Old Liverpool Churches

Last updated 10th March 2016
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This is an account of the old churches of the original Liverpool parish and therefore excluding those in the adjoining townships of Kirkdale, Everton, West Derby and Toxteth Park. Although there had been a chapel in Liverpool for many centuries, Liverpool only became established as a parish separate from Walton in 1699, with the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas as the parish church. In 1767 the parish was divided into five wards, St. Nicholas, St. George, St. Peter, St. Thomas and St. John, each to have its own fine church. There followed a spate of church building and subdivision of parishes, driven largely by the desire of the wealthy, not to mention the increasing population of non-conformists, to have their own places of worship near to where they lived. Many of these were very beautiful buildings but most have, unfortunately, been lost.
There where three main driving forces for the disappearance of these churches. Firstly, they were usually built in areas that at the time were affluent and fashionable but over the years became steadily abandoned by the wealthy, who had previously paid for the rent of church pews and maintenance, as industrial pollution mounted and they moved further out of town in search of cleaner air. These areas eventually became the scene of desperate poverty, congregations dwindled and buildings fell into disrepair and became unsafe. Secondly, the 19th century saw the rise of commercial enterprises, including shops, and land values escalated, leading to pressure on the sites occupied by the old churches. This continued into the 20th century. Thirdly, the bombing of the May Blitz of 1941 flattened a huge area of central Liverpool from Castle Street to Park Lane and wreaked havoc in the nearby areas. This finally put paid to many of the surviving church buildings. Only four of the churches discussed in this article are still standing.
The old prints on the right emphasise how churches have long dominated the skyline. In the 1715 view, St. Peter's (1704) is prominent in the right foreground, with the castle in the centre and St. Nicholas's in between, at that time with just a modest square tower and spirelet. The waterfront scene displays, from left to right, St. Paul's (1769) with its dome, St. Nicholas's with its spire (of 1747), the tower of St. John's (1785), the spire of St. George's (1734) with the huge George's Baths building in front and the spire of St. Thomas's (1750).
Site Contents
I have concentrated on the most important churches built before about 1830. By that I mean those that are the most historically and architecturally interesting. It also helps if they are well documented and illustrated. The first page looks at the churches of the original five parish wards. The second at a selection of the others built before about 1830.
1   The Original Parish Churches
2   Other Churches up to c.1830
The old prints are engravings by W.G. Herdman from his Pictorial Relics of Ancient Liverpool, 1843, made available by Ancestry Images, with thanks.
This site is the work of Laurence Scales and is part of allertonOak.
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The modern colour photographs on this site are by the author except where specified; you may copy these for non-commercial purposes only, but please place an acknowledgement to www.allertonoak.net at their point of use.
Liverpool from St. James's Mount in 1715
Liverpool Waterfront in the late 18th century
It's all a bit different these days