Probably the most photographed and well known building in Liverpool. It is located at Pier Head and stands proud and majestic against the skyline of Liverpool and the riverfront. The building is made of reinforced concrete and was the first large scale building of its type. It was built in 1911 for the Royal Liver Friendly Society.
This impressive architectural masterpiece features a pair of clock towers from which shipping could tell the time as they passed en route along the river. The clock faces are actually larger than the clock face of Big Ben in London. In fact, they are the largest clock dials in Britain. In 1953 electronic chimes were installed to serve as a memorial to the members of the Royal Liver Friendly Society who died during the two World Wars. At night time the clock dials are illuminated. They were originally named George clocks, because they were started at the precise time that King George V was crowned on 22 June 1911.
A statue of a Liver Bird spreading its wings from the top of each clock tower enhances the glory of the building and its impressive features. The Liver Bird, the official mascot of Liverpool is a cormorant (seaweed bird) which in bygone times could often be seen flying alongside the Mersey River with seaweed in their beaks.
The Royal Liver Building is still the Head Office for the Royal Liver Friendly Society.
In 1907 the Royal Liver Group had over 6000 employees and given the need for larger premises the company gave the go-ahead for the construction of a new head office. Designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas, the foundation stone for the building was laid on 11 May 1908 and just 3 years later on 19 July 1911, the building was officially opened by Lord Sheffield. The building became the first major structure in Britain, and one of the first buildings in the world, to be constructed using reinforced concrete, and given the building's radical design was considered by some to be impossible to build.
Since its completion in 1911, it has overlooked the River Mersey from its waterfront location on the Pier Head and forms one of the 'Three Graces' along with the Port of Liverpool Building and the Cunard Building. This is reflected in the building's Grade I listed building status. It stands at 90 m (300 ft) tall and has 13 floors.
At the top of the building, sat on each of the two towers are the mythical Liver Birds, the symbol of Liverpool. They are 18 feet tall, have a total wing span of 24 feet and are made of copper. Local legend has it that if they fly away, Liverpool will cease to exist. The Liver Birds are a cross between an eagle and a cormorant (the bird of good luck to sailors). A German sculptor called Carl Bernard Bartels, who was living in England, designed them. When the Great War broke out, Carl Bernard Bartels was arrested as a German citizen and imprisoned on the Isle of Man. The City of Liverpool removed all reference to his achievements and at the end of the war, despite having a wife in London, he was sent back to Germany.
Listed Grade I
The Liver Building is the head office of the Royal Liver Friendly Society, which had its origins as a mid-19th century burial club .
It is notable as one of Britain's first multi-storey reinforced concrete framed buildings. Stylistically unique in England, it is more akin to the early tall buildings of America such as the Allegheny Court House (1884) by H. H. Richardson and the Garrick (formerly Schiller) Theatre by Adler and Sullivan, with eclectic Baroque, art nouveau and Byzantine influences in its modelling.
It has nine bays to the principal frontages and thirteen bays on the secondary return sides, and the ground and first floors, are deeply rusticated.
The top floor steps back behind a Doric colonnade, taking advantage of the technical possibilities offered by its reinforced concrete structure.
The roof is piled up with turrets and domes in receding stages and the clock towers have copper Liver Birds on top, by George Cowper and the Bromsgrove Guild.
The two birds face away from each other, one towards the river and the other towards the city. The poses are traditional, the birds stand with half-upraised wings, each carrying a sprig of seaweed in its beak.
The birds are 18 ft high, their heads are 31/2 ft long, the spread of the wings is 12 ft, their length is 10 ft and the legs are 2ft in circumference. Their bodies and wings are of moulded and hammered copper fixed on a steel armature.
Although there are Liver Birds on many buildings in Liverpool, it is the two which roost on top of this building that are the biggest in the city and which to many people are the very identity of Liverpool.