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St Nicholas Church

From Picture of Liverpool: Strangers Guide: written in 1834

The Church of St Nicholas or the Old Church, It is supposed that this structure was originally built in the year 1360 and that it occupies the site of the old chapel said to have been erected about the time of the conquest. Whatever truth there may be to this statement, it is certain that the Bishop of Lichfield granted a licence to bury here so early as the year 1361. In 1565 queen Elizabeth ebdowed it with the sum of 4 17s 5d to be paid annually out of the chantry rents for the minister, and at the same time a yearly grant of 5 13s 5d was made to the schoolmaster. Since the death of Mr Baines this sum has ceased to be paid. Mortuaries continued to be paid here until the year 1738. The parish records are dated no earlier than 1681, though it is related that that in the register office at Chester there is a parish register of Liverpool for the year 1624 which states that there were 35 christenings, 4 marriages and 21 burials during that year. In 1699 it was made a distinct parish from Walton, to which it had previously been a chapel. In former times a statue of St Nicholas stodd in the churchyard to which the mariners were accustomed to pay their votive offerings as to the tutelar saint in order to obtain a prosperous voyage. In 1774 the body of this church was rebuilt under the direction of Jospeh Brookes Esq, when the old roof, walls and gothic pillars were taken down with the old blue ceiling, black and white clouds, golden sun, moon, and stars painted and gilt upon the roof. On Sunday the 11th February 1810, during the ringing of the second peal, when the congregation were assembling for the morning service, the lower part of the steeple gave way, and the spire was precipitated into the body of the church.
At the same instant the children belonging to the Moorfields charity school were entering, and the girls who led the procession were walking along the aisles, when several of them were suddenly buried under the ruins: but all the boys who were following escaped. At the same time about twenty adults were sitting in the church but the greater part of them received no injury. Of twenty - eight bodies that were taken out of the ruins, twenty three were dead, or expired shortly after and the remaining five were conveyed to the infirmary, one of whom also died. Seventeen of those who perished were children belonging to the school. This mournful catastrophe might have proved much more fatal had it occured a quarter of an hour later, as the whole congregation would then have been assembled at divine service. This accident is said to have been caused by the spire being improperly placed upon the old tower, the arches of which having been greatly impaired by the action of the weather and the ringing of the bells, one of the key stones became displaced, and the whole superstructure fell.

A fine stone tower, 40 yards high, crowned by an open lantern 20 yards high, has been since erected from a design of Mr HARRISON of Chester. The style of architecture is the ornamental Gothic, and the whole reflects great credit on the taste and judgement of the architect. Some persons having objected to the lantern, as being too short: and certainly it must be admitted, that had it been carried a few yards higher, it's beauty and symmetry would have been much improved, but the exposed situation perhaps rendered this unadvisable. A peal of twelve fine toned bells has been placed here. The entire height of the steeple from the base of the tower to the summit of the lantern is 180 feet. The following are extracts from the vestry book of this church:

April 1682. Officers elected in the chapel of Liverpool. Thomas GERARD chapel warden Robert AMERIE sidesman, on the one and twentieth of August 1682 after the death of Thomas AMERIE, Thomas MATHEWS elected sidesman for the remainder of the year. Then ordered that a lay of ten pounds be assessed for the poor.

Then ordered that a lay of forty pounds be assessed for the repairs of the chapel Ordered that Richard DIGGLES and John GRAMMOND be overseers of the poor for the year ensuing.

Liverpool April 17 1669 - collected for the relief of Vaudois, and French refugees, the sum of forty pounds, eighteen shillings and a penny halfpenny, as witness our hands on the ninth day of July 1699

William ATHERTON Rector
Charles DIGGLES
Charles RADCLIFFE churchwardens

Thomas SUDDLING, Mayor
James BENN
Thomas JOHNSON senior
Thomas JOHNSON junior
William PRESTON
Aldermen"

"24th July 1749. Ordered that the church-yard wall be immediately carried out to the westward, so far as shall be thought fitting and convenient, with the leave of the corporation of Liverpool, for the benefit of a public burial place for this parish, under the direction of the church-wardens, for the time being, and at the expense of the parish"

This church is situate at the bottom of Chapel-street, and is neither remarkable for interior decoration nor antique monuments, but is commodiously fitted up with pews, and has a good organ. The galleries are supported by plain short pillars.

Among the monuments there is one erected to the memory of William CLAYTON Esq, who died in 1715, having represented this borough in six different parliaments, besides another to his relict, who died in 1745. From this family Clayton square took its name.

One monument states that "Near this place are interred the remains of Bryan BLUNDELL Esq, alderman of this town, and one of the founders of the Blue Coat school who died January 27 1756 aged 81"

There is likewise another "Sacred to the memory of William Naylor WRIGHT, erected as a token of gratitude by one whose life, with the lives of many others, by his great exertions and presence of mind he saved. He died June 13, 1809, aged 57" This person had been a captain, and was once mayor of this town. After his death a sum of money was enclosed in a letter to his son, by some unknown character, who requested that it might be appropriated to defraying the expense of the above.

An elegant monument, executed by Mr GIBSON, native of Liverpool, and which is deemed a fine specimen of sculpture, has been erected on one side of the communion table " Sacred to the memory of Ann, the wife of William EARLE, who has erected this monument as a testimony of the innate goodness, and of those virtues, which endeared her to her family and connections, and to society. She died March 1, 1819, aged 50"

Illuminated dial at St Nicholas Church 1834

St Nicholas church was gutted by fire on the 21 December 1940 following a wartime air raid during the Blitz of Liverpool.
Only the tower, adjoining vestries, and the offices survived. The building of the new church began in March 1949. It was consecrated on the Feast of St Luke 18 October 1952.