New owner of Liverpool’s historic Oriel Chambers plans major upgrade

Built in Water Street in 1864, Oriel Chambers was believed to have inspired architects across the Atlantic on the designs for America’s first skyscrapers. Tony McDonough reports

Oriel Chambers
Yakel Property Investment is to embark on an upgrade of Oriel Chambers


Liverpool’s Oriel Chambers is believed to have inspired the first skyscrapers built in the US and now the city centre office building is to get a major upgrade.

Located in Water Street and home to more than 30 business, the Grade I-listed Oriel Chambers was acquired by Yakel Property Investment earlier this year from Bruntwood, which itself paid £5m for the building in 2006 and embarked on its own £750,000 refurbishment.

Yakel has now tasked the office agency team of property consultancy CBRE to oversee a significant investment that will see the delivery of new flexible office space, focusing on on the health and wellbeing of tenants, which include Oriel Barristers Chambers which has been resident since 1965.

Plans also include the repurposing of Oriel Close and the return of a ground floor offering for tenants and the immediate community. Superfast broadband will also be provided as standard to all occupiers.

Future plans

Samuel Farage, managing director of Yakel said:Oriel Chambers is one of the finest office addresses in Liverpool and we are delighted to take over stewardship of such an historic hub for business.

“We will harness the expertise of the team at CBRE to help us realise our future plans for this important office building moving forwards. The team at Kuits provided key legal expertise throughout the transaction, demonstrating experience, knowledge and commercial acumen to help us with this unique acquisition.”

It was built in 1864 and designed by renowned architect Peter Ellis. He maximised the influx of light by employing a grid of oriel windows which became the building’s defining feature.

The design was thought have inspired John Welborn Root, a renowned American architect of the Chicago School of Architecture who was sent to study in Liverpool by his father who was concerned for his safety during the American Civil War. The long rows of bay windows in Oriel Chambers was a feature of the early American skyscrapers.

Scathing editorial

However, Oriel Chambers wasn’t to everyone’s taste in Victorian Liverpool. An editorial in a magazine called The Builder said in 1866: “The plainest brick warehouse in town is infinitely superior as a building to that large agglomeration of protruding plate-glass bubbles in Water Street termed Oriel Chambers.

“Did we not see this vast abortion – which would be depressing were it not ludicrous – with our own eyes, we should have doubted the possibility of its existence. Where and in what are their beauties supposed to lie?”

Back to the present day and Andrew Byrne, associate director at CBRE Liverpool, is significantly more enamoured with the building, saying: “The Grade I-listed property lies between the grandeur of Water Street’s two other famous landmarks – Liverpool Town Hall and the Royal Liver Building – and is within walking distance of Liverpool’s iconic waterfront.  It is a uniquely both historic and contemporary destination for businesses.”

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