Category: Churches

There is no doubt what the celebrations are about. The slides taken by Pat Weekes are all dated 14 May 1967 – an auspicious day for all Roman Catholics since it marked the consecration of the new cathedral. St Andrew’s Gardens, or the Bullring, in its shadow, made the most of the occasion with a giant street party and some form of theatrical entertainment.
The hardened news photographer had long left after taking photographs of all the going-ons at the cathedral but for the enterprising amateur photographer, the real action was elsewhere, as Pat’s photographs show. Photographs of official events are invariably dull – usually choreographed line-ups of dignitaries and staged events. Historically they provide a record but there is usually much more fun to be captured away from the main action – from children tucking into jelly and jam tarts to earnest priests explaining ecumenical matters to respectful parishioners.

I thought I knew most of Liverpool’s churches but this photograph has puzzled me for some time. It is a well-built church (it looks as if it is faced with stone) in a prosperous area (possibly Aigburth?) but there are few other clues. The photograph was one of a set owned by an organ repairer/cleaner. On the reverse he has written “organ cleaned – builder Foster & Andrews’. It was posted in Liverpool on 14th November 1904.
I am working on a new edition of David Lewis’s Churches of Liverpool, which I published in 2001. I thought it was due for an update after ten years (most of them out of print): and I have many new photographs (such as this one) I would like to include. Can anyone recognise the church and location?

One of the greatest losses to Liverpool’s architectural heritage was to its city centre churches. In 1899, both St George’s Church (in Derby Square) and St John’s Church in Old Haymarket were demolished (the latter being fairly universally disliked for its rather crude Gothic design). The elegant church of St Thomas in Park Lane was pulled down in 1905 (with the tomb of Joseph Williamson, the “Mole of Edge Hill’ left in the cleared churchyard). St Peter’s was next in line, lasting until 1922. It’s demise was planned for some time. In 1880, Liverpool gained its first bishop, Rt Rev Ryle, and St Peter’s was made the Pro-Cathedral as an interim measure while decisions about a purpose-built cathedral could be made. In the photograph, the poster on the post states ‘Full Cathedral Service’.
Once the decision to build on St James’s Mount had been made, the diocese realised it could only fund the ambitious project by selling off its very valuable real estate in the city’s main retail street. St Peter’s had to go and there was no shortage of takers, including Harrods, who planned to build there only store outside of London on the site. In the end, it was the ambitious American chain, Woolworths, who won through and they maintained a high street presence for over half a century before Burtons/Topshop moved in.
I do find the removal of churches such as St Peter’s sad. Not from a religious standpoint but because city centres need spaces that are not dominated by commerce and retailing. We have too few and need to seriously think about what kind of city we want to live in. Is all our space up for the highest bidder, as always seems to be the case, or can we exert some control over its use for a greater communal benefit? After the disgraceful ‘Fourth Grace’ public involvement, I have my grave doubts although concerted action did help save the Lyceum.

I am guessing that the year is 1965. The John Moores Centre (top left) appears to have been finished, with a nearby crane working on Phase 2. The pub on the corner of Fontenoy Street and Great Crosshall Street (the road running up from Byrom Street the left), is the Australian Vaults with Holy Cross Church prominent just beyond.
The tenements, euphemistically named Fontenoy Gardens, without a blade of grass in sight, are split by the tunnels for Waterloo Goods station, across the road from Waterloo Dock. Further along the docks, the ‘Three Sisters’, the chimneys of Clarence Dock power station are another landmark. With the exception of the JM Centre, all these features have now disappeared in the reshaping of the city over the last thirty years – although the refuse lorry is little different from its modern counterpart (at least some things were designed to last).

Mann Island c.1898

Mann Island c.1890
Liverpool’s constant renewal has left the city with a legacy of buildings spanning three centuries. The top photograph can be placed immediately because of the presence of the White Star offices, which opened in 1897. Around it are three of the city’s architectural losses. To the left, are the Goree Piazzas – magnificent early nineteenth century warehouses which were firebombed during the War and then pulled down for road widening. In front of them runs the Liverpool Overhead Railway – opened in 1893 and demolished within a few years of the Goree in 1957/58. The church in the background is St George’s Church in Derby Square (as it is now named), which only just lasted to the end of the nineteenth century before demolition.
The importance of photographic documentation can be seen in the bottom image, which was taken before the Overhead Railway was built. The tower in the centre was the hydraulic tower for James Street Station – again a victim of wartime bombing.
Looking at sites such a YoLiverpool – it is refreshing to see so many photographers are making the effort to record Liverpool’s changing face. Not all photographs are masterpieces but in 20+ years time, a new generation will be grateful for today’s photographers who are so passionate about their city.

St Philip Neri, Catherine Street

St Francis Xavier, Salisbury Street

St Patrick, Park Place

Three more fine churches, starting with the relatively unknown St Philip Neri, on Catherine Street. Designed by PS Gilby and built between 1914-21, it has a striking Byzantine interior. The church is perhaps better known for its Spanish garden, which was built in the 1950s by the incumbent Dr John Garvey.
St Francis Xavier was originally part of an extensive group of religious buildings which included the former SFX School (now part of Liverpool Hope University). Built to the designs of John Scholes in 1848, it is built in stone in an Early English style of Gothic. The Lady Chapel adjoining the church was added in 1888.
St Patrick’s (1821-27) in contrast, is a strict Neoclassical church. Designed by John Slater, its exterior is lightened by a statue of St Patrick, which came from the St Patrick Insurance Company in Dublin. The huge altar painting is by Nicaise de Keyser of Antwerp (c1834).
Three very fine churches which have survived shrinking congregations and all the other issues facing inner city churches. Two of the biggest problems – vandalism and theft – unfortunately mean that these gems are rarely open to the public, which is a sad loss for a city trying to build up its image as a cultural destination. Open Heritage weeks are fine in a very limited way – but we really should be looking at a more comprehensive policy of opening up such important buildings on a regular basis.

St John the Baptist, Tuebrook

Princes Road Synagogue

St Agnes and St Pancras, Ullet Road

The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed an astonishing growth in the number of churches across Liverpool. As the population expanded, so did the number of places of worship to accommodate all religious persuasions. Many were quite modest but others were built to the highest standards. The twentieth century has not been kind to this Victorian religiosity. Churches are notoriously difficult to convert to other uses and are expensive to maintain. I have mentioned a few of the gems that disappeared through war, vandalism and redevelopment in previous posts but, fortunately some of the finest churches survived including the three featured today. I have concentrated on the magnificent roofs with the medievalism of George Bodley’s St John’s at Tuebrook (1868-70) contrasting with the decorated vaulting of W & G Audsley’s Synagogue of 1874 and the stone vaulting of John Pearson’s St Agnes and St Pancras in Ullet Road (1883-85). Three of Britain’s finest church architects and three very different styles – their survival something to celebrate.

In my post of February 9th., I listed some of the fine churches that had disappeared. Many were demolished for housing or other developments but quite a number succumbed to vandalism and fire. Whether the destruction of St Catherine’s Church in Abercromby Square was vandalism or redevelopment is a matter of opinion. The whole integrity of the square was quite incredibly broken up by no less a body than the University of Liverpool in their drive for expansion. Street after street of Georgian housing was removed to allow for their vision of a modern campus and John Foster’s classical church of 1829 unfortunately stood in the way. At least until 1966, when it was reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Church of St Chrysostom might strike a chord with those familiar with Liverpool churches. The church of St John the Divine in Fairfield (its prominent steeple is a landmark as you travel along Edge Lane) was by the same, somewhat eccentric architect, W. Raffles Brown. His rather peculiar take on Gothic was regarded as muddled and inaccurate by The Ecclesiologist but W Herdman, at least, was impressed enough to include it his magnificent volume Modern Liverpool, writing that, ‘when we look back forty or fifty years, and see the enormous cost of such abortions at St Mark’s, St Mary’s, Edge Hill, St Anne’s and others and compare the results with the neat elegance as the one before us at a cost very much less, it must be admitted that some advance has been made in the essentials of church architecture.’ A familiar story of changing tastes over a couple of generations. Built in 1853, St Chrysostom, which stood in Audley Street, Everton, was destroyed by fire in 1972.

The rapid expansion of Liverpool in the late 18th and early 19th century saw the wealthier merchants and professionals move eastwards from the city centre, taking possession of the new housing being built around Rodney Street. Naturally, where there were people, there were churches and in a very small area (probably little more than a square kilometre) the different denominations built their places of worship: St Andrew’s on Rodney Street, the Church for the Blind and St Philip’s on Hardman Street, St Catharine (Abercromby Square) and St Mark’s on Duke Street to name but five. Of these, only St Andrew’s survives, although in a desperate state. Two other churches are featured here, both photographed in 1875:

Myrtle Street Baptist Church

The church stood on the corner of Hope Street and Myrtle Street, on a corner site which is now a car park (facing the Philharmonic pub). A Nonconformist church, it had as its preacher Hugh Stowell Brown, who was so popular that the church had to be expanded to seat his growing congregation (Howell Brown conducted the funeral of John Hulley – see earlier post re. Liverpool Olympics). The church itself was greatly admired although James Picton was a bit sniffy about its style of architecture: ‘not up to the demands of the age in ecclesiastical structures.’ Design by WH Gee and opened in 1844. It did not see its centenary and was demolished just before the Second World War. The stone clad building to the right has recently been demolished.

Catholic Apostolic Church, Catharine Street

Many people reading this blog will have seen the shell of this church, which was finally pulled down in the mid-1990s and replaced by a block of flats. It stood on the corner of Catharine Street and Canning Street and was a building that stood out from its brick built neighbours (what I presume was the prebytery still survives and looks somewhat out of place clad in rather unsympathic stone). Picton again was critical of the church’s external dimensions but the church had a fine interior by all accounts.

William and George Audsley have not been treated well in Liverpool. Amongst the most respected Victorian church architects, their two remaining Liverpool churches, Christ Church in Kensington and the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road, are in shocking condition. Possibly their finest work was St Margaret on the corner of Belmont Road and West Derby Road, seen above photographed in 1875 shortly after consecration in 1873. Pevsner, considered it ‘very powerful’ and its interior was widely praised for its detailing and decoration. The church burned down in 1961 and was replaced by the present green roofed church.
Checking through my notes, I found a list I had made of some of the churches demolished in a six year period – from 1970 to 1976. It makes dismal reading. I always though that the 1960s was the most destructive period for Liverpool’s heritage but perhaps need to reassess the scale of damage during the 1970s (which included the Sailors’ Home and numerous fine commercial buildings).

Chinese Church, Princes Avenue. Demolished 1973 after fire.
Prince’s Gate Baptist Church (1879-81 by Henry Sumners). Demolished 1974.
All Saints, Bentley Road. Demolished 1974.
St Cuthbert, Robson Street, demolished 1970 after fire.
St Chad’s Everton. Demolished 1973.
St Paul’s, Princes Park. Demolished 1976.
St Anne’s, St Anne’s Street. Demolished 1970.
St Timothy, Rokeby Street. Demolished 1970.
Methodist Capel, Great Homer Street. Demolished after fire 1974.
Welsh Methodist Chapel, Shaw Street. Demolished after fire 1974.
St Chrysostom, Queens Road. (1854 by Raffles Brown). Destroyed by fire 1972.
St Benedict, Heyworth Street (‘exceptionally good’ by Aldridge & Deacon 1887). Demolished 1976.
St John, Breck Road. Demolished 1972.
St Philip, Sheil Road. Demolished 1973?
St Domingo Methodist, Breckfield Road. Demolished 1972
St Philemon, Windsor Street. Demolished 1976
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Princes Road. Demolished 1974.
St Saviour, Upper Huskisson Street. Demolished for abandoned road scheme 1970.
Unitarian Church, Hamilton Road. Demolished 1972.