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Mike King describes the
precarious route to recovery
of the Liverpool Lyceum.


THE BUILDING
THAT CAME IN FROM
THE COLD
When the Montagu report was published on 16th July 1980, The Lyceum Club in Bold Street in Liverpool had already been granted listed building consent to be demolished in order to make way for the redevelopment of the Central Station site next door. As the Montagu report stated, The Lyceum was one of the very many listed buildings for which ‘Time is running out fast”. It was clear that of the five buildings in Liverpool which were designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester the only one still surviving,had now become one of the threatened buildings mentioned in the report.
How the Lyceum came to be saved, to the extent that it recently opened as a splendid new Post Office for Liverpool, is a saga of mystery and suspense which would fill the pages of several editions of Context.
A short History, however, is a follows. The Lyceum was built between 1800 and 1802, to the designs of Thomas Harrison, the commission having been obtained in open competition with the local Liverpool architect John Foster, Surveyor to the Corporation of Liverpool.
The purpose of the building was to provide a home for the collection of books which was housed in the parlour of William Everard, amateur architect and designer of the little Garden temple at Inch Blundel Hall to the North of Liverpooi, home of the Collection of Roman and Hellenistic marbles collected by Henry Blundel.
The design produced by Thomas Harrison consisted of a circular rotunda to house the Liverpool library, which was the first circulating library in Europe having been founded in 1757, and a newsroom and coffee room facing Waterloo Place at the lower end of Bold Street. This and the library itself had separate entrances from the recessed Ionic portico fronting onto Bold Street. Membership of the library and coffee house was soon separated. The latter developed and expanded to become
the Lyceum Gentlemen’s Club which eventually took over the whole building with the exemption of a cafe in the basement facing onto Waterloo Place. After a century and a half in the building, the Club moved into new premises in the city centre and the building was sold to a developer who applied for consent to demolish in order to redevelop the adjoining Central Station site.
At the time when listed building consent was granted in 1971, The Lyceum was listed grade II. In the national and international protests which followed the application for listed building consent, the building was upgraded to grade II*. Since
redevelopment did not take place
immediately following the granting of listed building consent, the Secretary of State revoked the consent to demolish and, anticipating the inevitable Purchase Notice, purchased the building. The Secretary of State at the time was Peter Shore.
Little work subsequently took place to secure the proper preservation of the building. Once in the guardianship of the PSA the building began to deteriorate and considerable vandalism took place until a further outcry by the amenity organisations and the City Council forced the DoE to take steps to protect the building
This page: Existing newsroom archway to the rcccss (top) and suggested alterations.
Facing page top: Sketch by Rod Hutchinson, c Liverpool City Council.
Facing page centre: Drawing by Rod Hutchinson showing likely form of ceiling.
Facing page bottom: Reconstructed Harrison ceiling and restored grisaille paintings on frieze.
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CONTEXT 28

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