St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Rodney Street, Liverpool

One of the most impressive church buildings surviving from the first half of the nineteenth century in Liverpool is undoubtedly St Andrew’s Church of Scotland on Rodney Street. These days it is really little more than a façade but it is remarkable that so much has survived given its turbulent history since the congregation left in 1975 and the fact that it was virtually in ruins for many years.

Rodney Street view front from right 02 cropped

There were plans, at one point, for the building to become a library for one of the universities which would have been a very good usage for such an imposing and well sited building. But that didn’t happen and one of the towers was demolished as the whole building faced complete destruction at one point. The tower had to be re-instated, which is just as well, and the shell of the church now houses flats. Fortunately, this means that St Andrew’s is maintained in the streetscape of Rodney Street, you can still enjoy the dramatic vista looking along this Georgian street, now with the Anglican Cathedral standing at the conclusion of the view.

Rodney Street vista

It is one of the few surviving buildings designed by local architect John Foster junior and never fails to impress with its massive ionic columns. There were a great number of churches in Liverpool which were built by Scottish immigrants to the city but St Andrew’s was by far the most prominent and long-lasting of those affiliated with the Church of Scotland.

Rodney Street view front from left

It was opened for worship in December 1824 and the first minister was the Rev David Thom who was called as minister to a breakaway group from the original Church of Scotland on Oldham Street in 1823. The congregation met initially in the former Music Hall on Bold Street but even before they had moved to their grand new church doctrinal divisions had become apparent and, unable to remove Mr Thom, the congregation had called another minister as colleague. By June 1825 Thom was being charged with deviating from the Westminster Confession and was subsequently removed from his charge by the Presbytery of Glasgow. Rev David Thom DD, PhD was a Universalist and he went back to the old Music Hall on Bold Street with his followers and founded what he termed the Berean-Universalist Church, eventually building his own chapel on Crown Street in 1851. ‘Universalist’ was a reference to the belief that all people would eventually be saved, and Berean an allusion to the people of Beroea (Acts ch.17 v.11) who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (RSV).

Everyone with an interest in the religious history of Liverpool owes a debt to David Thom for his book Liverpool Churches and Chapels which began life as a series of lectures – Liverpool Churches and Chapels; their destruction, removal or alteration; with notices of clergymen, ministers and others – delivered to the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, of which society he was a Vice-President. He died in 1862 but the original Liverpool congregation of which he had briefly been minister continued in Rodney Street and then subsequently met in Liverpool Cathedral until closure a few years ago. A recent tablet attached to the front of the old church records their existence.

Rodney Street front gates

Main entrance

Rodney Street base of pillar

The base of one of the columns

Rodney Street surviving cupola

The surviving original tower

Rodney Street Sunday School

Former Sunday School rooms

Rodney Street pyramid

The pyramid tomb of William Mackenzie in the graveyard

Rodney Street view front from right

 

Seven Churches in Liverpool in 1859 viewed from the air

Glen Huntley has posted another fascinating and informative piece on his blog, this time about three houses which once stood close to the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. These are Elm House, Chapelville and Cooper’s Folly. All three houses long disappeared to make way for the Victorian Tram Sheds and the later twentieth-century extension. The Tram Sheds themselves were demolished in 1993. But you can read Glen Huntley’s excellent post here:

https://theprioryandthecastironshore.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/robert-griffiths-toxteth-park-elm-house-chapelville-and-coopers-folly/

William Roscoe, the famous Unitarian and abolitionist is believed to have lived at Elm House, although his connection with this particular house doesn’t seem to have been proved conclusively. The ‘Dingle’ was the inspiration for one of his poems and he certainly did live locally at one point. He was definitely a member of the Ancient Chapel as well, I have the original ‘call’ issued to the Rev John Porter in 1827 and it includes William Roscoe’s signature.

But another thing Glen incorporates into this post is some detail from an aerial view of Liverpool by John R. Isaac in 1859 and published in New York. This is a view from a hot air balloon and can be viewed on the Library of Congress site at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g5754l.ct007678/?r=0.035,0.095,1.051,0.668,0

The image is fully zoomable and gives some remarkable detail of the city in the middle of the nineteenth century. The city without the cathedrals, the Liver Buildings and some other landmarks has a different look to it and it is not always easy to find your way about. However, Glen has found the Ancient Chapel and Elm House, Chapelville and Cooper’s Folly and includes an annotated close up of that part of the picture similar to this one:

Ancient Chapel from air

The tall church on the right is St Paul’s Church which is another place I intend to return to on this blog at some point. (The Ancient Chapel can be seen in the bottom left hand corner behind the stage coach).

But looking at the map I discovered another group of churches in Liverpool which must be a unique image of some long-lost buildings.

If you zoom in to the centre of the picture (and it is amazing how much detail can be uncovered there) you get this view:

Hope Street from air

It’s interesting because it shows a collection of now almost all vanished churches still clean and complete: unstained by the smoke and pollution that would gradually turn their stone work black and still with their towers and steeples.

At the centre of this scene is Hope Street Unitarian Church. Once the church of James Martineau and demolished in the 1960s. I blogged about Hope Street on a number of occasions but primarily here:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-church-on-hope-street/

and according to the statistics one of the most frequently read pages on this blog.

Behind Hope Street you can see Myrtle Street Baptist Church, the church of Hugh Stowell Brown (soon to be the subject of a new biography). I have written about that church here:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/hugh-stowell-brown-and-myrtle-street-chapel/

and again it is interesting to see a church looking clean and bright when every photograph of it shows it as black and grimy. The same is true of Canning Street Presbyterian Church in the bottom right hand corner of the image, also demolished in the 1960s and now the site of a modern German Church. To the left of this church is the Catholic Apostolic Church, still with its tower in place, a remarkable building, burnt down in the 1980s.

The long building without a tower in the bottom left corner is St Bride’s Church of England, still there today. St Bride’s can be seen in a rare film of 1901 on the BFI Player. Although the church is not identified it clearly is St Bride’s:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-liverpool-church-parade-and-inspection-1901-1901-online

In the top left hand corner you can see Rodney Street Church of Scotland, a building saved from destruction but now flats, and just in front is St Philip’s Church Hardman Street, a ‘cast iron’ church like St Michael’s in the Hamlet which disappeared inside another building in 1882 only to be partly uncovered again when that building was knocked down in 2017! You can read about that remarkable discovery on this very interesting blog:

https://liverpool1207blog.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/st-philips-church-hardman-st-liverpool-1816-2017/

But seven accurate looking representations of different churches, only two of which still exist, taken from a hot air balloon in 1859.