Liverpool Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Described by the poet Sir John Betjeman as one of the great buildings of the world, Britain's largest cathedral towers over the city of Liverpool.

Lily Johnson

04 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral, a blend of modernist and Gothic architecture, is a magnificent monument in the centre of Liverpool. It is the largest cathedral in Britain and the fifth largest in the world, highly warranting a visit for those exploring the city and its history.

Liverpool Cathedral history

The construction of the Cathedral occurred after Liverpool became a diocese in the 19th century, when it was considered necessary given Liverpool’s status in the Anglican Church. The existing parish church of St. Peter, which was serving as a pro-cathedral, was also far too small to be adequate to the task.

After the decision was taken to erect a cathedral more fitting of Liverpool’s status, a competition was run in 1901 adjudicated by two prominent architects, George Bodley and Norman Shaw. Perhaps ironically given that this was to be an Anglican cathedral, the winner came from a Roman Catholic family.

Equally notable was that the winner was only 22 years of age, and hadn’t yet produced any buildings. Despite these factors, it was Giles Gilbert Scott whose design was approved in 1903. Given Scott’s inexperience, George Bodley was appointed joint-architect, and the foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII the following year.

Knighted later on in his career, Scott hailed from a famous architecture family. He failed to get on with his joint-architect Bodley however, and would have even resigned had it not been for Bodley’s sudden death in 1907.

Despite his tender years, Scott was certainly not lacking in confidence, and in 1910, he decided he was not satisfied with his original design, and managed to persuade the Cathedral committee to accept a completely new one. Scott continued to make refinements up until his death which sadly occurred in 1960, one year before the Cathedral was handed over to the Dean.

Liverpool Cathedral was finally completed in 1978, having suffered numerous interruptions due to the two World Wars. In fact, George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother both visited the Cathedral during the Blitz to offer their encouragement to continue building. Queen Elizabeth II was also present at the service of thanksgiving to mark the building’s completion.

Liverpool Cathedral today

In addition to its size, Liverpool Cathedral boasts a number of other records. The arches are the largest Gothic arches ever built, and the Cathedral contains the largest working church organ in the world. It also has the world’s heaviest and highest ringing peal of bells.

Entrance is free, however the Tower and audio tour tickets are highly recommended. The tower stands at 154m above the river Mersey, affording visitors a spectacular view over the city, and also hosts an embroidery collection containing a host of fine Victorian and Edwardian ecclesiastical embroidery.

The beautiful Lady Chapel contains a 15th century statue of the Virgin Mary and portrait windows of revered women, including local Liverpool heroes Kitty Wilkinson (helper of the poor) and Agnes Jones (a nurse).

The Great Space – which is breathtaking in its own right – hosts a newly built theatre where guests can learn about the history of the Cathedral, and watch an interactive exhibition on the computers. The Cathedral also contains one of Scott’s most famous creations, the red cast iron box used to make telephone calls.

Getting to Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral is located in the centre of Liverpool and can be seen from most points in the city. It is a 30-minute walk from most central locations including Lime Street and Central railway stations and Liverpool’s main bus terminals. Bus routes 82, 86 stop nearby, while the hop-on-hop-off city bus can include the Cathedral on your route.

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