Other Buildings in Liverpool

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The Royal Liver Building
Probably Liverpool's most famous building, the Royal Liver Building was designed by W. Aubrey Thomas and completed in 1911 for the Royal Liver Friendly Society. It stands in an imposing position on the waterfront and is unique in design in this country, incorporating Baroque, Art Nouveau and Byzantine influences and drawing inspiration from some early American tall buildings. At the time it was the tallest office block in the UK at 295 ft (90 m) and was referred to as a skyscraper in the press. Structurally it is notable for being one of the first large reinforced concrete buildings in the world.
The clocks, 25 ft (7½ m) in diameter, were the largest electrically driven clocks in the UK when installed. There are four altogether, three on the seaward tower and one on the other, facing the city. The two iconic Liver Birds perched on the top are 18 ft (5½ m) high. Only the ground floor of the Royal Liver Building is normally open to the public and much of this is occupied by a café. There are elaborate ceilings and some stained glass windows (below right) with a seafaring theme.
The Liver Bird (above right) is, of course, Liverpool's icon. Its most famous representation is the copper statues, one perched on each tower of the Royal Liver Building, which were designed by the German Carl Bernard Bartels. He was a London resident, who was treated shamefully by the authorities during the First World War, deported to Germany afterwards and virtually expunged from official records.
 
 
The Albert Dock Warehouses
The Albert Dock warehouses were designed by Jesse Hartley and Phillip Hardwick and opened in 1846. The fireproof design was a reaction to the enormous losses previously sustained in warehouse fires. The design also allowed direct loading and unloading between ships and warehouses for the first time in Liverpool.
The dock was described in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)
  The Albert dock, between the Salthouse dock and the river, was commenced in 1842, and opened with much ceremony by his Royal Highness Prince Albert, on the 31st of July, 1846. The water space is 7¾ acres; the quay length, 885 yards. The warehouses erected upon the margin, five stories in height, are entirely constructed of stone, brick, and iron, are vaulted throughout, and are perfectly fire-proof; they occupy an area of 4½ acres, and have an aggregate area of floor accommodation equal to 21½ acres. The dock has a commodious halftide basin, with double entrance gates, which allow vessels arriving, and vessels departing, to pass at the same time. The total cost was £800,000.
The buildings were made to last but were nevertheless threatened with demolition in the 1970s. Their rescue marked a turning point for Liverpool, which seemed then to be locked into a bottomless decline. Conservative minister Michael Heseltine highlighted urban deprivation in Liverpool following the Toxteth riots in 1981 and was instrumental in the reversal of the city's fortunes by persuading the private sector it was in their interests to help finance the regeneration of the inner city.
Later, Heseltine recalled of his visit at that time: 'The Mersey, its lifeblood, flowed as majestically as ever down from the hills. Its monumental Georgian and Victorian buildings, created with such pride, still dominated the skyline. The Liver Building itself, the epicentre of a trading system that had reached out to the four corners of the earth, stood defiant and from my perspective very alone [...] everything had gone wrong.'
Millions of pounds subsequently poured into the area. The Merseyside Development Corporation, established by Heseltine, spent more than £200m redeveloping the Albert Dock. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time of Heseltine's visit, commented in her memoirs: 'For the most part [...] his efforts had only ephemeral results', although, in a somewhat backhanded compliment, she added: 'I would not blame him for that - Liverpool has defeated better men than Michael Heseltine.' [I'll resist the temptation to comment.]
The Albert Dock warehouses have been superbly redeveloped into shops, bars and restaurants, with luxury apartments above. The north-west corner of the dock (upper left) features Tate Liverpool, the largest modern art gallery in the UK outside London. The north-east corner (lower left) features the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which tells the story of Liverpool's seafaring heritage. The museum's collections reflect the international importance of Liverpool as a gateway to the world, including its role in the transatlantic slave trade and emigration, the merchant navy and the RMS Titanic.
The Dock Traffic Office
The Dock Traffic Office, with its Greek temple-like frontage, was built in 1848 by Philip Hardwick. The portico is actually made of cast iron, the pillars being in two sections each and the architrave above a single casting.
The Town Hall
Liverpool's neoclassical Town Hall on Water Street was completed in 1754, the work of John Wood the younger. It is effectively Liverpool's fourth, its precursor having been gutted by fire in 1795 and reconstructed by James Wyatt, who added the raised drum under the dome (1802) and the columned portico (1811). It is well described Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848):
  The Town Hall, commenced in 1749, and of which the ground-floor was originally designed for an exchange, occupies an elevated situation at the north end of Castle street: the whole of the interior was destroyed by fire in 1795, and was subsequently restored by the corporation upon an improved plan, at an expense of £110,000. It is a stately and magnificent structure in the Grecian style, with four elegant fronts, of which the north forms one side of the Exchange buildings, and the south, which is the principal, comprises the grand entrance: the whole edifice is surrounded with a rustic basement, from which rise handsome ranges of Corinthian pillars, supporting an entablature and cornice; between the pillars are tablets, in which the emblems of commerce are finely sculptured in bas-relief.
  The interior of this noble building contains on the ground-floor a councilroom, apartments for the mayor, committee-rooms, and offices for the town-clerk, treasurer, and other officers of the corporation. The grand staircase leads into a spacious saloon splendidly fitted up, opening on the east and west sides into two magnificently furnished drawing-rooms, and on the north and east sides into two large ball-rooms, also superbly decorated. On the west of the saloon is the banquet-room; the arched ceiling is richly panelled in compartments, and the whole is disposed in the most costly style. The refectory, adjoining the smaller ball-room, is of proportionate elegance. The grand staircase is embellished with a fine statue of Canning by Sir F. Chantrey, and with Hilton's picture of the Crucifixion, painted by him for the corporation.
The Bank of England Building
The former Liverpool branch of the Bank of England (on the left) on Castle Street was designed by C.R. Cockerel and completed in 1848. The Pevsner Guide tells of 'one of the masterpieces of Victorian commercial architecture, and among Cockerel's greatest works, combining Greek, Roman and Renaissance in a remarkably vigorous and inventive way'.
 
Oriel Chambers
Oriel Chambers (on the right) on the corner of Water Street and Covent Garden, designed by Peter Ellis and completed in 1864, is, according to the Pevsner Guide, 'one of the most remarkable buildings of its date in Europe'. It has a cast iron frame and an unusually large amount of glass. The unsupported bay, or oriel, windows are framed in very slender cast iron and provide an exceptional amount of light for nearby desks. The building originally stretched almost almost twice as far along Covent Garden, but this part was bombed during World War II and replaced by a more modern block in 1959-61.
From the south
 
The Great Hall
 
The organ
 
The Crown Court

 

St. George's Hall
In 1839 and 1840, Harvey Lonsdale Elmes won competitions to design both a concert hall and assize courts. Liverpool Corporation then wanted the two combined, which was good news for us, who have inherited the present magnificent building, but bad news for poor Elmes, who died in the process of exhaustion and consumption at the age of only 33. St George's Hall is a neoclassical masterpiece, 'one of the greatest [buildings] in England and a monument of world importance' (Quentin Hughes). Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848) provides a useful description:
  St. George's Hall [...] is in the Grecian style, 500 feet in extreme length, and of very lofty elevation. The east front [...] is embellished with a stately and boldly projecting portico of sixteen columns of the Corinthian order, supporting an enriched entablature and cornice, which surrounds the whole of the building, and affording an entrance by a flight of steps into St. George's Hall, which is in the centre, and the roof of which rises to a considerable elevation above the rest of the structure.
  This hall is 169 feet in length, 75 feet in width, and 75 feet in height, and during the assizes is open to the public; it communicates at the north and south ends with the assize courts, each of which is 60 feet long, 50 wide, and 45 high. On each side of the portico are façades of square pillars, between the lower portions of which are ornamented screens rising to about one third of the height. The south front consists of a noble and boldly projecting portico of circular columns of the Corinthian order, rising from a richly-moulded surbase ten feet in height (which surrounds the whole pile), and surmounted by a pediment whose apex has an elevation of ninety-five feet from the ground.
  The north front, which is semicircular, is also embellished with Corinthian columns; this part of the building contains a concert-room, seventy-two feet in length, and nearly of equal breadth. The edifice, in addition to the principal divisions, contains the vice-chancellor's court, the sheriff's-jury court, a grand-jury room, a barristers' library, and other apartments; the whole, for the grandeur of its dimensions, the loftiness of its elevation, and the elegance of its style, forming one of the most sumptuous and magnificent structures in the kingdom. The estimated cost of the building is £153,000, exclusive of the site: architect, the late Mr. H. L. Elmes; contractor, Mr. John Tomkinson.
The many features of St. George's Plateau facing Lime Street include four huge lions (Cockerell 1856), the equestrian bronzes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Thornycroft 1866-9) and the dolphin-based cast-iron lamp standards (also by Cockerell). Disraeli (Birch 1883) stands on the steps.
St. Georges Hall was re-opened to the public in 2007 following a major restoration costing £23 million. It is something no visitor should miss. The largest room is the Great Hall, with its organ, magnificent tiled floor (not usually exposed) and ceiling. The organ was the biggest in the country until the one in the Royal Albert Hall in London was built in 1871. Two of the original granite columns had to be removed to install the organ and these were relocated to the entrance of Sefton Park.
The stained glass at either end of the Great Hall, by Forrest & Son of Liverpool, was added in 1883-4. At the south end, appropriately enough, St. George and the Dragon are depicted. The stained glass at the north end is inspired by the Liverpool Coat of Arms. I've yet to see a definitve version of the latter - indeed there may not be one, but all versions depict Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea, on the left and his son and messenger the merman Triton, blowing on a conch shell, on the right. In between are a cormorant and above it a Liver Bird. The motto, from Virgil, reads Deus nobis haec otia fecit, which translates roughly as God has provided this leisure for us.
It is possible to visit the Crown Court, Judge's Room, Grand Jury Room and the prisoners' cells below; the latter are atmospheric verging on harrowing. The courtroom still operated as Liverpool's only criminal court until 1984.
It is also possible to visit the beautiful, circular, Small Concert Room as an attendee at one of the regular chamber concerts now being held there. Charles Dickens recited and Franz Listz performed there in the 19th century.
St. George's Plateau
 
Ceiling of the Great Hall
 
Stained glass at the south end
 
Stained glass at the north end
 
The Crown Court
Bluecoat Chambers
This lovely Queen Anne-style building on School Lane was founded in 1708 by Mr Bryan Blundell and Rev. Robert Styth and completed in 1725 as 'a school for teaching poor children to read, write and cast accounts'. Originally called the Bluecoat Hospital, it is the oldest surviving building in the centre of the city and is the work of an unknown architect. Blundell was a leading Liverpool shipowner, reputedly the owner of the first ship to enter the town's first dock in 1715, and slave trader. Styth was the first joint Rector of Liverpool, based at St Nicholas Church on the waterfront. Both men were aware of the problems of orphan children in Liverpool, large numbers of whom were left destitute by the loss of their fathers at sea.
The school moved to Wavertree in 1906 and was narrowly saved from demolition in 1907 by a donation from soap magnate William Hesketh Lever, funded by part of his winnings in a libel suit against the Daily Mail. The building has had various functions since, latterly an arts centre.
Woolton Hall
Woolton Hall was, like Croxteth Hall, built for the Molyneux family in 1704 by an unknown architect, though extensively modified later in the century by the famous Robert Adam. The inside has some impressive and atmospheric dark wood panelled rooms and an elegant Octagon Room, along with a few less in keeping modernisations. There are many portraits of old Molyneux family members and one of Robert Adam.
 
The rear
Speke Hall
Speke Hall is one of the most beautiful and interesting Tudor houses in the country. It originates in the late 15th century, though much of the present building was begun around 1530 by Sir William Norris and completed by his son Henry around 1600. It rambles irregularly around a central shady courtyard and originally had some sort of moat, the front door being approached over a stone bridge. The house has passed through several hands over the years and has at times been in a very dilapidated state. It has now been superbly restored by the National Trust.
Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848) has this to say about the hall:
  The Hall, now the residence of Joseph Brereton, Esq., is a timber and plaster building, with a picturesque stone porch, bearing the date 1598, conducting to an inner court where are two venerable yew-trees. The great hall is very lofty, with wainscot and a ceiling of oak, and having a mantelpiece brought from Holyrood: at each angle of the southern wall, within the court, are two spacious corbelled windows, one of which lights the hall. The house was originally surrounded by a moat, of which the outlines remain, and over which a bridge leads to the principal entrance. The whole forms a highly interesting specimen of old English domestic architecture.
Two of the finest rooms in Speke Hall, both dating from the 1530s, are the Great Hall and Great Parlour. However, much of the interior of the house is influenced by Victorian tastes, restoration work begun by Richard Watt in 1856 and continued especially by lessee Frederick Leyland, manager of the Bibby Shipping Company. His appreciation of the contemporary Arts and Crafts movement is evident in the William Morris wallpapers. Even so, there is plenty of much older plaster and woodwork, and, the Norris family being Roman Catholic, a priest hole. It is fascinating to wander around this complex but cosy interior.
The house is set in magnificent grounds with formal gardens, open spaces and woodland. How strange, then, that Liverpool Airport and vast industrial estates abut on all sides. You will notice the occasional aircraft, but on the whole the atmosphere here is rural and timeless. The large earth embankment known as The Bund was built in the 1960s to protect the hall from noise pollution. There is an enjoyable walk along the top of it with superb views across the River Mersey towards the Welsh hills.
An interesting character associated with Speke Hall is the local celebrity John Middleton (1578-1623), known as the Childe of Hale. The nickname is no doubt partly an ironic reference to his size - he was reputedly 9 ft 3 in (2.8 m) tall - and partly a rererence to his childlike mental condition. A local lord at the time, Gilbert Ireland, is said to have employed Middleton as a minder. On being awarded a knighthood, he took Middleton to London with him where he trounced King James's favourite wrestler. Evidently not being one to bear grudges, the King gave him a prize of £20 but, being a simple soul, Middleton allowed himself to be separated from his winnings by his more streetwise travelling companions. His portrait, wearing his smart London gear, hangs in the hall.
 
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
The Pevsner guide, The Buildings of England - Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West (2006), by Richard Pollard and Nikolaus Pevsner, is particularly indispensible for much more architectural detail than could be attempted here.
This is a non-commercial website that is intended entirely for research and educational purposes. If I have unintentionally breached copyright with any images, I hope that the copyright owner will tolerate my usage in the present context, otherwise I will remove the material. Modern colour photographs, except where stated, are by the author.