The finest neo-classical building in Europe, and a favourite of Prince Charles, St George’s Hall was designed by architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes when he was only 25 years old, and is just about the most self-confident statement of prosperity the city could have erected at the height of its 19th century powers. Pevsner says it’s one of the best in the world.
Recently refurbished, the interior is dominated by the airy main hall complete with vaulted ceiling and glittering chandeliers, its Minton-tiled floor hidden for most of the year beneath parquet (but tantalising sections are revealed beneath judiciously placed perspex peep-holes). Soaring above the 30,000 tiles, its tunnel vaulted ceiling is the largest of its kind in Europe.
It’s not all overblown grandeur, though – its small concert room is a little gem, and occasionally hosts performances and readings, much as it did in its 19th century heyday, when Charles Dickens was a regular visitor. The room was designed by Charles Cockerell, who was brought in to complete the project after Elmes’ untimely death.
Beneath the opulence lies a series of prison cells (the hall had more uses than a Swiss army knife – from grand civic receptions, to law courts and bridewell), some of which have been remodelled to house the hall’s fascinating heritage centre: a gateway into the bowels of this singular and monumental building. The organ is one of the largest in the country – there are irregular recitals for a small fee.
In recent years St George’s Hall has hosted a number of imaginative events, including music performances and film nights. Guided tours, a programme of exhibitions and talks are available and the hall retains an odd civic roll – if you want to get married in Liverpool you have to fill in the paperwork at St George’s Hall. And the plateau remains an important focal point for Liverpool natives, whether in celebration, protest or gathering.
Rather more enjoyable are the annual beer festivals and Yuletide arts fair. If you want a gift for anyone, even, you can guarantee you’ll find something wonderful at this Christmas tradition. St George’s Gardens, to the rear, are trim and smart – with a number of memorials and respective events throughout the year.
Visiting St George’s Hall
Exit Lime Street and you’re hit with the undeniable magnificence of St George’s Hall. Similarly Queen Square bus station is a matter of yards away.
St George’s HallSt George's Hall
St George's Place
William Brown Street