Grand unveiling begins for Grade II* Municipal Buildings

Russell WBHO ‘unwraps’ external phase of £40m Liverpool hotel.
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The beautifully restored façade of Liverpool’s iconic Municipal Buildings has been revealed after more than 12 months under wraps. Main contractor Russell WBHO has removed the protective scaffolding from around the Grade II* listed building, which was originally opened in 1868, following a painstaking conservation programme.

Influenced by French and Italian architecture, the 17,000m2 building is constructed of sandstone with a rock-faced granite plinth. The sandstone façade features ornate Corinthian columns, miles of intricate carved stone cornice, soffits and window surrounds, and a series of seven-foot-tall figures representing different aspects of the city’s culture, arts, sciences and industries alongside the four major trading continents of the time, Europe, America, Asia and Africa. 

Behind the protective plastic wrap, each contour of the elaborate design has been carefully cleaned and restored by craftsmen from masonry and restoration specialists Stone Central following close consultation with Liverpool City Council.

More than 230 existing windows have been restored and repainted along with the external ironwork at ground and roof level, and the lead coverings to the French-style curved roofs which have been cleaned and repaired. The striking clock tower, with its two-stage pyramidal spire, has also been given a facelift. 

Gareth Russell, joint managing director of Russell WBHO, said: “Unveiling the façade is a huge moment of pride for everyone involved with this careful and sensitive restoration programme. The care and attention required can’t be underestimated and, no matter how many heritage restoration or conservation projects we deliver over the years, it’s remarkable to see the building emerge refreshed after more than 150 years of pollution, grime and weather damage.”

The unveiling marks a key milestone of external works at the former council office in Dale Street, which is being refurbished to create a luxury 179-bedroom hotel for developer Fragrance Group. 

Internal works are continuing with completion of the guest suites, Palm Court Lounge, Tea Rooms, reception, conference facilities and spa expected early 2023. Accor Hotel Group will operate the building under its high-end MGallery brand.

Russell WBHO is collaborating with architects from Liverpool’s Falconer Chester Hall who have designed the bronze clad rear extension which will house the swimming pool, gym and treatment rooms. Architect Alastair Shepherd said: “This is quite a joyful occasion for the FCH team, to see the building without its wrap for the first time in more than a year. The conservation and restoration work is fantastic and the refurbishment of original features has exceeded expectations from when the project team was entrusted with the conversion. It is one of the most important and beautiful buildings in the city, which we’re sure will be enjoyed by visitors for years to come.”

The professional team also includes structural engineers Curtins Consulting, Koncept ID interior design and specialist heritage architect Stephen Levrant.

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