A collage of four images with a 'The History Whisperer St George's Hall' text overlay. The images show the exterior of a huge neo classical building and inside the small dark rooms, which have projections of archive imagery on the walls.

The Liverpool of today is known as a modern, vibrant city which is famous for its friendly people, football, musicians, bustling nightlife and fantastic food and drink offer.

In addition to all of the above, the city remains proud of its rich heritage, owing to its status as a port city, which allowed the city to thrive from the late 17th century all the way through to the Victorian era – a point which Liverpool was often cited as “the second city of the British empire”. It was during this point that the city aimed to capitalise on its new-found status and wealth with the creation of what has since been established as one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in the world. We are, of course, referring to St George’s Hall.
 


WHAT IS THE HISTORY WHISPERER?


A guardian and two children walk down stone stairs inside St Georges Hall. It is dark and they look excited.

The St George’s Hall Experience: The History Whisperer™ was opened in October 2021. The immersive experience combines Gazooky Studios’ award-winning storytelling (BAFTA, Prix Europa) and world class XR technology, with Immersive Interactive’s mesmerising touch-wall interactivity, and the rousing, witty and deeply moving music and sound effects of Music in Mind. The story of The History Whisperer follows a little girl named Livie, who leads visitors through the sights and sounds of the prison, introducing you to in-mates, before taking you up to the Court Room, where all her memories, hopes and fears are played out in a multi-media, emotional finale. Her thoughts appear all around you as she records what she experiences, whispering to you, coaxing 3D images, music and voices out of the walls for you. And she becomes the spirit of Liverpool, bringing the social history of the city to life.
 


EXPERIENCE THE HISTORY WHISPERER


A gallery of images of people inside the Hall enjoying the experience

Located on the south-side of St George’s Hall (which is accessible via St John’s Lane, opposite Courtyard Bar & Kitchen) The History Whisperer primarily focuses upon the theme of law and order. The iconic building houses multiple prison cells and law courts, where many a Victorian prisoner (more often than not, coming from a poor, destitute, lower-class background) awaited their fate here. The History Whisperer is currently open from Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-4pm (visitors are advised to arrive 10 minutes before each time slot and last admission is at 2.50pm).
 


IS THIS A NEW PART OF ST GEORGE'S HALL?


Interestingly, the area of the building in which The History Whisperer takes place wasn’t open to visitors until 2007, despite the fact that St George’s Hall first opened in 1854! Although regular guided tours were previously in place following the Hall’s reopening 15 years ago, officials were keen to give this particular area of the building a clearer footprint and a greater sense of identity – thus, The History Whisperer was born.
 


WHAT ELSE THERE IS TO SEE AT ST GEORGE'S HALL


Beyond The History Whisperer, St George’s Hall offers so much more. This Grade I listed neoclassical landmark is unique both in concept and design. In addition to the prison cells and law courts exist the Great Hall and Concert Room – both of which remain in operation and host events ranging from lavish balls to live stage performances.

This amalgamation of law, order and entertainment attribute to St George’s Hall being “possibly the only building where you could be tried for murder, have a ball or listen to a concert all under one roof”, as stated on the BBC Archives.
 


THE HISTORY OF THE HALL


A scanned in black and white image by J.E Marsh of crowds of people and military bands outside of St Georges Hall taken in 1930.

Liverpool had long desired a grand hall for festivals and concerts. Around about the same time, proposals for new law courts for the rapidly expanding port were also unveiled.

Design competitions were announced for each building, offering prizes of 250 guineas and £300 respectively and attracting dozens of entries from the most eminent and experienced architects of the age.

Yet it was a little-known 25-year-old, Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, who triumphed in both competitions. The concert hall was to be built through public subscription, but with funding slow in materialising, in 1840 Elmes was asked by the town council to create a new design amalgamating law, order and entertainment under one roof. The result was what we now know as St George’s Hall.

Work began on the imposing neoclassical public building in 1841. Elmes died prematurely in 1847, and the task of overseeing the Hall’s completion initially fell to the corporation surveyor John Weightman and structural engineer - and Elmes’ friend - Robert Rawlinson. Architect Charles Cockerell was appointed in 1851 and it is he who was responsible for much of its rich and splendid interior.

St George’s Hall was opened with great ceremony in September 1854, with Liverpool architect Joseph Boult declaring it: “One of the most important architectural works which this country has produced since the Reformation.”
 


WHY IS ST GEORGE'S HALL SO IMPORTANT TO THE CITY OF LIVERPOOL?


Ever since its inception, St George’s Hall has become the emotional heart of Liverpool; a place where people congregate, celebrate and commemorate. A place where all memorable moments in Liverpool life converge.

This is largely due to the central location of St George’s Plateau acting as a focal point for mass gatherings, celebrations, protests, vigils and memorial services. From Lord Kitchener’s inspection of the Liverpool Pals battalion back in 1915 to vigils held following the deaths of Beatles members, John Lennon (1980) and George Harrison (2001). From annual Remembrance services to numerous commemorations following the Hillsborough tragedy. From various industry strikes in the early 20th century to #BlackLivesMatter protests in 2020. From multiple cup parades for both Liverpool and Everton football clubs to Ringo Starr performing on the roof to over 50,000 people during the People’s Opening of European Capital of Culture back in 2008.

The list goes on, but the above examples provide a glimmer of insight into various points when St George’s Plateau has provided the setting during good, bad, happy and sad times in Liverpool’s history. From the Victorian period right through to the present day, this sense of congregation, commemoration and celebration has continued to exist – therefore, sealing its status as “The People’s Plateau”.
 


THE HALL ON THE BIG SCREEN


A shot from the famous TV series, Peaky Blinders inside the Great Hall


If you have yet to visit St George’s Hall in person, there’s still a good chance that you’ve seen it either on your television or at the cinema.

Over the years, the unique building has acted as a filming location for productions such as In the Name of the Father, Brookside, Coronation Street, Peaky Blinders, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Tin Star, The Irregulars, BBC’s War of the Worlds, Tolkien, The Responder and The Batman, to name just a few.

With its imposing exterior and its incredible variety of spaces, ranging from old prison cells and law courts to a Great Hall and Concert Room – and, of course, not forgetting the underground galleries – it’s easy to see why St George’s Hall has become a hit with TV and Film production companies. Quite simply, each space provides something different, ensuring that it is a multitude of locations, rather than just one.

It also helps that St George’s Hall – alongside its sister buildings, Liverpool Town Hall and Croxteth Hall – have a great working relationship with the amazing team at Liverpool Film Office. Their efforts have ensured that all three of Liverpool’s City Halls, alongside many other locations across the city region, have become stars in their own right via the big screen and small screen.
 


PLANS FOR THE FUTURE


Inside a huge ornate hall, with minton tiles.

The great news is that guided tours – which previously proved popular and covered all manner of topics, from the doldrums of the prison cells and law courts, to the grandeur of the Great Hall and Concert Room – are set to be reintroduced again in the future. The plan is to run a range of tours alongside The History Whisperer. Previous tours have given insight into the vast architecture and heritage of St George’s Hall, whilst also exploring themes such as the Hall’s role as a filming location and its relationship with literary great, Charles Dickens.

Once new guided tours are confirmed, St George’s Hall will announce them through its website, as well through its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. The tours will also be listed on the What’s On section of the VisitLiverpool website.
 


THE WRITER


This blog has been written by Adam Yates, Digital Marketing Manager for Liverpool City Halls.

Before assuming this role back in November 2018, Adam was Digital Marketing Manager at Culture Liverpool, and had also worked in a marketing and communications capacity for organisations such as Liverpool Hope University, The Diversity Group and The Beatles Story.

Adam is a passionate advocate of arts and culture – particularly in his home city of Liverpool. His love of film and literature, as well as his broad music taste and support of Liverpool Football Club ensure that away from work, culture still courses his through his veins!


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