The building's design, by Henry Francis Lockwood and William Mawson, was chosen from more than twenty-two designs submitted during an 1849 competition. Built of ashlar sandstone masonry in neoclassical style, the building was opened on 29 August 1853. The interior underwent extensive remodelling after the Second World War and again after fires in the 1980s. In March 2016 a 4 million pound restoration scheme was started, St George's Hall will open again in 2017 once the renovations and interior refurbishment is complete.
In the early nineteenth century, as Bradford grew in size, it became clear there was a need in the city for a venue for public meetings and concerts. The buildings that were in use for this purpose - the Exchange Buildings and Mechanics' Institute - were proving insufficient for the city's needs. As a result, a group of shareholders was brought together by the city's mayor, Samuel Smith, in 1849 for the purpose of building a music hall. £16,000 of capital was raised, in £10 shares. The site on the corner of Bridge Street and Hall Ings was chosen as the location and the foundation stone was laid in 1851 by the Earl of Zetland.
The venue has hosted many of the world's top performers over the years including Charles Dickens, the Hallé Orchestra, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Free, David Bowie, Genesis, INXS, Bon Jovi, Kiss amongst others. For a time in the 1980s and early 1990s it was a major venue for touring international bands before the development of the Sheffield Arena.
In March 2016, the hall closed its doors to undergo a £8.5 million refurbishment plan after securing funding from both the Heritage Lottery Fund and Bradford Council. As part of the plans, the sandstone exterior will undergo a full restoration and internal improvements will be made to both the front of house areas and the auditorium. As well as this, the original entrance will be reinstated on Hall Ings and current colonnade will be glazed to create a draught lobby.