India Building is a commercial building with its principal entrance in Water Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, England. Mainly an office building, it also contains an internal shopping arcade and the entrance to an underground station. It was built between 1924 and 1932, damaged by a bomb in 1941, and later restored to its original condition under the supervision of one of its original architects. The building, its design influenced by the Italian Renaissance and incorporating features of the American Beaux-Arts style.
The building occupies a whole block, and is surrounded by Water Street, Brunswick Street, Fenwick Street, and Drury Lane. It has nine storeys, a mezzanine, a basement and a sub-basement. The building is constructed on a steel frame and is clad in Portland stone. It is roofed in green Lombardic tiles.
India Buildings was built between 1924 and 1932. The competition for its design was won in 1923 by Arnold Thornely and Herbert J. Rowse, the assessor being Giles Gilbert Scott. It was built as a speculative venture by the shipping firm of Richard Durning Holt and Alfred Holt and Company (the Blue Funnel Line) partly for its own use, and partly for letting offices to other businesses. It was built by Dove Brothers of Islington, its steelwork being made and erected by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough.
The cost of the building was £1.25 million.
The building replaced an older one on the site known as "India Building's", built in the 1830s for George Holt, the father of Alfred. The new building was constructed in two stages, the first stage being alongside the earlier building, and the second stage demolishing and replacing it. The two stages straddled the former Chorley Street. Before the design was approved, Liverpool Corporation stipulated that an arcade of shops should run through the centre of the building on the route of the street, and this was incorporated into the design. The original occupants included Lloyds Bank, a Post Office, commercial and insurance companies, solicitors, and government offices. Alfred Holt and Company occupied most of the sixth, seventh and eighth floors. Also in the building were a public hall and a constitutional club. India Building was badly damaged by bombing in 1941, and was later restored to its original condition under the supervision of Herbert J. Rowse.
India Building was designated as a Grade II listed building on 14 March 1975. Following a campaign by the Twentieth Century Society, its designation was raised to Grade II* on 5 November 2013. One of the reasons given for this elevation in status is its transatlantic influence, reflecting Liverpool's historic links with the United States, stating that it "emulates the most impressive early 20th-century commercial buildings of the US", particularly those in New York.
Other reasons include its architectural interest, including influences from the Italian Renaissance and the American Beaux-Arts movement, and the eminence of its architects. Also noted are its planning interest, in that it follows the United States grid system of town planning, the high quality of its internal finishes, its degree of survival with its major elements having been retained, and its group value with the nearby listed buildings.
Architects: “it was designed by Herbert Rowse and…represents one of his most significant works”;
Planning interest: “it is an excellent example of a British building following the US-style grid system of town planning”;
The entrances in Water Street and Brunswick Street lead into foyers. Each foyer has three painted and coffered saucer domes in the ceiling, supported by fluted Ionic columns in Travertine marble. There are doors to two lifts on each side. The shopping arcade has Travertine walls and floors, and a coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling with pendant lights. Along the sides of the arcade are shops with decorative bronze fronts. Elsewhere on the ground floor are larger areas originally occupied by the bank, the Post Office and the public hall. The upper floors contain offices, some of which have retained their original layout, while others have been altered.
Water Street was originally called - Bonk Street (it ran up the "bonk" in Lancashire dialact, the bonk of the river i.e. the bank), eventually became Bank Street and then Water Street.
It’s one of Liverpool’s oldest streets and it was the main approach from the river, at the foot of which travellers landed on the sandy seashore of the town, from the monks’ ferry at Birkenhead, or from Ireland.
Later, the Talbot, a coaching in, crowned the top of the slope where the Bank of Liverpool was later to replace it. On either sides, little lanes and alleys, forerunners of the town’s notorious courts, ran between wretched houses alongside butchers’ shambles.
At the foot of the street, guarding the place of embarkation, lay the strong thick walls of the tower, built initially as the residence of the powerful Stanley family but converted after 1413 into a place of strength.
The Stanleys were also Lords of Man, a title granted after the battle of Shrewsbury where as Shakespeare’s Richard III tells us, Stanley’s troops switched sides at the last minute.
The tower protected the Lord and his retinues, they came and went by sea. During the Royalist seige of Liverpool by Prince Rupert, the tower was used as the parliamentary headquarters and later as a prison for French captives during the Napoleonic wars, by which time it was "so ill suited and disorganised that debtors mixed with criminals in the grossest and most wretched conditions, and gaol fever was rarely absent".
It was finally demolished in l820 and a set of new offices - the Tower Buildings - erected in its place.