Sunday, February 05, 2012

Liverpool Register Office moves to new home in St George's Hall

25 people joined the British family today in the first Citizenship Ceremony in the new Register Office in St George's Hall.  They were not only the first to take part in a citizenship ceremony in the beautiful new rooms in this magnificent building, but the first to take part in any kind of ceremony in the new suite, the first wedding will be held here next weekend.

(A couple of the citizenship ceremonies were held in the small ballroom during 2008 as part of the Capital of Culture, but not in these new ceremonial rooms. Likewise some weddings have taken place in St George's Hall by special licence, but in future, all civil marriages and civil partnerships will routinely take place here). 

The Superintendent Registrar and her staff have worked terrifically hard along with St George's Hall staff to ensure that the move from Old Hall Street went well and to have the rooms ready for this first official event.

With ten new offices and quiet rooms for the recording of births, deaths and marriages,  the coroners court and two ceremonial rooms (one traditional and one more modern, both with wonderful long reaching views across the city) this new home feels quite perfect, as though it should always have been there. Pat Dobie, the SR, told me on my visit last week to look round, prior to today's ceremony, that some brides have burst into tears upon realising that they would be married in such glorious surroundings.

There are bound to be some teething troubles as the first ceremonies are held, with people turning up at the wrong place, and as new Register office staff and old Heritage Centre officers become accustomed to each other and learn how to jointly inhabit the same space. But I am quite sure that the people of Liverpool will believe it only right that these most important moments in our lives are now being recorded in this cherished building.

St George’s Hall is arguably the most imposing and grand building in the city. Built between 1842 and 1854 it was both a law court and venues for music festivals. Queen Victoria described it as "worthy of ancient Athens"
It will be Charles Dickens 200th birthday next week, 7th February, and an event will be held here to celebrate his life. Dickens regularly used to give readings of his work at St George’s Hall, including a world premier of his classic book A Christmas Carol
The Hall was restored with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and European Regional Development Fund, The Trustees of St George's Hall and Liverpool City Council, and most aptly reopened by HRH Prince Charles on St George’s Day 2007
Photograph: St George's Hall by Don McPhee/Guardian
Photograph: Louise with Carron Reppion and Chris Dillon, Deputy Superintendent Registrars, at today's ceremony

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