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CHAPTER III.

PLACES OF WORSHIP, AND CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS.

THE edifices consecrated to religious worship in this town are all modern, with the exception of one, and that scarcely retains a single vestige of its primitive state. Though there are here none of those vast structures rendered venerable by antiquity, and which indicate the taste and architectural skill of our progenitors,-still few places in the kingdom possess an equal number of well-built churches, many of which display a high degree of classic elegance.

THE CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS, OR THE OLD CHURCH.

It is supposed this structure was originally built in the year 1360, and that it occupies the site of an old chapel said to have been erected

about the time of the conquest. Whatever truth there may be in this statement, it is certain that the bishop of Lichfield granted a licence to bury here so early as the year 1361. In 1565 queen Elizabeth endowed it with the sum of £4 17s 5d, to be paid annually out of the chantry rents for the minister, and at the same time a yearly grant of £5 13s. 5d. was made to the schoolmaster. Since the death of the late Mr. Baines this sum has ceased to be paid. Mortuaries continued to be paid here until the year 1738. The parish records are dated no earlier than 1681, though it is related that in the register office at Chester there is a parish register of Liverpool for the year 1624, which states that there were 35 christenings, 4 marriages, and 21 burials during that year. In 1699 this was made a distinct parish from Walton, to which it had previously been a chapelry. In former times a statue of St. Nicholas stood in the church-yard, to which the mariners were accustomed to pay their votive offerings, as to their tutelar saint, in order to obtain a prosperous voyage. In 1774 the body of this church was re-built, under the direction of Joseph Brooks, Esq., when "the old roof, walls, and gothic pillars were taken down, with the old blue ceiling, black and white clouds, golden sun, moon, and stars, painted and gilt upon the roof."

On Sunday the 11th February, 1810, during

the ringing of the second peal, when the congregation were assembling for the morning service, the lower part of the steeple gave way, and the spire was precipitated into the body of the church. At the same instant the children belonging to the Moorfields charity school were entering, and the girls who led the procession were walking along the aisles, when several of them were suddenly buried under the ruins; but all the boys, who were following, escaped. At the same time about twenty adults were sitting in the church, but the greater part of them received no injury. Of twenty-eight bodies that were taken out of the ruins, twenty-three were dead, or expired shortly after, and the remaining five were conveyed to the infirmary, one of whom also died. Seventeen of those who perished were childern belonging to the school. This mournful catastrophe might have proved much more fatal had it occurred a quarter of an hour later, as the whole congregation would then have been assembled at divine service. This accident is said to have been caused by the spire being improperly placed upon the old, tower, the arches of which having been greatly impaired by the action of the weather and the ringing of the bells, one of the key stones became displaced, and the whole superstructure fell.

A fine stone tower, 40 yards high, crowned by an open lantern 20 yards high, has been since

erected from a design of Mr. Harrison, of Chester. The style of architecture is the ornamental Gothic, and the whole reflects great credit on the taste and judgment of the architect. Some persons having objected to the lantern, as being too short; and certainly it must be admitted, that had it been carried a few yards higher, its beauty and symmetry would have been much improved, but the exposed situation perhaps rendered this unadvisable. A peal of twelve fine-toned bells has been placed here. The entire height of the steeple from the base of the tower to the summit of the lantern, is 180 feet.

The following extracts have been made from the vestry book of this church :

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April, 1682. Officers elected in the chapel of Liverpool. Thomas Gerard, chapel warden. "Robert Amerie, sidesman, on the one and twentieth of August, 1682; after the death of Thomas Amerie, Thomas Mathews elected sidesman for the remainder of the year.

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Then ordered that a lay of £10 be assessed for the poor.

"Ordered that a lay of £40 be assessed for the repairs of the chapel.

"Ordered that Richard Diggles and John Grammond be overseers for the poor for the year ensuing. Liverpool, April, 17, 1669.-Collected for the relief of the Vaudois, and French refugees, the sum of forty pounds, eighteen shillings, and

a penny halfpenny, as witness our hands the ninth day of July, 1699.

William Atherton, Rector.

Charles Diggles,

}

Thomas Suddling, Mayor.

Churchwardens.

James Benn,

Thomas Johnson, senior,
Thomas Johnson, junior,
William Preston,

Aldermen.

"24th July, 1749. Ordered that the churchyard wall be immediately carried out to the westward, so far as shall be thought fitting and convenient, with the leave of the corporation of Liverpool, for the benefit of a public burial place for this parish, under the direction of the churchwardens, for the time being, and at the expense of the parish."

This church is situate at the bottom of Chapelstreet, and is neither remarkable for interior decoration nor antique monuments, but is commodiously fitted up with pews, and has a good organ. The galleries are supported by plain short pillars.

Amongst the monuments there is one erected to the memory of William Clayton, Esq., who died in 1715, having represented this borough in six different parliaments, besides another to his relict, who died in 1745. From this family Clayton-square took its name.

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