Custom House, Liverpool, UK 1836 - 1948

Timeshifter

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Came across this building whilst looking into this one St Georges Hall

I can find very little info on the construction design, building of this thing, but look at it, it was huge!

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'Following the closure of the Old Dock on 31 August 1826, plans were made for the construction of what was to be Liverpool's fifth Custom house on the site which was filled in with concrete prior to construction. The town's surveyor John Foster who would later go on to design The Oratory and St James Cemetery was charged with designing the H shape building located parallel to the shoreline. On 12 August 1828 the first stone was laid by Liverpool's mayor Thomas Colley Porter to mark the start of construction which took 11 year with the building opening in 1839'

In 1941 during World War II the Custom House was hit with a bomb, partly destroying the building but ultimately leaving its structure intact. After the war had ended, the council refused to repair the building despite protests and it was subsequently demolished in 1948. Notably the building was a subject of a painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw' waki

Designer (Not architect?) John Foster, 4 of his designs ended up being demolished (I wonder why) He is also the man with his father, who designed Liverpool's infamous bombed out church, St Luke's, which just like the customs house, lost its roof during the blitz, however St Luke's waki remains....

For a man charged with such high calibre of works, he is another ghost waki

One thing I have noticed, these Neo-Classical buildings need no architect to design, they are all the same. They could be flat packed and built, no problems.

So, this is another building which sprouted up during Liverpool's tough times with very little accompanying info.

It does however appear on maps. This one Below, 1768... it was built atop the old dock....

1768 john eyes map customs house.JPG


and below 1836
customs house 1836.JPG

It does not appear to have the same affection afforded it as St George's Hall, and so there is much less info about it, it designer, the builders etc.

I expected, as it survived until 1948 masses of photographs. I would like to the think the general public and pro photographers alike photographed the life out of this building over its 100 year existence, but very few I can find so far, this link however does have some interesting images of the interior, during the demolition.

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and its footprint

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If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought this was built by, and for GIANTS!

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Is this another pop up building? or another one written into our history?

It has been suggested that the exterior could have been kept and the interior re furbished post blitz, however it was pretty rapidly demolished.

Anyone able to find any construction info here?


custom house 1854.jpg

1854​
 

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Timeshifter

Timeshifter

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A bit more than slightly bomb damaged!
Can't think why the council refused to restore it.

View attachment 33796

just found a zomable version. Bomb Damage around the Custom House and Hanover Street area of Liverpool in 1946
The wonder is how the bombers missed St Georges hall and Lime Street station.​
I am guessing it was more a fix the facade and rebuild interior, I have seen that done many times even here in a small town.
I guess they could say costs, but they found the money to fix up St Georges...
 

jd755

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Finding a fair bit about the end of this building especially the bomb damage, it was an incendiary or two that got it and its surroundings.. The aftermath looks very similar to the San Francisco and Chicago aftermath photo's and in that aerial shot above 'where are the people' could be asked. The date is 1946 so bound to be a fair few knocking about but precious few in shot.

Also found out it was built within the 'old original' dock and parts of it are still accessible under Liverpool One. Not clear from the photograph's I've seen if the remains on view are the dock or Custom house yet. The dock is there intact on the early maps so will look to see if there is any more on the infilling of the dock and when it was done.
Also noticed on one photo dated 1957 the cellars at one end of the site had simply been left in place and backfilled with rubble perhaps that's what was done to most of the site but it looks like the stonework was all removed and it was the inner brick walls that were used for the fill.

It was larger than St George's Hall apparently.
 
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Timeshifter

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Finding a fair bit about the end of this building especially the bomb damage, it was an incendiary or two that got it and its surroundings.. The aftermath looks very similar to the San Francisco and Chicago aftermath photo's and in that aerial shot above 'where are the people' could be asked. The date is 1946 so bound to be a fair few knocking about but precious few in shot.

Also found out it was built within the 'old original' dock and parts of it are still accessible under Liverpool One. Not clear from the photograph's I've seen if the remains on view are the dock or Custom house yet. The dock is there intact on the early maps so will look to see if there is any more on the infilling of the dock and when it was done.
Also noticed on one photo dated 1957 the cellars at one end of the site had simply been left in place and backfilled with rubble perhaps that's what was done to most of the site but it looks like the stonework was all removed and it was the inner brick walls that were used for the fill.

It was larger than St George's Hall apparently.
Yep, apparently you can still access parts of the old Dock under Liverpool one, you can view some of it down this hole, I've looked down it, its like looking down a black hole... Link

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jd755

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Ooh i found one of some brickwork. Will post it later for now clock the damage surrounding the custom house. Both photographs take from the same vantage point with views 180 degrees apart. Destruction not construction fair enough but sure puts some meat on the bones of how much damage was done and how many lives were either lost or badly affected.
From here; Post war Liverpool: The importance of Billy Liddell

war-damage2.jpg

war-damage.jpg
 
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Stumbled across this student account. This student is attempting to discover what pieces of buildings are identifiable on Crosby Beach (just north of Liverpool), which has a mile of old liverpool blitzed building as defences/ stop erosion..

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I have been to and seen this beech, I even have a brick from it. But it never occured to me just how interesting this could be and how it could aid research. Anyway, here is a 2018 tweet of interest..

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Very interesting. Next time I am in Liverpool I shall go and take a look, I'd be interested to see what can be discovered pertaining to the buildings there!

More here Source
 
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jd755

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Finding nothing about the construction nor the filling in of the Old dock. It was filled in in 1826 two years prior to the building of the custom house. What it was filled in with is something else I've found nothing about.
Plenty on the city, plenty about the expanding population and where it came from and why.

As it all points to 'the narrative' being correct there seems no point n quoting from any of it so here's the list of links for those who re interested.
http://www.old-merseytimes.co.uk/liverpooldocks.html
Liverpool Old Dock
Where did Liverpool start? | CityMetric
Liverpool Docks Development
http://www.yoliverpool.com/images/dockhouse/customs house.jpg
The Pool, Liverpool's beginnings • Historic Liverpool
Ghost Streets 7: The Dock Road
The Liverpool Link
The Custom House
Liverpool's Magnificent Seven - the landmark buildings we miss
Liverpool's destroyed landmarks - Liverpool - LocalWiki
11 Lost Liverpool Landmarks and the Stories Behind their Demise - Signatures Liverpool
The Rescue Man: a city built and destroyed
This one may contain some more info but too hard to read on this tiny screen; https://ia802708.us.archive.org/29/items/oldliverpoolwrit00postiala/oldliverpoolwrit00postiala.pdf

And that picture of 'dock brickwork' but my money is on it being the customs house cellars brickwork.
LR Liverpool Old Dock.jpg
 

KorbenDallas

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Old Custom House and Castle, Liverpool
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William Gawin Herdman

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1680?
Looks like the newer customs house was built on top of a whole bunch of other structures. I do not see any cellar windows there, but there is an arched opening in the brick building to the left of the customs building.

I assume this is the same castle.


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This Bygone Liverpool book could be useful.
 

jd755

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The op custom house was built on top of the filled in Old dock which itself was built by a chap called Steer who walled of the Liver pool and then built quays out from the wall to create the dock.
The one in your paintings is the original custom house prior to the docks. There is I feel another inbetween the two in time terms, the info is in of of those links just cannot remember which.

Here it is.
At a later period it was called Water St and at the lower end of this a couple of centuries ago, there stood two notable buildings, the old Custom House and Sir John de Stanley’s Tower, the latter remained until 1819, the former disappeared much sooner for when the Old Dock was completed in 1720 the office for customs was transferred to other quarters, the old building itself remaining till 1785 when it was removed for warehouses.
The op version was number three.
 
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KorbenDallas

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Based on what I’ve seen so far, it appears that along with the docks, they filled in the entire city. I am not buying any of it. This will have to be a separate thread for buried Liverpool.

I wish I could visit the underground tour in Liverpool. May be next summer...
 

jd755

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They filled a single dock before they built the custom house. Later on they filled in St George's dock to build the Liver building but there it is. Seems the castle was at least partially quarried for the building of the Old dock.
From here; The Custom House steps, Old Dock

The steps were unearthed during the recent Liverpool One excavations. This was Liverpool's fourth Custom House, completed in 1722, and stood at the east end of the Old Dock. This served before John Foster's fifth Custom House, which was built (construction started) in 1828.

In the book "Liverpool Slavery" published in 1884 by "a genuine Dicky Sam" it says that '[T]he Custom House... was a meagre looking building on the East side of the Old Dock, with a flight of steps leading to the main entrance, and on these steps the slave auction was held'

A point to add, as many of you will already know, slave auctions didn't actually take place in Liverpool, these were were held in the Caribbean and the Americas after the dreaded Middle Passage. However, auctions of "so called" captain's privilege slaves did take place in the local Coffee Houses and, as the Liverpool Mercury reports, in the warehouses by the Salthouse Dock gates. So there may be some truth to the claim.

The stonework and steps themselves were made from yellow sandstone, the same stone that capped off the top of the Old Dock walls. It may have been salvaged from Liverpool Castle which was quarried in part when building the Old Dock.


Probably just a narrative but may as well have a couple of piccies.
George Perry 1769.jpg
dockentrance.jpg
Custom House - Liverpool - 1722-1840.gif
olddock2.jpg
Steps.jpg
 

KorbenDallas

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Of course they did. Every city did something to bury itself. Seattle could not flush their toilets and buried its downtown. Chicago did not notice that for many years they were building in the swamp, and had to raise the city by at least 6 feet. Then they brought enough dirt to raise the entire city by 6 feet, so did Seattle. SF buried their waterfront together with multiple ships. How many horse carts is that? Prague buried itself for some other reason.

Liverpool did it its way. They all have a story. Well, may be Rome does not. I will do a thread on buried L. when in position to do so.

And just about every older city has its own underground tour.

Every city has an excuse, and at some point the narrative starts to smell.
 

jd755

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Timeshifter could you, or anyone else, get onto this free tour someday and let us know your felling on what you get to see?
Free tours of Liverpool's revolutionary Old Dock this weekend

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Cannot find very much at all about the Foster junior architect chap but finding somethings out. He was employed by the Earl of Derby on his stately pile The Knowsley Hall Dining Chairs - An Important Set Of Twelve Carved Golden Oak Dining Chairs Designed By John Foster Jr. (1786 – 1846) For The State Dining Room At Knowsley Hall, Seat Of The Earls Of Derby | BADA
and a bit about him from here talking about the Oratory.
The Oratory
His father designed and built the Exchange so these two were well connected with both corporation and aristocracy of the time.

i didn't know the Stanley's were the Earls of Derby. Very interesting family, but not for this thread.
However much more comes through time about the Old docks designer and builder Thomas Steers Thomas Steers
 
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Timeshifter

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Timeshifter could you, or anyone else, get onto this free tour someday and let us know your felling on what you get to see?
Free tours of Liverpool's revolutionary Old Dock this weekend


Cannot find very much at all about the Foster junior architect chap but finding somethings out. He was employed by the Earl of Derby on his stately pile The Knowsley Hall Dining Chairs - An Important Set Of Twelve Carved Golden Oak Dining Chairs Designed By John Foster Jr. (1786 – 1846) For The State Dining Room At Knowsley Hall, Seat Of The Earls Of Derby | BADA
and a bit about him from here talking about the Oratory.
The Oratory
His father designed and built the Exchange so these two were well connected with both corporation and aristocracy of the time.

i didn't know the Stanley's were the Earls of Derby. Very interesting family, but not for this thread.
However much more comes through time about the Old docks designer and builder Thomas Steers Thomas Steers
Thanks JD, would like to see this for myself, will let you know if I get the chance.
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This city is incredibly interesting...

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Beautiful city and people, however the more I visit the more I cannot help but think somethings are not what they seem.
 

jd755

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A bit more from here; The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Ports, Harbours, Watering-Places, and Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain. Vol. II.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Ports, Harbours, Watering-places and
Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain Vol. 2, by William Finden

CANNING DOCK AND CUSTOM-HOUSE,
LIVERPOOL.


Liverpool presents one of the most remarkable instances on record of the vast influence of commercial speculation, when pursued with steady vigour, prudence, and resolution. Commerce is the first step to empire, and, successfully prosecuted, never fails to consolidate the strength and independence of the state. To this important end no city in the kingdom has so amply contributed as Liverpool; none of our rivers, the Thames excepted, has wafted to our shores so many precious cargoes as the Mersey, nor exported so much of the produce of our native manufactures to all parts of the world. This great commercial city, rapid as its progress has been, is still advancing in the career of prosperity; hardly a month passes without some local improvement,—some substantial proof that her trade is on the increase, stimulating domestic industry, and affording the means of unlimited intercourse with every shore of the commercial world.

Canning Dock, with the Custom-house, forms one of the finest points of view in Liverpool, presenting at one view a building of elegant design and execution, and a forest of masts which sufficiently indicate the bustle of trade, and the air of business that pervade every feature of the place—animate or inanimate. Canning Dock—so distinguished in honour of Mr. Canning, a name happily identified with Liverpool and the prosperity of its trade,—covers a space of five hundred yards in length. On the west side it communicates with three graving docks, where vessels are laid up for repairs, and is chiefly occupied by vessels trading to the northern coast. It is the first of the seven docks extending southward, and is generally filled by vessels in the act of discharging or taking in their cargoes. It presents a scene of great bustle and activity, and, though only one out of many, affords the stranger a very clear idea of the vast amount of traffic that is daily shipped or entered at this emporium.

The Custom-House is of recent date, and replaced the old official buildings, which were found quite inadequate to the purposes of a daily extending commerce. Through the united interest of Canning and Huskisson, negociations were entered into with Government as to the necessity of a new Custom-house; and after a short time arrangements were concluded for its immediate erection. Mr. Foster, architect to the Liverpool corporation, was engaged to prepare the designs, and made choice of the present site as the most appropriate for a commercial building of this size and character.

The lower apartments of the Custom-house consist of spacious vaults for the safe custody of bonded and other goods; and in the centre is the apartment known as the Long Room. The offices of customs occupy the whole extent of the west wing; and it is intended that part of the east wing shall be appropriated to the use of the general post-office. Above these are the excise offices and those of the dock-treasurer and secretaries. The remaining portions of the edifice are subdivided into the board-room, the dock-committee's offices, and the stamp-office.

The chasteness and beauty of the Ionic style of architecture adopted in this magnificent edifice have been much and justly admired. The centre, and the east and west fronts are adorned by lofty porticos, each supported by eight Ionic columns. The centre of the building is surmounted by a magnificent dome, lighted by sixteen windows, and ornamented round by pilasters. Inclosed within the outer dome is a smaller one encircled by twelve windows, so as to afford sufficient light to the Long Room. The interior of this building will amply repay the stranger for a visit. The grand front is opposite Castle-street; and, entering in this direction, the first object which claims attention is the massive grouping of the pilasters which support the floor of the Long Room over head. The stairs, flanked by handsome iron balustrades,—the landing-places supported by eight Ionic stone columns, each of a single piece,—the four pilasters, and the elaborate ceilings,—are all deserving of particular attention. The Long Room is altogether splendidly designed and executed; lighted by fourteen windows on the sides, and by twelve as already observed, in the inner dome. The ceiling is divided by lateral and transverse beams into regular compartments, all beautifully ornamented. At each of the opposite ends of this noble apartment are a corresponding flight of stairs and landing-places. But to convey a just description of this monument to the genius of commerce is at once difficult and tedious; we therefore recommend all who may visit Liverpool, as admirers of its docks, harbours, and splendid edifices, to devote an hour to the Custom-house—a building which reflects great honour upon the architect, and serves as a lasting ornament to the second city of the empire.
 
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