Leverpoole…It’s a very Rich trading town,…There are abundance of persons you see very well dress’d and of good fashion, ye streetes are faire and Long, its London in miniature as much as I saw anything.
Celia Fiennes, 1698
Area 4: The Commercial District – Castle Street
Georgian and Victorian architectural splendour form the city’s historic commercial and civic centre around Castle Street, Dale Street and Old Hall Street conservation area.
Built on medieval streets, the area contains a high density of 18th, 19th and 20th century architecture and sculpture representing the pinnacle of the British Empire’s trading prowess.
The styles, ambitious designs and lavish decoration are a celebration of the city’s mercantile wealth and trading links.
Key buildings include:
- Town Hall
- Martins Bank
- India Building
- Oriel Chambers and 16 Cook Street
Liverpool Town Hall (1749-1754) Grade I listed
This fine Georgian building is the result of three principal building phases. The original design was by John Wood of Bath, built in 1749-54. Additions and alterations were designed by James Wyatt and carried out by the elder John Foster in 1789-92. Following a fire in 1795 it was reconstructed, the work continuing until 1820.
Martins Bank (1932) Grade II* listed
The Liverpool Head Office of Martins Bank is a Grade II* listed building designed by Herbert Rowse and opened in 1932. It has been described as Rowse’s “masterpiece… and among the very best interwar classical buildings in the country.” In its early years the bank traded under the sign of the grasshopper.
Banks were inextricably linked to the slave trade in eighteenth-century Liverpool and the building illustrates Africa’s contribution to Liverpool’s economy and its association with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Either side of the main doorway are identical relief sculpture panels. These depict Liverpool as Neptune, accompanied by African children carrying bags of money, with anchor and weighing-scales.
During the Second World War, the bulk of England’s gold was moved to the bank’s vault.
India Building (1924-31) Grade II* listed
This immense office block was built for the Blue Funnel Line and designed by Herbert J Rowse with Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thorneley. It has stripped classical facades; Italian Renaissance detail is restricted to the top and bottom storeys. The building was badly damaged in the war, and restored under Rowse’s supervision.
Oriel Chambers (1864) Grade I listed and 16 Cook Street (1866) Grade II* listed
Oriel Chambers (1864) and 16 Cook Street (1866), both built by local architect and civil engineer Peter Ellis (1805-1884), are characterised by their extensive use of glass in their facades. The use of metal-framed glass curtain walls makes them two of the world’s first buildings to include this architectural feature.
The design for Oriel Chambers is regarded to have influenced the Chicago School of Architecture and can be seen in some of Burnham and Root’s 1880s American skyscrapers. It is grade I listed due to its outstanding importance.