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CULTURE TRAVEL FOOTBALL HERITAGE LIVERPOOL

- since 2011 -

Walk on Water


Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Featuring winter sunsets and local wildlife

Hargreaves Building: Chapel Street's chameleon Hargreaves Building: Chapel Street's chameleon

Hargreaves Building: Chapel Street's chameleon

See me, I've got the finest view of no5 Chapel Street in the whole of Liverpool. I just look up from my Mac in the second-storey office of this steel-and-glass tower and it's there through the window, a four-square vision of Venetian Gothic loveliness best observed during a half-hour intermezzo in the late afternoon/early evening of a clear autumn/winter day when the low setting sun burns fiercest like a candle about to consume itself - by my reckoning currently 5.30pm and receding. At this point no5, otherwise known as the Hargreaves Building or Racquets Club, becomes an emissary of light, its northwest-oriented façade bathed in the anamorphic glow of the sun that's emerged from the massed shade of the Liver Building only to sink behind the Mersey and Wirral peninsula. The building's 150-year-old stone blocks turn golden brown or fiery red then just as suddenly fade to grey, weary and diminished in the dusk. Ayers Rock, Scouse style.

Our building manager Eileen divides her time between our address and no7 Water Street whose own obstructed alignment within that handsome thoroughfare deprives it of any kaleidoscopic winter sun. Eileen happens to mention that no7, the old National & Provincial Bank with the big bronze doors and their snarling tigers, has an original boardroom with a monumental fireplace featuring a Liver Bird. Latterly the building has been rechristened Il Palazzo in honor of its Italian Renaissance architectural style and refitted as posh office space. "I always think it looks out of place," says Eileen and she's spot-on. Roughly the same age as many of the other buildings on Water Street, dating as it does from the 1930s, no7 would feel more at home next to no5 Chapel Street. From their base of red granite its tall arched windows support a row of fluted columns modelled, it's been claimed, upon a place in Verona called the Palazzo Pompei. Certainly it's nothing like the neighbours - the India Building and Martins Bank - with their colossal scale and Beaux Arts details.

Who put that there? No7 Water Street with its big cats and Liver Bird Who put that there? No7 Water Street with its big cats and Liver Bird Who put that there? No7 Water Street with its big cats and Liver Bird

Who put that there? No7 Water Street with its big cats and Liver Bird

No7 sits on the corner with Fenwick Street and its front elevation on Water Street was actually spliced onto an older building dating from the 1890s, formerly the Bank of Liverpool. Walk along Fenwick Street and you can see the difference - the original walls are sandstone and decorated with the kind of interlacing Celtic pattern more commonly found these days on bad tattoos. Halfway down the block you come to no7's crude join with the next building, in turn occupying the corner with spindly Brusnwick Street. Head office of the Liverpool Union Bank way back in 1870 and now home to the swanky Restaurant Bar & Grill, stylistically it's got more in common with the Hargreaves Building back on Chapel Street, and the former banking hall inside is an avenue of brawny marble columns with plaster capitals colonised by Liver Birds. The girl on the front desk says she looks to them for inspiration. She's not the only one.

More light and shade, and fancy capitals, round the corner on Fenwick Street More light and shade, and fancy capitals, round the corner on Fenwick Street

More light and shade, and fancy capitals, round the corner on Fenwick Street


'A four-square vision of Venetian Gothic loveliness best observed when the low setting sun burns fiercest like a candle about to consume itself'


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The Liverpolitan
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