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Tower Buildings Liverpool



As far back as 1252 there has been a townhouse on the Liverpool shore.  Sir John Stanley pulled down the old house in 1406 and built the first Tower known as the Tower of Liverpool. This was used as an embarkation base for their property in the Isle of Man. The Tower stood at the shore end of Water Street.

Water street being one of the original seven streets of Liverpool was originally called 'Bonke Street'.  'Bonke' was Lancashire dialect for 'bank' (taken from river bank). Through the years it became Bank Street and then eventually Water Street in 1520's. During the 18th century the Tower of Liverpool, between Tower gardens and Stringers alley was the Jail of Liverpool. A large arch joined the Tower to the building on the other side of Tower Gardens and this building was used to house debtors and Criminals.

The Tower had 7 small underground dungeons, each approx 6’ sq. There were between 3-5 prisoners per dungeon, hence “ jail fever” was prevalent. A room at the Tower was used as a Chapel which later became the Debtors Room. In 1756 during the war with France the Tower was also used to confine prisoners of war.

The Tower became the property of the corporation in 1775 when it purchased  from the then owner Sir Richard Clayton. The Tower ceased being a jail on 3rd July 1811 when all the criminals were moved to the new jail in Great Howard Street. In 1877 two men convicted of robbery were executed in Water Street opposite the Old Tower.


By the end of the 18th century the Tower was in disrepair and was pulled down in 1819 to be replaced by warehouses.  In 1856 the warehouses gave way to the second Tower called Tower Buildings, a large Italianate office block by J. A. Picton. Unfortunately The Tower fell foul to the demands of commerce and was demolished in the early 20th century.





The Tower Buildings  we see today  is a former office block in the city of Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It stands with its longer front on the east side of the Strand, and extends round the corner into Water Street. The building is located directly opposite the Royal Liver Building, which was designed by the same architect. Earlier buildings on the site have been a sandstone mansion, and a later fortified house known as the Tower of Liverpool. After this was demolished in 1819, it was replaced in 1846 by the first structure to be named Tower Buildings. The present structure is one of the earliest steel-framed buildings in England, and details of its architecture reflect the earlier fortified building on the site.


The present building was designed in 1906 by Walter Aubrey Thomas, and its construction was completed in 1910. Thomas also designed the Royal Liver Building.



Tower Building 1907
Tower Building 1907 A Month Later


Tower Building 1907 Demolished


Tower Buildings is constructed on a steel frame. It is clad in grey granite, and faced with white glazed terracotta made by Doulton. The Strand front has eight storeys and is in nine bays, the Water Street front has five storeys plus attics and is in three bays, and there is a curved bay on the corner. The bays are divided by polygonal turrets. On each end of the Strand front is a two-storey tower, and above the central bay rises a three-storey tower.



The Photographs above taken in 1908 show the Building nearing completeion



The building stands on a historic site in the city. The first structure on the site had been a sandstone mansion, built in 1256 on the shore of the River Mersey. Its first owner is not known, but by 1360 it was owned by Sir Robert Lathom. By beginning of the 15th century it was owned by Sir John Stanley. In 1406 Sir John gained permission from King Henry V build a fortified house, which was named the Tower of Liverpool. The Stanley family later became the Earls of Derby. By 1737 the house was being leased from the Earl of Derby by Liverpool Corporation. In 1745 part of it was converted into a prison, and the upper rooms were used for civic functions. In 1774 the Corporation bought the building outright. A new prison was built in Great Howard Street, and the building ceased to be used for this purpose in 1811. It was demolished in 1819 to allow widening of Water Street. The site was used for a row of warehouses, until in 1846 the first structure to be known as Tower Buildings was built to a design by Sir James Picton.


Tower Buildings has now been converted into apartments and into units for commercial and Retail use.



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Liverpool Central Library
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Tower buildings
British Architecture

Robert F Edwards
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