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Cunard Building, Liverpool - A Visit

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2009

On Saturday September 26, 2009 members of the World Ship Society Merseyside Branch were given a guided tour of the Cunard Building located at the Pier Head, Liverpool. The Cunard Building was the former headquarters of the Cunard Steamship Company until it was vacated in the 1960s.

The Cunard Building was the third building to be constructed at the Pier Head on the site of the former George's Dock. Located between Brunswick Street and Water Street the plot was acquired by the Cunard Steamship Company in 1914 as a site for the company's headquarters.

Construction of the building continued through World War I with completion in 1917. The freize around the upper part of the building is carved with shields of WWI allied countries.

Built in the Italian Renaissance style the building is constructed of reinforced concrete clad in Portland Stone with an Italian marble clad corridor on the ground floor. Marble from the same Italian quarry being obtained in recent years to refurbish the building's lift cars. 

The building is now owned by The Merseyside Pension Fund with accommodation let to a variety of business and government tenants as well as providing conference facilities which are available for hire. However, much maritime memorabilia remains whilst the building accommodates around 1200 employees. Whilst the building was in the ownership of the Cunard Steam Ship Company, the ground floor provided public facilities including booking offices and waiting facilities for first class passengers.

Please note some of the images have been reproduced in a higher resolution than the usual 800 x 600 pixels to enable finer detail and text to be read.

A building familiar to many - but what can be found behind the doors?Current OccupantsGround Floor looking north.Ground Floor looking south
Ground Floor from stair caseStaircaseStaircase Ironwork detailStaircaseClock - ground floor

The Cunard Building web site can be found at



Basement store rooms - the concreted over narrow gauge railway track was used to move heating coal and passenger baggage from entrance hatches on the Strand.

George's Dock Wall is visible in the basement on the Strand side of the building. The white residue - sea salt.

The secure vaults, each one sealed by a safe door - where valuable passenger luggage would be stored - they are still used today.  One of the vaults houses documents and Cunard bric-a- brac recovered from around the building - and what a treasure trove of material it accommodates! Take a look at some of these items:

Cunard - White Star soapCancelled 1st Class Ticket from SCYTHIA - 1956CARMANIA postcard and QUEEN MARY napkin.1st Class Ticket - Le Havre to Quebec SS SCYTHIA 1956 -  $257.50 plus $13.50 port tax!Early photos of the building interior.
Keys from a variety of Cunard ships.Correspondence relating to QUEEN MARY.Cunard Staff Medical Insurance contributions to BUPA paid via Midland Bank  1256 19 shillings paid October 1965.Accounts from furnishing specialists Waring & Gillow re QUEEN MARY - July 17, 1936.Desk with various recovered letters.

We now head off into the general baggage and stores area located just beyond the vaults. This is fitted out with racks, some of which still retain the names of some of the many Cunard ships which served Liverpool.

This is a dimly lit area which the flash makes it appear brighter than reality.

A last look into the vaultCunard leaves its markCustoms DepartmentLuggage Racks

Some racks are empty other contain gems from other shipping lines such as this Ellerman Lines documentation from the 1980s. Reminding us that in later years other shipping companies were based in the building.

Some corners are very dark only on examining this image later did it become apparent that there was a spool of 35mm film next to that box. Wonder when was on it?

Engine Room Logbooks from the 1970s voyages of ATLANTIC CAUSEWAY - date from Cunard involvement in ACL

Cunard - White Star first class luggage label.
Luggage racks from AQUITANIA and CARMANIA.Smaller storage racks in the Secretary and purchasing department store. Just look at the famous names: AURANIA, ATHENIA, LETITIA, LUSCANIA, BERENGARIA.Decorative Artists Store.
From the depths of the building we now head to the lofty heights of the sixth floor at the top of the building.

The Cunard Conference Room - the painting of QUEEN MARY  was rescued from rubbish being thrown out of the building and restored.

Corridors on the sixth floor of the Cunard Building.
The 100 seat Banqueting SuiteThe Boardroom features several prints including deck plans of the LANCASTRIA.
Ground Floor plans dating from the 1930s showing the arrangement of facilities in the public area of the building. Much of the ground floor which once comprised the booking office, 1st Class Passenger waiting room etc.  is now occupied by UK Government Regional Offices.
Now out onto the roof we go. Many people would presume the Cunard Building would offer an excellent vantage point of the river and Pier Head. However, the reality is somewhat different - there is a very restricted view from the roof!
The only view overlooking the river is from a narrow walkway which leads to the centre flagpole above the parapet which from main roof level stands at least 12ft high. However, this high parapet provides excellent protection from high winds blowing up the River Mersey.
New Mersey Ferries Terminal BuildingWalkway to central Flag poleNewly refurbished office space.The light space on the western side of the building - only the ground floor and basements occupy the full site. The light space providing illumination to the ground floor which included the first class booking office and waiting room.

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