Chesnut Grove, Bootle, Liverpool 20
A late work by M.E Hadfield, completed by his son Charles. Although somewhat old-fashioned for its date, this is an expensive and architecturally ambitious urban church, sumptuously furnished. The church and contemporary presbytery form a good group.
Bootle is an ancient settlement, mentioned in Domesday. The dominant landowners in the area were the Earls of Derby. At the time of the establishment of a mission here, in 1845, the population was just over 3,000. Rapid expansion stimulated first by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and later by the northward expansion of Liverpool docks meant that by 1900 the population had risen to 58,500. Bootle laid claim to be the most Catholic borough in the land.
A Gothic Revival church was built in Marsh Lane in 1845, from designs by Charles Hadfield of Sheffield, at a cost of £1800. A school followed in 1848. However, in the early 1880s the site of both church and school were sold for £20,000 to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. This enabled a large new church, schools and presbytery to be built in Chesnut Grove, also to Hadfield’s designs, and opened by Bishop O’Reilly on 7 February 1886. Hadfield had died in 1885, at which time only the chancel had been completed; the work was completed by his son Charles. The Catholic Times wrote on 12 February:
The present stately structure is the outcome of the energy and cultivated architectural taste of the esteemed incumbent, the Very Reverend Dean Thomas Kelly, who has throughout taken a keen interest in the work…The church which affords accommodation for over 1000 people consists of nave and aisle, and a well-proportioned chancel and side chapels with stone vaulted ceilings, and a range of confessionals adjoining the tower and south aisle. The choir and clergy vestries are placed at the south side, communicating with a commodious clergy house, with accommodation for five priests.
In the ensuing 15 years or so the church was sumptuously fitted out. In 1893 the Stations of the Cross and marble pulpit were given by the congregation. In 1896 the tower was completed (to a different design with an octagonal stop stage; an original drawing by Hadfield hanging in the presbytery shows a saddleback roof). In 1900 Mrs R.E. Lynch paid for the furnishing of the sanctuary, with a marble altar and reredos, marble panels lining the walls, altar rails, and a stained glass window of the Ascension. In 1902, an anonymous donor paid for an altar (photo bottom left) and stained glass in the Lady Chapel. In 1922 a peal of bells cast by O’Byrne of Dublin was installed in memory of Canon Kelly. In the early 1930s a new marble Sacred Heart altar and steps were fitted, by an Italian craftsman.
In 1941 the east windows of the sanctuary and the Lady Chapel were destroyed in the blitz, but the church otherwise escaped serious damage.
Post-Vatican II reordering involved the creation of a dais and introduction of a nave altar in front of the communion rails. The original sanctuary was left undisturbed. The font was moved to the new altar area and the baptistry converted to a memorial chapel.
Since 1987 the parish has been served by the Salesians.
Please refer to the list description, below. Further details and dates relating to the furnishings are given above. Additional points:
• The church is in the early Decorated Gothic style of the late 13th century
• The materials are local red sandstone, coursed and finely hammer dressed, with thick green Westmorland slates on the roof; the presbytery is built of red brick with red sandstone dressings
• The internal length of the nave is 148 feet and of the chancel 31 feet. The width across the arcades is 64 feet, and across the nave 29 feet. The height of the nave is 64 feet (75 feet to the ridge) and of the tower 120 feet.
• At the west end the Henry Ainscough of Preston organ is carried on a tribune supported by a double range of stone columns
• Stained glass by Mayer of Munich includes two windows in the north aisles (one dated 1913) and four lancets (The Evangelists) in the sacristy. The present east windows in the sanctuary and Lady Chapel date from 1947, replacing glass destroyed in 1941
• The original gas fittings and metalwork were by Hardman, Powell and Co, Birmingham
• The surviving pitch pine seating appears to be original
Architect: M. E. Hadfield and Son
Original Date: 1884
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II