Nine of the sixteen fluted Corinthian columns fronting the Neoclassical St George’s Hall.
Standing opposite Lime Street railway station in the centre of Liverpool, England, the impressive hall was designed by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, who oversaw its construction until he died of consumption in 1847. In 1851 another architect, Sir Robert Charles Cockerell, was asked to complete the interior decoration and the hall finally opened in 1854.
Originally designed to be just a music hall, the plans were changed for financial reasons to include a Civil Court, Law Court and holding cells. Despite the architectural changes to the original plans it still achieved a number of global ‘firsts’:
The Great Hall is covered by what was once the world’s largest barrel-vaulted ceiling; there’s the world’s largest Minton floor, containing over 30,000 individual handmade Minton encaustic tiles below; and the world’s largest concert pipe organ. And the building included the world’s first air-conditioning system, a revolutionary method of valves and pipes that allowed each room in the building to be heated or cooled separately.
In 1969 the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner expressed his opinion that it is one of the finest neo-Grecian buildings in the world, and in 2004, the hall and its surrounding area were recognised by UNESCO as part of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site. The accolade was sadly revoked in 2021, due to the Liverpool Waters development in the docks that would leave the setting of some of Liverpool’s most significant historic buildings severely compromised and the city’s historic urban landscape permanently unbalanced.
Footnote: Liverpool’s architectural heritage has historically been a low priority. In 1941 during World War Two, the magnificent Custom House was hit with a bomb, partly destroying the building but leaving its structure intact. After the war had ended, the government (who owned the building) refused to repair the building and the council authorised it’s demolition in 1948, despite extensive public protest.