Bluecoat Chambers
The Bluecoat is an arts centre in School Lane, Liverpool, Merseyside, England ( grid reference SJ346901 ) and claims to be the oldest arts centre in Great Britain. It is a Grade I listed building and is the oldest surviving building in central Liverpool. It was originally built as a charity school in the early 18th century. The school moved to another site in 1906, and since then the building has been used as an arts centre. It was damaged in the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 and restored after the Second World War. During the 2000s the building was further restored and a new wing was added. It was reopened in March 2008 to celebrate Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture.

It was built by Bryan Blundell, a sea captain, as a residential charity school, Liverpool Blue Coat School. Construction began in 1716 and the building, though still incomplete, soon opened as a school in 1718. By the following year it had 50 children, with room for 100 more, and construction was finally completed in 1725. Originally, the rear of the school resembled the front but in 1821 it was rebuilt giving it a convex-shaped elevation. The school moved to a new site in Wavertree in 1906. The building was threatened with demolition but it was saved by the soapmaker William Lever and Charles Reilly, the head of the Liverpool School of Architecture. This school used part of the building and in 1907 the Sandon Studios Society, an arts club, occupied other parts. The School of Architecture moved out in 1925 and a charitable trust, the Bluecoat Society of Arts, was set up to run the building. On 3 May 1941, during the Liverpool blitz, the concert hall and adjoining rooms were damaged by an incendiary bomb and during the following night the rear wing was destroyed by a bomb blast. After the war the building was restored, the restoration being completed in 1951. A craft shop was built at the back of the rear courtyard in 1999.

The Bluecoat is built in brick with painted stone dressings and a slate roof. It encloses three sides of a quadrangle and is separated from School Lane by a low wall with railings and gatepiers. The central block of five bays has two storeys with round-arched windows; the central three bays project forwards under a pediment containing a clock. On the roof is an octagonal cupola with round-arched openings, attached Ionic columns and a copper cap with a finial. The wings have three storeys; they are eleven bays long and one bay wide. On the ground and first floor the windows are square-headed while those on the top floor are oval. The end elevations have arched windows which match the central block. All the large windows have keystones with cherubs' heads. The main door in the centre of the central block has Ionic columns with a broken pediment containing a cartouche of the arms of Liverpool. Each wing has three square-headed doors approached by steps. The wall, railings and gatepiers on School Lane are also listed Grade I. Between 2005 and 2008 the building was renovated and a new 2250 square metre extension was added at a cost of £12.5 million, the architects being BIQ Architecten. The architects found that there were 32 different floor levels in the old building. They carried out much structural change to produce exhibition areas with better accessibility. The new extension is built mainly in brick to link with the old building, although it has a copper roof and more modern materials internally. The new wing houses a flexible performance area and four art galleries. In addition to performance areas and art galleries, the complex provides studios for artists and craftspeople, a restaurant and a café and a number of retail outlets.

Exhibitions and events
Over the years the Bluecoat hosted a range of cultural and arts-associated events. These included art exhibitions, debates, discussions, public meetings and campaigns, poetry readings, musical concerts and recitals, and cultural lectures. It held book, record, and antiques fairs and became a centre for working artists and craftspeople. Some of the events have continued to hold a place in history. In 1911, a controversial Post-Impressionist exhibition took place, including works by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, and Van Gogh, this being the first UK exhibition of these artists outside London. In 1967 Yoko Ono appeared at the Bluecoat at a time before she met John Lennon.

The Bluecoat was reopened on 15 March 2008, during Liverpool's year as a European Capital of Culture, by Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The opening exhibition, entitled Now Then, showed work by five artists, including Yoko Ono. During the early summer a display entitled Mr Roscoe's Garden, comprising part of Liverpool's Botanic Collection, was held. On 13 May a fire broke out in a kitchen on the first floor of the west wing causing significant damage, although 80% of the building was unaffected. The centre organises a series of events, exhibitions and concerts. Coffee and light meals are available in the Espresso Bar. Following a fire, the Upstairs Restaurant Bar reopened in November 2008.

Building Activity

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