Building » Liverpool – St Anthony of Egypt

Liverpool – St Anthony of Egypt

Scotland Road, Liverpool 5

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

The main historic church on the northern side of the city, complementing St Patrick’s, Park Place (1821-7) in the south. It is a fine and complete early Gothic Revival design by John Broadbent, a pupil of Thomas Rickman. Built in the lancet Gothic style, its interior is a single undivided space with a west gallery and a flat ceiling, of decidedly pre- Puginian character. It is built over an atmospheric and evocative brick vaulted crypt. The church is a major landmark on the main road north from Liverpool city centre.

Scotland Road is the main road heading north out of the city, and was turnpiked in the 1770s. In 1804 Fr Jean Baptiste Antoinet Geradot, a French émigré priest, purchased a site on Scotland Road between Dryden Street and Bevington Street, where he built the first church and presbytery of St Anthony. This was described by the Liverpool architect and writer James Picton as ‘a little quaint-looking brick building, surmounted by a cross, with a modest residence by its side’. This church became known as ‘the French chapel’.

Geradot’s chapel was soon no longer able to cater for the increased number of people attending the church, and in 1829 the Liverpool architect John Broadbent (1803-42), a pupil of Thomas Rickman, prepared designs, not progressed, for a neo-classical church to replace it (Broadbent’s Greek Revival church of St Augustine, Shaw Street, Liverpool, now demolished, was also being built about this time).

In 1832 an open competition was held for the design of a new church on the present site, between Chapel Gardens and Newsham Street. This was won by Broadbent with a Rickmanesque Early English design rather than a Grecian one. The old chapel and presbytery were sold.

The  new  church  was  opened  on  September  29  1833,  with  Dr Penswick, Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District, officiating at a Solemn Pontifical High Mass. Admission was by ticket only – 10s for the gallery, 7s 6d for the main body of the church and 5s for the seats under the gallery. Dr Baines,  Vicar Apostolic  of  the Western District but a native of Liverpool, preached a sermon lasting nearly two hours.

The church was designed to seat 1,700 people, with the stipulation that all should have an unobstructed view of the altar. Thus the nave is a single unaisled space, 158 ft 6 ins long and nearly half as wide, with a tremendous roof span. The total cost of the church by August 1834 was £12,470.

Below the church, brick vaults were constructed to provide about 700 individual burial chambers, many of which were filled before the Act of 1859 which forbade church burials within town boundaries. Those buried here include Fr Gerardot, re-interred here in 1833, and Fr Nightingale , the first of ten Liverpool priests to die in the typhus and cholera epidemics of 1847.

The 1840s saw the arrival of large numbers of Irish immigrants to the Scotland Road area in the wake of the Great Famine. This is reflected in the close proximity of St Anthony’s to Our Lady of Reconciliation, Eldon Street (1859-60), All Souls, Collingwood  Street  (1870, demolished),  St  Bridget, Bevington  Hill  (1870,  rebuilt 1894, demolished) and St Sylvester, Silvester Street (1889). The dedication to St Anthony of Egypt is very rare.


See list description, below.

The list description makes no mention of the brick crypt. This is a long barrel and groin vaulted space running the length of the main body of the church, containing about 700 burials. The inverted arches at floor level (concealed by the floor) are reminiscent of Sir John Soane’s London church crypts.

The three painted Bath stone altars at the liturgical east end are by Broadbent, each with a high and elaborate reredos. The central reredos to the high altar has three steep gables separated by pinnacled buttresses.

The gallery at the liturgical west end retains its original seating, and a Peter Conacher of Huddersfield organ of 1861, brought here from the Wesleyan Chapel in Brunswick Street in 1951 (Fr Dunne).   On either side of the organ recess are two seventeenth century panels depicting Nativity and Epiphany scenes, believed to be Spanish or Portuguese.

The nave and chancel windows were installed in 1933, at the time of the church’s centenary. The artist has not been established.

The large Stations of the Cross are twentieth century Flemish work. Alterations since the time of the listing (mostly in 2004) have included:

  • the removal of the pierced altar rail and creation of a dais for a forward altar, made from the cut down and adapted former pulpit;
  • On either side of the forward altar, an ambo and font, converted from the original font, formerly located at the entrance to the church;
  • the enclosure of the underside of the gallery;
  • the replacement of the pews (the present ones come from St Peter’s, Seel Street, now converted to a bar and restaurant);
  • Lourdes altar in the narthex area under the gallery, brought from St Alban’s, Athol Street;
  • A new carved wooden statue of St Anthony of the Desert in the narthex area;
  • Internal redecoration with a new polychrome scheme

In 2004, the bicentenary year of the mission/parish, a Heritage Centre was built to the east of the church, providing computer terminals for family history researchers and access to the crypt. This is a minimalist slate and glass structure of an appropriately sepulchral character by John Pritchard of Pritchard Williams of Liverpool. Associated with this was a major re-landscaping of the churchyard, including the reassembly of a late nineteenth century monument to ‘Dandy’ Patrick Byrne, a popular local figure.

Some of Broadbent’s working drawings are held in the RIBA Drawings Collection.

List description


Catholic church. 1833. John Broadbent. Ashlar facing to west facade, returns of stucco with stone dressings, slate roof. Nave of 7 bays has 3-bay west facade with central projecting bay, serving as porch with organ loft above, and low flanking blocks in angles. Shallow chancel recess flanked by chapel recesses to east. West facade has chamfered clasping buttresses ending in pinnacles. Single lancets on ground floor level, paired lancets above, with
central stepped triple lancets. Plain pointed-arched entrance. Returns have paired lancets between buttresses. East end has stepped triple lancets to chancel and pinnacles. Interior: Wide nave has coffered ceiling and
deep west gallery with segmental arched organ recess to rear. There may have been galleries to sides of nave. Chancel arch has 4-centred arch on 3 orders, chapel arches have pointed arches on 3 orders, all with ribbed vaults and elaborate architectural reredoses. 2 niches for statues to
either side of recesses. Pierced altar rail and octagonal pulpit.

Listing NGR: SJ3489492166

Heritage Details

Architect: John Broadbent

Original Date: 1832

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II