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Science Places Liverpool

  • Discover the history of science and engineering in Liverpool

  • Explore the lives of the people whose discoveries and inventions contributed so much to the city

  • See the structures and monuments which are the legacy of this great scientific and heritage.

 

The tour starts at the Victoria building at the heart of the University of Liverpool, and finishes at the Department of Tropical Medicine, a walk of around a mile. You can download to tour to your mp3 player or phone, and a downloadable map accompanies the tour.

If you don't have the opportunity to visit Liverpool this year, you can read about the places visited on the web site and listen online to key parts of the tour whilst browsing the interactive map.

The Liverpool Science Places walk has been developed by the Institute of Physics as part of Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008.

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1 Victoria Building, University of Liverpool

 

The Victoria building, for obvious reasons, gave its name to the ‘redbrick universities’. It is the only building in the university connected with the first professor of physics, Sir Oliver Lodge. In 1894 Lodge built the first radio system, in able to send messages by Morse code. He used the Victoria tower to send a message which was received on the tower of Lewis’s store half a mile down the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Physics Department


The Chadwick Laboratory is the teaching centre for the University of Liverpool Physics Department. It is named after Sir James Chadwick, discoverer of the neutron and Nobel Prize winner, who was Professor of Physics from 1935 to 1948.

 

The Oliver Lodge building is the headquarters of the Physics Department’s research activities into particle, nuclear and condensed matter physics. Parts of the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have been designed and built here.

 

 

 

 

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Abercromby Square

3 Abercromby Square


Sir Joseph Rotblat, lecturer in physics, lived at number 13 during World War II, and he was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1995 for his work with the Pugwash organization. He was the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project on grounds of conscience.

At the theoretical physics institute, which was originally set up at number 5 in 1948, Herbert Fröhlich made the key breakthrough in understanding superconductivity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Liverpool Medical Institution / Site of Liverpool Cyclotron


The Liverpool Medical Institution is one of the oldest medical societies in the world. The Liverpool Medical Library was founded in 1779, and the present building was opened in May 1837. The Liverpool Medical Institution is famous both for its library and for its historic lecture theatre.
Across the road stands the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, consecrated in 1967. The right hand side of the Cathedral steps is where the University leased grounds to build a synchrocyclotron, the largest and most powerful machine of its kind. It began operation in 1955 and made a number of key discoveries including the violation of charge conjugation symmetry in 1957

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rodney Street

5 Rodney Street


Rodney Street, the Harley St of Liverpool, was laid out in 1783 by William Roscoe, one of Liverpool’s most famous statesmen and a leading light in the campaign to abolish slavery. At no 62, William Gladstone, who served three terms as prime minister, was born. At no 54 lived Dr William Duncan, who became Liverpool’s and the country’s first medical officer of health. Also born in this street was Henry Booth, an engineer who in 1825 became a vigorous campaigner for a Liverpool to Manchester railway and who went on to become the chief executive officer of the railway company.


Number 59 has recently been opened to the public by the National Trust. It was the home and studio of Edward Chambre Hardman whose camera documented much of the early twentieth century. He was commissioned by the Playhouse theatre to photograph the up and coming stars of the time such as Ivor Novello and Michael Redgrave. However, Hardman’s real love was landscape photography and it is in this field that he is most famous. On his death in 1988 the National Trust took control of the house and its wonderful collection of thousands of photographs, negatives and artifacts.

 

Through the National Trust you can book a fascinating visit to the studios, darkrooms and also the living quarters set out just as they were in the pre-war years, a time capsule of an era long gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 St James’s Cemetery


St James’s Cemetery has been a public space for about 250 years and is the last resting place of many of the city’s luminaries. Recent conservation work has led to many of the graves being moved in order open up the site as a park. On the top of St James’s Mount looms the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1904 and taking over 70 years to build. The sandstone from this quarry was not used for the Cathedral, but was used to build the many earlier fine buildings in Liverpool; the cathedral stone was brought from quarries in Woolton.


The terraces on the side of the cemetery form ramps, which were used for funeral carriages to make a ceremonial entrance from Hope St. In the centre of the garden is a mausoleum built over the grave of William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, and president of the board of trade. The building originally contained a statue of Huskisson now safely preserved in the Oratory and under the care of the Walker Art Gallery
Before the cathedral was built there was a small mound and it was on this site that Ebenezer Henderson was given approval to build an observatory in 1837. As well as being used for astronomical research and the determination of time, Henderson planned the Observatory to be a teaching facility, which the public could visit to learn not just about astronomy, but the natural sciences also.


Unfortunately no pictures or plans of the building have yet been found, so it is not known how successful it was.

 

 

 

 

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7 Stephenson’s House


The house where George Stephenson lived while working as chief engineer on the Liverpool to Manchester railway is marked with a brown plaque. He is always associated in people’s minds with the locomotive “Rocket”, and with the spectacular Rainhill Trials which were witnessed by at least 10,000 spectators. George Stephenson was born at Wylam in Northumberland. He became an engineman at the colliery where his father worked and by the age of 27 was a skilled engineer George Stephenson set up a locomotive manufacturing company in Newcastle along with his son Robert. He built his first engine in 1814 and went on to become chief engineer first of the Stockton to Darlington railway and then later the Liverpool to Manchester railway. The Rainhill Trials which took place in October 1829 were organised by the directors of the proposed Liverpool and Manchester railway to determine which locomotive would be used on their railway. This was a planned competition with a number of strict rules.

On the day only 5 engines took part and the ‘Rocket’ designed by Robert Stephenson was the only one to complete the course without breakdown and was declared the winner. One of Stephenson’s main innovations was a tubular boiler. The larger surface area in contact with the fire gave a much greater rate of production of steam.

 

 

 

 

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- Image by permission of Liverpool Record Office Libraries

8 Crown street station


The information board here is all that remains to show the position of Liverpool’s (and the world’s) first terminal station. The building of the railway was fraught with political in fighting and engineering difficulties. The proponents of the railway had to fight a bitter campaign in parliament against the opposition of vested interests, mainly the canal owners.


George Stephenson tackled the engineering difficulties knowing that the available locomotives would not be able to cope with gradients. He built a 21metre deep cutting through Olive Mount to get his line as far as Edge Hill, a large sandstone ridge barring his way into Liverpool. From there he decided to tunnel uphill for the last half mile to reach this station. The locomotives were to be uncoupled at Edge Hill and a series of stationary steam engines were constructed to haul the carriages by rope to Crown Street. The boilers were built into the cutting walls at Edge Hill and the large chimney disguised in the famous Moorish Arch. The single-track line emerged from the tunnel under the wall where you leave the park. This end of the tunnel was buried when the park was landscaped.
Another tunnel, over 3 km long, ran downhill under the town to emerge at Wapping dock. Trucks were lowered down this tunnel by ropes. This was probably the first tunnel in the world to pass under an urban area. The brick chimney is a ventilation shaft for the Wapping tunnel, which still exists today after 50 years of disuse.

 

 

 

 

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- Image by permission of Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre

9 Williamson Tunnels


When Stephenson built the tunnel from Edge Hill to Lime St station his workers broke through a number of existing earlier tunnels. These earlier tunnels were the work of Joseph Williamson and the mystery about them is that nobody really knows why they were built.

Williamson worked in the tobacco business of Richard Tate. He rose from the ranks eventually marrying the owner’s daughter Elizabeth and buying the company. In 1805 Joseph and Elizabeth moved into a house in Mason Street on a steeply sloping part of Edge Hill above Smithdown Lane where you are now. The houses had cellars and Williamson had his men build brick arches and extend the cellars. It was a period of high unemployment as men returned from the wars with Napoleon.

Williamson was a religious man - a regular member of the congregation of St. Thomas', the church where he married. It has been suggested that he built the tunnels for philanthropic reasons to keep men in employment. Whatever the reason, extensive tunnels with underground chambers and carefully constructed brick arches were built in some places as many as six levels deep.

When Joseph died in 1840 the tunneling stopped immediately and subsequently the chambers gradually filled up with rubbish. Williamson was forgotten. No complete plan of the extensive workings has survived so much is still unexplored.

 

 

 

 

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10 University Quadrangle


Inside the quadrangle is the George Holt building, first opened in 1904. Standing in the quadrangle with the Victoria tower behind you, you will see it in front of you in the right hand corner. Though it is no longer used for physics, the words ‘Physics Department’ are still carved on the brickwork. In a basement laboratory in this building, Chadwick built one of the world’s first cyclotrons between 1935 and 1939, and used it for the vital war work which initiated the nuclear bomb. Otto Frisch, co-discoverer of nuclear fission, and Joseph Rotblat were key members of the cyclotron team, and went with Chadwick to make significant contributions to the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. On March 1941, a large parachute mine landed in the quadrangle and reduced the engineering building to rubble. This building is on your left hand side as you face the George Holt building – you can see where it has been rebuilt with newer brickwork. Before the First World War, the laboratory had hosted the Nobel Prize winning work of Charles Barkla on X-rays.

 

 

 

 

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