I have often tried to picture what Liverpool would be like if it had kept some of its finest buildings. Does it matter if buildings are lost? To quote William Morris:
‘It has been most truly said that these old buildings do not belong to us only: that they belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with them. We are only trustees for those who come after us …’ . Clearly not a message that had any sway with several generations of politicians and planners in Liverpool.
I have by started listing my ‘worst losses’ in some sort of league table. They are:

1) The Custom House (1828-39) by John Foster the Elder. Photographed above in 1875. To me, the greatest architectural loss the city has suffered. What a magnificent compliment it would have made to the Albert Dock. Firebombed in the Blitz, it was left a shell that could have been renovated had the will been there.
2) The Sailors’ Home (1846-52) by John Cunningham. An eccentric building modelled on an Elizabethan mansion. The less said about its unnecessary demolition the better.
3) Liverpool Overhead Railway (1893). Not so much a building but a unique and exhilirating experience. Today, cities spent millions on so-called ‘landmark’ buildings that rarely deliver because they usually fail to deliver any useful benefit. Here we had an iconic ‘building’ that would have thrilled generations of tourists (and natives). Demolished 1957/58 for economic reasons.
4) St John’s Market (1820-22) by John Foster Junior. Not just the market but the whole area of tightly packed streets which fed into the main market (including the Theatre Royal and Williamson Square/the Stork Hotel and Queen Square). The kind of ubiquitous concrete malls are dead in the water. Planners now argue for keeping street patterns and a human scale. A bit too late!
5) Goree Piazzas (1787- rebuilt 1802 after fire).The first moden warehouses to be built (at the same time as George’s Dock. With its magnificent arcaded pavements it unfortunately occupied a key site in the post-War Shankland Plan mentality and made way for a road that lets us get to our destination 10 seconds faster.
6) St Michael’s Church, Pitt Street. I could add St George’s Church, St Paul’s Church and a dozen others – but this is my favourite. In an area now bereft of good architecture, it would have been an uplifting sight. Bomb damaged beyond repair.
7) Kent Square (and surrounding area). Charles Reilly wrote of the area ‘it contains some very fine houses and the finest square in town, Great George Square. It also contains that jewel in an ancient setting, Kent Square. Fragments exist but the character of this early Georgian area was destroyed in the 1930s for municipal housing. Imagine a fine cluster of Georgian housing with St Michael’s Church at the centre – a sad loss.

The next seven to follow – but please add your own ‘worst losses’, it should make interesting reading.

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