Back in 2001, I published The Churches of Liverpool. Written by David Lewis, it was a record of many of the city’s churches, past and present. I was not completely happy about the book; it was in the early days of digital photography and some of the images were bitmapped but, more inexcusably, the book lacked an index, which made navigation particularly annoying. That said, the book did present a topic well worthy of further work. The incredible explosion of church building in the nineteenth century was fuelled by a religious fervour created by the turbulence of the effects of industrialisation, scientific discovery and social uncertainty of the times. If Liverpool had a pub on every corner, it also had a church in every street, or so it seemed. These ranged from the simple mission ‘hut’ to the fully blown high gothic masterwork.
Of course many fine examples have survived but others fell victim to declining congregations, fire, war and civic replanning. Churches are, unfortunately, difficult to adapt to other uses without destroying their integrity and it is difficult to argue that, for most, they had outlived their use and could not be kept in a satisfactory condition without huge sums being spent on their maintenance.
Over the next few weeks, I will post some examples of what I consider to be the most important losses, starting with this fine photograph of St George’s Church in 1875. Designed by Thomas Steer, the dock architect, and consecrated in 1726, it was considered the most handsome church in Liverpool. Built on the site of Liverpool Castle, the church fell out of popularity in the late nineteenth century and closed in 1897, to be demolished two years later. The, to me, ugly and unexceptional statue of Queen Victoria now occupies the site – a very poor ‘swap’ for what would today be a beautiful building in a landmark position .