It is often the case that Britain’s most visually recognizable buildings and landmarks are appreciated by many but are often not known by name. That is almost always the case with the Royal Liver Building, which is one of the most notable structures and memorable sites in the city of Liverpool. What’s more, as well as not being known by name, this spectacular building is one which almost nobody knows the history of or what it is used for.

In fact the majority of us only know of its existence because its image has been commonly used to represent the city of Liverpool as a whole, when we think of Liverpool we think of the Royal Liver Building. Everyone recognizes the iconic architecture from television programmes, advertising campaigns, and even the promotion of sporting events.

The history of the Royal Liver Building

In 1907 the Royal Liver Assurance Group, a Liverpool based finance company which had been in existence since 1850, had grown to employ over 6000 people and therefore needed a larger headquarters.

It was they therefore, who commissioned architect Walter Aubrey Thomas to design this new headquarters. The result was the Royal Liver Building at a waterfront location on the Pier Head along the course of the River Mersey. On the 11th May 1908, the foundation stone of the building was laid and it was just three years later on the 19th July 1911 that the structure was officially opened by Lord Sheffield.

The most notable features of the building’s construction are undoubtedly the two large clock towers at either end of the building and the legendary ‘Liver Birds’ which sit on top of them. The clocks were created by Gent and Co. of Leicester and are larger than those on London’s House of Parliament, measuring 7.6 m (25 feet) in diameter. The clocks were originally known as ‘George Clocks’ as they were started at the exact moment that King George V was crowned on 22 June 1911.

The ‘Liver Birds’ themselves were designed by Carl Bernard Bartels, they are around 18 feet tall and are built from a moulded and hammered copper construction. There are a multitude of local legends surrounding the birds, but one of the most pervasive is that which states that if either of the birds were to leave then the city of Liverpool would cease to exist.

The Royal Liver Building in the present day

Today, the Royal Liver Building forms one of the so-called ‘three graces’ of Liverpool along with the neighboring Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building. The building has gained English Heritage Grade I listed status and is also considered a part of the UNESCO designated World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool.

Having once been the tallest storied building in Europe, the Royal Liver Building is now only the fourth tallest in Liverpool due to the construction of the West Tower, Radio City Tower, and Liverpool Cathedral. In terms of usage, the Royal Liver Building is still a commercial office building inhabited by the Royal Liver Assurance Group who recently enjoyed the 164th anniversary of their foundation.