THE RACQUET CLUB HISTORY
The idea for the Liverpool Racquet Club was first proposed in 1874, it differed from other Gentlemen’s Clubs in London and other major cities in that it set out to combine the same social facilities as those clubs with facilities for sport.
It opened in 1877 on Upper Parliament Street, close to member’s residences in Rodney Street, Canning Street, and Falkners Square. It had two Racquets Courts and an American Bowling Alley with an annual subscription of 5 Guineas. Immediately, substantial alterations added anew dining room and Billiards room.
Between 1894 and 1896, the dining room was enlarged again; a new private room was added, new kitchens and electric lighting. At the same time the Bowling Alley was converted into two fives courts – one Eton and one Rugby but by the turn of the century the Rugby Fives court was being used as a squash court.
A covered lawn tennis court with sprung wooden floor was added in 1913. In 1928 the original Racquets court had been converted into a squash court and by 1936 all three courts were squash courts and the club became residential with 12 bedrooms. During the Second World War various courts were destroyed by enemy air action and were not re-built until the end of the war.
During the Second World War the club provided hospitality to the officers of the Royal Navy serving with the Western Command and it is from this Naval Association that the bar in the club became known as the ‘Dry Dock’.
On a hot sticky July evening in 1981, all this changed when the Toxteth Riots and the total destruction of the club and all its records occurred on the morning of 6 July 1981. Following Liverpool post war demise, the area around Upper Parliament Street had become very deprived with the large Georgian merchants houses now divided into many flats. 70 buildings and 100 cars were destroyed, 500 arrests made and the city was changed forever.
The Athenaeum, Lyceum and Artists club immediately offered members use of their facilities and the offices of John Malthouse became the temporary HQ. The committee examined many possible sites in the city centre which might be suitable as new premises and it was not until 1982 that Albert Evison discovered that the lease of Hargreaves Building was up for sale. The lease was purchased in November 1982, by then the club had been awarded £1.6m compensation under the Riot Damages Act, subject to being spent only on re-instatement. In January 1983, the trustees negotiated a 150year lease with the city council for a premium of £65,000 at an annual rental of one peppercorn. At a committee meeting in November 1983, Balfour Beatty’s tender was accepted and work started to restore the building at the end of the month. The club re-opened on 20 May 1985.
In 2001 with membership in terminal decline the members decided to sell the club and Martin and Helen Ainscough negotiated to purchase the premises.
History of Hargreaves Building
Built in 1859 by Sir James Picton as the headquarters for Sir William Brown merchant and banker. It was built in the form of an Italianate Palazzo, possibly as a reflection of the power of the Medicis and that of the merchant princes of the Victorian era.
Sir William Brown (Brown Harriman in New York, Brown Shipley in Liverpool and London) was a major American merchant – hence the carved plaques above the windows of Isabella 1 who gave permission and funding for Columbus’ voyage, Columbus himself, Bermejo a Spanish adventurer particularly in Peru and Nicaragua, Vespucci, Cortez, conqueror of Mexico, Queen Anacoana sole ruler of Cuba, Fransisco Pizarro who conquered and governed Peru. Hargreaves himself was William Browns son in law and ran the Liverpool operation.
The building was the headquarters of Brown Shipley bank until it moved to London in 1888.