Liverpool. We have been through the city a few times on the Merseyrail network, which connects Southport through to Chester and other parts of the county, as well as using Liverpool Lime Street main station to head further down south. But early on in our travels we had a full day out to Liverpool.
Status: City of Liverpool District, Merseyside (Historically Lancashire), City, England
Travel: Merseyrail (Southport – Moorfields or Liverpool Central)
Eating & Sleeping: Albert Dock Quayside Cafe
Attractions: Albert Dock, River Mersey, Maritime Museum, Tate Liverpool, Anglican Cathedral, Metropolitan Cathedral, Superlambanana’s, Cavern Club, Beatles Museum, Port of Liverpool Building, Liver Building, Cunard Building, Liverpool Town Hall, St Georges Hall, Radio Tower, World Museum etc
Emerging from the underground train station at Moorfields, we got a great view of the Radio Tower, towering 452 feet above us. It wasn’t always a radio tower, with its original purpose when constructed in 1969 to provide ventilation into St John’s Market. The top of the tower housed a restaurant, but this was closed in 1977 for safety reasons. After a major revamp it was reopened in 2000 as Radio City 96.7 a radio station for the North West, Chester and North Wales with an antenna being added to boost signals. It’s a great landmark for Liverpool and can clearly be seen on the approach to the city by train from Southport, along with the two Cathedrals.
Heading towards the Tower and the Cathedral’s, we passed the Walker Art Gallery. It houses one of the largest art collections in the country outside of London itself, making it a prime destination for art lovers in the North West. The collection itself started in 1819 when 37 paintings were acquired by William Roscoe (1753 – 1831, English Historian) and the Gallery was founded in 1877 and moved to the current building. Despite a hiatus during World War II when the art collection was moved to preserve it, it has been a popular attraction in the city.
In the square outside the building stands a 132 feet tall column with a statue of the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley (1769 – 1852, famous solider) standing proudly on the top. Originally I thought that Nelson’s column in London dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson was the only column in the country that was so outstanding, but since then I have discovered a few more, in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh amongst others. They all look fantastic!
Still heading towards the Cathedral’s, we passed St George’s Hall, with a splendid set of stone lions sat outside. There are many statues in the area around St George’s Hall and the Art Gallery, so see who you can find.
There are so many beautiful buildings in the city and St George’s Hall is no exception. Opened in 1854, it has housed the Law Courts and Concert Halls for over 100 years. The original plan was to have two buildings, each to fulfil one of the two jobs, but it was eventually decided they could both be incorporated into the one building. It was designed by a 25 year old architect from London named Harvey Lonsdale Elmes (1813 – 1847). I love this area of the city, and this was just the tip of the wonders that there are in Liverpool.
There are two fantastic Cathedral’s in Liverpool, with the first being the Metropolitan Cathedral, locally nicknamed “Paddy’s Wigwam” because of its distinctive shape. It is the newer of the two, and serves the Roman Catholic population in the area.
It is much newer than the other Cathedral, dating back to the 1960’s. Ideas for the Cathedral had been proposed in the late 1800’s through to the 1950’s but nothing came of them. A competition was held all over the world to design it, and the winning applicant was Englishman Frederick Gibberd (1908 – 1984). It took five years to build the whole building, and there is some beautiful stained glass artwork sat outside.
The Cathedral is on a small hill in the city and you get a good view of the surrounding buildings and all the way down to the river side and the Liver Building.
We didn’t go in the Cathedral as I don’t think it was open that day, so after exploring the outside and admiring the design, we pushed on down the road to the second Cathedral.
This absolutely fantastic building is Liverpool’s main Cathedral, and is also a newish building. Although construction began in 1904, it wasn’t until 1978 that the whole structure was complete. It is a staggering 189 metres long, making it officially the longest Cathedral in the World!
The main architect on the project was Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960) who unfortunately died before construction was completed.
When it was started in 1904, it was being done to a design covered in spires, which was eventually mooted and replaced with a more subtle design. The main chapel, the Lady Chapel, was completed in 1910. World War I interrupted the building work until 1920, and the first part of the main body was finished by 1924. World War II started in 1939, and the building was badly damaged by German bombs, but work did continue, and the Cathedral was in a fit state to be used by 1941. The Lady Chapel however had been damaged by a bomb and was finally refurbished by 1955. In 1978 the final sections of the Cathedral were at last finished, and it was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II.
Inside, the Cathedral is genuinely breathtaking. The ceiling is a fantastic height and the detail is immaculate all around the building. The Cathedral dominates the skyline and can be seen from a lot of different points in the city.
Taking a break from main sightseeing we headed into Liverpool One, and open plan shopping centre in the middle of the city, opened in 2008. After that we found our way to the Cavern Club, a famous Jazz Club that started business in 1957. Although the original building was filled in in 1973 to make way for an underground section of the Merseyrail network being built, it was rebuilt using the same styles and arches directly across the street.
The most famous band to play in the club were the Beatles, a local band that formed in 1960. It was made up of John Lennon (1940 – 1980) a statue of whom stands at Liverpool Airport, Paul McCartney (Born 1942), George Harrison (1943 – 2001) and Ringo Starr (Born 1940). They were an instant hit around the world, and had many number one songs in the charts.
The band broke up in 1970, and sadly John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. They are well known as the best selling band in History, and they made nearly 300 songs overall spread across many albums. They are the most well known celebrities to come from Liverpool and their music is still selling in vast quantities today.
For lunch, and a leisurely stroll we visited the docks down the waterfront, with Albert Dock being our main focus.
Albert dock is a collection of museums, shops and cafes. It was originally constructed as a selection of warehouses, and is only a few minutes walk away from the Liver Building and the ferry port along the waterfront. Ferries to Ireland and the Isle of Man regularly depart here. It is an interesting design, as there is no wood involved in the whole construction, making it the first warehouse system ever constructed that wasn’t combustible. It was also the site of the worlds first hydraulic cranes. The warehouses shut in 1972, and the dock itself became derelict. It was redeveloped in 1981, and is a big attraction in the city, with the various museum getting millions of visitors every year. Albert dock is the most visited multi-use attraction outside of London in the UK, as well as the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, making it one of Liverpool’s most important legacies, and a great place to spend the afternoon. The tower of Liverpool cathedral is visible in the background.
On our way to the waterfront we passed Liverpool Town Hall, a lovely ornate building from 1802. The original building was constructed in 1754, but after fire damage in 1795 it was largely rebuilt, with other alternations being made to leave it looking as it does today, magnificent. Liverpool City Council operate from the building, and you can get tours of the building as well as arrange to hold weddings there.
Our final stop was to head towards the river Mersey, and the fantastic buildings housed there. Along the area known as the Pier Head, which is along the river front, there are three buildings that are collectively given the name of Liverpool’s Three Graces. The first and most prominent of these is the Royal Liver Building (above) which is widely recognised as the world’s first modern skyscraper. It is an easily recognisable part of Liverpool, and one of my favourite buildings in the city.
It is relatively new, being completed in 1911, specifically to house the Royal Liver Assurance Group, which merged with the Royal London Group in 2011.
Stood on the top of each of the two clock tower is a Liver Bird, the symbol of Liverpool since the 1300’s. Legend has it that should the birds ever fly away from the city, it would cease to exist… They are said to be male and female, with the female looking out to sea keeping watch for returning seamen, and the male bird looks back towards the cities, with a few different theories on what it is looking for including to see if the pubs are still open or protecting the families of the aforementioned seamen.
Facts and Figures:
1) First building in the world to be built using reinforced concrete
2) When built it was the tallest structure in the city, and is now fourth
3) Tallest storied building in Europe until 1934, and in the UK until 1961
4) The two tower clock faces are larger in diameter than those on Big Ben in London
5) The building is 300 feet tall, with 13 floors
6) Liverpool is pronounced Liver as in the Organ, where as the Liver Building and Liver Birds are pronounced as “Lyver” with emphasis on the Y
The other two buildings that make up the three graces are:
The Port of Liverpool Building (right):
This building dates from 1907, and was designed by Sir Arnold Thornely (1870 – 1953), in an Edwardian style. A very similar building resides in Belfast, the City Hall which has the same design and is also topped by a dome.
The port building originally houses the port offices and is now used for modern day offices. The outer shell is clad in Portland Stone, giving a lovely white aesthetic quality. It has been refurbished recently and looks resplendent.
Cunard Building (left):
The third and final building is the Cunard Building, the newest of the three, being finished in 1917. It is was modelled on Italian palaces and this shines through clearly in the design, and it looks like a very grand building indeed. It is named after the Cunard Line (a cruise ship operating company that still exists today, and has the only passenger sea route between Europe and North America), which had it’s headquarters in the building until the 1960’s.
Liverpool has a dedicated light rail system called Merseyrail. The routes have existed for over a hundred years but they were integrated properly in the 1970’s. The system is made up of two lines, the Northern Line (Southport – Hunts Cross via Liverpool City Centre, and Ormskirk/Kirkby – Liverpool City Centre) and the Wirral Line alternating services (Liverpool – Chester/New Brighton/Ellesmere Port via Birkenhead) serving 67 stations which includes an interchange with Liverpool Lime Street, the main National Rail station in the City, as Merseyrail is an enclosed system.
Trains run every few minutes to each destination, making it a rapid transit system that you never have to wait long for.
We have made good use of it over the last few years, and its a quick and easy way to get into Liverpool, which uses underground stations in the city centre.
With regards to mainline trains, there are direct trains from Lime Street station to London Euston, as well as to Birmingham and Preston, via various towns and cities such as Crewe and Wolverhampton. For road Liverpool has a few motorways focused on it, with the M62 (towards M6 – Scotland and South to London, Manchester, Salford, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Hull through Yorkshire) terminating just east of the city. The M57 links nearby Prescot to Melling and the M58 heading towards Skelmersdale and the M6. Just over the river in Wirral from Liverpool the M53 runs towards Chester. Liverpool Airport isn’t far down the river and provides international flights around the world.
Liverpool is a fantastic city, famous for its maritime connections, the Beatles and its architecture. It’s a pleasure to live so close to the city and it is one I have enjoyed visiting for many years, so see what you discover.