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Rob Ainsworth   3 May 2007

The Bluecoat is the city centre's oldest building.  Building started in 1717 and was finished in 1725, at a cost of £2.300. It is in the Queen Anne style and is Grade One listed.  The architect is unknown but the name of Thomas Ripley, architect of the Old Customs House, has been suggested. The building consists of three wings built around a cobbled yard. The fourth edge of the yard is separated from School Lane (just behind Church Street, the main shopping street and very close to the Athenaeum) by iron railings and gates. There is a garden behind.

The Bluecoat was originally built as a school “to teach poor children to read, write and cast accounts, and to instruct them in the principles and doctrines of the Established Church”. The school moved to new premises in the suburbs of Liverpool in 1906 and the original building was preserved as an arts centre, England's oldest. Since 1907 it has supported a community of regional, national and international artists, presenting their work in a lively programme of visual and performing arts. For a time, from 1910, it was the home of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture.

Bluecoat has been in course of major refurbishment and will reopen during the autumn of 2007. The refurbishment has been designed by Rotterdam-based architects BIO Architecten. The redevelopment project will restore the historic fabric of the building and create a striking new wing which is complementary to the existing Bluecoat heritage site. The wing will house a new art gallery and performance space. Existing spaces are being rationalised to improve access throughout and to extend spaces for artists and creative industry tenants. On reopening, Bluecoat will launch a heritage education programme to strengthen its position as a heritage attraction in the city. Activities will include a heritage display, guided tours, courses on the heritage of the building and the city, guest lectures, an archive and increased access to and interpretation of the building.

Further information from: Marketing Department, Bluecoat Arts Centre, School Lane, Liverpool L 1 3BX tel: 0151 702 5321 email