St James’ Street, Liverpool 1
An important church which has played a significant role in the spiritual life of Liverpool. It serves as a landmark in a once bustling, but now depressed area of the inner city. Designed by E. W. Pugin, with a spatially impressive, well furnished and luminous interior, this is one of the architect’s major churches.
The church was built in 1855-7 to replace a temporary wooden structure erected by the largely Irish dockland community. It is the earliest of several Liverpool churches designed by E. W. Pugin, who had an office in the city. It therefore predates his more radical church of Our Lady of Reconciliation, Eldon Street, also built for dock workers and their families.
The area surrounding the church was devastated by wartime bombing, and later by slum clearance. In 1990, the congregation having dwindled, the church was closed, but following an offer by English Heritage of grant aid for roof repairs, it re-opened in 1997.
See also list description, below.
The plan is conventional with a broad nave of five bays, side aisles, a west gallery with narthex below, a large chancel and flanking chapels. The style is Decorated with fine Geometric tracery, particularly in the huge east and west windows. The most arresting feature externally is the delicate iron and timber bellcote perched on the west gable, which is visible from afar. The roofs of the church too are striking in their complexity: a series of gables project out on the south side to throw light into the south aisle, whilst the porch and baptistery to each side of the west front are multi-gabled.
The interior is richly furnished and luminous, with light flooding in from the large east and west windows and from the clerestory. The arcades have octagonal columns with carved foliate capitals and angels’ head corbels at the springing of the arches. The sanctuary has a sumptuous alabaster reredos designed by Pugin in 1867, with a continuous row of statues in niches carved by William Farmer. The marble fronted high altar, which is still in its original place, was added in 1927. The marble altar rails also survive. The chapels too have impressive altars, said to be from the 1890s. The Lady Altar has a canopied statue of the Virgin with a background relief showing the Annunciation. The west window is filled with stained glass dating from 1925.
The pews probably post-date Pugin, but a number of individual items of furniture, including seats that were formerly in the dining room of the presbytery, are identifiably Pugin designs. The sacristy too was fitted out by Pugin with elaborate vestment cupboards of varnished pine.
The large presbytery was also designed by Pugin and is contemporary with the church. Gothic in style and irregular in composition, it is built of red brick with stone dressings, and adjoins the church on the northeast side. Inside is an open hall containing a spacious staircase with fretted timber balustrades.
Catholic church. 1856-7. Edward Welby Pugin. Stone, with slate roofs. C13 style. 6-bay nave, 2-bay chancel, aisle under lean-to roofs with taller gabled roofs at west end. North aisle has 2 large buttresses projecting through eaves. End bay has gables to north and west sides, 8-light west window.
Nave has 4-light clerestory windows. West entrance has paired arched doors under pointed relieving arch; traceried roundel in tympanum. 8-light window. Open traceried iron bellcote with short spire. South aisle contains
confessionals and has dormers with spherical triangle windows. West bay similar to that of north aisle. Chancel has 2 tall dormers to sides and 9-light east window.
Interior: nave has arcade with angel stops to hoodmoulds; wagon roof on wall piers: chancel has arcades to flanking chapels, 3 marble altars with reredoses; each chapel has 3 statues in canopied niches. Continuous marble altar rail to chancel and chapels, C19 stained glass to east end. Listing NGR: SJ3500489347
Presbytery. To north of church, possibly same date, i.e. 1856. Brick and stone, slate roof, Gothic style, 2 storeys with gabled attics, tall chimneys. 4 bays. Stone-mullioned windows of 2 or 3 lights with cusped heads and arched hoodmoulds, and an oriel. Interior has open hall with timber open-well stair. Listing NGR: SJ3499989367
External image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_of_St_Vincent_de_Paul,_St_James_Street.jpg
Architect: E. W. Pugin
Original Date: 1856
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*