A Liverpool decorated building – the Adelphi Bank Building, Castle Street

The Adelphi Bank building, 40 Castle Street, by W. D. Caroe.

Castle Street, subject of a page on this website, includes a variety of decorated Victorian buildings, and notable among them is No. 40 Castle Street, the Adelphi Bank building, a branch of the Liverpool Banking Company. From a distance we notice first the green onion dome on the corner to Brunswick Street and a variety of other little fanciful spikes against the main mansard roof. The building is red terra cotta at ground level, with the upper floors in white stone, and red bands between the levels, all rather splendidly idiosyncratic. There are just a couple of bays to Castle Street, with the greater length, five bays, to a tributary, Brunswick Street, and the main door on the corner. There is much busy surface decoration on walls, door and doorway, and five full figures in niches at second floor level: two to Castle Street, three to Brunswick Street. The two towards Castle Street are: a girl with a bird on her shoulder and holding a staff with small leaves, somewhat like a Bishop’s crozier; she wears a long drape that leaves one breast bare, and some decayed, lumpish shape wound round her neck, and her face is Oriental; decently done, but, I would think, a modern replacement for a more conventionally Victorian visage, perhaps of Peace with olive branch and dove; and a mother cradling her naked infant at the breast, she herself wearing a cowl and long, light drapes over shoulders and arm, and a skirt. Even with considerable decay, there remains a sensitivity to the figures which suggests they is the work of a significant sculptor.

Five full figure sculptures.

The Brunswick Street statues include a standing girl with a nice swathe of drapery, steering a ship’s rudder in front of the right hand pillar of her niche; a figure of Blind Justice, holding scales and sword; and a knight in ornamented spiky armour. A variety of allegorical attributes of banking are thus suggested by these figures, thus Protection and Nourishment, Travel, Courage or Truth, and the aforementioned Justice and Peace. This website contains lots of examples of allegorical statues - start from this page.

Cherubic figure sculpture.

The more minor sculptural adornment is extremely good of its kind – we have a pair of corbel cherubs, reminiscent of Manchester work, other cherubs in relief in spandrels, small birds and much floral ornament. The most delicate work is around the corner door, and when shut, this is revealed to be exquisite bronzework, with eight standing figures and four small scenic panels, and the date of 1892 held by four cherubs. Stirling Lee, sculptor of Liverpool's Queen Victoria Memorial, was the sculptor, working to the designs of the architect, William Douglas Caroe. ‘Adelphi’ is Greek for ‘brothers’, and the subjects of the figurework and adjacent statuettes are on the theme of brotherhood. They show:

The rest of the doors and grill above are by John Starkie Gardner, the noted art metalworker of Lambeth.

Stirling Lee's bronze sculpture for the door to the Adelphi Bank.

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