supporting independent artists & makers • open 7 days • Free Shipping Over £50!

The Rich History of MerseyMade

During MerseyMade’s second birthday celebration in November 2021, we unveiled the original brass plaque for our building, back in its rightful place, welcoming those who enter.

The piece, that once welcomed seamen to the Gordon Smith’ Seamen’s Institute was reinstated to commemorate the rich history and heritage of the building and the surrounding area.

But, to fully understand the importance of the plaque, you need to get to grips with the history of the space in which MerseyMade inhabits, now known as Chancery House.


In Spring of 1899, work commenced on the Liverpool Seamen’s Friend Society’s first purpose-built accommodation, the Gordon Smith Institute for Seamen.

The building cost £7,000 to complete and was funded by cotton broker and M.P., Samuel Smith. It was named in memory of his only son, Navy League Secretary J. Gordon Smith, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 27 in 1898.

Samuel Smith was known for his great benefactor ways, providing free loaves of bread to parents who attended Sunday Service at the Picton Rooms, something often attributed to Gordon Smith and his dying words, for his father to perform acts of kindness.

The building officially opened in 1900, with Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, Arthur Crosthwaite cutting the metaphorical ribbon on 26th November. The Dutch Renaissance style building’s 200 rooms allowed seamen to rest and seek spiritual guidance. With signs in a dozen languages stating:

“Seamen and emigrants may rest here, read, write here with nothing to pay.”


The 1930s saw not one, but two royal visitations.

The first of these was in June 1932 when the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, visited on his way back to London from the Isle of Man, where he had been watching the T.T. Races.

Two years later, in May 1934, Prince George’s brother Albert, Duke of York, visited whilst on a two-day visit to Merseyside. Prior to his arrival at the Institute, hundreds of sailors were treated to a concert by local singer Nancy Thomas. Albert became King in 1936 following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, styling himself as George VI.


The Second World War brought along huge challenges. Many seamen were passing through Liverpool whose vessels had been sunk by enemy action. They had no possessions except those in which they were standing.

The institute provided them with food and clothing and every piece of available space was used as makeshift beds including the billiard tables.

In 1942, the Superintendent Mr J. B. Bryans, told a gathering of prospective volunteers that up to 400 people were being accommodated per night.

When peace resumed, the Institute underwent a much-needed modernisation programme. This included improvements to the recreation lounge, renamed the Pilgrim Lounge in recognition of a £2,000 donation that was made by the Pilgrim’s Trust.


However, during the late 1960s, Liverpool went into decline as a port and the Institute faced financial problems as income decreased.

By the mid 1970s there was a £35,000 deficit in addition to £30,000 being needed to fund fire precautions. The doors finally closed for good in July 1977.


In 1979 the decaying building was purchased by Poulsom & Co, a firm of Chartered Accountants. With the assistance of grants from the Liverpool Development Agency, it was converted into a suite of offices.

The name Chancery House was chosen as it was felt it was a more suitable name for a firm of Chartered Accountants. Sadly, structural defects, dry rot and damp meant that many of the original features had to be replaced.


After the Millennium, the building faced an uncertain future with it being just outside the huge Liverpool ONE shopping and entertainment complex, which opened in 2008. However, in 2017 architects Falconer Chester Hall oversaw a sympathetic restoration of the building, including an extension added to the top for penthouse apartments.

Overall, the scheme completely transformed the building into 37 apartments and three ground floor retail and restaurant units.


2019 is when we joined the story of a building that had been through so much. Opening our doors November 10th, we named our café after Gordon Smith himself, to reconnect with the original story that we loved so much.

We opened with the hope of not only creating a creative hub in the heart of the city centre, but of bringing the building back to life and celebrating the grand history that is etched into the very walls.


Having been open now for two years, surviving a pandemic and coming out of the other side with even more determination, MerseyMade continues to thrive. Our artists have contributed to murals in and around the city, been a part of wonderful social justice campaigns. Our shop now stocks over 100 wonderful creatives work. The events space bustles with workshops and meetings. And the café continues to honour its namesake proudly.

©2021 Merseymade | Website designed & hosted by Cyberfrog Design