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24 September 2014
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Lime Street History

Lime Street
Lime Street, Alexandre Promio, 1897.

Video Watch footage of Lime Street in 1897
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  Copyright © Lime Street, Alexandre Promio, 1897 copyright Association frères Lumière - France

Steve Binns is Radio Merseyside's local historian. He does a bi-weekly feature on the lunchtime programme every Wednesday.

Steve Binns
Listen to Steve's History of Lime Street
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Steve Binns, Local Historian

"Lime Street was set out in 1790, named after William Harvey’s lime kilns. In 1804 the doctors at the local infirmary complained about the smell, so they were moved.
But of course, the street kept its name.

It must have had a very frontier atmosphere in the 19th century. It was beyond the edge of the old town boundary.

All that changed with two arrivals.
The railway first in 1851, then in 1856 and St George’s Hall, which opened in 1854.

St George’s Hall turned Liverpool from a provincial north of England town, to the second city of Empire.
Its nearness to the station is of great significance. It was Liverpool’s message to the world.

If you looked out of St George’s Hall on the day of opening, you would have seen thousands of houses. They couldn’t leave it "stuck out there like a sore thumb" as one person said, they had to connect it to the old town. William Brown Street was that connection.
The library and museum of the 1860s; the Walker Art Gallery, now refurbished, of the 1870s; the good old Empire Theatre, of another name in 1871, then under its modern name in 1925 and the North Western Hotel - all of these buildings turned Lime Street into a dramatic quarter.

An arrival place for those people coming from all over the country and indeed, all over the world. The plateau has been the scene for some of the most dramatic events in our history:

- Crowds gathered there after the death of Gladstone, the death of Queen Victoria, the assassination of John Lennon.

- 30,000 people awaiting the verdict in the Maybrick or Wallace trial.

- The famous strikes of 1911 and 1919.

- The return of football teams, the Beatles, the declarations of
governments and elections.

All of these have brought people onto that sometimes rather breezy open space.

One of its most famous features was Professor Codman and his Punch and Judy show. This was such an institution in the city, that when it was threatened with removal it created the kind of public campaign that we are more used to nowadays then we were in the 1950s.

Lime Street was full of atmosphere, pubs and people. Some guide books will tell you of the ladies of the night.

Its famous pubs were of the early 20th century. The Crown, The Vines, otherwise known around here as the Big House. The American Bar, which is older than both of those.

At the beginning of the 20th century it also became a Mecca for the new entertainment - the cinema. Several cinemas including very famous ones like the Forum, have occupied this ground since before the first world war.

There was "England’s front door", as they called the Adelphi. The present hotel was opened in 1912, but it is the second hotel on that site."

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