The first phase of restoration work on the Minton tiles in St George’s Hall has now been completed, and has been given the seal of approval by HRH The Princess Royal.
Widely regarded as one of the finest neo-classical buildings in the world, St George’s Hall Liverpool is also a favourite building of Princess Anne’s bother, HRH Prince Charles.
Princess Anne was given a tour of the Grade I Listed building by General Manager Alan Smith, and the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Tony Concepcion. Together they discussed the restoration project, which is the first major repair to the Great Hall since the iconic venue opened in 1854.
The first area of five earmarked for restoration is now complete and Princess Anne was full of praise for the project. The tiles form the natural walkway around the great hall and were the once the route into the crown court, so have dramatically faded over time. St George’s Hall Liverpool is the world’s best example of an encaustic tiled floor. But over time, five of the Great Circles of the tiled floor have become badly worn and colours have dramatically faded and have been identified as the key areas for restoration.
Encaustic tiles became the height of fashion in Victorian architecture. Encaustic comes from the Greek word meaning to ‘burn in’. Different colours of clay are used to create an encaustic tile, meaning the design is actually created within the body of the tile itself therefore lasting for many years. The faded tiles have now been brought back to life by experts Craven Dunnill Jackfield Ltd from Shropshire, who specialise in encaustic tile manufacture. They will be installed by world expert restorer of Minton tiled floors, Brian Joyce from Maw & Co Ltd, who has worked across the globe on some of the biggest Minton restoration projects.
Alan Smith, General Manager of St George’s Hall Liverpool, commented: “Our iconic venue is very much a great asset of Liverpool, so it is vital that restoration work is done with great care to protect and preserve its heritage for future generations to enjoy. The Princess Royal was extremely enthusiastic and encouraged by the quality and expertise required to replace the tiles. She fully understood the intricacies of the project ahead and wished us well with the remaining phases.
“It has cost £73,000 to create the template and produce the distinctive Minton tiles to repair the first circle, this has been raised through the efforts of our dedicated supporters. However, we have a long way to go to reach our target and raise the funds required to complete the overall restoration project. We hope our visitors continue to support us in our efforts to maintain one of the city’s most important architectural gems.”
As late as the 1990s, the floor has been considered as being ‘at risk’ pending its protection and future up keep and restoration. Now the hall is fully open to the public, a balance has been developed to ensure the majority of the floor is preserved as original.
Through the fundraising efforts of the Trustees of St George’s Hall; The Friends of St George’s Hall, and the support of Liverpool City Council, £73,000 has been raised to create the template and produce the tiles for the repair of the first circle.