Figure of Music on the Municipal Buildings.
As well as the Old Town Hall (see separate page), Dale Street contains a variety of 19th Century buildings, including the Municipal Buildings, with 16 statues, the Royal Insurance Building with decorative panels, a branch of the Prudential Building, unmistakably by Waterhouse, and several other buildings with bits of architectural sculpture.
The Municipal Buildings, put up in the 1860s to designs by Weightman and Robson, Surveyors to the Corporation, occupy a whole block facing onto Dal Street, between Crosshall Street and Sir Thomas Street. Rather a mixed style in orangey sandstone, Classically featured, with lots of Corinthian pillars, but also with a heavy, confident clocktower and steeple, and high-pitched roofs. . steeple and high pitched roof lean in a different direction. Between the third storey windows are a good crop of free-standing stone statues, facing onto Dale Street, and on both sides 2, some 16 in all. They are allegorical figures, male and female, big enough not to be lost against the mass of such a very large building. Nevertheless, a pair of binoculars will help to appreciate their finer features. We may note especially:
Sciences panel on Royal Insurance Building, by C. J. Allen..
A massive building with a long frontage along North John Street, and big baroque tower forming a feature from all down that street, and along Dale Street. The sculptural interest consists of three large panels, fairly high up, and above the main entrance on N John Street, a figural group. The panels at least are by C. J. Allen, of the Derby Square monument to Queen Victoria. The first panel shows Fire and Insurance, eight figs divided into three groups. To the left, a relieved mother embraces a fireman who has rescued her infant, in the centre a dignified female, emblematic of Insurance, with a fireman – they hold a fire tender and a ladder. To the right, a youth holds a church, with a Bishop holding the Old Town Hall, and a figure of sovereignty. The second panel shows Sciences: Shipping, a male figure with a passenger ship, a young girl with globe and compass for Navigation, a central arts and crafts ideal girl with sprig of foliage and a skeleton of perhaps an Iguanodon for Natural History, a young boy with a retort for Chemistry, and a female with electrical sparking machine for Physics. Finally, the Arts, with central female flanked by two boys and two grown-ups. The girl on the left is a musician, the boys have masks for Theatre and an easel and brushes for Painting respectively, and the man carries a Greek colonnade for Architecture and a little Victory for Sculpture. All very good stuff. The figural group above the main door shows a figure of Insurance with a child to right and left, with various appropriate accoutrements, including scales of Justice, a quill pen, orb with little angel, and a crown.
The Prudential, is unmistakably the work of Alfred Waterhouse, in bright red terracotta, though the Gothic is more subdued than usual. The building dates from 1886, and has in a niche on the front the usual figure of Prudentia clasping a snake.
No. 11 is the Queen Insurance Building, dating from 1859 by J. A. Picton. A flat fronted classical three storey building, with on the top, a coat of arms with flanking lion and unicorn, and futher little lion on top. Nos. 35-37 is the Guardian Assurance Buildings, with some sketchy sculptural decoration in high relief – above the door, two dancing cherubs, with panpipes and torch respectively, with garlands etc, and above this, a frieze design with two pairs of cherubs holding opened banners, wordless. And a roundel with remains of a triton on a water chariot pulled perhaps by seahorses.
No 62, Imperial Chambers, is unremarkable, but has a half roundel with two cherubs with produce (bales, casks) and central figure of a girl holding a flaming torch. On the corner of Crosshall Street, Westminster Chambers dates from 1880 and shows little dragons and owls, very inventive.
Finally we may note that among many satisfying views along the street in both directions, is that of the Old Town Hall, with the Liver Building behind
Cherubs on the Guardian Assurance Building.
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Old Town Hall and Exchange Flags // Castle Street and Derby Square
Walker Art Gallery // William Brown Street // St George's Hall and St John's Gardens.