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The Vines Lime Street

In the early l800s, there were no licensing laws, and it is estimated that in Liverpool, one dwelling in seven sold beer. But most of the social problems then were not caused by beer drinking, but by spirit drinking. Wellington had the idea that if he could encourage people to drink beer rather than spirits, it would solve a great many social problems. In 1830, he passed the Beer House Act. Any householder could obtain a licence to sell beer for two guineas. 24,342 licenses were issued in Liverpool alone.

Gladstone, our famous Prime Minister born in 1809 in Liverpool, at 62 Rodney Street had an idea in 1860 to solve the problems of drunkenness. He wanted to encourage people to drink wine and he passed the Wine Licensing Act, he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time.

The result was that anyone of good character in Liverpool and surrounding areas could open a place where they could sell wine, as well as beer. Amongst those who decided to embark upon a career in the Licensed trade was Albert B Vines. Some time later his pub would pass into the ownership of the Cains brewery.

The Cains brewery was founded by Irish immigrant Robert Cain in 1858 when he was able to buy an established brewery. Cain had begun his brewing career aged 24 when he purchased a pub and brewed his own ales. Within 25 years of founding his brewery, Cain had established 200 pubs. In 1898 he commissioned the building of the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, the Vines on Lime Street followed, built in 1907.  After Cain's death, the Cains brewery merged with Peter Walker and Co of Warrington, becoming Walker Cains. Then in 1923 the original Stanhope Street Brewery was sold to Higsons, who continued to brew Cains ales.

The Vines, Lime Street circa 1935.
The Vines, Lime Street, Liverpool was first opened as a public house by Albert B. Vines in 1867. It was rebuilt in 1907 to the design of Walter W Thomas (April 1849 - 30 October 1912) who was a British architect who practised in Liverpool, and who specialised in designing public houses in the city. His most notable work is the Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Hope Street. This was built in about 1898–1900 for the brewer Robert Cain. In 1907, he was chosen to design the Vines, public house in Lime Street, Liverpool, also for Cains. It is thought that he designed Audley House in London Road, a shop for Owen Owen, later to become T'J Hughes and houses surrounding Sefton Park, and that he made additions to the Brook House public house in Smithdown Road. Certainly looking at the Audley House building the architecture is similar.

Known locally as 'The Big House' the Vines is A baroque style pub with etched glass windows and a folly tower. Inside, in the lounge bar there is a monumental fireplace in mahogany and beaten copper. Although in later years frequented by shoppers and workers in the city centre, this pub was designed with a much more opulent clientele in mind. With its polished granite and marble exterior, granite porches on Lime Street and its multi-glazed doors and mosaic floor, this was by any standards an impressive building. The magnificent clock that extends over Lime Street  is by E J Dent & Co. the same company that provided the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament building that contains 'Big Ben'. The clock is designed to be set and wound from within the pub.

The Vines as it is today
In the Pevsner Architectural Guide: Liverpool by Joseph Sharples the following description of the pub is given:

"in the lounge bar there is a monumental fireplace in mahogany and beaten copper. In the Queensbury Room, above the fireplace is a splendid wooden bas-relief Viking Longboat by Gustave Hiller. Around the walls there are fifteen plaster relief panels of children engaged in allegorical pursuits. Upon the ceiling is an oval plaster relief with panels including 12 zodiacal designs".

Various alterations have taken place over the years resulting in a larger customer area but also a reduction in the size of the bar which is now almost half its original size. The Vines however remains a popular venue which offers live entertainment and a function room.

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