Saturday, 23 February 2008

St George’s Hall, Liverpool


St George's Hall is a neoclassical auditorium in Liverpool city centre located on Lime Street, opposite Lime Street railway station. In the 1960s and 70s I took quite a few photos of it. The foundation stone was laid in 1838 and it was partially opened in 1851 and completed in 1854. Its architect was Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, who was only 25 at the time he won the competition to design the building. Elmes died before the building was completed and the supervision of the completion was done firstly by John Weightman (City Surveyor) and Robert Rawlinson (Structural Engineer) and, from 1851, by Sir Charles Cockerell.

Bas-relief sculptures on the building are attributed to C.J. Allen, among others, and the hall is considered by many to house the world's first air-conditioning system. It is part of the William Brown Street conservation area. The organ was the biggest in the country until a larger one was built in the Royal Albert hall in 1871. It has a total of 7,737 pipes.

In front of the hall is St. George's Plateau with various equestrian bronzes, dolphin-based cast-iron lamp standards (by Cockerell) and a statue of Disraeli (Birch 1883) which stands on the steps. The Plateau also houses the Cenotaph, a memorial that was originally dedicated to those that lost their lives in World War I, but has since been dedicated to all who have fallen in any wars since.

A number of other folk are commemorated in statues around the plateau.

These are the equestrian bronzes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Thornycroft 1866-9)

The hall is made of sandstone. Once the grime of decades was cleaned off in the 1960s the beautiful colour of the stone became apparent. Unfortunately the stone is so soft that patches are wearing away - especially on the steps.

The Plateau has long been associated with public rallies and gatherings, including the deaths of Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, the homecomings of Liverpool and Everton football teams after Cup Final Victories, and the opening ceremony of the City of Culture Year 2008 ( and

Also on the Plateau are four huge lion sculptures by Cockerell reminiscent of the lion sculptures by Sir Edwin Landseer at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

This picture – from 1877 – is not one I took! It shows Professor Richard Codman’s Punch and Judy show outside St George’s Hall.

This same pitch was still in use by Bert Codman , Richard’s grandson, when I was a lad. (Photo from the Codman family website). Bert died in 1969, two days after the death of his beloved dog Toby, purchased in 1949 at St. John's Market in Liverpool for 7/6d.

On 23 April 2007, during the year of Liverpool's 800th birthday, St George's Hall was reopened by Prince Charles after an extensive £23 million restoration. It has been described as the 'best example of Neo-classical architecture in Europe' and a 'monument of world importance'.

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