Further reflections on Lime Street

I was back on Lime Street about ten or eleven days after the previous post (Digging up History on Lime Street). Lime Street is most notable for a number of things: the railway station that bears its name and, of course, St George’s Hall.

A pensive and solitary Benjamin Disraeli emerges from the classical splendour of St George’s Hall

But as I went past the road works I noticed that all the setts/cobbles had been removed as well as the old tram lines. I also noticed that a very deep hole had been dug in the road.

Stopping to take a picture a voice from behind me asked ‘Are you in the habit of taking pictures of large holes in the road?’ It was one of the work men who seemed pleased that someone was photographing their handiwork. He and his colleague explained that all the setts had been taken away to be re-used by the Council and that the tramlines had been taken away for scrap. They were widening the pavement, adding a cycle lane and – inevitably – narrowing the road. The hole, apparently, was to allow the planting of trees which would form a barrier between the cycle lane and the road.

Further up the road, in front of Lime Street Station, they have already planted trees and I suppose these will be something similar:

There are a lot of road works going on and safer and well-landscaped roads can only be an improvement but I can’t help wondering what they expect to happen to the current volume of traffic. In the meantime the streets are busy with diggers, barriers and cordons:

St George’s Hall

Looking along Lime Street towards St George’s Hall
Detail of St George’s Hall, by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes

Sunday Service, from Oxford

Merton Street, looking towards Canterbury Gate
Today’s online Sunday service comes from Oxford (click on the video above after 9.45 am on Sunday, 15th August 2021)

Our service is filmed in Oxford and features some of the well-known as well as some lesser-known sights of Oxford. Sue Steers reads Psalm 96 and Jenny Narramore shares an important part of College life in Christ Church. We also have a short reading from ex-slave and abolitionist’s autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Our organists play five hymns: Thine be the glory, John Strain, Ballee; Be still for the presence of the Lord, Laura Patterson Downpatrick; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Alfie McClelland, Clough; How deep the Father’s love, Allen Yarr, Dunmurry; Blest are the pure in heart, John Strain, Ballee.

View across the Meadows to Christ Church
Mercury, Tom Quad

Oxford

As a visual experience Oxford never disappoints. As the seasons change, as the weather or the light changes even in a single day, so the buildings repay careful scrutiny, with the colours of the stone reflecting the sun, the rain, a glowering sky or the bright blue backdrop of recent sunny days. There are less tourists now. Even the lure of Harry Potter and Inspector Morse are no longer sufficient to cram the streets with eager faces, although the city is busy enough despite the pandemic.

But here are a few images I took recently over a couple of days.

The Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren
Tom Quad at Christ Church, with more work from Sir Christopher Wren in Tom Tower
Peckwater Quad, Christ Church
View of the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College from the University Church
Statue of Cardinal Wolsey, Christ Church (Photo: Sue Steers)
Fireplace in Christ Church Hall. The elongated necks on the brass figures on either side of the fire are said to have inspired one of the scenes in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Lewis Carroll was a Student (ie Fellow) of Christ Church
Cardinal’s hats on gates at Christ Church
Cloisters at Christ Church Cathedral, with organ playing in the Cathedral. A short video (49 seconds)

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

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

Rev Alexander Gordon

Our worship today comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is the first in a new series considering significant Non-Subscribers from history.

Alexander Gordon was born in Coventry on 9th June 1841 and died in Belfast on 21st February 1931. A self-styled Englishman by birth, Scotsman by education and an Irishman by inclination Alexander Gordon was the foremost historian of religious dissent in the British Isles whose influence is still recognized today.

Alexander Gordon arriving at Dunmurry, 18th January 1931

I’ve mentioned before the above photograph of Alexander Gordon, (click here to see the original post) the last known picture of him, arriving at Dunmurry to take the service in 1931 and this and many other images are used in the video for today’s service.

Click on the video to see the latest service (from 9.45 am on Sunday, 16th May 2021)

The service is recorded in Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reader is Carol Nixon who reads Psalm 100 and the organist is John Strain who plays the hymns Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 478) and Fairest Lord Jesus (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 19). Also played at the beginning and end of the service are As the deer pants and Who is on the Lord’s side.

As well as the images connected with Alexander Gordon the film includes video of the eighteenth-century roof beams of Ballee Church constructed from Memel pine.

Memorial in First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast

Over the course of a long career Gordon was minister of a number of congregations in England and Ireland and was Principal of the Unitarian College, Manchester and lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Manchester, in what was then the first free faculty of Theology in Britain. He was also a renowned historian who travelled all over Europe in the course of his work. He regularly travelled between England and Ireland, even throughout the First World War, and always travelled from wherever he was to Dunmurry in order to attend the twice yearly communion services there. He also travelled across Europe visiting record offices and archives – most notably in Poland, Hungary and Transylvania – at a time when such visits were rare and logistically difficult. This is referenced in the service. His researches, whose subject matter stretched over centuries and many areas of religious life, link us with the past and with his life. They set us in context and in time.

Time

Time is the feather’d thing,
And, whilst I praise
The sparklings of thy looks and call them rays,
Takes wing,
Leaving behind him as he flies
An unperceived dimness in thine eyes.
His minutes, whilst they’re told,
Do make us old;
And every sand of his fleet glass,
Increasing age as it doth pass,
Insensibly sows wrinkles there
Where flowers and roses do appear.
Whilst we do speak, our fire
Doth into ice expire,
Flames turn to frost;
And ere we can
Know how our crow turns swan,
Or how a silver snow
Springs there where jet did grow,
Our fading spring is in dull winter lost.
Since then the Night hath hurl’d
Darkness, Love’s shade,
Over its enemy the Day, and made
The world
Just such a blind and shapeless thing
As ’twas before light did from darkness spring,
Let us employ its treasure
And make shade pleasure:
Let ‘s number out the hours by blisses,
And count the minutes by our kisses;
Let the heavens new motions feel
And by our embraces wheel;
And whilst we try the way
By which Love doth convey
Soul unto soul,
And mingling so
Makes them such raptures know
As makes them entranced lie
In mutual ecstasy,
Let the harmonious spheres in music roll!


Jasper Mayne (1604-1672)

Faith guided by Reason

Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (1837)

Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The reading for our service today, from Clough, comes from the 4th chapter of Ephesians.

Click on the video to see this week’s service (after 9.45 am on Sunday, 9th May)

The service is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers with the reading being given by Elsie Nelson. Church organist Alfie McClelland plays the hymns Immortal Love, forever full (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 84) and The Lord my pasture shall prepare (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 88) also played at the start and end of the service are Sun of my soul and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Also uploaded this week is this short video, a Prayer for Spring:

Filmed in the grounds of Dunmurry Church

Roscoe Gardens – cause for concern

The congregational memorial in 2019

In July 2019 I published a post about Roscoe Gardens, Mount Pleasant in Liverpool, a little-known green space near Liverpool city centre. It is the site of the burial ground of Renshaw Street Chapel and the home of a memorial to the chapel and its members including such notable figures as William Roscoe and Joseph Blanco White. You can see the original post here. In the last year this has become one of the two most frequently visited posts on this blog, the other being Croft Unitarian Chapel to which I hope to return in the near future.

Memorial to William Roscoe

The reason for the frequency of views of the Roscoe Gardens post has been a developing abuse of the site that has seen scant disregard for for its importance to the city and its status as a burial ground and memorial.

Inscription on the memorial

On the evening of Friday, 30th April the Rev Phil Waldron went to Roscoe Gardens in his clerical robes to kneel in prayer at the congregational memorial to highlight this ongoing problem. In solidarity with his stand I am pleased to publish his press release below which explains all the issues. Let us all pray that this leads to some action by Liverpool City Council:

Rev Phil Waldron kneels in prayer in Roscoe Gardens, Friday, 30th April 2021

Statement from Rev Phil Waldron and the Unitarian community in Liverpool:

Since July 2020 Liverpool City Council has been complicit in the desecration of the graves of many of our city’s citizens and the gifting of an entire public park to a private business. Since July 2020 Roscoe Gardens has been locked off, and public access removed and denied, consistently by the business operating in the space.

Roscoe Gardens is not just a public park, but a Unitarian burial ground and needs to be treated with the basic levels of decency, dignity and respect that is not only presumed human moral basics but also obligations under the law of the local authority.

The council have allowed a marquee structure of such vast size, it should be subject to planning requirements, to be erected over and pegged into the graves of those interred on the site.

The Listed memorial of William Roscoe, one of the first abolitionists is currently in a state of disrepair, as is the green space of the park itself. Members of the Unitarian congregation are being denied their right to pay their respects to those interred at the site. Members of the local community, including the elderly and those less able of body, have been deprived of their nearest greenspace during a pandemic and lockdown.

The structure erected by the business is directly adjacent to, and outside of peoples homes. Families of children have had nothing short of months of misery, endured by the obscene and lurid content matter of the ‘entertainment’ blasted directly into their homes, let alone the anti-social behaviour of customers.

This is nothing short of an affront to those buried in the ground beneath them, including founders of the Temperance movement.

As B G Orchard once wrote, “… no group of men has so manifested far-sighted appreciation of great questions affecting social wellbeing of the town or worked with more dogged ardour to promote national education, public parks, free libraries and museums… at present Renshaw Street Chapel is probably the greatest political force in our midst.” –

we are shocked Liverpool City Council sees fit to allow the graves of these people who built the socialist foundations of our city, to be desecrated and ran into disrepair, in such a way.

Liverpool City Councillors and Officers, and even our local MP, have been made aware of ongoing complaints since August 2020 and failed to act. In fact, to this date, Liverpool City Council have ignored every reference to desecration to the graves made, and to this date, not one single Councillor or Officer has had the foresight to contact the Unitarian Church, not only to apologise, but to seek the permission they are obliged to, for use of the space, as set out under the Burial Act.

The business operator has shown no willingness to listen to the community and currently only allows access to the space if a petition is signed in support of their continued occupation of consecrated ground. The business has also consistently breached the terms of the Land Use Agreement they had with the council, and evidence has been provided, again consistently, to the responsible officers and no action has been taken.

Liverpool City Council has failed in its duty to protect this sacred, public space and abandoned its commitment and obligations to respecting culture, faith and our city’s history.

We have asked several times for answers to the simple questions overleaf, and still await a response from the council. We are now demanding the immediate restoration of the dignity of those interred at the site and unfettered public access to the public park resumed.