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The History of the Ropewalks -Liverpool


Bold Street is known for its cafés and for the Church of St Luke, which is situated at the top end. The bottom end leads into the area surrounding Clayton Square, which is part of the main retail district of central Liverpool.


Bold Street is named after Jonas Bold, who leased land from the Corporation on which St Luke’s Church and a ropery owned by James and Jonathon Brookes were built.


Bold Street was originally laid out as a ropewalk; a long thin area of land used in the manufacture of rope (the area is now known as 'Rope Walks'). They used to measure the rope from the top of Bold Street to the bottom because it was the standard length needed for sailing ships. It was laid out for residences around 1780 and named after Jonas Bold, a noted slave merchant, sugar trader and banker. In 1802 Bold became Mayor of Liverpool. It was also known as "the Bond Street of the North."


Merchants that worked on the docks needed houses close by. Therefore, houses were constructed in Hanover Street first, followed by Duke Street and then Bold Street.



The fields that were in the area earlier were also developed quickly into houses. Although there had been port-related industrial activity in the area, with roperies occupying the site of what is now Bold Street to supply the sailing ships, this intensified along with a demand for residential properties so that the merchants could be located close to their business interests. Bold Street has a wide range of different building styles, ranging from St Luke’s (Bombed Out) Church at the top of Bold Street, to the Lyceum at the bottom. Opposite to the Lyceum is the 20th century building that was once a HSBC. Different styles on each corner.
Further up Bold Street we have the ex-Cripps shop better known as the Waterstones book shop, the Music Hall building (which is now a bar), and elsewhere there is also touches of modernist architecture with the style of Radiant House that was once the Liverpool Gas Company HQ. Bold street really needs to be appreciated by looking past the ground floor shops and looking above at its fine architecture.

The Lyceum


The Lyceum is a Neoclassical Grade II* listed building located on Bold Street, Liverpool, England. It was constructed in 1802 as a news-room and England's first subscription library (1758-1942) and later became a gentleman's club.


In 1757 members of a small literary club met in the house of William Everard, a schoolmaster to discuss reviews, periodicals and later books which were allowed to circulate among members.

A year later on 1st May 1758 The Liverpool Library was established and the books which were originally stored in a large chest in Everard's parlor were moved to a number of different premises around the city centre as the collection increased.

A proposal was put forward on 12 May 1800 to club members for the construction of a purpose built library in order to house their overflowing collection which had outgrown its current home on Lord Street.


Over time the newsroom expanded, eventually taking over most of the building to become known as the 'Lyceum Gentlemen's Club'. The library part of the building closed in 1942 and its collection of books was given to Liverpool Public Library. Ten years later, after a century and a half in the building, the club moved into new premises in the city center while the lyceum became Grade II listed building on 28 June 1952.

Subsequently, the building was sold to developers who in 1971 submitted and application to Liverpool City Council for the building to be demolished in order make way for a shopping development and extension to Liverpool Central Train Station.

A petition called 'Save the Lyceum'  and the involvement of SAVE Britain's Heritage forced the government’s Department of the Environment to purchase the building from the developers.

Thomas Harrison's original plan was for the building to face Church Street with a flight of steps leading up to the entrance but this plan was altered to meet 'local circumstances'. The exterior is neo-classical in style and built with ashlar stone topped with a slate pitched roof that is part mansard. Its plan consists of a rectangle with a recessed portico held up by six ionic columns which faces Bold street. its main entrance consists of 4 six-panel doors with architraves, cornices and consoles frames. On each side of the portico are three slightly recessed windows divided by Doric columns.

On the left side facing Church street are five evenly spaced half length windows with the first and fifth having pediments. The center three windows are divided by four ionic columns and topped with alto relievo images of Greek characters by F.A legé. The left relief is a seated geographer with a divider measuring distances on a globe, this is speculated to be Eratosthenes. In the middle is Apollo the god of art, music and poetry. And on the right is Hermes the god of commerce and communication. The lower third of the building has full length windows and two doors. Historically this part of the building had a semi-circular area with trees, this has since been flagged over and railings added. The overall exterior was restored in the 1980s removing soot which had built up on the stone. 


The former newsroom which faces Church Street has a segmental-vaulted ceiling and an arched recess with friezes facing the windows. The friezes are painted in grisaille to imitate classical relief sculpture and are said to be adapted from Parthenon and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. Harrison's original ceiling was thought to be lost after a floor was added above in the early 1900s but was later restored by Edmund Percey Scherrer Hicks in 1990 when design plans were found in the Liverpool Planning Department.  Opposite the newsroom stands the former library, a circular room topped with a dome measuring 59 feet in diameter. During its use was furnished with a gallery running around it, vases, books and busts of historic figures including; Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, Bacon, Homer and Virgil. By 1841 the library had upwards of 30,000 volumes. The lower floor which is entered from the North West, has Edwardian style plasterwork and woodwork.

St Luke's Church

St Luke's Church, Bold Place, Liverpool, is passed by hundreds of people everyday. Sometimes without a second glance to the reason why it is still there, nor the reasons of its elaborate history, nor knowing that the tower still contains the first ever metal bell frame in the world, still in situ. The foundation stone was laid on the 9th of April 1811 by James Drinkwater Esq, who was the Chief Magistrate of Liverpool. (James Drinkwater's grave can be found in St James Cemetery). It became known as the 'Doctors Church' because of the large number of Rodney Street Surgeons resident within its parish. However progress was soon halted when a dispute occurred regarding land ownership.

A lawsuit followed and building operations were halted for over ten years before it was finally settled and work commenced. The design of the church had been drawn up by John Foster Snr and the church was built by his son, John Foster Junior, who was the Corporation architect and surveyor. A Strangers Guide to Liverpool describes the Church: The Church is built of free stone and is one of the finest specimens of florid Gothic architecture in the Kingdom.  On each side there are ten handsome lofty windows, with beautifully pointed heads, decorated with tracery, the arches of which rest on neatly sculptured corbel heads. Between the windows rise well-proportioned buttresses, bearing a canopy and terminate by an elaborately carved pinnacle.


Radiant House

The interior is adorned with noble columns, from which spring a number of gothic arches, dividing the nave from the aisles, and supporting by a groined ceiling, the whole of which is remarkably beautiful. In consequence of there being only one small gallery, at the west end, the entire inside has a superb effect. The upper parts of the windows are decorated with stained glass, and the large one in the chancel is intended to be embellished with a fine painting.  


The ceiling is richly ornamented, and when viewed from the east end of the chancel offers an uncommonly grand coup d' ail.This Church, is filled up with pews and the whole was erected from the design by Mr Foster. A large and powerful Organ, built by Flight and Robson, of London, is placed in the left of the church.

Originally there were two aisles, and the nave had a groined ceiling, which was "richly ornamented". The whole roof and the arcades separating the aisles from the nave were lost as a result of the bomb damage. The roof of the tower has also been lost. Many of the windows contained stained glass, but now only fragments of glass remain. There was a ring of eight bells, cast in 1818 by William Dobson of Downham Market at a cost of £645.  As a result of the fire in 1941, five of the bells fell from the tower and the other three were badly cracked. The clock, made by Roskell's of Derby, also fell to the ground. The three-manual pipe organ was also destroyed in the fire. It had been made by Gray and Davison in 1865, and improvements had been made to it by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1902.

Radiant House, The New Headquarters of Liverpool Gas Company, Bold Street, Liverpool. The Architect being Lt.-Col. Ernest Gee, F.R.I.B.A of Messrs. Quiggin & Gee.


It was a long task to complete a building fit for merchandise the universal products of the Company. So, for two years and five months, work proceeded in harmony and goodwill among Principals, Architect and Craftsmen. Through the windows can be glimpsed the four great columns of marble which support this mighty building, each carrying a weight of 750 tones and measuring 11 feet in circumference.


Not without difficulty were these placed in position, for the sludge of a disused tributary of the Mersey had to be conquered. Fore wells, the private water supply of five houses which originally occupied the site, were discovered by the demolition of the old building, but the concrete piles, driven deeply into the soft ground, ensure that the building will stand for all time.

On the Ground Floor, revolving doors of bronze and glass, assisted, because of their weight, by a concealed motor, give access to the Ground Floor Showroom with its area of 10,000 square feet. Soft toned marbles are used in the walls, and the mighty pillars stand on a train-Mirabelle marble pavement. Natural light is provided by a well, rectangular, and whoever thought that a gas had spent its day as an illuminate will experience a pleanst surprise when the artificial gas lighting in this magnificent showroom is switched on.   

radiant house

On each side of the Main Hall is a series of arches set back to illustrate designs in modern apparatus and, believe it or not, there is an aquarium. The water, in which play may types of tropical fish, is kept at a constant temperature by an instantaneous gas water heater.

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Beyond the Showroom, and on the Ground Floor, is the Cashier’s Department.

A point worth mentioning is that, apart from the Golden Eagle, here are only articles salvaged from the demolition of Woollwright’s. These are two handsome Sheraton mahogany doors, hung at the entrances of two interview offices. The lifts are robots – strictly impartial. When a customer wishes to travel to the fifth floor, while somebody else on the third floor wishes to descend, the lifts del with each in the order in which they press the bell. No Favouritism here.


Four floors are devoted to offices and conveniences so handsome and comfortable, that it is possible, many of the staff will not want to go home. In the roof gardens, balconies, tea-rooms, dining suits and modern office furniture, the policy of the directors shows itself clearly.

The building is warmed throughout by the Low Temperature Invisible Panel System, selected because its hygienic, economic and architectural advantages. The temperature in each room is automatically maintained to meet individual requirements by means of The Magnetic Valve System of thermostatic control. The Supply and extract system of ventilation is cleverly concealed in the structure, and provides the building with a constant interchange of filtered and tempered fresh air.


The boiler plant, dealing with both the Panel Warming and Fresh Air Supply Systems, is situated at one end of the Basement Showroom, enabling those who may be interested in boiler plan to inspect and fully appreciate the advantages of modern gas boilers for central heating and industrial use.

The longest pneumatic tube in the country passes messages to and from the new building to the Engineer’s Department in Duke Street. Tubes are also available for inter-departmental use, controlled by a central station on the first floor.


Telephones: There are two systems. Public Telephones on a 30-line switchboard have 66 internal extensions, 19 of these being in the Duke Street premises, and 47 in Bold Street. Departments in Radiant House will communicate with each other by means of 39 Dictograph instruments.


Furniture: All the furniture is steel, except for that in private offices and the Board Suite.


In Brief: Area of site: 1,200sq yards. Weight of Structural Steelwork, 850 tons. Arear of floors, 1 ¼ acres. Weight of Marble used, 220 tons. Weight of Quartzite used, 200 tons. Length of Ducting for Air Conditioning, 5,340 feet. Total capacity treated, 1,000,000 c. feet.


The Sixth Floor surmounted by two of the tallest flag masts in Liverpool, houses the Board Suite.


Here will come the Directors of the Company to shape policy.


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Here will come the Directors of the Company to shape policy. It is with policy which makes or mars business, and it speaks volumes for generations of Liverpool Gas Company directors that their successive administration has brought the undertaking to its present strong position.   The price of gas in Liverpool, Bootle, Crosby, Litherland, Huyton and district is nearly the lowest in the country, and it is certain that the policy will not be altered to accommodate unsound schemes to achieve spectacular increases in the sale of gas at the cost of the consumer.  

65/67 Bold Street


65-67 Bold Street was built in 1828, as a chapel, the Art Deco frontage was added in 1935 to create the premises of William Watson, Motor Car Dealer. It went through several changes - The Panorama Hall, Queen's Operetta House and the Bijou Opera House. In the 1890's it became the Yamen Cafe.


William Watson (6 November 1873 – 5 August 1961) was a Liverpool-born racing driver and motoring pioneer. A champion cyclist as a young man, he founded W Watson & Co, cycle and motorcar manufacturer, in 1901.


He won the epic 1908 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race driving a Hutton-Napier named Little Dorrit. He also raced in Berliet, Vauxhall and Essex cars. He expanded Watson & Co from Liverpool to Chester, Colwyn Bay, London, Birkenhead and Crewe, creating the largest car distributing organisation in the North of England, specialising in Morris and Rolls-Royce cars.



In 1905 Watson became agent for Napier cars thanks to his cycling connection with Selwyn Edge. He later wrote that he considered Napiers to have been the best British cars for about the first seven years of the century. he company moved to larger premises at 56–58 Renshaw Street, Liverpool in 1907. Watson became one of the first Rolls Royce agents in 1908, having tested a Silver Ghost the previous year, been impressed by its quietness and performance and having immediately applied for the franchise. Privately in Wales he demonstrated it to Selwyn Edge, who had believed that there was no better car than the Napier.



In 1905 Watson became agent for Napier cars thanks to his cycling connection with Selwyn Edge. He later wrote that he considered Napiers to have been the best British cars for about the first seven years of the century. he company moved to larger premises at 56–58 Renshaw Street, Liverpool in 1907. Watson became one of the first Rolls Royce agents in 1908, having tested a Silver Ghost the previous year, been impressed by its quietness and performance and having immediately applied for the franchise. Privately in Wales he demonstrated it to Selwyn Edge, who had believed that there was no better car than the Napier.


The company became agents in 1913 for Morris cars, made by Sir William Morris, an earlier cycling acquaintance who had become a business associate, and moved into bigger premises in Renshaw Street. The new showrooms, on four floors, were the biggest in the north of England and were formally opened by Morris. In 1931, a motor show known as "Liverpool's Olympia", the second of its kind, was held at the Watson Renshaw Street premises. About 100 cars were on display.


The Watson workshop premises were further extended in 1936 on three floors at Oldham Street, Liverpool. Morris servicing was on the first floor; Morris spare parts operation, body building and repair on the third floor; servicing of other cars on the second floor (including Talbot, Alvis, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Bentley, AC); and chassis work in the basement.


The second hand car stock had overflowed from the Renshaw Street premises into an old German church next door. Watsons had showrooms and workshops at Chester, Colwyn Bay and Birkenhead. uring World War II, Watsons repaired Anson fuselages, then became principal repairers of Mosquito aircraft, and in Bootle undertook assembly and repair work for the US armed forces.

72 Bold Street

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Back in 2001, Jeff Pierce started refurbishment of his emporium, Jeffs, on Bold Street. During the renovation work, a well was discovered by Jeff when renovating the cellar system. Jeff had an eight-man team working on removing an old air-raid shelter that was situated in the basement area when a small hole was discovered in the floor area. Wanting the work to be completed, the hole was attempted to be filled in but it kept on reopening.


After many attempts, he decided to investigate and widened the hole enough to shine a torch down. What was to be found was a 270-year-old well shaft which dates to when Bold Street was a green open space.


Jeff contacted Liverpool Museum and they confirmed that this well would date back to the 17th century. Back then, most of the area were fields. They described it as one of the most important finds in Liverpool City Centre’. Archaeologists stayed on the site for weeks to discover several channels cut in to the ground leading to the well. These channels were almost certainly used by the rope makers to lower their ropes in to the water so they could plait them together while drawing them out of the well.