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Queen Square A History

Queen Square
Queen Square dates from the second half of the 18th century. and is named after King George III’s Queen, Charlotte.  At the top of the square was Tryon Street which linked Hood Street and St Johns Lane. Across the south end was Roe Street. Passing through the west side of the square was Great Charlotte Street which went from Whitechapel in the North, beside the Royal Court theatre, and on south Elliott Street and Ranelagh Street where both Blacklers and Lewis's stores respectively, both stood.

Gt Charlotte Street with the Royal Court (left).

The building of Great Charlotte Street in 1796, replacing the roperies that had occupied the area for many years, gave an impetus to the residential development of Queens Square. Today’s Queens Square lies a little to the west of the original, on the site of which now stands the Marriott hotel. 

In 1837 the 85 feet long skeleton of a whale, found dead off Plymouth in 1831, on tour round the country in four large caravans, was brought to Liverpool and exhibited in Queens Square. According to the Liverpool Standard it was visited “by a great number of the most respectable families of the town and neighbourhood who, without exception, declared it to be the most interesting exhibition that they have ever witnessed’. The Liverpool Mail noted that within the huge mouth of the Whale it was possible to accommodate ‘one hundred and fifty two tender juveniles of the infant school at one time’

In 1845 the businesses in the square included a printer, doctor, pork butcher, confectioners, basket maker and linen draper, as well as offices of the District provident society and the New Gas and Coke Company. However, most of the premises were occupied by trades to do with the fact this was Liverpool’s wholesale vegetable market to which “carts laden with all manner of fruit and veg' used to arrive on Fridays ready for Saturdays Market”.

By 1904, Queens square” with exception of the Royal Court theatre, and half dozen hotels was devoted to the wholesale distribution and sale of fruit and vegetables”. This was eventually seen as a problem by the city council, not just because of the obstruction of the pavements by towers of strawberry and cherry filled boxes, piles of tomatoes, and stacks of cabbages and cauliflowers”, but the centre of the square was occupied by carters and porters who would happily shout bawdy remarks at the ladies en-route to George Henry Lee of to a matinee at the Playhouse Theatre. However, a writer in 1931 called Queens Square a beautiful corner of the town to walk through”, where in the morning” you would be refreshed by the sight of thronged wagons laden with the odorous wealth of herb, root and blossom. Argosies of the farm”.

The Stork Hotel Queen Square

On the north side of Queen Square was the elegant Georgian house built by William Roe in Hood Street (later Tryon Street). Its site is now occupied by a multi story car park. In about 1810 the house was converted into a hotel the Stork. The hotel was acquired by the Clancy Family in the 1880’s and they owned it for over 90 years. It was substantially modernised and improved in 1948-56, but was eventually closed and demolished at the end of 1976. The Stork was one of a number of hotels in the area, including St Johns hotel in St Johns Lane and the Victoria Hotel on the corner of St Johns Lane and Roes Street.

The Magic Clock
Queen square was also known as an area frequented by the gay community in the city. In keeping with Liverpool's history as a major seafaring port, the local gay community can be traced as far back as the Victorian era. The legacy of Victorian laws and homosexual criminalisation meant that the city's lesbian and gay community would be largely underground for the next century and little is known about it during this period. However, recent research has highlighted the existence of an unofficial gay quarter around Queen Square from as early as the 1940s, which earned itself the nickname "Covent Garden of the North".  Although gay sex between consenting adults was not legalised until 1967, the gay community enjoyed relative acceptance in this area and establishments such as the Stork Hotel, the Roebuck, Spanish House, Magic Clock, Royal Court, and The Dart all boasted a substantial gay clientele, albeit liaisons were still held in secret to a degree.  By the early 1970s, a gay society named 'The Homophile Society', which campaigned for homosexual equality, was formed at the University of Liverpool.

On the south side of the square, in Roe Street, named after William Roe, was form 1828 to 1881, the Amphitheatre, later the Royal Court Theatre. The Amphitheatre Tavern, one of many pubs in and around the square, was a favourite with artists and thespians. Mrs Stebbing, its landlady for many years, has a box in the theatre which could be entered from the tavern. Also close to Roe Street was the old Fall Well, first referred it in 1568, which until the end of the 18th century was the towns main supply of water. In about 1790 when the well was no longer needed for public purposes, Roe had the water piped to his garden where it formed a fountain for many years.

Queens Square market continued to trade after the Second World War, but the area became increasingly neglected and rundown. The fruit market was eventually moved to the outskirts of the city leaving Queen Square. The Shankland Plan of 1964 included ideas for improvements to Roe Street and Hood Street and proposals for elevated walkways and St Johns precinct. By the 1970’s most of the square had been redeveloped, it is now the main bust terminus for the city as well as having the Marriott Hotel restaurants and its own selection of bars and shops in nearby Williamson Square.

Liverpool Wholesale Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Markets Edge Lane site served the people of for more than 50 years. The Edge Lane site was a hive of trading activity, serving market stalls, shops and restaurants throughout Merseyside and beyond. Fruit and vegetables arrived in Liverpool from local and international suppliers. 

Photographs from David Parker taken on the last days of the Edge Lane site.

Because of declining trade the 21 acre site was really run-down and closed in 2018. The revitalisation took the form of a move to a five acre, £7 million purpose-built site, The Food Hub, on Electric Avenue, Liverpool 11.


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