The Lyceum, Liverpool

The Lyceum, Liverpool

Infobox Historic building

name=The Lyceum
architect=Thomas Harrison

The Lyceum was a gentlemen's club in Bold Street, Liverpool, England. It also housed Europe's first lending library, and in later years was pressed into service as the city’s head post office. The colonnaded front looks out onto Bold street. A side entrance to Liverpool Central station is to the right.

The Neo-classical building was designed by architect Thomas Harrison of Chester and was built between 1800-1802. The club's founders, members of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society – who included several of Liverpool's abolitionists (notably William Roscoe) – wanted to establish an alternative meeting place to the often rowdy merchants’ coffee houses.

The Lyceum also became home to Liverpool's subscription library, founded in 1757. This is believed to have been the first circulating or lending library in Europe. There were 888 members of the Library in 1814.

The Lyceum also inspired Manchester's Portico Library, whose founders also commissioned Harrison to design that building.

Prints from 1831 describe the Bold Street building as the 'Lyceum Newsroom and Library' – the Lyceum had separate entrances to the coffee house and library areas. The coffee house later expanded and the Lyceum Gentleman's Club took over almost the entire building for over 150 years. After the Club relocated, the Grade II* listed building was threatened with demolition during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but protests forced the UK government’s Department of the Environment to purchase it from its property developer owner.

After some years of neglect, the building was sold to the Post Office in 1984 with a view to it housing a philatelic museum and Liverpool's head post office. These plans were later varied to allow parts of the building to be used by a building society, for retail purposes and as a restaurant. Work eventually started on site in 1988. During the late 20th century, the building's use changed again, with a section becoming a busy bar/café (called variously: 'Life Bar', 'Prohibition', 'The Bar and Grill', 'Lyceum Café'). In March 2004, it was announced that the Post Office was to close.

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