PRESS RELEASE: Palatial Liverpool hotel completes spectacular 90-year return journey
17th February 2023
Forty-five years since SAVE Britain’s Heritage first intervened to avert demolition, guests at Liverpool’s newest hotel can experience one of the most spectacular return journeys in railway architectural history
Radisson Hotel Group’s £30m conversion of the monumental Victorian château fronting Lime Street Station restores the listed building’s original use, almost ninety years since it closed as a hotel in March 1933 – and fifty years since it escaped the bulldozer.
Opened in 1871 with over 300 bedrooms, the ‘North Western Hotel’ was originally designed as a railway hotel aimed at American travellers crossing the Atlantic between New York and Liverpool on the great Cunard and White Star ocean liners.
Its fairy-tale turrets and towers, based on mediaeval French castles, are the work of celebrated Liverpool architect Alfred Waterhouse, who went on to design London’s Natural History Museum and Manchester’s spectacular Town Hall.
In its glory days the hotel hosted royal guests like the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Zanzibar, with uniformed porters to attend arrivals by train.
But in the age of concrete and glass, Victorian tastes fell from fashion, and after a period in office use, the old station hotel was threatened with demolition and redevelopment during the 1970s.
Seeing its potential, SAVE Britain’s Heritage featured the palatial building in one of its first ever national campaigns, ‘Off the Rails’ (1977), alongside another favourite railway hotel, the Midland Grand at London’s St Pancras.
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain's Heritage, recalls that: “Blackened by a century of soot, it could hardly be called inviting, but formed a monumental essay in French Renaissance style built to last for centuries.”
After a decade of campaigning, Lime Street’s imposing stone frontage was eventually restored in the 1990s by Liverpool John Moores University, when the North Western reopened as a city centre student hall of residence.
Retired University Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Toyne remembers marvelling at how much of the original Waterhouse building remained fit for purpose, with not a single window frame requiring replacement.
After housing a generation of students, plans to return the upper floors, main reception and southern ground to the original hotel use were first discussed in 2016, when John Moores University sold their interest.
Conversion into an upscale Radisson RED is now complete - reopening as a hotel on December 13th 2022 almost exactly ninety years after the original North Western went dark.
There are now 201 luxury bedrooms, including suites with exceptional views over Liverpool’s former UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a basement gym and meeting spaces.
A superb arched reception space with granite fireplace and Corinthian columns sits beneath the hotel’s centrepiece, a gargantuan stone staircase whose beautiful cast iron balustrade is some 300ft (94metres) long, lit by a lovingly restored stained glass atrium window.
Interior decor by Koncept ID, the design team of architects Leach Rhodes Walker, is contemporary in tone, with references to sixties style icons in a nod to Liverpool’s pop cultural prominence.
The colonnaded hotel restaurant ‘STOKE’ has been well reviewed, and the newly recruited staff were welcoming and enthusiastic when we visited. They and the hotel’s first guests are new travellers on a great railway journey.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage, congratulated those who worked on the reopening: “Victorian vision, informed by romantic tastes and unshakeable engineering, is proving its commercial mettle in the 2020s – a tribute to the original builders, Radisson Hotel Group and heritage campaigners who act to keep such treasures on the rails from one century to the next.”
Notes to editors:
1. For more information contact Ben Dewfield-Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage – firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7253 3500
2. Lead image: Liverpool's former North Western Hotel in the winter sunshine in February 2023 ahead of it's reopening after 90 years (Credit: Jonathan Brown)
3. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.