The Diocese of Liverpool has moved forward with plans to bring back into use as a church the historic St James’ Church in Toxteth.
The aim is to plant a creative, open, evangelical church in the centre of Liverpool to connect with the growing residential population and huge transient population who work, socialise or attend university in the city.
To help achieve that vision the Diocese is planning test excavations in the churchyard at St James’ Church Toxteth as they investigate the possibility of bringing the church back into use. The Diocese needs to ascertain what level of exhumation will be necessary if they are to be able to go ahead with plans to build new premises alongside the church.
Bishop James has a vision to bring St James Church back into community and church use and the Diocese of Liverpool is looking at how this vision can be realised. Financial appraisals have shown that we cannot afford the extensive work needed on the Grade 2 * listed building. This means exploring the possibility of a new three storey development set along Upper Stanhope Street. This will contain a mix of supported housing over facilities for the local community.
To see whether this is feasible the Diocese are proposing to carry out some small scale excavation in the churchyard. These will help it determine the extent of burials that remain in the grounds.
Church records show that there may be the remains of 2,500 bodies that the Diocese may want to exhume and reinter. The purpose of the exploration would be to discover the condition of the remains so that a sensible decision regarding the way forward can be taken.
The last burial at the church was in 1898 but very few took place after 1851.
The Rev Neil Short who is delivering the vision for St James church said “these explorations are vital for us to see whether we can carry on with the project to develop a new church at St James. We are very aware that work of this kind can create sensitivities among a number of people and are keen to show that we are doing this in the most responsible way possible.
“we are taking expert architectural and archaeological advice on the best way forward and will carry out all work according to legal guidelines”.
Quoted in the Liverpool Daily Post, local Councillor Steve Mumby said “it is a thoroughly positive development. I 100% support this.” Councillor Mumby, whose great-great-great-great grandfather was buried in the church added “rather than our ancestors being buried near a ruined church, it will be better to bring it back to use.”
The Diocese of Liverpool have secured preferred bidder status on the building which is to be transferred back from the Churches Conservation Trust. English Heritage has given in principle support to the overall scheme and the planning team have had discussions with a wide range of interested parties.
The vision is for a church that can reach out to the growing residential population and huge transient population who work, socialise or attend university in the city.
Rev Short said “the city of Liverpool has benefited from many changes over the last few years and while there are many excellent churches doing great work in the city we believe there is room for St James to prosper”