Specialist Quadriga has today started urgent repair works at Liverpool’s Wellington Rooms, latterly known as the city’s Irish Centre, to arrest the decay of the 202-year-old building.
The grade two-listed landmark, which sits within the city centre’s Knowledge Quarter on Mount Pleasant, has been closed since 1997 and is suffering from a leaking roof and dry rot.
Place North West understands the cost of the six-week project to be aorund £100,000, which is being jointly funded by Liverpool City Council and Historic England. Plans for the full restoration of the building are also now under way.
The neo-classical building, which was originally used for high society dance balls, lies within the buffer zone of Liverpool’s World Heritage site and is recognised by the city council and Historic England as the city’s top priority heritage ‘building at risk’.
In 2002, plans were approved for the Wellington Rooms to become a function suite, but were never implemented. Applications for hotel use were put forward in 2006 and 2007 but rejected because of the detrimental impact of a proposed three-storey extension.
The contract to carry out repairs and secure the heritage asset was awarded to Cheshire firm Quadriga, which has previously worked on projects at the British Museum, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the Royal Liver Building.
While the repairs take place Merseyside Building Preservation Trust is consulting with local shareholders and businesses on the results of an options appraisal of the building and, in partnership with Liverpool City Council, is hoping to secure a development partner by summer to take forward the building’s restoration.
Deputy mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Ann O’Byrne, said: “The Wellington Rooms are right at the top of our priority list for action. It has an amazing history and is hugely important to the people of Liverpool. These urgent repairs are the start of a long journey to return it back to its former glory, but we are now starting to make progress in working with partners to identify a deliverable a sustainable end use.”
Charles Smith, North West assistant planning director and Heritage at Risk principal adviser at Historic England, said: “Historic England is delighted to be co-funding these urgent repairs to the Wellington Rooms, which is in the top 8% of the most important historic buildings in the country.
“As a much-loved venue for weddings and events, it has featured in the lives of many Liverpudlians over the past 200 years. These repairs will stop further decay and help to bring about a new use for this quality building that the city can be proud of.”
Bill Maynard, chairman of the Wellington Rooms Steering Group and Merseyside Building Preservation Trust, said: “The options appraisal has been completed and these repair works represent a major step forward and will protect the fabric of this important and much loved historic building.”
The council has made its Buildings at Risk programme a priority in recent years, reporting a 75% reduction in ‘at risk’ buildings in the past decade. St Luke’s, widely known as the bombed out church, was refurbished and launched as a heritage attraction last year.
The council said that since 2012, almost £750m has been invested into historic assets within the World Heritage Site including the upgrade of 37 listed buildings, 18 of them with council financial assistance.