Merchant Palaces

text: Merchant Palaces

Liverpool and Wirral mansions photographed by Bedford Lemere

16 February to 13 May 2007

A smaller version of this exhibition is on display at Sudley House from 26 May 2007 to 31 August 2008.

The photographs in this exhibition were taken between 1888 and 1916 by the London-based firm Bedford Lemere & Co. Most are the work of Harry Bedford Lemere (1864-1944), one of the best architectural photographers of his day. He travelled the country taking pictures of the homes of the rich, sometimes as a record for their owners, sometimes for professional decorators or architects.

The wealth of late Victorian and Edwardian Liverpool often brought Harry Bedford Lemere to Merseyside. Liverpool, the second port of the British Empire, was at the height of its prosperity at the time. Most of its leading citizens were successful merchants, trading in goods imported through the docks. There were also shipowners, bankers, insurers and lawyers, and manufacturers in food processing and the chemical industry.

Harry Bedford Lemere used natural light rather than flash, and long exposure times meant he rarely included figures. Nevertheless, his sharply focused pictures are full of telling personal details, and they give a vivid insight into the private world of Liverpool’s elite.

Exhibition highlights

Have a look at three of the photographs from the exhibition using the links below.


If you have any enquiries about Merchant Palaces you can email our exhibitions department.

The Bedford Lemere collection in the National Monuments Record

The images that were shown in this exhibition are copies of original photographs and are part of the Bedford Lemere Collection, a unique record of architecture and design in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection is held as part of the National Monuments Record, the public archive of English Heritage.

The National Monuments Record holds over 8 million photographs dating from the 1840s to the present day that record England's architecture and archaeology from the ground and from the air.

This exhibition was organised in collaboration with English Heritage (National Monuments Record).


A paperback book, also called 'Merchant Palaces' has been published by Bluecoat Publishing Press and English Heritage to accompany this exhibition. The publication includes 50 photographs of Liverpool and Wirral homes, including all the photographs featured in the exhibition.

Available by mail order from Publications at NML Trading Ltd for £9.99 plus £2 for postage within the UK, £4 to Europe, £7(airmail) or £3.50 (surface mail) to the rest of the world.