Church Road, Woolton, Liverpool 25
St Mary’s Church and its ancillary buildings form an attractive group at the heart of the Woolton Conservation Area. Whilst the church itself is of not of high architectural quality, it gains interest from its furnishings and decoration, and from its fine setting.
A Catholic church was first established in Woolton in 1765, when the Molyneux family of Woolton Hall gave funds to the Benedictines to build a priory and church on Watergate Lane. In the 19th century, the prosperity of the Woolton quarries led to an increase in the local Catholic population, and the original church became too small. The present building was erected in 1859-60. The presbytery was added in 1864, and the school in 1869.
St Mary’s Church was designed by R.W. Hughes of Preston, and built in 1859-60. It consists of a nave with large transepts, chancel and side chapels (the list description states erroneously that it has aisles, and also has an incorrect date of 1866). It is built of coursed rock-faced red sandstone, with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The exterior is plainly treated and the window tracery is Geometric.
The aisleless interior is wide and open, with an exposed arched braced timber roof. The west entrance is at a lower level, and opens onto a staircase that leads up to the narthex, which is set below an organ and choir gallery. The timber screen is original. The sanctuary contains a fine reredos dated 1863, said to be by E.W. Pugin. The High Altar, with carved scenes in the life of Christ, was detached from the reredos, which was set back against the east wall when the sanctuary was reordered in 1948-50 by Weightman and Bullen. The font has also been brought from the baptistery, and the pulpit was truncated and moved to form a lectern. The Lady Altar has scenes from the life of the Virgin.
The interior was redecorated in 1981-82 with stencilling of the roof trusses and a lily pattern on the sanctuary ceiling. The windows of the sanctuary, chapels and transepts are fitted with stained glass; the east window is dated 1878 and is characteristic of the work of Capronnier. The pine pews have recently been stripped of dark green paint and restored.
To both sides of the church are single storey sacristies, and a long wide passageway leads from the south side (liturgically) to connect with the presbytery. The large presbytery was designed by E.W. Pugin and added in 1864. It is built of rock-faced red sandstone, and has gabled cross wings with shallow projections to the front facade. In the principal ground floor rooms, the original features such as fireplaces are preserved.
Architect: R. W. Hughes
Original Date: 1859
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II