St George’s Quarter
Stepping out from Lime Street station you are greeted with views of Liverpool’s St George’s Quarter. It is a Unesco World Heritage site featuring some fine examples of Victorian architecture. Liverpool isn’t all The Beatles and football you know! Although both have connections with this area that we’ll see later.
St George’s plateau is a natural meeting place for the people of Liverpool. Whether to celebrate, such as the opening of the Capital of Culture year in 2008. To remember and commemorate the fallen with the annual remembrance day services. Or to protest, such as to obtain ‘Justice for the 96’ or against climate change.
St George’s Hall is a neo-classical building that opened in 1854. In the 17th and 18th centuries Liverpool was growing fast. The city leaders wanted to show the status of the city with a venue suitable for large civic events and music festivals. At the same time there was a growing need for crown and civic courts.
Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, a young architect had the astounding vision to create this glorious building. Which not only fulfilled the brief but included a stunning 500 seat concert room as well. This was described by Charles Dickens as “the most perfect room in the World”. The courts are no longer held here, however they have often been used as a location for Film and TV.
Commissioned by the London and North Western Railway and opened in 1871. The North Western hotel is an impressive site. Designed by Liverpool born architect Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed London’s iconic Natural History Museum. It was later turned into accommodation for students at Johns Moore’s University. It is now in the process of being turned back into a hotel.
There has been a theatre on this site since 1866. However the original building was demolished in 1924 and this one opened in 1925. In 1999, an extension was built, increasing the foyer area and the stage/backstage size. This allowed for bigger touring productions to be accommodated. The building is Grade II listed and is Britain’s largest two-tier auditorium. The Beatles played here 11 times. George, Paul and Ringo have also subsequently played here individually.
Unveiled in 1879. Former mayor Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Fell Steble gave £1000 to the city council for the building of this fountain. Originally designed for the Paris Exposition of 1867 by Michel Joseph Napoléon Liénard. It has been replicated with small variations several times across the world.
In commemoration of The Duke of Wellington. Wellington’s column was completed in 1863. Competitions were held for both the design of the column and also the statue. The column was designed by architect Andrew Lawson of Edinburgh. His brother, sculptor George Anderson Lawson won the competition for the statue design.
The County Sessions House was a Quarter Sessions Court house for the County of Lancaster. It first opened in 1884 until the Courts Act of 1971 abolished Quarter Sessions. Since 1984 the building has been in the care of National Museums Liverpool. It is used for staff offices and collections storage. Unfortunately it is not open to the general public.
Gallery, Library and museum
The Walker Art Gallery opened in 1877. Following a £20,000 donation by Andrew Barclay Walker (of brewers Walkers of Warrington) in commemoration of his term as mayor. It was taken over by the Ministry of Food in WW2 and used for the distribution of ration books. The artworks were stored elsewhere during this time for safety. The gallery displays current and past winners of the bi-annual John Moores Prize, the oldest painting competition in the UK. Previous prize winners include David Hockney, Peter Blake and Stuart Sutcliffe who used the prize money to buy a bass guitar to join The Beatles.
While you are there, stand back and look up at the statue on the roof. You’ll notice next to the regal lady sits a Liver Bird. She is also holding a trident and ships propeller, representing the importance of the sea to Liverpool.
Liverpool Central Library is housed in part of the group of buildings at the lower end of William Brown Street. The Library had major refurbishment completed in 2013. Including the modern airy atrium which contrasts wonderfully with the Picton Reading Rooms. Opened in 1879, architect Cornelius Sherlock, designed the semi circular front of the Picton Rooms to transition between the axis of the existing buildings. Titles from well known books, films and music make up the pavement leading to the library entrance. It includes the occasional letter in red which forms a code for you to break.
William Brown, a wealthy Liverpool merchant, paid for the neo-classical building which houses both the World Museum and Central Library. These buildings were to complement St George’s Hall and add to the grandeur of the quarter. Handed to the city of Liverpool on completion in 1860, the museum opened the following year. In 1906 it was extended with a new building shared with the Liverpool Central Technical School. Today’s ground floor cafe, is in the exam room of the school and is worth a look!
Memorials and gardens
The Hillsborough Memorial in honour of 96 football fans who tragically lost their life attending a football match at Hillsborough Stadium on 15th April 1989. In the aftermath of the tragedy police and press were keen to lay the blame on the fans. After 25 years of campaigning. An inquest finally ruled that the supporters were unlawfully killed. There had been gross negligence by the police and ambulance service that day. The memorial was commissioned by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. Sculpted by Tom Murphy, who has sculpted many of the iconic modern statues and memorials in Liverpool.
St John’s Gardens is part of the William Brown Street conservation area and lies on the site of St John’s church and cemetery. By 1898 the cemetery was full and the church was demolished. The graves were moved elsewhere and the gardens were landscaped and opened in 1904. There are many listed monuments from the late Victorian and Edwardian era in the gardens. John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird planted a tree in 2000 in his memory. Four days after his death in 2001 a tree was planted in memory of George Harrison. Neither tree was marked to stop souvenir hunters.
It’s a lovely place to sit and maybe have a picnic. Alternatively stop off at Key Lime Coffee for an all day vegan breakfast or coffee and vegan cake!
Our tour of St George’s Quarter concludes at Lime Street Station. Which is the oldest mainline rail terminus still in operation. Opened in 1836 it quickly required expansion. In 1867 the northern arched shed was added. At the time this was the largest structure of its type in the world.
Look out for the artwork in etched into the pavement. Entitled Liverpool-to-Liverpool it was created in 2010. Comprising of 181 drawings. The result of a journey from Liverpool, UK to Liverpool Nova Scotia by the artist Simon Faithfull.
If you want further short walks around Liverpool city centre, you may be interested in A walk in the footsteps of The Beatles