Liverpool Fruit Exchange
An early start for this building as it's fairly centrally located and involved a big climb up scaffolding to gain access. Visited with David, we found our way into the building and were not dissapoimted. The interior albeit covered in dust and pigeon droppings seemed fairly well preserved except for the usual peeling paint. The two auction rooms brimmed with history from when this building was a thriving exchange at the heart of the trade industry in Liverpool. These intimate industry sites are amongst my favourites along with George Barnsley and the Ships Chandlers building. They exude atmosphere and history as one can imagine the once busy throng of people doing their business all those years ago.
We spent a good couple of hours inside photographing every part we could before making the long descent to street level again.
Grade II listed, the building was built in 1888 as a railway goods depot for the London and North Western Railway (to serve Exchange Station on Tithebarn Street) and was converted into a fruit exchange in 1923 by James B. Hutchins.
It became the main trading point for fruit within the city and dealt with the majority of fruit imports coming into Liverpool.
Hundreds of people would cram into the exchange halls and bid for fruit which had just arrived in Liverpool from all around the world.
Warehouses directly behind, in Mathew Street, were used to store the fruit sold at the exchange.
These were eventually converted into licensed premises, and this part of the former Fruit Exchange empire today includes Rubber Soul, Route 66, Eric’s and the Laughterhouse Comedy Club Pop Box.
The Fruit Exchange is owned by Cloudbluff Properties, whose director, Robert McGorrin, has been hoping to secure a viable long-term future for it since 2009.
He says: 'It’s a great building – the auction rooms are unbelievable. There is so much history attached to the place'.
However, there is also plenty of devastation.
Robert went on to say: 'We must have spent £500,000 on it since 2009. We’ve carried out urgent works, waterproofed the whole building and undertaken a lot of general maintenance. It had been neglected for years and there was so much water damage – but, structurally, it’s solid. Back in 2009, the insurance people said it’s too wet to go on fire and too well-built to fall down.
After it closed as a Fruit Exchange, it provided office space. There has been a lot of interest in it, but it’s such an odd-shaped building. It’s just finding proposals that will fit'.
The following is an email I recieved from Donald Mackay in Nov '23 who has fond memories of the building.....
I used to work for Rank Xerox '84-'86 and had cause to go there regularly as there were offices in there, and I will always remember the first time I went there. The moment I stepped in from the street it was like going back in time. Beautifully tiled floor and walls. It was a short passageway and a couple of steps up and along to the lift, which was on the right.
The lift itself was period; iron bar 'criss cross' gate which you closed yourself and a brass handle which you turned to make the lift go. No automatic stop, you had to get it level with the floor yourself.
In the office, on the second floor I think, I commented to the business owner how lovely it all was, and he says I should go with him out the back. We left the office and I followed him up a few flights of stairs and through a door. We came out on a high gantry which stretched away from us and to the left was the pit that you photographed. I can tell you now that there was no dust, no dirt, no peeling paint, etc. All the benches, etc, were in place with nothing tipped over or ruined. All the woodwork was in super condition that looked like it lacked nothing more than a good polish.
If memory serves me right, I think there was an identical pit to the right. It saddens me when I see the history of the city fall into ruin. The bartering that must have gone on and the noise of people trying to get above everyone else to secure the deal. So exciting and yet sad that it's now all over. It would be lovely for it to be brought back 'from the dead' and given a place on the tourist trail. A real piece of history that so many people pass daily and are not aware of it's existance.