Building » Tuebrook – St Cecilia

Tuebrook – St Cecilia

Green Lane, Tuebrook, Liverpool 13

An impressive brick-built Lombard Romanesque-style church of the interwar period by E. Bower Norris. The exterior with its pepperpot towers flanking the west gable and the transeptal projections at the east and west ends, is perhaps less satisfactory than the interior. The sanctuary, with its exotic mosaic wall decoration by Oppenheimers and the effigy of St Cecilia under the altar, is of artistic interest.

A mission was established in 1905, serving Tuebrook and Clubmoor. A temporary church was built in 1906 at the corner of Bradden and Snaefell Avenues, from designs by the architect Matthew Honan. Honan was killed in the First World War and left money in his will for the building of a permanent church. The foundation stone of the present church building was laid by Archbishop Downey in 1929 and the church was opened in December 1930.

The plan of the building comprises an aisled nave with transeptal projections at the (liturgical) west and east ends and a deep sanctuary. The church is built of red brick with red tile roof coverings. At the west end, the main door surround with a figure of St Cecilia and the Lombardic triple window above, all done in Portland stone, are set under a tall arch which rises almost to the shallow roof gable. On either side of the arch are octagonal brick towers with domed stone caps. Flanking the towers are small transepts, each with one small round-headed window and a prominent corbel-table. The transepts have additional entrances in their gabled end walls. The side walls of nave and aisles each have four single round-headed windows. The eastern transepts are taller than those at the west end and have stepped triple windows under a semi- circular arch in their main gables. The sanctuary is two bays deep.

Inside, the church has nave arcades of four bays of broad round unmoulded arches resting on heavy square brick piers, with narrow passage aisles. The walls of the aisles are of exposed brick up to the springing of the nave arcade, and plastered above. The nave has a semi-circular plaster vault, now covered in acoustic tiles, with flat ribs between the windows. At the west end of the nave is an organ gallery with three round-headed arches. The floor covering of the church is parquet. The transepts and sanctuary also have semi-circular plaster vaults; as in the nave, the soffits of the roof- ribs have painted decoration. The walls of the sanctuary below the windows and the whole of the east wall and apse are lined with mosaic decoration, some figurative. That on the south wall shows what appears to be a version of a medieval Doom.

Of the fittings, the high altar has a handsome classical reredos of variegated marbles and with a white marble effigy of St Cecilia (apparently based on Stefano Maderno’s original of 1600 in the church of St Cecilia in Rome) beneath the altar slab. The white marble pulpit with its chamfered corners and the wooden nave benches are probably original to the church. Most windows are clear-glazed but there is some original stained glass in the west windows.

List description (church, boundary wall, railings, gate piers and gates listed in 2017)


Summary: Roman Catholic church, 1929-30, by Ernest Bower Norris with mosaic work by Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited. Mellow red brick with Portland stone and concrete dressings, pantile roof. Italian Romanesque style. The later presbytery and single-storey link, are not of special interest and excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Cecilia, including boundary wall, railings, gate piers and gates, constructed in 1929-30 to the designs of Ernest Bower Norris, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural quality: it has a distinguished Italian Romanesque design incorporating an imposing tripartite W end and sophisticated brickwork enlivened by contrasting Portland-stone dressings; * Degree of survival: the church is little altered and retains its historic character and architectural integrity; * Interior quality: the vaulted interior has an impressive sense of space enhanced by a richly decorated Baroque sanctuary; * Artistic interest and craftsmanship: the interior contains high-quality and elaborately detailed mosaic work to the sanctuary and side chapels by the renowned firm of Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited, including dramatic representations of souls being sent to heaven and hell.

History: The parish of St Cecilia’s was created in 1905 and included both Tuebrook and Clubmoor areas of Liverpool. At first the appointed parish priest, father John Casey, rented a loft where Mass could be said, but this soon became inadequate as parishioner numbers grew to one thousand. The foundation stone for a temporary church was laid in August 1906 on a site at the corner of Bradden and Snaefell Avenues. The architect for this temporary church was Matthew Honan and the cost of the building was £1,500. The building remained in use until a suitable site and adequate funds could be raised for a permanent church. The foundation stone of the present Church of St Cecilia was blessed on 22 September 1929 by Archbishop Thomas Whiteside who returned to conduct the official opening ceremony on 21 December 1930. The church was built to the designs of Ernest Bower Norris (1888-1969) who designed many churches for the Roman Catholic Church during his career, and the mosaic work was produced by Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited, possibly by Eric Newton. The church was consecrated on 6 October 1972 by Archbishop George Andrew Beck and the interior was also re-ordered in the same decade. A detached presbytery and single-storey link were added in the mid-C20.

Details: Roman Catholic church, 1929-30, by Ernest Bower Norris with mosaic work by Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited. Mellow red brick with Portland stone and concrete dressings, pantile roof. Italian Romanesque style. PLAN: the church is located on the NE side of Green Lane and is aligned NE-SW with transepts at each W and E end, side aisles, a N vestry and confessionals projection, and a deep sanctuary. To the NE of the church are a mid-C20 detached presbytery and single-storey link that are not of special interest and are excluded from the church’s listing. The following geographical references in the description of the church will be referred to in their ritual sense. EXTERIOR: the Church of St Cecilia is a relatively compact building dominated externally by a tripartite W end. The church’s elevations incorporate round-headed windows of varying size with gauged-brick heads and stained and leaded glass, and painted cast-iron rainwater goods with hoppers bearing decorative reliefs and the date ‘1930’. The tripartite W end has a near full-height round-headed central recess set underneath a small gable, which uses dressings to provide the appearance of a pediment and is surmounted by a cross finial. The recess contains the W entrance and W window, which are in Portland stone and form a frontispiece. The entrance’s square-headed doorcase projects forward slightly in the form of a shallow porch and is surmounted by a statue of a hooded St Cecilia holding a sword with her head bowed and the inscription ‘SANCTA CAECILIA PATRONA MUSICAE SACRAE ORA PRO NOBIS’ (‘St Cecilia, patron saint of sacred music, pray for us’) below. The doorcase, which is flanked by narrow square-headed windows, contains square-panelled double doors, and incorporates cable moulding, slender carved crosses, and a relief carving depicting angels holding a wreath containing a harp, which further references St Cecilia as the patron saint of music and musicians. Above the entrance, and partly behind the statue of St Cecilia, three herringbone brickwork panels separate the entrance from the W window, which is formed of three tall round-headed lancets with a circular light above centre and carved spandrels. Above the window is a carved console relief. Flanking the entrance bay are octagonal turrets with stone caps. At the top of the turrets, and continuing across the entrance bay, is a blind arcade with some louvred openings. Projecting to the N and S sides are gabled transepts with near full-height recesses to each side topped by Lombard friezes and containing single and paired windows, and a blind window to the gable apex. The S transept also incorporates a SW entrance, which has double doors in the same style as those to the W entrance and a solid tympanum with a painted relief depiction of the Virgin Mary holding an infant Jesus. The four-bay nave has a dentil band just below the eaves and a clerestory set above low flat-roofed side aisles, all with round-headed lancets; those to the clerestory are slightly taller in height than those to the side aisles. The gabled N and S transepts at the E end of the church are taller than the W transepts and each have a tall shallow round-headed recess to the centre containing a three-light lancet window in Portland stone with a raised centre light and carved spandrels. The recess is flanked by shallow buttress-like projections adorned with a concrete cross, and patterned brickwork to the gable apex forms a cross motif. Small round-headed lancets light the west side returns. Attached to the N transept is a single-storey flat-roofed vestry, sacristy and confessionals projection. The deep two-bay sanctuary has two clerestory windows to each N and S side and a flat-roofed three-sided windowless apse. Attached to each N and S side are low flat-roofed side chapels. INTERIOR: internally the walls and nave arcade piers are of exposed brick up to the level of the springing of the arcades and then plastered above. Most of the windows contain stained glass, including Christian symbols. A parquet floor survives throughout, but is now (2016) largely hidden under later carpet. The nave and side aisles contain bench pews. Mosaic work within the church was carried out by Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited, and was possibly by Eric Newton, although this is unconfirmed. The four-bay nave has an arcade to each N and S side comprised of round arches resting upon brick piers with stencil decoration to the intrados of each arch. The side aisles contain Stations of the Cross and have cross-vaulted ceilings with round arches spanning across to meet each nave pier. The nave, transepts and sanctuary share a ribbed barrel-vaulted roof with clerestory windows and stencil decoration to the ribs; the roof is now clad in later acoustic tiles. At the W end of the nave is an arcaded narthex with an organ gallery above, which is accessed via a stair at the S end of the narthex by the SW entrance. At the E end of the nave the N transept has two blind arches set into the N wall containing six-panel doors that lead into two confessionals and the vestry and sacristy respectively. The S transept contains an octagonal marble pulpit adjacent to the sanctuary arch. The side chapels off the transepts are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart and have marble altars, marble-clad walls and mosaic work. The sanctuary rails are composed of various black, pink, green and cream marbles and continue across the front of the side chapels. The sanctuary has two arched openings to each N and S side; those to the W lead into the side chapels and those to the E are blind. The walls to all three sides of the sanctuary are clad up to the level of the springing of the arches in black marble with elaborate and extensive mosaic work above, including depictions of angels, St Patrick, St Anthony of Padua, and winged creatures symbolic of the four evangelists (St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John) to the sanctuary arch, and a mosaic depiction of the Crucifixion above the altar and reredos. The sanctuary’s N side wall also includes a depiction of a sanctified soul being received into heaven flanked by angels, whilst the S wall includes a dramatic mosaic imitation of a medieval Doom painting depicting a damned soul being plunged into hell by demons. The reredos, which is over 20 feet high, is composed of various white, black and pink marbles and is Baroque in style, incorporating a broken pediment and half-columns. The altar, which is composed of the same marbles, was originally attached to the reredos, but was sliced off and moved forward slightly in the 1970s. It incorporates a large niche/shelf underneath the altar slab on the west side that contains a Baroque effigy of St Cecilia in white marble. The effigy is based upon Stefano Maderno’s 1599-1600 original in the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome, Italy and incorporates three outstretched fingers on her right hand and one on her left that symbolise the holy trinity.

BOUNDARY WALL, RAILINGS, GATE PIERS & GATES: enclosing the church to the W and S sides is a low brick boundary wall with concrete copings and low-level piers at intermediate spacings. Surmounting the walls and linking the piers are low painted cast-iron railings incorporating scrolled sections. Two sets of tall, square, panelled gate piers with concrete caps exist to the W side, with a further set to the S side, with painted cast-iron gates incorporating some scrolled decoration; the gates in line with the W entrance are larger.


Books and journals: Pollard, R, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West, (2006), 480. Other: Description of church and attribution of mosaic work to Ludwig Oppenheimer Limited in English Catholic Directory 1956 & 57

Heritage Details

Architect: E. Bower Norris

Original Date: 1930

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II