A building that always catches your eye on Mount Pleasant is the Wellington Rooms. For years it was the Irish Centre but it was originally built by public subscription in 1815-1816 as a ballroom and a centre for the fashionable of Liverpool society to gather in. It kept this function until 1923 when it was converted into a private club called the Embassy Rooms. One can’t help imagining (or at least I can’t and I admit there is no evidence to support this notion) that this must have been a rather louche period in the building’s history. Later years saw it used as a youth club and in 1965 it became the Irish Centre which it remained until 1997. Since then the building has been abandoned and the impressive neo-classical structure designed by Edmund Aikin has become a derelict home for buddleia. I stopped as I walked by because the open letterbox gave me the chance to take a picture of the interior. There you can still see a faded and torn notice directing members to what I guess were the J.F. Kennedy Bar, the Ballroom and the Claddagh Room. Others also took the opportunity to scrutinise the view through the letterbox and it seems such a shame that a building of such style should be so neglected. According to the Liverpool Echo (9 July 2017) the Duchy of Lancaster now has a lease on the building and many online sources suggest there are plans to bring the building back into use as a Science and Technology Hub.

Edmund Aikin was a Unitarian and a member of the famous Aikin family of Warrington. His grandfather, John Aikin, was tutor and principal of the Warrington Academy. His father, also John, was a doctor and an important literary figure, as was his aunt Anna Laetitia Barbauld. I wrote about the Aikins and Warrington in an earlier post:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/the-warrington-academy/

Edmund’s life was not a long one (1780-1820) although he was influential in popularising neo-classical architecture. He did other work in Liverpool, where he eventually made his home, including the design for the building of the Royal Liverpool Institution in 1814, a centre for ‘the promotion of literature, science and the arts’ founded by William Roscoe and others. He designed a number of dissenting chapels in London, including the Gravel Pit Chapel in Hackney. This building was substantially rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1857 and eventually demolished in 1967. There is no doubt that the Wellington Rooms is his most important surviving building, it’s good to know that there currently seems to be a will to rescue the building and turn it to some positive use.

WRext01

Looking down Mount Pleasant

WRfrontview01

Main facade

WRinterior

Interior view taken through the letterbox

WRdoor

Front door

WRdetail

Winged angels bearing garlands

WRspinner

Believed to be a device for spinning thread of some sort. One of two positioned above the side entrance.

WRplaque

Built 1815-1816. Wellington Rooms. Designed by Edmund Aikin. Former Assembly Rooms.

WRcapitals

Capitals and roof decoration

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6 thoughts on “The Wellington Rooms Liverpool

  1. Fabulous photos, David, especially the one taken via the letterbox! On my next visit to Liverpool, I’ll have a peep myself. 🙂 The phrase, ‘Bloom where you are planted’ (it’s on a fridge magnet we have) makes me think of the Buddleia … they’re so versatile and easily take up residence in posh buildings and railway embankments alike … makes me smile when I think of how much we paid for ours at the garden nursery (var. Lochinch).

    Thank you for all the information on the Wellington Rooms. I did see it on my previous visit, but didn’t know anything about it then. There seems to be many derelict buildings in Liverpool – I was particularly sad to hear about Josephine Butler House (Hope Street) being replaced by student flats, though I can’t find any recent information to let me know if that’s been done yet.

    I will add Edmund Aikin to my list of notable people in Liverpool to learn more about. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lesley,
    I think Josephine Butler House is long gone unfortunately. Liverpool has a poor record overall of maintaining historic buildings when developers team up with the City Council. Another recent example of an historic building being destroyed in this way would be the Futurist Cinema on Lime Street. A building that was just about saved from this fate (actually nearly contemporary with the Wellington Rooms and by another Liverpool architect) is St Andrew’s Church on Rodney Street.
    I’ve blogged quite a few times about the area around Hope Street and once about a very nicely restored statue that was re-sited quite close to where Josephine Butler House was:
    https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/hugh-stowell-brown-and-myrtle-street-chapel/
    But a lot of good buildings have been destroyed in Liverpool over the last 70 years. Despite that, remarkably, there still is a lot of good stuff. I think you will find a lot in Liverpool to inspire you for your novel.
    David

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  3. I love the vast array of architecture in Liverpool, however, it saddens me that so many historic beautiful buildings are left to rot as the Wellington Rooms (The Irish Centre as I remember it being called) clearly have been ignored for such a long time. Whenever I am at the cathedral or at the Victoria gallery I always part outside it. For many many years, I wondered what it looked like inside (never thinking to look through the letterbox), and my partner and I always comment on how sad it is that it is left empty. At least it now has a future life as a Science and Tech hub it should be brought back to its original state.

    Glad you got a shot through the letterbox.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, yes there is a lot of great architecture in Liverpool and also a long history of neglect. It would be nice to see this building restored and made useful again.
      It had never struck me to look through the letter box before!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So pleased to have discovered more about this neglected building – thank you. I took a photograph of it when we were in the city because it looked so striking and so sad … and there were other buildings we passed on our way, the forgotten architectural ancestors of Liverpool.

    Liked by 1 person

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