In a city that’s bursting with attractions and ‘things to do’, it’s easy to become wrapped up and enthralled on exactly what we’re doing now and what we’re going to do next, without stopping for a minute to admire and learn about the city we're standing in.

It’s etched all over the streets we walk. It’s the history of Liverpool, it’s displays of wealth, it’s breakthrough engineering, it’s the architecture.

How do we know Liverpool’s buildings are special?  

In Liverpool we have over 2500 listed (architecturally important) buildings, 27 of these are Grade I. We couldn’t settle for just one cathedral so we had two, nor were we happy with just the one football stadium, we had to have two and of course we’ve the Three famous Graces – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.

The Three Graces make up a world-renowned skyline of a city with a long and illustrious past. By the late 19th Century, Liverpool was pretty rich! To reflect the city's pretty prosperous financial situation, a number of significant buildings were erected in the city. This includes St George’s Hall and Liverpool Town Hall.

But why are Liverpool’s buildings important?

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘listed building’ – ‘architecturally important’, but why? Why is it important? We spoke with RIBA North (Royal Institute of British Architects) to find out more, including bitesized facts and interesting anecdotes about Liverpool’s most important buildings.

Royal Liver Building 

We’ll start with the most iconic, the most recognisable, the Royal Liver Building. You take pictures of it, you Instagram it, everyone knows it but why is it important? It’s Grade I listed and was completed in 1911 as the then-new headquarters of the Royal Liver Friendly Society. The Architect that designed this iconic structure was Walter Aubrey Thomas who also designed the nearby Tower Buildings.

The innovative ferro-concrete construction (concrete reinforced with steel) meant that each of the main 10 storeys only took 19 days to build.

As well as a practical building for housing staff, it was also a striking advert for the society to the public, due to the building’s grandeur. What would the Liverpool skyline be without our precious Liver birds?

Until the 1950s, it was the tallest office building in the UK! We’re not sure what overtook this, no amount of Googling seems to find the answer. So if you do know, comment below! Another interesting stat that we’re pretty proud about, is that the two clock faces are actually larger than those of on Elizabeth Tower in London, or more commonly referred to as ‘Big Ben.’

Look at the clock faces and you’ll realise that they actually neither use numbers or Roman numerals to display the time. Of course, the Liver Building is one of the iconic and beautiful Three Graces, of which the great architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner said ‘They represent the great Edwardian Imperial optimism and might indeed stand at Durban or Hong Kong as naturally as at Liverpool.’

Oriel Chambers 

It’s another grade I listed building located on Liverpool’s Water Street, a street ever popular with TV and film producers for its likeness to NYC.

Designed by architect Peter Ellis, and completed in 1864, Oriel Chambers was an office block that got people talking. You’ll notice the windows are beautiful and large, due to a need of natural light for the cotton merchants that worked inside. This allowed them to judge the quality of the cotton they were working with properly. (Imagine the ‘selfie-light’ potential here!)

Personally, I think the tall oriel windows are beautiful. However, at its’ time of being built, the building received lots of negative criticism. So much so, Ellis only went on to design one other building, 16 Cook Street.

Architecture students and architects themselves travel from all over the world to see the building. It is considered to be one of the first in the world to have a cast-iron frame onto which windows could be hung, known as curtain walling. Pevsner called it ‘One of the most remarkable buildings of its date in Europe.’ And it is said that its innovative design influenced the early skyscrapers of Chicago in the USA, as John Wellborn Root, one of the founders of the Chicago School of Architecture was studying in Liverpool at the time of the buildings completion.

Everyman Theatre

If you’ve been to Liverpool before, it may or may not have been before the ‘New Everyman Theatre’ – The theatre was rebuilt between 2011 and 2014 and on its reopening year, the Everyman Theatre won the RIBA Sterling Prize. This award is given to buildings that are considered to be the best of that year.

The old Everyman opened on Hope Street in 1964 in the shell of a nineteenth century chapel. When the plans were set out the challenge was to create an entirely new and sustainable building whilst retaining and revitalising the best-loved features of its predecessor.

The building you see today is made of 90% of the original materials used to construct the theatre originally and all spaces are naturally ventilated. The striking and unique frontage, is made up of photographs of 105 different Liverpudlians, cut from aluminium plates using water jet technology to create a screen that provides both light and shade.

These images are not famous people, they are not of councillors, footballers or anyone of celebrity status, they are 105 Liverpudlians. The aim of this was to generate the message that the Everyman Theatre is for everyone.

The RIBA judges said that this theatre was a building ‘where the new truly celebrates the past.’

Church of St Luke AKA, the Bombed Out Church  

Its original title is Church of St Luke, and it can be seen looking up Liverpool’s famous Bold Street. Original plans of this beautiful building date all the way back to 1802, with foundation stone laid in 1811. However, work didn’t start on the actual construction of the church until many years later.

Architect John Foster Senior and his son John Foster Junior were both involved in the planning of the church. Due to the delays in the construction and completion of the church and other individuals who worked on the plans for St Luke’s in office, it is unclear who is ultimately responsible for the design of this building.

The building has been scheduled for demolition since 1950, although still stands strong. It is important to Liverpool for the reason that its splendid gothic style architecture and its role as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the catastrophic Liverpool Blitz in 1941 during WWII.

This is where the church gained its name, the Bombed Out Church. During this Blitz, 4,000 were killed and 4,000 injured, 10,000 homes lost and 184,000 destroyed in Liverpool. The Church was hit by an incendiary device, causing a large fire, leaving only a burnt out shell. However, it stands beautifully and is a famous city landmark in Liverpool.

University of Liverpool – Victoria Building

University of Liverpool is a 5-minute walk from the city centre and is a mainly campus university with the centre piece being this building, the Victoria Building.

Alfred Waterhouse who designed this building also designed the Natural History Museum in London.

The building was completed in 1892 (she looks good for her age) and was built using Ruabon brick, terracotta and ordinary brick which led to the introduction of the ‘red brick university.’ Both Sir William Hartley (of Hartley’s Jam!) and Sir Henry Tate contributed funds to help build.

William Brown Street

Well, where to start with this beauty? It’s worth nothing that RIBA actually run a tour, Sculpture, Culture and Civic Pride which focuses on this one street. That is just how important it is. The Street is home to St George’s Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, County Sessions House, Picton Reading Room, Central Library and the World Museum. All buildings here are Grade II* listed.

The most well-known building on William Brown Street is of course, St George’s Hall.

Its regularly described at the finest neoclassical building in Europe. The venue was originally intended to be two separate buildings.

A competition was held to design a venue for concerts, music festivals and meetings in 1839 and was won by 25-year old Harvey Lonsdale Elmes. It was then decided that an Assize Court was needed for Liverpool so another competition was held and was also won by Elmes. This was when Elmes came up with the idea of combining the two designs to become one large building.

In 1847, Elmes died and the responsibility of completing the project and especially the interiors was taken over by Charles Cockerell. The great hall, seen in the below picture was modelled on the Baths of Caracalla, just outside Rome – this is why the floor has a sunken lower level. The main material used for the building was Darley Dale Limestone from Derbyshire and the floor inside is made up of 30,000 Minton tiles produced in nearby Stoke.

Our first #instragram post! The Great Hall and our beautiful Minton tiles. #liverpool #nofilterneeded

A photo posted by St George's Hall (@stgeorgeshall_liverpool) on

Walker Art Gallery

Another Grade II* listed building constructed from Darley Dale limestone. The gallery was designed by local architects Sherlock and Vale and its’ neo-classical style resembles a Greek Temple with its portico of 6 columns.

The building is named after is benefactor Sir Andrew Barclay Walker, a former Mayor of Liverpool. The gallery was so popular and well-liked that it was extended in 1844 and then again in 1933.

A sculptor named John Wood was responsible for the figure on top of the building known as ‘The Spirit of Liverpool’ due to the features which link her to the city such as holding a Liver bird in her left-hand. Have you spotted her?

County Sessions House

Grade II* listed, of course and again designed by local architects F&G Holme, the County Sessions house (to the right of the Walker Art Gallery) was designed to be a local courthouse and contained 3 courtrooms, chambers for barristers and judges, cells and facilities for administration.

You can see from the design that it has neoclassical and Italian Renaissance influences.

Liverpool's William Brown Street is famous for its concentration of public buildings, which has led to it being sometimes referred to as the "Cultural Quarter". One of those buildings is the County Sessions House, pictured here. Built between 1882-1884, it initially functioned as a courthouse. Although its appearance is Neoclassical, its style is described as being late Victorian. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building and with it begins a series of posts I will make about some of the other beautiful buildings that can be found there. #countysessionshouse #neoclassical #victorian #liverpool #williambrownstreet #merseyside #citycentre #wearenorthern #england #uk #oldbuildings #explore_britain #thenorth #travel_greece #tlpicks #livetravelchannel #picoftheday #europe #itravelshots #visitbritain #cntraveler #bbctravel #citybreak #citystreets #trav3lr #historic #weekend #architecture #lonelyplanet #travlink

A photo posted by George Papakyritsis (@gpapakiritsis) on

Picton Reading Room

This is the ‘round’ type building that you notice off of the Central Library.

It was completed in 1879 and was named after its Chairman, Sir James Picton. The architect of this building was also Cornelius Vale of Sherlock and Vale, the designers of the Walker Art Gallery and again is neo-classical in style.

Vale was inspired by the British Museum Reading Room. If you have never been inside you really should, it’s pretty amazing and it’s much easier to pop in now whether in your glad rags or not. Originally there was a strict dress code!

It was also the first public building in the city to be lit by electric lights.

Boss fact: They held a silent Disco in here not that long ago!

The fantastic Picton Reading Room, Liverpool #liverpool #readingroom #victorian

A photo posted by Photos by Stephen (@pixbyste) on

Central Library

The original Central Library building was completed in 1860 with main architect Thomas Allom - who also worked on the Houses of Parliament in London – and was Britain’s first lending library.

In 2010 it closed so that the post-war buildings that were added after bomb damage and then, additional extension could be demolished and a new 5-storey library constructed behind the historic façade.

The architect of this project was Austin-Smith Lord. His sensitive restoration and creation of modern world-class facilities won the building a RIBA North West Conservation Award. Not bad, eh!


A photo posted by Mario Puglia (@mario_puglia) on

World Museum

The World Museum originally opened in 1853 in the Ropewalks area of the city, but was so popular that it needed a bigger building.

The site was chosen and financed by a wealthy Liverpool Banker, merchant and Politician named William Brown, hence the name William Brown Street. £20,000 which equates to around £1.7m today. The architect was once again Thomas Allom – who designed Central Library and was modified by John Weightman.

This is literally just a snippet on Liverpool’s game-changing, ground-breaking and pretty bloomin’ beautiful buildings and spectacular structures. We haven’t even got onto our football grounds, Museum of Liverpool, Echo Arena. Tell us, what are your favourite Liverpool buildings and what other building would you love to find out more about? In 2017, we look forward to seeing the opening of a RIBA North Heritage Centre Opening. Expect bold programmes showcasing items from the world-renowned RIBA collections.



RIBA Liverpool City Tours
Walking Tour
RIBA Liverpool City Tours

Discover the architecture and history of this great city on one of walking tours, exploring key buildings and public spaces which tell the tale of Liverpool past, present and future.

St George's Hall
Historic House/Palace
St George's Hall

St George's Hall is widely regarded as one of the finest neo-classical buildings in the world and is a Grade I listed building.

Pier Head & The Three Graces
Historic Site
Pier Head & The Three Graces

For nearly a century the Three Graces have defined one of the world’s most recognised skylines.

Walker Art Gallery
Walker Art Gallery

Home to outstanding works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin, Gainsborough and Hogarth, the Walker Art Gallery is one of the finest art galleries in Europe.

World Museum
World Museum

From the sea to the stars, a visit to World Museum reveals millions of years of the Earth’s history through thousands of exhibits and hands-on activities.

Liverpool Central Library & Record Office
Historic Site
Liverpool Central Library & Record Office

Liverpool Record Office, housed within the Central Library, collects, preserves, and makes available archives and printed material relating to all aspects of the history of Liverpool.


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