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The St. George's Hall, Bridge Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford Index

A Google StreetView Image of the St. George's Hall, Bradford - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the St. George's Hall, Bradford - Click to Interact

The Grade II Listed St. George's Hall on Bridge Street, Bradford was designed by the architects Lockwood and Mawson and built in 1853 as a Public Hall for notable speakers and performers, and also as a Concert Hall which played host to Music Hall performances too. The Hall opened on the 29th of August 1853 with seating for over 3,000 people, although today it seats a more modest, but not insubstantial 1,500 people.

The Bradford Observer reported on the opening of the St. George's Hall in their 1st of September 1853 edition saying:- 'The erection of public edifices is a natural result of the growth of large towns. First the commercial, then the municiple necessities of the town induce their erection; and last of all, the social. Seventy years ago, when the inhabitants of Bradford became enterprising men of business, they found it necessary to erect a Piece Hall, to facilitate the operations of trade. Though their business was increasing, and their profits pretty good, they had no superfluous capital, and so they built their Piece Hall in the plainest and most inexpensive manner they could. This building served its purpose for some years, but eventually it ceased to be of use for the purpose it was erected - new modes of conducting business arose and superseded the Piece Hall - and at this moment the old building is undergoing great alterations in order to adapt it for a retail trade.

The next public building erected was the Court of Requests in Darley Street: the necessities of trade led to its erection, as much as to the erection of the Piece Hall; and it is still employed, for the administration of the law passed almost exclusively for the protection and extension of trade. Some year's passed, during which the town grew in wealth and Population, and its interests became increasingly complex and important. A place for the administration of justice vas a desideratum, and after much laborious effort on the part of one of our citizens (the late Samuel Broadbent, Esq.), and much liberality on the part of others, the present commodious Court House was built. This was about twenty years ago. The circumstances of the town had greatly altered since the erection of the Piece Hall: the population had increased from 5,000 to 35,000, and its wealth had increased in a still greater ratio. An ornamental as well as a useful building was therefore resolved upon; and though there is nothing either extravagant or expensive in its adornments, the Court House stands, a not unworthy monument of the good taste and generosity of a generation which is gradually passing away. The commercial and municipal wants of the town were thus provided for, and still its social wants demanded attention. The Savings' Bank, the Temperance Hall, the Mechanics' Institute, and the Oddfellows' Hall, were successively reared, we do not remember their order of precedence, but somewhere about the same time. Each of these buildings has proved greatly advantageous in promoting the social well-being of the town, and we have no doubt that they will continue to be favourite places of resort to those who prefer rational entertainment and instruction, the cultivation of the mind and the improvement of their circumstances, to the gratification of sensual appetites and passions. But these buildings became too small for the constantly increasing population - they were inadequate for some purposes of' importance connected with the social economics of the town; and at length the idea of a great building was conceived, and eventually issued in the erection of that noble edifice the Inauguration of which has suggested the foregoing remarks. It will be gratifying to many of our readers to know the circumstances which preceded the building of St. George's Hall, and we propose, therefore, briefly to recapitulate the facts.

ITS ORIGIN

It becomes the journalist as well as the individual to give honour to whom honour is due; and we may therefore state at the outset, that the origination of St. George's Hall, as well as its ultimate erection, is to be ascribed to our present Chief Magistrate, SAMUEL SMITH, Esq. At the annual meeting of the Infirmary held in February, 1849, Mr. Smith, after alluding to the fluctuating character of the income of that institution, and saying that measures should be taken to secure a permanent addition of £500 or £600 to it, spoke as follows:— 'We wanted in this town a large building - we wanted in this town a music hall. Now, he had latterly in his public capacity had occasion to take notice of the wants of the population of this town, on Saturday evenings especially. The gentlemen who were now present would scarcely believe that such scenes as he had witnessed were weekly enacted in this borough. Such was the thirst for relaxation and recreation among the working people, that, on a Saturday night, wherever there was a sound of music to be heard, however offensive and contaminating the atmosphere might be, there a crowd of people was collected.

These places were stated by the constables to be frequented by 700 persons every Saturday night. He alluded to this matter to show how desirable it was that they should offer the working people relaxation and recreation in music wedded to instruction and of a more healthy and advantageous kind than they could obtain at present. Since then, the idea had forced itself upon his mind, and it had at last come to this - Can we not raise a large building? Cannot we, by taking advantage of the full tide of a good season, erect a building that will hold at least 2000 persons? The principal object of this building might be a music hall, but it might be adapted for every public purpose, and presented to the Infirmary. They might erect a building something like the Birmingham Town Hall, where the organ and other property belonged to the Hospital. This property raised a considerable yearly revenue for the hospital. He thought we had wealth enough, and public spirit enough, and a population large enough, to support a building of that kind in aid of such an institution as the Infirmary. From all they had heard and saw around them, "the good time had come." Therefore, it was high time they set such a project going. He might be considered an enthusiast; but he did look upon it, that one of the most delightful influences that could be exerted upon their neighbours; would be to give them good music at a cheap rate. They would thus take hundreds out of the streets; and remove hundreds more from places where they were offered music of the worst kind, at a very considerable expense, and in an atmosphere of a most contaminating and injurious kind."

These opinions elicited the warm approbation of the company assembled, but no action was taken upon them at the time. They were, however, the seed which has brought forth such a goodly tree. In the month of June following a meeting was held in the Exchange - "to confer as to the best means of removing or suppressing the immorality and vice so prevalent among our population." At this meeting Mr. Smith repeated the sentiments already quoted, and gave additional cogency and value to them, by quoting opinions which he had obtained from practical men in other large towns, who concurred with him in thinking that "a large public hall, in which thoroughly good concerts could be provided at a cheap rate, would have the effect of drawing away people from beer-houses and other low places, where music, dancing, and similar amusements took place."

Another meeting was held on the 21st December in the same year, convened by circular, to "consider the best means of raising a large public hall commensurate with the growing wants of the population." About 30 gentlemen attended, and Mr. Smith again urged his views upon the subject, at greater length and with more minuteness, and ultimately on the motion of Mr. Alderman S. Smith, seconded by Mr. Alderman Salt, it was resolved - "That it is the opinion of this meeting that the accommodation at present provided in the town of Bradford, for public meetings, concerts, &c., is not sufficient, and that it is desirable to erect a Hall or Public Building commensurate with the wants of this important borough."

A second resolution, appointed a Committee "To inquire as to the mode of construction and the cost of similar buildings in other towns, to view any site that may be considered eligible for the purpose, and to report generally to a future meeting." The Committee included the Mayor (H. Forbes, Esq.), the Vicar, R. Milligan, Esq., Titus Salt, Esq., Saml Smith, Esq., Wm. Rand, Esq., Saml Laycock, Esq., W. Murgatroyd, Esq., W. E. Forster, Esq., E. Hailstone, Esq., and several other clergymen and gentlemen of the town. The work of the Committee as usual devolved upon a few, but these few did their work well. Mr Smith was appointed chairman, and Mr. Hailstone secretary. Due inquiry was made in all quarters, and much valuable information was obtained. The Committee met repeatedly and ultimately decided upon recommending the formation of a joint-stock Company for effecting the object contemplated. The capital to be raised was fixed at £16,000 in 1600 shares of £10 each. The question of a site was a very perplexing one. No less than fifteen were suggested and considered by the Committee, but eventually the choice of selection was reduced to three - viz., that on which the Hall stands; the north-eastern corner of the Hall Ings, on which warehouses have subsequently been erected; and the land lying between North Parade and Manningham Lane, occupied as a timber-yard by Mr. Barraclough. An objection to the first of these lay in the coat - some £15,000 or £16,000 - and after much consideration the site named second was determined upon. This decision, however, was speedily reconsidered and reversed. The difficulty in the way of the first-named site, already alluded to, was overcome by the public spirit of one of our chief citizens; Titus Salt, Esq., who purchased the land at £4 per yard, with the understanding that the "Hall Company" should have as much of it as they required at that price. A prospectus of the Company was now issued - it was provisionally registered - and a deed of settlement prepared, the designation of "St. George's Hall" adopted, and the following gentlemen were constituted the provisional directors:-

Henry Forbes, Esq., Mayor, William Peel Esq., Titus Salt, Esq,. John Russell, Esq., Robert Milligan, Esq., M. Schlesinger, Esq., Samuel Laycock, Esq., Alfred Bankart, Esq., Samuel Smith, Esq., Charles Semon, Esq., William Rand, Esq., George G. Tetley, Esq., Wm. Cheesebrough, Esq., Mr. C. Stanfield, C. H. Dawson, Esq.

Most of our wealthy citizens took shares. Architects were invited to offer plans; an invitation which many eminent professional men accepted; and in the month of March, 1851, the plan of Messrs Lockwood and Mawson was adopted, and those gentlemen were directed to prepare the necessary preliminaries for commencing the building. In the following August the various works were let to the following contractors, at the sums named:-

Burnley and Sons (masons) £3,550.
Crabtree (joiner) £2,790.
Barker (plasterer) £697.
Onions and Wheelhouse (ironfounders) £127.18.
Bollans (plumber) £830.
Hill and Son (slaters) £ 166.10.
Briggs and Mensforth (painters) £87.10.
Mawer (carver) £270.

Total cost £10, 318.18.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the Bradford Observer, 1st September 1853.

The St. George's Hall is today a Grade II Listed Building. It opened on the 29th of August 1853 with seating for over 3,000 people, although today it seats a more modest, but not insubstantial 1,500 people. The Hall has played host to numerous public events, concerts, and music hall performances in its time. Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed here in 1871, with his 'Two Hours Genuine Fun' (see below).

From the Bradford Daily Telegraph (Mon 4th Dec 1871) advertising a coming attraction

St. George's Hall
Saturday Evening Entertainments
Sat 9th December 1871
Two Hours Genuine Fun with
Arthur Lloyd
and his Comic Concert Party.
Change of Programme
Mrs A. Lloyd
will make her first appearance in Bradford
with Mr Lloyd in a new comic entertainment.
Stalls (res) 1s. Area 6d. Galleries 2d.

Bradford Daily Telegraph (Mon 4th Dec 1871) - Courtesy Colin Sutton.

The interior of the building was remodeled after the second World War, and used as a full time Cinema from 1949 until 1953 when it reverted to its former use, it had been showing films occasionally however, since 1900. The Hall was remodeled again after a fire in the 1980s. In 2013 the Hall is celebrating its 160th anniversary.

You may like to visit the St. George's Hall's own Website here.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

If you have any more information or images of this Theatre you are willing to share please Contact me.

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