GOVERNMENT inspectors today slapped a Grade II spot listing on Heap's Rice Mill, one of the city's few surviving Victorian warehouses which was threatened with demolition.
It was described it as "an important physical reminder of Liverpool's rich trading links and mercantile history" when so many others had been lost in the Blitz and in subsequent development.
The huge Beckwith Street warehouse complex in the city's Baltic Zone, had been earmarked for demolition by a development company from the Seychelles who wanted to erect an extensive apartments complex of towers up to 25 storeys high.
News of the planning application, to Liverpool City Council last month, sparked a race against time by heriatge campaigners in the city to get the building spot listed in order to save it from the impending wrecking ball.
Now, following a detailed inspection by English Heritage, it is protected, though not entirely safe from being dropped. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to knock it down will have to get past the Secretary of State.
English Heritage's northern co-ordinator Victoria Ellis, wrote to Dr Peter Brown, chairman of the Merseyside Civic Society to tell him the news.
"I am delighted to inform you that having considered our recommendation, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has decided to add Heap's Rice Mill to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. The building is now listed at Grade II."
Now it remains to be seen what imaginative uses it can be put to after standing empty for many years.
English Heritage set out its reason for the Grade II listing in a report, which reads as follows:
"Architecturally the complex possesses the industrial detailing and character of warehousing, where form and function generally act as the principal objectives of construction; its austere styling being characteristic of the C18 and C19 warehouse buildings that have played a significant role in contributing to Liverpool's World Heritage Site status.
"Many of the original window openings survive, and where there have been alterations these have not significantly compromised the overall character of the building. Sheet-iron loading doors, cast-iron loading-bay hoods and numerous cast-iron window shutters also survive, evidencing the fireproofing measures that were most probably introduced to the building following the 1863 fire in the earliest range.
"Although it is acknowledged that the building complex has undergone alteration since its original construction, these alterations have in the most part added to the building's interest and its evolutional biography.
"The late-C19 alterations in particular, on parts of the north-west and south-west elevations, such as the changes to the loading bays and windows, illustrate not only developments in fireproofing technology, but also the success of the Heaps' rice business at this time and its expansion as it encompassed the former sugar warehouses to form a single large rice mill.
"The building's strong massing and huge scale have resulted in an imposing and visually prominent building that dominates Liverpool's Baltic Triangle area. This area, located near to the south docks of Albert Dock, Salthouse Dock and Wapping Dock where the rice for Heap's Rice Mill was off-loaded, was once a thriving industrial area packed with C18 and C19 warehouses and other commercial and industrial buildings associated with the trade of the international port city of Liverpool, at the peak of its prosperity and success.
"However, many of these buildings were lost during the Blitz of 1941, whilst others have since been demolished and replaced by modern developments. Heap's Rice Mill is thus not only one of the earliest, but one of the last surviving warehouse complexes in this area, serving as an important physical reminder of the area's rich trading links and mercantile history.
"Its links to the Far East and the Burmese rice trade are of special historic interest in reflecting Liverpool's prominence and international significance as a port in the C19. As Colum Giles in his 2004 publication 'Storehouses of Empire: Liverpool's Historic Warehouses' states: 'Liverpool's warehouses, great and small, are the most powerful symbols of its maritime character...', and Heap's Rice Mill is a significant survivor.
"Despite some later alteration, disuse and neglect the historic character of the building's interiors survive and the planning of the spaces and function remain evident; the individual warehouse units each still remaining clearly readable. Whilst some historic machinery has been lost numerous other interior features survive, including stairs, heavy softwood timber roof trusses, rope harnesses, and possible C19 hoists.
"Internally, the earliest range is believed to have been fireproofed following the 1863 fire, and it is probable that modifications were also made to the western ranges at the same time; all the buildings are highlighted with fireproofing on Goad's Fire Insurance Plan published in 1888 and many of these features still survive.
"Whilst Heap's Rice Mill therefore cannot claim to be one of the earliest fireproof warehouse complexes in Liverpool, it is nevertheless an important building complex in which later-C19 fireproofing modifications not only reveal the importance of the business carried out there, but also the changing technology and developments in Liverpool's warehouse construction in the C19.
"Heap's Rice Mill has a strong architectural form, later-C19 alterations that illustrate both the success of the Heaps' business and developments in fireproofing technology, and special historic interest for its links to the Burmese rice trade and as one of the last surviving warehouse complexes illustrating the mercantile history of the Baltic Triangle area.
"It has group value with the Scandinavian Seamen's Church, Park Lane, (listed at ll*) not only because of their proximity but because both buildings represent part of Liverpool's maritime history. It is considered that Heap's Rice Mill successfully fulfils the national criteria for listing. Consequently, it is recommended that it be added to the statutory list at Grade II."
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