This week was a big one for Liverpool’s biggest export, The Beatles (sorry, Steven Gerrard). Their new, very-last song, “Now and Then,” used machine learning to turn a John Lennon demo tape into … a Beatles demo tape. We love the Fabs as much as the next trivia nerd, but as far as Zombie Beatles songs go, we’ll take the mirror-polished sheen of “Free As a Bird” every day of the week. (all eight of them.)
Anyway, it also reminded us of the last time U.S. pop culture world heard from that jewel on the Mersey: The Batman. That’s right, Robert Pattinson’s $771M-grossing debut in the cape and cowl was shot in and around Liverpool in late 2020, and some of the city’s most iconic buildings appear on-screen.
“[T]he Liver Building in Liverpool is the top of the Gotham City Police Department and the [site] of an amazing stunt that Batman performs,” the film’s production designer, James Chinlund, told RadioTimes.com. “Then the exterior of St. George’s Hall in Liverpool played as Gotham City Hall and Gotham Bank. So yeah, it was a real treasure trove of locations for us in the North.”
The Royal Liver Building is the most recognizable building in the entire city, with its twin clock towers and the pair of Liver Birds that keep watch from the tops of each tower. It took three years to complete the building, which opened on July 19, 1911. It stretched to a then-unheard of 13 stories and, despite its now-modest height, it’s considered to be Britain’s first skyscraper. (And everyone on Merseyside knows that the clock faces on the Liver Building are bigger than the clock on Big Ben. Suck it, London.)
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The two 18-feet-tall Liver Birds are oversized copper representations of Liverpool’s mythical winged symbol. They’re nicknamed Bertie and Bella; the forever-repeated story is that she’s keeping an eye on the River Mersey, watching the ships come into port, and he’s looking over the city to protect its people. The other Liver-legend is that if the birds fly off, the city will “cease to exist.” (No word on how the city got by for 700 years before they were installed there.)
Less than a mile away, the stunning St. George’s Hall houses an ornate concert hall and the Civil and Crown Courts, and its opulent Great Hall can be rented out for weddings. “[It] is one of the few buildings where you can be tried for murder, have a ball, or listen to a concert all under one roof,” the World Monuments Fund quipped.
The imposing neoclassical building was built in 1854, and it was the home of both the “first attempt at air conditioning in a public building in the UK,” as the BBC put it, and the once-largest pipe organ in the country. (With its 7,737 pipes, it’s now the third-largest in the United Kingdom, behind London’s Royal Albert Hall and the 10,268 pipe behemoth at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.)
“It had to be a city that you hadn’t seen before but that felt real,” producer Dylan Clark told inews.co.uk, of finding the right location for Gotham City. “Liverpool anchored the look and feel of Gotham, which needs to feel Gothic.”
Photo illustration: El Pollock, CC-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Questionist