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Duke Street Area/Ropewalks

The Duke Street area lies to the south of the city centre in an area recently renamed 'RopeWalks'. The area consists of the south west part of the Duke Street Conservation Area plus two warehouses on College Lane and the Bluecoat Chambers on School Lane.   

The growth of the Duke Street area commenced following the opening in 1715 of the Old Dock, or Steers Dock, which was located within the original pool and allowed secure moorings and access from the River Mersey. 

The opportunity that this afforded to the merchants of the town led to a demand for premises near to the Dock and its Customs House. 

The Duke Street area, due to its proximity to the Dock, and the nature of its topography, with the land running uphill from the Dock, was at the forefront of the first speculators boom in Liverpool. 

Hanover Street was built up first, followed by Duke Street and Bold Street, and the fields that were an earlier feature of the area were also quickly developed. Although there had been port-related industrial activity in the area, with roperies occupying the site of what is now Bold Street to supply the sailing ships, this intensified along with a demand for residential properties so that the merchants could be located close to their business interests.   

The Charles Eyes plan of 1785 illustrates that by this time, the area had been substantially laid out and developed, so that connecting streets such as Seel and Fleet Streets were present, and the plan of the area seen today was in place. 

This grain follows a hierarchy of streets, with the broadest streets containing the residual merchants residences and shops, and the interconnecting and narrower streets to the rear containing the warehousing and poorer housing. 

The earliest surviving trade directory for Liverpool, produced by J. Gore in 1766, indicates the population mix of the area of the time. In Cleveland Square, the list contains nine sea captains, six traders/merchants as well as artisans and professionals. 

Originally the goods brought into the Dock were stored in the merchants houses, but as trade grew, they proved to be inadequate, and private warehouses were constructed adjacent to the houses. 

Due to the huge demand for plots in this area, the new industrial and warehouse buildings took the form of deep plans front to rear, with narrow street frontages and they were extended in height to three or four stories with a basement.  
The housing consisted of a range of buildings from grand Georgian town houses such as the Parr residence on Colquitt Street, to terraces as seen at 15-25 Duke Street. 

Some of these were arranged around squares or gardens, such as Wolstenholme Square and Cleveland Square, and a Ladies Walk was provided along Duke Street. As the warehousing and industrial uses of the area grew, the merchants moved to more salubrious suburbs that were being developed higher up the hill in the Canning Street area and more distant areas such as Mossley Hill. 

Some of the former residential properties were adapted to other uses, with ground floors converted to shops as the retail importance of the area grew. 

As part of this process, the area also saw an increase in the number of labourers attracted to the port and its trades, and the accommodation for this group was provided in much poorer back-to-back housing such as Dukes Terrace and housing courts. Within the Duke Street area, a number of key buildings remain that help to define its history and character.