Liverpool Suburbs
Old Churches near Liverpool @ allertonOak
Last updated 31st March 2016
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St. James's Church, Toxteth
The red brick St. James's Church was built in 1774-5 to a remarkably plain design. Toxteth remained as farmland until 1771, when the intention was to develop the northern end as a new town, to be called Harrington. A street plan was laid out but only the church was ever built. The area subsequently turned into dense and insanitary terraces with the development of the south docks in the early 19th century. The church was declared redundant in 1974 but the semi-derelict building was reopened in 2010 and is undergoing repair.
Park Road Windmill and St. James's Church c.1780
The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth
One of Liverpool's half dozen oldest buildings, the original chapel (since modified) was built sometime between 1604 and 1618. It has long been associated with non-conformist religion and became a presbyterian meeting-house in 1672. This was an isolated rural community at the time that could get away with such sympathies, though surprisingly the land was donated by the Roman Catholic Molyneux family. Richard Molyneux acquired the whole area, a former royal hunting ground, in 1605. The chapel was extensively rebuilt in 1774.
Holy Trinity Church, Wavertree
Holy Trinity dates from 1794 and was built as a chapel of ease to Childwall, becoming Wavertree parish church in 1867. It was described by John Betjeman as 'Liverpool's best Georgian church'. Its construction marks the arrival of rich merchants' habitats in the area at this time. The upper part of the original tower had to be removed in the 1950s because of instability. The church suffered from fires in 1961 and 1971 and was restored.
All Saints Church, Childwall
There was probably a now demolished chapel on the site of this beautiful sandstone church in Childwall Village in the 11th century, and some of the building materials have Norman or even Saxon origins. The current name is of relatively recent origin; a document from the 14th century suggests that the church was dedicated to St. Peter at that time. It is Liverpool's oldest parish church and the only one of mediaeval construction.
The oldest part of the present structure is the north wall of the chancel with its window, an outer wall of the tiny original 14th century church, although the glass in the window is 19th century. The porch is 15th century and has a Saxon stone in the west wall, probably a coffin lid, a ceiling carved with the stone heads of the four apostles and a 500 year old oak door. The nave, with its north and south aisles, was added in the 15th century and the sloping floor, which follows the gradient of the land, once continued into the chancel before it was levelled in 1851 (regrettably it now seems).
The west tower with its spire was added around the same time as the nave. Thus the building stood until the early 18th century, when a major programme of extension and rebuilding began that has continued to the present day. The tower and spire were demolised and rebuilt in 1810 following the disaster at St. Nicholas's church in Liverpool that year, when 25 people died following the collapse of the tower there. It is thought to have been relocated slightly further to the west.
The churchyard at All Saints is a profoundly peaceful and atmospheric place. It was first mentioned in a document of 1386. One of the oldest epitaphs reads: 'Sacred to the memory of John Jones, who departed this life in his 95th year, June 1st, 1517. My sledge and hammer both decline, my bellows they have lost their wind, my fire is extinct, my forge decayed, and the dust in my vice is laid. My coals are spent, my iron is gone, my nails are driven, my work is done.'
Window in the north chancel wall
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
As ever, indispensible further reading is provided by the Pevsner Architectural Guide: Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West by Richard Pollard and Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, 2006.
The photo of St. James Church is a freely licensed image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The engraving of Park Road Windmill and St. James's Church is from Ancestry Images, in turn sourced from Pictorial Relics of Ancient Liverpool, engraved by W.G. Herdman, 1843.
This is a non-commercial website that is intended entirely for research and educational purposes. If I have unintentionally breached copyright with any images, I hope that the copyright owner will tolerate my usage in the present context, otherwise I will remove the material. Modern colour photographs are by the author unless otherwise indicated.