I take one look at Vine Street and I want to run away

17 May 1969

This morning the Daily Post follows up yesterday’s account of the Princess Alexandra demonstration with this interview by Post reporter Ann Cummings with Mrs Jane Parr of 111 Vine Street:

At home with Mrs Parr yesterday

Mrs Jane Parr, fifty-six-year-old mother of five, lives in a Liverpool slum house a Princess wanted to see. It has no bathroom, no hot water, the walls are crumbling, the roof leaks in the kitchen and there is only an outside toilet.

”But compared with many others in the area, it is a palace,” said Mrs Parr. This is why she wanted Princess Alexandra to come into her kitchen for a chat when the Royal visitor came to Liverpool on Thursday. The Princess accepted Mrs Parr’s invitation to see the inside of  her home, 111 Vine Street,  but was ushered away by officials because she was already thirty minutes behind schedule.

Last night Mrs Parr explained: “My house isn’t the worst, but I thought once I got the Princess inside my kitchen, I could tell her about the terrible conditions people are living in.  Most of them are ill and I’m sure it’s because of how they are forced to live. I’m not a glory-hunter – I just want to fight for others.”

Mrs Parr is a member of the Abercromby Tenants’ Association, as the representative of Vine Street, a cobbled, grimy street of old, sagging terraced houses a stone’s throw from the university. On the side of the street where the houses are being demolished, the doors are broken, window panes are smashed, and rubble is piled on the pavements.

“It makes me feel sick to look at it every time I put the milk bottles out,” said Mrs Parr. ”When I go away to my daughter’s in the Lake District, I dread coming home again. I take one look at Vine Street and I want to run away.”

Mrs Parr moved into the house twenty-six years ago, and brought up her five children there. Her husband, Mr Fred Parr, aged 60, was a Japanese prisoner-of-war at the time they moved and, as a result of his experiences in captivity, he now suffers from heart trouble, peptic ulcers and bronchitis.

“I dread the winter,” he said. ”I have to keep warm, so the fires have to be blazing all day long and I sit on two hot water bottles.”

Because they have no hot water, the Parrs have to boil kettles all day long – ”It takes four kettles just to wash the front steps,” said Mrs Parr.

The couple’s two sons, Derek, aged 21, and Gordon, aged 19, who still live with them, go to the public baths every week, for a bath. Their parents make do by boiling two kettles of water to fill a bowl and carry it up to wash in their bedroom. Every day, Mrs Parr has to clean out the drain in the yard with a hose pipe and plunge her hands into the slimy water to get rid of the blockages.  “I’ve told the Corporation about it,” she said, ” but nothing has been done yet.”

The tiny kitchen has a leaking roof – and a bad smell because of the faulty drain. Mrs Parr keeps a cupboard full of disinfectants to try to get rid of the smell – “it cost me a small fortune,” she added.

The gas cooker is kept in the sitting room because there is no room in the cramped kitchen. Mrs Parr is very proud of her toilet. She won it through a church sweep. “I won a ticket for £15,” she said, “and my first thought was, God, I’ll be able to get a new loo.” But it’s still only an outside toilet and the family have to go out in all  weathers to use it.

”You can’t ask anyone to stay when you’ve got no inside loo or a bathroom”,  said Mrs Parr. “I think if  I ever had a bathroom and toilet, I would practically live in it.

The big sitting room is cosy and warm, with a cheerful, open coal fire, and a teapot which is always full – “I seem to make tea for people all day long,” she said. There is also a smaller front room, and four bedrooms.

The Parrs have obviously gone to a lot of trouble to make their home nice – “We’ve spent our lives, and our money on it,” said Mr Parr. They have put in new fireplaces, plastered the walls, built sinks, wallpapered and painted. But the house is still crumbling about them, and they can’t do anything about that – or the bulges that appear in their wallpaper.

The Parrs pay £2 2s 8d a week for the rent – it was £1 8s 11d when owned by a private landlord, but went up after the Corporation took it over in 1967. ”We’ve been told we’ll be moved out in 1973, when the houses are demolished for building,” said Mrs Parr. ”But I’m very disheartened sometimes. I keep thinking they’ll make us hang on here.”

Mrs Parr talked about the conditions in some of the neighbours’ houses. “You can see why I wanted to get over to the Princess the terrible state these people are living in,” she said.   “I’m sure she would have been very sympathetic.”


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

42 thoughts on “I take one look at Vine Street and I want to run away”

  1. How times have changed? a view of how my father (Harry Parr) and his family grew up in those days, the conditions must have been a nightmare.
    To say times have changed my two daughters are asking for new ipads for christmas, imagine telling them to go outside to use the toilet.

  2. Thanks, Derek and John (son & grandson of Jane Parr?). The conditions were outrageous, even in 1968/9 when the Vine Street residents were trapped between the University as slum landlord and the Corpy dragging its feet on rehousing. But a brave alliance of tenants and students got action. Thanks for reading. What happened to Jane?


  4. Those Vine Street residents were real fighters and great characters. They stood up to the university and the council, and did what very few would have been prepared to do back then – protest in the presence of a member of the royal family. Thanks for reading, Suzi.

  5. i used to live in cambridge st and used to go to vine street school, we had an ‘aunt’ bella who lived in vine street i remember she used to make us toffee apples,

    1. Hi, I am trying to research my family tree and my grandma was called Arabella and lived at 109 Vine street in and around 1898. Do you know your aunt Bella’s surname or maiden name? kind regards. Jackie

  6. Susie slavin
    lived in 114 vine st; remember it well, great neighbours,the parrs wilsons hegartys fitzsimmons rileys murphys and many more.
    happydays and fond memories…

    1. Pat Burke
      i used to live at 120
      happy days big skipping rope across the street and all the kids joining in.
      Having to get water from street stand pipe in the winter because the house pipes would freeze solid

  7. gosh..I was just looking up any pics of Vine st for my kids and grandkids – I certainly remember the Slavins and Rileys.. I was “little ann” from the Hegarty clan..now living in Australia..,…remembering what neighbourhoods were back then…my memories are great and whilst I was only little and lived in Grove St……Vine Sttreet will always be my first memory of ‘home’ …..

    1. Hi Ann.I am Christine Nolan 107 Vine Street .We were friends, also Sheila
      Conroy,Linda Scoular,I rember your sister Patsy and Julie I have a photo of
      her.Happy days.

      1. oh my goodness HELLO!!! Yes of course I remember you! (and your mum having really special chocolate cakes ha!) Yes I agree Happy days! … whenever I have been ‘home’ I take time to wander around that area… xx

  8. I have just discovered that my Great Grandfather was the Landlord of the Grapes Pub in Vine Street in 1911 Census..does anyone have photos of his Pub..it was 110 Vine Street..he was John Mullaney

    1. Hi Johanna.. if the no is correct 110 – that was next door to my grandma’s house 112.. for as long as I can remember (I was born 1952) there was nothing there..bombed in war I believe? You may have to search pre war? good luck!

  9. Sorry it was 191 my mum is Sheila and she had 4 sisters Irean Margie Dolly and Frankie my Nan was known as Betty

  10. I remember the Caldwells but was only a little girl then so no ‘in depth’ info, sorry! will ask my older sister if she has any memories… photos could be hard..I have a couple of family ones on the doorsteps but not ‘street’ ones…. there is a book called ‘It All Came Tumbling Down’ which is about Liverpool and I know there is the odd photo of Vine St in there.. (I do have the book and treasure it)..good luck with your search…..

  11. Thanks Ann I would love to see old photos if your sister has any I lived there when I was little about 6years i went to St Ann’s school in over berry street in 1965 x

  12. I am Arthur Parr’s grandson, he was telling me a story about his June Fred who was a prisoner of war today and after a google search I found this article. Thanks for hosting it.

  13. Hi I’m the granddaughter of the Dempseys 109 Vine Street. My mum was Betty Dempsey married Wally Fitzsimmons from Myrtle Gardens. Have many childhood memories of Vine Street

  14. I have a photo vine street taken after a storm,early 1960s.
    Need an e mail address to post it .

    1. Hi Christine… if its not too much trouble I would love a copy of your photo of Vine St… no worries if not.. my email is annstanton@yahoo.com (ann woods)..
      trying to explain it to aussies and my kids any photos would be brilliant… xx

    2. Hi Christine,
      I have been researching my family’s history and found that my grandmother and family lived on Vine street in the 1920s. I have been searching the Web to find any photographs of the street but without much luck.
      So i would very much appreciate it if you would forward any photographs that you have of the street and houses.
      Many thanks Neil

  15. Hi everyone. My name is Andrew Parr and Jane Parr was my Nan and Derek Parr who is mentioned in the article is my dad and he posted the first comment. He hasn’t checked the article since posting his comments and as such has not seen the comments that followed. That was until this weekend when I read them all to him. Lets just say it provoked an emotional response and the memories came flooding back. Even I recognise the names in the comments from stories my dad has told me. So if anyone would like to get in touch or ask any questions please feel free to contact us on the following email address. theparrsofvinestreet@btinternet.com. I know he would love to hear from you and share a story and a memory and better still, any pictures if you have any.
    Many thanks, Andrew Parr

    1. We must be related, my Nanna is Florence who was a daughter of Janes, Florence now lives in Australia with her children, grand children and great grandchildren. i will be sure to show her this. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Hi Claire.

        Yes we must be related. Unfortunately i have never met Florence as she emigrated to Australia before I was born but I’ve heard a lot about her. She was always known as Wickie, not sure on the spelling though. She was actually one of seven kids. Jean, Florence, Wendy, Roy, Harry, Derek and Gordon. Although sadly, Roy and Harry have passed away now. I know she has been in touch with most of them but never my dad so If you get the chance, please say hello from my dad and pass on his best wishes

  16. Just read through all the comments and I am overcome with memories , so many friend the robinsons the Quinn’s Dave chan Lynton Taylor the Browns Johnny Golding . The galanacous’s who lived next door . I remember Jim murrays shop on myrtle st. Also the Brady’s who where dads friends we lived with my nan lizzy lynch. Such memories.

  17. hi my name is david i was born in 1946 and spent a lot of time living in in vine street up until a was about 7 why because my mums mother father , brothers and sisters all lived there in a big house 3 floors high and about 6 rooms not counting the celler and my NIN would look after me when my mum was at work i can,t remember the number but it was right facing vine street school coming out of the front door to the left was a small shop and to the right was a place that made MINT ROCK i use to always pop my head in through the door just to get a smell of the mintrock being made it use to amaze me seeing it getting streached and twisted and the old man who work there he would always give me a soft bit of rock off the machine MY NANS NAME WAS HANLON all good times i remember outside toilet no elec only gas mantles and dark staircase great

  18. I went to vine st school 1959 60s i remember the shop facing called Sankey’s l remember a Michael Burke who lived facing the school i think he he left to go to king Davids i went to live in yorkshire,i know the Robinsons fond memories loved shopping on Myrtle st lived on grove st happy days 💜

  19. Amazing, this is my great grandmother, my Nanna (Florence) was one of her five children. Thank you for sharing this story, I’ll be sure to show Nanna.

  20. my nan & grandad lived at 132 vine st august 1905 we lived at 181 vine st till 1963 when it was demolished people we remember roy and sandra chen . robinsons. lynton taylor.browns next door ( cold winters)

    1. Hi David,
      My step grandfather and grandmother (Snelling) lived at 157 Vine st, not sure what side of the road it was on or if it was closer to Brownlow Hill end or not ? (please advise)
      I have seen some photo’s of the newspaper cuttings of the time (May 1969) of the locals protesting to Princess Alexandra with a partial view of the houses in the background but would like to see / have some photos of the actual road and houses if possible. I have seen a photo taken in the 40s looking down Brownlow hill showing the corner of Vine st but unfortunately not much detail shown.
      Also have found quite a few photos on the Web of the surrounding roads which give a general idea what the houses in Vine st looked like … but none as such, taken of and in Vine st.
      It would have been nice (eye opening) to have walked around #157 before it was finally pulled down and to have taken a few photo’s of it for the family’s ancestry tree.
      I only found out a few years ago through searching the Web that they actually lived in Vine st before moving to Wavertree.
      Regards …….

      1. hi neil 181 vine st was between myrtle st and falkner st i went to vine st school then to st,saviours school upper canning st then moved to halewood bath and inside tiolet at last in vine st there was a big garage and a corporation yard on the other side of the street a pub (the vine) on the corner betting shop opposite cobble streets we had to ride our bikes in sandon st that was tarmacked see if i can find some photos all the best

  21. I lived at 28 vine street with my family. I remember it was an old bleak black house. We lived in two rooms at the top of the house. Can’t remember the neighbors names as I was 6 or 7 when we moved house. I used to go to vine street school too, can’t seem to find any photos of the street on the net but, I can still envisage it. As kids, we used to play across the street near the university.

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