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Growing up in Lancashire I often heard the words Pier Head mentioned. This was usually when my parents were talking about the River Mersey and catching a ferry. As a child I never took a lot of notice of the buildings that lined Pier Head like the Port of Liverpool Building, the Royal Liver Building and the fancy building that was built in Italian Renaissance style called the Cunard Building. Seeing this wonderful building that is really graceful and reminds me of an Italian palace made me very, very happy and I couldn't wait to find out more about its history.
It is such a shame that this building along with the other two that make up The Three Graces aren't open to the public and has now been transformed into offices run by the private and public sector organisations.
William Edward Willink and Philip Coldwell Thicknesse were the designers of the building and it was constructed in 1920 to house the headquarters of the Cunard Line, a British/American shipping company who were the pioneers of transatlantic travel. The building closed its doors to the shipping company in the late 1960s but still kept the name of Cunard.
It is certainly a very handsome building; I love the colour of the stone and the way that there are rows of square windows, some with balconies and then arched windows on the bottom of the building. If you look carefully you will see certain sculptures of faces above the arched windows. These represent different faces of the world as the Cunard Line was an international business. There are many ornate figures and sculptures at the top of the building just underneath the roof and also on the sides of the building.
One of the statues I like the most is the one that stands on a pillar in front of the west side of the building. I suppose it is a monument rather than a statue. In fact, it is a war memorial honouring all the employees of Cunard who died during World War I and World War II. It's a tall column, Greek in style, like the sort that you see in temples and stands on a pedestal. Engraved in the stone of the pedestal are the words PRO PATRIA (For one's country), with the dates, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 written underneath. The bronze statue shows a naked man with only a cloak wrapped around the top of his shoulder, holding a shield and in one outstretched hand, a laurel leaf. He is surrounded by maritime artifacts like rope, anchors and shells. I suppose the column represents a ship as further down on each side are bronze sculptures representing sides of a Roman ship. The man who looks victorious is standing as if on the front of the ship, leading his men to victory. Behind the memorial are steps leading to an entrance with small lamps at the side. I should think this column and statue look wonderful when illuminated.
I know it is very difficult to choose which of the Three Graces to look at as they are all marvellous buildings and have defined the city visually for over a hundred years but if you do get the time when walking along the waterfront, stop and take a look at the great Cunard Building. It is part of Liverpool's UNESCO designated World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City.