The Codmans – Liverpool’s Punch & Judy Family

Bob Edwards was born in Liverpool in the 1950s. He has been a policeman, a publican and a teacher in Further Education. He is a keen local historian and is the author of the book, Liverpool in the 1950s. Since 2010 he has maintained www.liverpoolpicturebook.com which has attracted more 1.9 million visitors from around the world.
Bob Edwards was born in Liverpool in the 1950s. He has been a policeman, a publican and a teacher in Further Education. He is a keen local historian and is the author of the book, Liverpool in the 1950s. Since 2010 he has maintained www.liverpoolpicturebook.com which has attracted more 1.9 million visitors from around the world.
 IN 1860 Richard Codman, woodcarver, puppet showman and musician, arrived in Liverpool and was awarded a prime site on an open cobbled square known as the “Quadrant” between the market and Lime Street Station.  Professor Codman, as he was known, began entertaining the people of Liverpool on a regular basis with his ‘Punch and Judy’ puppet shows. punch-and-judy-liverpool-1History tells us that Mr. Punch arrived in England in the reign of Charles II, after Cromwell’s austere rule. His name is derived from the Italian “pulcinella”, soon shortened for English audiences to “Mr. Punch”. Unlike today’s performances, the original was a marionette, dancing and cavorting on strings. When Punch’s popularity began to wane, he became a glove puppet, with a host of other characters, and what had begun as a fairly unwieldy marionette theatre, with a crew of assistants became a one man travelling show. In those early days there were a variety of different plots, depending on who put on a show, but soon one version became the standard. Punch and Judy became a tale of marital disharmony and challenge to authority – hence the policeman! And just as now, performances over the years have been both topical and satirical, with guest appearances by the stars of the day. The Punch and Judy show stood in the square at St Georges Place from the 19th century up until 1957 when they decided to make a huge traffic roundabout which went around St George’s Hall, the show was literally in the way. “There was a big hoohaa about retaining it, but of course the authorities won in the end and suggested an alternative site, which was St George’s Plateau. “In my early days, I pestered my father to such an extent that he gave in and I used to sit inside on a box watching him. “It was incredible the things I watched arms and legs flying up in the air and goodness knows what. “Punch always has his stick. “Slapstick is a pantomime thing. Two pieces of wood with a little bit in the middle that made a slapping sound. Or that’s the way to do it, I should say. “It’s not an actual voice, but a swazzle was used in the original shows and it’s still used in our shows. “The show was eventually moved to Williamson Square until they received a request to go to the Museum of Liverpool Life, which is where it is today.” Richard Codman (Proprietor) and his sonsThe characters in a Punch and Judy show are not fixed as in a Shakespeare play, for instance. They are similar to the cast of a soap opera or a folk tale like Robin Hood. While the principal characters must appear, the lesser characters are included at the discretion of the performer. New characters may be added as the tradition evolves, and older characters dropped. Along with Punch and Judy, the cast of characters usually includes their baby, a hungry crocodile, a clown, an officious policeman, and a prop string of sausages. The devil and the generic hangman Jack Ketch may still make their appearances but, if so, Punch will always get the better of them.