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Posted by: mike on Feb 2, 2014

Category:Liverpool's HeritageFun PalacesLatest

Liverpool Forum Cinema

At the north end of Lime Street, on the opposite side to the Futurist Cinema, is the much more imposing former Forum Cinema, designed for the ABC circuit by William R Glen and Ernest A Shennan and opened in 1931, “one of W R Glen’s finest”, according to the Theatres Trust website:  http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/2102-forum-liverpool.

This splendid Portland stone building occupies a corner site corresponding to Lewis’s department store at the other end of Lime Street.

Its fine interior, described by some writers as “semi-Atmospheric”, was a celebration of the possibilities of indirect lighting using Holophane reflectors with a sunburst light-feature in the ceiling.  On each side of the proscenium are curious relief panels, supposedly Venetian though one includes a recognisable representation of the Chrysler Building.

The architects contrived to squeeze a big auditorium, originally 1,835 seats, into a constricted space 150 feet × 75 feet, by creating a huge balcony seating 750 and placing the projection ports high above the rear circle with a throw of 146 feet.

Such a narrow auditorium was less than ideal for wide-screen films, and when the Forum was tripled in 1982 a false ceiling was inserted from the balcony front so that the proportions of the proscenium were lost.

It finally closed in January 1998 with a showing of Casablanca at 50p per seat and has remained unused.  Although (or perhaps because) it’s listed Grade II, the various proposals for the building have so far come to nothing.

But at least it’s still intact.  This is how it looked in 2007 – http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/theatres-cinemas/15532-forum-cinema-liverpool.html – and, photographed by someone who can’t hold a camera still, in 2011:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H2GdMiLkqo.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 29, 2014

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's HeritageFun PalacesLatest

Liverpool Lime Street

As Liverpool city-centre regenerates, the remaining patches of neglect stand out more clearly.

The east side of Lime Street has been neglected for years, and yet the stretch between the Crown and the Vines pubs includes a spectacular landmark building that still, somehow, remains in one piece.

The Futurist Cinema, originally the Lime Street Picture House, was the first purpose-built cinema in Liverpool, opened in 1912.  It was the first to show sound movies, in 1926, three years before The Jazz Singer at the Olympia, West Derby Road.  It converted to Cinemascope in 1954 without interrupting performances, and at the end of its long history it was the only place in Liverpool fitted with Sensurround for the film Earthquake (1975):  [http://www.in70mm.com/newsletter/2004/69/sensurround/about.htm].

It closed in July 1982 and has remained empty and untended ever since.  Kim Ryan’s film of the Merseyside film-maker Alex Cox revisiting the Futurist shows the interior in 2008:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2_JRTwP4J0.  An April 2013 news article raises the question of whether the building is beyond saving:  http://www.clickliverpool.com/business/business-news/1218614-back-to-the-future-futurist-building-set-for-revamp.html.

The campaign to save at least the façade of the Futurist is at http://thefuturistcinema.wordpress.com.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 18, 2014

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's HeritageFun PalacesLatest

Liverpool Vines Hotel

The Vines Hotel, next door to the Adelphi, is a sister pub to the splendid Philharmonic Hotel on Hope Street, designed by the architect Walter Thomas.  It’s a little later than the Phil, opened in 1907, so its mahogany, copper, glass and plaster interior has a distinctly Art Nouveau feel.

Alcohol has been served here since 1823, and the present building takes its name from its late-Victorian licensee, Albert B Vines, who came to the site in 1867.

Because of its location at the end of Lime Street the Vines has traditionally been noisier than the Phil.  Indeed, one reviewer [http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/the-vines-liverpool] comments,–

The Vines will usually give you a fairly rockin’ Friday, Saturday and indeed Sunday evening provided what rocks you are karaoke and somebody's grandmother pinching your arse.

Architectural-history enthusiasts may choose to visit for breakfast.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 14, 2014

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's HeritageLife-enhancing experiencesFun PalacesCemeteries, Sewerage & SanitationLatest

Liverpool Philharmonic Hotel gentlemen's lavatory

One of the great Liverpool experiences is having a drink – or perhaps more than one drink – in the Philharmonic Hotel (1898-1900) on the opposite corner of Hope Street to the Philharmonic Hall from which it takes its name.

This palace of a pub is the result of a partnership of the architect Walter W Thomas and Robert Cain’s Brewery during the great boom in public-house building at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Thomas was well-funded and fortunately placed to call on the formidable design-skills of the Liverpool University School of Architecture and Applied Art and of the Liverpool craftsmen who executed the decorative schemes of the interiors of the great ocean-liners.

The exterior is an odd combination of Scottish Baronial and Art Nouveau, with elaborate iron gates by the German-American artist H Blomfield Bare, who also designed the repoussé copper panels inside.

The interior scheme was co-ordinated by George Hall Neale and Arthur Stratten, who employed Charles J Allen to produce the distinctive plaster caryatids and atlantes in the billiard room (the former modelled by his friend Mrs Ryan), the Irish plasterer Pat Honan and the stone-carver Frank Norbury.

The gentlemen’s lavatories at the Philharmonic Hotel are not to be missed.  Indeed, the protocol is that any respectable lady customer can request any respectable gentleman customer to check the coast is clear so she can admire the marble, the mosaic and the brass-work of this palatial pissoir.

John Lennon declared that one of the disadvantages of fame was “not going to The Phil any more”.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 10, 2014

Category:Liverpool's HeritageLife-enhancing experiencesFun PalacesLatest

 

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I once booked a Cinema Theatre Association Liverpool tour primarily on the strength of seeing On Golden Pond on the big screen at the Philharmonic Hall.

The Philharmonic Hall is a 1937-9 rebuild, replacing a predecessor of 1846-9 which had been burnt down in 1933.

It’s a very fine Art Deco auditorium, designed by Herbert J Rowse whose other distinguished Liverpool designs include India Buildings, Martin’s Bank and the ventilation shafts and other structures for the Mersey Tunnel.

The 1,700-seat auditorium has a continuous rake of stalls seats with horseshoe boxes and a balcony:  the suspended ceiling has troughs containing indirect lighting fittings.

It’s the home of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Choir and Youth Orchestra, which together have an outstanding history of performance dating back to the foundation of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in 1840:  http://www.liverpoolphil.com.

The CTA was attracted to this temple of serious music was to hear the three-manual Rushworth & Dreaper concert organ, which is fitted with tremulants, a feature commonly found in theatre-organ specifications.

Though lacking the drums, chimes and whistles of a conventional cinema-organ it was clearly intended for use in film presentations as well as taking its place in the classical repertoire.  Its console is mounted on a revolving lift, and can be played from below stage or in full view of the audience.

Even more unusual, and unmissable if you’re a serious cinema buff, is the seven-ton rising proscenium, now apparently the only example in working order anywhere in the world:  http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Liverpool/PhilharmonicHallLivepool.htm#screen

This cinema screen, complete with footlights and curtains and fitted with integral sound speakers, rises from the stage-floor in three minutes, uniquely transforming the concert hall into a movie palace before the eyes of the audience.

That’s an experience you can only have at the Philharmonic.

The very last 35mm performance at the Philharmonic takes place on April 30th 2014.  The choice of film is subject to an e-poll at http://www.liverpoolphil.com/13653/events-film-comedy-amp-events/public-vote-the-last-ever-35mm-film-at-liverpool-philharmonic-hall.html.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Sep 27, 2013

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's HeritageCemeteries, Sewerage & Sanitation

Liverpool St James's Cemetery (1979)

St James's Cemetery, Liverpool (1979) – Huskisson Monument in the foreground

A page of Liverpool City Council’s website [http://liverpool.gov.uk/leisure-parks-and-events/parks-and-greenspaces/st-james-gardens] presents the former quarry below the Anglican Cathedral as an “oasis of peace”, a bland description that matches the 1970s landscaping of one of the city’s most dramatic corners.

The stone for much of eighteenth-century Liverpool was quarried here.  As Mount Zion it was a place of resort, especially after the discovery in 1773 of a chalybeate spring which was thought good for “loss of appetite, nervous disorders, lowness of spirit, headache…proceeding from crudities of the stomach, rickets and weak eyes”.

Renamed St James’s Mount, after the newly-built adjacent parish church, around 1775, it became more genteel.  John Bridge opened “a coffee house of considerable repute…frequented principally by persons of a superior class”.  Visitors relished the contrast between the vast quarry face and the “subterraneous [entrance], supported by arches, [which] has a pleasing and romantic effect”.

When the quarry was practically exhausted in 1825 it became St James’s Cemetery, so immediately profitable that as soon as it opened in 1829 its first year of trading paid an 8% dividend.

The Liverpool architect John Foster Jnr designed a funerary chapel, the Oratory, and built a series of retaining walls, ramps and catacombs into the quarry face.  Mike Faulkner’s informative website [http://www.stjamescemetery.co.uk] provides details of the tunnels that gave access for mourners and hearses.

By the time St James’ Cemetery closed in July 1936, 57,774 burials had taken place.  From that time onwards maintenance became an increasingly severe problem.

The floor of the cemetery was almost entirely cleared by the City Council between 1969 and 1972, isolating John Foster Jnr’s magnificent 1833 mausoleum of the Liverpool MP and President of the Board of Trade, William Huskisson (1770-1830).  Huskisson’s statue by John Gibson has been removed for safety.

Other celebrated Liverpudlians buried here include the architect, John Foster Junior (1786-1846), Sir William Brown (1784-1864), donor of the William Brown Library, and the much-loved Catherine “Kitty” Wilkinson (1786-1860), an Irish-born washerwoman of Denison Street.  She is famous for making her water-boiler available to maintain cleanliness during the 1832 Cholera Epidemic, “indefatigable and self-denying, she was the widow’s friend, the support of the orphan, the fearless and unwearied nurse of the sick, the originator of baths and wash-houses for the poor”.

St James’s Gardens, as it’s now known, provides a green amenity in the midst of the city.

But I miss the Gothick atmosphere of the accumulated gravestones and monuments that filled the quarry floor until 1972.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Apr 11, 2012

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Oriel Chambers

Oriel Chambers, Water Street, Liverpool

When I take groups around Liverpool city-centre, I pause in front of Oriel Chambers on Water Street, and invite people to guess the date of the building.  Most people get it wildly wrong, as I originally did, unless they’re sharp-eyed enough to spot the date high in the central gable.

Oriel Chambers is a tall, elegant office-block, its framework picked out in nail-headed stone mullions which frame the delicate cast-iron windows which give it its name.

It would do credit to an architect of the present generation:  in fact it was completed in 1864 by a virtually unknown architect, Peter Ellis Jnr (1804-1884), who for his pains was virtually laughed out of the profession.

Its inner courtyard (inaccessible to the public), faced with cantilevered iron cladding, even more uncompromisingly anticipates the Modern Movement.   Except for one other framed building a couple of streets away, 16 Cook Street (1866), Ellis built hardly anywhere else.

The Builder pompously dismissed it out of hand:

The plainest brick warehouse in town is infinitely superior as a building to that large agglomeration of protruding plate-glass bubbles in Water Street termed Oriel Chambers.   Did we not see this vast abortion – which would be depressing were it not ludicrous – with our own eyes, we should have doubted the possibility of its existence.  Where and in what are their beauties [sic] supposed to lie?

Ellis’ obituary in the Liverpool Daily Post (October 24th 1884) describes him as an architect and surveyor “held in high esteem by the members of his own profession” without mentioning a single building or design.

It’s possible, however, that Ellis’ genius had a distant flowering.

After the fall of Atlanta in 1864, an American planter with Liverpool business connections, Simon Root, sent his son to Liverpool for the duration of the American Civil War.  The son was John Wellborn Root (1850-1891), who returned to the USA and became one of the leaders of the Chicago School of architects, responsible for the development of iron- and steel-framed buildings in New York and Chicago and the birth of the skyscraper.

1860s Liverpool wasn’t a big place by modern expectations.  It’s unlikely that the young Root didn’t notice Ellis’ buildings, and the fireproof warehouses that Jesse Hartley and George Fosbery Lyster had built along the river front.

There’s no proof, but there’s a strong likelihood that the magnificent achievement of the Chicago School of architects may have a root in the Liverpool buildings that contemporary architects didn’t give the time of day.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Apr 9, 2012

Category:Sacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

St George's Church, Everton, Liverpool

St George's Church, Everton, Liverpool

The idea of prefabricating architectural bits and pieces for export to the colonies predates the Victorian period.

There was a remarkable collaboration between Thomas Rickman (1776-1841), who became Professor of Architecture at the Liverpool Academy, and John Cragg (1767-1854), the owner of the Mersey Iron Foundry, who was described by a contemporary as “a remarkable man to whom I cannot find a single gracious allusion on anybody’s part”.

Rickman is the archaeological scholar who worked out the chronology of medieval churches, and gave us the expressions ‘Norman’, ‘Early English’ and ‘Decorated’:  [See ‘Buried Lives’ in Barton-on-Humber].

The pair collaborated on three pilot projects in Liverpool:  one, St Philip, Hardman Street, has long gone;  the other two survive as distinctive monuments to nineteenth-century innovation.

At St George’s Church, Everton (1812-14), though the external walls and the tower are stone, the whole of the interior structure – columns, roof-beams, braces and panels – and the window-tracery are of delicate, finely-detailed castings.

The same moulds were also used in Cragg’s own neighbourhood when they built St Michael-in-the-Hamlet, Toxteth (1814-15), where the walls are brick (at one time stuccoed), and all the external architectural detail, such as pinnacles and copings, is also of iron.

Thomas Rickman felt confident that churches could be constructed on these lines for no more than £6,000 each.  In fact, when John Cragg built St Michael-in-the-Hamlet at his own expense, the total outlay using the moulds from St George’s came to £7,865.

Though cast-iron tracery and other ecclesiastical decoration is not uncommon in early-nineteenth century churches and other Gothic Revival buildings, I’ve never come across any reference to recognisable examples of Rickman’s designs for the Mersey Iron Foundry turning up anywhere outside England.

Perhaps somewhere, in a distant land, there’s a church or chapel built from the same kit as the two Liverpool churches.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

Posted by: mike on Feb 28, 2012

Category:Transports of delightLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Overhead Railway Dingle Station

The Liverpool Overhead Railway was the only example in the British Isle of the American elevated railway, which once filled the streets of New York City and elsewhere with girders and noise.  The most well-known surviving example is the Chicago Loop.

The Liverpool line followed the docks, all the way from Seaforth in the north to Herculaneum in the south, skirting behind the great Pier Head buildings and providing a grandstand view of the ships berthed beside the River Mersey.

My granddad used to take each of his six kids to Liverpool between the wars to ride on the Overhead and, if they were in luck, to tour a transatlantic liner lying up between voyages.

Those dockers who didn’t ride on it to get to work would walk underneath the rail-deck at ground level, so it was known as the “Docker’s Umbrella”.

Hardly any vestige remains above ground of this distinctive piece of transport history, which was scrapped in 1956 simply because it was life-expired.  If it had survived, it would now be a magnet for tourists in a Liverpool very different from the one for which it was built.

One of the two surviving carriages forms a focal point in the display at the new Museum of Liverpool [http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/visit/galleries/overhead].  (The other is awaiting restoration at the Electric Railway Museum, Baginton, Warwickshire:  http://www.emus.co.uk/lor.htm.)

There is, however, an intriguing survival at the southern end of the line – an underground station.

In 1896, three years after the opening, the railway was extended through half a mile of tunnel to Park Road, Dingle where it linked with the south Liverpool tram services.

The tunnel mouth, above the site of Herculaneum Dock, is still prominently visible, and the station itself survives, much less obvious but structurally intact, in use as a car-body repair shop.

Visitors are made welcome, if you can find it.

Background information and excellent photographs of Dingle Station are at http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/l/liverpool_overhead_railway/index.shtml.

Movie footage of the LOR is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2913oZVvkL8&feature=related

Posted by: mike on Feb 19, 2012

Category:Liverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Edge Hill railway cutting

When trains approach Liverpool’s Lime Street Station from Edge Hill, it’s possible to discern oddities in the smooth sandstone surface of the dank, vertical-sided cutting.  The line, which was originally in tunnel, runs through a very strange part of the city, honeycombed with what are now called the Williamson Tunnels.

Joseph Williamson was born, possibly in Warrington, on March 10th 1769.  At the age of eleven he arrived in Liverpool looking for work, and made his fortune as a tobacco and snuff merchant and built speculative housing at the then picturesque settlement of Edge Hill.

Standing on the edge of a slope looking down on the River Mersey, these houses were built with arched cellars, which were extended above ground as the natural contour dropped some twenty feet towards Smithdown Lane.

Quite how this development led to the construction of the first man-made caves in the sandstone is unclear.  Possibly Williamson recruited workmen from the droves of unemployed that came seeking work, particularly after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.  Perhaps he wished to offer financial support without giving charity.

Legend has it that when in the 1830s Robert Stephenson engineered the first railway tunnel from Edge Hill to Lime Street, the navvies unexpectedly broke through the floor of their works and were confronted by Williamson’s men going about their own tunnelling business.  Stephenson’s men, convinced they had penetrated into Hell, apparently fled.  Eventually, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Williamson met, and the young engineer was sufficiently impressed by the scale and quality of the Edge Hill tunnels to pass on some of Williamson’s workforce to his railway contractors.

At Williamson’s death in 1840 all work on the tunnels stopped, and the owners of the surrounding property quickly took opportunities to break through to dump rubbish in the voids beneath their houses.  The opening out of the rail tunnel into Lime Street sliced through the entire network, including a triple-deck tunnel, evidence of which can still be discerned with difficulty in the walls of the cutting.  Over the following decades the accessible spaces were filled in, and to this day the foundations of new building operations on the former Williamson estate are customarily disrupted by unexpected voids.

By the late twentieth century Williamson’s works had been largely forgotten, except as apocryphal local stories.  In the mid-1990s a group of enthusiasts formed to rediscover and where possible preserve the Edge Hill caves, and to take practical steps to make them accessible to the public.

Three sites are currently under investigation, on Smithdown Lane, Mason Street and Paddington.  A previously unknown entrance to the system was discovered during the construction of the Williamson Student Village.  At Smithdown Lane the Williamson Tunnels visitor centre opened in September 2002, utilising the former Corporation stables that abut one part of the tunnel complex [http://www.williamsontunnels.com/visit.htm].

Posted by: mike on Feb 17, 2012

Category:Transports of delightLiverpool's Heritage

Mersey Tunnel Queensway, Central Avenune

Mersey Tunnel Queensway:  Central Avenue

When you drive through the two Mersey tunnels, the 1934 Queensway and the 1971 Kingsway, you’re being watched – and cared for – by a small team of professionals, many cameras and, in Queensway, a great deal of 1930s over-engineering.

The Mersey Tunnel Tour is the public’s opportunity to see behind the scenes of Queensway, and to understand that it’s much more than a hole in the ground.

The tour takes visitors from the top of the George’s Dock Building, which is essentially an elegant Art Deco fan-assisted chimney with an office block attached, to the safety refuges below the road-deck.  And, of course, back to the surface.

It’s a moderately strenuous two hours, and because the ventilation station is a dusty, though not dirty working building, it’s a good idea to go dressed for gardening rather than tourism.  (On the recent Liverpool’s Heritage tour, we came straight from St George’s Hall and may have been a little over-dressed.)

The 1920s designers couldn’t be sure how the finished tunnel would work practically.  At the time it was the longest under-river bore in the world.  Furthermore, traffic was changing as horse-drawn carts and electric trams began to give way to motor vehicles.

In these circumstances, especially in a two-way tunnel, ventilation was crucial, and could not be skimped.  The later Kingsway is in fact two unidirectional bores, so the traffic itself acts as a piston, pushing foul air through.  Queensway has six ventilation stations;  Kingsway needs only two.  In each case, the fresh air has to be pumped in at either end:  after all, there’s a river in the middle.

The party-piece on the tour is to see one of the 22ft-diameter fans start up, high in the George’s Dock building.  These are the original 1934 fans, built into the building.  Even at the lowest of four speed-settings, they’re distinctly draughty.

And they work.  When you stand beside the traffic lanes below the river, the air is remarkably fresh.

Another resonant experience is to stand below the road-deck on Central Avenue, an empty corridor intended for double-deck electric trams to connect the Liverpool and Birkenhead systems.

The original specification assumed that the road tunnels would carry 3,000 vehicles per hour, travelling at an average speed of 15mph while maintaining a distance of 100ft apart in four lanes.  Down below, an endless procession of double-deck trams, each carrying perhaps sixty people, could have shifted many more thousands.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

In a different age of faster, cleaner road vehicles with far better brakes than between the Wars the ventilation system has a much easier time, yet carries enough capacity to cope with any foreseeable emergency such as a blockage or fire.

One of the benefits of the Mersey Tunnel Tour is the reassurance of seeing how efficiently motorists are looked after if the traffic in the tunnel stops in its tracks.

Not that most people give an emergency a second thought as they breeze between Liverpool and the Wirral, listening to their car radios.  And not realising why they can use their radio in the tunnel.

Booking a Mersey Tunnel tour requires premeditation:  e-mail to tours@merseytravel.gov.uk.

For further background information on the Queensway Tunnel, see http://www.cbrd.co.uk/indepth/queenswaytunnel.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 20, 2012

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Stanley Dock

Stanley Dock, in Liverpool’s north docks, comes as a surprise to those who only know the celebrated tourist honey-pot of Albert Dock.

Built soon after Albert by the same engineer, Jesse Hartley, and opened in 1848, Stanley is the only one of the Liverpool docks to lie inland from the dock road.  This is because it forms the link between the dock system and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Only in recent years has this link been extended through what remains of the north docks, across Pier Head in a cutting and into the Albert Dock complex.  Now you can sail your narrow boat all the way into the heart of the rejuvenated city centre:  http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/liverpoolcanallink/link60.htm.

Stanley Dock itself has hardly been touched since the Second World War.  Its austere brick warehouses, with iron columns and semicircular crane-arches, are very similar to the buildings at Albert and Wapping Docks.  Adjacent are entertaining Hartley buildings such as the battlemented gatepiers and the Hydraulic Power Centre (1854).

The southern half of the dock was filled in at the end of the nineteenth century to accommodate Anthony George Lyster’s gigantic Tobacco Warehouse (1900).  Probably the largest warehouse in the world, this impressive structure held raw tobacco in bond.  Alongside is the King’s Pipe, in which scrap tobacco was burnt to avoid paying duty.

The Tobacco Warehouse is gigantic, thirteen storeys (125 feet) high and forty-two bays wide with a floor-area of 36 acres.  Joseph Sharples, in his Pevsner Architectural Guide Liverpool (2004) points out that its great depth and low ceilings (only 7 feet 2 inches because the tobacco was stored in short stacks to prevent damage) have been an obstacle to redevelopment since it came out of use in 1980.

Now at last it looks as if Stanley Dock and the Tobacco Warehouse are ready, after years of planning,  for redevelopment:  see http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/capital-of-culture/capital-of-culture-liverpool-news/2003/12/08/100m-plan-for-tobacco-building-100252-13704568/ and http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2011/12/07/stanley-dock-tobacco-warehouse-residents-will-share-development-with-bats-92534-29908689/2/.

This enormous project will require the disruption of one Liverpool’s Sunday-morning amusements, the Heritage Market:  http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news//tm_headline=dock-market-fear-for-jobs&method=full&objectid=18817453&siteid=50061-name_page.html.   

There is a superb series of images of the Tobacco Warehouse in its current state at http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?p=797873#post797873.

The photographer, an urban explorer who goes by the name ‘rookinella’, says, “Stanley Dock has made for a fine night’s sleep the few times that we’ve been to Liverpool.  Picturesque views, period features and private en-suite bathrooms for everyone...”  What can they mean?

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 9, 2012

Category:Sacred placesLiverpool's HeritageLife-enhancing experiences

Liverpool Alma de Cuba

If you’re looking for somewhere unusual to eat in the centre of Liverpool you can do a lot worse than Alma de Cuba [http://www.alma-de-cuba.com/homepage] on Seel Street, one of the streets running parallel to, and between, Bold Street and Duke Street, within easy walking distance of Lime Street and Liverpool One.

This vibrant, ultra-modern bar restaurant sits inside the oldest surviving Catholic church building in Liverpool.

Indeed, St Peter’s Church is astonishingly old for a post-Reformation Catholic place of worship.  It opened in 1788, ten years after the passing of the first Act of Parliament rescinding the penal laws governing the persecution of Catholics ever since Tudor times.

St Peter’s thrived as a place of worship for nearly two hundred years.

When it could no longer support a local congregation it was transferred in 1976 to the Polish Catholic community and rededicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa.  This attempt to keep it going lasted only two years.

Eventually, the developer Urban Splash rescued the building and it opened as a particularly fine Latin American restaurant in August 2005.

It’s the sort of place where award-winning barmen toss glasses in the air and usually catch them.  And Sunday brunch is enlivened with, of all things, a Gospel choir.

The walls are stripped to the bare brickwork and the ceiling has been removed, revealing the roof-beams.  The ornate Classical sanctuary is intact, with a plate-glass mirror in place of the reredos.

It’s disconcerting to eat and drink and listen to music while staring at the inscription “TU ES PETRUS” – Christ’s words to St Peter, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” [Matthew 16:18].

The contrast between spirituality and hedonism isn’t quite comfortable, and some customers might look askance at the restaurant’s tag-line “Heaven can wait”.

Nevertheless, the building – arguably the most precious archaeological gem of the proud Liverpool Catholic community – survives and is physically safe.  It needn’t be a restaurant for ever, and at least it’s not a pile of rubble.

For so many former places of worship, that’s all too likely a fate.

There is a website to test the strength of support for saving St Hilda’s Church, Wincobank, Sheffield [see Losing a landmark, Church going and Praised with faint damns]:  http://sthildas.webs.com.  If you feel able to sign the petition, please indicate whether or not you’re a local resident, and why you wish to see it kept.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

The 'Save St Hilda's' group also has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-St-Hildas/343231285708143?sk=wall.

Posted by: mike on Sep 8, 2011

Category:Liverpool's HeritageFun Palaces

Liverpool Everyman Theatre (1978)

Everyman Theatre, Liverpool (1978)

Almost opposite Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral stands – for a short while longer – an undistinguished building of huge cultural importance.

The former Hope Hall, a nonconformist chapel of 1837, after many transformations, became the Everyman Theatre in 1964.  This was the cockpit of artists, writers and playwrights in the great wave of Liverpool’s prominence that followed the success of the Beatles.

The poets Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, the playwrights Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell, and a cluster of actors including Bernard Hill, Anthony Sher, Julie Walters and the late Pete Postlethwaite were associated with the building before and after a further rebuilding in 1975-7.  The premieres of Willy Russell's John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert (1974) and Shirley Valentine (1986) took place at the Everyman Theatre.

The building was also celebrated for its Everyman Bistro, founded in 1970 by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott in the basement.  Here was as good a buffet as you could find in Liverpool, and a convivial atmosphere without rival.

Now the Everyman is to be replaced by an entirely new building and you can watch the process, day by day, at http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/content/Home/AboutUs/NewEveryman/LiveCam.aspx.  Sooner or later, you’ll see the queue for the reopening.

Sarah Horton and Ronnie Hughes’ film tribute to the Everyman Bistro is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EibgxJnWMKU&feature=player_embedded.

The opening season at the new Everyman begins on Saturday March 8th 2014 with Twelfth Nighthttp://www.everymanplayhouse.com/show/Twelfth_Night/1031.aspx.

Posted by: mike on Jun 6, 2011

Category:Sacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral 2

When I take groups to Liverpool, I love to lead them from one cathedral to the other, usually from the Anglican Cathedral, which has pointed arches and a vista towards a distant high altar, to the spectacular circular space of the uncompromisingly modern Catholic Cathedral.

The Metropolitan Cathedral, as it is properly known, was initiated in 1960 when Archibishop (later Cardinal) John Heenan decided a cathedral had to be built, and quickly, on the Brownlow Hill land that had been a building site since the 1930s.

His brief, in the years before the Second Vatican Council, was to have a building that would give a congregation of two thousand an uninterrupted view of the high altar, would cost no more than a million pounds, and could be built within five years.

The competition winner was Sir Frederick Gibberd, who engineered a circular space, with a corona supported by ring beams held in place by sixteen angled pillars and diagonal concrete buttresses.

Within each bay of this structure he placed a variety of free-standing chapels, most of which were initially left plain for future generations to embellish.  The echoing space of the interior is lit by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens' deeply coloured glass.

The Metropolitan Cathedral was consecrated in 1967 – completed on time and within budget.

Like so much 1960s architecture, the haste to complete meant that new, untried materials were used which did not stand the test of time.  Within a generation, the leaking roof had to be reinstated and much of the cladding replaced.  The processional approach that Gibberd intended was only constructed at the start of this century.

Nevertheless, the spiky profile of the Metropolitan Cathedral has integrated into the Liverpool skyline with a much lighter touch than Lutyens' bombastic basilica ever could.

It's ironic that the architect of the Anglican Cathedral, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was a Catholic;  Sir Frederick Gibberd, architect of the Catholic Cathedral, was in fact a Methodist.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jun 4, 2011

Category:Sacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral 1

When Liverpool's Catholic community returned to the task of erecting a cathedral in 1930 under Archbishop Richard Downey using the site of the former Brownlow Hill Workhouse, they planned a church to dominate the cityscape even more than E W Pugin's elegant Gothic design of 1853 at Everton would have done [see Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral (Pugin version)].

Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) designed a monster basilica in what he called his "Wrenaissance" style.  Nearly as long, yet wider and higher than St Peter's in Rome, its dome would have been half as tall again as the tower of the Anglican Cathedral, and significantly larger than the domes of St Peter's or London's St Paul's.  The Victoria Tower of Liverpool University, across the road on Brownlow Hill, would have fitted inside the entrance arch.

A vast architectural model, seventeen feet long and over eleven feet high, was built as an aid to fund-raising:  it has survived and will be displayed in the new Liverpool Museum:  [http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/conservation/departments/models/lutyens]

Lutyens cheerfully declared that the actual cathedral would take four hundred years to build.  The foundation stone was laid in 1933 and the first mass said in the crypt in 1937.  At the time of the 1941 Blitz, the sole remaining mason was obliged to down tools and work stopped entirely.  The crypt, which had already consumed four million blue bricks, was partly adapted as an air-raid shelter, and otherwise left open to the weather.

After the war, a reduced version of Lutyens' design was commissioned from Adrian Gilbert Scott, brother of the architect of the Anglican Cathedral, but dismissed as unworkable.  The incomplete crypt was put to use for worship and as a parish centre.

What was built of Lutyens' cathedral is an awesome space which hints at the scale of the unbuilt structure.  Within, under what would have been the high altar, the tombs of some of the early archbishops are contained in a vault guarded by a seven-ton marble rolling stone, representing Christ's tomb in Gethsemane.

I once saw the rolling stone roll.  It's operated by the sort of winch that's still sometimes used for the house-tabs in school assembly halls.  The sound of seven tons of marble rolling into a doorway is like nothing else.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jun 2, 2011

Category:Victorian architectureSacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Everton Our Lady Immaculate RC Church

Roman Catholic Parish Church of Our Lady Immaculate, Everton, Liverpool (1990)

Almost as soon as Liverpool became the centre of a re-established Catholic diocese in 1850, the first bishop, Alexander Goss, commissioned Edward Welby Pugin to design a magnificent Gothic cathedral which was to stand on Everton Brow.

There is an image of E W Pugin's perspective view of the planned St Edward's Cathedral at http://www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk/content/Visitus/ABriefHistory.aspx.  The complete building would have been a dignified cruciform structure with a tall tower and spire, providing a fine landmark overlooking the Mersey.

From a vessel in the river, you can pinpoint its location behind and slightly to the north of the existing St George's Parish Church

Building began in 1853, and stopped again three years later because of the pressure to provide churches, schools and welfare for the huge population of Irish and other immigrants that flooded into mid-nineteenth century Liverpool.  There simply wasn't the money to spare for grand building projects.

All that was ever built of Pugin's great cathedral was the Lady Chapel and its two side chapels, and these were converted into an odd-looking parish church, Our Lady Immaculate, which stood on St Domingo Road until it was demolished in the early 1990s.

It was said at that time to be unsafe, though I felt – and still feel – that it was a pity that this relic of the early Victorian growth of Catholic Liverpool wasn't somehow preserved.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on May 11, 2011

Category:Liverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Unity Building

It's a sign of the times that the guide to the twenty-first century buildings in the city centre of Liverpool, is already in its second edition. The New Liverpool:  modern architecture for a modern city in fact includes buildings back into the 1990s.

Andrew F Robinson's survey lists and describes Liverpool's new buildings in five well-mapped itineraries around the city-centre, and occasionally indicates what is proposed for currently empty sites.  His list shows how prolific are such architectural practices as Falconer Chester Hall [http://www.fcharchitects.com].  He also nods to the buildings lost to these new developments and, in some cases refers to structures conserved, retained as façades or rebuilt in replica.

He provides the sort of informal insights that don't crop up in volumes of the Pevsner series – which architect designed his mother's name in Morse code into a building (Paul Monaghan at the Unity Building, 2007), which building was topped out by its occupant and the architect wearing pink hard hats (Herbert's 'Bling' Building, 2006) and which architect omitted to provide waste disposal in an apartment block (no names, see page 9...).

Sometimes he's obliged to note "architect and builder unknown", a recognition that information about new buildings isn't easy to come by.  Newly-built buildings don't always show up on the internet or, indeed, in Liverpool's excellent local studies library.  In one case, Andrew Robinson reports that a builder flatly refused to disclose details for publication (no names, see page 27...).

The New Liverpool fills a gap between publications of record, such as the Pevsner volumes, and the current architectural press, which is aimed primarily at professionals, so that people who are simply interested in buildings and those who live in and with developing cities can identify who designed what and why in their community.

The New Liverpool:  modern architecture for a modern city is obtainable from West Derby Publishing, 279 Eaton Road, West Derby, Liverpool, L12 2AG for £3.00.  [ISBN 978 1 871075 09 0].

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on May 9, 2011

Category:Sacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Cathedral (1983)

The achievement of Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, winning two competitions to design what became St George's Hall, Liverpool, between the ages of 25 and 27, is remarkable [see Young architect in Liverpool];  even more surprising was the result of the competition to build Liverpool Cathedral fifty years later.

1880s plans to build an Anglican cathedral on the St John's site, backing on to St George's Hall, came to nothing:  no-one could find a way of building a church that would sit comfortably alongside Elmes & Cockerill's great classical temple.

The eventual site, St James' Mount, was chosen and the customary architectural competition organised, with a controversial stipulation that Gothic designs would be preferred.

When the 103 anonymous entries were assessed, the judges were disconcerted to discover that the winner was the 21-year-old Giles Gilbert Scott, grandson of the great Gothic Revival architect, George Gilbert Scott, who had designed, amid much else, the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station [see Midland Grand].  To add to their discomfort, Giles Scott was a Roman Catholic.

The committee asked him if he'd designed anything before.  Yes, he said, a pipe-rack for his sister.  In the end, Scott was given the commission, as was his right, but under the supervision of one of the assessors, the veteran Gothic Revival architect, George Frederick Bodley.

Bodley's influence is apparent in the florid decoration of the first section of Scott's cathedral, the Lady Chapel, begun in 1904.  It was an uncomfortable arrangement:  Giles Scott's resignation was ready to post when he heard the news of Bodley's death in 1907.

By the time the Lady Chapel was consecrated in 1910, Scott went to the building committee and calmly proposed a radical redesign.  Instead of twin towers, he wanted a single tower above a majestic central space.  This was not straightforward, for the foundations of the two towers were already in place, which is why the cathedral as built has twin transepts and twin central porches, one of which stares vacantly over the chasm of St James' Cemetery.

The 331-foot Vestey Tower, named after the Dewhurst butchers' dynasty that paid for it, contains the highest and heaviest ringing peal of bells in the world.  The central space below could accommodate Nelson's Column if Nelson took his hat off.  The tower was completed in 1941, in the darkest days of the Second World War.  "Keep going, whatever you do, even if you can only go on in a small way," King George VI advised on a wartime visit.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott died in 1960, his final contribution the Nave Bridge which frames the vista towards the High Altar.  The west end was eventually finished, to modified designs by his professional partner, Frederick Thomas in collaboration with Roger Pinckney, and dedicated in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.

Sir Giles and Lady Scott's remains lie before the west door of the completed cathedral.  The Winter 2010-11 edition of C20 – the magazine of the Twentieth Century Society mentioned that the stone marker of [their] grave has been removed and that they rest "in an unmarked grave as cars and delivery vans to the café and shop frequently drive over [them]".

That may be true, but it can't be right.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on May 7, 2011

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool St George's Hall

St George's Hall, Liverpool (1979)

A couple of years ago I showed a group of gifted and talented Wirral school students nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first century buildings in Liverpool city-centre as part of a NADFAS North-West Area Young Arts educational event.

I pointed out to these bright teenagers that some of Liverpool's most remarkable buildings were designed by young architects no more than ten years older than them.

One such was Harvey Lonsdale Elmes (1813-1847).  In 1839, aged twenty-five, he won anonymously a competition to design two concert halls, respectively seating 3,000 and 1,000, within one building at an estimated cost of £35,000.

The following year Liverpool Corporation set up a second competition for the design of assize courts on an adjacent site, which Elmes duly entered anonymously and – extraordinarily – won.

He then revised his two designs, combining concert-hall and courts into one building.  The result was St George's Hall, 490 feet long, with two law-courts at opposite ends of a large rectangular hall, and a circular smaller hall above the public entrance at the apsidal north end.

The Great Hall, 169 feet long and 74 feet wide, is based on the ancient Roman baths at Caracalla, which Elmes could only have known from publications.  Its sides are punctuated by red granite Corinthian columns with bronze-effect plaster capitals, supporting the 600-ton tunnel-vault, constructed to the design of the engineer Robert (later Sir Robert) Rawlinson.

The heating and ventilation system was designed by the same Dr Boswell Reid who drove Sir Charles Barry to distraction in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster:  manually operated by squads of workmen, it represented the first approach to air-conditioning of a major public building in Britain.

Elmes' design, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as "the best example of Neo-Classical architecture in Europe", absorbed much of what remained of his short life.  His health, never strong, gave way when the Hall was partially completed.  He left to winter in Jamaica in 1847 and died there aged 34, leaving the completion of the design with Rawlinson, who finished the Great Hall vault in 1849.

In 1851 the Corporation appointed Charles Robert Cockerell, to supervise the decoration of the Great Hall and its superb encaustic-tile floor – still to this day in mint condition – by Minton, Hollins & Co.  He also designed the circular Concert Room with its balcony supported by graceful caryatids of hollow plaster.  This magical early-Victorian interior uses the most modern materials of its time – cast iron for the balcony trelliswork, papier mâché for the frieze and pilasters that surround the detached grained deal panelling, plate glass mirrors behind the elaborate Corinthian columns at the back of the stage and a gas-lit cut-glass chandelier, recently restored, by F & C Osler of Birmingham.

Elmes specifically asked that "there will be no organ at the end of the Hall, so that you can stand on the Judge's Platform in one court, your eye glancing along the ranges of ruddy columns at either side,...[until it] finally rests upon the further Judge's Throne."  Instead, in the fashion of the day, Cockerell designed a gigantic case for the vast 'Father' Willis organ, which was completed in 1855, the year after the Hall opened.

St George's Hall is a gem of world architecture – by an architect who if he was alive today would be recently out of college.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Mar 21, 2011

Category:Victorian architectureSacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Ullet Road Unitarian Church

Ullet Road Unitarian Church, Liverpool:  Library

Alongside the three Horsfall churches I mentioned in Liverpool 8 Churches (1), the Toxteth area is studded with fine Victorian places of worship.  Almost next door to St Margaret's, Princes Road (1868) is the Old Hebrew Congregation Synagogue (1871), and across the road the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas (1870).  Round the corner, as Princes Road widens into a leafy dual carriageway where the trams once ran on a reservation, stands the Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute (1886-7) which had an octagonal chapel so that the whole congregation could see the minister's signing, and further down on the opposite side is the desperately sad wreck of the Welsh Presbyterian Church (1868), apparently the richest and finest of them all, now a largely roofless shell.

Of all the Christian places of worship in Liverpool 8, perhaps the most surprising is the Ullet Road Unitarian Church, designed by Thomas Worthington and his son Percy in two stages, 1896-9 and 1900-1.  Unitarianism is a very individualistic creed, centred on the belief in the single personality of God, which regards Jesus Christ as a prophet rather than a divine person of the Holy Trinity.  It comes as a surprise to the non-Unitarian visitor, then, that the Worthington's church has virtually all the features of an Anglican parish church, pews, pulpit, lectern, choir-stalls and reredos, all in the finest Gothic Revival style using the very best materials.

The place is an opulent essay in Gothic and Art Nouveau, with reliefs and wall paintings by George Moira and Morris & Co stained glass mostly designed by Edward Burne-Jones.  The electroliers that light the nave are original, and tucked away behind the chancel arch are original 1890s electric lamps.

This was a congregation that wielded heavy political clout in nineteenth-century Liverpool:  the previous church in Renshaw Street included among its members the poet and anti-slavery campaigner William Roscoe, William Rathbone V, who was Mayor of Liverpool in 1837-8, his son William Rathbone VI, who was MP for Liverpool from 1868 to 1880 and helped found University College Liverpool and the University College of North Wales, and Robert Durning Holt, the last Mayor and first Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1892-3.

The generation that moved their church out of the city-centre to Sefton Park could command serious money.  Robert Durning Holt's mother, Mrs George Holt, didn't like the idea of an interior in bright red Ruabon brick, and paid for it to be faced in dignified Runcorn sandstone.  The cloister and meeting hall were funded by Sir John Brunner, whose chemical company later formed the basis for ICI, and Sir Henry Tate, whose name lives on in the sugar company and the gallery that he gave to the nation.  Sir John Brunner appears in one of Moira's wall-paintings as the philosopher Aristotle.

To see all these places of worship around Sefton Park would take two days minimum.  Even to see a couple is a forcible reminder that this was a city of huge mercantile wealth a century ago, a place where adherents of every faith sought to assert their presence with the finest architecture of their day.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Mar 19, 2011

Category:Victorian architectureSacred placesLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool St Agnes' Church, Ullet Road

St Agnes' Church, Ullet Road, Liverpool

A couple of years ago I spent a fascinating four days researching and photographing places of worship in suburban Liverpool, south of the city, to add to my 'Liverpool's Heritage' lecture and study-day for NADFAS [the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies].

I found a whole collection of fabulous Victorian buildings, and met some particularly interesting people in the process.

One group of Anglican churches is the series founded by the Horsfall family over two generations.  Robert Horsfall commissioned the great Gothic Revival architect, George Edmund Street, to build St Margaret's, Princes Road, in 1868, at least partly because the diocese was vehemently low church, and he wished to promote elaborate, Anglo-Catholic worship.  This magnificent building, sumptuously embellished with wall paintings and stained glass, much of it designed by Maddox & Pearce and Clayton & Bell, is much loved by the local community, but desperately short of funds.

Robert Horsfall may well have been provoked by the statement of his low-church younger brother George's project to build Christ Church, Linnet Lane (1867-71), not far away.  This church, by William Culshaw and Henry Sumners, has an elaborately sculpted exterior and a much plainer, though costly interior.  Its peculiar gabled aisles are particularly difficult to keep watertight, and the parish apparently struggles financially.

Robert Horsfall's son, Howard Douglas Horsfall (1856-1936), was responsible for St Agnes', Ullet Road, opposite Sefton Park.  Designed by the architect of Truro Cathedral, John Loughborough Pearson, this large but outwardly modest brick church has a dramatic interior, like a miniature cathedral, rich in carvings, stained glass and alabaster.  Pearson's aim, in his own words, was to design "what will bring people soonest to their knees".

The controversies of the Victorian Church of England are difficult to grasp in an age when Anglicans fall out about female and gay priests and bishops.  The second vicar of St Margaret's went to jail for contempt of court over a liturgical dispute with the first Bishop of Liverpool, J C Ryle.  There were serious fears that the consecration of St Agnes' would be interrupted by "some disturbance" following "heated newspaper agitation".  Within weeks of the opening, the first vicar of St Agnes was in disagreement with Bishop Ryle over "the illegal use of Eucharistic Lights, Wafer-Bread, the Mixed Chalice, the Agnus Dei and the hymn sung during Holy Communion" and waited twelve years before the bishop backed down.

All three of these superb buildings still house congregations, though the days of packed pews and arguments over ritual are long gone.  Rev Robert Gallagher, the current vicar of St Margaret's, wryly observes, "the capital used for St Margaret's beginnings came largely from Liverpool merchants' involvement in the Transatlantic slave trade and down through grandparents' bank accounts...an irony not lost on a parish that is now the heart of Liverpool's black community."

The Ship of Fools' mystery worshipper describes the "pious gaiety" of St Agnes' at http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/2012/2330.html.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 26, 2011

Category:Liverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Adelphi Hotel

Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel rather missed the boat when it was built before and after the First World War.

It was conceived by the Midland Railway Company as a companion to the Midland Hotel in Manchester, (designed by Charles Trubshaw, 1898-1904).

The Adelphi, built on a site that had been a hotel since 1828, was designed by Frank Atkinson, on a scale made possible because its Portland stone façades conceal a steel framework.  The two major spaces within, the Central Court and the Hypostyle Hall, provide grand interiors which lead to ancillary restaurants and meeting rooms:  a planned ballroom block beyond the Fountain Court at the east of the building was never built.

Ironically the opening of this magnificent hotel, its design and operation strongly influenced by the manager Arthur Towle's tours of European and American hotel-practice, coincided with the shift of the major transatlantic steamship lines to Southampton.  It was the very last city-centre railway hotel to be built in Britain.

When British Transport Hotels was privatised in 1984 the Adelphi was sold to Britannia Hotels, who rescued it from a state of decay in which the top two floors had been closed off and given over to the pigeons.  Britannia's restoration included converting the upper floors to modern bedrooms and building a rear extension to increase further the capacity to a total of 402 rooms.

Staying at the Adelphi is often an adventure.  In times gone by I ran university extramural study tours from the Adelphi.  On one occasion the maitre d' let my group into the restaurant on the first night before I'd had a chance to register them:  it proved remarkably difficult to single out my two dozen extramural students, most of them of a certain age, from the two hundred line-dancers who were also there for the weekend.

The last time I stayed at the Adelphi was for one of Ken Roe's inimitable Cinema Theatre Society weekends.  I'd been attracted by the opportunity to see On Golden Pond on the big screen at the Philharmonic Hall, but the entertainment highlight of the weekend was having breakfast with a gent who turned out to be an admiral.  (He was curious to know what part of the ship I'd served on, and had to be disabused of the idea I was there for a naval reunion.  On the contrary, I said, I was there to visit the bingo halls of Bootle.)

The admiral told excellent stories, including one of greeting the Queen Mother in a cloudburst, drenching her as he bowed forward, tipping out the puddle that had accumulated in his cap.  He also explained how to solve the problem of spring-cleaning the bridge of a nuclear submarine when no-one below petty-officer status is allowed in.  But that's a state secret, such as you might, if you're lucky, hear whispered over breakfast at the Adelphi Hotel.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 24, 2011

Category:Victorian architectureLiverpool's HeritageLife-enhancing experiences

Liverpool University Victoria Gallery & Museum

The expression "red-brick university" stems from the great Victorian Liverpool-born Quaker architect, Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), and his love for terra-cotta, glazed moulded brick, with which it is possible to contrive elaborate effects without the great expense of masons and masonry.

The term was actually coined by Liverpool University's Professor of Hispanic Studies, Edgar Allison Peers (1891-1952) in his polemic, Red Brick University, published under the pseudonym Bruce Truscot in 1943.

Waterhouse is responsible for, among much else, Manchester Town Hall, the Refuge Assurance Building in Manchester that is now the Palace Hotel, the Natural History Museum, South Kensington and a series of unmistakable office-buildings for the Prudential Assurance Company. His predilection for terra-cotta led his architectural contemporaries sarcastically to label his work "slaughterhouse Gothic".

His influence on the competition for the Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham, which were eventually built by Aston Webb & Ingress Bell, undoubtedly encouraged Birmingham to become "terracotta city" in the Edwardian period.

In his native Liverpool, Waterhouse built (in stone) the former North Western Hotel in front of Lime Street Station, and the iconic Victoria Building of Liverpool University (1892). This was conceived as part of an 1880s federation of University College, Liverpool, Owens College in Manchester and the Yorkshire College in Leeds, which split up when first Liverpool and then Leeds gained independent university status in 1903 and 1904.

Many of the architectural interesting parts of the Victoria Building are now open to the public as the Victoria Gallery & Museum, and the interior is an eye-opening. Rather than the lavatorial reds that one might expect, Waterhouse used an interesting palette of buff and pale green faience. Staircases weave through the building, supplemented by an ingeniously inserted modern lift. The Tate Hall, formerly the library funded by the great sugar baron, has a spectacular timber roof.

It's well worth a visit. Admission is free. The displays feature aspects of the University's work since its foundation in 1887. And it's a welcome addition to Liverpool's superb range of places to have morning coffee or afternoon tea. See http://www.liv.ac.uk/vgm.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jan 22, 2011

Category:Liverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Pier Head & Museum of Liverpool

Pier Head is the starting-point for the "ferry across the Mersey" and was, in times gone by, the terminus for most Liverpool trams, which gyrated round a series of loops like a Hornby train-set, and latterly for the bus services that replaced them.

The area was, until the late nineteenth century, St George's Dock, which was filled in to provide a transport interchange between the trams and the ferries, and to provide sites for three statement buildings that asserted Liverpool's grandeur to river passengers.

It became an often bleak plaza, across which ferry passengers tramped to a functional ferry building, above which was a Chinese restaurant, the Shanghai Palace, with quite the best views of ships and ferries moving about the river, overshadowed on the landward side by the bulk of the "Three Graces", from north to south the Royal Liver Building (1908-10), the Cunard Building (1913-20) and the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board Offices (1903-7).

In January 2006 the floating pier of the ferry terminal ignominiously sank:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/content/articles/2006/03/03/landingstage_feature.shtml.

Now, in the wake of the Capital of Culture excitements, Pier Head has been transformed.

The ferry building has been replaced by a very grand, modern structure with a display-area, a shop of Beatles memorabilia and an oriental restaurant.  Designed by the Belfast-based Hamilton Architects, it has divided opinion [http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/beauty-or-beast-new-liverpool-pier-head-ferry-terminal/5204487.article, http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/gallery/landingstage] and received the unequivocal accolade of the Carbuncle Cup 2009 [http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/08/28/10-5m-liverpool-ferry-terminal-named-the-uk-s-worst-new-building-by-architects-magazine-100252-24551575].

At the southern end, at Mann Island, once a notoriously rough area of taverns between two further now-vanished docks, Manchester Dock and Chester Basin, stands the new Museum of Liverpool, designed by the Danish practice 3XN and the Manchester architects AEW and opened in 2011.  [For descriptions and discussion see http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/museum-of-liverpool-by-3xn-and-aew-architects/1994293.article and http://www.building.co.uk/a-lens-on-3xn%E2%80%99s-new-museum-of-liverpool/3125091.article (both of which require registration).]

The most startling innovation of all is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Link, which gives narrow boats access to the Albert Dock for the first time.  Originally, the canal terminated at Stanley Dock in the midst of the north docks:  this link, running in a cutting in front of the Three Graces and tunnelling under the new Museum, is illustrated at http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/ll/ll85.htm.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Dec 4, 2010

Category:Liverpool's HeritageFun Palaces

Liverpool Garston Empire Theatre

Empire Theatre, Garston, Liverpool (2000)

The invaluable newsreel of the current Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin reports that the former Empire Theatre, Garston, in south Liverpool, is threatened with demolition – apparently to make way for a hospital car-park.

That would be a pity.

This modest suburban music hall, with a seating-capacity variously recorded as 876 or 1,040, was built, after several false starts, and opened in 1915.  It lasted as a theatre for barely three years, before becoming a full-time cinema, bravely advertised as "The Scala of the South", with a local news Gazette and an augmented orchestra.

Ironically, for an enterprise with such shaky financial foundations, it prospered in the absence of any nearby super-cinema in the surrounding suburbs.

It eventually closed as a cinema, with a final double bill of Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock and Glenn Ford in The Fastest Guns Alive, on December 8th 1962.  After that it went over to bingo until 2009 – three years of theatre, forty-four years of cinema and forty-seven years of bingo.

When I photographed it in 2000 the auditorium was undivided;  by the following year a suspended floor had been inserted between the balcony and the proscenium, presumably to make the place easier to heat.  Nevertheless, the Theatres Trust website http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/1956-empire-garston 
reports that the building is well-maintained and retains many original features.

The existing building, by an unrecorded architect, was designed as a full-scale theatre, with a thirty-foot proscenium, a stage fifteen feet deep and a tower of seven dressing rooms, and because neither cinema nor bingo required any substantial alteration, it survives as a virtually intact Edwardian music-hall/variety theatre.

It's the classic setting for Mickey Rooney's line, "Let's do the show right here."

It's hard to estimate – because I'm not a Garston resident – whether there's any community need for a compact auditorium with everything needed to return it to live performance.

It's a shame if the car-park can't go somewhere else.

The Cinema Theatre Association website is at http://www.cinema-theatre.org.uk.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's 'lectures' Fun Palaces:  the history and architecture of the entertainment industry and Liverpool's Heritage please click on the links.

Posted by: mike on Oct 31, 2010

Category:Liverpool's HeritageFun Palaces

Gaumont Cinema, Dingle, Liverpool

Gaumont Cinema, Dingle, Liverpool (1996)

The Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin (September/October 2010) alerts me to activity at the Gaumont Cinema, Dingle, Liverpool – a huge Art Deco pile on the corner of Park Road and Dingle Lane that I've been driving past for years without ever having a chance to look inside.

It was designed by the Gaumont house-architect, W E Trent, assisted by Daniel Mackay, as a replacement for an earlier, smaller cinema called the Picturedrome.  It opened on Easter Monday 1937, seating 1,503, with a second-hand Wurlitzer organ (now in the care of the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust:  [http://www.voxlancastria.org.uk/heritage]) transferred from the Trocadero Cinema, Liverpool.

W E Trent excelled at simple, sweeping architectural effects, so the exterior has a vertically-banded centrepiece, originally neon-lit, and horizontal bands of stone and brick, curving round the street corner;  the interior is a calm essay in moderne stripped classical features intended to be highlighted by concealed lighting, probably with a range of colour-changes.  Small-scale live shows were provided for:  the proscenium is 45 feet wide, the stage 15 feet deep and there are four dressing rooms.

It operated as a cinema until 1966, and then became a Top Rank bingo-club until 1998.  Thereafter it stood empty until it was taken over for redevelopment as a cultural centre despite attacks from local vandals [http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/02/28/owners-hope-to-restore-former-gaumot-art-deco-cinema-in-liverpool-s-dingle-100252-23030627].

The Dingle Gaumont attracts more than vandals:  it has a reputation as the most haunted cinema for miles around.  The CTA Bulletin led me to a TV series I wouldn't otherwise have come across, Most Haunted, with an over-the-top production-style that will strike viewers as gripping or hilarious depending on their views about the supernatural:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N08jo7kNqo&feature=fvw.  (More relaxed views of the interior can be found at http://www.urbexforums.co.uk/showthread.php/6799-Former-Gaumont-Cinema-Dingle-Liverpool-June-09.)

Because of its status as "one of the most haunted locations in the North West" it has now become a venue for ghost-hunters:  http://www.britevents.com/whats-on/merseyside/dingle/gaumont-cinema/74823.  Tickets cost £49, and you need to bring your own sandwiches.

Bingo kept the place going for decades.  It's good to see a new way of gaining income from an old cinema.  And it's an excellent way of deterring the vandals.

The Cinema Theatre Association website is at http://www.cinema-theatre.org.uk.

Images from a November 2011 urban explorer's visit are at http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php/66021-Gaumont-Cinema-Dingle-Liverpool-November-2011.

Excellent undated images are at http://urbanliverpool.blogspot.co.uk/p/gaumont-cinema-dingle.html.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lecture Fun Palaces:  the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.

Posted by: mike on Jul 8, 2010

Category:Transports of delightLiverpool's Heritage

Liverpool Prince's Dock

Liverpool Riverside Station [left] and Prince's Dock [right] (1983)

My Isle of Man host-with-the-most John was puzzled when he parked up at the ferry terminal in Liverpool to find himself standing on cobbled roadway with a complex set of railway lines embedded.

This turned out to be all that is left of Liverpool Riverside station, a legendary line by which passengers were transported directly to the quayside, so that they stepped out of their railway carriage and walked across a covered roadway directly to their ocean-going liner.

Boat trains left the main line at Edge Hill station, which still exists, and followed a steep descent through Victoria and Waterloo tunnels and then over a tight curve on to the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board tracks that led to the three platforms of Riverside station.  On the dock estate these trains proceeded literally at walking pace, following a man carrying a warning flag.

The appeal for trans-shipping passengers who would otherwise have to make their way across town from Lime Street station is obvious, but the operational practicalities made the service cumbersome even in the heyday of rail travel.

In any case, not long after this link was constructed in 1895 the major transatlantic passenger traffic began to migrate to Southampton, where the London & South Western Railway cannily built docks big enough to take the new generation of vessels which included Oceanic, Titanic and Britannic.  (The reason that Titanic had the lettering 'TITANIC – LIVERPOOL' on its stern was because the White Star Line registered its vessels from its Liverpool head office.  The ship never visited Liverpool.)

The real heyday of Liverpool Riverside appears to have been wartime, when it was heavily used for troop movements.  Indeed, according to the Disused Stations website [http://www.disused-stations.org.uk], the very last train brought troops embarking for Northern Ireland on February 25th 1971.

The place stood derelict until the 1990s, and is now transformed by the regeneration of Liverpool's riverside.

PS:  Since John got back "across", as they say in the Isle of Man, he's passed me this very informative link about the rail links between Edge Hill and the Liverpool docks:  http://www.liverpoolwiki.org/Liverpool%27s_Historic_Rail_Tunnels#head-ee6d32bcb60636bb4ba17b7b2d62ebb6daa4fa77.

PSS:  A 1950s image from the same viewpoint as the image above, the western tower of the Royal Liver Building, is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/thanoz/2863774968.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Posted by: mike on Jun 6, 2010

Category:Liverpool's Heritage

Liverpool has lost a significant city-centre icon now that the first and last Lewis's store has closed.

The business was founded in 1856 as a men's and boy's outfitters by David Lewis (1823-1885), an entrepreneur and philanthropist of genius who was one of the UK pioneers of what became the known as the department store.

The existing building, a post-war replacement of the bombed-out 1910-23 building, was designed in 1947 by Gerald de Courcy Fraser.  Its dominant feature is Sir Jacob Epstein's bronze statue, Liverpool Resurgans ["Liverpool rises again"] (1954), the subject of much ribaldry, especially in wet weather.

Epstein also provided three relief panels of scenes of childhood in fast-setting ciment fondu.  The emblems that decorate this elegant classical building – a virile man striding forward and a celebration of the generation we now call the "baby boomers" – speak of a post-war optimism for a future that turned out rather differently.

The Lewis's building reopened as Britain's first Adagio Aparthotel in June 2013:  http://www.adagio-city.com/gb/united-kingdom/index.shtml.

For details of Mike Higginbottom's lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool's Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.


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