Today one of England’s most remarkable churches celebrates its 200th year. St George’s church, Everton, is the famous ‘Iron Church’ of Liverpool, the world’s first to be built around a frame of cast iron, and a special service will commemorate two centuries since, on 26th October 1814, the Bishop of Chester originally consecrated the building.
A few weeks ago we visited St George’s on a bit of a family history pilgrimage. My wife’s grandparents had been married there in 1938 and we really felt an urge to see the famous interior.
We were shown around by Mr Till, a very well-informed member of the St George’s congregation, and his young nephew. And what a place it is! The airy interior is more railway station than gothic church, with a mass of iron columns slender enough to allow the whole place to be bathed in light. The setting of St George’s gives a hand in this regard, for the church perches on Everton Brow, looking down on the city centre and across to the great estuary of the Mersey, the Welsh hills, and the open sea. It is a place of light and space and a sense of the raw elements.
Of course, Everton is an area which has more than its fair share of problems, and getting the money together to keep up with the repair bill on such a building is a big challenge. Even with its Grade I listing and input from English Heritage, the problems are obvious.
Yet with the love of its congregation, St George’s has kept going. One can only hope that, 200 years hence, another celebration will be in order. In the meantime, everyone who has an interest in historic churches or our wider architectural heritage should put this place high on their ‘to see’ list. Happy birthday, St George’s.
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