Building » Bootle – St James

Bootle – St James

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 £1,800. 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 fifteen 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 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 baptistery 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 thirteenth 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 & Co, Birmingham. The surviving pitch pine seating appears to be original.

List description


Catholic church. 1885. By C. Hadfield of M.E. Hadfield and Sons, Sheffield. Stone with slate roof. Nave with aisles and south west tower, chancel and north and south chapels. 5-bay nave has 3-light windows with Geometrical tracery between deep buttresses; clerestory has paired windows with
Y-tracery. West end of north aisle forms chapel, with canted end, 2-light trefoil-headed west window, tall buttresses and pavilion roof. Tower has slender buttresses; 3-light window over south entrance. Octagonal top stage
with octagonal pinnacles, 2-light louvred bell openings, gargoyles and embattled parapet. West end of nave has 5-light window over gabled entrance of 2 orders and traceried tympanum, flanking octagonal pinnacles. East end of chancel has angle buttresses with gabled pinnacles, 5-light east window with trefoil frieze above, and 3-light window in
gable. North chapel has canted end with 1:2:1 light windows; south chapel has 5-light window and gable to south with rose window. Interior has tall 6-bay nave arcades with alternate circular and octagonal piers; roof has moulded collar trusses. 3-bay arcade to baptistery with west organ
loft over. Chancel and chapels have rib vaults; marble continuous altar rail and reredoses. Chancel has reredos with 15 statues in niches, altar has arched ciborium. Alabaster pulpit on south side of nave has relief panel and
statues. Confessionals and passage to presbytery on south side of church.

Listing NGR: SJ3389495913

Heritage Details

Architect: M. E. Hadfield & Son

Original Date: 1884

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II