Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hope Street, Liverpool

More than convenient

When a friend told me he’d be visiting Liverpool I was reminded (again) how little I manage to travel to the north of England. In the spirit of the vicarious traveller, I therefore gave my friend a few hints about buildings he should keep a look out for. Confident that he knew about the city’s most famous buildings – the cathedrals, the docks, and so on – I stuck to a handful of personal favourites that he might otherwise have missed. He reported back, and has generously agreed to my sharing a few of his photographs.

My first suggestion was the pub called the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, in Hope Street, across the way from the Philharmonic Hall from which it takes its name. This is a splendid pub, built right at the end of the 19th century. The architect was Walter W Thomas, who designed several Liverpool pubs. He created a building in the freewheeling style of the time – it’s a winning mixture of turrets, stepped gables, mullioned windows and balconies outside, polished wood, copper plaques, ornate plasterwork, and fancy glazing within. He was aided and abetted in this work by the craftsmen of the School of Architecture and Applied Arts at University College, Liverpool, at that time under the guidance of the artist George Hall Neale and of Arthur Stratton, architect and prolific author of books on architecture. This makes the place something of a showcase of Liverpool arts and crafts.
A particular glory of this pub is the gents’ lavatory. Beautifully figured pinkish marble is used for the urinals and the basin surrounds. Behind the basins are Art Nouveau tiles – the upper narrow ones, each with a trio of stylised round fruit, would not look out of place in a building of the Vienna Secession. There are also mosaics on the floor and around the water cistern.I have commented on a few public conveniences in my time, but have never found one with an interior as good as this: glorious.

With many thanks to Joe Treasure for the images of the Philharmonic gents.


Joe Treasure said...

Thanks for the acknowledgment, Phil. When I went into the gents, camera still discretely in its pouch, I surprised a middle-aged couple. The husband had brought his wife in to admire the decor. They were amused to discover I was there for the same purpose.

Philip Wilkinson said...

There must be a steady trickle of visitors coming in to do this, Joe. The loos are mentioned in various pub guides, which are read mainly for comments on the available beer, but also for tips on history and atmosphere.