The door at Crown Street station

I have been arguing that Sudley House in Mossley Hill was the architectural inspiration for Liverpool Crown Street, the first purpose-designed railway station which opened for business in 1830.

One obvious difference, however, is the door behind the portico in Bury's print. The south wing at Sudley doesn't have an external door in the comparable position as rooms were accessed via the former main hall, now the Garden Hall after the Holts added a new main entrance. However, if you look at Sudley's main door in the former hallway, you may be surprised.

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Figure: Door at Crown Street from Bury print (left, Wikipedia) and door to Garden Hall at Sudley (right). Orange arrows show pilasters, some of which are partially hidden by columns in front of them as are large sidelights at Sudley.

Pilasters and sidelights

To start with I saw the door at Sudley had small adjacent sidelights and thought that was vaguely familiar. However, when I had a chance to look at Bury's print, I noticed that the sidelights are much larger and bordered by four pilasters. They are coloured dark grey in the print which made me think they were part of the portico (which I suspect was added later by John Foster Jnr).

However, if you look more closely at Sudley, there are also large sidelights and these are bordered by sandstone pilasters! So maybe the pilasters were painted grey, in shadow or simply miscoloured? There is incidentally an earlier variant of Bury's print in which one pilaster is the same colour as the door. I have always assumed that this was an error but there is an outside possibility that it reflects an intermediate stage in the Foster works. Anyway, if Sudley is anything to go by, the pilasters would significantly change the internal appearance of the doorway and the OpenSim model needs to be modified accordingly.

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Figure: Interior view at Sudley showing large sidelights and transom light above door

The portico at Sudley

The door at Sudley also has a portico supported by four chunky Tuscan columns that look nothing like the slender (iron?) columns at Crown Street. There have been suggestions that architect Thomas Harrison of Chester had a hand in Sudley and I wonder whether these are the features being referenced. One possibility is that the Sudley portico was also added later — perhaps Casson, the principal architect, had a profound dislike of them. However, as he got older Harrison increasingly focused his work on Chester so it depends somewhat on when Sudley was built and this, unfortunately, is another contentious question. I favour 1823/24 but opinions differ. Apparently the land was acquired by Robinson from the Tarletons as early as 1811.

The door at Sudley also has a transom light above it and this might also be the case at Crown Street where daylight would be at a premium, not least once the train shed and verandah were in place. Shaw's picture of the train shed shows that this had skylights but whether that was the case with the verandah canopy is less clear. The small tunnel, however was gas-lit and presumably this was an option for the station although there were certainly concerns about the cost of lighting the tunnel on a continuous basis.

The smaller sidelights and glazed door at Sudley may have been a later addition or simply discarded from the Crown Street design.

Conclusion

The reuse of a prominent Sudley feature drawn from outside the south wing seems to reduce the chance that the house and station are unconnected unless, of course, both are based on a common patternbook or prevailing style. To my mind, however, a common architect, namely Casson, is the simplest and most likely explanation.