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Churches and Religions in Liverpool

This project began when I was asked to find out the origins of several churches in Liverpool and the dates of their demolition. It was whilst researching this information I realised the vast number of different churches and indeed religions that have sprung up throughout the city from the early beginnings of, Walton on the Hill and St Mary Del Key (Quay) at the Pier Head. 

I have not listed every church in Liverpool just those where I have been able to find information relating to their history, there are obviously many more churches than are covered in this article. For a more in depth study of Liverpool Churches I recommend 'The Churches of Liverpool' by David Lewis,(link at the end of this article). Wherever possible I have tried to trace photographs of the churches with some degree of success.

The ancient parish church of Liverpool was St Mary’s 
Walton on the Hill, 3 miles from the present location.

All Saints' Church, Childwall is the oldest church in Liverpool. The earliest reference to Childwall is to be found in the Domesday Book, which was compiled by order of William I in 1086. A translation reads:-

“Four Radmans held Childwall as four manors. There is half a hide. It was worth eight shillings. There was a priest, having half a curucate of land in frank almoign.”

The presence of a priest indicates that there was probably a chapel here in the 11th century, though there are few, if any, remains left now.

The chapel of St. Mary del Key (or Quay) stood close to where the church is now at the Pier Head, 'a great piece of antiquity,' it was used as the free school, in 1673. It was a chapel of ease to Walton, and without any permanent endowment. On or before 1356 probably at the cost of the town, the larger chapel of Our Lady and St. Nicholas was built, which then became the chapel of Liverpool. In that year the King allowed the mayor and commonalty to devote lands of the value of £10 a year to the maintenance of divine service in the chapel according to an agreement they had made with Henry, Duke of Lancaster, who himself gave an allowance of 12s. a year to the chapel. Mentioned in a charter of the middle of the 13th century.  St. Mary del Key (or Quay) was standing. Our Lady and St. Nicholas became the chapel of Liverpool. In September 1361 the Bishop of Lichfield granted a licence for burials in the churchyard, during a visitation of plague and in the following February he gave permission for the chapel and cemetery of St. Nicholas of Liverpool to be consecrated Shortly afterwards William de Liverpool gave a rent of 6s. 8d. towards the stipend of the chaplain, as long as the chantry should continue. The chantry referred to was probably that at the altar of St. John, founded by John de Liverpool to celebrate for the souls of his ancestors, the priest of which was nominated by the mayor and burgesses.

In 1699 Liverpool, with a population of less than 5000, was created an independent parish with two churches: Our Lady and St Nicholas (often called the ‘Old Church’ or St Nicholas) and a new parish church of St Peter in Church Street, consecrated in 1704, which has since been regarded as the principal church of the parish, and was therefore appointed the pro-cathedral in 1880. It is a plain building with wide round-headed windows, consisting of a chancel with vestries, nave, and west tower. Its chief merit lies in the woodwork, and it preserves its galleries on three sides of the nave, the general arrangement of the seating having been but little altered since its first building. It was demolished as soon as part of the new cathedral was in use. On Saint Peter’s Day, 29th June 1910, the Lady Chapel, the first part of the Cathedral to be completed, was dedicated by Bishop Chavasse and Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of York.

St Peters Pro-Cathedral Church

First St Georges Church

St. George's Church, for which an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1715 was begun in 1726 on the site of the old Liverpool castle, it was completed in 1734. 'It had originally an elegant terrace, supported by rustic arches, on one side; these arches where frequented by the traders of Red Cross market.  The church was rebuilt piecemeal between 1819 and 1825, and its new spire was reduced in height in 1833. In its time it was regarded as 'one of the handsomest in the kingdom. It was the property of the corporation and maintained by them.

St Mary's Church, Woolton The church was built in 1859–60, and designed by R. W.Hughes, an architect from Preston. It was opened on 28 October 1860. The church was re-decorated in 1981–82, and the font was moved to the front of the church. St Mary's is constructed in red sandstone and has a slate roof. Inside the church, the high altar and reredos date from 1865, and were probably designed by E. W. Pugin. They were separated in 1948–50 by Weightman and Bullen, who placed the reredos against the east wall. The stained glass in the east window dates from 1878, and is a typical design by the Belgian stained glass painter Jean-Baptiste Capronnier. The two-manual pipe organ was built by Franklin Lloyd in 1895, and is situated in a gallery on the north wall of the church at the west end.

St. Thomas's, Park Lane, was built in 1750 under the provisions of an Act of Parliament. 'The land was given by Mr. John Skill, who, however, afterwards charged three times the value of the ground for the churchyard when it was required.' A very tall and slender spire was a feature of the exterior; after various accidents it was taken down in 1822, and a miniature dome replaced it. A large part of the churchyard was acquired by the corporation about 1885 for a new thoroughfare.

St. Paul's, one of the corporation churches, was begun in 1763 in accordance with an Act obtained the previous year, This noble ecclesiastical structure stood in the north-west quarter of Liverpool, in the centre of a square which to this day takes its name from the building, the western side of the square, facing the principal entrance to the church, being formed by Earle Street. It opened in 1769. Its chief feature being a dome; internally this had the result of rendering the minister's voice inaudible. In time this defect was remedied, but changes in the neighbourhood deprived the church of its congregation, and falling into a dangerous condition, it was closed by the corporation in 1900.

St. Anne's, also erected under the authority of Parliament, was built by two private gentlemen in 1772; it was 'chiefly in the Gothic style.' The first minister was the Rev. Claudius Crigan. The old church was later removed a little eastward to enable Cazneau Street to go through to St. Anne Street, the corporation replacing with another church, consecrated in 1871.

St Johns church and churchyard 1785 to 1898
In 1776 a Nonconformist chapel in Temple Court was purchased by the rector of Aughton and opened in connexion with the Established Church. In 1820, some time after his death, it was purchased by the corporation and demolished. Another Nonconformist chapel, in Harrington Street, was opened as St. Mary's in connection with the Established Church; the congregation is supposed to have acquired St. Matthew's, in Key Street, in 1795, after which St. Mary's was demolished.

St. John's, (above) on the site of what is now St John Gardens like St. Paul's, was built under the auspices of the corporation, and consecrated in 1785: the style was of the spurious Gothic style of the time. There was a large public burial ground attached, consecrated in 1767. It became unserviceable as a church, eventually having only a scant congregation and it was closed in 1898, demolished, and the site sold to the corporation.
Trinity Church St Anne Street
Trinity Church, St. Anne Street, was erected by private subscription in 1792. In the same year a Baptist Chapel in Byrom Street was purchased and opened as  St. Stephen's Church. This was taken down in 1871 in order to allow the street to be widened, the corporation rebuilt the church further north. In 1795 the English Presbyterian or Unitarian Chapel in Key Street was purchased for the Established worship, being named St. Matthew's. It was consecrated in 1798, but his site also was later  required in 1848 for Exchange railway station, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company purchased a Scotch Presbyterian Chapel in Scotland Road, which was thereupon consecrated as St. Matthew's. In 1798 a tennis court in Grosvenor Street was converted into a place of worship and licensed for service as All Saints' Church. It continued in use until another church, All Saints', Great Nelson Street was built and existed from 1848 to 1961 when the church was demolished.

Christ Church Hunter Street

Christ Church, Hunter Street, was built in 1797 by John Houghton. General Registers of Christ Church from the period show that the building was consecrated by the Right Reverend William Lord, Bishop of Chester on the 10th November 1799. The first stone of the ’Temple’ church, as it was then known, had been laid several years earlier on Monday the 27th February 1797.

St Nathaniels, Oliver St, founded in 1869 and closed in 1980. The church was consecrated on 17 July 1869. It was burnt down around 1900 and re-built, re-opening in 1904. It was eventually demolished in 1993, having been derelict for some years.

St. Mark's was built by subscription in 1803, and consecrated in 1815, becoming established by an Act of Parliament, the projector was the Rev. Thomas Jones, of Bolton, who died suddenly on a journey to London before the opening. St. Andrew's, Renshaw Street, was erected by Sir John Gladstone in 1815 there were two Unitarian Chapels in Liverpool, one in Renshaw Street, and the other (shown in the engraving) in Paradise Street. The view in the engraving is taken from the east end of Cable Street. The site was required for the enlargement of Central Station, so a new St. Andrew's was built in Toxteth in 1893.

St. Philip's, Hardman Street, was one of the 'iron churches' of the time; it was opened in 1816 and afterwards regulated by an Act of Parliament, It was sold in 1882, the Salvation Army acquiring it, and a new St. Philip's was built in Shell Road.

St Philip's Hardman Street

More costly churches were about the same time designed and slowly carried out by the public authorities. St. Luke's, Bold Street, was begun in 1811, but not completed and opened till 1831.  St Michael's, Pitt Street, in the Corinthian style, but with a lofty spire, was begun in 1816 under Acts of Parliament, and opened in 1826. with a large graveyard around it.

St Michaels Pitt Street

The chapel of the Blind Asylum was built in 1819 in Hotham Street in imitation of the Temple of Jupiter at Ægina. The site being required for Lime Street Station, the building was taken down and carefully re-erected in Hardman Street in 1850.

St. David's, for Welsh-speaking Anglicans, was built in 1827. As far back as 1793 Welsh services had been authorized in St. Paul's Church.

Another special church was the Mariners' Church, (below) an old sloop-of-war moored in George's Dock. It was used from 1827 The Mariners' Floating Church was an old frigate HMS Tees, a gift from the government to the Mariners Church Society, which had been towed to the Mersey from Plymouth, converted as a floating church, moored in George's Dock and opened for worship in May 1827. It remained there, maintained by the Church of England, until 1872 when weakened by extensive dry rot, it sank at its moorings in 1872.

The Mariner Church

St Martin in the Fields
Great Oxford Street (now Sylvester street)

Saint Martin in the Fields, The first stone of Saint Martin in the Fields was lain on 28th October 1828 and Consecrated on 13th January 1829. The Government had this church erected at the expense of £20.000. The entire height of the steeple was 22 feet. The extreme length of the church from east to west was 142 feet, and the width was 75 feet. The front of the chancel was embellished with a special Gothic arch.  It was built of redish sandstone but it turned black because of the industrial area, (an Irish dye works was the main culprit for this) and it got the nick name of THE BLACK CHURCH. It was built on Great Oxford Street North, (now St Sylvester Street). There was seating for 2000 parishioners.

St. Catherine's, Abercromby  Square, was consecrated in January 1831, a fortnight after St. Bride's. The first church of St. Matthias was built in 1833 in Love Lane. The Church land was required by the Liverpool and Bury Railway Company and they provided land at Great Howard Street where building began in 1847. The Love lane Church of 1834 was destroyed by fire on 10 April 1847. the  church in Great Howard Street was completed in 1848.

St. Saviour's, Falkner Square, was built by subscription in 1839; it was burnt down in 1900 and rebuilt in 1901 on the old plan. In 1841 a congregation which had for some five years met in the chapel in Sir Thomas's Buildings, which they called St. Simon's, acquired a chapel previously used by Presbyterians and Independents, and this was consecrated as St. Simon's

A building in Hope Street, erected about fifteen years earlier for the meetings of the 'Christian Society,' and in 1838 occupied by the Rev. Robert Aitken, an Anglican minister who adopted 'revivalist' methods, was in 1841 acquired for the Established Church and called St. John the Evangelist's. It was abandoned in 1853, but under the name of Hope Hall was still used for religious and other meetings. In 1841 also the churches of St. Bartholomew and St. Silas, Pembroke Place, were opened.

In 1854 Holy Innocents in Myrtle Street, primarily the chapel of the adjoining boys and girls orphanages, was opened. All Souls', begun in the same year, had as first incumbent Dr. Abraham Hume, one of the founders of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historic Society. 'As the population of this parish is mostly Roman Catholic' it is proposed to abandon the building. A Wesleyan chapel was acquired and in 1858 consecrated as St. Columba's, soon afterwards St. Mary Magdalene's was erected.

St. James the Less in Cranmer Street Liverpool 5 and St. Titus' were built, the former serving to perpetuate the High Church tradition of St. Martin's

St James the Less Church Cranmer Street
destroyed during the blitz

The Anglican cathedral  being erected in the city on St James's Mount. It is the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool. It may be referred to as the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool (as recorded in the Document of Consecration) or the Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ, Liverpool, being dedicated to Christ 'in especial remembrance of his most glorious Resurrection'. The cathedral is based on a design by Giles Gilbert Scott. The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel (dedicated to the Blessed Virgin), is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world.

The Anglican Cathedral

The Orange Order has had a presence in Liverpool since 1819 when the first parade was held to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, on July 12th. In its early years in the city the Twelfth was known as Carpenters Day due to the abundance of shipwrights who, having emigrated from Belfast, took part. The organisation was not just an association for migrants from Ireland however; their politics ensured that the majority of Orangemen were English-born. Indeed, the Institution in England was started by soldiers returning to the Manchester area from Ireland. The organisation was its strongest in the Toxteth and the Everton area where the church of St Polycarp was built.

Scottish Presbyterianism was first represented by the Oldham Street Church, opened in 1793, St, Andrew's in Rodney Street in 1824, and Mount Pleasant in 1827. Others arose about twenty years later: St. George's, Myrtle Street, in 1845, Canning Street and Islington in 1846, and St. Peter's, Sylvester Street, in 1849. Another was built in Vauxhall Road in 1867.

The German Evangelical Church occupies Newington Chapel, formerly Congregational. It seems to have originated in a body of converted Jews speaking German, who met for worship in the chapel in Sir Thomas' Buildings from about 1831, and were considered as attached to the Established Church.
Wesleyan Methodism made itself felt by the middle of the 18th century. Pitt Street chapel was built in 1750, enlarged 1765, rebuilt in 1803, and altered in 1875; John Wesley preached here for a week in 1758. Trinity Chapel, Grove Street, erected in 1859, it was the head of a regular circuit and a conference was held there in 1881. The Wesleyans have also mission rooms. The Wesleyan Methodist Association, later the United Methodist Free Church, had a chapel in Pleasant Street before 1844, now St. Columba's; it was replaced in 1852 by Salem Chapel or St. Clement's Church, in Russell Street. The Welsh-speaking members used a chapel in Gill Street from 1845 to 1867.

The Methodist New Connexion, who appeared as early as 1799, had Zion Chapel, Maguire Street, by St. John's Market, before 1813; they removed to Bethesda in Hotham Street about 1833, after which the old building was converted into a fish hall They had also a chapel in Bevington Hill

At the Bishop of Chester's visitations in 1665 and later years Anabaptists were presented, and it was said that conventicles were held. The Baptists, who had from 1707, if not earlier, met in Everton, opened a chapel in Byrom Street in 1722. A much larger chapel was erected in 1789 in the same street, and the old one sold to the Established Church. The later building was in use as Byrom Hall.  Myrtle Street Chapel, the successor of one in Lime Street, built in 1803, was opened in 1844 and enlarged in 1859.

Jubilee Drive Chapel

In 1819 a chapel was built in Great Crosshall Street. Soho Street Chapel, begun for 'Bishop West,' was used by Baptists from 1837 to 1889, when Jubilee Drive Chapel replaced it. The Welsh-speaking Baptists had a chapel in Ormond Street, dating from 1799, but it has been given up, one in Everton succeeding it.

The Sandemanians or Glassites long had a meeting-place in the town.  The Glasites or Glassites were a Christian sect founded in about 1730 in Scotland by John Glas, the faith was known as the First Great Awakening, and was spread by his son-in-law Robert Sandeman into England and America, where the members were called Sandemanians.

Newington Chapel was in 1776 erected by Congregationalists dissatisfied with the Unitarianism of the Toxteth Chapel, and wishing to have a place of worship nearer to Liverpool It was given up in 1872, and became the German Church.
Burlington Street Chapel was bought as an extension by the Crescent congregation in 1859.
In Elizabeth Street is a United Free Gospel Church, built in 1871 to replace one of 1845 as an Independent Methodist Church.

The Calvinistic Methodists, the most powerful church in Wales, are naturally represented in Liverpool, where Welshmen were numerous. The first chapel was built in Pall Mall in 1787, and rebuilt in 1816, but demolished to make way for the enlargement of Exchange Station in 1878, with a new one in Crosshall Street taking its place. There were others in Chatham Street and Catherine Street built in 1861 and 1872 respectively and in Oakfield Road in Liverpool, founded before 1902, it is now closed.

The Society of Friends had a meeting-place in Hackins Hey as early as 1706, by Quakers' Alley; this remained standing until 1863. The place of meeting was removed to Hunter Street in 1790; this continues in use.

The Moravians held services 'for many years' in the Religious Tract Society's rooms.
The Berean Universalist Church was opened in 1851 in Crown Street, but had only a short existence.

The Bethel Union, an undenominational evangelistic association for the benefit of sailors, had several places of worship near the docks.

The Young Men's Christian Association has a large institute in Mount Pleasant, opened in 1877.

Benns Gardens Chapel by W G Herdman

It has been shown above that Nonconformity was strong in the town after 1662. A chapel was built in Castle Hey, and the minister of  Toxteth Park is said to have preached there on alternate Sundays from 1689. This was replaced by Benn's Gardens Chapel in 1727, from which the congregation, which had become Unitarian, moved to Renshaw Street in 1811, and from this to Ullet Road, Toxteth.

St Mary's Highfield Street
The ancient religion appears to have been stamped out very quickly in Liverpool, which became a decidedly Protestant town, and there is scarcely even an incidental allusion to its existence until the beginning of the 18th century. Spellow and Aigburth were the nearest places at which mass could occasionally be heard in secret. Fr. William
Gillibrand, S.J., who then lived at Little Crosby, in 1701 received £3 from Mr. Eccleston 'for helping at Liverpool.' The first resident missioner known was Fr. Francis Mannock, S.J., who was living here in 1710; and the work continued in the hands of the Jesuits until the suppression of the order. The next priest, Fr. John Tempest, better known by his alias of Hardesty, built a house for himself near the Old Hall Street corner of Edmund Street, in which was a room for a chapel. In 1746, after the retreat of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" the populace, relieved of its fears, went to this little chapel, made a bonfire of the benches and woodwork, and pulled the house down.

St. Mary's Church, from the designs of A. W. Pugin, was later built close to the site and consecrated in 1845. In consequence of the enlargement of Exchange Station it was taken down, but rebuilt in Highfield Street on the same plan and with the same material, being reconsecrated 7 July 1885. The baptismal register commences in 1741. After the suppression of the Jesuit order in 1773 the two priests then in charge continued their labours for ten years, when the Benedictines took charge, and still retain it.

St Peters Seel Street
In 1788 St. Peter's, Seel Street, was opened. It was enlarged in 1843, and is still served by the same order. The school in connexion with it was opened in 1817. At the north end of the town St. Anthony's had been established in 1804; the present church, on an adjacent site, dates from 1833, and has a burial ground. St. Joseph's in Grosvenor Street was opened in 1846, a new building being completed in 1878.

St Anthonys Scotland Road

Holy Cross

These buildings sufficed till the great immigration of poor Irish peasants, driven from home by the famine of 1847. St. Vincent de Paul's mission had been begun in a room over a stable in 1843, but after interruption by the fever of 1847 a larger room in Norfolk Street was secured in 1848, and served until in 1857. Holy Cross was begun in 1848 in a room over a cowhouse in Standish Street, In 1954 a new church was built on the corner of Great Crosshall Street and Standish Street and the parishioners gave every spare penny to help rebuild and furnish the church.

St. Philip Neri's Oratory near Mount Pleasant

Later, came St. Philip Neri's Oratory near Mount Pleasant, 1853. All Souls', in Collingwood Street, was erected in 1870 by the efforts of a Protestant merchant, who was anxious to provide a remedy for the horrible scenes at wakes; the middle aisle of the church was for the bodies of the departed to lie in previous to interment, and was  cut off from the aisles where the congregation assembled, by glass partitions. St. Bridget's, Bevington Hill, was also opened in 1870, and rebuilt in 1894. St. Sylvester's in Sylvester Street began with schools in 1872; at the beginning of 1875 a wooden building was erected adjacent, continuing in use until 1889, when a permanent church was opened.

St Sylvester's RC, Sylvester Street, Pugin&Pugin, 1889.

There are two convents: Notre Dame, at the training college, Mount Pleasant, 1856 and St. Catherine, Eldon Place, 1896.

Notre Dame Mount Pleasant

The Christadelphians  (1868–78) had a meeting-place in Gill Street.

The followers of Emmanuel Swedenborg have long had a place of meeting in Liverpool, where they had been known from 1795 Their  building, New Jerusalem, in Bedford Street, was opened in 1857. The Mormons have an institute.

The exterior of Seel Street synagogue,
the home of the Liverpool Old Hebrew
Congregation from 1808-74
The Jewish community have had a recognized meeting-place since about 1750. The earliest known was at the foot of Matthew Street; it had a burial place attached; afterwards Turton Court, near the Custom House, and Frederick Street were places of Jewish worship. The synagogue in Seel Street was built in 1807, the congregation migrating to Princes Road in 1874. The Hope Place Synagogue of the New Hebrew Congregation was built in 1856. One of the finest Synagogues was built on Princes Road, In 1872, a plot of land on the east side of Princes Road was purchased from the Earl of Sefton and the foundation stone of the new synagogue laid. It was completed and consecrated at a ceremony led by Chief Rabbi Dr Nathan M Adler in September 1874. The new building seated 824 worshippers and was handed to the congregation by the building committee entirely free of debt.

Princes Road Synagogue

Frederick Gibberd's design for a Catholic Cathedral was the winner out of 289 entries, for a competition to design a new cathedral, the assessors concluding that it 'powerfully expresses the kingship of Christ, because the whole building is conceived as a crown'. Gibberd put a flat roof over Lutyens' crypt to make a space for outdoor services, and designed a new church with an underground car park on land to the south. The cathedral has a concrete frame with ceramic mosaic cladding; walls are clad in Portland stone whilst aluminium covers the roof. It is 16-sided, with a perfectly central alter under a glazed corona. Stained glass was designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, which is 25 millimetres thick and set in concrete panels. Elisabeth Frink designed the altar cross, R Y Goodden the candlesticks and the marble floor is by David Atkins. The stone belfry and bronze outer doors feature relief panels by William Mitchell, and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament has a mural by Ceri Richards. The Lady chapel has traditionally set glass by Margaret Trahearne, and a Madonna and Child by Robert Brumby. Building began on the new design in 1962 and it was opened in 1967.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ The King


Mersey Engravings / Liverpool Churches

For an in depth history of Liverpool Churches
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By David Lewis

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