We'd like to collect further information so if you know of anything - maybe interesting people who are buried in Toxteth Cemetery or who lived in the villas around the park - please email us at history@tann.org.uk.

Sefton Park in Postcards

19-Aug-2008

 

Sefton Park

22-June-2008

 
 
 
 

Read more about the fascinating history of the locations within TANN and the surrounding areas.

Ken Pye

Information in this section is kindly provided by Liverpool historian and author Ken Pye.

 
 

Read the latest bi-monthly newsletter about all the issues concerning life in TANN and the surrounding area.

In this issue:

  • TANN Newsletter November 2017
 
 
 

16-Sept-2009 - Sefton Park Presbyterian Church (Brompton Avenue)

Sefton Park Presbyterian Church opened in 1879 on the corner of Brompton Avenue and Croxteth Gate, where Brompton Court now stands. It was a fine building with a carved central pulpit raised over the choir stalls, a magnificent organ and Burne-Jones windows including representations of Faith, Hope and Charity. The Liverpool Review of 1894 described it as “without doubt the most flourishing centre of religious activity in Liverpool” and its congregation, including many civic and business leaders, as “probably the richest and most influential in Liverpool”. Among them were the Crawfords – of the biscuits – and the Fyffes of banana fame. There was a strong Scottish connection. Members paid pew rents and others wishing to attend services would have to queue outside until the last minute when they were admitted to take any spare seats.

The church spawned associated mission churches initially in Earle Road and Smithdown Road and, in 1896, when every sitting in the church was taken, they built St. Columba’s Church at Smithdown Gate – now a sheltered housing complex next to the service station – so that their servants would be able to attend church.

Jane Saxby, born in 1904, was a local community activist who lived for many years in York Avenue and died at 96. Her family moved to Lodge Lane in 1909 when her father got a job as Church Officer at the Presbyterian Church. He was responsible for the cleaning of the building which could house a congregation of 900 in a three galleried church and also contained a lecture hall, guild rooms, court (church council) room, a large room for women and committee rooms. Jane’s mother was expected to help out at the many social functions held there. Her father, who was paid 30/- per week (£1.50) also waited on the minister who had a manse and a stipend of £900 per year - a very large amount a century ago. A particularly charismatic minister a few years earlier had been paid £1200 per year.

Jane’s family attended the church but only sitting in a back pew in the gallery. At 8, Jane became a junior member of the choir which was recruited from local schools as, she said, the congregation would have considered the pay and discipline beneath them. For her, it was untold wealth with payment of a penny for each service and choir practice (at a time when her pocket money was a halfpenny a week) and half a crown for the fashionable weddings and funerals for which the church was in demand. During World War I there were many moving services for officers killed in France, the sons of their Scottish families.

Sefton Park was a world away from the poverty of Lodge Lane and Jane remembered the beautifully maintained park with exotic flowers and statues and a bandstand where there was music played every Wednesday evening and on Saturdays. The mansions around the park had up to a dozen servants, greenhouses, coach houses and mews grouped away from the houses and there was a Rotten Row for horseriding. Later Jane became a member of the church Girls’ Concert Party which sometimes provided after-dinner entertainment to the wealthy residents whose sons were away at boarding school and whose daughters had governesses.

During World War 2, there was a canteen in the upper hall for the soldiers manning the ack-ack guns in Sefton Park and the church also suffered some bomb damage. The church went into some decline after World War 2 when the congregation scattered: the well-off went to labour saving homes as they were unable to get servants, the mansions became apartments and the family houses flatlets and bedsitters. Jane moved to the Avenues in 1957 and commented wryly that it had taken two living-in servants sleeping in the equivalent of her kitchen and a daily skivvy to look after the family of four who lived in her house in 1920.

Eventually the church – which had in 1972 become part of the United Reformed Church - was demolished in the mid seventies, the stained glass windows, pulpit and choir stalls were shipped to America and the pews sold off. Fewer than 40 years later, few residents of the Avenues remember it at all.