In the mid 18th Century Liverpool began its first phase urban expansion. In 1767 St Johns Gardens was enclosed as a general burial ground with a small mortuary Chapel. It was in 1775 that the first stones were laid for St John’s Church which was designed in the gothic style by the architect Thomas Litoller. Construction of the Church was completed in 1784. In 1854 work began on St George’s Hall, designed in Neo-classical style by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, winner of the architectural competition for the building.
St John’s Church was located hard against the West elevation of St George’s Hall and it was for this reason that a more simple design was used on this side of the Hall, with its lack of a portico. Soon after the work commenced on St George’s Hall, developments began which led to the demolition of St John’s Church and later to the laying out of St John’s Garden. In 1865 the churchyard was closed for burials, and then in 1880 Liverpool was established as a separate diocese from Chester and a Cathedral was planned to the West of St George’s Hall on the site of St John’s Church. It was decided that the Anglican Cathedral should be located at St James’ Mount to dominate the Hope Street skyline, avoiding a clash in styles between the two major buildings and providing a great civic space more fully revealing the Western elevation of St George’s Hall.
In 1897 under the Liverpool Churches Act St John’s was closed. The Garden is said to have been designed initially by the sculptor, George Frampton, as a setting for existing and proposed pieces of public sculpture reflecting the City’s new found economic, political and cultural status.
Frampton reputedly submitted a detailed plaster model to the Corporation Surveyor, Thomas Shelmrdine. He was supportive of Frampton’s proposals and adopted the layout in his neo-baroque design. Frampton’s masterplan was thought to have been for an Italian garden, and although not completely carried out, it contributed towards providing Liverpool with a magnificent sculpture garden which is recognised as one of the major groups of outdoor public monuments of the early twentieth century.
The statues in the Garden, which was opened on 20th June 1904, were produced by some of the most famous names in Victorian sculpture such as Frampton, Sir Thomas Brock and Pomeroy. The monuments with the Garden and the gate piers and terrace wall are listed reflecting their national historic and architectural importance.
St Johns Gardens today
One of the city’s few city centre green spaces, the Garden is the site of the most prestigious collection of listed statuary in the city. These monuments and memorials present a fascinating indication of the city’s heritage and development and provide an appealing attraction amid the lawns, bedding and specimen plantings of the Garden.
|St Johns Gardens 2013|
The Garden lies at the heart of the arts and culture quarter in the city centre and an attractive component of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site where the open space contributes to a sense of civic pride amplified by the auspicious architectural backdrop of St George’s Hall and the city’s Museum, the new Central Library and Walker Art Gallery.
By Robert F Edwards
Source Informaion and Photographs
Liverpool Records Office
Liverpool Parks Organisation