IN our Liverpool home we have not one, but two cathedrals to spare – and one is about to change hands for just a pound.
Toxteth Cathedral, the run-down Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road, is to be sold to a preservation group after the District Valuer placed a price tag on the freehold of just a quid.
It’s the latest twist in a long running saga that will see Liverpool’s undisputed third cathedral restored to its former glory.
A century ago there were more Welsh speakers living in Liverpool than in Cardiff. It was hardly surprising the city was known as the Capital of North Wales.
Focal point for this massive community, numbering around 30,000, was the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road. Even today its known as Toxteth Cathedral.
With its spire reaching a height of around 200ft it dominates the Toxteth landscape. Sadly it is a derelict ruin.
But not for much longer if a revival plan is agreed by the council’s executive board this Friday.
The church, opened in 1868 and designed by the remarkable architectural duo the Audsley brothers, William and George, will be given new life.
During their many years in Liverpool, the two Scots also designed the Princes Road Synagogue.
The building’s misfortunes follow the ups and downs of Liverpool 8. Just as a mass exodus saw many well-off families moving out of the grand houses and mansions from the 1950s and into the 1960s the church’s congregation dwindled.
In 1982, it was sold the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, a Nigerian based Christian offshoot with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Their dream of creating a huge place of worship in Liverpool foundered and the building became vacant in the early 1990s. Serious vandalism, removal of artefacts and general disrepair threatened the future of this beautiful Gothic revival structure that had played a key role in the life of Upstairs, Downstairs Toxteth.
The council took legal action against the Brotherhood and carried our essential
The bill reached £350,000 with the council going to court to recover the money from the Brotherhood. They’ve paid up, meaning the council got back the cost of emergency repairs.
Under the proposed deal the council will pay the Brotherhood £50,000, though, in reality, the Nigerian church order will receive much less. The crucial freehold will be sold for £1 to a partnership between Merseyside Building Preservation Trust and the Heritage Trust for the North West.
They will be able to access preservation funding for restoration work.
New studies have come up with possible uses for the building - residential, office space or a small heritage centre dedicated to the work of its architects.
It’s a pity the church was plundered and has lost many, if not most of its internal treasures. But at least it will continue to figure on the city’s skyline.
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