Friday, 6 August 2010

Port of Liverpool Building and Robert Gladstone

Hello Rob,
It was a pleasure meeting with you at the Liverpool Cultural Heritage Forum Conference in May held at Liverpool Cathedral.  I believe Robert Gladstone had something to do with the building of the Port of Liverpool Building at the Peirhead.  As Mr Gladstone was a proprietor of the Athenaeum in Church Alley and I believe you are also a fellow proprietor would you know if there is any substance in this claim.
Anthony Clever-Wood
Royal Historical Society

1 comment:

  1. Dear Anthony,
    the history of the Port of Liverpool Building dates back to 1898, when the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB) decided to close down and infill George's Dock, which was located on the site of what is the Pier Head today. The land was sold to the Liverpool Corporation in 1900, although the MDHB opted to keep the southern section, so that they could build a new central headquarters for the company, having been previously located at various sites around the city, including the Old Custom's House.

    In 1900, a committee was set up to plan and develop a new building for the company. Under the leadership of Robert Gladstone, a competition was launched for architects to submit designs for the new building. Alfred Waterhouse, a renowned local architect was brought in to help judge the competition and prizes of 300, 200 and 100 were offered for the three best designs. In total, seven entries were submitted, with the winning design being that of the architects Sir Arnold Thornley and F.B. Hobbs, which had been developed in collaboration with Briggs and Wolstenholme

    In 1903 the MDHB requested that builders submit a tender document for the construction of the building to the revised design. William Brown & Son of Manchester won the contract to construct the new building. Work began in 1904, with the construction focusing on laying the building's foundations, which were dug to a depth of 3040 ft below ground level. It was completed in 1907 at a cost of approximately 250,000.

    The Port of Liverpool Building is one of the Three Graces that line the Pier Head and the architectural features were designed to be reflective of Liverpool's importance to the maintenance of the British Empire. However, the building that exists today is actually a modified version of the originally chosen design. Initially, the plan had called for the main entrance of the building to be located on the south west corner, but boundary changes to land on which it was to be built, meant that building model was significantly revised to give it the symmetrical look it has today. Even more notably, the initial model didn't include the large dome that sits so prominently above the building today. Inspired by an unused design for Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, which had been developed several years earlier, the architects added the dome to the design in order to give the building a more imposing look. This decision, however, was not without controversy, as many board members believed that it should not be down to the Port Authority to "beautify the town". Nonetheless, it was added to the design, becoming the focal point of the building itself.

    Designed in Edwardian Baroque style, the Port of Liverpool Building's structural form has been likened to those of Renaissance palaces. Approximately 264ft by 216ft in size, the building rises to 220ft in height, making it the thirteenth tallest building in the city. Covering five floors, the main body of the building is 80 ft tall to the cornice. The main entrance is located in the centre of the river-facing side of the building and is flanked by two three-metre high, stone statues of women representing "Commerce" and "Industry", which were designed by Charles John Allen. Each corner of the building is canted and has a tall hexagonal turret that is topped by a stone cupola, which would have originally been crowned by a lantern. Due to the centrally domed design of the building, it has been compared architecturally to many other buildings throughout the world, including Belfast City Hall, the Capitol Building, St. Peter's Basilica and St. Paul's Cathedral.

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