Liverpool Catholic church may be turned into housing
A derelict Catholic church in Liverpool is to be transformed and brought back to life as a vibrant housing community.
The disused church building of St Bernard’s Catholic Church in Kingsley Road, Toxteth, has been donated to local housing charity Housing People, Building Communities (HPBC) by the Archdiocese of Liverpool and the charity has submitted a planning application to convert it into 11 residential units.
Under the plans there will also be four new-build two-bedroom apartments and a two/three-bedroom detached house within the curtilage of the church site.
The application was submitted to Liverpool City Council in the same week that HPBC celebrated its 15th anniversary, having been launched on 11th September 2002. At that time the charity had been given 2.2 acres of land adjacent to St Bernard’s Church, again by the archdiocese, and has recently finished developing 32 new homes using a combination of self-build, volunteering and corporate philanthropy. This included home partners spending 500 hours helping to build their homes in return for a £10,000 contribution to their deposit.
This same self-build concept – known as ‘sweat equity’ – will be applied to the new project if the plans are approved.
Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon said: “The building has been falling into disrepair and we can think of nothing better than to see it permanently preserved and brought back into vibrant use as part of a community-led, low-cost housing development.”
Designed by Pugin & Pugin – sons of Augustus Pugin famous for designing the interior of Westminster Palace, St Bernard’s Church was built in 1901 and is Gothic in style. The Pugins were notable church architects and designed several other places of worship in Liverpool, including St Vincent de Paul, in St James Street, Our Lady Immaculate in Everton and Our Lady of La Salette, in Vauxhall.
While not listed, St Bernard’s is nevertheless one of the few surviving Victorian buildings on the street, a landmark in the area and has been ‘noted’ by Historic England. Wirral-based architects Ainsley Gommon have made very few external changes and have endeavoured to incorporate as much internal detail as they can, although many of the key interior features that were used in the building’s ecclesiastical function have already been removed including the altars.
It is hoped that remaining stained glass windows will be retained; the archways that formed the arcade of the nave will be expressed as features within the individual properties and a stone turret in the front of the building creates an interesting spiral staircase in one of the planned townhouses. Ainsley Gommon has also worked hard to ensure that wherever possible, large feature windows are not split by internal floors.
A church hall annexe will be demolished to make way for a detached house, but the presbytery will remain and is home to Fr Peter Morgan, who was the parish priest of St Bernard’s until it closed in 2012 after the parish was combined with St Anne, in Edge Hill, where worship now takes place under his ministry.
“What an extraordinary and imaginative design,” Fr Morgan said, on seeing the plans. “This church building teemed with life for over 100 years. Now there will be new life, new energy – a new community.”
If the planning application is approved HPBC hopes work can start next spring, Building is likely to take 14 months.
Picture: The disused St Bernard’s Church on Kingsley Road.Tags: Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop McMahon, Housing People Building Communities, HPBC, Kingsley Road, Liverpool, St Bernard’s, St Bernard’s Catholic Church, Toxteth