Posted on: 3 June 2022 by Kim Fisher, VG&M Visitor Services in 2022
To celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, this blog looks at the various jubilee celebrations held at the university over the past 130 years.
Jubilee Buildings -A Golden Celebration
During Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year of 1887, University College Liverpool was based in an old Asylum Building.
Principal Gerald Rendall drew attention in his annual college report that they were in desperate need of a new college building and purpose-built headquarters. The college council agreed and approached architect Alfred Waterhouse to draw up plans.
Simultaneously, the Walker Engineering Laboratories were also in the process of being built. They were erected in commemoration for the Golden Jubilee and had been paid for by Sir Andrew Barclay Walker who had provided £20,000 in 1886. They were in the first purpose-built University College Liverpool building which was also designed by Waterhouse and the foundation stone for the laboratories was laid on October 1st 1887 by the Mayor of Liverpool. The laboratories opened on November 2nd 1889, the same year that a fundraising appeal for the construction of the Victoria Building was also launched.
The Walker Engineering Laboratories construction circa 1888.
Left - One of Waterhouse’s proposed architectural plans for the Victoria Building, circa 1887
Right – A sketch of the completed Victoria Building from the 1890s showing the addition of the clock, royal emblems and inscriptions.
The main feature for the Victoria Building was to be the central Jubilee Tower over the main entrance. A committee that had been previously established to construct at Jubilee Clock Tower in the city decided to hand over the £4,500 that they had raised towards the University College Liverpool building instead. The Jubilee Memorial Committee gifted the clock tower as the city’s gift to Queen Victoria on her golden Jubilee under the condition that the tower would include a clock with chimes, a Jubilee inscription and royal emblems in its design.
Left - The Jubilee Clock Tower displaying part of the Jubilee Inscription alongside the Royal Coat of Arms.
In 1888, new architectural plans were drawn up by Waterhouse to include the additions and William Hartley met the cost of the clock and chimes at just under £1000 for both. The Jubilee inscription around the clock tower reads: ‘Victoriae Reginae Dei Gratia L Annos Feliciter Regnanti Cives Posuerunt’ which translates as ‘For Victoria, Queen by the grace of God, in commemoration of 50 years of fortunate reign; erected by the citizens’ and the exterior design also includes the Royal Coat of Arms in terracotta.
The Walker Building on the left and the Victoria Building on the right, both designed by Alfred Waterhouse for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated on 20 June 1887 and the Victoria Building opened 5 years later on 13 December 1892. These two brand-new Jubilee buildings kickstarted a construction spree in the quadrangle that was to last another 22 years.
The Jubilee Quad – A Diamond Celebration
Commemoration stone in the centre of the Jubilee Quadrangle.
125 years after the Victoria Building opened, the University of Liverpool celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee by redeveloping the quadrangle. ADP Architecture were brought in to design the space, transforming an old car park with a small grassy area into a pedestrianised gathering space.
ADP's proposed design of the Jubilee Quadrangle.
Their approach and solution to the design is described by the team as follows:
“By looking at historic photographs of the site, we discovered that the quadrangle had originally had an oval shape. This formed the basis of our designs, which also took inspiration from the form of spun sugar – a nod to Henry Tate, the sugar magnate who donated a large amount of money to the University.”
Top - Quadrangle in the early 1900s. Bottom – Colourised aerial view circa 1931, the quadrangle can be seen top left of image.
“We chose subtle ways to embed the Jubilee celebrations in the design, making it a homage that will stand the test of time. The central green ring includes 60 LED lights in its steps, while the pleached trees echo both the neighbouring Metropolitan Cathedral – with its distinctive metal crown – and the crown of Queen Elizabeth.”
Left: The Quadrangle circa 2007 before development and right: in 2020.
Today, the Jubilee Quadrangle is a popular place for staff and students alike to use for social gatherings at lunch time.
The Jubilee Quadrangle with Jubilee Clock tower in the background
Jubilee Trees – A Platinum Celebration
In addition to the quadrangle crown trees planted for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, ten years on in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, the University of Liverpool has joined the national tree planting initiative, the Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC), which invites people from across the UK to ‘Plant a Tree for the Jubilee’ to encourage sustainability.
The university will plant around 25 trees this year at various sites including our city centre campus and Ness Botanic Gardens. Each tree will be selected for its suitability at that particular location and will also reflect the international nature of the University.
The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Janet Beer, planted the first tree, a Betula, at Ness Gardens in March 2022 (Credit, Sara Bishop).
Alongside Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, the university has also celebrated its own jubilee.
At the end of the university winter term in December 1931, the university began the 50th anniversary celebrations for the foundation of University College Liverpool, which was founded in 1881 (although it officially opened its doors in January 1882).
A Graduation ceremony was held in St George’s Hall on the 18 December with a dinner in the Adelphi Hotel that same evening.
“Born at the crisis of the greatest economic depression of the nineteenth century, the college and University are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary in a time of even greater anxieties but proudly claim they have their part to play in the economic rebuilding of England.”
Vice Chancellor Dr Hetherington’s address at 18 December Graduation & Jubilee Celebration.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 caused a cataclysmic chain of events around the world and in Britain, the impact was enormous and led some to refer to this dire economic time as the ‘devil’s decade.’ Hetherington’s Jubilee address noted that the university would however help to build the country back up and similarly, in 2022 with the economic disruption of the pandemic, Universities and the skills of graduates will have an important role to play in the Covid-19 recovery process.
As part of the University Jubilee celebrations, on the 19th December 1931, a reception was held in the Victoria Building for 2000 people with a dance programme in the Tate Library and buffets in the Entrance Hall. The following day, a special thanksgiving service at Liverpool Cathedral on the Sunday.
Dance card and programme for the Tate Hall Jubilee reception, 1931.
1953 marked 50 years since we were granted a Royal Charter and the right to confer our own degrees as The University of Liverpool. The celebrations included an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother but she wasn’t able to attend the ceremony until 1958 due to the death of her brother on the 1st May 1953.
“Our Jubilee will not merely be a time for festivities; it will also afford us an opportunity for looking back and trying to assess what has been achieved during the last fifty years” – Dr J.F Mountford, Vice Chancellor
Jubilee photograph of the University Senate in the Tate Hall, Victoria Building.
The Victoria Building featured heavily in the 1953 celebrations including photographs of the University Senate taken in the Tate Hall. An evening Jubilee reception was also held in the building on 2nd May. This was part of a week-long celebration and the programme of events were designed to illustrate and celebrate the works of different university departments in each of the buildings in the quadrangle; including the Victoria and Whelan Buildings (previously as the Medical School), Walker Engineering and Thompson Yates Laboratories which were all designed by Waterhouse.
Programme for the 1953 University of Liverpool Jubilee celebrations.
In the Victoria Building, dancing began in the Tate Hall from 10pm as after the library fittings had been removed from this space in the 1930s, it was used as an Assembly Hall instead of a library. The bronze busts on display in this room were by Jacob Epstein and were presented by Professor Sir Henry Cohen and the bust of Albert Einstein was his Jubilee gift to the University.
Jubilee gift of the bust of Albert Einstein by Jacob Epstein.
The programme also included ‘Sound films’ in the Arts Theatre (now the Leggate Theatre) showing the Mickey Mouse Cartoon ‘Building a Building’ which is still something that we offer in exactly the same space almost 70 years later with our Disney Family Films each month.
Jubilee celebrations in the Arts Theatre in the Victoria Building also included films and Disney cartoons.
Over the years we have celebrated many Jubilee’s and we hope to be a part of many more to come in the future and this year we celebrate 130 years of the Victoria Building on 13th December.
Keywords: Jubilee, Platinum Jubilee, University of Liverpool, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, Victoria Building, Alfred Waterhouse, University of Liverpool Special Collection & Archives.