Aigburth Road, Liverpool 17
Built by the Benedictines in 1838, St Austin’s is one of the oldest churches in the Archdiocese, and has a distinguished history of service to the Catholic community of South Liverpool. A simple Gothic church of pre-archaeological form and character, it contains a number of art works and furnishings of high quality, including the Lady Chapel decorations and Italian Baroque incised marble flooring, the Giles Gilbert Scott War Memorial, the Robert Thompson altar table, and the Julia Carter Preston font. The presbytery too deserves recognition for the quality of its interior, in particular the oval staircase.
When built, the church catered for a predominantly rural area. The land was given by Peter Chaloner, a ship builder, and several members of the Chaloner family are buried in the adjoining churchyard. The mission was founded and is still served by the Benedictines. The church was opened by Bishop Briggs, Vicar Apostolic, on 27 June 1838. It was built under the supervision of Dom Bede Prest OSB; the identity of any architect involved is not known.
Built in 1838, the original church forms a simple rectangle, built of red ashlar sandstone and brown brick, with a steep slated roof. The style is Gothic, but pre-Puginian, and its most striking feature is a pair of tall octagonal west turrets. A rose window occupies the west gable, and is flanked by two tall lancets. Attached to the west end is a later Gothic porch with angle buttresses and a coped gable containing a niche with a statue of the Virgin and Child. The side walls are buttressed and divided into five bays, each with a lancet window. A flat-roofed porch, office and confessional with a lead fascia was added at the southeast corner in the 1980s.
The interior is box-like, with a shallow recess for a sanctuary, and a west gallery. The sanctuary is set within a Gothic arch, and is flanked by two smaller arches, on the north side containing a Lady Chapel, and on the south side a blocked doorway. The Lady Chapel, which was formerly lit by a glass lantern, is elaborately panelled in oak, made up from fragments, including a pierced frieze, possibly late medieval, a coffered ceiling and mid-nineteenth century canopy work. The floor is paved in marmi mischi (coloured marble inlay), of the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century from Southern Italy or Sicily, and bearing the emblem of a cardinal. Behind a statue of the Virgin are Victorian paintings of scenes in the life of the Virgin set in canopied frames.
The interior was reordered in the early 1990s, when new seating was installed, and a dais was formed projecting into the nave. The altar table, made by Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson was brought from Ampleforth Abbey at that time. The main reredos, which resembles an organ case is made from fragments of stained timber, though the result is of lesser quality than the Lady Chapel. Only the gallery, with its plain benches and panelled front survives from the original interior. The organ, which is situated in the west gallery, was built by Wadsworth of Manchester and dates from 1887. It was turned sideways in 1899. After being damaged in an arson attack in 2004, the instrument was stripped down and restored. The west window has coloured glass, and there is a stained glass window of the Baptism of Christ dated 1858.
The church is also notable for two twentieth century furnishings: a large War Memorial tablet by Giles Gilbert Scott with an alabaster figure of the Virgin set on a background of ‘porphyry’ and green marble, and a font containing a pottery bowl decorated in sgraffito by Julia Carter Preston that commemorates the service at St Austin’s of Fr Henry King dating from 1980.
Catholic church. 1838. Brick with stone dressings and stone facade, slate roof. Gabled facade has octagonal flanking turrets with drip mould at eaves level; probably at one time had pinnacles. Lancets flank gabled porch which has diagonal buttresses; niche with statue flanked by lancets. Rose window with iron tracery and top louvred lancet. 5-bay returns with lancets between buttresses, drip mould and parapet. Interior has west gallery on iron columns. Pointed arched chancel recess has large painting of the crucifix above reredos, with dove in panel over. Similar chapel recess to right has traceried gablet. To right a pointed arched panel with entrance and gablet. Some painted glass. Listing NGR: SJ3939285325
House adjoining east end of St Austin’s Church (q.v.) c.1838. Brick with stone dressings, slate roof. 3 storeys, 3 bays, end bays have 2-storey projecting windows. Top dripmould. Windows to 1st and 2nd floors have label moulds. All windows except top floor central casement and 3rd bay 1st floor rectangular oriel are sashed with glazing bars. Entrance has coved surround with roll moulding and architrave frieze and drip mould; 4-panel door and complete overlight. Listing NGR: SJ3940685334
School, now parish hall. Dated 1860 on plaque. Stone with slate roof. One storey, 3 bays, end bays break forward under gables, 2 and 3-light mullioned windows. Doorway at left end under buttressed belfry with pinnacle. Listing NGR: SJ3942185381
*Update: The church closed in 2015*
Architect: Not known
Original Date: 1838
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II