University of Liverpool Victoria Building
The Victoria Building was one of the first buildings purpose built for University College and is the building from which the term "Redbrick University" was coined.Within five years of the opening of University College, Liverpool the needs of growing numbers of staff and students demanded new buildings. Principal Rendall drew the Council's attention to the College's lack of space in a memorandum as early as 1887. When the need for additional space was acknowledged, Alfred Waterhouse was asked to submit plans for a new building along the College's Brownlow Hill frontage to house, principally, the College's administration plus the teaching and staff accommodation for the Arts Faculty, a library, and common rooms for staff and students. A public appeal raised £54,000, almost the total needed, and included a gift of £20,000 from Sir Henry Tate (sugar refiner) intended to meet the costs of building the entire west wing, followed by an additional £5500 to purchase books for the library. Money raised in the City for a Jubilee Clock Tower in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 was generously handed over, meeting part of the cost of the Jubilee Tower, its clock and bells. The local jam manufacturer W.P. Hartley met the cost of the clock and chimes for the Jubilee Tower. On each of the five bells, cast by Taylor of Loughborough, is inscribed a line from Tennyson's In Memoriam and on the front of the building is a plaque with the words "For advancement of learning and ennoblement of life the Victoria Building was raised by men of Liverpool in the year of Our Lord 1892". The Victoria Building was formally opened in December 1892 by the Chancellor of the Victoria University, Lord Spencer.
The architect, Alfred Waterhouse, was born in Liverpool but based in London, although he worked in Liverpool during the 1880s-90s designing two insurance offices in the centre of Liverpool and the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. For University College he also designed the Walker Engineering Laboratories and the Thompson Yates Laboratories. The Victoria Building was the largest and most elaborate building that Waterhouse completed for the College, it met with critical approval when it was built but was harshly judged by the next generation of scholars.
The Victoria Building is a gothic splendour in rich red brick. At the time of its construction a railway line passed just metres away, helping to coat the red brick in a rich layer of soot. The railway cutting had a roof added in the 1960s and the Victoria Building was freed from its unwelcome coating and its characteristic red brick was clear for all to see.
After the building of the Harold Cohen Library in 1938, the Tate Library's fittings were removed, and the library became Tate Hall. With the expansion of the University and the ongoing building programme, more of the services originally housed in the Victoria Building moved out to their own premises. The administration of the University moved from the Victoria Building in 1970 with the completion of Senate House. In 2008, the University's iconic building became the showcase for the University Art and Heritage Collections, brought together in the Victoria Gallery & Museum. The plaque on the exterior could have been made for the Building’s new occupants: "For the Advancement of Learning".
The Victoria Building in the Archives:
- A selection of photographs of the Victoria Building
- Ref. No. S275 University College, Liverpool: Joint Building Committee of Council and Senate, Minute Book 15 March 1887-5 Dec. 1893, this committee was established to oversee the construction of the Victoria Building
- Dispersed throughout the archive are photographs and records relating to the Victoria Building. A good way to find these items is to complete a search on our on-line archive database.
- Joseph Sharples, Liverpool (Pevsner Architectural Guide, Yale University Press, 2004). The buildings of the University's Precinct are described (and some of them illustrated by colour photographs)
- Liverpool Heritage Bureau, Buildings of Liverpool (Liverpool City Planning Department, 1978)
- The University of Liverpool Recorder, 'The Victoria Building: its building, furnishing and use' (No.83 and 84, 1980).
- Thomas Kelly, For Advancement of Learning: the University of Liverpool, 1881-1981