ST LUKE'S CHURCH - LIVERPOOL
(The Bombed Out Church)
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:
".....PEAL OF 8 MUSICAL BELLS....."
The collection of funds with this object was proceeding at the time of Mr Wildig’s decease. After this sad event, it was resolved that the window should become an offering to his memory, and for this purpose the contributions of the congregation and of friends at a distance were added to those of the children, and the result was the ‘Memorial Window’.
Of the other windows in the body of the Church and some in the chancel, we may say that they are all handsome and in good taste. The upper orange-coloured portion of each was the work of local artists, Messrs Lyon & Son, and the heraldic shields depicted upon the panes are said to be the armorial bearings of the members of the Town Council, at the various dates inscribed beneath them.
There are four memorial tablets on the walls, one to the memory of Mr Charles Lawrence and his wife, the former an old patron of the Church, one to the Rev C W Lawrence, who was connected with the Church for 30 years, another to Mr John Keates, an old Churchwarden, and one to Mr Lane, Bible Reader for many years.
...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....
At the top of the gallery stairs, on either side, there is a large vestibule, one of which was formerly used as a meeting place for a Tontine club belonging to the congregation. Behind the gallery, and opening into it, is a pretty large chamber, clean, light, and airy. Two objects contained within the Church, and not hitherto mentioned, are worthy of note, viz, the font and the eagle lectern. The former, which is also a memorial, was the gift of Canon Gore, and replaced another of much inferior workmanship, which stood in front of the south-east door. The present font, designed by the Messrs. Audsley, is of Caen-stone, elaborately chiselled by Mr Norbury, and is altogether befitting its place and use.
In connection with the font may be appropriately noted a handsome ewer, of polished brass, which was presented to the Church by Miss Frances Ashton, an old member of the congregation; her name and the date of presentation form a legend round the stem of the vessel. The eagle, a handsome, well-carved piece of ancient oak, formerly belonged to St Peter’s Church, the present pro-cathedral, where it did its duty for a very lengthened period. On the advent of Bishop Ryle, however, it was displaced by an elegant brass lectern, a gift to the bishop; and our old incumbent, the late Rev George L B Wildig, asked for and obtained the eagle as a gift for St Luke’s Church.
In October 1830, when a Musical Festival took place in Liverpool the Oratories were performed in St Luke’s Church. A special gallery was erected for the accommodation of the public, and much alarm is said to have been caused by the structure giving way, when crowded with a portion of the audience. Sporh’s celebrated work, ‘The last Judgement’ was performed on this occasion, with Madame Catalini, Madame Stockhausen, and Mr Braham as principal singers. The building was found to be all that could be desired as to sound, and the performance was successful.
The Church is seated for 768 persons, of which number 606 can be accommodated in the body and 162 in the gallery. There are 217 free sittings, 55 below, contained in 11 pews in the side aisles, 4 being in front and 7 behind; the remaining 162 sittings are in the gallery, which is all free. The principal dimensions of the Church are as follows: From the choir vestry door to the step of the Chancel measures 99ft 2 inches, and from wall to wall in the body of the Church, 55ft. The chancel measures from the steps beside the eagle to the back of the communion table 58ft 2 inches, and in width 29ft 6 inches. The entire length of the building, from the great west door next to Berry Street, including the choir vestry, to the east window of the chancel, is 175 feet 2 inches.
This website was an idea that I (Jonathon Wild) had thought about for many months. That I could promote a small website with pictures of the interior of the Church on how it looks like now. Not everyone has been in St Luke's during its open days and I wanted to present a well-constructed website. During my research on the Church, I contacted a local Church Bell-ringer, Bryan McCahey. Bryan is the author of Peace and Good Neighbourhood, (the book that you can purchase on the 'Buy the Book' page) and I requested to use very small items from the book in my site, as well as to promote rare stock of the first edition of the book. Bryan has done sterling work on the history and research for this Church, going back many years. It is thanks to Bryan that I was able to ever attempt such a website. He has spent many hours in the Record Office, many hours in research and written many letters to many contacts in his quest to find additional information on the Church and to piece together the history of the bells and the world's first all-metal bell frame within the tower.
During my conversations with Bryan, I was given the very rare glimpse of copies of the stunning 1931 pictures and like many of the readers to this website, could not believe my eyes. During his research on the Church, Bryan left no stone unturned. He had access to the files in Church house and went through them but there was very little available, just various accounts and expenditures, mostly for fuel, he seems to recall. He also met with the daughter of one of the Vicar's. She gave him an oil painting of the Church interior and several photos of the interior pre-blitz. It is via Jean Parry (the daughter of the Vicar of St Luke's in 1931) that these pictures came to light after months of correspondence with Jean Parry and months of very determined research and hard work by Bryan! I am very grateful for Bryan's permission to reproduce these pictures on the site - it is simply down to his many years of hard research on the Church that he was rewarded with such pictures, and I am indebted to him for his kind offer to reproduce them on this website, which without, would have been a standard view of the Church as you see today.
The communion plate was supplied by Messrs Garrard & Brothers, London in 1830, and consisted of two chalices, two flagons, two patens, and one alms dish. A few years ago, Miss Browne presented two additional chalices to the Church in memory of her mother.
In recent years two prayer desks have been placed within the communion rails, gifts of Mr T Bate, and Mr H Jeffreys, long connected with St Luke’s. A cloth for the communion table was given by Mr W Pickford in memory of his wife, and the Misses Stanistreet presented a tessellated pavement in the chancel in memory of Mrs Stanistreet. Mr R J Harradine also presented two alms plates, including in the eight now in use. Two handsome oak chairs have been placed in the sanctuary by the ladies of the congregation in memory of the late Miss Emma Julia Calder, who died suddenly on St Luke’s Day, 1900.
The excellence of the workmanship throughout the interior of the Church has often been remarked upon, and skilled artificers, competent to judge, have declared that no expense appears to have been spared in perfecting the details; and even in parts not generally open to inspection, we observe a tasteful finish which is usually restricted to what is always before the eye.
There are two large vestry’s connected with the Church, one of large size at the west end, well lighted and ventilated termed the choir vestry; the other at the north-east corner, of smaller size, for the special use of the clergy. The fact is that the Church was built without any vestry of adequate size to contain the choir and their belongings. The apartment now termed with the choir vestry was formed out of what is really the vestibule to the main entrance of the Church, the large folding doors, which open upon the flight of steps next to Berry Street, consisting one side of the chamber.
Let us now quit the body of the Church and proceed to the tower, which is 133ft in height, including the pinnacles, which measure 16 feet. Of its external architectural features, we have already spoken; we will now briefly describe its internal arrangements and contents, taking them in the order as we ascend the structure. The entrance to the tower is through a door opening from the choir vestry, and a stone staircase, of spiral form and quite dark, conducts by 48 steps to the bellringers’ chamber. This is a spacious and lofty apartment, brilliantly lighted by four large windows, which can be seen outside, just beneath the dials of the clock. In this chamber the bellringers assemble with their services are required, each one standing by a rope which descends to the floor from the ceiling above. An apparatus used in ‘chiming’ the bells is also contained in this room. A few words in explanation of the two different modes of ringing the bells will be appropriate here.
The bells may either be ‘rung’ or ‘chimed’. When the former method is employed a man is required at each bell, and by pulling upon the rope, which is fastened to and passes over a large wheel attached to the bell, each and all are swung to and fro in a certain order of succession, producing that loud and agreeable harmony with which we are familiar, when listening to a well-rung peal of bells in full play. ‘Chiming’ requires fewer hands; in the case of St Luke’s Bells, three men are sufficient. The method consists in striking the tongue against the bell, instead of as in the former case, swinging the bell against the tongue. Much less exertion is required on the part of the operator, and a much smaller volume of sound is produced. The bells of St Luke’s are usually ‘Chimed’ but on great occasions they are ‘rung’ by the order and at the expense of the Corporation.
On practice nights, which is Monday, they are always ‘rung’ as residents in the immediate neighbourhood are made duly sensible on the deafest side of their heads. On the walls of the chamber used by the bellringers four boards are affixed recording special performances at different dates. The first took place in 1850, during the incumbency of the Rev C. W. Lawrence, when eight ringers, under the conductorship of John Heron Sen, executed a series of ‘Grandsire Triples’, involving 5,040 changes in two hours and fifty minutes.
On June 20th 1874, the Rev J. R. Eyre became incumbent, the same feat was accomplished, under the leadership of Thomas Beacal, in three hours and five minutes; again, on the 15th October 1878, another performance of the same character took place, under the conductorship of R. S. Mann, and was executed, like that of 1850, in 2 hours and fifty minutes.
The last recorded performance took place on the 11th October, 1898, Ven Archdeacon Madden, incumbent, when was rung on the bells a true peal of ‘Bob Major’, 5,040 changes, in three hours, one minute, conducted by R. S. Mann, as a birthday compliment to Thomas Bate Esq, who had held office as a churchwarden for 16 years. In all these instances the same number of ringers were employed, and the same number of ‘changes’ made. We are not sufficiently versed in the science of bellringing to appreciate these efforts, but no doubt they are deserving of note or they would not have been recorded on the walls.
The bells are thoroughly loyal, and the last great occasion on which they showed their loyalty by ringing merrily was on the occasion of the relief of Ladysmith, 1st March 1900. From the bellringers chamber we ascend by 43 steps to the clock room, where the stone staircase terminates. This apartment is much smaller than the one beneath and is very dimly lighted so that on first entering it there is difficulty in finding one’s way between the numerous ropes and beams which traverse it in various directions. On one side of the room, enclosed in a wooden casing, and close to the outer wall, is placed the internal machinery of the clock, and the solemn, measured ‘tick tock’ of the pendulum falls impressively upon the ear, as it marks the undeviating punctuality the ceaseless flight of time.
We shall leave the clock for the present and continue our remarks upon the bells, which have already been partially noted. The bells are reached by a wooden ladder 21ft 8 inches in length, the lower end which is placed in the clock room. The ascent though steep is not very trying to the nerves, the wall of the tower being close on one side, and a complicated arrangement of beams on the other. When the top is gained we are on a level with the bells.
These are eight in number, and were hung in 1829, in an iron frame, by Gillibrand, of this city, and were rung for the first time on St George’s Day, April 23rd, of the same year. They are in the key of F and were cast by William Dobson, at Downham, in Norfolk, in 1818 as we learn by inscriptions upon them. They vary in weight, as may be supposed, in accordance with their size, the smallest, or ‘treble’ weighing about 7 cwt., the largest, or ‘tenor’ being 16 cwt. 3 qrs. There is a different inscription on each bell, and they read as follows:
Treble: Peace and Good Neighbourhood.
2nd: The Lord to praise my voice I’ll raise.
3rd: William Dobson, fecit 1818.
4th: Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious.
5th: Fear God and honour the King.
6th: William Dobson, founder, Downham, Norfolk, 1818
7th: These eight bells were cast by William Dobson, Anno Domini 1818.
Tenor: I to the Church the living call, And to the grave do summon all.
Previous to 1871, the bellringers were paid by the Corporation, but on July 30th of that year this privilege was withdrawn, and, in the words of the Parish Magazine of that date, “we were left to silence and our own resources”.
The bells were not heard again till Advent Sunday, December 3rd, of the same year when their cheerful tones welcomed the congregation to Church; and previous to their renewed employment, £3 appears to have been spent in putting the bells and belfry in proper order- rather significant of the neglect to which they had been subjected. The bellringers since the above date have been paid out of the Church Offertory Fund.
From the bells to the summit of the tower another ladder extends, which is 43 ft 1 inch in length. One side of it is protected by the wall of the tower, along which it lies, but on the other side is a yawning gulf, unpleasant to contemplate, so that a cool head and a steady hand are required of anyone who would climb the ascent and reach the top. The prospect from this elevation is very extensive when the weather is favourable. A fine view of the river can be obtained, but the streets below appear as miniatures. The flagpole, which rises from the summit of the tower, stands 40 feet high and the ensign, which is occasionally hoisted upon it, and looks so small from below is 15ft in length.
We have already noticed, though briefly, the clock in the tower; a few additional particulars regarding it may be given. It was made in 1835, by Condliff, of this city, for Robert Roskell & Son, whose names, graven on brass, are affixed to the works. The following details regarding it are not without interest, as conveying some idea of the dimensions of a large clock. The pendulum is 15ft in length. There are two weights, the ‘striking’ which is 3 ½ cwt. and the ‘going’ which is 1 ¾ cwt. and they have a drop of 50ft down to the chamber behind the gallery. The bell on which the clock strikes, which is the large tenor is 2 ft 9 inches in height and 3 ft 9 inches across. The four dials which are seen outside the tower, are cut out of solid stone, and measure 6 ft in diameter. The minute hand is 3ft long and the hour hand 2ft 3 inches long. The clock is wound weekly and requires 120 turns of the key for the ‘striking’ part of the mechanism, and 40 for the ‘going’.
In 1884, an application was made to the Corporation by the Rev A. E. Barnes-Lawrence during his incumbency, to have the ground surrounding the Church laid out ornamentally, planted with trees or shrubs, and provided with seats. The Corporation eventually acceded to the application, and made the necessary alterations, and year by year renews the shrubs and plants, and in the summer time, with the grass in splendid condition, the garden is indeed a haven of rest for those who care to use it. The following appeared in the Parish Magazine a few months ago, and which may be of interest, but we must certainly take exception to some of the statements made therin: The Rev R. W. Hiley D.D. (an Old Curate of St Luke’s) – on St Luke’s fifty years ago.
The Rev Dr Hiley, who in the days of his youth was master at the Liverpool College and also Sunday Curate at St Luke’s under the Rev Charles Lawrence, has published a most interesting book entitled ‘Memories of Half a Century’. In his book he refers to St Luke’s as the following:
This Church was built to serve two purposes: it was to be a handsome Church, an ornamental heading to Bold Street, and to be available internally for oratorios. There was a large western gallery with organ, and capable of holding an orchestra and chorus, and the pews all faced the gallery. Forty-six was that temple in building and three architects died during the process. Many began to think it would never be completed. At length it was completed and opened for public worship. The acoustic principles were found defective. The ceiling was of open fretwork, and there was a most provoking echo. The pulpit was placed on wheels, and the position changed every Sunday, till eventually in front of, but with back to organ gallery. The purpose for which St Luke’s was built viz., holding oratorios, was superseded by the building of the Philharmonic Hall, and now it is advocated that St Luke’s ought to be converted into a Cathedral for Liverpool. Dr Hiley then proceeds to relate his connection with St Luke’s as Curate under Mr Lawrence:
“I never regretted my arrangement with Mr. Lawrence. A kinder and more hospitable incumbent I could not have had.
He sometimes gave me some sharp raps on my knuckles and conscious has told me many a time since they were richly deserved. I have often thought, indeed, he must have sometimes disliked his conceited junior. Memory tells me of a number of things and sayings I could wish undone. Mr Lawrence did not attain any great age; he was not a strongly built man, and St Luke’s Church is a very hard Church to officiate in. When preaching there, I have heard my voice reverberating above me and was always exhausted by the effort; in fact, it is said that St Luke’s Church had been the death of every incumbent, unless he got away after a few years tenure.”
The year 1897 was one of marked historical interest. St Luke’s was opened in the year 1829 and for over 60 years it was a Corporation Church. In November of 1897, the Liverpool City Churches Act passed through both Houses of Parliament, received the Royal Assent, and became law. By that Bill St. Luke’s Church was transferred from the Liverpool Corporation to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
The church was closed during the months of July and August 1899, for the purpose of renovation of the interior and installation of the electric light. The work was satisfactorily carried out at a cost of £750 which was raised by donations from members.
A list of the Clergy, Wardens and Officials is furnished which may prove of interest. Many of those mentioned have long since passed away and others have attained to eminence in the world. We could not make many references to those who were connected from time to time with the Church but must now bring our account to a close.
Many of our readers may be glad to have the portraits of the Church and Incumbents by them, which a happy thought has induced us to add to this History. With regard to the advowson of St Luke’s Church, a few words will suffice. It was necessary sold by the Corporation on the passing of the Corporation Act in 1835 and was bought by the late Sir Joshua Walmsley (Mayor in 1839-40) for about £1,500. It was afterwards sold to Mr Charles Lawrence, a well-known West India merchant here (Mayor in 1823), who presented his son, the Rev. C. W. Lawrence, to the incumbency. The Patronage was bequeathed by Mr C Lawrence to his son, the incumbent, who, in his turn, left it in trustees, to be held probably for some member of his family. The present patrons are Canon Lawrence and W. F. Lawrence Esq. M.P.
We have now sketched the history of St Luke’s Church for its commencement, to the present time. Sundry details have, perhaps, been omitted, which others might have deemed important to notice, and errors may have crept in which some future analyst will discover and correct. We have endeavoured, however, to give a faithful narrative of what lay within the field of our knowledge and observation; and, in conclusion, we would express the hope that, distinguished as St Luke’s Church must always be from the prominence of its position and the attractiveness of its external form, it may ever be equally noted for the excellence of it’s spiritual Pastor, and for the overflowing numbers of those who attend his ministrations.