The architect, John Foster Jnr

This photograph shows the imposing Anglican Cathedral with the cylindrical domed memorial building.

John Foster Junior's 'Huskisson Memorial' in St James's Cemetery below Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral

John Foster Junior was the son of Liverpool Corporation’s Surveyor and Architect, and was apprenticed in the London office of the architect Jeffrey Wyatt. Between 1809 and 1816 he travelled through Asia Minor, Italy and Greece in the company of Charles Robert Cockerell (1788 – 1863), experiencing the glories of ancient architecture at first hand.

Cockerell, who was to become one of the foremost neo-classical architects of the 19th century, and who designed the celebrated Liverpool branch of the Bank of England (now the Trustee Savings Bank, Castle Street) as well as completing the interior of St George’s Hall, considered Foster ‘a most amusing youth’ but ‘too idle’ to be more than a dinner companion.

Certainly Foster got into a number of amorous entanglements during his travels (he finally married a lady from Smyrna) but the use he later made of his years overseas suggests that he was far from idle. He worked closely with Cockerell on the excavation of two major Greek sites, the Temple of Zeus on the island of Aegina and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, and he produced careful drawings which record his impressions. A number of these are now in the Walker Art Gallery.

Foster returned to Liverpool and from 1824 to 1835 he was surveyor to the Corporation in succession to his father. He carried out a remarkable amount of work in his native city, designing seven churches, a vast covered market (the first of its kind in Britain), a new frontage to Lime Street station, and a major programme of civic improvements which gave central Liverpool a network of wide, regular streets.

Most of the work, nearly all of which has been destroyed, was severely Greek in style, bearing witness to the travels of his youth.

The same was true of his masterpiece, the Customs House, an immense domed building (the biggest in Liverpool until St George’s Hall surpassed it) which stood at the historic heart of the city. It was bombed in World War II and later demolished.

Foster’s qualities as an architect of the Greek Revival can now be best appreciated in the church of St Andrew in Rodney Street, the Huskisson Monument and the Oratory.