A history of blue plaques in the Liverpool City Region
Words by Lawrence Saunders
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the London blue plaques scheme which provides a unique window into the capital’s past with over 900 permanent signs featured on buildings across the city to commemorate a link between each location and a famous resident.
The scheme was extended to include the Liverpool City Region in 2000, the first time it had ventured outside of London. Although ultimately short-lived, a total of 14 blue plaques were erected – the highest number outside of the capital.
Join us as we take a look back at the buildings across the region which have been honoured with their own blue badge and discover the stories behind their famous residents.
251 Menlove Avenue, L25 – Erected 7 December 2000
The three-bedroom semi where John Lennon spent most of his childhood has become a place of pilgrimage for Beatles fans from across the world.
Purchased in 2002 by Yoko Ono, and then donated to the National Trust, John lived at the South Liverpool home with his aunt Mimi and uncle George until the age of 22.
A picture of the property was famously featured on the cover of Oasis’ 1994 hit single ‘Live Forever’ and was Grade II-listed by English Heritage in 2002 along with Paul McCartney’s nearby childhood home on Forthlin Road.
Sir Ronald Ross
The Johnston Building, Quadrangle, L3 – Erected 13 November 2000
Indian-born British medical doctor Sir Ronald Ross became the first Briton to be awarded a Noble Prize when in 1902 he was rewarded for his groundbreaking discovery that mosquitoes transmitted malaria.
The breakthrough came whilst Sir Ronald was employed in India with the Indian Medical Service. After 25 years of service, he came to Liverpool where he served for 10 years as professor and chair of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
William and Eleanor Rathbone
Greenbank House, Greenbank Lane, L18 – Erected 29 July 2001
This property, situated opposite Greenbank Park was home to two of Liverpool’s most famous philanthropic families.
Creator of the first system of district nursing in the city William Rathbone and his daughter Eleanor, a suffragette and pioneer of the state-funded family allowance, lived at this cottage which was later bequeathed to the University of Liverpool.
The family still retains a presence in the city with Rathbone Investment Management, based at the Port of Liverpool Building.
28 Ullet Road, L17 – Erected 6 July 2000
A city engineer responsible for a swathe of landmark projects in his home city including the UK’s first ring road (Queens Drive), electric trams and the East Lancashire Road – John Brodie was reportedly most proud of his contribution to the evolution of football when, in 1889, he designed the goal net.
Despite this breakthrough, his greatest achievement was unquestionably the building of the Mersey Tunnel, completed in 1934; it was at the time the world’s longest underwater road tunnel.
40 Falkner Square, L8 – Erected 18 March 2002
Considered by many architectural historians as one of the most influential buildings of its time, the modernist-style Oriel Chambers on Water Street, designed by architect Peter Ellis, is certainly one of Liverpool’s most striking structures.
Born on what is now William-Brown Street in 1805, Peter won the right to design the five-storey building, which became one of the first in the world to feature a metal-framed glass curtain wall, in a competition.
Sir Charles Reilly
171 Chatham Street, L7 – Erected March 2002
Largely credited with establishing the training of architects at university as an alternative to the old system of apprenticeships, Sir Charles Reilly was an influential figure in the careers of several esteemed figures of British architecture.
The Liverpool School of Architecture became world famous under his leadership and was the first university school of its kind to design and run a RIBA-accredited degree course on the subject.
19 Abercromby Square, L3 – Erected 13 November 2001
An accomplished athlete who represented Great Britain at the 1908 Olympics, Captain Noel Chavasse served as a medic during the First World War, becoming one of only three men to have been awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross twice.
Awarded the first of his medals for gallantry shown during a battle at Guillemont in France in August 1916 where he attended to wounded soldiers under fire, Noel was posthumously awarded his second VC for what King George described as “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty” a year later at Wieltje in Belgium.
2 Zig Zag Road, L12 – Erected 23 November 2000
Born into a staunchly left-wing family, legendary Labour firebrand Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Braddock served as an MP for the Liverpool Exchange for over 20 years, becoming well known for her forthright and no-nonsense approach.
During the Second World War, ‘Battling Bessie’ joined the Liverpool Ambulance Service and reportedly drove her ambulance through all 68 of the devastating air raids which struck the city.
Made the first Freewoman of Liverpool months before her death in 1970, a statue of the MP stands in Lime Street station in company with Ken Dodd.
The Hollies, Station Road, L31 – Erected 6 July 2000
The first building to be awarded a blue plaque outside of London – this modest Maghull semi was home to the creator of the wildly successful Meccano construction sets, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys.
Frank, who was elected as a Conservative MP for Everton in 1931, started out making metal toys for his children – the breakthrough came when Hornby discovered that if he could make separate, interchangeable parts which could be fitted together, any model could be built from the same component.
Thomas Henry Ismay
13 Beach Lawn, L22 – Erected 8 January 2001
As owner of the famous White Star Shipping Line, Cumbrian-born Thomas Ismay undertook a number a significant projects during his time in the region including the building of a private home in Thurstaston in Wirral and the creation of the innovative vessel Oceanic.
However, it was of course the ill-fated HMS Titanic which his firm is best known for. Although Thomas died seven years before it set sail his son Joseph Bruce did make the journey – surviving the disaster.
7 Elm Grove, Birkenhead – Erected 3 October 2001
Regarded by many as Britain’s greatest First World War poet, Wilfred Owen surprisingly spent much of his childhood here in the region.
During his time in Birkenhead, Wilfred attended The Birkenhead Institute (BI) School, enjoyed swimming at the Argyle Street public baths and horse riding on New Brighton beach.
Wilfred was already fascinated by the art of poetry during his time at the BI where his teachers referring to him as a “very favourite pupil”, obsessed with the desire to learn.
Pennant House, Bebington – Erected 29 July 2001
One of the lesser known figures in the region to be honoured, goldsmith and collector Joseph Mayer moved to Liverpool from Staffordshire aged 20 where he worked as an apprentice at his brother-in-law’s jewellery shop before setting up his own business.
His vast collection covered a wide range of subjects and eras including Egyptian and Roman artefacts, English paintings and medieval art.
In 1852 Mayer opened a museum in Colquitt Street, before bestowing his extensive collection to the Liverpool Museum (now World Museum) in 1867.
Sir Patrick Abercrombie
18 Village Road, Oxton – Erected 18 March 2002
Pioneering town and country planner Sir Patrick Abercrombie spent 20 years in the region, serving as Professor of Civic Design at the University of Liverpool before leaving to become Professor of Town Planning at University College London (UCL).
It was during this time in the capital where Sir Patrick completed his two most celebrated works, the County of London Plan (1943) and the Greater London Plan (1944).
The reports pointed out the main direction infrastructure redevelopment in London should take following the bomb damage second world war.
Sir Henry Tate
42 Hamilton Square, Birkenhead – Erected 3 October 2001
Chorley-born sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate began his career as an apprentice at his brother’s grocery shop in Liverpool. By the age of 36 he had chain of six shops across Merseyside.
Sir Henry’s first venture into the sugar business came in 1859 and by 1872 he had his own refinery which, using new techniques which yielded increased levels of white sugar, was producing 400 tonnes a week.
Following his death in 1899, Sir Henry’s collection of paintings was bequeathed to the nation, helping to form the nucleus of the Tate Gallery, now known as Tate Britain.