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.

20 Responses to “St Peter’s, Church Street, 1880”