Liverpool's centre for the contemporary arts


Book Tickets

Tickets & Information

0151 702 5324 |

Related Publications

The story so far
The story so far

The Bluecoat is the oldest building in Liverpool city centre, dating from the early 18th century.

Support Us

For more information about how you can support the Bluecoat please visit the support us section

Stay up to date


One of Liverpool's most distinctive buildings, the Bluecoat is situated in the heart of the city centre in the busy Church Street retail area. Its elegant Queen Anne style architecture, cobbled front courtyard and beautiful 'secret garden' make it amongst the top visitor attractions in the region. This Grade 1 Listed building is an architectural gem and, almost 300 years old, is the oldest building in the city centre. It began life as a school, however for most of the past century, it has been a centre for the arts and a meeting place for the people of Merseyside.

Visit our Arts and Heritage website

Historic photo of the Bluecoat

Historic photo of the Bluecoat

As custodians of the building, the Bluecoat is responsible for the upkeep of the centre, carrying out restoration work and access improvements, and maintaining a thriving community of artists, cultural organisations, shops and small businesses.

The Bluecoat’s own promotions have achieved a national profile, with an award-winning art gallery presenting a continuous programme of innovative exhibitions, and a wide range of contemporary dance, music and other live events. From the local to the international, this programme is culturally diverse in its outlook, and is accompanied by an innovative participation programme.

My Bluecoat


Join the My Bluecoat project, which will bring alive the building’s heritage to help celebrate Bluecoat turning 300.

Thanks to National Lottery funding, throughout 2017 there will be a programme of heritage, art exhibitions, live music and dance events and community projects will help audiences explore different aspects of Bluecoat’s history. Through this programme and our website we will also investigate the many connections between the Bluecoat’s story and the history of the city itself.

This history will be informed by Bluecoat collecting and sharing the stories of individuals who have personal connections to Bluecoat, presenting an alternative narrative to the “official” story. To help with this unofficial history, we invite you to share any stories you or your family may have from throughout Bluecoat's history. As well as gathering people's history, this project will also bring together information about the building’s transformation from charity school in the 18th and 19th centuries to the UK’s first arts centre in the 20th century by digitising archives held at Bluecoat, Liverpool Record Office, the current Blue Coat School in Wavertree, and elsewhere, making them publicly accessible for the first time.

Material has been uploaded to the My Bluecoat website, allowing current visitors to learn more about Bluecoat’s history and creating opportunities to share Bluecoat’s heritage with a new audience.

If you have any stories to share or want to be involved in the project please use our submission form or contact

Heritage lottery logo

My Bluecoat has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, this major initiative will digitise the archives from a number of key sources, bringing these fascinating records together for the first time alongside memories from the public.


The School

St Georges day at the Bluecoat

St Georges day at the Bluecoat

Now known simply as the Bluecoat, the Bluecoat building has a fascinating history. In 1708, the Reverend Robert Styth, rector of Liverpool, and Bryan Blundell, master mariner, founded the Liverpool Blue Coat School (also referred to as the Blue Coat Hospital), an institution "dedicated to the promotion of Christian charity and the training of poor boys in the principles of the Anglican Church." A Latin inscription of this text above the main entrance is a reminder today of the building's original function. Work on the building began in 1716 and was completed nine years later, and there were later extensions and alterations, especially to the rear of the building. The building's design has caused much speculation, and research is currently being undertaken to discover the identity of the mystery architect. After nearly 200 years of occupancy, the School having outgrown its original home, moved in 1906 to new, larger premises in suburban Wavertree. (view the Bluecoat School's website for further information)

Britain's Oldest Art Space

A year after the school relocated, a group of painters and sculptors - seeking a new home following the demolition of their studio space at Sandon Terrace, opposite the Anglican Cathedral - moved to the Bluecoat. Artistic activity has been at the heart of the building ever since, and it was the efforts of the Sandon Studios Society, inspirationally led by Mrs Fanny Dove Hamel Calder, that secured the Bluecoat's future as a centre for the arts. In 1910 they convinced the first Lord Leverhulme to purchase the building, and when, after his death, it had to be sold in lieu of death duties, Sandon members raised an appeal to again save the building in 1927. The appeal's success established a successful programme to manage the building, conserve its architectural heritage, and to promote the arts within it.

During the Second World War, the building was severely damaged during the Merseyside blitz of 1941, and it wasn't until 1958 that it was fully restored to its former glory. From the 1960s onwards the Bluecoat firmly established itself as a cornerstone of Liverpool's artistic life. John Willett's book Art in a City, commissioned by the Bluecoat in the mid-60s, remains a classic study of the arts in Liverpool, and provided a blueprint for much of its subsequent development.

The Bluecoat Gallery was formally established in 1968, to exhibit work by contemporary artists, and has developed a distinctive exhibition programme, featuring artists from the local to the international. Music, dance, literature, live art and other performance activity are also part of the arts offer.

Heritage at the Bluecoat: volunteering and sharing artefacts and memories

Contribute your own insight to the Bluecoat's history by sharing your artefact or story with us or registering your interest in volunteering with our Heritage Programme.  Please click here to specify your interest or story.

About the Bluecoat

Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

Opening hours

Mon - Sat 9.00am - 6.00pm
Sun 11.00am - 6.00pm

Tickets & Information

0151 702 5324 |

Who's blogging?

October Half Term at Bluecoat

published by Barry

Tweets from @theBluecoat


Please use this form to tell us about your experience of our website.

There was an error with your details, please try entering them again.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to the Bluecoat free mailing list and we'll send you all the details of our new events

Log In

There was an error with your details, please try entering them again.