St James Church, Toxteth is a Grade II* listed building on the corner of Upper Parliament Street.
The history of Toxteth Park and St James Church.Toxteth Park was originally a royal hunting ground which had been held in the custody of the Stanley family for generations but in 1596 William Stanley, Earl of Derby (who had inherited large debts) sold it to Edmund Smolte and Edward Aspinwall for £1,100. (it was 'disparked' about 1592)
The Aspinwall family are well documented and well worth reading about, they founded a dissenters chapel which still exists (The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth). A nephew of Edward Aspinwall and others from Toxteth Park were among the puritans who emigrated to America in 1630 and settled in New England. Click here to see Tom Steel's Genealogy files entry for the family.
It is possible that Smolte and Aspinwall were acting as agents for Richard Molyneux, Earl of Sefton as they sold it to him 8 years later (1604) for £1,100.
In 1771 some of the land was laid out for a grid of wide streets and the Earl obtained an act of parliament for the granting of building leases (apparently the source of the name Parliament Street). The ambitious plans were to create a new town which was to be named Harrington in honour of Richard Molyneux's wife Isabella Harrington, the first countess of Sefton and daughter of William Stanhope, second Earl of Harrington.
The plans for Harrington were drawn up by local builder Cuthbert Bisbrowne of Paradise St and work began. The church of St James was built on St James Mount in 1774-5 using cast-iron columns to support the interior balcony. Unfortunately, Cuthbert Bisbrowne was bankrupt by 1776 and the rest of the scheme was abandoned. Parliament Street had only 4 houses on it in 1790 and, due to the high prices demanded by the Earl of Sefton, the area to the west of it (known as Parliament Fields) weren't developed until as late as 1875.
For detailed information about the development of Toxteth, I suggest you visit the historic-liverpool website.
I like this blogpost by A Sense of Place which illustrates the Liverpool that produced St James' Church.
St James' Church, Toxteth is the oldest Anglican church in Liverpool and has what are believed to be the earliest surviving example of cast-iron columns in a church.
The Church of St James, Toxteth
The original design was (probably) by Cuthbert Bisbrowne was built in 1774-5. The exterior is a very plain Georgian brick structure, aligned East-West, with round-headed windows on two levels. The square tower has a crenellated parapet with three clock faces on the third level and a fourth level with bell-openings. The clock faces were illuminated in 1844. A chancel and vestries were added in 1899.
The interior of the church is equally plain, it has balconies on three sides supported by cast-iron columns which are gothic in style and quatrefoil in section except where they were covered by pews where they are octagonal.
|Copyright Paul Young 2003|
A beautiful stained glass window designed by Henry Holiday was added about 1881 and a Chancel and vestries were added in 1899, it is currently in the East window of the chancel so was presumably originally in the East wall and was re-sited when the chancel was built.
The interior walls are plastered and hold a collection of stone monuments to people such as Captain George Pemberton who was killed defending his ship against pirates in 1795. There is also a memorial to Mr Edward Grayson, an eminent shipbuilder who was killed in a duel in 1804 known as "the Dingle Duel" and Moses Benson, a successful West Indies Merchant who was heavily involved in the Liverpool slave trade.
About 9000 burials took place in the Churchyard of St James which is the area immediately around the church, not to be confused with St James cemetery over the road in the quarry. The churchyard was appropriated by Liverpool Corporation in 1898, they closed it for burials, removed or covered over the headstones and laid out the space as ornamental gardens. (Liverpool archives hold transcriptions of all the stones that were removed)
Sources of information:
blogs and websites linked to in the post.
The Church of St James, Toxteth 1775 - 1925 by C.T. Dawson
wikipedia entry for St James
Liverpool archive catalogue - St James records
Online Parish Clerks entry for St James
bits and pieces of interest:
the history of St James mount and the cemetery
The church re-opened
St James in the City - the church website
plans for the new parish - diocese of Liverpool site