Overlooked Britain Lucinda Lambton
With Liverpool’s modernist Catholic cathedral rearing up at the end of Hope Street, our architectural sensibilities are sharpened; although, it must be said, not altogether pleasurably.
Designed by Frederick Gibberd in 1974 – he who was responsible for Didcot Power Station in 1964, as well as the Regent’s Park Mosque in 1977 – we have reverie aplenty.
Our goal, though, is quite a different kettle of fish. On the corner of Hardman Street, we come upon a great, exuberant, free-style public house: the pleasingly named Philharmonic Dining Rooms of 1898. It is three storeys high and ten bays long, with great stepped gables and ogee domes. Two oriel windows jut forth on high, along with balustrades and balconies, with a wealth of low-relief
sculpture marching around the stone façade. Above the door, stone musicians ply their craft, saluting the Philharmonic Hall that stands diagonally across the road. Originally built in the 1840s, this was rebuilt in the Streamline Moderne style in the 1930s. HURRAY for the architectural mélange of Hope Street.
It is the Philharmonic gates, though – the beautiful, intricate and original-fortheir-day gates – that give the first real clue as to the extent of the wonders that are to be found inside the ‘Phil’, as the pub is known locally.
It is renowned for being one of the finest examples of the art-nouveau style in the British Isles; no small claim! It was all designed by craftsmen from the School of Architecture and Applied Arts at University College (now the University
of Liverpool), supervised by Paul Neil and Arthur Stratton.
Charles Allen created the terrific plasterwork. Would any heart not quicken at the sight of giant gilded artichokes, flanking scantily clad art-nouveau women, sweeping around beneath the salon ceiling? H Blomfield Bare was responsible for the gates, and the architect overall was Walter W Thomas.
Inside, the scene before you is barely believable. So great is the glitter of mahogany and mosaics of every hue; of stained glass and cut glass, of copper and of brass, that you feel assaulted by the extent of decoration. A vast horseshoe bar, emblazoned with mosaics of every hue, rules over the room. Bands of copper, with repoussé, willowy women playing musical instruments, glint forth.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms’ gloriously ornate urinals (above), mosaic-tiled bar (right) and gates (below right)