Building » Old Swan – St Oswald

Old Swan – St Oswald

St Oswald Street, Old Swan, Liverpool L13

The tower and spire are of considerable importance as a work by A. W. N. Pugin, the most influential architect of the nineteenth century Gothic Revival. The post-war body of the church, rebuilt to the designs of Adrian Gilbert Scott, has a conventional late Gothic revival exterior but the unusual interior with its concrete hyperbolic arches is also of some interest. Part of an important complex of nineteenth-century buildings comprising the listed presbytery of 1857 by E. W. Pugin, convent and school buildings (part possibly by A. W. N. Pugin), and a former Methodist chapel of 1845.

The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1839, and the building opened for worship in August 1842. One of the principal benefactors of the building campaign was Edward Challoner, a local timber merchant. The first priest was Fr Maddocks, who lived in a small presbytery next to the church. In 1845 he built a school ‘between his church and the street’ and in 1850 invited the Sisters of Mercy of Mount Vernon to found a convent on the site, giving up his presbytery for the purpose while he moved into temporary accommodation. The convent was later enlarged and a second school built on the site, opening in 1854. In 1856 a former Methodist chapel at the corner of Mill was purchased by Fr Maddocks, principally for use as a club. A new presbytery was built in 1857 from designs by E. W. Pugin. The parish was a flourishing one and in 1939 it was decided to extend the original church. The work was delayed by the outbreak of war and the body of the church was eventually rebuilt in the 1950s from designs by A. G. Scott. The new building was opened in October 1957.


See also list descriptions, below. The earliest part of the building is the tower and spire of red sandstone, designed by A. W. N. Pugin and built by George Myers, his favourite builder. The tower is of four stages, with paired moulded arches to the topmost, belfry, stage and a stone broach spire with three tiers of diminishing lucarnes. Behind the tower the body of the new church consists of a nave with tall aisles, whose walls are divided into five bays a side, each with a tall four-light window with Perpendicular tracery. Beneath the windows in some bays are single-storey flat-roofed confessional projections. The walls are of red brick, the dressings and window tracery of red sandstone. The junction between the old tower and the new taller nave is rather clumsily managed, with single storey vestries flanking the junction.

The interior is entirely of the 1950s, and contrary to the list description is not without its own interest. Tall thick concrete hyperbolic arches rest on square sandstone piers with a canted ceiling to the nave and flat ceilings to the aisles. The walls are faced with sandstone to the height of the nave piers and plain plastered above. The floor is carpeted. The windows are mostly clear glazed. At the west end of the nave is a gallery with a large pipe organ by Rushworth & Dreaper (rebuilt 1987).

The furnishings appear to be mostly by Scott, including the high altar with its baldacchino set on a geometrical marble pavement, the southeast altar with its altarpiece in the style of Martin Travers and the oak benches in the nave and aisles. The northeast window has four lights of Victorian stained glass, including a representation of the original church. These presumably came from Pugin’s church, which had glass by Hardman. The east end has been reordered, with a nave altar on a carpeted timber platform carried forward from the sanctuary step.

Entry amended by AHP 10.01.2021

List descriptions



Roman Catholic Church. West tower and broach spire, 1842, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. The rest rebuilt, 1951-7, Adrian Gilbert Scott. Red sandstone, concrete and brick. Tower has diagonal buttresses. Pointed west entrance has no capitals, and hood mould with head stops. 3-light window above, with reticulated tracery. 3rd stage has cusped lancets to 3 sides. Top stage has paired 2-light bell openings over weathering, with Geometrical tracery. Broach spire with 3 tiers of lucarnes in alternate faces. Canted stair turret to south, with hipped stone roof. Rest of church of no special interest.

Listing NGR: SJ3933990956



Presbytery. Mid C19. Stone with slate roof. 2 storeys, 4 bays; 1st bay breaks forward under gable, end bay breaks forward under hipped roof. 1st floor sill course. Windows of 2 segmental lights. Ground floor has 3-light window to 1st bay; end bay has rectangular bay window with hipped stone roof, supporting canted bay window with hipped slate roof. Entrance to right of 3rd bay has segmental hood and niche above with statue of St. Oswald.

Listing NGR: SJ3933390938

Photo credit (exterior view):,_King_and_Martyr,

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. N. Pugin, A. G. Scott

Original Date: 1842

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II