Tuesday, 20 April 2010

St John & St James: more Liverpool at Risk

UPDATE May 7th

The church has, sadly, now been demolished; see SAVE link for pictures:


More Pathfinder madness as landmark Liverpool church is flattened.

Liverpool has just lost another important landmark building. St John and St James, a finely detailed and pleasingly quirky Edwardian church by James Francis Doyle, was demolished at the end of April, the victim of a deal struck between the Diocese of Liverpool and a property developer. The site, which is part of a Pathfinder 'regeneration' area, is to be developed as 16 dwellings.

The furnishings and fittings of the church were stripped out in advance of a listing inspection with many items sold at auction. The church, distinguished by its octagonal bell tower and good Gothic detailing, was a building of real quality in an area which has all but lost its identity and community. Even the leader of Liverpool Council recently conceded that the Pathfinder clearances had 'ripped the heart out of local communities'. Yet, his penitential words have come too late to prevent the tragic loss of St John and St James.

Further information can be seen on this dedicated website:

Save Bootle's Heritage; St John and St James Church http://www.monfaroad.info/

Original post:

I have been asked to give this campaign some publicity. So here it is.

A website and Facebook campaign have been set up in a last ditch attempt to save an historic Bootle church from demolition.

http://www.monfaroad.info/ (warning - the site has music, so if that's a problem, press the mute button)
Pictures, Youtube videos and a great deal of further history on the website.

The Church of St John and St James in Monfa Road, Orrell, was dedicated to two brothers, Sir John and Mr James Wilcox, who were proprietors and editors of the Daily Post and Echo.

Built in 1910 to the designs of Liverpool architect James Francis Doyle, the church also has a link to the famous Liver Buildings, whose designer was a pupil of Doyle. He worked with the celebrated Richard Norman Shaw on the White Star Line HQ on James Street, where news of the Titanic's sinking was first announced to a shocked world, and built the gold-domed Royal Insurance building on North John Street. 

Now the building has been stripped of its features and is facing the bulldozers, with planning permission granted by Sefton Council for 16 houses.

Conservation experts have criticised church authorities for abandoning heritage buildings to pursue land sell offs, and questioned English Heritage's decision not to grant emergency listing status by suggesting the Liverpool designer is 'not of national interest'.

Planning specialist Jonathan Brown from Merseyside Civic Society said:

"This church was the work of a man associated with some of Liverpool's finest mercantile buildings, and dedicated to the owner and editors of our great city newspapers, the Post and Echo. If English Heritage accept James Doyle is 'regionally important', from what is after all  World city, why isn't that of 'national interest', the criteria for listing? Would the same be true if the connection was with famous buildings and newspapers in London? Of course not - these are simply double-standards. It's one rule for Bootle and another for Bromley."

The website's designer Jonathan Wild, whose partner lived in the adjacent Klondyke terraced streets until recently moved out under the New Heartlands (Pathfinder) demolition scheme said:

"This is another case of a church losing its congregation to  a misguided clearance programme while the Diocese washes its hands of the building. As with the listed St. Cyprian's on Edge Lane and St.John's in Fairfield, church authorities have stood by while so called regeneration evicts families, draining community facilities of their life-blood. The result is loss of character and civic pride."

National campaign group SAVE Britain's Heritage have also expressed their alarm at the state of some churches in Liverpool's clearance areas. Secretary Will Palin said:

Bishop James Jones's chairmanship of the Stop the Rot campaign has given real focus to the city's historic environment, so it is very disappointing to see his Diocese still overseeing church closures that lead to demolition of well-loved local landmarks like this, and failing to speak out over the wasteful return to sixties style housing clearance."

For further information, contact SAVE http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/

Merseyside Civic Society has an excellent website:


The campaign:



Forum discussion:


As regular readers of this blog will know, SAVE has been concerned about destruction in Liverpool for many years. Last year it staged an acclaimed exhibition to highlight the neglect and destruction.

The review from the Indie is below.  This picture is of a small section of the exhibition at the milkand sugar gallery, Liverpool RIBA (click to enlarge):

The book which accompanied the exhibition is still available from SAVE:

Triumph, Disaster and Decay: The SAVE survey of Liverpool's Heritage

as is the SAVE Pathfinder report, which also features Liverpool, and which has of course been highlighted in this blog a number of times, especially with the campaign to save her home from the bulldozers by Elizabeth Pascoe.

see Publications


A comprehensive Flickr set, Lost Liverpool:



Triumph, Disaster and Decay, milkandsugar, Liverpool

Reviewed by Anthony Quinn

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

No city, with the possible exception of Jericho, has suffered such a dramatic collapse as Liverpool. Within 100 years, it has gone from being one of the wealthiest in the world to one of the poorest in Europe. The Second World War, the decline of its port trade and the rise of containerisation all figured in its economic perdition, to say nothing of its wildcat politicians and other wilful saboteurs – even in 1935, the Communist Party were calling the place “an organiser’s graveyard”.

Yet Liverpool’s agony has also been an internal one, witnessed by residents and visitors alike, in the unceasing destruction of its architectural heritage. A bomb-site necropolis long after the Luftwaffe had visited, the city began an extraordinary programme of self-mutilation, starting with the demolition of John Foster’s magnificent Customs House in 1947, despite the fact that its war damage was quite reparable. This story of a disappearing city, which continues to the present day, is chronicled in a superb exhibition of photographs, Triumph, Disaster and Decay, at the milkandsugar gallery.

Liverpool Customs House, demolished post-war a 'job creation' scheme

Laid out in two sections – the first an account of lost Liverpool, the second a report on those buildings under threat – its cumulative effect is at once heartbreaking and deeply shaming. That whole swaths of late-Georgian and early Victorian terraced houses still survived in suburbs such as Toxteth and Everton into the 1960s is almost as startling as the mass clearances that would soon condemn them. The city’s population crashed by half in the next 30 years. Jonathan Brown, in his catalogue essay “Liverpool Betrayed”, interestingly argues that the accepted history – people left because the docks closed – got it the wrong way round. The economy stalled because working people were cast out and marooned in distant housing estates.

Individual records of philistinism and neglect unfold across the gallery walls. Of the 19 churches in Everton described by Nikolaus Pevsner in 1969, only six remain. A photograph of Abercromby Square shows Foster’s church St Catherine’s, demolished in 1966 to make way for the university’s Senate House. More heartbreaking still is the fragment of wrought ironwork from a gallery inside the Old Sailors’ Home, a beautiful neo-Jacobean marvel senselessly destroyed in the 1970s.

The Old Sailors' Home

Canning Place, where it stood, itself no longer exists, swallowed up by the huge (and controversial) Paradise Street shopping centre, Liverpool One. It echoes another outrageous scarring, of elegant old Clayton Square, flattened to make way for another mall in 1986. By whose decree? The answer isn’t always clear, but a combination of rapacious property developers and incompetent councillors have usually done for it.

That legacy of near-criminal negligence seems to have been handed down through the DNA of Liverpool City Council. One might leave this exhibition feeling indignant and deeply depressed, for the disasters of the 1960s are returning, in the shape of the Government-sponsored Pathfinder schemes. Hearteningly, campaigns are being fought against further depredations. Elizabeth Pascoe still battles a road-widening scheme that would destroy 400 perfectly good family houses in and around Edge Lane.
(Alas, a battle now lost http://nemesisrepublic.blogspot.com/2010/02/elizabeth-pascoe-is-finally-evicted.html) Florence Gersten also continues a valiant rearguard against municipal vandalism, having helped to save the Lyceum building in Bold Street back in the 1980s. Save Britain’s Heritage itself deserves immense credit for supporting the fightback, and for mounting this exhibition, splendidly curated by Robert Hradsky.

Why does it matter? Because when you obliterate familiar buildings and street patterns, you cut people off from a sense of belonging. The writer Iain Sinclair recently described landscape as a “refracted autobiography”. If we keep losing that landscape, we lose our sense of self. It’s a bitter lesson that Liverpool, even after the infamy it has endured, still seems reluctant to learn.


Anonymous said...

I've come to this site from seeing Walter Richards painting of the Liverpool skyline in 1907, and wondering what the magnificent colonnaded building was on the dock road. I now know it was The Customs House. Its a massive shame if it didn't really need demolishing.

Paul B said...

Its shocking to discover how many magnificent buildings that survived the war have been demolished in Liverpool. I thought the Customs House [truly a building of international significance] had been destroyed in the blitz and I was shocked to discover it had survived relatively intact but demolished by the Council afterwards. While Liverpool is a delightful city to visit , there's a feeling of what might have been if those in power had made wiser decisions.