Building » Liverpool – St Sylvester

Liverpool – St Sylvester

Silvester Street, Vauxhall, Liverpool 5

One of Pugin & Pugin’s more impressive churches, both in external massing and design, and in the quality of the internal fitting out. The campanile is a local landmark, and the contemporary presbytery has group value with the church.

The first St Sylvester’s church was a temporary building opened in April 1875 (the schools already having been opened in May 1874). This was one of a number of temporary churches in the Scotland Division, and the last to be demolished. The present church was built to the designs of Pugin & Pugin and opened on 22 September 1889.

The church sustained damage in the Blitz, and was reopened in 1954. New stained glass was installed in the main east window at this time, with assistance from the War Damage Commission.

*Update: The church closed in 2011*

Description (2007)

Gothic Revival church by Pugin & Pugin, 1889. Red Ruabon brick with sandstone dressings and slate roofs. The church is conventionally planned with nave, aisles, short lower square-ended chancel with flanking chapels. Externally what distinguishes it is the tall, four-stage campanile with a pyramidal roof, close to the corner and serving as the main entrance to the church. Damaged stained glass dated 1875 and 1888 (from the first church?) over the entrance doorway. A passageway links this and the church, with a baptistery (since 1982 converted to a Lourdes grotto) giving off to the right (east).

The nave consists of six bays, the bay divisions marked by flat pilaster strips. Clerestory windows in each bay have trefoil heads and quatrefoil tracery lights (the windows are narrower and the detail simplified in the western, organ bay). The aisles are lit on the north side by horizontal openings in each bay containing three quatrefoils. The chancel is of two bays, and has a lower ridge. Large traceried east and west windows.

The interior is wide and spacious. Octagonal sandstone piers support the six moulded arcades of the nave, with a continuous hood mould, and label stops with carved heads at the east and west ends. At the west end of the nave is a projecting organ gallery with an organ installed in 1900 (W.  Rushworth  and  Sons, Liverpool). There is a moulded band between the arcade and clerestory, from which project corbels supporting wall posts marking the bay divisions. Above is a canted wagon roof, with square  moulded  compartments. The aisles have open timber lean-to roofs with raking struts. The north aisle is lit by triple quatrefoils within shallow arched and splayed recesses. On the south side these are not lit, but give way to a second narrow, outer aisle from which give off a long row of confessionals, with their original panelled doors. There is a broad and high chancel arch with moulded responds. There is no screen, allowing an unencumbered view of the sanctuary.

The fitting out of the church is of high quality. The elaborate polychrome high altar has figures of bishops and saints in canopied niches and a raised central tabernacle throne. The altar frontal is carved with quatrefoils and painted. The altar, presumably a later design of Pugin & Pugin’s, was unveiled and blessed by Bishop Whiteside on 11 February 1906. On either side of the sanctuary, open arcading with views through to the side chapels. The stone Lady Altar was installed in 1890; the Lady Chapel has an attractive painted ceiling. Later additions include the Coxe Memorial Pulpit, unveiled by the bishop on 3 July 1904; the Sacred Heart altar, blessed and opened in June 1908; a new bell blessed by the bishop in July 1911, and the marble altar rails, erected by members of the congregation in memory both of Fr John Swarbrick (parish priest 1897-1924), and members of the congregation killed in the Great War.  The benches are fairly simple, pitch pine and moveable.

The church was reordered in about 1981, when a new stone forward altar and dais were introduced, and the octagonal stone font relocated from the baptistery. The original sanctuary arrangement and the altar rails were left undisturbed.

Heritage Details

Architect: Pugin & Pugin

Original Date: 1889

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed