St George's Hall, Bradford


St George's Hall, Bradford

Infobox Theatre
name = St George's Hall


caption = The front of St. George's Hall
address = Bridge Street
city = Bradford
country = England
designation = Listed Building Grade II*
latitude =
longitude =
architect = Henry Francis Lockwood and William Mawson
owner = Bradford Theatres
capacity = 1672 Orchestral Format
type = Concert Hall
opened = 31.08.1853
yearsactive = 154
rebuilt =
closed =
othernames =
production =
currentuse =
website = www.bradford-theatres.co.uk/stgeorges.asp

St George's Concert Hall is a Victorian building which occupies a prominent corner site in the centre of Bradford, England.

History of St George’s Concert Hall

The concept of St George’s Hall was proposed in February 1849 during a meeting with subscribers to the Bradford Infirmary and Alderman Samuel Smith. Through £10 shares more than £16,000 in capital was generated before the foundation stone was laid on 22nd September 1851. So great was the occasion, the residents of Bradford were awarded a public holiday.

More than 22 designs were submitted and more than 15 sites were considered throughout the city. The final location of the Hall was confirmed, principally through the mediation and financial support of Titus Salt.

The winning design for the Hall was won by architects Lockwood and Mawson. These architects are now famous for, among other designs, Bradford City Hall and the Wool Exchange, Bradford (both Grade I listed buildings) and the village of Saltaire (which is a World Heritage Site). St George's Hall is perhaps not their best work - Nikolaus Pevsner calls its classicism "debased".

The Hall was officially opened on 29th August 1853 by HRH Queen Victoria and HRH Prince Albert, and the Earl of Harewood. The total cost of the building works was £35,000.The original seating capacity was for 3,500, though the hall on some occasions held nearly 5,000! (The current capacity is 1671 Seated, and 1872 Seated and Standing).

In December 1854 Charles Dickens appeared at the Hall and gave his first ever reading of “Bleak House”, for which he received a fee of £100 for two nights in Bradford. Writing of his visit he said “The hall is enormous and they expect to seat 3,700 people tonight. Notwithstanding which, it seems to me a tolerably easy place – except that the width of the platform is so very great to the eye at first”: in calling it an “easy place” he was referring to the acoustics.

In 1856 the organ was installed. It has 51 stops and 2783 pipes.

In 1861 the Hall became adaptable for stage plays.

The Halle Orchestra has been a regular at the Hall since 1865. In October 1895 Sir Charles Halle died unexpectedly when due to conduct at the hall. When the concert commenced the rostrum remained empty, but from his place as orchestra leader, Brodsky conducted the “Dead March” and then after a slight interval he conducted the concert.

In 1898 St George’s Hall showed its first film. In 1901 the hall became used for regular film shows. By 1905 the shows were presented in colour and in 1906 disc-synchronised talking films were shown.

In 1903 to celebrate the 50th Birthday of St George’s Hall a special concert took place alongside the unveiling of a tessellated mosaic floor in the entrance vestibule which had been laid by Venetian artists. (Parts of the flooring are still in existence under the fixed seating in the ground floor St George's Bar).

“For positively one week only” the world famous Harry Houdini appeared at St George’s Hall from Monday 13th February 1905.

In November 1910 Winston Churchill held a political rally at the hall and during the rally it was interrupted by a group of suffragettes who had hid under the stage the day before and upon Churchill’s speech leapt from the trap door onto stage.

In 1926 the Hall officially became a cinema and was initially operated by New Century Pictures.

On the 25th March 1949 Bradford Council purchased the hall and started to modernise the venue so that it would be suitable for concerts, entertainments and public meetings. New tip-up seats were introduced, a flexible stage was installed to cater for full choirs, orchestras, public meetings and celebrity concerts. The organ was also completely rebuilt at the cost of £8000. The Dressing Rooms were also improved to accommodate “continental en suite facilities”.

St George’s Hall was officially re-opened on Wednesday 30th September 1953.

In 1982 £100.000 worth of damage was caused after a fire ravaged the roof of the 129 year old hall. Following the fire, the council’s architects department was asked to consider modest schemes to improve the public areas of the concert hall. A £2m refurbishment began in 1983 and the hall re-opens in 1984. Changes include a ramped terrace along Bridge Street, the relocation of the main entrance from Hall Ings to Bridge Street. The ornate stone staircase was also removed from the Hall Ings entrance and a new floor was added to increase public space.

In the mid 1980’s organ suffered extensive damage.

In Autumn 2003 St George’s Hall closed for three months due to the discovery of small cracks found in the ceiling. In January 2004 the Hall re-opened with the Hallé Orchestra and continues to offer diverse programme. From the 140 year old International Orchestral Season to Lesley Garrett. From Engelbert Humperdinck to the 2004 Mercury Music Prize winner Franz Ferdinand and from Community Events to the 2006 Delius festival which was nationally broadcast by the BBC.

External links

* [http://www.bradford-theatres.co.uk/stgeorges.asp Bradford Theatres Website]


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