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A Walk Through The City - 1902

If you have ever considered what it must have been like to walk around Liverpool in 1902 along the streets that still exist today, then this guide will answer the questions you may have. Take a step back in time and find out what our City was like in this period as we continue our 'Guide To Liverpool - 1902', with 'A Walk Through The City'.

The following rambles, all of which are practically in the heart of Liverpool, will enable the visitor to obtain a good general idea of the City the leading thoroughfares and of the different aspects of the life of the City.

We make our start at the George’s Pier head, and are at once impressed by the busy scene before us. From this centre we are able to reach almost any part of the City and its suburbs by the admirable system of electric trams, and at the uniform rate of about a penny a mile. The Tramway System since 1898 has been the property of the Liverpool Corporation, being purchased by them at a cost of £600,000. The cars are of handsome construction, and travel at a comfortable speed, though the stopping stations are necessarily frequent. In the year 1901, no fewer than 101,108,780 passengers were carried, and the receipts amounted to £476,000. These figures show the immense popularity of the Tramways, and as the system is being rapidly extended, it will soon be possible to reach almost any part of the City and Suburbs by the cars.

Walking along by the pavement which is at the side of the Floating Bridge, we pass under the Overhead Railway, dodge the continuous stream of traffic, and reach the Old Church of Liverpool. The Church is dedicated to St. Nicholas, Patron Saint of Mariners, and the tower with lantern is 180 feet in height, and from an architectural point of view is the most pleasing tower to be seen in Liverpool. Tradition says that the present Church is built on the site of a chapel-of-ease, consecrated in 1360 to the mother church of suburban Walton. St. Nicholas’ shares with St. Peter’s the title of Parish Church of Liverpool. It will repay the visitor to enter by the door in the churchyard, and examine the many stained glass windows, the black oak searings, and the choice carvings of the choir stalls and lectern. The fountain at the corner of the boundary wall is to the memory of Mr. William Simpson, a citizen of Liverpool, and a pronounced Temperance advocate. The prominent Semaphore Tower,
opposite the Church, will next attract our attention. It stands on the site of an old fortress, and before the days of the electric telegraph this tower was much used as a signalling station for reporting vessels off Holyhead Abound for Liverpool.

After passing these Tower Buildings we find ourselves at the foot of Water Street. The offices in this street are almost entirely monopolized by Steamship and Insurance Companies. Prominent amongst such is the office at Middleton Buildings in Rumford Street, at which corner the spread eagle, Ciraard (trademark) and arms of the well-known Cunard Office Co. are displayed.

The metropolis is brought to our mind in the street names of Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Perhaps the Oriel Chambers frontage in Covent Garden is the most curious to be seen in Liverpool. At the top of this thoroughfare we notice the Portico of the Town Hall jutting out into Castle Street, and on our right hand is the pleasing front of the Bank of Liverpool.

The Town Hall, a Grecian structure, with dome 106 feet in height, is the oldest public building in Liverpool, and is dominated by a huge figure of Britannia. The Hall occupies a commanding position at the junction of two of the most important thoroughfares in the City. Immediately in front of it runs Castle Street (to which we return later in our walk), and at right angles to this is Dale Street. The elevation of the Town Hall at the back, facing the Exchange, has lately been much improved by handsome additions, and brought more into harmony with its fine classic frontage in Castle Street. The Hall was completed in the year 1754, having been designed by John Wood, of Bath, and erected at a cost of £80,000. Some years afterwards its interior was burnt down, and the Hall was re-built. For about 40 years this building was used by the Liverpool merchants as the Cotton Exchange. On entering (admission to view is by an order signed by a City Councillor) we are much impressed by the roomy vestibule, and the dome-capped entrance stairway. Note the beautiful carved fire-place, presented by the late Philip H. Rathbone. To the right and left are private rooms. On the staircase a fine statue by Sir Francis Chantrey, of  Canning.  The beautiful banqueting room and large ball room are each 40 feet in height, and in the latter we note a gallery for the orchestra, and the two huge mirrors and chandeliers. At the back of the building is a very fine Council chamber, a magnificent room, opened in January, 1900, on which a sum of £10,000 has lately been expended.

Leaving the Hall we enter Exchange Street West, and, making a turn to the right, in a few paces we find on our left hand the entrance to the Cotton Exchange, formerly known as Brown’s Buildings. The business of the great cotton trade, of which Liverpool has been the principal market since 1795, is conducted in a very pleasant room, the walls of which are lined with Doulton ware, the columns, being similarly covered. The ceilings are embellished with panels illustrative of the cotton industry, and the tile decoration is admirably set off by the dark mahogany fittings. On entering we find ourselves standing on a gallery with a staircase leading to the central part of the room, but “except on business” we warn the visitor not to descend to the lower floor. To the uninitiated the hubbub here will be a veritable Babel.

From the door of the Cotton Exchange we get an excellent view of the Liverpool Flags, and the beautiful back elevation of the Exchange. Formerly the merchants of Liverpool transacted all their business under the arches of the Town Hall, and subsequently used this space called the “ Flags ” at the back of the Hall for their purpose. However at the beginning of the 19th century they resolved to erect a building more suitable for the transaction of business, and the present Exchange, which was opened in 1809, is the outcome of their decision. The Exchange is a splendid building, having its frontage in Chapel Street, and covering two acres of ground. It is from a design in French Renaissance style by the late John Foster, and cost £600,000. The elevation here facing us, forming the three sides of a quadrangle, is very handsome, and the arches of the arcades, with their festoons and. elegant piers, stand out in fine relief from the main building. Above the arcade we notice statues of Galileo, Columbus, Mercator, Raleigh, Drake, and Cook. The central tower of the principal facade in Chapel Street is ornamented by bold Corinthian  columns, the Arms of England, Liverpool City, and by four figures, representing Religion, Government, Commerce, and Navigation. At the eastern corner of the building there is a handsome pinnacled tower.

The bronze statue of Nelson standing in the centre of the Flags is by  Westmacott. Victory is crowning our naval hero, whilst Death strikes him to the heart. This statue weighs no less than 22 tons, and was erected at a cost of over £9,000. By an entrance in the left wing of the Exchange building we enter the Exchange fine News Room. This is, strictly speaking, open only to subscribers, but a courteous request will gain ready admittance to view the beautiful interior. The central dome is 48 feet wide, and 80 feet in height from floor, and is filled with stained glass. The weight of the vaulted roof being entirely sustained by the walls of the room, we get an unobstructed floor space. From front to back the room measures 165 feet, and at each end are galleries which constitute supplementary reading rooms. The arched panels of the frieze and the handsome pilasters are tastefully decorated. Busts of her late Majesty and the Prince Consort are over the fire-places. Admirable both in its spaciousness and decoration, the News Room ranks as one of the sights of the City. We cross the Flags obliquely, and passing through the central arch of the main portion of the Exchange, find ourselves in Chapel Street and facing Old Hall Street. Quite near, in Rigby Street, is the world-famed Cross’ menagerie, which is well worth a visit. It is open to the public during the day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a charge of 6d. At the corner of Old Hall Street, we note the classic front of the Branch Bank of Liverpool. Chapel Street, like Water Street, has many fine buildings, and is to a large extent the centre of the Insurance and Shipping Companies’ Offices. At this point it joins Tithebarn Street. While in this part of Liverpool the stranger will probably be able to observe the samples of wool, representative of the bulk in the warehouses, being carried in every direction.

Turning to the right and walking down Tithebarn Street, we see, a short distance down on the left, the Exchange Station, having a clock between two fine central arches, the Hotel and Terminus of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co. By this line one may travel to Southport, Manchester, and the North. The Station is commodious, and has six platforms, each 765 feet in length. Nearly Opposite the Station stands the conspicuous red building of the Caledonian Insurance Company. At the north eastern corner of the Exchange, we turn sharply to the right and walk down Exchange Street East. Facing this end of the street is the North British Mercantile Office, and at the other end facing Dale Street, the important looking Queen Insurance building stands out prominently. On approaching the latter street, we pass the Liverpool Stock Exchange in Imperial Buildings. At the right hand corner, where Exchange Street East and Dale Street meet, stands the solid looking office of the Liverpool and London and Globe  Insurance Co. This has a handsome festooned frieze. The visitor should note the wonderful clock in one of the windows facing the Town Hall, which tells the time simultaneously in all the important cities of the world.

Dale Street is one of the most Dale important thoroughfares in the City, Street
and forms, with the continuation of Water Street at the Town Hall, the direct route to Lime Street from the Landing Stage. As we look down this busy street, we cannot fail to catch sight of the lofty building of the Municipal Offices, with its clock tower and quaint steeple 200 feet high. Walking towards these, offices, we note many fine buildings. At the corner of North John Street, which leads to the Custom House, the new and imposing offices of the Royal Insurance Co. are seen. The Temple Tower, the fine red brick offices of the Prudential, by Waterhouse, and the Gothic facade of Musker’s Building, at the corner of Stanley Street, attract observation. Here also the Junior Reform Club has its quarters.

On the left side of Dale Street we notice the Guardian Offices, and looking up Moorfields, the front of the Exchange Station comes in view. The Reform Club is near by. The Municipal Offices occupy the entire space between Crosshall Street and Sir Thomas Street. At the corner of the latter street is the Conservative Club. The lofty commercial red brick Princes Buildings face the Municipal Offices, and at the corner of Crosshall Street is the pleasing Gothic Westminster Chambers. Facing Crosshall Street are the plain, dingy-looking Central Police Station and Police Courts, and adjoining them, in Hatton Garden -the next street to the left- the new building of the Fire Station, with the Salvage Corps building opposite.

Standing at the corner of Hatton Garden, we obtain a good view of the Municipal Buildings. Here the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, 30 Aldermen, 90 Councillors, and other City Officers, conduct the municipal business. The buildings form an imposing block, and were erected in 1865. An easy flight of steps conducts to the main entrance, on each side of which stand six massive Corinthian columns, the bold wings of the building being connected with the central portion by a balustrade. The tower will strike us as being rather severe, but the balconied windows and the figures on the broken entablature of the facade are decidedly pleasing.

In turning down Sir Thomas Street, we cannot help regretting that the beautiful freestone front of the new School Board  Offices -one of the finest in Liverpool - is not in a more conspicuous position. In Victoria Street the offices and printing works of some of the leading Liverpool  Newspapers are situated. Looking to the left, we notice in the distance the fine buildings in Lime Street, while close at hand, with frontages to Sir Thomas and Victoria Streets and Crosshall Street are the Inland Revenue Offices and
Law Courts. The foundation stone of the magnificent new Post Office in Victoria Street was laid by the Duke and Duchess of York in 1894, and the building cost, with its site, a sum of £340,000. In point of importance it is considered to be the second post office in the Kingdom. This truly magnificent pile, from the design by H. Tanner, is built in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and presents three handsome frontages, the one to Victoria Street measuring 223 feet. The, beautiful carvings of the exterior, and arrangements of the interior, are all that could be desired. Our remarks with regard to the School Board Offices will apply here with emphasis. It is considered, however, that Victoria Street will eventually become the leading route to the waterside. It is always a scene of much activity.

The great Railway Depots and large Warehouses are here situated. We notice, in passing, the fine Goods Offices of the L. & N.W. Railway Co., and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co., also those of the Great Northern Railway Co. Keeping straight ahead, we cross North John Street, and by-way of the narrow Cook Street reach Castle Street. In Cook Street we walk through quite an interesting and handsome Arcade. This is a really admirable structure, with its good carving, marble columns, and mosaic pavement. It was constructed to widen Cook Street, by enabling the old foot walk on the side to be thrown into the roadway. A number of attractive shops will be found in the Arcade. Castle Street presents one of the finest and widest roadways in the City. At our right we again see the Town Hall, and on looking to the left, across Derby Square -where formerly stood St. George’s Church - the massive dome of the Custom House comes into view. On the site of St. George’s Church the public memorial to the late Queen Victoria will be placed. Taking the buildings in order as we stand here, by the Cook Street Arcade, we find, first at our right hand, the classic front of the Bank of England, with its balcony and four massive fluted columns; in close proximity the Norwich Union, Scottish Equitable, and Prudential Offices, and at the corner opposite the Town Hall, the imposing red brick British and Foreign Marine Insurance Building. In this frontage are some very excellent artistic panels. On the other side of the street the stone building of the Edinburgh Life Office looks well, and, near it, the recently built handsome edifice for Parr’s Bank, with its great doorway, marble front, and Banks high roof, tends to dwarf its neighbours.

Almost immediately facing Cook Street, and flanking each side of Brunswick Street—on the left side of which is situated the Corn Exchange—are the handsome buildings of Leyland and Bullins’ and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Banks. The beautiful gates and decoration of the latter are well worth close inspection. Strolling now to our left towards Derby Square, we notice the L. & Y. Bank, the Victoria Chambers, the Scottish Widows’ Fund Office, and, at the corner, the fine North and South Wales Bank, and, separated from this by a narrow street, is the office of the National Provincial Bank of England, with its heavy pediment. On reaching Derby Square the east side of which will remind us somewhat of Oxford Circus - we are at an important junction of Castle and Street South Castle Streets, and Lord Street and James Street. We shall, in our next ramble, consider the latter streets, and at present cross the Square and go down South Castle Street.

Whilst walking through this open space, and on looking down Red Cross Street on the right we get a glimpse of the shipping in the Docks. If we except Corinthian Buildings on the left, and Ashe’s Buildings on the other side, there is little, from the architectural standpoint, to take our notice here, so we speedily approach the great domed building in Canning Place, and, looking at our surroundings, begin to estimate its massive proportions. Canning Place is one of the most interesting spots in Liverpool. The Custom House stands on the site of the first of the Liverpool Docks, which was opened in 1715, and here was the outlet of the waters of the Pool, from which the City derives the second portion of her name. The Pool at one time reached almost to the present Lime Street. In this severe looking, classical Greek building, the business of H.M. Customs, and of the important Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, is conducted. New offices for the latter will shortly be erected, on a portion of the old George’s Dock site, at a cost of £250,000, from the designs of Messrs. Briggs, Wolstenholme, Hobbs, and Thornely. Prior to the erection of the fine building in Victoria Street, the postal work of Liverpool was also carried on here, and this survives, to a small degree, in one of the wings of the building. In construction, the Custom House takes the form of a double cross, and on three of its frontages it has an advanced portico, in each of which we notice eight enormous Ionic columns. Between the two great wings, and occupying a central position in front of the Castle Street facade (which is 466 feet in width) is a fine bronze statue of William Huskisson.

We are enabled to pass from one side of Canning Place to the other through arches in the centre of the buildings. From this central arch, in looking back, we get a capital view of South Castle Street. To the east of the Custom House is the admirable Sailors’ Home Home, a six-storey building in the Elizabethan style. It was built by public subscription, and the foundation stone was laid by the Prince Consort in 1846. Here the sailor finds, at a small cost, everything to contribute to his comfort. Note the interesting ornamental doorway. In this neighbourhood are several capital Institutions :        amongst others, the Gordon
Smith Institute for Seamen, the Mersey Mission, and the Seaman s Institute.
The first of these has quite an attractive facade to Paradise Street.


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