Park Place, Toxteth, Liverpool 8
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
One of the most historic and architecturally significant churches in Liverpool. Whilst it suffered an unsympathetic reordering scheme in the 1980s, it retains important furnishings and works of art, which enhance its impressive interior.
Built in 1821-27 the church of St Patrick is one of Liverpool’s earliest surviving and most notable places of worship. As commemorated by a stone plaque on the west front, it was ‘built by public subscription under the express stipulation that the whole of ground floor should forever remain free for the accommodation of all’. This large and imposing church occupies an elevated site overlooking Park Road, one of the main thoroughfares leading into the city. Unlike earlier Catholic churches, it was built for show, and demonstrates the confidence that the Catholic community had developed following the Relief Acts of the late-eighteenth century. The area in which it stands is one of the most deprived in the city, and the impact of slum clearance and vacant land leaves the church isolated in its setting. A few years ago the presbytery on the opposite side of Park Road was sold, and has now been converted to apartments.
Built in 1821-27, by the architect John Slater, the church of St Patrick is both striking and original in form. It has the appearance of a Nonconformist chapel, but its originality lies in the cruciform plan. The main body of the church is a simple rectangle with two levels of windows and a pedimented west gable fronting the road. The two transepts are narrow and contain the entrances and elegant timber staircases that lead up to galleries. In front of the entrances are dignified Greek Doric tetrastyle porches, and above the north stairs is a louvred turret with a curved roof. It is built of brown brick, with white-painted stone dressings and timber windows. High on the west front is a huge statue of St Patrick, a gift of Sir James Branker, which came from the St Patrick Insurance Company building in Dublin.
Around three sides of the church there is a strip of green space, which is raised up from the perimeter roads on a stone retaining wall, with stretches of original cast iron railings. At the two approaches from Park Road are classical stone gate piers, the northern one retains its original gates. In front of the church is a large freestanding Celtic stone cross commemorating the Liverpool priests who died of typhus in 1847.
The interior has galleries on three sides, supported on cast iron columns, and a shallow segmental arched ceiling with Greek key ornament. The area below the west gallery has been partitioned off to contain a sacristy, meeting hall and toilet. The east end is dominated by a vast altar painting of the Crucifixion by Nicaise de Keyser of Antwerp, c.1834, which was apparently painted for a church in Manchester, but moved to St Patrick’s after a fire. It had to be cut down at each side to fit between the giant Corinthian columns that frame the sanctuary. To left and right of the sanctuary, above the galleries are niches containing Neoclassical stone statues of St Matthew and St Mark, and below on the left side is a fine marble relief of the Holy Family, probably from the altar of St Joseph, which was carved by Messrs Boulton of Cheltenham, 1891. The present altar incorporates fragments of J. F. Bentley’s high altar of 1867. The sanctuary was radically reordered in the 1970s, when the high altar was removed, together with a great flight of marble steps and iron altar rails. The sacristy, which was reached by two doorways at the east end, was also demolished at that time.
The seating in the gallery is completely as original. In the nave the box pews have mostly been altered. The organ is a good instrument, but needs overhauling. Below part of the church there is a crypt with vaults for burials similar to St Anthony’s, Scotland Road.
Catholic church. 1821-27. John Slater. Brick with stone dressings, slate roofs. 2 storeys. Stone base, 1st floor sill course, top frieze, cornice and blocking course. 4-bay west front under pediment with Calvary cross. Ground floor segmental headed windows, 1st floor round-headed windows. Recessed stair wing with Doric tetrastyle porches, blind windows above, entrances in architraves. Statue of St. Patrick on plinth between central 1st floor windows, which are blind. Plaque below records building. Windows have iron casements. Low block at east end has vestries. North stair bay has square louvre. Interior has gallery on 3 sides, on iron columns. Elaborate baldacchino of 1953 with Corinthian columns and ornate entablature, the painting under it being 1834 by de Keyser. Segmental arched ceiling, panelled, with foliated roundels and Greek key ornament.
Listing NGR: SJ3547888806
Architect: J. Slater
Original Date: 1821
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*