Bid to save historic Irish Centre in £8m scheme

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Former Irish Centre of Liverpool. Pic © Liverpool City Council

Former Irish Centre of Liverpool. Pic © Liverpool City Council

Two Liverpool universities are planning an £8million regeneration of the historic Wellington Rooms in the city centre.

John Moores University and the University of Liverpool have begun working with Merseyside Building Preservation Trust and the city council on a plan that will show the city as an innovative hub.

The city’s former Irish Centre located on Mount Pleasant was originally used for high society dances when it opened in 1816. The Grade II listed building was closed in 1997 and all recent proposals for regeneration have failed to get off the ground.

The universities’ plan aims to regenerate the building into an enterprise centre, offering students entrepreneurship training, and provide office space to help new businesses develop.

Assistant Mayor, Councillor Nick Small, said: “The universities’ plans for the building are markedly different from previous plans but it will fit well with the way in which the area has developed in recent years.”

A proposal was approved for the Wellington Rooms to become a function suite in 2002 but was never implemented, while an application for it to become a hotel in 2006 and 2007 was rejected because of the impact a three storey extension would have on the building.

Those behind the budding project are Professor Robin Leatherbarrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Scholarship, Research and Knowledge Transfer at LJMU; Professor Stephen Holloway, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Partnerships, Civic Engagement and Enterprise at the University of Liverpool and Chris Musson, Chief Executive of Liverpool Science, which is situated next to the Wellington Rooms on Mount Pleasant.

The building became the Embassy Club in 1923, a setting for tea dances, classes, and weddings. The Embassy Club ceased in 1940 when it became the first base for The Rodney Youth Centre. Bomb damage in 1941 destroyed most of the original ceilings but the ballroom ceiling survived.

It became the Liverpool Irish Centre in 1965 and for 30 years hosted ceilidhs, concerts, drama, music and language classes as well as a providing a base for sports clubs

Mr Holloway told JMU Journalism: “The Wellington Rooms has a huge history and is a building that many people have extremely fond memories of.

“It is unfortunate that none of the previous proposals for the site have come to fruition but it is important that we get the right scheme that respects its history and, crucially, is viable.”

About Jenny Kirkham, JMU Journalism