St Georges Everton.
Everton was once a suburb of Liverpool and in the 1820's hat had a setting of what we would now think of as picture postcard.
Thomas Rickman, St Georges architect did not start out as an architect he had a journey that led him to design buildings that was quite unusual.
He was a pharmacist and a surgeon and also worked in the corn trade.
When he lent money to a friend who could not pay it back, he left his home town of Maidenhead and came to Liverpool looking for work in 1807.
After his second wife and their daughter died he seems to have been free to drift into different studies. Weather, geology, gas lighting, steam boats and drawing all got his attention. He may have been what we would now say, on the autistic spectrum, he was a meticulous accounts keeper. He painted and catalogued a whole army of toy soldiers probably lead.
Collecting engravings he began to study architecture and he studied and recorded Gothic churches and their ruined state.
In 1812 he delivered a series of lectures and was elected professor of architecture at the Liverpool Academy.
His friend Thomas Cragg owned the Mersey Iron Foundry and waxed lyrical about the use of cast iron in architecture.
Rickman sketched architectural details such as windows door frames and balustrades for him.
As simply as two friends talking Rickman began to draw a cast iron church, they were kindred spirits in design. His designs at this stage it could be said were not quite top work and were stiff in design. This was an early stage of iron construction.
Mr Atherton had promised £12,000 for the building of a church on the site of the old Liverpool lighthouse and on 29th December 1812 a public meeting was called.
Rickman attended the meeting only to be shocked and astonished that Cragg was submitting a design of Rickmans own sketches.
This proved a master stroke as Mr Atherton gave the commission to the pair on the understanding that the exterior be built in stone and the interior be erected in cast iron.
This enabled them to pre fabricate the structure and bolt it together on-site.
One commentator stated that the structure 'exhibited a very marked advance upon anything previously attempted in Liverpool-the tone character and motif of every part being derived from a careful study of ancient examples'.
Gothic architecture at the time had a wide breadth ranging from Norman to Henry VIII.
Some Gothic structures were a derision of classical wrapped up in a confused fusion of many differing styles.
Iron was cutting edge at the time and when we analyse it, there appears to be that the medieval oak and stone ribs of ancient times were being replaced by slender columns of iron.
With an ease of construction this was being explored well ahead of Ruskin's eloquent dissecting of Iron's pros and cons and how it would fit into the modern forms of construction in his Seven Lamps of Architecture.
The challenge in the blending of the old with the new is something we now take for granted as it all looks old now but the debate would be intense.
Rickman began to publish papers in Liverpool showing his understanding of his work that were to be inspiring to others.
An attempt to discriminate the styles of English architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation, proceeded by a sketch of the Grecian and Roman Orders, with notes on nearly 500 English Buildings was published in 1817.
Years later Ferguson was to write ' by a simple and easy classification Rickman reduced to order what before was simple chaos to all minds'.
So the Gothic was born of Rickmans work and was championed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.
Cragg also built St Micheals in 1814 with even more iron used. Many of the mouldings were from St Georges. The exterior is of brick. Parapets and finials of iron. It was called “the cast iron church”. St Philips in Hardman Street followed in 1816. From these three buildings stems the seed of the prefabricated cast iron church and the onset of mass production so from this little acorn of an idea buildings were shipped all over the world. Some sections could be replicated over and over again, and from a single mould.
At a time of great expansions in cities nationwide it came at a very convenient time to produce quickly churches for the masses. This need was combined by the “Million pound Act” to get ecclesiastical buildings erected quickly to educate the masses coming in from the fields no doubt.
Rickman worked with John Foster junior on a commission for St Martins which is no longer standing.
Foster was not a purveyor of the Gothic style.
I did not realise when as a young boy, along with the rest of the class, as we were led into the church like little lambs, silent lambs, from the side directly adjacent to the school of St Georges how important it was.
It was a solid building that wrapped around you with protective care, friendly and self assured, we didn't know we were poor.
As a small child born into a two up two down, the first sight of a church interior is awe inspiring. The scale those uprights supporting the roof were like giant pines reaching for the heavens.
The play of light through the bejewelling of the stained glass with its storytelling panels was always designed to bring you to a subservient situation. The torch of coloured beams searching, and finding you, in between the columns of pews. I still remember to this day my first sighting of the interior of St Georges with the angelic sound of choristers raising your spirit, bringing you closer to what you were told to believe in. Those pointed arches and the fine and light decorated tracery. I did not know I was in one of the most important churches in the country. I remember my neighbour staring up at me and winking to me as I showered him and his newly married wife with a handful of confetti from the roof of the exterior porch. I remember the christening of my cousins and the crying over the font when touched with that holy water from within.
I don't know if these memories that are torched into my mind are what made me understand that even in poverty you can still look up to the stars, and even though we were poor we were in the middle of an area of St Georges plateau that had great care and fine workmanship bestowed upon it.
I would often stop at Everton Library on the way home, that is still standing and hopefully will be restored soon. Unfortunately The Luftwaffe didn't understand the maintenance programme of our architectural stock, and blitzed the gubbings out of it.
Most of the stained glass was destroyed in the Second World War survivor is a window dated 1863 by A. Gibbs. The glass in the east window dates from 1952 and is by Shrigley and Hunt.
The original chair frame bell was made by Ainsworth of Warrington. It was restored in 1937 by George Eccles but vandalised in the late 1960s. The present clock was made by Smiths of Clerkenwell and installed in 1973.
In the next street to our humble abode was Our Lady's, the beginnings of the church that was to rival St Peters in Rome. The chancel chapel was built, it was going to be massive. It was demolished in the 80's, how sad. It was a Pugin and Pugin design. This was the original site for what Arthur Dooley christened Paddy's Wigwam. St Georges may have been the most prominent structure on Liverpool's skyline prior to Gilbert Scott's Anglican sandstone Cathedral being built. How mariners will have been thankful to see the sight knowing they were safely home. Probably having been press ganged in the Baltic Triangle area, which was renowned for this form of kidnap to keep the seas highways safe for the British Empire.
There were other Pugin buildings that had fallen into disrepair, the wash house was a hive of soapy gargling conversation spun together by the washerwomen within. It was a social thing.
I would sometimes get a treat and be given a tanner and go over to the cubicle d public baths where someone in the next bathtub would sing “My name is Jack and I live in the Bath” as a take on the hit of the day.
The smell was a slightly carbolic one, that of cleanliness and running hot water was a luxury we did not have, nor an inside loo.
Mr Tyson the builder used to run a boys club in one of the buildings behind the steaming wash house.
I did not know we relied on charity and philanthropists. A caged football pitch was built in between the school and the house, on St Domingo Road, as somewhere the kids could play and we played 9 a side football, that was sometimes a little light on one side depending on how many turned up.
The Prodi dogs against the Cats we would all have enough incentive.
It was stupid I know now. How pathetic it seems now that there was such a monumental battle still ranging amongst the Popery and King Billy's lot.
It raged all around you people tried to indoctrinate you at an early age.
Though it did not take long for me to see through all that religious none-sense
And my church, my lovely little church was part of that too.