Pier Head Liverpool: A Photo Story Over 120 Years

Pier Head Liverpool: A Photo Story Over 120 Years

From as early as 1800 Pier Head Liverpool was a bustling area of the city where goods from far away shores flowed in to feed Britain’s inland. As a result of the success of trading and transatlantic travel, the city prospered and Liverpool Pier Head grew and developed along with it.

Stunning waterfront buildings were erected to house those who worked in the most profitable trades, including our own 30 James Street, which served as a shipping office and of course the Royal Building which housed the Royal Liver Assurance Group.  The modern transport solutions were put into place including overhead railways and the famous passenger ferry across the Mersey and those people who were desperate to discover a world beyond Britain boarded the earliest Transatlantic voyages in the hopes of finding a new and exciting life in a different part of the world.

So much of Liverpool’s cultural landscape is owed to early advances that were made on Liverpool’s Pier Head and here we’ve gathered some great images that best capture the wonderful waterfront of Liverpool and Pier Head’s development over the last 120 years.

The Early Years Liverpool Pier Head

Liverpool Pier Head - Victorian era
Victorian Liverpool -Head Landing Stage (1880)

Merchants and businessmen waiting on Pier Head to greet incoming ships.

A passenger horse drawn tram Liverpool Pier Head
Looking towards the first tower building (1895)

Fashionable ladies taking the air along Pier Head and an early example of public transport and the power of advertising.

Incoming cruise liner Liverpool Pier Head
Pier Head (1900)

The masses gather to greet an incoming cruise liner from a long Transatlantic journey.

A Working Waterfront

Overhead railway Liverpool Pier Head
Pier Head (1907)

The overhead railway and spaces where two landmark buildings of Liverpool stand today.

RMS Aquitania departing Liverpool Pier Head
The Aquitania prepares to leave the Pier Head (1919)

Cunard’s Transatlantic cruise liner, RMS Aquitania, was the 3rd of the Grand Trio express liners.

These amazing vessels ferried passengers to and from New York in total luxury and RMS Aquitania was given the nickname “Ship Beautiful” as it was considered one of the most luxurious liners of its time.

Soot stained Three Graces and the passenger filled cruise terminal Liverpool Pier Head
Three Graces (1930s)

The heavily soot-stained Three Graces showed the level of pollution produced by the transport in and out of the Liverpool along the River Mersey. Luckily they have been cleaned since.

Dock workers cars parked at the overhead station Liverpool Pier Head
Pier Head overhead railway (1928)

Passenger cars parked underneath the overhead railway, likely workers on the docks. The overhead railway transported 6,505,818 people during its operation and was the lifeline for incoming goods to be distributed around the city.

Family Fun on The Riverfront

Mersey Passenger Ferry - Liverpool Pier Head
From the ferry (1978)

A vintage shot from the world famous Mersey passenger ferry looking onto Pierhead. Look closely and you can see a walkway onto the Pier similar to those still in use today.

Princes Landing Stage - Liverpool Pier Head
Landing stage (1954)

The landing stages at Pier Head Liverpool were popular for families to walk along to see the incoming ships. Some family members would be greeting husbands and fathers home from long voyages out to sea, others welcoming passengers from across the Atlantic.

After Transatlantic passenger travel ceased in 1973 both Prince’s landing stage and the adjoining George’s landing stage were removed.

King Edward VII statue by Sir Willlaim John Goscombe 1916.
Trams in Liverpool (1955)

King Edward VII statue by Sir William John Goscombe 1916 – Pier Head Liverpool and the trams lined up  against the Mersey River backdrop to ferry passengers around the city.

The statue was artfully restored in 2008 and had years of waterfront residue, layers of protective paint and car primer removed from it to reveal the exquisite work beneath.

Liverpool’s welcome home Beacon

For residents of Liverpool who lived and worked on the sea fairing vessels coming to and from the city, the Royal Liver building would be a sight for sore eyes. Those missing home who had been away for weeks or months at a time would see the Liver birds perched atop their beacons watching out over the river and know they weren’t far from home.

Liver Building Liverpool Pier Head
Pier Head (1960s)
Liver Building and St Peter's Church
Pier Head (1961)

Long Gone Liverpool Landmarks

A busy bus terminal filled with green buses owned and operated by the council which today have been replaced by privatised firms.

Liverpool's city centre green buses
Pier Head Liverpool bus terminus (the 1970s)

It’s been discussed in the past about bringing the old green buses back as well as the other colour coded ones for Merseyside areas. City centre buses were green, Birkenhead buses were blue, Wallasey buses were green and yellow and for Southport it was red.

River Rooms Berni Inn Steakhouse Liverpool Pier Head

The old River Rooms Berni’s Inn, to the left of the image. Some would say an eyesore on the world heritage waterfront, to others it was known as the best steakhouse in town.

River Rooms, Mersey Ferry Terminal - Liverpool Pier Head
Pier Head (1990s)

A photo of the popular River Rooms, Berni Inn opened in February 1967, which served Liverpool residents and travellers arriving into the city. A favourite for birthday celebrations and special occasion family meals.

The building was then occupied by a successful Chinese Restaurant, The Shanghai Palace, but in 2007 plans were announced that a new Mersey Ferry Terminal would be built in its place. Much to the owner’s dismay when he was informed he’d already drawn up extensive plans to transform the building and wanted to add a Chinese style pagoda roof to the waterfront venue.

Pier Head today

By 2007 the tent-like 1960’s structure was bulldozed and replaced with a modern architectural tribute to the lasting legacy of the Captial of Culture title awarded to Liverpool city in 2008. Currently, housing popular pan Asian restaurant Matou the building provides breathtaking landscape views across the River Mersey.

Today Pier Head Liverpool is a sleek modern plaza which hosts extravagant events and welcomes crowds of visitors every day to see the stunning maritime landmarks.

30 James Street – Home of the Titanic

30 James street Pier Head

30 James Street – Home of the Titanic has been a notable part of the World Heritage Waterfront for over a century. Standing strong as the area around it transformed and bloomed into Liverpool’s leading business and cosmopolitan district.  After a long period of being unoccupied, Signature Living transformed the stunning ancient space into an award-winning hotel bringing to life the stories associated with a long and interesting past.

We want our guests to connect with the history of Liverpool during their time with us, getting to know all about what makes Liverpool the city it is today.

During a stay at 30 James Street, our guests can enjoy breathtaking waterfront views from within their own hotel room. Our rooftop restaurant Carpathia provides diners with delicious meals and tasty cocktails paired with views of the river.


30 James Street has a strong connection to the maritime past of, being the old headquarters of White Star Line shipping which will have been the hub of activity in its early days. Our guests can take a stroll around the surrounding historical buildings, enjoy visits to a number of nearby museums and art galleries and even take a trip on the Mersey passenger ferry to the Wirral.

Call and book your visit today on 0151 601 8801 or email info@signatureliving.co.uk or simply take a look at some of our amazing accommodation offers here.

It’s easy to imagine what life might have been like in this ancient part of the city, such an important piece of Liverpool’s lasting legacy of being the second city of the empire, once upon a time. The hustle and bustle of traders and sea merchants, the clanking of the overhead railway and the sight of huge cruise vessels coming and going must have been a sight to behold.

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