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The Philharmonic Dining Rooms

A Grade I Listed Building in Central, Liverpool

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Latitude: 53.4018 / 53°24'6"N

Longitude: -2.9705 / 2°58'13"W

OS Eastings: 335568

OS Northings: 389877

OS Grid: SJ355898

Mapcode National: GBR 77Q.FK

Mapcode Global: WH877.BRPH

Plus Code: 9C5VC22H+PQ

Entry Name: The Philharmonic Dining Rooms

Listing Date: 12 July 1966

Last Amended: 30 January 2020

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1207638

English Heritage Legacy ID: 214308

Location: Central, Liverpool, L1

County: Liverpool

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Built-Up Area: Liverpool

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: St Luke in the City Team

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool

Tagged with: Pub

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Public house, 1898-1900, by Walter W Thomas for Robert Cain & Sons. Exuberant Free Style.


Public house, 1898-1900, by Walter W Thomas for Robert Cain & Sons. Exuberant Free Style.

MATERIALS: mainly ashlar with a pink and grey polished-granite plinth, slate roof coverings.

PLAN: the Philharmonic Dining Rooms has a rectangular plan and occupies a corner plot at the junction of Hope Street and Hardman Street with principal elevations onto both streets. It is bounded by Hope Street to the east, Hardman Street to the south, and adjoining buildings to the north and west.

EXTERIOR: externally the Philharmonic is of three-storeys plus an attic at the southern end, and has an asymmetrical composition with stepped and shaped gables with obelisk finials, tall chimneystacks, turrets with copper ogee domes, and a corbelled balustraded balcony that wraps around the second floor. The two principal elevations are of sandstone ashlar set upon a grey polished-granite plinth with a pink-granite band above that forms a deep sill band to the ground-floor windows. The windows, which are mostly mullioned and have shaped surrounds and heads, contain a mixture of etched, leaded and stained glass to the ground floor, and leaded glazing to the upper floors.

HOPE STREET ELEVATION: the eight-bay front elevation faces east onto Hope Street and incorporates the main entrance, which lies within four-bays to the right of centre, the first floor of which projects forward with slender, corbelled two-storey octagonal turrets to the outer bays and a two-bay balustraded serpentine balcony to the centre. The main entrance itself consists of a wide round-arched opening with highly ornate Art Nouveau gates of wrought iron and beaten copper by the architect and designer Henry Bloomfield Bare (1848-1912). The gates are ornamented with female heads and garlands and to the centre is a cartouche depicting a Liver bird flanked by gazelles (the emblem of the Cain's Brewery) with a banner below with relief lettering that reads: 'PACEM AMO' ('I love peace'), the motto of the Cain's Brewery. To the right is a large stained-glass lunette window, with the lower part of the window projecting out in the form of a canted bay. The two-bay first-floor serpentine balcony above is supported by grey polished-granite Ionic and Tuscan columns sat atop the building's pink-granite plinth band. The central Tuscan column is shorter as it also supports a substantial pink-granite paired corbel that incorporates a recessed licensing plaque on the south face. The balcony incorporates two segmental-headed bays with short, paired, polished-granite Tuscan columns separating the bays and doorways flanked by single lights. To the roof is a five-light dormer window. The two bays to the far right of the elevation are set underneath a shaped gable and have two massive nine-light windows to the ground floor with eared surrounds and round-headed upper lights, plain three-light mullioned windows to the first floor, and doorways onto the second-floor balcony with glazed double doors with an exaggerated triple keystone above. To the gable apex is the monogram 'R C S' (Robert Cain & Sons) in stylised relief lettering set within a keyed surround. On the left of the elevation is a wide bay with a stepped gable incorporating a shallow bow-shaped attic oriel window. On the ground floor is a large six-light window with an eared surround and round-headed upper lights, and to the first floor is a three-light mullioned window with an elaborate surround, including flanking engaged columns. Leading out onto the second-floor balcony are doorways in the same style as those to the shaped-gabled bay. At the southern end of the elevation is a large six-light window in the same style as its neighbour. Occupying the two floors above is a two-storey canted bay oriel window with carved frieze decoration that is mirrored on the building's south elevation facing Hardman Street. The two windows on each elevation almost touch each other at the south-east corner, forming an un-roofed turret or a giant polygonal oriel window.
HARDMAN STREET ELEVATION: the shorter three-bay south side elevation onto Hardman Street has a tall ground-floor entrance doorway underneath the two-storey oriel window with a panelled and etched-glass door (no longer used), paired square overlights, and floating dentilled segmental cornice above set around a carved roundel displaying a man in profile (musician or composer) and musical instruments. The two bays to the left are set underneath a stepped gable and have similarly styled windows to the corresponding stepped gable on the east elevation, and a further doorway that is a wider version of its neighbour to the right.

INTERIOR: internally the interior decoration and styling was completed by designers and craftsmen supervised by George Hall Neale and Arthur Stratton of University College's (later the University of Liverpool) School of Architecture and Applied Arts, and it incorporates Arts & Crafts elements throughout the ground floor. Jacobean-style ceiling plasterwork exists to most areas of the ground floor, along with heavily moulded cornices, mahogany woodwork, and mahogany fireplaces with marble inserts.

MAIN ENTRANCE: the main-entrance vestibule has a mosaic floor and contains an inner doorway comprised of a classical doorcase with a swan-necked pediment set within a glazed arched screen with paired etched-glass side lights.

MAIN DRINKING LOBBY: the main entrance leads into a large drinking lobby with an elaborate Jacobean-style ceiling with pendant drops, a decorative patterned mosaic floor, and a wide horseshoe-shaped bar servery/counter with a mosaic-clad front, a brass foot rail, and an island bar back behind. Rising from the bar counter and supporting the ceiling are fluted Corinthian columns incorporating carved bands. On the east side of the lobby is a high, patterned glazed-tile dado that continues into and around the southern part of the ground floor, which is separated from the main drinking lobby by a full-height panelled screen with arcaded leaded-glazed clerestory lights with stained-glass shield motifs. A doorway in the south-east corner of the drinking lobby leads into a public bar at the south end, whilst doorways in the south-west corner lead to the gentlemen's toilets, a smaller drinking lobby and the Hardman Street entrance, and a stair accessing the first floor. On the west side of the main drinking lobby is a large inglenook lined with wall panelling and repoussé copper panels by Henry Bloomfield Bare depicting musicians. Curved bench seating flanks a central fireplace with a pink-marble insert and an elaborate mahogany chimneypiece incorporating a round mirror. Two stained-glass panels above depict Lord Baden-Powell and Field Marshal Earl Roberts KG VC who were commanding officers fighting in the Second Boer War, which was taking place at the time of the pub's construction.

SNUGS: a short corridor leads northwards from the main drinking lobby to the former billiards room (now known as the Grande Lounge) and continues the lobby's mosaic flooring. The corridor is flanked on either side by two square snugs (now humorously recorded as 'Brahms' and 'Liszt' above their entrances) with panelled walls onto the corridor and drinking lobby, geometric patterned clerestory windows, and canted corners facing into the drinking lobby with classical doorcases with segmental pediments and six-panel doors with trefoil-arched glazed upper panels with etched glass. The former smoke room ('Brahms') on the west side has wall panelling up to just above half-height in dark and light veneers with diamond, cross and quatrefoil patterns and built-in bell pushes. To the top of the west wall is a Gothic-style clerestory arcade with stained-glass panels behind and on the north wall is a fireplace with an overmantle incorporating a broken pediment and a mirror. The former news room ('Liszt') on the east side of the corridor also has wall panelling up to just above half-height, which incorporates carved relief panels with various imagery, including porpoises, and built-in bell pushes, and a fireplace with a swan-necked pediment, fluted Ionic pilasters, and an overmantle incorporating a mirror. Lighting the room on the east side, and overlooking Hope Street, is a large stained-glass lunette window depicting musical instruments and St Cecilia, the patroness of music, and words that read: 'Music is the Universal Language of Mankind'.

FORMER BILLIARDS ROOM: at the end of the corridor running off the main drinking lobby is a wide segmental-pedimented doorcase with modern gilded lettering that reads 'Grande Lounge' and a four-panel door with glazed upper lights. The Grande Lounge is a vast room at the north end of the ground floor that is one-and-a-half storeys in height and occupies the full depth of the building, and is believed to have originally been a billiards room. The ceiling is coffered and is sprung from corbelled arches with two of the largest coffers containing skylights with floriated stained glass; a third large coffer at the east end of the room is solid with Jacobean-style applied timberwork due to the presence of rooms above. The room is lit by two massive nine-light windows at the east end with stained and leaded glazing, crystal chandeliers, and twin-arm wall lights, and has wall panelling up to picture-rail height. The panelling incorporates vertical and horizontal repoussé copper panels by Henry Bloomfield Bare and Thomas Huson (1844-1920); the horizontal copper panels form a band around the room and include depictions of maritime landscapes, plants, animal and bird life, and fish, whilst the vertical panels depict stylised thistles. Above the panelling is decorative plasterwork by Charles John Allen (1862-1956), including elaborate, and tall, gilded thistles that run around the entire room in the style of a frieze. Above the room's entrance door the plasterwork depicts the crowning of Apollo and above the main fireplace on the north wall is 'The Murmur of the Sea'; both are flanked by corbelled male and female herms supporting the ceiling. The main fireplace has an overmantle incorporating a large later etched mirror and on the west wall is a further fireplace set within a shallow inglenook. A doorway in the south-west corner of the room with a classical doorcase integral to the wall panelling leads into a pot-washing area and fire exit.

GENTLEMEN'S TOILETS: the gentlemen's toilets, located off the main drinking lobby, has a decorative patterned mosaic floor and patterned glazed-tiled walls incorporating Art Nouveau mosaic panels and frieze, and retains its original sanitary ware, which consists of pink-marble basins and pink imitation-marble urinal surrounds.

PUBLIC BAR: the public bar at the south end of the ground floor has a doorway straight off Hardman Street, which is no longer in use. Off to the north-east corner access through to the main drinking lobby has been opened up through the removal of two doorways so that two linking spaces now flow into one another. The bar's ceiling is a continuation of that in the drinking lobby and is again supported by Corinthian columns rising from the bar counter, and a high, patterned glazed-tile dado continues around the room, although the lower part is panelled over in places. The floor is carpeted, although it is possible that the mosaic-work visible in neighbouring spaces continues underneath, and modern flame lamps carried on brass rails sit across the window sills. Projecting out from the centre of the screen dividing the public bar from the main drinking lobby is an L-shaped bar counter/servery that continues the line of the main drinking lobby bar, but here it is plainer with a panelled front and a brass countertop. An etched-glass and mahogany bar back incorporates swan-neck pediments and glazed arches that echo those of the main entrance screen. On the west side of the bar is a panelled screen with etched-glass upper panels that separates the bar from a vestibule and corridor off Hardman Street with a patterned mosaic floor and decorative glazed-tile dado. The screen has two doorways into the public bar, one of which forms part of a lobby providing access to the service areas behind the bar counter. Off to the west side of the corridor is a room in the south-west corner of the ground floor that has been converted into ladies' toilets. The corridor from the Hardman Street entrance leads to a small former drinking lobby with a bow-shaped counter on the east side with a crested mahogany screen sat atop that incorporates etched-glass sashes. A doorway in the glazed screen separating the public bar from the rest of the ground floor leads through to the first-floor stair and main drinking lobby.

UPPER FLOORS: the stair to the first floor is narrow with turned newel posts and balusters, and a ramped handrail. The upper floors retain moulded door architraves and four-panel doors, although some later doors have been inserted on the first floor. At the southern end of the first floor is a large and simply detailed dining room with plain moulded cornicing and a later inserted bar counter and bar back that now conceals a small space in the southern Hope Street turret. A chimneybreast survives, but the room's fireplace has been removed and an adjacent doorway has been inserted to create access into a neighbouring room, which has access out onto the first-floor balcony overlooking Hope Street and contains a timber and painted cast-iron fireplace. The rest of the first floor is comprised of modern commercial kitchens and former domestic rooms at the north end that are now used as offices and storage; at least one of which retains an original fireplace. The rooms are accessed by a short stair from one of the kitchen areas due to the greater height of the former billiards room below them. A now boxed-in stair flight leads up to the second floor, which has a corresponding large room above the first-floor dining room that is now disused, but was probably also originally another dining room. The room retains access to its turret space and also retains its chimneybreast, but has lost its fireplace. Three other rooms occupy the floor at this end, including former toilets. The second-floor rooms at the north end of the building, which are now a staff flat, were not available for inspection. The attic at the southern end has a series of plain rooms and a disused water tank.

CELLAR: the beer cellar, which lies underneath the southern end of the building, has concrete flooring and retains its original barrel chute.


The Philharmonic Dining Rooms was constructed in 1898 to the designs of Walter W Thomas for the Liverpool brewery Robert Cain & Sons. The interior decoration was carried out by a number of different craftsmen and artists, including the renowned sculptor Charles John Allen (1862-1956) and the architect and designer Henry Bloomfield Bare (1848-1912). Other designers and craftsmen were supervised by George Hall Neale and Arthur Stratton of University College's (later the University of Liverpool) School of Architecture and Applied Arts.

Walter W Thomas (1849-1912) was a Liverpool architect who is best known for his public house designs, but who also produced designs for Owen Owen's department store known as Audley House, and houses around Sefton Park. As well as the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Thomas also designed The Vines (1907, Grade II*) for Robert Cain & Sons, and rebuilt The Crown (1905, Grade II) for Walkers Brewery of Warrington, both on Lime Street.

Robert Cain (1826-1907) was born in Ireland but grew up in Liverpool. As a teenager he became an apprentice to a cooper on board a ship carrying palm oil from West Africa and after returning to Liverpool in 1844 he established himself first as a cooper, and then subsequently as a brewer in 1848. Cain began brewing at a pub on Limekiln Lane, but soon moved to larger premises on Wilton Street, and finally to the Mersey Brewery on Stanhope Street in 1858, which Cain extended in the late C19 and early C20. As well as brewing Cain also invested in property, built pubs, and ran a hotel adjacent to the Mersey Brewery. As his brewery business grew (known as Robert Cain & Sons from 1896) it bought out smaller brewers and took control of their pubs, evolving into a company that owned over 200 pubs in Liverpool by the late 1880s. In 1921 Robert Cain & Sons merged with Walkers Brewery to become Walker Cains, and the Liverpool brewery at Stanhope Street was sold to Higsons in 1923. After a succession of owners from the 1980s onwards the brewery, which still remains in operation on site in 2019, is being converted for mixed use.

Charles John Allen was appointed as a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Arts (later known as Liverpool School of Art) in 1894 and was a leading figure in the New Sculpture movement, whilst Henry Bloomfield Bare was President of the Liverpool Architectural Society and also worked in the United States, editing an Arts and Crafts magazine there in the early 1890s.

Reasons for Listing

The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, constructed in 1898 to the designs of Walter W Thomas for Robert Cain & Sons, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it is one of the finest public houses in England and the pinnacle of the 'gin palace' form of pub;

* it has an acutely original design with an exterior in an exuberant Free style and a highly ornate interior that reflects the status, wealth and ambition of Robert Cain who sought to create public houses of great beauty;

* the decorative entrance gates are widely considered to be among the finest Art Nouveau metalwork in England;

* the physical fabric incorporates decorative references to the building's musical links with the nearby Philharmonic Hall, as well as Liverpool's maritime history;

* the eclectic interior decoration, which was carried out by Charles John Allen, Henry Bloomfield Bare, and artists and craftsmen supervised by University College's School of Architecture and Applied Arts, is of exceptional quality and includes elaborate plasterwork and ceramics, repoussé copper work, finely detailed stained glass, and intricately carved woodwork throughout;

* it retains a wealth of high-quality original features, including mosaic-clad and panelled bar counters, glazed screens, mahogany fireplaces, and the original marble and imitation-marble sanitary ware in the gentlemen's toilets.

Group value:

* it has strong group value with its sister building, the nearby Grade II*-listed The Vines public house, which was also designed by Walter W Thomas for Robert Cain & Sons, as well as other listed buildings on Hope Street, including the Grade II*-Philharmonic Hall.

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