Queens Drive, Mossley Hill, Liverpool 18
An imposing church which occupies a commanding site in a prosperous area of the city. It remains in the ownership of the Franciscan Friars Minor Conventual.
The church was founded by Franciscan Friars (the Friars Minor Conventual or Greyfriars) from the Province of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, New York. Land was purchased from Liverpool City Council together with Elmsley House (which was to serve as the friary and parish house). The Liverpool architect Anthony Ellis was instructed that the church had to follow the pattern of the mother church of the American Province. It was built at the cost of £16,500 without the tower, which followed under a separate contract.
The church was built in 1931-2 by the architect Anthony Ellis. Under instruction from the Franciscan Friars, Ellis is said to have followed the basilica form of the New York mother church, except that it has only one tower. It is built of brown brick with sandstone dressings and a red tiled roof. The aisles have flat roofs and the single tower stands above the western end of the north aisle. An open loggia with three arched openings is attached to the west front, which has a Venetian window in the gable end.
The broad seven-bay nave is lit by arched windows set deeply into the barrel-vaulted ceiling that extends the full length of the church and is supported by a round-arched arcade with Corinthian pilasters strips. A narthex with pedimented oak doorcases occupies the west end, with an organ gallery above. The French organ was brought from the German church in Renshaw Street in the city centre in 1933.
The sanctuary is apsidal, and the walls and vault are painted with murals by Giuseppe Lerario OFM, depicting Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, surrounded by the Pope and members of the Vatican Council, and showing parts of the dome of St Peter’s. On the wall of the apse below is the Last Supper. These murals, which date from 1962-3, replaced a cycle of earlier and more expressionistic scenes of the Resurrection flanked by the Descent from the Cross and the Disciples at Emmaus by the Swiss artist Aebischer Yoki, painted in 1951-2. Yoki’ s work did not, apparently, appeal to the parish priest of the time, who had them painted over by Lerario. Murals by Lerario also cover the walls of the two large side chapels to St Anthony of Padua and St Francis, which too had formerly been painted by Yoki.
The sanctuary was reordered in the 1960s, when the timber altar rails were removed (parts remain to each side), but the Art Deco style marble reredos dates from the 1950s, having replaced a more classical design. The Stations of the Cross in bas-relief are by Albertini of Manchester.
Architect: A. Ellis
Original Date: 1931
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed