Liverpool City Centre - St Nick's

boyracer76 at ... boyracer76 at ...
Thu Oct 13 12:23:04 BST 2005

Taken from

AFTER the tower of Liverpool Parish Church fatally crashed - literally and
metaphorically - into the city's history books, the wardens were taking no
chances with its successor.
The present tower of Our Lady and St Nicholas, completed in 1815, has just
undergone a £110,000 restoration. This not only prepares it for another
two centuries, but marks its designation as a memorial to 800 years of
Mersey seamen. It will be rededicated on December 11.
Now named the Landmark Tower, it was for centuries the city's tallest
structure, the first and last sight for sailors arriving and leaving the
port. Since Edwardian times it has been overlooked, but never
overshadowed, by the new Pier Head buildings.
During its lifetime, the church, widely referred to as St Nick's, has been
blitzed by German bombs, bulldozed, dismissed as worthless by a bishop and
its congregation suffered from the city's population changes.
Yet Our Lady and St Nicholas's church, seated on its perch above the
corner of Chapel Street and George's Dock Gate, on Liverpool's Strand,
survives in fighting form, still a beacon for the city into the new
The church's regular congregation of around 100 souls raised a £10,000
donation towards the tower's restoration.
The magnificent 4ft 4in wide sailing ship weather vane (called the
Donnelly in Liverpool folklore) was regilded for £500 with 23 carat gold
courtesy of a parishioner.
It is believed that this is the original weather vane from the 1746 spire
and 1500 tower which collapsed on February 11, 1810, as morning service
was about to begin, killing 25 people, mostly teenage girls. If the
weather vane is the original, this makes it the oldest surviving artefact
on the riverfront.

David Brazendale, church warden and tower restoration project manager,
says: "We had the tower inspected about four years ago to check on the
toll that nearly two centuries of weather and pollution had taken on it.
"Work started in May, undertaken by specialist masons, Maybank's of
Oldham. The tower appeal was opened last December and money came from a
wide variety of sources, including church funds, heritage sources and
other Liverpool organisations like Merseyside Police and fire brigade.
"The congregation were very generous and we also had substantial anonymous
donations. This must be due to the huge affection that people hold for
this church, not only in Liverpool, but around the world. The congregation
comes from as far away as New Brighton and Ainsdale. I come from Crosby.
The revival in city centre living has also helped us.
"Neither are we an old congregation - last Sunday 20 children attended.
"Whose idea it was to dedicate the Landmark Tower to Liverpool's merchant
seamen depends on whether you ask me or my wife Hilary."
Following the closure of many central Roman Catholic churches, it also
hosts an RC mass at lunchtime on Fridays. In spite of that grim morning
195 years ago, St Nick's is a haven of tranquillity.
Mr Brazendale says: "We're hoping to develop as a cultural, artistic and
social centre that is a real factor in the life of the city, as churches
were in medieval times."

OUR Lady and St Nicholas church was reconsecrated 53 years ago this coming
weekend, on the Feast of St Luke, October 18, 1952.
The church had been gutted by fire over the night of December 20-21, 1940,
although the tower and offices (built in 1927) survived.
Rebuilding was opposed by the then Bishop of Liverpool, who believed that
postwar congregation numbers did not warrant a new church.
The congregation raised the £25,000 for work to begin on the new,
neo-gothic church in 1949, designed by Edward C Butler, with extensive oak
carving and sculpture by Herbert Tyson Smith.
Early history is very shadowy, but it is likely that there has been a
place of worship on the site of Our Lady & St Nicholas since Liverpool
gained its charter from King John in 1207.
Chapel Street can be dated from 1257 and a small chapel, dedicated to St
Mary del Key probably stood on the site of the present tower, overlooking
a river quay, from 1364. This was extended piecemeal through the 1500s and
then several times more. The late medieval tower had a spire added in 1746
as a navigational aid, but immediately started to cause stability
There were several inquiries into its safety, but nothing was done. It is
believed that the bell-ringing on Sunday, February 11, 1810, finally
caused it to topple over into the nave (the church's main body).
The 25 people who were killed were mostly girls under 15 years old from
Moorefields Charity School.
The new tower, designed by the leading architect, Thomas Harrison, of
Chester (who also designed Liverpool's Lyceum Club), was erected between
1811-15. With its delicate, traceried stone lantern, it is one of northern
England's most attractive ecclesiastical structures, holding its own
against the bigger bulk of the Royal Liver Building towers.


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