Liverpool is full of impressive buildings, constructed during it’s heyday as a major port and commercial centre. Although I know the city very well, visiting regularly and having lived there for 3 years while I was at University, I still frequently come across buildings I haven’t noticed before. One example was this building on the corner of Castle Street and Brunswick Street that I spotted last week I was working in Liverpool in a building on the Exchange Flags behind the Town Hall.
Checking up in my copy of Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Liverpool I discovered that the building was designed by W.D. Caröe for the Adelphi Bank (long gone having been absorbed into Martin’s bank which itself was absorbed by Barclays)during the late Victorian period in 1891.
Victorian architecture is probably best described as “eclectic”. Despite the innovations in science, industry and commerce during this period, their tastes in art and architecture were largely conservative and backward looking. They pilfered architectural styles from previous eras and other cultures, often combining different styles and influences in one building. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t. In the case of the Adelphi Bank I think the architect has been successful in creating a very distinctive building blending styles from Renaissance architecture with Nordic and even Eastern European features.
It’s very elaborate, with numerous statues, columns, carvings and other embellishments. It’s constructed with alternating bands of red and light grey sandstone. The most noticeable features are the Onion domes on the roof (very unusual in Britain) and the very elaborate pair of cast bronze doors created by Thomas Stirling Lee, who was also one of the principal sculptors who worked on St George’s Hall.
I wasn’t able to get a good photograph of the doors as the coffee shop that now occupies the building seem to have one of them permanently open during working hours. However, I did find the following picture from 1922 on the web on a site devoted to the history of Martin’s Bank.
The reliefs show pairs of Famous Friends, David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, Castor and Pollux, Roland and Oliver. This theme was taken as the name “Adelphi” comes from the Greek word adelphoi, meaning "brothers" (source Wikipedia). Close ups of the details, together with some information on the work and it’s creator, can be viewed on the Victorian Web website here.