It is clear to those visiting the Museum of Science and Industry that the buildings on the site have been around a lot longer than the museum itself, which has occupied them since 1983.
The museum buildings are in fact part of the old Liverpool Road Station site, which is a collection of historic buildings that formed the terminus of the world’s first inter-city passenger railway, between Manchester and Liverpool.
Because of the historic importance of our estate, many of our buildings are listed. Listing marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations. So, listing doesn’t just mean they are old, it means they are historically and architecturally important and protected by law.
Six of our buildings, such as the museum entrance building – the Great Western Warehouse – are Grade II listed. This category makes up 92% of all listed buildings, and these buildings are considered of “special interest”.
However, our really special buildings lie at the western end of the site. There, you will find our Grade I listed buildings: the station building from where the world’s first railway passengers departed in 1830; the world’s first railway warehouse; and the house where the Station Master lived and oversaw the work of the site.
Grade I listing is the highest level of protection an historic building can have, and only 2.5% of all listed buildings are in this category. Therefore, Grade I listing is reserved for buildings of “exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important”. So, our buildings sit shoulder to shoulder and share the same listing status with some of the world’s most iconic monuments, such as Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
The museum has a commitment to the continued conservation of our internationally important buildings. Our built heritage is important and part of the appeal of the museum for our visitors.
The key to our approach is conservation not preservation; this means that the work we do is not about freezing time or trying to ‘restore’ the buildings to their original state 180 years ago. Past changes and alterations add to a structure’s story, and we want to ensure that change does not harm or alter the special significance of our buildings.
Above all, it is important that we ensure the survival of our internationally important group of buildings through regular maintenance, making sure the works we do are well considered, that we adhere to conservation best practice, and that works are carried out by skilled craftsmen.