Warehouse, 68 Waterloo Road, Liverpool
At the corner of Waterloo Road and Vulcan Street.
This warehouse, now the home of Vulcan Studios, is an early example of a 'fireproof' warehouse, using the minimum amount of wood in its construction.
From the Historic England Grade II listing:-
'It is an important survival of one of the earliest fireproof warehouses associated with the international port city of Liverpool and constructed c.1842-4. It is an imposing and highly prominent building situated at the heart of the north docks complex next to the original C19 dock road, Clarence and Victoria Docks (now filled in), and Waterloo and Trafalgar Docks. It is well-preserved and retains the majority of original features including brick-vaulted ceilings, tile floors, sheet-iron loading doors, internal doors and shutters, cast-iron supporting columns and beams, lintels and sills, and the original enclosed fireproof stair. It possesses a wrought-iron roof structure similar to that of Jesse Hartley's Albert Dock warehouses (1841-5) and is unusual in incorporating roof slates that rest directly upon iron batons without fixings. Its innovative fireproof construction not only reflects the wealth of the warehouse's builder/owner and the importance of the goods contained within, but also technological advances in warehouse construction during the C19 and the changing face of the port of Liverpool.'
'Derby Buildings, Liverpool, June 6, 1843.
"Sir,—The late fires having drawn the attention of all parties interested in their prevention to the best means of rendering future warehouses fireproof, or as nearly so as possible, I take the liberty of calling your attention to two now in progress of erection by Messrs. Holme, in Vulcan-street, Clarence Dock, and for which I am supplying the iron-work, which enters very largely into their construction. My object in thus addressing you is to call your attention, and that of any other member of the council who may feel interested in the subject, to the iron beams for carrying the floors and the amount of pressure which they will sustain. Each beam is proved on the ground with an hydraulic press before being put in its place to the extent of 35 tons weight in the centre, being equivalent to a weight on the whole floor of five tons per square yard, — a greater amount of weight by about two tons per square yard than is generally calculated to be borne by existing warehouses. Many doubts having been expressed as to the prudence of using iron beams for warehouse floors, I am desirous that any parties who entertain such doubts may have an opportunity of testing their opinion by actual experiment, the proving of the beams being daily in progress. At the same time I beg to call your attention to the other iron-work used in the construction of these warehouses, the intention being to complete them without any wood-work, so that as far as stone, brick, and iron can make a building fireproof, they shall be so. The attention of the council is also called to a new and improved mode of recessing the warehouse doors, thereby doing away with pent-houses, and affording security to passengers from the fall of goods. I should not have ventured to bring the matter thus publicly before you did I not feel that I addressed you on a subject which is becoming daily of more importance, and regarding which it is desirable to obtain as much information as possible, both as to the bestt way of improving the construction of future, and altering the existing warehouses, there being in the building referred to many details connected with external iron-work which might easily adapted to the present warehouses. "I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant, (Signed) " W. LAIRD." '
1844 Advert: 'TO be LET, with immediate possession, the spacious and newly-erected FIREPROOF WAREHOUSE, in Waterloo-road, corner of Vulcan-street, and directly opposite the Trafalgar Dock. The Building covers 400 square yards of land, and contains six Stories and a Cellar, and the whole has north lights, suitable for Sampling, &c. Apply to Messrs SAMUEL and JAMES HOLME, Benson-street.'
Note: In 1843 a fire prevention bill was introduced by Liverpool Borough Council which would impose strict controls on the construction and use of warehouses:-
'FIRE PREVENTION BILL. As the "Bill for the better Protection of Property in the Borough of Liverpool from Fire” affects a very large mass of property in the town, as well as various classes of persons, we subjoin an abstract of its principal clauses as amended by the Council at their meetings of Saturday and Monday. The bill commences by giving the Council power to appoint committee out of their own body, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the act, and then defines what shall be deemed warehouse—this term being made include every building which,or some vault, cellar, or room of which, shall be used for the deposit of merchandise, the exceptions being those warehouses, buildings, or warehouse-rooms in which retail trades or manufacturing operations, not included in the list of dangerous trades, are carried on, and in which goods for the purposes those trades or manufactories are deposited. The exempted buildings used manufactories are, however, either to stand by themselves, or not to be in contact with warehouses. A cellar used for the deposit of merchandise is not to cause the superstructure be deemed a warehouse, if the doors and windows are in accordance with the regulations of the act, and if the cellar be also arched with brick, or the ceiling lined with sheet iron, to the satisfaction the Committee for the Preservation of Property from Fire.
All warehouses hereafter built or rebuilt within the borough, added to or altered, are be constructed conformably to the act and regulations in schedule A, of good materials, and in a substantial and workmanlike manner, and in case of any default, the warehouse is to be pulled down or altered conformably to the act.
Every existing warehouse, not being in accordance with the act is to altered and improved by the owner according to the regulations of schedule B, and if this is not done within six months after notice in writing from one of the surveyors under the act, the owner is forfeit a sum not exceeding £20, and a sum not exceeding £5 for every week of subsequent default. The notice is to be given in six months after the passing of the act. If the owner neglect to alter a warehouse, the occupier may do it, and deduct the cost from his rent, or have the amount assessed by two justices, who have power to issue a distress warrant on the owner’s goods and chattels for the amount. If both the owner and occupier neglect to alter warehouse withiu six months after notice from the surveyor, no goods are to be deposited therein, under a penalty of £5 for every bale, package, parcel, or other separate quantity thereof so received.
Hereafter, warehouses are only to be built in streets twelve yards wide, or in squares and courts 16 yards wide, and the approach every line of warehouses is, for the length of 100 yards from the front of the line, to be at least ten yards wide. If the immediate approach to the street, square, or court, in which the warehouse or warehouses shall be, is means of covered carriage-way under a fireproof warehouse, that approach is to be at least 15 feet in width, and is to be covered over in the manner provided as to rooms in fireproof warehouses. Every cellar, vault, and room of every warehouse hereafter to be constructed, and intended to be used as a fireproof warehouse, excepting the room immediately under the roof, are be entirely covered with an arching of brick and mortar of nine inches thick at the least, to prevent, so far as practicable, the communication of fire; provided that stones, flags, and iron girders may be employed, to the satisfaction of the committee; the roof is to be of iron principals and spars, with slates fastened without wood ; the floors, except of the lowest cellar, are be of concrete, flag, or brickwork, resting upon brick archings; and iron girder beams are to be used throughout.
A fireproof warehouse is defined to be a warehouse constructed in accordance with the act and schedule A, and subject thereto, also in compliance with the regulations of the act 5th Victoria.
Ardent spirits and preparations thereof, oils of all kinds, tallow, lard, turpentine, rosin, pitch, naptha, varnish, fireworks, matches, brimstone, sulphuric and other mineral acids, and all chemicals of an inflammable nature, are prohibited from being received into, or after the expiration of six months from the commencement of this act remaining in, any warehouse, building, or place other than fireproof warehouse, or a vaulted cellar, or a room on the ground floor having a ceiling lined with sheet iron, or in a detached building approved by the committee, under a penalty of £10, and a further penalty of £10 for every week of default.
The following trades are only to be carried on in fireproof warehouses: — ship-chandler, painter, plumber and glazier, oil and colourman, anchorsmitb, blacksmith, whitesmith, ship-bread baker, sailmaker, marine-store dealer, blockmaker, joiner, cabinet-maker, cooper, the bottling of wines, spirits, beer, or other liquor. The bottling of blubber, or tar, or the manufacturing of vegetable or mineral naptha, or of varnish, are to be carried on only in building detached by 75 feet from any other building. The penalty for every offence against this clause is sum not exceeding £10 for every day of default. The trade or business of ironfounders, engine manufacturers, chain or anchorsmitbs, brass or coppersmiths or founders, smiths or naihnakers, ore smelters, metal refiners, castors of sheet lead, manufacturing chemists, lucifer, Congreve, Promethean, or other match makers, colour manufacturers, distillers or rectifiers, vitriol makers, tallow melters, or candle makers, tobacco-pipe makers, potters, timber stovers, ship-bread bakers, sugar refiners, herring, bacon, or ham curers, soapmakers, sulphur refiners, tin workers, glass manufacturers, varnish makers or tar boilers, are not to be carried on in any building or place situate within twenty yards from any warehouse, and in which building or place such trade or business was not carried previously to the 11th of July, 1843, unless there shall be erected, to the satisfaction of the Committee for the Preservation Property from Fire, a chimney, extending nut less than five feet in height above the ridge of the roof of every warehouse within the distance of twenty yards from the chimney, and into which chimney every flue in the building or place shall be brought, in order that all flame, fire, and smoke from every flue may be effectually brought into the chimney, and discharged its mouth. Penalty, any sum not exceeding £200, and a further sum not exceeding £10 for every day of default.
On the application of six persons, and the deposit by them of the estimated amount of expense, and ten per cent, thereon, the Fire Committee may direct the owner of any building in which, on the 11th of July, 1843, any of the last-mentioned dangerous trades was carried on, and which is within 20 yards of any warehouse, to erect a chimney similar to that just described. If the owner constructs the chimney within three months after being directed, he is to be entitled to the deposit money. the owner of the building refuses to obey the direction, he, or the person carrying on the business, is to be liable to a penally not exceeding £10 a day.
In future, warehouses are not to be erected within the distance of twenty yards from any building or place in which a dangerous trade Is carried on, unless they are fireproof warehouses, and be so constructed as not to have any door, window, or aperture opening towards the building used for a dangerous trade, or unless, at the time of erection, a chimney such as is before described shall be made to the building. Saltpetre and nitrate of soda, if the quantity of both exceeds half a ton, is to be stored in a fireproof or detached warehouse or shed, in which no other goods are received. Penalty for offending, any sum not exceeding £50. If warehouses are not maintained in good order and repair, notice is to be given by the surveyor to the owner or occupier, and if, after the expiration of month, the necessary repairs are not made, the owner or occupier is to be liable to a penalty of £5 for every bale, package, &c., received into the warehouse.
Every warehouseman, before finally leaving the warehouse of which he has the charge, must see that all the doors and windows are properly secured; and, if any door or window of any warehouse is found open after the final departure of the warehouseman for the day, he is subject to a penalty of £5. Warehouses in which room corn, seed, or pulse, damaged goods that require fresh air, or green and fresh fruit, only, are deposited, are exempted from this clause.
The Fire Committee are to keep a register of warehouses, classed thus:—l. Fireproof warehouses under the act; 2. Warehouses which shall be made conformable in every respect the regulations and restrictions of the act and schedule A, save only to the provisiona of the act which are exclusively applicable to fireproof warehouses, or warehouses for particular goods or trades; and 3. Warehouses which shall not be so conformable, but which shall be made conformable to schedule B. This registry is to be published three months after the commencementof the act, and thereafter once or oftener every year, two or more of the Liverpool newspapers; but if any warehouse afterwards ceases to be conformable to the regulations of the class in which it is placed, it is to be expunged, and restored only when made conformable.
The Council is empowered to license and register warehousemen, lumpers, stevadores, and coopers employed in warehouses; ..... [there followed extensive rules relating to personnel employed in warehouses] ....
The act is to come into operation on the first September next, and is to apply the whole of the municipal borough of Liverpool. [At a meeting of the Council, on Tuesday, a resolution was passed, the effect of which, in the words of the Town-Clerk, is that no person will be obliged to conform to schedule B; but it will still remain part of the bill for the purpose of showing what parties might be put on the registry.]'
The impetus for wanting to introduce such stringent requirements followed a disastrous fire in Liverpool in 1842. The following is an extract from a newspaper report:-
'.... The fire originated in Crompton-street, formerly Wood-street, at the north end of the town, near the docks. The three principal streets affected — namely, Crompton-street, Formby-street, and Neptune-street, all nearly opposite the Borough jail — run east and west between Great Howard-street (in which the prison stands) and Waterloo-road, close to the docks. The three streets and their boundaries, east and west, occupy area from six to seven acres. The small buildings at the top of Crompton-street on the south, amongst which the fire originated, were entirely burnt down. A valuable cotton shed and some other sheds, and other buildings lower down (for the ground slopes towards the river), were saved. The boat-builders’ yards, sail-lofts, &c., facing Waterloo-road, were also saved over the whole frontage to that street, as well as a fire-proof warehouse and others near and the bottom of Formby-street. The same may be said of several of the premises extending up Neptnne-street from the bottom, including Messrs. Grayson and Bannister’s and M’Dowell’s smithy. A shed at the top of the same street, as well as the wall and premises facing the jail, and extending to Mrs. Bark’s house, south corner of Crompton-street, were also unscathed, though damaged ; so that the fire may be said to have been confined chiefly to the centre of the area — sweeping it from north to south. Several dwelling-houses were included in the destruction in the north ; but the greatest portion of the havoc was in the centre — namely, Formby street; in and near which, on both sides, were the larger warehouses, the burning contents which (chiefly cotton) as yet form immense piles or hills in a red-hot state of combustion. The origin of the fire is still involved in mystery, and, as usual on such occasions, there are flying rumours in circulation to which little credit is to be attached. ....'
Sources of Information
-  Historic England: WAREHOUSE, 68, WATERLOO ROAD
- Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser - Friday 9 June 1843
- Liverpool Albion, 9 September 1844
- Liverpool Mail - Saturday 22 July 1843
- Globe - Monday 26 September 1842