Many Liverpudlians will remember ‘Professor’ Codman’s Punch and Judy show which regularly performed at different locations in the city centre. However, perhaps few know that the story of the show began in the 1860’s with the death of a horse in Llandudno.
Richard Codman was born on 23rd July 1832, of Romany ancestry, to George and Louisa in Norwich. His father taught him woodcarving skills and music and in his early years he travelled the northwest, reputedly in the company of the famous bareknuckle fighter Jem Mace (who also hailed from Norfolk and would find his way to Liverpool).
In 1860 he travelled to Llandudno and was stranded there when his horse died. Trying to make ends meet he collected driftwood from the beach to fashion into pegs and the like. Carving some pieces into small heads he hit upon the idea of presenting a Punch and Judy puppet show on the beach, a venture which enjoyed considerable success and continues in the Welsh resort to this day.
He made his way to Liverpool in 1868 and began to give shows in the city, provided with a permanent pitch by the corporation on ‘The Quadrant’ directly in front of Lime Street Station. Richard Codman died in 1909 but by this time the Liverpool show had been taken over by his son Richard Mortimer Codman who was born on 9th November 1872. In 1922 Richard Codman II was presented with a new booth by the Sandon Society, designed by eminent local sculptor H Tyson Smith. Richard II died in 1951 and the venture was carried on by his son, another Richard Codman III (b.1897). With the redevelopment of Lime Street in the 1950s the show moved onto St George’s Plateau, later moving to Williamson Square. Richard Codman III died in 1986 and the show passed to his son Ronald Richard who was helped by his cousin Robert. They continued the show until about 2015.
Rickard Codman I married Charlotte Asker in 1859. They probably had many different homes in Liverpool, including 26 Guilford Street L6 (1871 census) and 32 Godfrey Street L6 (1881 census) both of which have since been demolished..
Richard Codman II married Ada Webster in 1892, their Liverpool homes included Bolton Street (1897) Devon Street L7 (1899) Harford Street (1894) 10 Egypt Street and 10 Back Oxford Street L8 (1939) all since demolished.
The second 'Professor' Codman, Richard Mortimer Codman [1872-1951]
Liverpool M.P. Bessie Braddock makes an appearance alongside Richard Codman III
© Liverpool Footprints