The RopeWalks area rises gently from Hanover Street, up towards Berry Street, and includes Europe’s oldest established Chinatown. The name is derived from the craft of rope-making for sailing ships. The ‘Roperies’ serviced the shipping industry following the creation of the world’s ﬁrst commercial ‘Wet-Dock’ in Liverpool, designed by Thomas Steers in 1715, and dominated the area until the 19th century.
It is characterised by its long, straight streets running parallel to each other. The streets were built in this way to allow rope manufacturers to lay the ropes out lengthways during production. By the mid nineteenth century the ‘Old Dock’ had been reclaimed and the focus of the city’s growth had moved elsewhere. As a result the townscape of RopeWalks is distinct from the shire counties and ﬁelds that preceded the construction of the ‘Old Dock’ and the Victorian development within Liverpool that post-date it.
In 1988 RopeWalks was designated a Conservation area, enabling Liverpool City Council to protect this historial area of the city locally, however, the area’s international importance has also been acknowlegded by inclusion of Lower Duke Street in the UNESCO Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site.
RopeWalks today contains a mixture of late 18th and early 19th century merchants’ houses, counting houses and warehouses (early merchants’ dwellings often physically linked with their warehouses, reﬂecting a dual residential and commercial function), along with later 19th century and early 20th century low-grade commercial and industrial adaptation and redevelopment.
The area encompasses the city’s major independent retail street in the form of Bold Street, is home to a number of businesses in the creative industries, has a ﬂourishing nightlife and includes Liverpool’s vibrant Chinatown that developed in the area from the 1820s.
There are currently 102 individual listed buildings within RopeWalks. Over the last 15 years there have been new developments for mixed-use and apartment buildings; the UK’s leading centre of media, art and technology (FACT) and grant aided schemes to restore architectural features and bring historic ﬂoorspace back into use as shops, offices, hotel and living accommodation. Much of the warehousing within RopeWalks has been brought back into use through the Lower Duke Street Townscape Heritage Initiative (1998-2001) and is now inhabited through mixed uses of apartments, offices and restaurants.
Pevsner Architectural Guides – Liverpool – Joseph Sharples