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24 September 2014

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Inside Lowlands
Chatting in the original 1962 coffee bar

Merseybeat venue to be restored

A slice of Liverpool’s Merseybeat history housed in Lowlands Community Centre in West Derby is to be restored thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Liverpool mansion where the Beatles once failed an audition and Merseybeat groups used to perform is to be restored with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Lowlands, a Grade II listed mansion, was built in 1846 by local builder and architect Thomas Haigh.

In the 1960’s the building was home to The Pillar Club where many of the local groups played. The Over 21’s Coffee Bar on one of the upper floors survives in its original 1962 state.

George Harrison was a regular attendee, at this time he was playing for another group The Les Stewart Quartet. It was with the Les Stewart Quartet that George Harrison played The Pillar Club in the late 1950’s.

Lowlands in West Derby, Liverpool

In ‘The Beatles Anthology’, Harrison describes how at the club he heard of a new establishment on the same street, The Casbah Club, and this was where he was to first meet the Beatles original drummer Pete Best. The Quarrymen are also believed to have played at the club in mid 1958.

The Beatles are reputed to have attended an audition at The Pillar Club, which they failed.

The Over 21’s Coffee Bar, which was frequented by Gerry Marsden, The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits, is to be refurbished with the lottery money to form one of the centrepiece attractions of the community centre.

Lowlands has been awarded £999,600 to restore the building. Minister for Culture David Lammy says the building is an important part of the local community. "Lowlands has witnessed some great sights and sounds in its time and it’s only right that we pay tribute to that today.

“The building and its history is not only a much loved and valued part of the local community it also represents an important part of Liverpool’s musical heritage.

One of the grand galleries at Lowlands

“This is a great example of community passion”, he added.  “People from all walks of life have come together and worked with a rare dedication and enthusiasm to achieve a common goal of safeguarding Lowlands for a further 50 years for the local community and it is work that I welcome wholeheartedly.”

The most famous resident of Lowlands during its use as a family home was the Chairman of Liverpool’s Stock Exchange Thomas Randles Withers. He was a wealthy Victorian grandee who had another home at Windermere in the Lake District.

When the Randles Withers family moved out the house was bought by Alderman Ernest Cookson to save it from demolition. During the Second World War the building was used by the Inland Revenue after their offices at Liverpool’s India Buildings suffered bomb damage. The building was listed Grade 2 in 1975.

West Derby Community Association took over the house in 1957 turning part of it into The Pillar Club which remained there until 1966. The West Derby Community Association now use the building as their base hosting numerous events and even growing organic produce in the garden.

last updated: 12/04/06
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