Leading heritage body will
fight for public access to landmark building
MERSEYSIDE Civic Society (MCS)
is asking political leaders to speak out about the prospect of retaining public
access to the magnificent 1920s' marble panelled Holt's Arcade in Liverpool City
Centre by asking for action from Historic England. MCS is asking Liverpool
Riverside MP Louise Ellman and the new Merseyside Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to
write to Historic England, the Government body protecting built heritage, to
help save a Liverpool landmark. Holt's Arcade is threatened with closure on
security grounds, following the HMRC signing a 25 year lease to move 3,500 staff
members from Bootle, North Liverpool, and elsewhere, into India Buildings' upper
The HMRC claim that the free movement of
public access through Holt's Arcade, which bisects India Buildings, will
compromise the security of its work. Holt's Arcade, clad in Travertine marble,
is the centrepiece of Liverpool's landmark India Buildings, acclaimed as 1 of
Britain's greatest interwar buildings by renowned architectural historians. It
was designed in US Neo Classical 'City block style' by Herbert
Rowse and Arnold Thornely, in 1923 and completed in 1930, for Alfred Holt and
Co, which owned the legendary Blue Funnel Line, trading to the Far East and
Holt's Arcade was devised when the City Council insisted that if this giant
building was to straddle 2 blocks then the 18th Century passageway, Chorley
Street, must remain a public thoroughfare. Even during WWII, Holt's Arcade
remained open, in spite of being adjacent to the crucial Western Approaches
Combined Operations Command Centre directing the Battle of the Atlantic. This is
why the MCS believes public access to Holt's Arcade, a nationally unique public
thoroughfare of superlative design and execution, needs national protection and
should not be closed due to security concerns that could be dealt with by
instigation of basic security staffing and technology.
Jean Grant, MCS chair, said:- "Our MP's, politicians, and the authorities
at the highest national level safeguarding our historic architecture, must be
alerted to the serious threat of banishing the public from Holt's Arcade by the
HMRC. There is simply nowhere like it in the UK and it is one of the premier
components of why Liverpool received UNESCO World Heritage Site status as the
prime example of a mercantile seaport City. This alone is good reason for
Historic England to ensure the public is allowed continued access to this
architectural interior Tour-de-Force. After all, the HMRC will occupy the upper
levels of India Buildings, while Holt's Arcade is on the ground floor. Also as
high end tourism plays an increasingly important role in Liverpool's economic
revival, the last thing that the City should be doing is deliberately putting 1
of its incredible architectural gems out of bounds to visitors."
MCS is supporting the online petition set up by photographer Dave Woods also
calling for retaining public access to Holt's Arcade.
Joseph Sharples, Pevsner Liverpool Architectural Guide author, wrote:-
"India Buildings, in scale, combination of functions and architectural
treatment, emulates the most ambitious early 20th American commercial buildings.
Arched entrances to (Holt's Arcade) in Water and Brunswick Streets open into
spacious elevator halls, lined with Travertine marble, linked by a noble tunnel
vaulted arcade of shops through the centre."
Prof. Charles Reilly, former Head of Liverpool University School of
Architecture, said:- "The building would not disgrace (New York's) 5th
Avenue; indeed it would sit very happily there."
here for further information on the
campaign to save Holt's Arcade. Also please do let us know your views on this
topic via emailing us to:-
Did you know? If you don't already know, the Merseyside Civic Society has been
helping to preserve Liverpool's History and promoting design quality for the
future since 1938.