The Lord said to Solomon: ‘I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there for ever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.’
1 Kings, chapter 9, verse 3
Great Crosby, Christmas 1853: Richard Walker, Curate-in-Charge of Crosby Chapel, had been appointed vicar of the newly built St Luke’s Church and the consecration was fixed for Boxing Day. It would be a very grand occasion, symbolic of the increasing importance of the village and, with the formation of the new parish, a growing independence from the control of Sefton Church.
1716 prospect of Crosby, taken from a plaque in Liverpool Museum, now lost. The rural nature of the village is well illustrated with people using the shore for travelling, rabbits in the dunes and cattle in the fields.
Richard could be proud of his church. Built in the Decorated style, it had a graceful spire, 120 feet high, and a lofty arched roof, 40 feet high, compared with the square tower and plain 18th century lines of Crosby Chapel, dedicated to St Michael, which it replaced, and stone was much more imposing than brick. As you went in, you would see box pews, a large number of which were free for anyone to use, made of stained pine with carvings in the Gothic style, a complete contrast to the old fashioned pews, many of restrictive ownership, in the old church. Beyond the chancel arch, the choir stretched through to the altar, enfolded by an octagonally shaped apse much more elegant than the square end of the Chapel of St Michael’s. The ceiling was heavenly: a deep ultramarine, studded with golden stars, and the richness of the bright stained glass windows of the Annunciation and the Birth of Christ were enhanced by the simpler windows in the nave decorated with heraldic shields. The choir floor was laid with a tessellated pavement of Minton’s encaustic tiles. To the left, the pulpit was ornamented by carvings in white stone, the interstices filled up by rock-face work of pale blue stone and, further on, a vestry. On the right was the font, carved from Bath stone, and beyond it the organ pipes could be seen. At first sight, you would not believe that it could hold a congregation of 692, but, if the nave was full, you could go up the stairs to the gallery, or into the transepts. The building was by far the greatest in the village and the spire could be clearly seen from the sea. Merchant Taylors’ School, just opposite, had a venerable 1620 edifice but this was small in comparison. The Chapel of St Michael was bright, cheerful and popular with the villagers, but surely they would learn to love the soaring splendour of St Luke’s.
A line drawing of St Luke’s Church from 1904.
The splendid structure would be impressive not just to the established farming community but also to others who had recently come on the scene: the wealthy new residents, the visitors to the sea bathing station at Waterloo and those who serviced their needs, and the Irish emigrants as they saw the gleaming spire from their ships on a one way trip to America.
The extra space in the church would be needed at the consecration as the event would be the greatest in recent years. Everyone would want to come, and be expected to come, and 26 December, a Sunday and Boxing Day, was the one day of the week when everyone was free to come. There were a few local gentry but most of the congregation where to buy propecia would consist of the local workers, those whose children Richard had baptized and cared for as his family. When he had come as a curate, the population had been based on an agricultural economy, including farmers and farm labourers most of all, but there were also representatives of a wide variety of associated trades and occupations: fishermen, gardeners, bootmakers, butchers, grocers and flour dealers, innkeepers, joiners, labourers, plumbers, tailors and wheelwrights. In addition there were a large number of ‘gentlemen’, wives and children, and amongst others a postmaster, architect, agent for letting houses, poulterer and pastry cook, blacksmith, stonemason, master porter, liquor merchant, veterinary surgeon, dancing master, overseer, corn merchant, corn-miller, saddler, basket-maker, surgeon and painter. All these were now well established members of the community and had attended the church for many years, but now there would also be others such as coachmen, ostlers, distillers, a police sergeant, shoemaker, bricklayer, brickmaker, stoker, schoolmaster, watchmaker, and, with the advent of the railway, an engine-driver.
This ticket shows the still rural scene of Crosby in 1870.
There was no local newspaper as in Liverpool, but excitement had spread the word and Richard could be assured of a congregation to match the occasion. For it was a great honour to have John Graham, DD (Cambridge), Lord Bishop of Chester. His predecessor had become Archbishop of Canterbury, the diocese was a large one, stretching as far as Cumberland in the north, and there were great demands on the bishop’s time. Three other churches in the Liverpool area alone had been consecrated or opened in the same year and the Bishop was often called on to lay foundation stones of churches and other buildings too, for example the Female Orphan Asylum in Liverpool, and he was due to open the Orphan Boys’ Asylum soon. But there might also be some apprehension. Although he was a seasoned traveller, the bishop was nearly sixty years of age, and in winter the weather could be very difficult. There had been a great snowstorm earlier in the year, and on the previous Christmas Day Liverpool and its neighbourhood had been visited by a severe storm, preceded by two earthquake shocks. There was an ever present threat of fog and violent hurricanes which could claim hundreds of lives. Yet communications had improved over the last few years. There used to be sailings along the canal or a half hourly omnibus service from Liverpool. Now the bishop could come by the recently opened railways, although the journey would involve an extremely circuitous route through Crewe and Warrington, if he wished to avoid the shorter route by ferry across the Mersey. However, the final stretch could be the most hazardous. The station was a little way from the church and a carriage would have to be commandeered to negotiate the sand-blown tracks connecting the two. Out Lane [now Victoria Road] was only paved halfway to the station. However, once the bishop was inside the church, if it was a very dark day, the gas lighting would help and also, on a bitterly cold day, radiate welcome warmth.
So, as he looked at the present, Richard could be full of mingled hope, apprehension and excitement. As he looked into the past, he could marvel and feel proud of the progress Great Crosby had made, particularly in recent years, since its early days. As for the future, he could not possibly have foreseen the great part that St Luke’s was to play in the history of Crosby during the next one hundred and fifty years.