This street is one of the more ‘recent’ additions to the Liverpool townscape, if you can call the late 1860s recent. Victoria Street, (along with Castle, Dale, Water and Old Hall Streets – all of them of ancient origin), formed the beating commercial heart of the city centre during Liverpool’s spectacular rise to “second City of Empire” in the latter part of the 19th century.
Amazingly, World War Two bombing raids left most of the street relatively intact, with two major exceptions: the Post Office (reconstructed and still there), and the large, domed Government building in the middle distance that once housed the Tax Office and a number of courts. It was badly damaged and finally demolished in 1948, its place taken by an unsightly ‘temporary’ car park. It was finally replaced in 2018 by a new multi-story car park (and a large, still-empty retail unit), a development not unattractive in its own right but hardly in keeping with its Victorian neighbours.
As befitting a city whose population was about 186,000 bigger than it is today, the photograph shows the street bustling with life. The pavements are crowded with people – mostly office workers, with hardly a woman to be seen – and the carriageway itself is busy with horse-drawn wagons and handcarts. Thankfully, most of the buildings in Victoria Street have survived, but many have been empty for years as the office quarter has shifted away. As an example, plans mooted over five years ago for the conversion into apartments, of the long-abandoned Fruit Exchange (originally built c1888 as a railway goods depot) have so far come to nothing.