The Royal Institution was once the meeting place for Victorian gentry
Liverpool's historic Royal Institution on Colquitt Street is reopening as a cocktail bar this week. Like its London namesake, the Royal Institution was once the meeting place for Victorian gentry involved in the sciences, arts, literature and all that Empire-building stuff, inaugurated in 1817 (just before Her Majesty ascended the throne).
Now in a new era, we wanted to keep the foundations of its history and themes of the past together with new ideas of this ever changing world.
The Liverpool Royal Institution was founded in 1814 by a group of Liverpool merchants and professional men, associates of William Roscoe - probably best known as one of England's first abolitionists, and the author of the children’s poem, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast.
Roscoe was anxious to promote a local form of high-quality education. The Institution opened, with Roscoe’s address, on 25 November 1817. Writing the Liverpool Royal Institution’s history in 1953, Henry A. Ormerod was struck by “how much of the intellectual life of nineteenth century Liverpool was centred in the Royal Institution, and how many of our modern institutions originated either as the direct creation of the Institution itself, or as guests within its walls.”
The building itself dates back to 1799, constructed for the slavetrader and merchant Thomas Parr, vacated on his retirement in 1805.
The interior is probably the best thing about this place. Inspired by/lifted from the pages of Audubon’s classic Birds of America (published when the original RI was flourishing), the entrance hall is striking, with a flamingo filling the entirety of one wall. Only 120 complete copies of Audubon's books are known to have survived, but one of them is on display at Liverpool Central Library.
The Royal Institution building has changed hands quite a bit in recent years. In 2018, the venue was given a revamp by Gracious Development Group with the vision of creating a private club where members could work, eat, drink and relax. In July 2020, the venue reopened under new owner David Wood. A new website, Royal Institution Bar, and social media channels have since been set up.
On its Instagram, Royal Institution Bar wrote, “Now in a new era, we wanted to keep the foundations of its history and themes of the past together with new ideas of this ever changing world. The three iconic rooms will take you on an expedition of fine wine, spirits, signature and classic cocktails done ‘Simple but Better’.”
The Royal Institution Bar officially opens on Thursday 4 August. The cocktail list includes the likes of a Clover Club, Margarita, Naked & Famous, Grasshopper, Negroni, Whisky Sour, Old Fashioned, and three signature cocktails; Welcome to the Jungle, The Monkey’s Journal and El Flamenco Azul. Wines by the glass and bottle are also available, as well as draught and bottled beer, cider and spirits.
Royal Institution Bar, 34 Colquitt Street, Liverpool L1 4DE
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