Digging up history on Lime Street

They are digging up the streets of Liverpool city centre all over the place at the moment. This is very much the case on Lime Street where they seem to be widening the pavement at one point and presumably planning to lay a new road surface.

Lime Street is a key thoroughfare in the city’s history. It has undergone some ‘development’ in recent years most notably with the controversial demolition of the old Futurist Cinema which I photographed when efforts were being made to save it. I never posted those pictures at the time although I might do in the future. The Futurist dated back to 1912 and deserved to be preserved. Over the road is the art deco frontage of the former ABC Cinema which is in some sort of limbo but also deserves preservation. I have some interesting historic photographs of Lime Street in times gone by which I might post up at some point. But walking along Lime Street now you are coralled behind a large fence, beyond which a digger is removing the old setts which can be seen in part of the road.

The orignal road surface revealed

It is interesting to see what once constituted the road surface in Lime Street. The digger is scooping up the setts, noisily shaking them about to remove all the excess debris, and then piling them high at the side of the road.

Digging up the setts
Setts piled up

But the other thing this work seems to be exposing is some of the old tramlines on Lime Street. Disused for seventy years and probably unseen for almost as long the tramlines have been uncovered by the digging.

Some of the tramlinse
Further tramlines opposite the ABC Cinema

What will happen to the old tramlines? Presumably the old setts are going to be sold off or possibly reused somewhere by the Council. I don’t know what you do with old tramlines, but it is interesting to see them, and interesting to reflect on what lies below the surface of our streets.

Ghost sign, Berry Street, Liverpool

Ghost sign Berry Street

Driving through the maze of roadworks in Liverpool my eye caught this ‘ghost sign’ on the end of a building in Berry Street. It was revealed when the building next door was demolished last year. It’s an intriguing glimpse into the past.

It’s interesting because, although it is quite clear, it isn’t complete either and is not all that simple to date. Outdoor what? Prices? It’s hard to make out. Are these prices for single bottles of pints or half-pints or are they for bulk purchases? Certainly it is a brewery sign, but because the whole sign is not legible it is hard to tell what exactly is being offered. Over 2 shillings for a pint of beer seems very high for the 1960s, which really is the latest this could date from.

The fact that it mentions the beer (if it is beer) is ‘supplied in screw stoppered bottles’ suggests a much earlier date than the 1960s. Who in the 1960s made an advertising feature of ‘screw stoppered bottles’? In fact this detail suggests a much older date for the sign. Screw stoppered bottles were invented in 1872 by Henry Barrett and used for over 100 years. Made of ‘vulcanite’, or vulcanised rubber, they must have made the portability of beers and other liquids remarkably simple. Nicola White, who has made a lot of interesting videos about her mudlarking on the Thames, has found many examples of these type of bottle tops and has written a very interesting article about them here.

The surviving artwork makes the advertisement look quite old. The gold frame that surrounds the message suggests, to me at least, an early date, pre-First World War possibly. In this case the prices must be for bulk purchases. It is a pity the top of the advertiement is missing, but a fascinating piece of history nonetheless.

The view along the road

The picture is taken on the corner of Roscoe Lane. Peeping above what was once the pub/hotel which bears the sign is the top of Liverpool Cathedral. On the right you can see what was once Great George Street Chapel, you can read more about that building on this blog here.

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Doors

Having reached the letter ‘D’ in our alphabetical survey we look at ‘Doors’.

Doors are both highly symbolic and completely essential for our meeting-houses. In this service we look at the doors we find in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

In religious art perhaps the most famous image of a door is that found in William Holman Hunt’s Light of the World:

Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. Manchester Version. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons

A more ornate image than the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church doors that appear in today’s film. An image inspired by the reading used in today’s service:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation ch.3 v.20.

What meaning can we find in the doors of our churches, what can they tell us of our attitudes and faith?

Sunday Service. The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Doors. Click on the video to see today’s service – after 9.45 am on Sunday, 18th July 2021

Today’s service comes from Dunmurry. The pianist is Allen Yarr who plays Ye holy angels bright (Church Hymnary 39) Yield not to temptation (Church Hymnary 704) and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, by J.S. Bach. The reading is Revelation ch.3 v.20-22.

All the doors mentioned in the video can be seen on my Non-Subscribing Presbyterian History blog beginning here: Portals to a Liberal Faith

And remember each week we will upload a new video that will go live on Sundays at 9.45 am. The services can be found on our YouTube channel. Click here to see the videos

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Collecting Ladles

Collecting the Offering in a Scottish Kirk by John Phillip, 1855. (Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. York Museums Trust)

At first sight it might seem strange to select Collecting Ladles as the subject for letter ‘C’ in our alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. But Collecting Ladles formed a fairly essential part of church life for Presbyterians in Ireland and Scotland for generations. In some places they are still in use today but often aren’t recognized by those outside the Scots-Irish Presbyterian community. The above picture perfectly illustrates their use in a church in Scotland. It is a delightful image, although the people in the pew being asked for their offering seem to display something of the modern concept of the ‘messy church’ more than anything else. But collecting ladles also lead us into questions of giving and the stewardship of resources.

To see the service click on the above video after 9.45 am on Sunday, 11th July

Our service today is filmed in Downpatrick. Church organist Laura Patterson plays the hymns God has spoken to his people’ (Mission Praise 182) and How can I keep from singing (Hymns for Living 133/Mission Praise 1210). The reading is 2 Corinthians ch.9 v.6-8.

Eighteenth-century collecting ladle Downpatrick (two ladles from Ballee at the top of the page)

The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Bible

In this service we look at some Bibles that also give us a hint of the historical identity of Non-Subscribing Presbyterians.

All Souls’ Church, Belfast possesses a number of very interesting Bibles, including one printed by the printer James Blow in Belfast in the early eighteenth cnetury. We look at the Clough Bible of 1793 as well as Bibles that belonged to Rev Alexander Gordon and Rev James Martineau.

The Clough Bible, dated 1793

Clough’s old Bible was presented to the church by the first minister in the new meeting- house of 1837, some 44 years after it was printed in Edinburgh. The inscription, which is shown in today’s video, emphasises the Rev David Watson’s belief that the Non-Subscribing church represented contuity with the original congregation or, as he styled them, ‘the Members of the New Presbyterian House of Worship in Clough’.

We also look at a Bible that once belonged to the Rev Alexander Gordon. You can discover more about him in this video. But this Bible stands out because it is the Revised Version of 1881-1885 (the New Testament was brought out first in 1881) ‘Newly Edited by the American Revision Committee’ in 1901 and published in New York.

Alexander Gordon’s signature on the title page

Another Bible is one that once belonged to Rev James Martineau when he was minister of Eustace Street in Dublin from 1828 to 1832. There is some information about James Martineau on this blog here. He left Eustace Street after only a short ministry but judging by the date of this Bible, 1818, and the fact that it was discovered in Ireland, it seems likely that it was one he used in this ministry in Dublin. All this and more can be found in today’s service.

Click on the video to see the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 4th July)

Filmed in Ballee, Downpatrick and Clough Ballee organist John Strain plays the hymns I am not worthy Holy Lord (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 384) and Just as I am (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 268). The reading is from Acts ch.8 v.26-40. The service is conducted by Rev Dr David Steers.

Faith and Freedom Spring and Summer 2021

The latest issue of Faith and Freedom (Spring and Summer 2021, Number 192) has just been published.

Cover, Issue 192

Our cover features a striking image that is a piece of ‘discovered art’. A picture by an unknown New Zealand artist which complements so well Wayne Facer’s book A Vision Splendid: The Influential Life of William Jellie, A British Unitarian in New Zealand, which has recently gone into its second edition. The picture also appears on the cover of that book. This publication is the subject of an extensive essay and review by Graham Murphy. In Unitarianism in New Zealand: Essay and Review he uncovers the origins of Unitarianism in New Zealand through the exertions of British and Irish expatriates, most notably Moneyreagh-born William Jellie, and their relationship with Maori culture and the development of the colony right up to the devastating impact of the First World War.

Memorial to Robert and Dermot Neill in Holywood Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Colin Walker writes about The commemoration of three Ulster Unitarians who died at the Somme: Captain James Samuel Davidson, Lieutenant James Dermot Neill and Second Lieutenant Ernest George Boas. They were all the sons of prominent Ulster businessmen, all served in the 36th ‘Ulster’ Division and all were commemorated by plaques created by Ulster artist Rosamond Praeger who was herself a Unitarian and probably knew all three of them personally. All were caught up in the Home Rule Crisis immediately before the war and all of them signed the Ulster Covenant, including Ernest Boas who was Jewish by descent but brought up in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Dr Walker skilfully unpacks the connections between them and also Rosamond Praeger (who like Ernest Boas was also from an originally Jewish family) and reflects on their faith and their legacy.

Rev Frank Walker

In Incarnation: the Supernaturalist Story and the Humanitarian Story, a sermon originally preached in Cambridge, Frank Walker assesses the way the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation can be understood in the light of humanity’s repeated cruelty and excesses, seen most notably in the Holocaust. Despite the obvious problems he finds reason to be optimistic: ‘Incarnation is a continuing reality. Creative energy is forever expressing itself in all the glorious and stupendous variety of life on earth and in the whole universe. And life, which often seems so fragile and vulnerable, subject to catastrophes and extinctions, is so tenacious and adaptable, and is constantly renewing itself’.

William Ellery Channing by Henry Cheever Pratt 1857. (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

A Chautauqua performance is ‘a uniquely American dramatic format’ in which is portrayed an individual historic figure, ‘as if returning to life to address the audience’. Back in the Spring and Summer issue of Faith and Freedom in 2019 Kevin Murphy provided us with a Chautauqua performance concerning Francis David. In this issue he does the same for one of the most prominent American Unitarian theologians in history. An Appearance of William Ellery Channing: A Chautauqua Performance is a wonderfully insightful exploration of the theology that Channing came to espouse in the context of the circumstances of his life.

Books Reviewed

Martin Camroux (foreword by David R. Peel), Keeping Alive the Rumor of God: When Most People are Looking the Other Way, WIPF & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2020, pp 204, ISBN 978-1-7252-6241-6, £20 pbk.

Accessing a reliable grounding in wonder

Reviewed by BOB JANIS DILLON

Bert Clough, Dancing with Mortality: Reflections of a Lapsed Atheist, Bert Clough, Newbury, England, 2020, pp 111, ISBN 978-1-8381695- 0-3, £10 pbk.

Finding truth through the lives of ‘great souls’

Reviewed by JIM CORRIGALL

Marcus Braybrooke, Meeting Jewish Friends and Neighbours, Marcus Braybrooke, 17 Courtiers Green, Abingdon, OX14 3EN, marcusbraybrooke4@gmail.com, 2020, pp 225, ISBN 9798564270243, £12.50 post free.

A comprehensive analysis of Jewish faith and life

Reviewed by PETER GODFREY

Wayne Facer, Prophet at the Gate. Norman Murray Bell and the Quest for Peace, Blackstone Editions, Toronto, 2021, ISBN 9781775355656, $25 NZD pbk.

Norman Murray Bell – Pacifist and anti-war campaigner in New Zealand

Reviewed by GRAHAM MURPHY

Catherine Robinson (ed.), Fragments of Holiness, The Lindsey Press, London, 2019, pp 205, ISBN 978-0-85319-091-2, £9 pbk.

An anthology for daily use

Reviewed by LENA COCKROFT

Cliff Reed. Beyond Darkness Words for Reflection, Lindsey Press, London, pp 134, ISBN 978-0-85319-095-0, £9 pbk.

Waking up to the Divine within you

Reviewed by DAVID STEERS

An annual subscription for each volume (two issues) costs £15.00 (postage included) in the United Kingdom. Single copies can be ordered at a cost of £8.00 each (postage included). Cheques should be made out to Faith and Freedom and sent to the business manager:

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Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
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The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism: Abernethy

This week we begin a new series of videos. The A to Z of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism will be an alphabetical exploration of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, looking at its identity and ethos through items and ideas possessed by its churches.

John Abernethy

I say at the start that this will not be a succession of biographical accounts of outstanding individuals – and I will stick to that. However, that is exactly where I have to start with John Abernethy (1680-1740). It is hard to avoid him and would be a mistake to do so, he is such a remarkable and crucial figure. Among other things he was minister at Antrim (see picture at the top of this page).

Click on the above video to join in the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 27th June)

The service is filmed in Ballee where John Strain plays the church’s Carnegie organ and features the hymns When morning gilds the skies (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 26) and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 158). The reading is Romans ch.14 v.5-9 which is the passage that inspired Abernethy’s famous sermon of 1719 on Religious Obedience Founded on Personal Persuasion.

The title page of Abernethy’s published sermon of 1719

The Lord’s my Shepherd

This week’s service comes from Clough and makes use of the Bible presented to the Church in 1837 by the Rev David Watson. Published in Edinburgh in 1793 it is a symbol of the continuity of the congregation going back to before the split that took place into subscribing and non-subscribing congregations in the period 1829 – 1837.

We focus on the 23rd Psalm, that ancient hymn that means so much to so many people. Probably the best known portion of the Scriptures in every age. During the service church organist Alfie McClelland plays The Lord’s my Shepherd (Crimond) and The Lord my pasture shall prepare.

Click on the above video to watch the service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 20th June)

Rev William Hamilton Drummond

Today’s worship, from Ballee, incorporates the second in our series that looks at significant Non-Subscribing Presbyterians in history. Today’s subject is William Hamilton Drummond who was born in Larne in 1778 and died in Dublin in 1865.

Drummond had a long and multi-faceted career. As a young man he supported the 1798 Rebellion and as a student at Glasgow University first turned his hand to verse, producing poems that supported the aims of the United Irishman. Leaving Glasgow without a degree he nevertheless progressed towards the ministry and was called to Belfast’s Second Congregation (see picture above) in 1800. In Belfast, as a minister, he was at the heart of the city’s educational, commercial, cultural and religious life. He produced a number of epic poems. Many of these now extolled the virtues of the Union of 1801 with Great Britain whilst the most famous of all was The Giant’s Causeway, published in 1811.

William Hamilton Drummond

In 1815 he was a candidate for the Chair of Logic and Belles Lettres at the Belfast Academical Institution. When he was unsuccessful, because so many of the electors were members of his own congregation who did not wish to see him leave, he left Belfast for Dublin instead, where he commenced a ministry of fifty years in which he achieved further notability as a theological controversialist, a biographer and a supporter of the rights of animals.

Sunday Worship, Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Click on the video above after 9.45 am on Sunday, 13th June 2021

The service comes from Ballee. The reading is from Psalm 8 and is given by Mary Stewart at Downpatrick. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Come sing praises to the Lord (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 113), Lord the light of your love is shining (Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook 621). Also played is Father I place into your hands.

The Rights of Animals. Published in London 1838.

Flow, LAGAN flow – though close thy banks of green,

Though in the picture of the world unseen…

Flow on fair stream – thy gathering waves expand,

And greet with joy the Athens of the land;

Through groves of masts thick crowding o’er thy tide,

A new Ilissus, roll in classic pride.

From The Giant’s Causeway, A Poem 1811

Murland Mausoleum, Clough

Churches in County Down are replete with interesting ancient mausolea and tombs and this is especially true in the area around Lecale, most particularly amongst the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches, and the churchyard at Downpatrick, for instance, alone has eight or nine large tombs of different designs.

But the most celebrated Mausoleum of all is at Clough.

A view of the now restored Murland Mausoleum at Clough

The Murland Mausoleum was built in about 1860 by a family who were closely connected to the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian congregation at Clough for generations. The Murland family were wealthy local mill owners, they lived at Ardnabannon and it is thought that the architect who designed their house also designed the family mausoleum. This was Thomas Turner, a Dublin-born architect who began his career as an assistant to Charles Lanyon in Belfast and who had a long and productive career designing buildings all over Ireland including Stormont Castle and Coleraine Town Hall.

But it is very clear when you look at the Murland Mausoleum that this was the work of someone steeped in the designs of classical architecture and particularly ancient funerary architecture. The inverted torch is used in Christian iconography to represent the resurrection and the eternal life of the soul. But it actually goes back to ancient Greece where it represented Thanatos the Greek god of death.

It is a very rich design.

Professor James Stevens Curl describes it as

something one might expect to find in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise or in one of the great American cemeteries, rather than in a small rural churchyard in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society list describes the mausoleum as ‘the phenomenal Murland vault of about 1860, furnished with all the pompe funebre of the classical manner, with trimmings.’

For local schoolchildren it is a place well-known for decades as somewhere where the bravest of them could stand near the open grill and peer in at the coffins resting in the dusty gloom.

As such an old structure the building was gradually becoming in need of restoration and to see this done the church was able to partner with the experience and expertise of the Follies Trust, a body set up in 2006 to help, in their own words, with ‘the conservation, preservation, restoration and protection, in their original setting, of mausolea and monuments; follies; grottoes; garden buildings and other structures of particular beauty or historic, environmental, architectural or industrial significance.’

At the church we were very pleased to welcome local expert Dr Finbar McCormick of Queen’s University, Belfast who gave a fascinating talk on the history and development of memorials to the dead in Ireland and beyond, looking at the influence of the Reformation and classical ideas.

This was a prelude to the work being done on the mausoleum. A number of specialists have looked at the building, and the job of restoring the structure was given to Noel Killen, noted for his work in restoring the nearby Mill at Ballydugan.

Work on the restoration getting under way

Generally, considering its great age, the building was in good shape but there was lots to be done to make the structure fully watertight and secure again for the future. Stonework that had crumbled had to be replaced. The iron work in the grills and the heavy door had to be conserved. They were also repainted in the original colour, which had largely long faded from view.

Work commenced in August 2019 and was completed within a few months. To mark the completion of this work and the collaboration that was involved we planned a special service of celebration with representatives of the Follies Trust and others, but this wasn’t to be. Like so many other plans it fell foul of the pandemic and couldn’t be held. But the important thing is that this striking and unique structure is now restored and fit to last for another 160 years.

Short video telling the story of the restoration of the Mausoleum