The history of the Cunard Building dates back to 1914, when the Cunard Steamship Company commissioned the construction of new headquarters for the company. Cunard's expansion had meant that they had outgrown their previous offices, which were also located in Liverpool, and the site chosen for construction was at the former George's Dock, in between the Liver Building and Port of Liverpool Building. The building was designed by architects William Edward Willink and Philip Coldwell Thicknesse and was inspired by the grand palaces of Renaissance Italy. It was constructed by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts between 1914 and 1917, with Arthur J. Davis, of Mewes and Davis, acting as consultant on the project.

Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st Baronet was a British shipping magnate, born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, who founded the Cunard Line. He was the son of a master carpenter and timber merchant who had fled the American Revolution and settled in Halifax.

In 1839 he submitted a bid to the British government to undertake a regular mail service by steamship across the North Atlantic from Liverpool to Halifax, Québec and Boston Massachusetts, for £55 000 annually for 10 years. The bid was successful, and in the same year Cunard, with associates in Glasgow and Liverpool, established the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the ancestor of the Cunard Line.

The company’s first steamship, the Britannia, sailed from Liverpool to Boston Massachusetts in 1840, on board were Samuel Cunard and 63 other passengers,
this journey was to mark the beginning of a regular passenger and cargo service.
Built in 1840 Britannia was Cunard’s first purpose built Atlantic liner, in terms of passenger accommodation and speed she was way ahead of her competitors, but this was not without its disadvantages. Being built for speed the noise of her engines and the smoke belching from her funnel were not the most pleasant of things for her passengers to endure. However, on the plus side, compared with other vessels her passenger accommodation was considered luxurious with small cabins, neatly appointed and a dining saloon to accommodate 115 passengers. Cows were carried on the deck of the ship to ensure that fresh milk was available.

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