A significant conservation project by the National Trust has saved around 16,000 photographic prints and negatives by renowned Liverpool photographer Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret, most of which have been hidden from public view for decades.
In 1950. Hardman took what was to become the most reproduced photograph “illustrating an era of Liverpool’s commerce”: Birth of the Ark Royal (pictured above.) The photograph was taken from Holt Hill, Tranmere, looking towards the Cammell Laird shipyard.
The collection is the only known 20th-century collection where a photographer’s entire output has been preserved intact.
Lindsey Sutton, archivist at the National Trust, said, “Edward Chambré Hardman rarely threw anything away, so the collection we have represents nearly the entirety of the life and work he and his wife Margaret built.
“The vast size of the collection, previous storage methods and a lack of resource in the past has meant much of it hasn’t had the attention it needed.”
Alex Koukos, conservator at the National Trust, said, “When we began to prioritise items, we found most were in relatively good condition, and simply needed cleaning and rehousing into new, more suitable storage boxes. That has been a huge task in itself.
As part of the project, around 4,600 photographic prints, negatives and paper records have also been digitised to make them accessible to the public for the first time. The National Trust will publish these online later this year.
A further 5,000 photographs, negatives and paper records have also been catalogued. They will now be accessible to researchers and the public to explore either online or in-person by appointment at the Liverpool Record Office.
Lindsey Sutton, archivist at the National Trust, said, “The Hardmans’ photographs were made to be seen, not hidden away from view. One of the most important aims of this project has been to make them more accessible for the public to enjoy.”
Previous estimates had put the size of the total collection at around 140,000 items, however, the National Trust now believe this number to be much larger, and potentially double that amount.
A group of conservation volunteers have been specifically recruited and trained to assist in the huge task of cleaning and rehousing prints. Most of this work is being done at the Hardmans’ House, the couple’s preserved 1950s home and studio in Liverpool, where a photographic conservation studio has been set up on the top floor of the Georgian townhouse.
The National Trust is getting ready to reopen the photographers’ 1950s home and studio, which is hidden away on Rodney Street in Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter.
The Hardmans’ House will be open for limited guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays, 9 September – 29 October 2022. Tickets will be available to book two weeks in advance from 25 August by telephone on 0344 249 1895 or via the property’s website. Pre-booking is recommended to guarantee a space.
Behind-the-scenes updates of the conservation work and highlights of the Hardman collection can be enjoyed through the Hardmans’ House social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NTHardmansHouse).
Chambre Hardman’s photographs
Born in Ireland, Edward Chambré Hardman established a highly successful photographic studio in Liverpool, becoming the leading portrait photographer in the city from the 1920s to the 1960s.
He is noted for his photographs of the British landscape and for his photographs that depict the industrial and commercial transformations occurring in Liverpool during the mid-20th century, such as his most famous photograph Birth of the Ark Royal at the Cammell Laird shipyard, Tranmere.
He also took portraits of many celebrities of the age including Ivor Novello, Patricia Routledge, Robert Donat and Margot Fonteyn.
Hardman lived and worked at 59 Rodney Street with his wife Margaret, who was an accomplished photographer in her own right, and who managed their successful business.
The conservation project
Images: NT/The Hardman’s House