be a customer.
Yeah, but it's not as straightforward as it might seem.
We don't know if the accuser was actually a reputable individual.
Emigrants could be convicts themselves.
They could be unscrupulous people.
And at other times newspaper accounts from the period
show how he was the victim of crime. People stole from him.
So it was a very dangerous and volatile business.
Emigrant outfitting was a seasonal job.
Nathan's customers chose mainly to travel in the spring and summer,
when the Atlantic shipping lanes were free of ice floes.
It seems that the rest of the year he may have had to find other ways
of making money.
Ways that sometimes brought him into contact with the law.
A few years before he moved into the house,
Nathan was accused of running an illegal gambling den.
According to the police, young men were using his shop
to place bets on horse races, like those at nearby Aintree.
On that occasion, Nathan escaped punishment.
Every spring, his outfitting business picked up again
when the year's first wave of travellers
piled into the docks in preparation for their journey.
The conditions on the passage were diabolical.
-Not much room here.
-Precisely, not much room at all.
The top bunk was more desirable because if you vomited over here,
you can reach the floor.
For the person below, reaching out being seasick,
they had the risk of you vomiting on top of them.
So it was these really awful conditions
in which people would have been transported.
It was very cramped, you can see.
Very cramped indeed.
People complain about the conditions.
When they went to people like Hart, they would have actually been told
this is the berth you would have been allocated.
But, actually, the maps, the sales literature at the time
doesn't reveal there's a bunk on top of you.
So they thought they'd got this area of space.
-They thought they had some privacy.
-They thought they had some privacy,
and, as you can see, there is nowhere where there is privacy.
So people like Nathan Hart are trying to make this sound
as good as they can,
to encourage people to take that leap and emigrate.
Yeah, they've got to sell, effectively, the space of a coffin
in which you're going to travel for some three or four weeks
to cross the Atlantic.
As the 1880s came to a close, Nathan was doing well.
Several hundred emigrants were leaving Liverpool every day.
Hi-tech steamships were smashing the speed records,
but this ever-more connected world
was creating dangerous openings for an old enemy.
I've got an article here from the Liverpool Mercury from August 1892
and it's a report of an outbreak of cholera.
The disease had been found in New York
and it's been traced back to the German port of Hamburg,
where 8,500 people have died.
And what this epidemic does is effectively shut down
And the port of New York just stops - halts all immigration.
What that means is that if you are in the emigrant outfitting business,
this epidemic is potentially a disaster.
Nathan would need all his entrepreneurial spirit
to get through this crisis.
Two years later, in the Gore's Directory of 1894,
he is listed as having not one but two new professions.
He is Nathan Hart, financial agent, and Nathan Hart, picture dealer.
He has diversified.
He's got out of emigrant outfitting
and into financial services and the art world.
To me, this seems to be classic Nathan.
Fearless and enterprising.
At the age of 65, he'd spotted a new opportunity and gone for it.
In the late 19th century, there was a huge and growing appetite for art.
Many new public galleries opened at this time,
including Liverpool's Walker Gallery,
which is still going strong today.
A private market for art was also growing fast.
Nathan appears to have been active in this world.
We know this because three years after he launched his new venture,
he died, and left behind him an inventory of artwork and antiques.
This document lists the collection of oil paintings,
watercolours, drawings, clocks,
presentation plates and jewellery
that were in Nathan Hart's possession
at the time that he died.
Among his paintings was at least one by William Etty.
Although today Etty is regarded as one of the first
significant British painters of nudes,
in the late 19th century his work was seen by many as scandalous.
Nevertheless, there were still buyers for Etty's paintings,
and perhaps Nathan knew where to find them.
His instincts didn't let him down because he died a wealthy man,
leaving over £200,000 in today's money
and bequeathing to his synagogue a scholarship for studious boys.
He was able, through the scholarship he funded,
to ensure that his memory lived on.
And I think if you're going to look for a reason why Nathan Hart
was so successful, why he made so much money,
it would have to be adaptability.
He was a businessman who was constantly reshaping
and reimagining his business,
changing it to find new ways of making money.
And that's why his story is so perfectly fitting
to the story of Liverpool.
Because, more than any of the residents of 62 Falkner Street
that we've met so far, he was a man who made the most
of being in Liverpool,
who made the most of being in the greatest port in the world.
Next time, the residents of 62 Falkner Street
are threatened by technological revolution.
"We have nothing at all to fear from motor carriage."
And two World Wars change Liverpool and the house forever.
The bombs fell right here.
Our house is metres away from being destroyed.
Historian David Olusoga follows the residents of the house in Liverpool from the 1850s to the 1890s. The house's inhabitants are living through one of the fastest periods of change the world has ever seen. The city is a rapidly expanding metropolis at the heart of a global empire - a ruthless place which offers untold riches for some and leaves others on the brink of ruin.
David uncovers the extraordinary stories of a woman widowed in a cholera epidemic who turns the house from a single dwelling into a boarding house. He follows the trail of an ambitious Jewish immigrant from Denmark, struggling to stay afloat in the midst of a global financial crisis, and then sees what happens to a wheeler-dealer whose job is to enable hundreds of people to make new lives in America.
David also traces the extraordinary story of the Robinsons - a seemingly successful couple in the watchmaking business. For them, the house is the backdrop to a family drama involving violence, infidelity and a tangle with the divorce courts. The story ends on the banks of the River Mersey, where an unidentified body dragged from the water has surprising connections to the house.