Article (A) guide: Liverpool Waterfront

Liverpool Waterfront
Image by Chowells under Creative Commons License.
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In Liverpool’s waterfront architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is written the experience of the Atlantic shipping trade; the tragedy of Slavery; the grandeur of the British Empire; the teeming migrations from East and West and finally the arrival of the GI’s in World War II. We will read the stories of these events in a grand display of neo-Classical buildings that make a tour of Liverpool a short course in the history of the world.

Walk Route

Guide Name: Liverpool Waterfront
Guide Location: England » Liverpool
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
Author: David Franklin
Author Bio: A Liverpudlian, born & bred in the city, married with two grown-up children, I have worked for local firms such as Littlewoods, BICC Cables, Crawfords Computing, and also John Moores University. Having a knowledge of architecture, economics & history has helped me understand how cities develop the personality that we encounter when we visit, and which makes us want to return.
Liverpool Town Hall

1) Liverpool Town Hall

Built by John Wood the Elder in 1754 and a Grade I listed building, it is recognised as one the great town halls of England and shows that Liverpool began its commercial success early in the Georgian period, well before the Victorian age had arrived. It was commissioned to demonstrate the neo-classical tastes of the wealthy patrons who sought to reproduce the great landmarks of Renaissance Europe in their own city. Now overshadowed perhaps by the scale of later structures along Castle Street...
The Hargreaves Building

2) The Hargreaves Building

This was built in 1859, by Sir James Picton, for Sir William Brown, a Liverpool merchant, born in Ballymena, Ireland, who started business in Baltimore. The building summarises all the neo-classical and Italianate aspirations of the prosperous merchant class of the day, who used a nobility of style to demonstrate their wealth and success. Each floor is horizontally symmetrical, slightly different from the floor below, and with a pronounced overhang of the roof-eaves in tell-tale Italian style....
Our Lady & St Nicholas Parish Church

3) Our Lady & St Nicholas Parish Church

This has been a site of worship since the twelfth century, when fishermen and traders from Ireland would have worshipped at the St Mary del Key chapel (from which nearby Chapel Street takes its name). A new chapel was built in 1361 on land granted by the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, and dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron saint of mariners. This church was developed gradually over many years and in 1746 a spire was added. Right up to 1767, when the shore was reclaimed, high tides would...
Floating Roadway & WWII Inscription to GI's

4) Floating Roadway & WWII Inscription to GI's

Cut into the Pier Head is a long slipway that once stretched further towards the main road and St. Nicholas’ church. In here was suspended a much longer floating roadway, which allowed heavy motorised traffic to move freely up to the plaza. In 1943 the US Army disembarked here from their troop ships, streaming up the roadway to their bases in Liverpool and Lancashire; and then on to the Normandy landings, and finally, to victory. To the right of the gangway, set into the wall, can be seen this...
Marine Engineers' Monument

5) Marine Engineers' Monument

Crossing the footbridge, which gives another view of the floating roadway, can be seen an obelisk with carved figures and symbols. Designed by Sir William Goscombe-John, it was erected by the Cunard line in 1916 following the sinking of the Titanic; and serves as a memorial to merchant engineers who have perished at sea. It does not explicitly refer to the Titanic, but is the only monument associated with that disaster. It is sited here because the ship was registered by the White Star line in...
Leeds-Liverpool Canal & Canada Boulevard

6) Leeds-Liverpool Canal & Canada Boulevard

Directly in front of the Three Graces are two interesting features: an extension to the Leeds-Liverpool canal and a memorial to the Canadian sacrifice in World War Two. The names of the Canadian vessels lost in that war are set into an avenue of maples (a national symbol of Canada) that runs the full length of the Three Graces. The first plaque we see is for 404 SQD Royal Canadian Air Force, and the HMCS Esquimat. If you turn and face the river, you can see where the canal route from Leeds has...
The Liver Building

7) The Liver Building

This is the much-loved and iconic building of Liverpool, with the mythical Liver birds perched on top, one facing east, one facing west, wings outstretched and almost ready to take flight. In fact the bird of King Johns’ coat of arms for the city was an eagle (after the eagle of Saint John) but this creature has been transformed over the centuries: perhaps in memory of the cormorants that would have been a common sight along the shores and sandbanks of the River Mersey from earliest times and...
Cunard Building

8) Cunard Building

Built on a reclaimed dock between 1914 and 1917, this was the Headquarters and passenger terminal for the greatest shipping line of its day, The Cunard Steamship Company. Here, the shipping line was administered, passengers and crew were accommodated, and ships were designed. During the era of the great Atlantic crossings, provisions for the voyage were held in the cellars and passengers rested in the grand restaurants, salons and waiting rooms (first, second and third class). An elegant...
Port of Liverpool Building

9) Port of Liverpool Building

Also constructed on the site of reclaimed docks in 1907, this building was the first of the Three Graces to be completed. It was the home of the Merseyside Docks and Harbour Board until 1994. (The initials ‘M.D.H.B.’ can still be seen on the wrought-iron gates.) It is built in Edwardian Baroque, a style that takes some features from the true Baroque period of 16th & 17th centuries; exaggerating them in a triumphant celebration of the British Empire. A characteristic of this architecture...
St Georges Dock Ventilation & Control Station

10) St Georges Dock Ventilation & Control Station

This is the ventilation shaft for Queensway, the Birkenhead Tunnel under the Mersey, which of course passes directly below where you are standing. Designed by Herbert James Rowse in 1932 it serves as the offices and control room for the fresh-air supply to the tunnel. Despite its purely functional purpose it is finished in Portland stone and has many architectural flourishes, such as an elegant tower. This is almost ecclesiastical, with fluted vents at the top, as if it had a peal of bells. The...
Albert Dock & Old Dock Traffic Office

11) Albert Dock & Old Dock Traffic Office

Finally we come to the cornerstone of the Albert Dock, the Old Traffic Office. Built in 1846 by Philip Hardwicke, this confident and well-defined building is perfectly in proportion to its surroundings and is recognisable from some distance. The architect had made the customary tour of European antiquities in his youth and had absorbed the Greek and Roman treasures of Paris and Rome. Its restoration began in 1981 and marked the beginning of a period of regeneration that is still underway across...

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