Wellington Rooms – Mount Pleasant: 1815-16
This is another of Liverpool’s empty buildings that creates much discussion and debate, and one that holds many memories for many people. How fantastic would it be to see this gem alive once again with the sounds of laughter and music, of course with access to the general public! We have waited too long.
Efforts to save the building have been stepped up in recent years with an open-day/consultation hosted by the Merseyside Building Preservation Trust (MBPT) held in the building on 21st March 2018, and current lobbying by @LHUIrishSociety to see the much loved ‘Irish Centre’ reborn. This follows work done earlier in the year by specialists Quadriga to carry out urgent repairs and make the building water-tight.
The Grade II* Wellington Rooms is a neo-classical building designed by Edmund Aikin, erected by subscription, and located on Mount Pleasant. It was built 1815 – 16 and the first function was the Ladies Charity Ball held on 31st Dec 1816.
The Wellington Club became a key part of the Liverpool social scene in the 19th Century as a venue for dancing, drama, and other entertainment.
A key annual event that took place here was the ‘Steeplechase Ball’ when it is said the grand national winner would be paraded around the ballroom with flannelled hooves! ….not sure on this one 🙂
Pevsner’s guide tells us that the central projecting colonade was originally open but infilled in the 1820s as it gave insufficient shelter. Porches on the west for sedan chairs, and on the east for carriages have also been enclosed (Pevsner Architectural Guides – Liverpool)
The Wellington Club, or ‘The Rooms’ was wound up in 1923 after failing to regain its popularity post-WWI. We have a fascinating account, written by Sir William Forwood and published in the Liverpool Echo on 20th January 1923. This piece not only gives a snapshot of the elitist goings on at ‘The Rooms’ but also changing Liverpool life for those that frequented it:
Most current memories will of course relate back to the buildings days as the Irish Centre from 1965-97:
- 23rd January 1923 – 1930 Embassy Rooms, then sold
- 1940 – 52 Rodney Youth Centre (later Mulberry St)
- 1956 – 62 Used by Sisters of Notre Dame for educational purposes
- Liverpool Irish Centre 1st February 1965 – 1997 inc. Kennedy’s Bar
- 1997 – Long-running but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to save the Irish Centre
- 2000 – Developer took over the 99-year lease
- 2002 – features as one of the original buildings in the Liverpool Echo ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign
- A proposed conversion to a 48 bedroom hotel was rejected by Liverpool City Council on 21 May 2007.
- In 2011 opened its doors as part of Heritage Open Month, which led to formation of the ‘Friends of 127’. This project appears to have sadly fallen by the wayside.
- Heritage Works has undertaken two feasibility/options appraisal studies for the Wellington Rooms, which have explored new uses that can be contained within the existing building and with minimum intervention into the historic fabric. The first explored the viability of Dance Liverpool’s dance centre proposal. The second considered office, function room, restaurant and University uses.
- 2015 – another scheme announced – University of Liverpool, and John Moores University
- 2018 – Specialist Quadriga carry out urgent repair works
- 2018 – new proposals/consultation
Liverpool City Council owns the freehold of the site and also has statutory responsibilities for the listed building.
1997: Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Records Office Ref. 367 WTN covering dates 1840 – 1933
‘Another Irish Ruin’ – Gerry Gordon
As the building looked during works in Feb 2018 – James O’Hanlon: