St Alban - Wallasey

Mill Lane, Liscard, Wallasey, Wirral CH44

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A Puginian Gothic church of the 1850s by S.R. Eyre & J. A. Hansom, which is a significant landmark in a deprived town centre location. The church suffered from bomb damage and unsympathetic alterations in the past, but an ambitious programme of repairs and  re-ordering carried out in 2003 has restored its dignity and given the parish a renewed focus.

In  1825  only  six  Catholics  were  recorded  as  living  in  Wallasey,  but  by  1841  the number had risen to 290. Many were servants who worked in the large houses in Wallasey and labourers who lodged in the area. At first Mass was said in a room over a joiner’s shop in Union Street, but in 1841 the first resident priest was appointed, and the following year a school was opened in St Alban’s Street, where 100 could gather. Soon it was proposed to erect a church, for which land close to the school was acquired. Canon Lescard, whose efforts led to the building of St Albans, wrote ‘We do not need a large church - at the most it would contain 800 persons, it would answer perhaps for over here i.e. in Liscard. But Seacombe is the place for the poor and the multitude, it being on the Wallasey shore and intimately connected with the Birkenhead Docks’.

The foundation stone was laid on the 8 June 1852, the intention being to have ‘a good, seemly and excellent Gothic Church: if possible one that would hereafter be susceptible even of splendour’. It opened fifteen months later, and splendour arrived in the form of a high altar and elaborate reredos in the Puginian tradition, and a Gothic spired tabernacle, though these was destroyed along with the east window and the Lady Altar in the blitz of 1941.

The original design of the church included a nave and two aisles, but the south aisle was omitted in order to cut costs. This had serious consequences later, for the lack of support to that side of the church led to subsidence, and  necessitated a substantial rebuilding of the south wall,  the chancel arch, and  the introduction of  the huge buttresses on the outside of the church in 1913-14. In 1909 the present presbytery was erected.

The church was extensively re-ordered in 1952, again in 1977, and a third time in 2003, the latter to the design of Hulme Upright.

The church was designed by S. R. Eyre & J. A. Hansom and was built in 1852-53. It has a six bay nave with a west gallery, sanctuary, Lady Chapel and south aisle. There are extensive sacristies. The northwest tower has a broached spire with lucarnes. The south side has a clerestory with spherical triangular widows, whilst the north side has two rows of traceried windows as though for a gallery, set between deep buttresses that project above roof level (added in 1913-14 to stabilise the structure). The roof is covered with hexagonal shaped slates.

As a result of war damage and a series of re-orderings, the interior is devoid of most of its original features. An exception is the set of fourteen Stations of the Cross, three- dimensional crowd scenes mounted on elaborate foliate brackets. Originally these had crocketted finials. The three sedilia and the timber screen between the sanctuary and  Lady  Chapel  are  late-nineteenth century Gothic, but most of the other furnishings date from the sympathetic re-ordering in 2003.

Diocese: Shrewsbury

Architect: Stephen R. Eyre & J. A. Hansom

Original Date: 1953

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II