Monthly Archives: December 2022

Collegiate School

Former Collegiate School, Shaw Street, Everton, Liverpool

Liverpool’s St George’s Hall is prominent in a city rich in nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture, and the remarkable story of its young architect, Harvey Lonsdale Elmes (1814-1847), winning two separate architectural competitions to design it, is well-known.  In his short life he designed few buildings, none of which he saw completed.

The only other surviving design by Elmes is the façade of Liverpool Collegiate School on Shaw Street, Everton.  Its Perpendicular Gothic style, in contrast with the neoclassical St George’s Hall, indicates that the school was an Anglican foundation.

The building behind is not Elmes’ because of an unseemly dispute with the managing committee who deprived him of the commission in order to employ a cheaper local contractor. 

(He had similar trouble over St George’s Hall, when the Corporation commissioned Joseph Franklin, the City Surveyor, to start the project, but Franklin, to his great credit, stood aside in deference to Elmes.)

The foundation stone of the Collegiate School was laid by Lord Stanley (later the 14th Earl of Derby) in October 1840, and the building was opened by W E Gladstone and the Bishop of Chester in 1843. 

One of the first Victorian public schools, its original collegiate organisation provided three separate curricula, an upper school offering a classical syllabus for boys aspiring to the “gentlemanly professions” at twenty guineas a term (who were allowed to use the grand Shaw Street entrance), and two further programmes, the middle school at ten guineas and the lower school at three, preparing pupils for business and commercial occupations (and who used the side entrances).

Its original facilities included an art gallery, museum, evening institute and a shooting range. 

The octagonal lecture hall was at first the largest covered meeting-place in Liverpool, with a reported capacity of 3,000, and was used for concerts by Jenny Lind and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra before the completion of the Philharmonic Hall in 1849.

The Upper School moved to new premises at Lodge Lane, Sefton Park, in 1884, and the Middle and Lower (or Commercial) schools amalgamated when they were taken over by Liverpool Corporation in 1907.

The Shaw Street school’s alumni included the comedian Ted Ray (1905-1977), the actor Leonard Rossiter (1926-1984) and Holly Johnson (b1960), the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The school was reorganised as a comprehensive school for nine hundred boys in 1973, and after closure in 1983 became vandalised and was partly burnt down. 

It was refurbished by the architectural practice Shed KM for the developer Urban Splash, and reopened as an apartment block in 2000.

The Shaw Street façade is a fortunate survivor, reminding us that Harvey Lonsdale Elmes was adept at a wide range of styles.  His only other surviving work is his Italianate extension to Thingwall Hall, Knotty Ash, c1846-47. 

Other buildings by Elmes have been lost – Druids Cross House, Woolton (1847;  demolished 1978;  Grade-II listed lodge survives), Allerton Tower, Allerton (1849;  demolished 1937) and the West Derby County Asylum, Rainhill (1847-51;  demolished 1992).

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

Old buffers

Mansion House Station, London Underground: hydraulic buffer stop

At the end of a platform at Mansion House Underground Station stands a strange-looking urn.

The track has been lifted from Platform 2 because all trains through the station use Platforms 1 and 3.

The buffer stop that protected the terminal track for trains reversing westward remains, however, and the “urn” indicates that it’s a fine example of a hydraulic design by the Ipswich manufacturer Ransomes & Rapier.

The vessel attached to the buffer contains water or hydraulic fluid under pressure, and is designed to resist the sudden force of a vehicle which has failed to stop.

It doesn’t need to be an ornate shape, but elegance is a hallmark of Victorian engineering.

This item of paraphernalia, ignored by the vast proportion of Underground travellers, is a piece of deep arcana that has attracted the attention of rail enthusiasts who specialise in infrastructure and it’s clear that there are or were numerous examples throughout the London Underground system and further afield.

There’s a particularly fine example at Putney Bridge Underground Station – and halfway across the world two others at Kalka Station in India, the interchange point between the main line from Delhi and the celebrated Kalka-Shimla railway

The Wikimedia-Commons page ‘Ransome & Rapier hydraulic buffers’ illustrates examples from many parts of the world, most of all South America – – but none are as pretty as the one I found on the London Underground at Mansion House.

Two preserved railways in the UK have examples of Ransome & Rapier buffers – the Great Central Railway (Loughborough) at Leicester North and the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust at Midsomer Norton.  

In Districtdavesforum there’s discussion about whether TfL could be persuaded to donate an example to the excellent but already crowded Ipswich Transport Museum, which is an admirable thought.

Fenchurch Street Station

Fenchurch Street Station, City of London

Fenchurch Street Station is an anomaly among London rail termini, tucked away down a back street from Fenchurch Street itself , serving only local lines as far out as Southend and Shoeburyness, and lacking any direct link to the Underground.

Its charming façade, designed by George Berkeley (1853-54), looks out on to a modest urban square and the entrance leads by lifts and escalators to four platforms at the level of the viaduct that carries the tracks.

It has a number of historic claims:  it stands on a site rich in archaeology of the Roman period;  when it opened in 1841 it boasted the first railway station bookstall, pioneered by William Marshall who supplied newspapers wholesale to the Great Western Railway;  it’s associated with the first on-train railway murder in July 1864, when Mr Thomas Briggs, aged 70, was robbed and killed on a train from Fenchurch Street to Hackney by Franz Muller, who fled to New York where he was arrested and returned to Britain, found guilty and suffered one of the last public hangings outside Newgate Prison in November 1864.

Fenchurch Street was the first railway terminus to reach within the City of London boundary, followed by Cannon Street (1863-6) serving the area south of the Thames, and Liverpool Street (1874) which became the major terminus for train services to East Anglia and beyond.

Originally built for the 3½-mile-long London & Blackwall Railway, much of which, as far as the West India Docks, was built on a brick viaduct, this isolated line was built to the unusual gauge of 5ft 0½in and neither of its termini admitted steam locomotives:  cable-hauled trains ran in by their own momentum and out again aided by a shove from the station staff.

This couldn’t last.  When other railways brought their services to Fenchurch Street the intensity of traffic necessitated steam locomotives, and the London & Blackwall was converted to the standard 4ft 8½in gauge in 1849.

After successive amalgamations the lines out of Fenchurch Street were operated by two companies, the Great Eastern Railway and the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway, which was taken over by the Midland Railway in 1912.

It’s always been a busy station, though the lines it served provided uncomfortable services because of overcrowding.  Electric trains took over from steam in 1961, but the increasing weight of traffic made the old LT&SR route notorious as the “misery line”.

A major refurbishment, which entirely closed the station for seven weeks in 1994, replaced track, signals and power supply, and a further upgrade took place in 2013.

1970s plans to bring the proposed Fleet Line through Fenchurch Street came to nothing, and the scheme later opened as the Jubilee Line, eventually reaching Stratford in 1999.

Tower Hill Underground Station is a matter of minutes away, as is the Docklands Light Railway Tower Hill Station.

Discussions have taken place to expand Fenchurch Street to six platforms by taking over the site of the DLR Tower Gateway station, running DLR services into an expanded Tower Hill Underground station.

Fenchurch Street was handling around 16 million passengers a day before the pandemic, slightly less than Cannon Street.  It remains to be seen how many of those passengers return in the next few years.