Highlights of the Hardmans' House

The Hardmans’ House will reopen for guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays between 17 September - 6 November. In the meantime, here’s your chance to delve into just a few of the 13,000 features, objects and collections that we care for in the home and photographic studio of E. Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret.

Follow us on social media @NTHardmansHouse to find out more about the fascinating collections and stories we care for. If you’ve visited before, we’d love to hear about your own favourite features or objects at the Hardmans’ House.

The front door at 59 Rodney Street showing the flanking columns with the names of Burrell & Hardman

59 Rodney Street's front entrance

Customers arriving to have their portrait taken by Mr Hardman would have arrived through the magnificent front entrance on Rodney Street. Still adorned with the original name and business plaques and painted in an unmissable shade of turquoise, you can easily imagine how it would have felt to walk through this doorway in the 1950s. Next time you’re in Liverpool’s city centre, why not stop by to admire it in person?

The Studio with equipment at The Hardmans' House, 59 Rodney Street, Liverpool.

Cameras

Step into the photographic studio on the first floor and you will instantly be transported into the shoes of a sitter about to have their portrait taken by the famous E. Chambré Hardman. A few of the Hardmans’ original cameras are displayed here, ranging from big to small, and are accompanied by a range of their photographic lamps. These would be used to create Mr Hardman’s commercial portraits. One of the cameras here is Edward’s Graflex camera, which he used to take most of his portraits.

The kitchen at the Hardmans' House, Liverpool

A 1950s kitchen

The back of the first floor was used by the Hardmans as their living quarters, which are fairly cramped in comparison to the grand rooms used by their staff and customers. Arguably the most immersive room in this area is the kitchen, perfectly preserved in all its 1950s glory. Plates are still drying on the rack above the sink, newspapers and letters are strewn across the table and the cupboards are fully stocked with original food packaging left by Mr Hardman. Inside one of the cupboards, you will even find a large collection of plastic egg cups – the Hardmans’ were either light eaters or were simply far too busy to be distracted by cooking.

Dark room at the Hardmans' House

Dark rooms

The Hardmans’ House is home to not one but two dark rooms. One is located on the top floor and was used exclusively by the Hardmans as their own dark room. It was here where they would spend many hours into the evening on their personal (mostly landscape) photography, including one of Edward’s most famous photographs, ‘The Birth of the Ark Royal’. In the cellar, their small team of staff would use a separate dark room and developing room to bring their commercial photographs to life, ready to be collected by customers. It’s much less comfortable than the Hardmans’ personal dark room, but evocative nonetheless, and filled with much of the original photographic equipment used by the staff.

Fashion catalogue belonging to Margaret Hardman

Margaret's belongings

At the very back of the house, the Hardmans’ bedroom provides a snapshot into the personal lives of the couple. Notably, Margaret’s belongings take centre stage here, with an array of her jewellery, cosmetics, hats and fashion catalogues proving just how glamorous she was. The wardrobe and drawers are still filled with her clothes, providing a sad reminder of the loss that Edward experienced after she died in 1970. While her presence is strong in this room, it’s important not to forget that Margaret was an excellent photographer herself and oversaw the day-to-day running of the business and their staff.

The Hardmans House Film Rolls

Film rolls

Back in the Hardmans’ dark room, you will notice stacks upon stacks of boxes filled with mostly-unused film rolls. In 2015, a box containing 23 rolls of film was discovered by chance in this room, five of which featured pictures that had never been developed. Incredibly, despite having been left in a cardboard box for all that time, 38 photos were able to be developed from the film rolls. Photos ranged from an example of formal portraiture, to shots taken from their Chester Studio and house’s windows and street scenes of the roads surrounding Rodney Street.

Props and backgrounds in the studio at the Hardmans' House

Props and backgrounds

There are many original props and backgrounds in the photographic studio. From classical pillars to children’s toys, it was here that Mr Hardman would use these to help take the perfect portrait to fit his customer’s needs. Whether it was a glamorous headshot or a treasured family photo, many customers would have spent hours in this room. It’s easy to imagine why the Hardmans’ advertised themselves as “the studio where every sitter receives individual thought and treatment”.

The desk in the Mounting Room at the Hardmans' House

Mounting desk

Downstairs, at the very back of the house, the Mounting Room was the final stage in the journey of the Mr Hardman’s commercial portraits. The photographs had been developed in the cellar and were now ready to be ‘mounted’. At the mounting desk, the staff in charge of this important task would use their expertise to place the photograph in whichever format the customer desired, with a wide range of paper, frames and packaging to choose from. You can see the various tools they used to do this, including the heated spatulas used to add the all-important final touch – the beautiful Burrell & Hardman logo.