(Above right) Albion House as it appears today as the beautiful hotel; "30 James Street - Home of the Titanic."
The History and Transformation of Albion House
The White Star Line was a prominent British company that created some of the best and most luxurious vessels in the world, at the time of their launch. The company is most famous for two vessels: the groundbreaking RMS Oceanic, that was launched in 1870, and, of course, RMS Titanic, which set off on her maiden voyage on 10th April, 1912.
On 18th January, 1868, Thomas Ismay bought the White Star House flag, trade name and goodwill of the bankrupt White Star Line for £1,000. Ismay's goal was to operate large ships on a North Atlantic service. To do so, he would need a company headquarters, and so he established the White Star Line at Albion House in Liverpool.
Albion House was designed by respected architects Richard Norman Shaw and James Francis Doyle, and was built for the purpose of the shipping company. The building, situated on the corner of James Street and The Strand, was similar in design to Shaw's earlier work, the former New Scotland Yard building in London, offering his synonymous Grand Hall and Grand Staircase.
Albion House was therefore the destination that the captain and crew of the White Star Line's many ships would have received their orders. As the headquarters was based in Liverpool, the building was also RMS Titanic's port of registry and it is for this reason the city's name was placed on the ship's stern.
Following the death of Thomas Ismay, his son, J. Bruce Ismay, became the chairman and managing director of the White Star Line, and therefore had an office in Albion House. He was, however, criticised following the sinking of RMS Titanic, as Ismay, who was a passenger aboard the ship, chose to escape the sinking vessel on one of the few lifeboats available, leaving aboard his passengers and crew. RMS Titanic sadly sank in the early hours of 15th April, 1912, and over 1,500 people tragically lost their lives that fateful night. 705 people were, however, rescued by RMS Carpathia, which was captained by Captain Henry Rostron.
Many believe the White Star Line officials were too afraid to leave the building once news of the disaster reached the offices, and so chose to read the names of the deceased from the balcony. Historians, however, have stated this is simply not true.
The White Star Line was rocked by the news of the maritime disaster. Liverpool, Southampton and Belfast were also hit the hardest, as many of the crew aboard the vessel hailed from the cities. The White Star Line, however, carried on producing some of the best ships in the world, and so Albion House continued to serve in her role as the company's headquarters.
Due to the Great Depression, the White Star Line and their competitor, Cunard Line, faced significant financial difficulties as a result of falling passenger numbers and ageing fleets. In 1933, the British government agreed to provide financial assistance to the shipping companies, with a condition they merge their North Atlantic operations. An agreement was made and the two companies merged on 10th May, 1934, creating the company "Cunard White Star".
In 1947, Cunard acquired 38% of Cunard White Star they did not own, and on 31st December, 1949, the company also acquired the Cunard White Star assets and operations, and so chose to revert back to the name "Cunard" on 1st January, 1950. The White Star Line was officially no more, as the only White Star ships that flew the house flag, RMS Georgic and MV Britannic, were withdrawn from service in 1956 and 1961.
World War II
Liverpool was a major international port during World War II, welcoming troop ships from the North Atlantic. She was therefore a target and sustained heavy bombing by the German Luftwaffe. The city was the most heavily bombed area of the country, outside of London, and so Albion House was significantly damaged in the attack known as the Liverpool Blitz.
Albion House, unlike most of the buildings that surrounded her, stood tall as only the gable was damaged. This is thanks to Norman Shaw's cast iron construction, and the building was rebuilt in the late 1940s.
Albion House was used as an office space during the 1980s and was noted for its exquisite fine wood desks. However, the building was soon abandoned and remained derelict for many years. That was until Lawrence and Katie Kenwright, husband and wife hotel developers, acquired Albion House to create 30 James Street - Home of the Titanic, a new Titanic hotel in Liverpool.
It was, and still is, the Kenwrights' goal to create a Titanic hotel that celebrates the extensive history of the White Star Line, whilst commemorating RMS Titanic and her passengers. The hotel developers therefore removed the temporary office walls to restore the building back to Shaw's original architecture.
The cabins, suites, luxury doubles and quarter rooms therefore offer an individual connection to the White Star Line, as they are named after a passenger, ship or destination. The hotel also includes the rooftop Carpathia Champagne Bar & Restaurant in honour of the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.
The Grade II* listed hotel therefore ensures that the building remains apart of Liverpool's extensive maritime history, and that the wonderful work of the White Star Line and the tragedy of RMS Titanic's maiden voyage is never forgotten.