The original Athenaeum newsroom opened on 1st January 1799, two years after the founders had issued their prospectus to potential members. Its library followed in May of that year. The prospectus seeking investors described the news room as procuring a 'regular supply of newspapers, both town and country, all the periodical publications of any value, and all the pamphlets that have reference to subjects of local or general polity or commerce'. The club was also to provide 'books for the acquisition of general knowledge and for entertainment'. One of the most important parts of the library is the Roscoe Collection. William Roscoe was one of the founding proprietors. After his bankruptcy in 1815 and the forced sale of his library, his friends purchased certain volumes and presented them to the Athenaeum thereby ensuring that Roscoe had continued use of these books. This concept of the Gentlemen's Club as a news and library resource predates the establishment of such clubs in London. In 1800 clubs in London were still based on party political lines or were homes for organised gambling. The London Athenaeum was established in 1824, the Garrick Club in 1831.
The present building occupies the three floors above shops at the western corner of School Lane and Church Alley, on your left as you leave the gated Bluecoat Chambers. It was designed by Harold Dod in 1924 and occupied four years later. The interior has a grand elliptical staircase and a spectacular library. The entrance keystone of a carved Athena's Head is attributed to Herbert Tyson Smith. The Athenaeum Club is the only private club and subscription library and news room in Liverpool to survive into the 21st century.
Alan Maycock © 2008
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