Sunday, 14 September 2014

Liverpool Anglican cathedral

History of the Cemetery 

The Mill stood in the place where the Oratory now stands.

St James' Cemetery began life in the 1600's as a sandstone quarry.
The quarrymen constructed a tunnel to ferry the stone to and from the site. This tunnel - although still in existence is blocked up.

By 1825 the useful stone from the quarry had been exhausted and the town council had to decide what was to be done with the quarry.
The corporation raised nearly £20,000 by public subscription and employed architect John Foster (1786 - 1846) to design and lay out a cemetery along the same lines of the Pere-la-Chaise, Paris.
This new cemetery would relieve the pressure on the Low Hill Cemetery, Everton where it was getting difficult to prepare a new grave without disturbing another corpse!

“Loss of appetite, nervous disorders, Lowness of spirit, headaches proceeding from crudities of the stomach, Rickets and weak eyes.”
Uses for the water from the spring discovered in 1773, according to James Worthington.


This new cemetery would relieve the pressure on the Low Hill Cemetery, Everton where it was getting difficult to prepare a new grave without disturbing another corpse!

In 1894 a proposal was made that the cemetery should be filled in and the land set aside for other uses which prompted a public outcry.
Mr. T.W. Christie wrote to Bishop Ryle: 

"At last it is disclosed that not only have ye been nursing the plot in secret, but have actually passed a vote of thanks to Mr. Lister for his plan for filling up the cemetery from end to end. A monstrous and inhuman proposal to say the least of it."

The cemetery soon became well used with up to 8 burials per day during the Victorian era.
It finally closed in July 1936, when, after 57,774 burials it was considered full.
St James Cemetery is now a conservation area, and a nature conservation site, Grade 1. 


The Anglican Cathedral was completed after the cemetery stopped being used.


Print by Robert Irving Barrow from 1830.
Courtesy of Mike Faulkner.

There are 3 tunnels leading into (or out of) the cemetery.
1) The Pedestrian walkway
2) The Quarryman's Tunnel
3) The Hearse Tunnel
Although there is no definite evidence to confirm the uses of the tunnels these are the widely held views: -

The Pedestrian Walkway

10 feet wide and 12 feet high it follows a downward slope from the left of the main Cathedral entrance.
It has been called a 'natural arch' by some Ordnance Survey maps but chisel marks are plainly evident on the walls and roof point to the fact that this tunnel has been 'worked'. Today the tunnel walls are decorated by gravestones which were moved during the transformation to a public garden.

It is possible to see find the initials of long dead stonemasons carved into the sandstone, together with the dates.
Look out for J.F.P 1856. 

Because of the winding nature of the path leading to this tunnel, it is unlikely to have been used for little else than pedestrian traffic. 

The Quarrymen's Tunnel

This tunnel is some 4 metres wide suggesting that it was used for the transportation of heavy, difficult loads. Possibly this was the early Quarrymen's route out of the Quarry with their loads of stone. It caused a problem during the 1960's when the Anglican Cathedral was nearing completion.

In his book The Building of Liverpool Cathedral, Peter Kennerly writes;
"The preparation of the foundations for the West Front was hampered by the presence underground of an old collapsed tunnel, which had been excavated in the eighteenth century to give access to the quarry."

Just to the right of this there is a very concentrated amount of early 19th century graffiti. This could this indicate that the workers of the day spent idle time here.

The Hearse Tunnel

Almost facing the quarrymen's tunnel, hidden among trees and ivy, lies another tunnel.

Currently it is bricked off with blocks of distinctive yellow sandstone, there is a small gap at the top and through this we can see how the roof is very well dressed.

It emerged at the junction of Rodney St, St. James St and Duke St. Close to the home of a Dr. Gill.


 Image courtesy of Marc Williams


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