Mill Lane, Liscard, Wallasey, Wirral CH44
A Puginian Gothic church of the 1850s by S.R. Eyre & J. A. Hansom, which is a significant landmark in a deprived town centre location. The church suffered from bomb damage and unsympathetic alterations in the past, but an ambitious programme of repairs and reordering carried out in 2003 has restored its dignity.
In 1825 only six Catholics were recorded as living in Wallasey, but by 1841 the number had risen to 290. Many were servants who worked in the large houses in Wallasey and labourers who lodged in the area. At first Mass was said in a room over a joiner’s shop in Union Street, but in 1841 the first resident priest was appointed, and the following year a school was opened in St Alban’s Street, where 100 could gather. Soon it was proposed to erect a church, for which land close to the school was acquired. Canon Lescard, whose efforts led to the building of St Albans, wrote ‘We do not need a large church – at the most it would contain 800 persons, it would answer perhaps for over here i.e. in Liscard. But Seacombe is the place for the poor and the multitude, it being on the Wallasey shore and intimately connected with the Birkenhead Docks’.
The foundation stone was laid on the 8 June 1852, the intention being to have ‘a good, seemly and excellent Gothic Church: if possible one that would hereafter be susceptible even of splendour’. It opened fifteen months later, and splendour arrived in the form of a high altar and elaborate reredos in the Puginian tradition, and a Gothic spired tabernacle, though these was destroyed along with the east window and the Lady Altar in the blitz of 1941.
The original design of the church included a nave and two aisles, but the south aisle was omitted in order to cut costs. This had serious consequences later, for the lack of support to that side of the church led to subsidence, and necessitated a substantial rebuilding of the south wall, the chancel arch, and the introduction of the huge buttresses on the outside of the church in 1913-14. In 1909 the present presbytery was erected.
The church was extensively reordered in 1952, again in 1977, and a third time in 2003, the latter to the design of Hulme Upright.
The church was designed by S. R. Eyre & J. A. Hansom and was built in 1852-3. It has a six bay nave with a west gallery, sanctuary, Lady Chapel and south aisle. There are extensive sacristies. The northwest tower has a broached spire with lucarnes. The south side has a clerestory with spherical triangular widows, whilst the north side has two rows of traceried windows as though for a gallery, set between deep buttresses that project above roof level (added in 1913-14 to stabilise the structure). The roof is covered with hexagonal shaped slates.
As a result of war damage and a series of reorderings, the interior is devoid of most of its original features. An exception is the set of fourteen Stations of the Cross, three-dimensional crowd scenes mounted on elaborate foliate brackets. Originally these had crocketed finials. The three sedilia and the timber screen between the sanctuary and Lady Chapel are late-nineteenth century Gothic, but most of the other furnishings date from the sympathetic reordering in 2003.
The original school, erected in 1842, survives and is used as the parish centre, with an extension added in 1984. Whilst this is unlisted, it is a building of local interest (photo). The small churchyard, which is in two parts, on the east and west sides of the church, contains a number of mid-nineteenth century tombs, including those of former priests.
Catholic church. 1852-3. By S.R. Eyre and J.A. Hansom. Stone with roof of hexagonal slates. Nave with south aisle under lean-to roof, north west tower, chancel and south chapel. Tower has weathered angle buttresses. West entrance of 2 orders has ogee hood mould; niche above has cusped arch; top 2-light louvred bell openings. Broach spire with lucarnes. East side has canted stair turret with spirelet. Nave has 4-light west window with Decorated tracery above later shallow confessional bay with plate tracery windows. Niche to right of window and 3-light aisle window. South side has 2-light aisle windows between buttresses, gabled porch to 2nd bay, the 1st bay projects with straight-headed windows. Clerestory has spherical triangle windows, one with louvre. North side has deep buttresses projecting above eaves. Tall 2-light windows; clerestory has plate tracery windows of 2 lights with spherical triangle above. Chancel has north gabled vestry, east 4-light window between angle buttresses. South chapel has 3-light south and east windows.
Interior: 6-bay arcade on quatrefoil piers with fillets. Timber west gallery has cusped panels. Chancel has C20 fittings and 3 timber sedilia and 2-bay arcade to chapel with parclose screen. Lady chapel altar and altar rail have pierced tracery; stencilled walls.
Listing NGR: SJ3067291766
Architect: S.R. Eyre and J.A. Hansom
Original Date: 1853
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II