The arrival of the 42 acre, ?1 billion Liverpool One shopping development has catapulted the city back of the shopping league tables and along with smaller retail developments around the City Centre has restored Liverpool?s reputation as one of the UK?s premier shopping destinations. In addition, the redevelopment has also brought back into use a hugely historically significant part of Liverpool City Centre that has largely remained neglected for many decades, mainly Paradise Street (named by Thomas Steers, who lived in Paradise Street, London) and Hanover Street (named after the Hanover family and is close to the Ropewalks area).
As you walk around the area today, it?s impossible to ignore the achievements of Grosvenor and its construction partners, Balfour Beatty and Laing O'Rourke. It?s a far cry from the desolation and disregard for this area of town seen, during the last few decades.
It was whilst walking through the Chavasse Park area in 2004 that I stumbled across a number of JCB diggers beginning the process of removing the well-trodden grass of the park in preparation for the redevelopment of the area. On closer inspection I noticed that the individuals involved in the digging were making various notes, measurements etc. I asked them the purpose of their dig and they informed me that they had recently uncovered a number of cellars that have laid beneath Chavasse Park, hidden for many years. I returned several days later to investigate what they had uncovered and couldn?t believe my eyes. With camera in-hand I began taking pictures of these cellars that had been meticulously excavated by the experts from the University. Some views were tricky to capture but a cheeky smile, polite questioning and a bit of persuasion enabled me to gain access to a number of concealed areas. It was with disbelief that I was told that these cellars were going to be filled in with concrete in preparation for a huge car park. These cellar I believe, were those belonging to one of Liverpool?s many lost buildings, Liverpool's Old Custom House.
This building was erected on the site of Liverpool?s Old Dock and it was considered to be one of the finest buildings in Britain, sadly damaged during the Second World War and demolished by a council who refused to restore an easily-repairable building.
Further reading and investigation in the subsequent weeks and months focussed my interests on Liverpool?s Old Dock, built in the early 1700?s by Thomas Steers who was reputed to have used the old bricks and stone from the Liverpool Castle ruins to construct the dock which was pivotal in Liverpool?s rise to become an international seaport. It became the World?s first commercial enclosed wet dock. Unfortunately, problems arose in the years that passed and with the introduction of the 1811 Liverpool Dock Act, the dock was be filled in.
The dock has been at the centre of national attention in the run-up to 2007 and the opening of Liverpool One. It became the focus of Channel 4?s Time Team programme and is now open to the public for the first time in 200 years!
My continued interest in this wide expanse of an area has also highlighted other significant structures that have been lost forever. Sat behind the old Customs house building at the bottom of Hanover Street at Canning Place was the Liverpool Sailors' Home, a beautiful building that was set on fire in 1860 by one of its own residents! The gates of this building can be found in Smethwick, West Midlands.
Word?s can?t describe the sense of loss felt when viewing these images and reading about their development at a time when the City of Liverpool was one of the world's successful commercial seaports.
The arrival of the Liverpool Shopping area and associated developments in and around Chavasse Park and Paradise Street have ensured that this area of Liverpool is now back in full use, alive and buzzing for a modern generation and a forward thinking city albeit for leisure, shopping and retail!
The development of Liverpool?s Lost Dock and Customs House
Liverpool One Shopping Area under construction
Liverpool One Shopping Area completed phases