Bishop Eton, Woolton Road, Liverpool 16
A small church designed by E.W. Pugin, an architect of national standing. Its special importance derives from the quality of its interior, and especially from the exceptional fittings and furnishings designed by J. F. Bentley. It also contains panelling and stained glass by A.W.N. Pugin reused from the former church on the site. The artistic treasures, and the way in which they are integrated into a well designed interior, makes this one of the most important churches in the Archdiocese.
Eton House was built as a boys’ school in 1776 by Hezekiah Kirkpatrick, a Unitarian minister and teacher, who intended that it should rival Eton College as a northern centre of educational excellence. This enterprise having failed, in 1843 the building became the residence of Fr (later Bishop) James Sharples and his cousin Fr George Brown, Vicar Apostolic and later Bishop of Liverpool. They gave it the name Bishops’ Eton, and erected a chapel in 1857-8 to the design of A. W. N. Pugin. In 1851 the Redemptorists were invited to occupy the house, and they demolished the chapel and replaced it with the current church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, using E.W. Pugin as their architect/
For over a hundred years, the church served as a devotional centre and pilgrimage shrine, based on the veneration of the icon of Perpetual Succour, a copy of the fifteenth century original in the Redemptorist church of St Alphonso in Rome, but in 1961 it became a parish church. The roof and internal gallery of the church were damaged by fire in 1973 and replaced, but the sanctuary roof now lacks its original octagonal lantern.
The present church was designed by E. W. Pugin and erected in 1857-8. It consists of a three-bay nave with aisles, transepts and an apsidal chancel. The plain exterior in the Decorated style is faced in red coursed sandstone with a slate roof.
The interior, in contrast, is strikingly rich and elaborate, the result of embellishments made by J. F. Bentley and the incorporation of elements of A. W. N. Pugin’s chapel that were salvaged when it was demolished. Bentley designed the high altar and reredos in alabaster and marble, which was installed in 1865. His also is the jewelled copper-gilt tabernacle of 1866 (unfortunately the altar and reredos were separated in 1973, when the predella was brought forward). The muscular pulpit of stone with a lion balustrade too is by Bentley, and probably also the sanctuary floor of marble and coloured tiles. The north transept houses the chapel of St Alphonso which contains the icon of Perpetual Succour. This is displayed within Bentley’s sumptuous gilt triptych of 1889, set on an earlier altar of veined marble. Alongside the chapel is a fine statue of St Alonso beneath a wooden canopy.
The south transept forms the monks’ aisle, and is separated from the sanctuary by an arcade with tall arched openings. The panelling around the walls of the sanctuary is reused from A. W. N. Pugin’s chapel, as also is the Hardman stained glass in the north chapel depicting Our Lady of the Annunciation, which was in the east window of the former building. All the windows are fitted with stained glass, the best of which is the large west window depicting the Last Judgement, by Kempe.
The reconstruction of the gallery and narthex following the fire of 1973 lacks the quality of the other internal features.
The brick built monastery no longer presents a Georgian appearance, for originally it was two storeys, with a five-bay pediment and central doorway and entrance porch. The extra floor, the mansard roof and the extension with its tall tower with a pyramid roof were added, probably by E.W. Pugin, when the church was rebuilt. Further additions were made in 1862, in 1889-90 by Sinnott, Sinnott & Powell, and in 1912, all in a severe and functional style.
Monastery and church
Monastery with attached chapel. Monastery, 1858, Edward Welby Pugin with extensions of 1889. Chapel begun 1851, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, completed, 1858, Edward Welby Pugin. Monastery of brick with stone dressings, slate mansard roof probably later. Original part of 2 storeys with attic and 9 bays, central 5 bays break forward. Band between floors and sill bands. Windows have wedge lintels and are sashed with glazing bars. Extension to right of 4 bays, 3 storeys, recessed end 2 bays of 2 storeys. Windows of 2 and 3 segmental-headed lights. 1st bay projects and forms base to tower. Weathering flanked by buttresses above the 2nd floor, then clock face in square stone surround with canopy and swept pyramidal roof with louvred bell stage. Chapel has nave with aisles under lean-to roofs, no clerestory, chancel is with transepts, that to north a chapel, and canted end. West window of 5 lights with Decorated tracery; flanking buttresses, that to south has canted inner angle for stair turret, 2-light segmental pointed windows to ends of aisle. West entrance of one over. Aisles have 2 segmental-headed 3-light windows, the western bays are gabled with hexagonal slates to roof and pointed 2-light windows. North transept has 3-light north window and east rose window. Chancel has 5 cusped lights. Interior of chapel: 3-bay nave arcade on round columns with good carved capitals; hoodmould with stops in form of evangelists’ symbols. Waggon roof on angel corbels. Aisle windows in recesses, those to south with confessionals. Chancel and chapel have stencilled panelling; arch between them. On south side of chancel 3 segmental pointed openings, the central one on entrance to monks’ seating area; 3-bay triforium of 2-light pointed openings, now glazed. Elaborate reredos and alters, that to chancel brought forward. Chapel has silver sanctuary lamps in form of ships. C19 stained glass, some by Hardman, west window by Kempe.
Listing NGR: SJ4056288392
A. W. N. Pugin’s Lodge and St Joseph’s Home are also listed Grade II*.
Architect: E. W. Pugin
Original Date: 1857
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*