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The Lost Landmarks of Liverpool

No-one can deny that Liverpool is home to some remarkable buildings. The city’s architecture is a symbol of our extensive history, which defines our landscape.

Sadly, there are some buildings that were destroyed and demolished over the years. For this reason, we are taking a look back at the lost landmarks of Liverpool.

The Overhead Railway

The Overhead Railway

source: www.wirralhistory.net

Many people may remember the Overhead Railway, which was the world’s first elevated electric railway that ran above the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board’s goods railway. The railway was located along the Liverpool docks, going inland at Seaforth.

For an overhead railway, the Dingle southern terminal was actually an underground station. The railway opened on 4th February 1893; however, the railway suffered significant damage following the May Blitz 1941 during the Second World War.

The railway, however, was restored, but the owners were resistant to incorporate the British railway system until it was nationalised in 1948. Sadly, the Overhead Railway was not to last, as the company failed to source the £2 million cost of essential repairs to ensure its survival. With the line vulnerable to corrosion, and with the company facing financial uncertainty, the line closed on 30th December 1956 and was demolished in September 1957.

Custom House

Custom House

source: journeythroughimages.blogspot.com

One of the greatest architectural disasters of WWII had to be the destruction of Custom House, as the building suffered extensive damage during the May Blitz 1941 by the German Luftwaffe. The Custom House interior was gutted and the dome was destroyed. As a result, the building was demolished after the war, despite public uproar.

 The function of Custom House was to collect tolls and excise duties, which was a vital service for the ports’ operations. Designed by leading architect John Foster Junior, the building took eleven years to build on the Old Dock site, but was destroyed in just one night.

St George’s Place

Before there was St John’s Market, there was St George’s Place. #Liverpool #History

A photo posted by Signature’s Liverpool (@signatures_liverpool) on


It’s probably hard to imagine Liverpool without St John’s Shopping Centre – especially as it is one of the first things locals and tourists see when they step out of Lime Street Station. However, before the erection of the shopping centre and market, Lime Street offered a burst of colour known as St George’s Palace, facing the station. Despite looking like something straight out of Las Vegas, the buildings were demolished to make way for the shopping complex in the 1960s.

The Brownlow Hill Workhouse

The Brownlow Hill Warehouse

source: www.workhouses.org.uk

Built in 1771, The Brownlow Hill Workhouse was considered to be one of the largest in the UK, and was situated on Brownlow Hill and Mount Pleasant. During the 1930s, the building was demolished for the Metropolitan Cathedral, which originally included the four bells of the workhouse named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Brownlow Hill Workhouse provided accommodation and employment for those who were homeless, poor, unemployed or ill. As the NHS did not exist during this period, many people would also turn to the workhouse for medical care. In addition to The Browlow Hill Workhouse, there were workhouses in Walton, Toxteth Park, Prescot and Tranmere.

The Mardi Gras Club

Mardi-Gras-club

source: localwiki.org

The Mardi Gras Club was the home of entertainment during the 1960s, with some of the finest bands and artists playing sets at the club, which was located on Mount Pleasant. Just some of the acts performing at the club included The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Big Three and Cilla Black. You could also catch performances by local soul bands. Despite being 225 years old, the building was demolished between 1974 to 1975 to offer a concrete car park. To view the Mardi Gras Club above, look out for the building with the spires. The site now houses the pub Smokie Mo’s.

David Lewis Garrison Theatre

David-Lewis-Garrison-Theatre

source: www.liverpoolpicturebook.com

David Lewis, the owner of Lewis’s stores, built the David Lewis Theatre & Hostel in 1906, which provided a music hall for the public and men using the David Lewis Hostel and Club. Many amateur dramatic societies performed at the theatre, which welcomed 1,000 people. Films were also shown in the theatre from 1914, and the building was later renamed to the David Lewis Garrison Theatre during World War II. The theatre closed its doors on 30th November 1977, and so the stunning building was demolished in October 1980.

St John’s Church

St John's Church

source: www.liverpoolpicturebook.com/

Before there was St John’s Gardens there was St John’s Church, which was constructed in 1784. The gothic style church was designed by architect Thomas Litoller, before the opening of St George’s Hall in 1854.

The development of the hall soon led to demolition of the church, with a Cathedral planned to the west of the hall, before the laying out of St John’s Gardens. The Anglican Cathedral, however, was later located at St John’s Mount to avoid the Cathedral clashing with St George’s Hall. In 1897, under the Liverpool Churches Act, St John’s Church was closed before demolition in 1899.

The New Shakespeare Theatre

New-Shakespeare-Theatre

source: www.liverpoolpicturebook.com

The new Shakespeare Theatre opened on Fraser Street (Williamson Square) back in 1888, and could accommodate 3,500 people. The theatre produced a number of theatrical performances and shows by talented entertainers and musicians.

Despite a local campaign to save the theatre, which was led by the co-founder of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, Alan Durband, the theatre closed. Sadly, two weeks before it was to receive a £60,000 renovation, a fire spread across the building causing extensive damage, resulting in the theatre’s demolition in 1976.

Duke’s Dock Warehouse

duke's dock warehouse

source: www.heritage-explorer.co.uk

Quentin Hughes described the demolition of the Duke’s Dock Warehouses as one of the city’s most grievous losses. The six storey warehouse was built in 1811, offering a double arch that accommodated Mersey flat barges to sail in and unload cargo. Sadly, the Duke’s Dock Warehouse was demolished in 1964 by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. A similar fate was bestowed onto the Albert Dock, but the complex of warehouses were fortunately saved by conservationists.

The Liverpool Sailors’ Home

Liverpool sailors home

source: www.chesterwalls.info

As many dishonest housekeepers would often take advantage of sailors who had just been paid, local shipowners and merchants met to discuss the erection of the Liverpool Sailors’ Home in 1837. It wasn’t until 1841, after receiving £1,800 from a collection, that they had the finances to create the building. The home was made a reality in 1846, with the shipowners and merchants providing their men with cheap, clean and safe accommodation.

Architect John Cunningham designed the building’s interior upon ship’s quarters with cabins. Despite its role in creating one of the world’s most successful commercial ports, the Liverpool Sailors’ Home closed its doors in 1969. Much to the dismay of the city, the home was demolished between 1974 and 1975, with the site derelict until the construction of John Lewis at Liverpool One.

Interestingly, photographer Steve Howe discovered huge pieces of finely sculpted stonework from the building, when examining the remaining brickwork in 2004. He reported the discovery to the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, soon after the report, the stones mysteriously vanished from the site and their whereabouts are still unknown.

George’s Dock

George's Dock

source: www.telegraph.co.uk

The Pier Head would never have been made possible without the demolition of George’s Dock, which was once a major dock connected to Canning Dock and George’s Basin. However, the dock, which opened in 1771, and George’s Basin, failed to bring in much trade during the late 19th century, and so were filled in with the Pier Head in 1899 to provide Liverpool Docks’ offices. There is, however, a section of the original George’s Dock wall remains in the Cunard Building’s basement.

The Original St John’s Market

original-st-john's-market

source: www.bbc.co.uk

The St John’s Market we know today offers a small market located within St John’s Shopping Centre. However, during the 19th century, the original St John’s Market was one of the most popular shopping destinations in the city. Opening in 1820, St John’s Market provided a fully enclosed roofed market hall that was spread across two acres, stretching from Elliot Street as far as Roe Street. However, the building was demolished in 1964 before being incorporated into St John’s Precinct.

Would you love to learn more about Liverpool’s history? Take a look at 19 Albert Dock Photos Through the Years.

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About Elisabeth Sedgwick

Elisabeth loves writing about Liverpool, showcasing the best attractions, events and experiences in our beautiful city.

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11 comments

  1. My mum used to call the overhead railway The Dockers Umbrella” As a teenager my friends and I would go the the Mardi’s lunchtime sessions. Saw some great bands here mostly American Tamala Motown ones.

    • Hi Bobby,

      That’s a great story – so thank you for sharing it with us.

      We love to hear from the public – as we believe it’s the best way to keep the history of the city alive.

      Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Elisabeth.

  2. Really interesting article. I knew about some of these but this is the first I’ve read about many others. I’m a big Nathaniel Hawthorne fan myself so I wish the old US Consulate by The Strand was still standing.

  3. Elisabeth. I love the stuff you write about my home city, it almost makes me prouder than I already am (if that’s at all possible?). The achievements of the city and some of it’s brothers and sisters make fine reading. I am now a resident of another fine city, Dublin. Low and behold on one of it’s main thoroughfares (O’Connell Street) stands a statue erected in recognition of a Scouser who fed thousands of Irish men, women and children during the 1913 lockout, a Mr James Larkin from Liverpool. So another reason and on another shore to be a proud Scouser.

    Keep up the good work and thank you.

    Yours Sincerely

    Terry Whitehead.

    • Hi Terry,

      We’re glad to hear you love our articles. We didn’t know about that statue – and we’ll look into James Larkin a little bit more, too. Thanks very much for sharing this information with us.

      Also, thanks very much for your lovely comments. They mean a lot to the team. 🙂

      Elisabeth.

  4. Hi Elisabeth, a big thank you to everyone for sharing these pictures , memories

  5. hi Elisabeth, I used to play at the mardi gras I was the drummer for the reaction pop group we played there many times in the late sixties. often we were next to top billing with groups like the isley brothers and the one hit wonders the showstoppers. great days.best regards keith miller from wigan

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