Architectural Description

Christ Church that stands on Waterloo Road today was built in 1891-99 to replace a much humbler building by something more in keeping with the increasing prosperity of this rapidly growing suburb of Liverpool. Its majestic tower of pink sandstone became a landmark for sailors, and still dominates the neighbourhood. The church was disused for many years, and World War II bombing and later vandalism wreaked some damage, but the architecture is hauntingly romantic. It is a huge and impressive building with wonderful stained glass and a strong sense of Victorian confidence and civic pride. The fittings and furnishings have gone but the interior remains striking. Soaring timber vaults form the roofs and graceful arches lead your eye to the great east window. Here, in vibrantly colourful stained glass, are depicted Christ with angels, saints and Old Testament figures. The west window is similarly gorgeous, and depicts the twelve Apostles. The glass is by Shrigley and Hunt, among the leading manufacturers of their period.

The present church was built in 1891-99 to designs by Austin & Paley of Lancaster and replaced the earlier church built in 1840. The firm was the leading architectural practice in the north-west and, at the time the church was built, it was at the height of its prolific and creative output, specialising in fine churches.,_Austin_and_Paley

By about 1980 the congregation had dwindled and in 1982 the church was declared redundant and fell into disrepair. In 1993 the church was in a very sorry state so a demolition scheme was published. As a result of objections a non-statutory public inquiry was held and resulted in the church being vested in the Churches Conservation Trust.

With the help of grants the roofs were repaired, dry rot was dealt with and later the windows and the interior were repaired.

The church is built in Bootle sandstone with roofs of Westmorland slate. The style is typical of the architects’ town churches of the period, being a freely-treated Perpendicular but with innovative elements including details that can almost be described as Art Nouveau.

The best description of the church was that prepared by the Council for the Care of Churches on the 12th August 1981 and an extract from this document follows.



12th AUGUST 1981 LOCATION AND SETTING:      the area takes its name from the Waterloo (now Royal) Hotel, said to have been commenced on the day of the battle in 1815; it is a plain building and so are the other buildings on the sea-front which, being the nearest seaside resort to Liverpool, once gave the area its character. The heyday of the area as a resort followed the opening of a railway from Southport in 1848, later extended to Liverpool. Christ Church stands on the site of a an earlier building of 1840, a little inland from the sea, in a spacious churchyard (without burials) at the corner of Waterloo Road and Alexandra Road (which name suggests the period at which the surrounding houses were built). The houses evidently originally belonged to prosperous Liverpool families but are now all divided into flats….. The churchyard is surrounded by a low stone wall pierced by good iron gates in the Arts and Crafts idiom; it is laid to grass and planted (probably at the time the church was built) with sycamore and elm trees…..

ARCHITECT AND DATE: the church was designed by Paley, Austin and Paley of Lancaster and was built in several stages beginning with the nave (foundation stone laid on 17 October 1891) and baptistery (1893) and continuing with the chancel (1894). The tower came last, and the completed church was consecrated on 2nd December 1899 by Bishop Royston, acting for Bishop Ryle of Liverpool.

The firm of Paley and Austin flourished in Lancashire (their offices were in Lancaster) from 1870 well into the twentieth century, producing a large number of churches of a consistently high standard. Edward Graham Paley had been a partner of Edmund Sharpe (himself articled to Thomas Rickman) in 1845-54 and then practiced on his own until 1868 when he entered partnership with Hubert James Austin. They were later joined by Paley’s son, Henry Anderson Paley, whereupon his firm became Paley, Austin and Paley. Upon the death of the elder Paley in 1895, the firm became Austin and Paley, under which name it continued until the 1930’s. The total number of churches build between 1854, when Paley set up on his own, and the 1930’s was in the region of one hundred, in addition to many restorations, rebuildings and additions and secular works. Their style has been described as ‘a sort of squared-off Perpendicular’, and the partnership has been called (by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner) ‘the best firm of Gothicists in the north of England’.

Two drawings for this church, a perspective from the north-west dated March 1891 which shows that the church was designed as an entity although it was built in stages, and a ground plan, are in the RIBA Drawings Collection.

PLAN: nave of five bays with north and south aisles and clerestory, porches contrived within the west end of the aisles, low polygonal baptistery below the west window; chancel with south chapel and north transept, tower and vestries.

DIMENSIONS: nave 96ft. by 29.5ft.; aisles each 14ft. wide; chancel 40.5ft. by 30ft.; south chapel 41ft. by 24ft.

BUILDING MATERIALS: the walls are constructed of warm Old Red Sandstone from the Bootle Quarry and the roofs are covered with green Westmorland slates. The masonry is exposed both inside and outside the church.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: when the previous church on this site was erected in 1840, it was the only church between Seaforth to the south and Great Crosby to the north. It was designed by Arthur and George Williams, most of whose buildings have been demolished. The arrival of the railway in 1848 led to the rapid expansion of Waterloo as a suburb of Liverpool, and the church was extended by a new chancel 1851, transepts in 1859 and an organ chamber and ‘enlargement’ in 1874. By the end of the 1880’s it had become structurally unsound, and soon after Archdeacon John Jones retired in 1889 from an incumbency of fifty years, plans were obtained in 1891 from Messrs. Paley, Austin and Paley for building a new church. The builders were George Woods and Son of Bootle, and the new nave was erected exactly on the site of the old church. It was dedicated in April 1893, when the cost of the whole new church was estimated at £15,000. The nave itself had cost £7,000, of which, £1,400 had been raised at a three-day bazaar in Bootle Town Hall.

The expansion of a salubrious residential suburb, the presence of a generous benefactor (James Barrow of Beach Lawn, Waterloo, who met the whole cost of the erection of the tower himself) and the engagement of the most sensitive partnership of ecclesiastical architects in north-west England combined to produce a church of great dignity. But although there was clearly plenty of money available, Paley and Austin as usual did not allow their designs to be weakened by over-elaborate fussiness. The skillful massing of geometrical shapes in a plan which, though basically straightforward, has some unexpected features, is the key to the church’s success.

The style is the subtle blend of the Perpendicular and Arts and Crafts, at which this firm excelled. It is perhaps more a northern equivalent of Sedding than of Bodley. Reminiscent of Sedding, too, are the broad east and west windows with complicated tracery incorporating flowing motifs and panels. The drawing in the RIBA Drawing Collection shows the church from the north-west, and this is indeed the best view of it, though now somewhat obscured by the trees which have grown to the height of the nave.

The west front has buttresses at the angles, finishing below a squared-off parapet, with a tall six-light window between them. The gable above is decorated with two blind ogee-headed niches and a small lancet lights the roof space. There is a stone cross on the apex of the gable. Below the window is a three-side apse housing the baptistery, with two-light square-headed windows under labels, buttresses at the two outer angles and a moulded parapet. The west walls of the aisles have two-light windows lighting chambers leading to porches which project a short way beyond the aisles and have open arches in the west faces. These porches are gabled at right-angles to the body of the church and have single buttresses against the centre of the gabled walls. The arches in the west faces have continuous moulded surrounds and blind tracery in the spandrels. The parapet is decorated with chequerwork.

The aisles have plain walls with chamfered plinths and two-light windows set in pairs in each bay, the windows have square heads (but no labels) and differing tracery designs. There is only one window in the east bay of the south aisle since a small doorway is provided here to give access to the south chapel without the need to go through the church. On the north side the east bay is replaced by a transept which forms part of a complex composition culminating in the tower. It has a two-light transomed window in the north gable and a two-light window forming a clerestory high on the west wall. The nave clerestory has three-light windows in each bay set within square headed surrounds, but themselves with two-centered arches and three lights, the middle one taller than the outer pair, and panel tracery. There are moulded parapets at the heads of the nave walls, though not on the aisles.

The chancel roof is only slightly lower than the nave, and the division is also marked by a stone capping on the wall above the chancel arch by a reticent turret on the south side containing the stair for access to walkways behind the parapets. The chancel has a large east window of seven lights arranged 2-3-2 with panel tracery above, and the south chapel has an east window of five panel equal lights and panel tracery, but while the chancel window has a four-centred head, the chapel window has a two-centred arch. There is a clerestory above the chapel in the south wall of the chancel, and the south wall of the chancel itself is of two-bays, each with a pair of two-light windows with square heads, moulded surrounds (but no hoods) and panel tracery above two-centred arches. The chapel and chancel, unlike the nave, are surrounded by stringcourses, and the east chancel gable has buttresses similar to those of the west end gable; it is also crowned with a stone cross.

The tower is separated from the north wall of the chancel by an aisle, which emphasises its height. It is of three stages externally (although internally the middle stage is of two floors). The corners have severely plain angle buttresses round which the stringcourses marking the stages are returned. The spiral staircase giving access to the upper floors is housed within the octagonal turret at the north-east angle which eventually rises above the parapet into a pinnacle terminating in a crocketted stone spirelet. The lower stage has a three-light window in the north wall and is otherwise obscured by surrounding parts of the church. The middle stage has a two-light window in the west wall to light the ringing chamber and a two-light window of similar design much higher up which lights the silence chamber. The topmost stage, which houses a single bell (though clearly intended for a peal) has three transomed lights in each face, giving six equal rectangular openings. These are filled with stone tracery and have segmental arches. The parapet, which is double-stepped, is decorated with blind panelling and enriched with the text ‘Laudate Dominum’ and ‘Laus Deo’ carved in high relief in flowing gothic letters. The tower is capped by a pyramidal roof within the parapet.

The vestries are placed to the east of the tower, the clergy vestry being of two bays under a gable set at right-angles to the chancel with ancillary rooms in a smaller annex to the north of it, and a doorway above which a carved text repeats the exhortation ‘Laudate Dominum’.

The interior, like the exterior, is faced with warm red sandstone, and the nave floor is paved with stone flags in the alleys and laid with wood block under the pews. The nave arcades are carried by cylindrical pillars with fillets in the cardinal directions and simple moulded capitals. The arches have three orders of chamfers which die above the capitals. Small corbels above the pillars carry half-shafts rising to moulded capitals which carry panelled stone springers for the vault. The vault itself is of timber (although it may have been intended originally to carry it out in stone), and is sexpartite with moulded ribs and carved foliate bosses at the intersections along the ridge.

At the west end of the nave a low pitched segmental arch opens into the apsidal baptistery. The arch is outlined by mouldings and is carried on semi-octagonal attached shafts with small florets enriching the moulded capitals. The baptistery, which is two steps above the level of the nave, is the only part of the building vaulted in stone, and has moulded ribs carried on attached shafts with foliate capitals set at the angles. The ribs intersect at foliate bosses. The floor is paved with square stone flags alternating with square red tiles.

At the east end of the nave the plan ceases to be symmetrical. On the south it is quite conventional, with the arcade continuing with uniform arches up to the respond of the chancel arch. On the north, however, the eastern arch is much taller and opens into an aisle between the chancel and the tower, with the former of which it communicates by an arch comparable to that of the transept (both in direction, and in that it has the further elaboration of an attached shaft against each respond). East of the transept and north of the chancel aisle is the base of the tower, uncompromisingly supported by a massive buttressed internal pier of masonry, the strength of which is exaggerated by the fact that the organ is set in the base of the tower and speaks through the arches opening to east and south.

The chancel arch is carried on responds formed of triple shafts with elaborate foliate capitals, and has a moulded arch of tall, broad proportions which scarcely interrupts the eastward flow of the building. The chancel is of two bays, the western housing the choir and set three steps above the nave, from which it is separated by a low stone screen patterned on the west face with blind round-headed arches carved in relief. The vault of the chancel is like that of the nave, and has an additional narrow bay above the alter forming a sort of ceilure. On the south two arches open into the chapel, and above them are clerestory windows. On the north the arch previously described opens into an aisle between the chancel and the tower, and in the east bay there is a doorway to the vestries in the lower part of the wall a two-light window above. The doorway has a rounded arch with decorative mouldings and tracery within the square outer moulding. On the south side there are three sedilia under the eastern arch opening into the chapel; this means that the sedilia only have low backs scarcely higher than the chairs, and to the east of them there is a credence shelf within a recess. The moulded front of the shelf, which projects with canted corners, is decorated with three large squared leaves, and the arch has heart-shapes of Art Nouveau derivation in the blind tracery of the spandrels. The chancel is paved with the rather harshly coloured red green, black and yellow tiles with incised decoration and shiny glaze which Paley and Austin often used.

The south chapel has little of interest architecturally. The roof is a panelled timber barrel vault with moulded tie-beams and kingposts and the floor is of wood blocks, save in the sanctuary where it is laid with squares of black and white marble.


NOTE: Only the description of the stained glass is include here.

(i).The east window depicts Christ with the four Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel in the centre lights with attendant angels above; on the four outer lights, arranged in three tiers of pairs, are Abraham, Gideon, Moses, Aaron, Isaiah and David on the left and St. Peter, St. John, St. Elizabeth, St. Agnes, St. Stephen and St. Ambrose on the right.. The tracery lights depict angels with the shields of the twenty-four dioceses of the southern province; the theme of the whole window is the Te Deum. It was made by Shrigley and Hunt and restored after war damage with paler background quarries.

(ii).The south clerestory windows in the chancel have glass of c. 1855 saved from the former church depicting Christ the Good Shepherd.

(iii).North transept north: a two-light transomed window also containing glass from the old church, two female saints (one with a … and one with an anchor), 1888, with texts below.

(iv).North transept west clerestory: four more panels from the Life of Christ which probably belong to the same sequence as the two in the south chancel clerestory, rather Wailes like in character, c. 1855.

(v).South aisle I: St. Nicholas and St. Christopher, 1912, in memory of the Revd. William Dickson, the first incumbent of this church (although he did not die until 1931); St. Nicholas seems to be a portrait of him; perhaps by Shrigley and Hunt.

(vi).South aisle II: King Alfred, St. George, St. John and St. Paul. c. 1920, probably also by Shrigley and Hunt.

(vii).South aisle IV: St. Patrick and St. Columba, c. 1902, perhaps also by Shrigley and Hunt.

(viii).Nave clerestory: ten windows of c. 1900 each of three lights and containing angels with scrolls of the text of the Te Deum and Nunc Dimittis, By Shrigley and Hunt.

(ix).West window: The Twelve Apostles, with clear post-war background quarries, the angels with shields of eleven dioceses of the northern province in the tracery lights still with the original backgrounds , c. 1900 by Shrigley and Hunt.

(x).West baptistery window: St. Philip and St. John the Baptist, Christ with the Children and St. Peter and Noah, by Shrigley and Hunt c. 1900.

(xi).South chapel east window: central panel with orb, crown, cross and sceptre, flanked by the symbols of the Evangelists: post-war damage replacements of 1950 set in opaque quarries.

(xii).Vestry north window: three scenes from the Life of Christ, c. 1852 perhaps by Wailes; from the earlier church (other lights above these obscured internally)


Apse. A semi-circular or polygonal end to a building, usually with a vaulted roof.

Boss. A carved block covering the intersection of two or more cross-timbers or stones in ceiling or vaulting.

Chancel. The area around a church alter enclosed by the communion rail or by a screen.

Clerestory. The top tier of windows lighting the choir and nave of a church.

Crockets. Ornamental projections, placed at regular intervals, along salient corners of gables, canopies, windows, etc., and characteristic of Gothic architecture.

Kingpost. The vertical member from the apex to the middle of the tie beam in a king-post roof truss.

Label or label mould. A hood moulding. A moulding terminated by a corbel, over a window or doorway. A drip stone.

Lancet arch. A Gothic, or pointed, arch with the radius or curvature greater than the span.

Respond. A pilaster matching, or pairing with, another pilaster or column, as when forming the springings for an arch. A half pillar.

Quarries. A window containing rectangular or diamond pieces of glass are said to be made of quarries.

Tracery. The geometrical arrangement of mullions and bars in Gothic windows. The ornamentation is obtained by flowing lines and foliation.

Transept. The transverse part of a church built in the form of a cross. The short arms of the cross at right angles to the nave.

Transom. An intermediate horizontal member of a frame, or opening, between the head and sill.

View of Old Christ Church from Stanley Road