Saturday, November 13, 2010

St. George's Hall

St George's Hall is on Lime Street in the centre of the English city of Liverpool, opposite Lime Street railway station.  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.  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).
St George's Plateau 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 Thornycroft, 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 31 feet (9 m) on each side.

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.   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.

When I visited the site, there was a small Veteran's Day remembrance service involving a clergyman, a couple of dozen schoolchildren, a pair of bagpipers and a squad of soldiers.  Even though it was a dramatically underproduced event, the plateau is such a great forum that it still seemed like a big deal.  I made a recording of the bagpipes, and it reveals how difficult a bagpipe duet can be, but it still sounded OK. 
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There is so much history associated with this ground, it is in a sense, sacred, and simply to walk on the cobblestones provided me with a connection to the past.

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