Visitors to Liverpool have another chance to see the stunning Minton Pavement at St George’s Hall for just one week over Easter.
The original floor, consisting of over 30,000 individual tiles is generally covered to protect it but the uneviling of the Victorian tiles has become a regular occurrence since the turn of the century.
Visitors will have the chance to walk on the tiled floor for £2.50 – but only for six days. St George’s Hall Manager Alan Smith says the Minton Pavement rivals world-class attractions such as the Trevi Fountain and Eiffel Tower.
“It’s the best example of a Minton Pavement in the world and you very rarely get a chance to see to see it. In the whole of the 20th Century it was only shown six times but we’ve been able to uncover it eight times in the last ten years.
“It’s unique as it’s the best example of an encaustic tiled floor in the world – it’s a process whereby colour is impregnated into a Minton tile then fired so it’s perfectly preserved.
“We have a collection of Liverpool firsts and world firsts here. St George’s Hall was the world’s first air-conditioned building in the world – with the floor revealed you can see the venting – and the Great Hall has the Willis Organ, which was the largest pipe organ in the country at the time.
While most of the tiled floor is spotless there are entry points surrounding it where the patterns and colour of the tiles have been worn away to almost nothing, but the management has embarked on a programme of restoration.
“With the floor being covered most of the time it’s incredibly well-preserved and what you notice is with the footfall of the people going to the crown court, they’ve worn away. We make a distinction between what is intrinsic wear, history and patina – and what is damage.
“We’ve been able to repair one of the ‘great circles’ – it cost circa £80,000 but where we have the opportunities to repair them we’ll take them up.”
It’s just one part of the revitalisation of the building, which added a visitor’s centre in 2007. St George’s Hall Heritage Centre is open from 10am to 5pm every day and more and more of the building is open to the public. The busyness evident now in the building is a reminder that the Minton Pavement is but one part of a bustling and varied tourist attraction.
“With unique opportunities such as the floor reveal there’s additional opportunity to see the rest of the building. You get the tour of the cells and you get to see the courtroom, neither of which were ever open to the public previously, and you can understand what it was like to be a Victorian prisoner.
“We’ve got the heritage centre, seven galleries and catacombs in the basement, which are great to visit but also good for atmospheric events. You’re in the deep heart of the air conditioning of the building. We have a theatre space we’re looking to open up and concert room programme.”
April alone hosts a wide range of events, from the unveiling of the Minton Pavement to an exhibition celebrating the work of Adrian Henri, interactive theatre, recitals and tour of the hidden areas of the building.
Smith sees the civic pride embodied by the construction of St George’s Hall and its various attractions as emblematic of a building enjoying a resurgence after decades where the city council didn’t seem to know what to do with the Grade I-listed building.
“It’s down to a group of geniuses: a guy called Harvey Lonsdale Elmes was only 26 at the time when he got the contract to build St George’s Hall. In collaboration with Robert Rawlinson, who did the air conditioning, and Charles Cockerell he was able to build something unique.
“Liverpool Victorians thought their empire was the best in the world and Liverpudlians thought their city was the best bit of the best empire in the world. It’s a massive expression of confidence that Liverpool had – and the resurgence of the Hall reflects the resurgence of Liverpool as modern city.”
“In St George’s Hall there’s something on your doorstep of national and international fame and repute. There’s an opportunity to see Liverpool history. You can go to London to see the sights – or you can just come here to enjoy your history.”
Minton Floor Reveal
St George’s Hall
Until 19 April