World Museum, Liverpool

World Museum, Liverpool

World Museum, Liverpool


23 May 2015

William Brown Street, Liverpool

SJ 34808 90770; 53.40968°N, 2.98218°W


William Brown (1784-1864), who was born in Ballymena and who had lived for a number of years in America, founded the Liverpool merchant firm William Brown & Co in 1810. He entered into partnership with Joseph Shipley in 1825 to form Brown, Shipley & Co (which survives today as a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based KBL European Private Bankers SA) and over the years the firm’s emphasis shifted from trading to merchant banking. Brown served as Liberal MP for South Lancashire from 1846 to 1859 and was honoured for his philanthropy by having a street named after him. He was also created Baronet Brown of Richmond Hill in 1863.

Following the construction in Liverpool of the monumental St George’s Hall, which was built on the site of the 1749 infirmary and which opened in 1854, there was a vision of transforming the adjoining area then known as Shaw’s Brow into a forum surrounded by grand civic buildings. The idea of a forum was never realised, but the following buildings were constructed in what became William Brown Street: Library and Museum; Walker Art Gallery; Picton Reading Room; County Sessions House; and, finally, the Museum Extension and Central Technical School.

The first of these public buildings, the Library and Museum, was built between 1857 and 1860. London architect Thomas Allom (1804-1872) had been commissioned to design it and his plans were subsequently adapted by Corporation Surveyor John Weightman (1793-1883) in order to save costs. William Brown initially donated £6,000 towards the project, into which the Corporation invested £10,000. Brown later donated a further £35,000 to enable the project to be completed. The new building served as a replacement for the city’s Derby Museum, which housed the natural history collection bequeathed by Edward Smith-Stanley (1775-1851), 13th Earl of Derby and former president of the Linnean Society. The new museum’s collection eventually outgrew its premises and in 1901 it expanded into the newly built extension on its left – designed by Edward William Mountford (1855-1908) – which also housed the Central Technical School.

The building sustained serious damage during World War II when it was bombed in 1941. The Library was subsequently rebuilt in 1957-60 and the Museum in 1963-69 by City Architect Ronald Bradbury (1908-1971), with the original façade being retained. Major alterations were completed in 2005 when the then Liverpool Museum became the World Museum. New galleries were opened, with the museum expanding into the lower half of the extension building, which at the time was owned by Liverpool John Moores University. The old entrance, up a flight of stone steps, was also replaced by a new ground-level entrance leading into a five-storey atrium.

The original building, which houses part of the World Museum and part of the Central Library, has Grade II* listed status.

Further Reading

World Museum;
William Brown Library and Museum (Wikipedia);
World Museum (Wikipedia)