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ST LUKE'S CHURCH - LIVERPOOL

(The Bombed Out Church)

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The two world wars became horrific episodes in the worlds history claiming the lives of millions of people, maiming and injuring many more, and depriving families of their loved ones.

 

The city of Liverpool with its suburbs and its neighbours across the river Mersey played its part in both conflicts, its sons went to war where they faced dangerous times in foreign lands and waters, witnessed terrible events, and fought in some of the bloodiest battles ever known. This site is dedicated to all the Merseyside people who gave such a huge sacrifice during the two world wars.

 

To their undying spirit and their ability to carry on against all odds, be it here at home or on foreign sea or soil. The website below tells of this incredible story:

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".....PEAL OF 8 MUSICAL BELLS....."

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LIVERPOOL REMEMBERED

LIVERPOOL REMEMBERED

St Luke's Church, Bold Place, Liverpool, is passed by hundreds of people everyday. Sometimes without a second glance to the reason why it is still there, nor the reasons of its elaborate history, nor knowing that the tower still contains the first ever metal bell frame in the world, still in situ.

Gone are the Brides, gone are the bells that rang out from the tower, and in its place is an empty shell. A bombed and burnt out building lacking in roof and windows, but growing in history each day.  This website brings you the full story of the Church, from the laying of the foundation stone, the long and varied story of the bells that were destined for another Church in Liverpool. Also the night of the bombing when the bells came crashing down in the tower and amazing stories of people who remembered the night of the bombing. See unique pictures of the interior of the Church how it was. Rare views of the exterior and shots of the all-metal bell frame, hanging in the tower by 'luck' or 'Luke' alone....The site of St Luke's had been granted to the town by Lord Derby in 1791, and it was a condition of his gift that the land should never be devoted to any other purpose than the site of a Church. It is also noted that no burials have ever taken place in or out of the building or within its grounds.

 

We will be describing the History of St Luke's Church via the eyes of Thomas Henry Bankier, who wrote the history of St Luke's in the 1900's.

 

 

 

It has been suggested that a sketch of history of St Luke's, from its beginning to the present time, would not be unacceptable to the congregation at large, and might present some features of interest for the public.  Placed in a commanding position, visible from the river and from many parts of the city, and not devoid of something imposing in its external appearance, St Luke's is more to engage the attention of strangers in the city. Regarded also from within, there is a lightness and certain degree of elegance in its internal aspect, which does not disappoint the spectator who is attracted within its portals.  Its history too, has been somewhat eventful, marked by several pauses some of long duration in the gradual progress towards completion.

 

The internal arrangements have also undergone sundry and decisive changes at various periods, and a succession of incumbents with their attendant train of wardens and other officials, have arisen, appeared for a little time, and passed away, since the Church was solemnly dedicated to the worship of God, and first joyous peal of bells rang from its lofty tower.

 

The following details regarding the locality and surroundings of what is now the site of St Luke’s Church, were gathered from the recollections of a Liverpool octogenarian, who had stepped back in memory sixty or seventy years to enlighten old members of the congregation, regarding what was familiar to his eyes in the days of his youth.

The plot of land on which St Luke’s Church now stands was granted by Lord Derby to the town about the year 1791, and it was a condition of the gift that the land should never be devoted to any other purpose than the site of a Church, or graves opened for the like purpose in the surrounding space.

 

The environs of the Church, at this period, presented a widely different aspect from what they now exhibit; green fields and quiet lanes being the prevailing features of the landscape. On the north side, what is now Leece Street, was a narrow lane, leading up to the hill to fields and meadows, transformed at the present day into Rodney, Hardman, and Hope Streets. Bold Street, now the Bond Street of Liverpool, was then a narrow sandy lane, with a hedge on one side and fields and rope-walks on the other, little dreaming, in the rustic simplicity of its youth, of the bustle and fashion which were to wait upon its mature age.

 

Where Renshaw Street now runs its course was then a path through fields and ropewalks, with a style at the end. Berry Street was a narrow lane leading to the moorlands and pastures of Toxteth, and the waterworks soon after occupied the site of what is now Roscoe Lane and Knight Street.

The green hillside on which St Luke’s was afterwards to rear its Gothic structure, and point its sculptured pinnacles to the skies, was then a field for cattle, with sheds for their housing on the Leece Street side.

 

The future site of the Church seems to have remained in much the same condition as described till the 9th April 1811, when the foundation stone of the edifice was laid. The following account of the proceedings is obtained from Billinge’s Liverpool Advertiser of the 15th April of the above year:

 

“The first stone of a new Church intended to be built in Berry Street, facing the top of Bold Street, was laid on Tuesday last about one o’clock by James Drinkwater Esq, our present worthy chief magistrate. On this occasion several of the Aldermen and Common Council, with most of the Clergy of the Established Church and a great number of other Gentlemen, preceded by the Mayor and Corporation Officers, walked to the ground in procession, when the ceremony of laying the first stone was performed with all due solemnity. The Church is intended to be a spacious and handsome structure, in the best style of Gothic architecture, and will be dedicated to St Luke. The town has long wanted an ornament of this kind, and the inhabitants have equally wanted the additional accommodation of a new Church.”

A BRIEF DESCRIPTION

ST LUKE'S ON BBC NORTHWEST

EXTERIOR OF ST LUKE'S CHURCH

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...the said 'Willm. Dobson....shall and will on or before the 30th day of Aug next cast manufacture and provide for the said church of Newton a new Peal of 8 musical Bells which shall weigh in the aggregate 66 hundred (weight) and a half of which the tenor bell shall weight fifteen hundred weight.

 

And shall and will convey the same carriage free and hang the same in the Tower of the St. Church of Newton with new Stocks and with 8 new wheels 8 new sets of bolts spikes and other iron work and with proper Brafes Gudgeons Clappers Screws Rollers Stays & Ropes.  And shall and will furnish and put up new frames wherein to fix the said Bells made of the best sound oak....

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Previous to this event, however, much time and labour had been expended in excavating the hill side and forming the level plateau on which the Church was to be built. Some progress was also made in sinking the foundations, and the entire space was surrounded by a wall of solid masonry, six feet in height, and in the Gothic style of architecture, with monastic entrances or gateways. In this condition things remained for some time, and two or three years afterwards, when the walls of the Church were well up, a dispute arose as to a strip of land on the Bold Place side.

 

This led to a lawsuit and the works were in consequence immediately stopped.

 

The order to ‘cease working’ is said to have been so sudden and abrupt that the workmen gathered up their tools, and at once departed, leaving the building materials in various forms of picturesque and chaotic confusion. One large stone, en route to its final resting-place in the structure, is said to have been left attached to a crane and suspended like Mahomet’s coffin, between heaven and earth, where it remained with other disjointed fragments, till the legal dispute had come to an end, and the works were resumed.

 

This, however, did not take place for several years, and during that period the unfinished Church must have presented a sorry spectacle to the passers-by, lying in its helpless and deserted confusion. In 1826, the building operations were again commenced, and pushed rapidly forward, so that in 1829 the Church was ready to be opened, and this ceremony was performed by Sir Geo. Drinkwater, Mayor at the time, and son of the James Drinkwater, who laid the foundation stone in 1811.

 

The Church, however, was not fully completed externally till a later of the steps forming the flights in front, were removed by the corporation in order to admit of the street being widened.

 

 

 

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I’m not sure whether our next achievement was not the east window, formally obscured by a red curtain from top to bottom. The new window, by Ballantine of Edinburgh, was a bad bargain, for which we paid about £300. The window near the vestry door is by Lavers and Barrand; the side windows in the chancel by Heaton, Butler & Baines, London. We subsequently fell into the hands of the Brothers Audsley, who did the decorative work. We got a grant from the Corporation, just sufficient to clean the Church; but we spent £900 of our own money. The decoration of the chancel ‘dado’ was the gift of one individual; that of the organ-case was a thanks-offering from another. The Church was reopened after this work on September 28th, 1873, and on October 13th I was appointed to Bowdon.

 

There are several facts mentioned in the above letter, which require a little further notice, and which we shall now proceed to consider. It has been already stated that for a portion of Mr Gore’s incumbency, the pulpit occupied the west end of the Church, but during the alterations which then took place, it was removed to its present position, and a structure of modern shape arose out of the materials of the old ‘three decker’.

 

The pews were also fashioned after a later type, and arranged in proper relation to the pulpit; and, what is unknown to many in the congregation, the ornamental ‘dado’ which lines the lower portion of the chancel wall was formed of the doors belonging to the ancient pews, adapted to their present use.

The position of the organ in the chancel, to which it was removed from the gallery, interferes very much with the beauty and utility of this part of the Church; intruding its great bulk on either side, narrowing the entrance to the chancel, and thus altering its relative proportions to the eye. The only remedy would be to ‘recess’ the organ, that is to place the entire structure in a chamber on one side specially fitted for its reception.

 

The whole width of the chancel would then be opened, and two windows, at present concealed behind the organ, would be rendered visible. This alteration would, of course, involve some expense, but the improvement would be so great that we sincerely hope it may someday be affected. The Chancel might then be utilised to a greater extent for the accommodation of worshippers, as the voice of the clergymen would be more distinctively heard, the obstruction caused by the projection of the organ being removed.

 

Before quitting the subject of the organ it may be mentioned that it was built originally by Flight and Robson, London, and eighteen years ago, after having at various periods undergone many repairs and patching’s, it was enlarged, and in a great measure re-built by Gray and Davison, of this city, at a cost of nearly £400. Of this amount £300 was given by the Corporation, and the remainder was contributed by the congregation.

 

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Mr Gore remarked in his letter that the large east window of the chancel was a ‘bad bargain’. He had reason for saying so, and we will now explain it. The window was put in about twenty-five years ago by subscription raised among the congregation, and cost, as previously mentioned about £300.

 

It was executed by Ballantyne, of Edinburgh, and by a process of enamelling, of which he entertained a favourable opinion. In the course of time, however, the varying atmospheric temperature inducing alternate contraction and expansion of the glass, caused the enamel to crack and peel off in various parts, so that the faces of some of the figures depicted on the glass became wholly obliterated, and the entire window was threatened with destruction.

 

It was to the credit of the artist, and also to his advantage in a professional point of view, that in these circumstances he removed the window, improved and restored it, and sent it back in a more perfect and enduring condition that it had been originally, and at a cost to himself of more than £100.

 

To defend the coloured window from the injurious action of the external air, a window of plain glass was placed behind it, which will, no doubt, tend materially to lessen the risk of future injury. Opinions will differ as to the merits of the window as a work of art, and it is open to criticism at various points; but viewed as a whole it will probably be admitted that the general effect, especially as to colour, is harmonious and pleasing.

 

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The two smaller windows, one on each side of the green light, were put in by the family of the late Samuel Holme as memorials to their father and mother. The former was Mayor of Liverpool in 1852-3. These windows were executed by Heaton, Butler & Baines, London in 1872.

 

It is hoped that in time all the windows in the chancel will be filled with stained glass, the effect of which in diminishing the present excess of light would be a decided improvement.

 

The coloured window in the body of the Church, near the vestry door, is in memory of the late John Rimmer, formerly warden. It was put in by his family, and was executed by Lavers & Barrand, London. The window on the opposite side is a memorial to Mr Wildig, a former incumbent, and was executed by Forrest & Son, of this city.

 

The idea of having a stained-glass window in this position originated with Mr Wildig himself, and he suggested that it should be named the ‘Children’s Window’ and be put in by contributions raised among themselves.

 

 

 

We give the details nearly in his own words:

 

“I found the Church (in 1862 when Mr Gore’s ministry commenced) with high rectangular seats, some of them squares, lined with stone-coloured damask to match the walls, with doors and straight backs, after the fashion of the time, and facing to the west, or towards the gallery. The Clerk’s box, the reading desk, and pulpit rose tier above tier, the old ‘three decker’, and stood immediately in front of the gallery; the preacher looking east, and having the front of the gallery behind him as a sounding board.

The chancel was filled with pews, which were never occupied. The organ was in the gallery, and the four singers (a lady and a gentleman) were placed in front of it, but screened off by a red curtain, which was drawn aside when a canticle or hymn had to be got through. When the time for the communion service came, the Clergy threaded their intricate way to the table by the north passage of the nave, and round by the vestry door, and then proceeded with the service, the Church being apparently empty, as the congregation were hidden from view by high curtains, placed along the east end of the pews. When the time for the Gospel came, the congregation stood up and turned round, and so became partially visible for the time, but soon again subsided out of view.

 

In 1864, we approached the Corporation with a petition to set the Church right. Our plea was that more accommodation was needed, and that more pew-rents would thereby be obtained. We asked for £200; our request was granted; but, fortunately for us, the surveyor, Mr Robson (afterwards architect to the London School Board), had been trained in Sir Gilbert Scott’s office, and had a feeling for Church proprieties. The corporation put the matter in to his hands, and he induced them to spend £1,500 instead of £200. The congregation transferred the organ to the chancel at something over £200. The old font, a poor affair, stood in front of the side door to the south-east. The restoration was completed in 1865.

 

In looking back upon the circumstances narrated in the foregoing sketch, and the changes which have taken place in the localities mentioned, we must be struck by the varieties brought about by the ‘whirligig of time’ and the widely differing uses to which the same localities have been applied in the lapse of years. Where meditative kine once reposed in peaceful security and the daisy and heath-bell spread their blossoms to the sun, we now see the flare of gas lamps, the hurrying crowds and swift electric cars, as in other instances, when the picture is reversed, gallant ships sail over, what were once the busy haunts of men.

 

St Luke’s Church was built after the design of the late Mr John Foster, who was at the time the Corporation Architect, and it is said to have cost between forty and fifty thousand pounds. Mr J Grindrod and Mr Heatherington were the building contractors. The style of architecture is Gothic; and although a composition; it has considerable unity and merit. The conjunction of architectural forms of different periods is very conspicuous in the tower where we have the late perpendicular style with rectilinear panelling; combined with the flowing tracery of the fourteenth century which overlaps the belfry windows.

 

The external aspect of the building is no doubt open to criticism, and has its defects as well as its merits, like all other sublunary things; but upon the whole, we may safely aver that, except to the practiced eye of the architect, due in great measure to the height and vaulted form of the ceiling, and the slender proportions of the columns which support it. Some critics are of opinion that this effect would have been still further enhanced, if the ceiling of the centre aisle had been raised considerably above; instead of being nearly on a level with, that of the side aisles; but others think that this elevation would have interfered with the acoustic properties of the Church.

 

The gallery, which occupies the west end, though no doubt useful as affording additional seat room, is by no means ornamental, and interferes with the clear vista, which would otherwise be obtained from the chancel to the choir vestry door.

 

It is said that the interior narrowly escaped being utterly ruined in appearance by the gallery being carried entirely around the Church. The Chancel, unusually large in proportion to the main body of the Church, is a copy of the Beauchamp Chapel in the Parish Church at Warwick and is certainly of sufficient dimensions to be a small Church in itself. Various changes were effected in the internal arrangements of the Church, chiefly during the incumbency of the Rev. Arthur Gore, who kindly favoured us with a description of these alterations, of which he was an eye-witness, and mainly instrumental himself in bringing about.