Friday, 5 August 2016

St George’s Church Everton; the first cast iron church

St George’s Church in Everton was built in 1814 and became the first church in the world to use cast iron as a major building material in its construction. The land was donated by wealthy merchant James Atherton (the man who was behind the development of New Brighton as a holiday resort on the Wirral), the church was designed by architect Thomas Rickman and it was built by the Liverpool Iron founder John Cragg. The Gothic style church is built with local sandstone, but the inner ‘skeleton’ framework was constructed of cast iron; the pillars, the window frames, and the ceiling structure is all from Cragg’s foundry, which was based in Tithebarn Street. In essence, the church was the first ‘flat-pack’ building, and many churches like this followed; in Liverpool with St Michael’s in the Hamlet and St Philips (which is now demolished) and churches in Australia were constructed in a similar way using cast iron.

The use of iron was symbolic at the time as it represented the industrial development of Great Britain; iron embodying the might of industry and indeed, the might of the nation. It was a new innovative architectural style and a Liverpool first, something that also represented the Liverpool inventive attitude, especially in architecture with men like Peter Ellis and James Picton.

Everton was once a village, and one of the oldest buildings that still survives is the lock-up, built in 1787. This is only one of two surviving lock-ups in Liverpool, the other being in Wavertree. Both were built to deal with village drunks and petty criminals. Everton still has its library building, though it now lies empty, and a number of late Georgian houses, such as the small row on Shaw Street, one of which once being the home of Liverpool merchant Joshua Rawdon.
The Gothic St George's. On the outside, it looks like a traditional Gothic church made of local sandstone.

On the inside however, the church's inner framework is made of iron; the pillars and the vaulted ceiling revealing an iron skeleton frame, as elegant and strong as stone.

One of the original nineteenth century stained glass windows that survived the bombing of World War II. It shows St George in the centre.

St Michael and St George appear in this window. Cragg and Rickman's next church was St Michael's.

Portrait of landowner and merchant James Atherton. (Photo taken from St George's Church)

Everton Library, currently empty.

The Mere Bank Pub - Mock-Tudor at its best.

The village lock-up, built out of local sandstone in 1787.

Another view of the lock-up, revealing a row of late Georgian town houses on the right. The middle property was once the residence of Liverpool merchant Joshua Rawdon.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

© Dr David Harrison 2016

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