Thursday, 19 March 2009

Georgian Liverpool Revisited: Public Concert Room

You might recall that I did series on Georgian Liverpool at the start of this year. Though now a tacky 1980s theme bar, this place (above) used to be Liverpool's Public Concert Room. It dates from some time in the 1770s, originally staged concerts supported by annual subscription of two guineas each (admitting three persons per performance) and had room for 1,300 visitors. Opened to the strains of Handel's Water Music, it straddles Bold Street, Concert Street and Wood Street (we're looking at it from the back on Wood Street), and you can just about visualise its grandeur from the elegant columns and tall windows. Inside, the huge staircase is still there; legend has it that a woman called Mary haunts the upper floors.

Photograph © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

[Thanks to David Lewis on the Bold Street Project Blog for filling in some of the history of this building, and to Dr William Moss's Georgian Liverpool of 1797, with additional notes by David Brazendale.]

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Eliza Ward said...

Yeah, I can imagine how nice it must have looked originally. I wonder if it would have had that huge window. Amazing though how columns add so much glamour to a building!

Mrs Woffington said...

Difficult to know about the window, Eliza, though David Lewis, who's an expert on Liverpool's history says: 'the huge staircase windows, richly-painted rococo gold and orange swirls on great sweeps of leaded glass, have also survived'. What would it have looked out on though? Not fields by that stage.

Halldor said...

I used to frequent this building as a teenager, when it was the grandest and most beautiful of Waterstones bookshops. It was like a luxury library, upstairs; lofty plastered ceilings, big windows letting the light flood in and plush pale green carpets. I used to settle down on the floor to browse; on one occasion spending 4 hours solid in that magnificent concert room. It must have been a noble venue for music, but I suspect the big window is a more recent (C19th) addition, added to light the staircase.

The squalid Reflex Bar that now occupies the building seems to have cordoned off the staircase, but I haven't been tempted to explore further; with the tatty decor and the all-pervading smell of cheap alcopops, it's too depressing. The glitzy new Waterstones that's opened in the architectural atrocity known as the Liverpool 1 shopping centre is - well-appointed though it may be - a pitiful shadow of that wonderful bookshop.

Mrs Woffington said...

Thank you Halldor for those comments; what a shame Reflex got their tacky paws on such a magnificent venue. Perhaps one of the things that can be said for Waterstone's is that they do preserve some marvellous buildings with dignity - like the former bank on Birmingham's New Street.