The Liverpool Philharmonic Society was founded in 1840 but initially did not have a permanent concert hall. In 1844 the Liverpool architect John Cunningham was appointed to prepare plans for a hall. The initial requirement was for a "concert room" holding an audience of 1,500 which would cost at least £4,000 (£320 thousand as of 2012). However, later that year the requirement was increased to a "new concert hall" to accommodate an audience of 2,100 and an orchestra of 250, plus "refreshment and retiring rooms". Subscribers were invited to both buy shares and to purchase seats along the sides of the hall. The foundation stone was laid in 1846 and plans were made for Mendelssohn to write a cantata to be played in his presence at the opening of the hall. However Mendelssohn did not live long enough to write this work. The hall cost £30,000 (£2.45 million as of 2012) and was opened on 27 August 1849 The Times correspondent reported that it was "one of the finest and best adapted to music that I ever entered". An organ was installed in the hall in 1930 at a cost of £2,000 (£90 thousand as of 2012). The concert hall continued to be the home of the society until a fire broke out during the evening of 5 July 1933. As a result the hall was damaged beyond repair. The hall was insured and the insurers paid £84,000 (£4.42 million as of 2012) for the hall itself, £9,503 (£500 thousand as of 2012) for other assets, and £6,000 (£320 thousand as of 2012) for the loss of two years rental
Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 6 July 1933
The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, one of the finest concert halls in England, was destroyed by fire which broke out early last evening. Only the shell was left standing, and the fire is still burning at 12 30 this morning.
A workman on the roof of the new extension to the Liverpool Radium Institute, across the roadway, saw flames coming from the roof about seven o'clock. About the same time the caretaker of a neighbouring Unitarian Church noticed smoke coming up from the roof, and, realising that the hall would not be heated in summer, he summoned the Fire Brigade.
Almost as soon as the brigade arrived the roof fell in. Sheets of flame were clearly visible from a great distance. Many thousands of people filled the streets, and hundreds came in from the suburbs and from Wirral to watch the fire. The heat was so intense that firemen were busy playing hoses on the lamp standards in the streets in front of the hall. Within a short time 12 engines and over a hundred firemen were on the scene. The Liverpool Salvage Corps, a private body maintained by the insurance companies to protect their interests by saving as many valuables as possible, was there almost as soon as the fire brigade.
The Philharmonic Hall is in the middle of the hospital quarter, and in one of Liverpool's two danger zones. At the city end is the School for the Blind, and opposite is the Radium Institute. At one time the police thought that there was a danger to the hospitals from a threatened fall of the walls, and the patients were warned and dressed, so that they might be ready to leave at a moment's notice. The walls seemed to lean forward and women in the crowd shrieked in terror. Nearby a party of St. John Ambulance Brigade was drilling. They turned out with their stretchers and first-aid equipment within ten minutes of the alarm being given. When the roof collapsed several firemen and salvage men had narrow escapes from death. The only casualties were two slight cases of burning.
It is believed that the value of the building and contents was in the neighbourhood of £100,000. Several treasures in the building were saved by the salvage men, notably a tablet to the memory of the musicians on the Titanic, erected by the Philharmonic Society out of the proceeds of a special concert. The greater part of the extensive collection of music was also salvaged. It is believed, however, that Ted Stansfield's double bass has been burned. Stansfield is the Halle Orchestra double-bass player, and this instrument, which he made himself, has an inscription from Sir Hamilton Harty.
This building replaced the original Philharmonic Hall, which burnt down in 1933