Canning History Project
The Canning Area, Liverpool: An Overview
The Canning Street area, also known as the Georgian quarter or simply as Canning, is a mostly residential area of once-wealthy terraced streets just over half a mile south-east of Liverpool city centre.
The core area is roughly a half mile from west to east – from Liverpool Cathedral and Hope Street in the west, to Falkner Square. North to south, it’s somewhat narrower, just a quarter-mile from Falkner Street to Huskisson Street.
Hope Street itself runs roughly along the crest of the north-south escarpment which rises up sharply eastwards from Liverpool city centre; and the Canning Street area sits on the relatively flat higher ground just east of this scarp.
The area is largely residential, of terraced housing three or four storeys above ground, built for merchants and the relatively well-to-do in the Georgian and early Victorian periods. Most of the buildings are Grade 2 listed.
At the western edge of the area, on St James Mount, is Liverpool Cathedral, with its monumental head-and-shoulders shape in red sandstone, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and begun in 1903. Between the Cathedral and Hope Street is a quarried dell enclosing St James’s Cemetery, with its eastern side featuring ramps, catacombs and a natural spring. Quarrying originally began here in the 16th Century, and operations were wound up in 1825. St James Mount was established as Liverpool’s first public park in 1771; and in 1826 St James’s Cemetery was established in the quarried dell. The classically-designed Oratory (John Foster Jnr) dates from this phase of the site. The Cemetery was closed in 1936, and is now a designated Grade 1 Historic Park.
Other churches include the white neo-classical St Bride’s Church (Samuel Rowland, built 1829-30), today host to various arts and social events as well as its religious functions. The St Philip Neri Church (PS Gilby, built 1914-20) is remarkable for its exterior friezes and its adjacent Spanish garden to be glimpsed from Catharine Street. The derelict stone Church Of The Holy Apostles on the corner of Canning and Catharine Streets was demolished c2000 to make way for the Mosslake flat-block. The Deutsche Kirche Liverpool (c1959) is on the corner of Canning Street and Bedford Street South, the site of a church since 1846: it was a German Church by 1931, and was allegedly the only building in the Georgian quarter to be bombed by the Germans in World War 2, before being fully demolished in 1952.
At the eastern end of the Canning area is Falkner Square, with its Georgian terraces facing onto Falkner Square Gardens, a public park since 1835.
Blackburne House, set back from Hope Street, was originally built c1788 as a rural mansion for John Blackburne, a salt-refiner and ex-mayor. In 1874 it was enlarged to become the Liverpool Institute High School For Girls; and it’s now the Blackburne House Centre For Women.
In the 20th Century there was a general decline in the wealth of the area. Houses previously occupied by single families and servants now became divided into flats or bedsits. The subsequent mix of style and cheapness led to a growing artiness and bohemianism of area, especially with the adjacent art college and nearby university and theatres. Poets, musicians and artists resident from the 1960s on have included Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Sam Walsh, Dick Young, Brian Patten, Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and other Liverpool Scene members (including Andy Roberts, who wrote the song ‘64’ about their house in Canning Street, also host to Allen Ginsberg and John Peel). More recent musicians include Dave Jackson of Benny Profane, and Sean Payne and Abi Harding of The Zutons; and playwright Willy Russell had his office on Canning Street.
Pubs serving the area include the Cracke, the Belvedere Arms, the Caledonia, the Blackburne Arms and Peter Kavanagh’s.
The charity Kids In Need and Distress has its energy self-sufficient home in Back Canning Street. This was until recently also an urban farm.
Canning Housing Co-operative was formed in 1972 to buy, improve and let properties in the area, and now has 33 houses, comprising some 120 households.
The Rodney Street Conservation Area, designated in 1968 and extended in 1976, took in all of southern Hope Street including Gambier Terrace (John Foster Jnr, reputedly), the Cathedral and St James’s Cemetery, and was ranked as ‘outstanding’ in a national context by the (then) Historic Buildings Council.
Mostly because of its Georgian architecture, the Canning area has become very popular for film and TV period dramas – in 2015 featuring notably in the climax of series 9 of Foyle’s War.