IT is one of Bradford's grandest buildings.

St George's Hall, Bradford's landmark concert venue, was born out of a proposal in February 1849 during a meeting with subscribers to the Bradford Royal Infirmary and Alderman Samuel Smith.

Through issuing £10 shares more than £16,000 in capital was generated before the venue's foundation stone was laid on September 22 1851 - a day declared as a public holiday for Bradfordians!

Designed by renowned architects, Lockwood and Mawson, whose expertise and skill can also be seen in Bradford's City Hall, the Wool Exchange, Salts Mill and Saltaire village, St George's Hall was built at a cost of £35,000.

The 3,500 seater venue officially opened on August 29 1853 with a Music Festival kick-starting the many concerts and shows that would be performed here.

Testimony to its significance both architecturally and historically, this famous concert venue was given Grade II listed status in June 1963.

Now as it prepares to undergo a multi-million pound renovation to restore it to its former glory, we take a look back at some of the famous faces and events it has hosted in its 163 year history.

As well as being a concert venue, St George's Hall has proved an important meeting place for the Bradford Festival Choral Society, which formed following a meeting there in November 1856, and the revered writer, Charles Dickens, delivered his first public reading on December 28 1854 to an audience of 2,500 at the venue.

Other notable speakers and performers to take to the St George's Hall stage during its early history include the Rev Dr Livingstone, Winston Churchill and actor Henry Irving. who died at the Midland Hotel.

In 1861 the hall became adaptable for stage plays; advertisements indicate Mr and Mrs Charles Kean appeared in Hamlet and a Kiss in the Dark on October 23 1861 followed by a season of 13 plays presented from August 22 to September 10 by the Haymarket Company.

The Halle orchestra has been a regular at the hall since 1865 and continues to perform there.

What some may not be familiar with is its previous use over the years as an airport terminal before passengers were bussed up to Leeds Bradford!

The screening of regular film shows began there in 1901 after the showing of the first film in 1898. In 1962 New Century Pictures operated it as a cinema for 23 years.

On March 25 1949 Bradford Council purchased the hall and the modernisation began with new tip-up seats and a more flexible stage. The organ (which had been installed originally in 1856) was also completely re-built. The Dressing Rooms were also improved to accommodate "continental ensuite facilities." The venue officially re-opened on Wednesday September 30 1953.

Over the years the hall has been regularly used for filming by the BBC and played host to many famous names including the late David Bowie, Genesis, Bryan Adams, Blondie, Jools Holland, Morrissey, Elaine Paige, Gene Pitney, Sugababes, McFly, INXS and the Boomtown Rats

St George's Hall is expected to close for a year at the end of this month for renovations which include restoring its sand-stone exterior as well as a re-design of the front-of-house and bar areas, removing partitions added to the 1980s.