St. George's Hall, Liverpool

St. George's Hall, Liverpool

Infobox Historic building

caption=St George's Hall
name=St George's Hall
architect=Harvey Lonsdale Elmes
Sir Charles Cockerell
engineer=Sir Robert Rawlinson

St George's Hall is in Liverpool city centre on Lime Street opposite Lime Street railway station (gbmapping|SJ349907). It is a building in neoclassical style which contains concert halls and law courts, and is a Grade I listed building. [cite web |url= |title=Images of England: St George's Hall, Liverpool |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=English Heritage ] On the east side of the hall, between it and the railway station is St George's Plateau and on the east side are St John's Gardens. The hall is included in the William Brown Street conservation area. [cite web |url= |title=The City of Liverpool Conservation Areas |accessdate=2008-03-26 |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= |format=pdf |work= |publisher=City of Liverpool |pages= ] In 1969 Pevsner called it "the freest neo-Grecian building in England and one of the finest in the world". [Quoted in Sharples and Pollard, p. 247.] In 2004 the hall and its surrounding area were recognised as part of Liverpool's World Heritage Site. [cite web |url= |title=Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City |accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=UNESCO ]


The site of the hall was formerly occupied by the first Liverpool Infirmary from 1749 to 1824. Triennial music festivals were held in the city but there was no suitable hall to accommodate them.cite web |url= |title=History of the Hall |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=BBC ] Following a public meeting in 1836 a company was formed to raise subscriptions for a hall in Liverpool to be used for the festivals, and for meetings, dinners and concerts. [Sharples and Pollard, p. 291.] Shares were made available at £25 each and by January 1837 £23,350 had been raised. In 1838 the foundation stone was laid to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria. A competition in 1839 to design the hall was won by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, a London architect aged 25 years. There was a need for assize courts in the city and a competition to design these was also won by Elmes. The original plan was to have separate buildings but in 1840 Elmes suggested that both functions could be combined in one building on a scale which would surpass most of the other public buildings in the country at the time. Construction started in 1841, the building opened in 1854 (with the small concert room opening two years later). Elmes died in 1847 and the work was continued by John Weightman, Corporation Surveyor, and Robert Rawlinson, structural engineer, until in 1851 Sir Charles Cockerell was appointed architect. Cockerell was largely responsible for the decoration of the interiors. [Sharples and Pollard, pp. 291, 293.] During the 2000s a major restoration of the hall took place costing £23m and it was officially reopened on 23 April 2007 by HRH Prince of Wales.



The Concert Hall is the largest area, rectangular in shape, and occupies the centre of the building with an organ on its north wall. To the north of the Concert Hall is the Civil Court and beyond this is the elliptical Small Concert Room. To the south of the Concert Hall are the Crown Court and the Grand Jury Room. Smaller court rooms are on the periphery of the larger courts. [Sharples and Pollard, p. 292.] The floor below consists of a cavernous basement with cells for prisoners along the west wall.Sharples and Pollard, p. 297.]


The main entrance is in the centre of the east façade and is approached by a wide flight of steps. On the steps is a statue of Benjamin Disraeli by C. B. Birch. This front has a central portico of 16 Corinthian columns flanked on each side by series of square, unfluted pillars. Between these pillars are reliefs which were added between 1882 and 1901 by Thomas Stirling Lee, C. J. Allen and Conrad Dressler. The west front has a projecting central part with square pillars supporting a massive entablature. The south front has a portico of eight columns, two columns deep on steps above a rusticated podium. The north front has a semicircular apse with columns and three doorways which are flanked by statues of nereids and tritons bearing lamps which were designed by Nicholl.Sharples and Pollard, p. 294.]


The main entrance crosses a corridor and leads into the Concert Hall. This measures convert|169|ft|m|0 by convert|77|ft|m|0 and is convert|82|ft|m|0 high. The roof is a tunnel vault carried on columns of polished red granite. The walls have niches for statues and the panelled plasterwork of the vault has allegorical figures of Virtues, Science and Arts. The highly decorated floor consists of Minton tiles and it is usually covered by a removable floor to protect it. It contains over 30,000 tiles. The doors are bronze and have openwork panels which incorporate the letters SPQL (the Senate and the People of Liverpool) making an association with the SPQR badge of ancient Rome. The organ is at the north end and at the south end is a round arch supporting an entablature between whose columns is a gate leading directly into the Crown Court. The niches contain the statues of William Roscoe by Chantrey, Sir William Brown by Patrick MacDowell, Robert Peel by Matthew Noble, George Stephenson by John Gibson, Rev. Hugh McNeile by G. G. Adams, E. Whitley by A. Bruce Joy, S. R. Graves by G. G. Fontana, Rev Jonathan Brookes by B. E. Spence, William Gladstone by John Adams-Acton, the 14th Earl of Derby by William Theed the Younger, the 16th Earl of Derby by F. W. Pomeroy, and Joseph Mayer by Fontana. The stained glass in the semicircular windows at each end of the hall was added in 1883–84 by Forrest and Son of Liverpool. Sharples and Pollard regard this as "one of the greatest Victorian interiors".Sharples and Pollard, pp. 295–296.] The Crown Court has a tunnel vault on red granite columns and the Civil Court a coved ceiling on grey granite columns. The south entrance is approached through the portico, is low and has Ionic columns. Below this is a larger vaulted space which was adapted to form a new entrance in 2003–05. The north entrance hall has Doric columns on its landing and a Doric ambulatory around the apse. A copy of part of the Parthenon frieze runs round its walls. In the entrance is a statue of Henry Booth by Theed the Younger. The Small Concert Room is almost circular and is lavishly decorated.Sharples and Pollard, pp. 296–297.] In the past it was known as the Golden Concert Room and it was regularly host to Charles Dickens who held many of his readings there. A balcony supported by caryatids runs round the room. At the back of the platform are attached columns, decorated with arabesques, supporting a frieze with griffins and between the columns are mirrors. The concert room was refurbished between 2000 and 2007. This included making alterations to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, restoring the historical painting scheme and restoring the chandelier, which consists of 2,824 crystal pieces. [cite web |url= |title=St George's Hall, Liverpool |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=World Monuments Fund Britain ] It has seating for an audience of 480.cite web |url= |title=St George's Hall, Concert Room |accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=Royal Liverpool Philharmonic ]

In the basement is part of a unique heating and ventilation system devised by Dr Boswell Reid. This was the first attempt at air conditioning in a public building in the United Kingdom, its aim being to warm and ventilate the building without draughts. Air was warmed by five hot water pipes which were heated by two coke-fired boilers and two steam boilers. The air was circulated by four convert|10|ft|m|0 wide fans. It was controlled a large number of workers opening and closing a series of canvas flaps. [cite web |url= |title=Air conditioning |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=BBC ]


This was built by Henry Willis and completed in 1855 with around 100 speaking stops. It was initially tuned to meantone temperament to the specification of S. S. Wesley but in 1867 W. T. Best, city organist, retuned it to equal temperament. The organ was rebuilt in 1897. In 1931 it was reconstructed by Henry Willis III when the number of stops was increased to 120 and its power source changed from a steam engine to electro-pneumatic action. [cite web |url= |title=The Great Hall |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=BBC ] In 1979 it was given a general clean and overhaul by Henry Willis IV. The total number of registers, including 24 couplers, is 144.cite web |url= |title=The Organ in St George's Hall, Liverpool |accessdate=2008-03-26 |last=Cromwell |first=Peter |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher= |pages= ] With 7,737 pipes, it was the largest organ in the country until a larger one was built at the Royal Albert Hall in 1871.cite web |url= |title=Facts & figures |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=BBC ] As part of the 2000–2007 restoration of the hall repairs were made to the organ, including replacement of the bellows leather. [cite web |url= |title=St George's Hall organ to be restored |accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=The Organ ] The organ is maintained by David Wells, Organ Builders. [cite web |url= |title=David Wells, Organ Builders |accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=David Wells, Organ Builders ]

t George's Plateau

This is the flat space between the hall and the railway station and contains statues of four lions by Nicholl and cast iron lamp standards with dolphin bases. Also on the plateau are monuments, including equestrian bronzes of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria by Thomas Thorneycroft, and a monument to Major-General William Earle by Birch. Between the equestrian statues is a cenotaph which was unveiled in 1930, designed by L. B. Budden and sculpted by H. Tyson Smith. It consists of a simple horizontal block with a bronze relief measuring over convert|31|ft|m|0 on each side. Sharples and Pollard regard it as one of the most remarkable war memorials in the country.

The Plateau has been associated with public rallies and gatherings, including the deaths of Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, and the homecomings of Liverpool and Everton football teams after Cup Final Victories. [cite web |url= |title=The Magic of St George's Hall |accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=Northwest Vision and Media ] During the 1911 Liverpool General Transport Strike, many meetings were held there, including the rally which sparked the 'Bloody Sunday' attacks, when police baton charged thousands of people who had gathered to hear syndicalist Tom Mann speak. [cite web |url= |title=Braddock, (Bessie) Elisabeth |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=Liverpool History Online ]


Following the restoration leading to the reopening of the hall in April 2007 it was granted a Civic Trust Award. [cite web |url= |title= St George's Hall scoops heritage 'Oscars' double|accessdate=2008-03-27 |publisher=Liverpool 08 ] It included the creation of a Heritage Centre which gives an introduction to the hall and its history. Guided tours, a programme of exhibitions and talks are arranged.cite web |url= |title=St Georges Hall |accessdate=2008-03-26 |publisher=The Mersey Partnership ] Over the 2007 Christmas period a skating rink was installed in the Concert Hall. [cite web |url= |title=Ice rink opens inside St George's Hall for Christmas |accessdate=2008-03-27 |last=Williams |first=Lisa |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2007-12-22 |year= |month= |format= |work=Liverpool Daily Post |publisher=Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales |pages= ] In January 2008 Liverpool started its tenure as European Capital of Culture with The People's Opening at St George's Hall with a performance which included Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr playing on its roof. [cite web |url= |title=Liverpool 08: The People's Opening, St George's Hall |accessdate=2008-03-26 |last=Perrone |first=Pierre |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2008-01-15 |year= |month= |format= |work=The Independent |publisher= |pages= ]




*Sharples, Joseph; Pollard, Richard. "Liverpool." In cite book | last =Pollard| first =Richard | authorlink = | coauthors =Nikolaus Pevsner | title =The Buildings of England: Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West |edition= | publisher =Yale University Press | year =2006 | location =New Haven & London | pages =242–515 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn =0 300 10910 5

External links

* [ Official site including panoramas]
* [ Conservation of reliefs]
* [ Panoramic images of the hall from the City of Liverpool website]
* [ Panoramic images of the hall from the BBC website]
* [ Photographs (47) from Art and Architecture]

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