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St Mary's Church, Woolton
St Mary's Church, Woolton.jpg
St. Mary's from the east.
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OS grid reference SJ 422 868
Location Church Road, Woolton, Liverpool, Merseyside
Country England
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website St Mary's, Woolton
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II
Designated 19 June 1985
Architect(s) R. W. Hughes
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1859
Completed 1860
Materials Sandstone, slate roof
Diocese Archdiocese of Liverpool
Stained Glass St Mary's Saints
Stained glass depicting various saints and episodes from their lives.
BVM st marys
Statue of Mary, Mother of God
St Marys Calvery
Calvery situated in the church grounds, some stones from the old priory can be found at its base.

St Mary's Church is in Church Road, Woolton, Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It is an active Roman Catholic parish church in the Liverpool South Deanery of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.


The church was built in 1859–60, and designed by R. W. Hughes, an architect from Preston. It was opened on 28 October 1860. The church was re-decorated in 1981–82, and the font was moved to the front of the church. The church's foundation stone was laid 11 September 1859. The Church was known as Saint Benet's until 1881 when it became known as Saint Mary's.

The Catholic Mission in Woolton

A Catholic community has been present for over 300 years. It has had a very varied and interesting history. Notable dates include:

Year Event
1715 Benedictine Chaplains to the Molyneux family at Woolton Hall.
1731 The ‘Woolton Mission’ was founded at St. Benet's Priory in Watergate Lane.
The Parish school – Much Woolton Catholic Primary now stands on this site.
1795 The exiled Benedictine nuns of Cambrai, the future Stanbrook Abbey, moved into 43-47 Woolton Street and ran a girls' school until they moved away in 1808.
1859 The Foundation Stone of the present Church was laid and dedicated to the patronage of Saint Benet.
1860 The Church was opened on 28 October
1861 The Church was renamed Saint Mary's
1869 The School building (now the Parish Centre) and the Presbytery were built.
1873 The Cloisters were built, to join the Church and Presbytery.
1928 The Benedictines departed St Mary's.
The Mill Hill Fathers became rectors.
1931 V. Rev. Dr. Charles Gelderd becomes the first secular Parish Priest of Saint Mary's.
1947 V. Rev Cannon Edward Murphy is appointed Parish Priest and remains for the next 33 years.
1950 Bishop Halsall celebrated the Mass of consecration in the Church on 8 September.
1980 V. Rev. Mgr. John P. Mahony is appointed as Parish Priest
1981/2 During the early 1980s the Church interior was extensively redecorated and the font was moved to its current position at the front of the church.
1982 Saint Benet's Priory in Watergate Lane is demolished.
1984 Saint Benet's Cemetery is closed to make way for the housing development ‘Priory Way’. Remains, tombstones, monuments and other memorials were transferred to the graveyard at Saint Mary's.
1987 An ecumenical covenant is signed with the other churches in Woolton: St James’, St Peter's and the United Reformed Church pledging a cooperative witness of Christ's people.
1989 V. Rev. Mgr. Peter W. Ryan appointed as Parish Priest.
1999 Rev. Fr. Patrick O’Brien appointed as Parish Priest.
2011 Following Fr. Pat's retirement Rev. Fr. Timothy J Buckley C.Ss.R. appointed Parish Priest.
The Redemptorist Community at Bishop Eton take Pastoral Responsibility for the Parish

Priests who have served at Saint Mary's

  • 1862–1873: J.P. O’Brien OSB
  • 1873–1880: P. Whittle OSB
  • 1880–1891: W. Bede Prest OSB
  • 1891–1894: H.G. Murphies OSB
  • 1895–1896: J.W. Richards OSB
  • 1896–1897: C.J. Fitzgerald OSB
  • 1897–1909: Ambrose A. Pereria OSB
  • 1909: A.F. Fleming OSB
  • 1909–1913: Vincent Corney OSB
  • 1913–1919: H.M. Campbell OSB
  • 1919–1928: J.M. Kelly OSB
  • 1928: E.D. Fennell OSB

Assistant priests during the above years

  • B.M. Sutter OSB, A.J. McEvoy OSB, T.L. Almond OSB, Vincent Corney OSB, H.W. McKay OSB, P. O’Callaghan OSB, J.R. Riley OSB, J.G. Dolan OSB, C de Neubourg OSB, J.R. Rylance OSB, L.S. Cave OSB, E.D. Fennell OSB, R.V. Gilbertson OSB, J.M. Kelly OSB, F.A. Harrington OSB, T.P. Worsley-Warwick OSB

In 1928 the Benedictines then departed after two centuries of service; Mill Hill Fathers become Rectors

  • 1928–1930: Fr. Herman Drontman
  • 1930–1931: Fr. Martin Onsten
  • Assistant: Fr. William Ross

The first secular priest Fr. Charles Gelderd was appointed by Archbishop Richard Downey in 1931.

Years Parish Priests Years Assistant Priests (Residents) and Permanent Deacons
1931 – 1947 V.Rev. Dr. Charles Gelderd 1932 – 35 Fr Brendan Chapman
1935 – 40 Fr Francis Clayton
1939 Fr John P. Mahony
1940 – 43 Fr Edward Crowley

Fr Patrick Neligan

1943 – 48 Fr Stanley Baker
1943 Fr Finian O’Connor
1945 Fr Cyril Pilson
1947 – 1980 V. Rev. Cannon Edward Murphy 1946 – 52 Frs George Hickson & Francis Ripley
1950 – 58 Fr Patrick Higgins
1952 Fr Vincent Gaskell
1957 – 59 Fr Patrick Rose
1958 – 61 Fr Michael Gaine
1960 – 66 Fr James Collins
1961 – 63 Fr Peter Doyle
1962 – 64 Fr Gerald Willacy
1963 – 65 Fr Louis Hanlon
1964 – 69 Fr Joseph Howard
1966 – 70 Fr Bernard Bimson
1969 – 71 Fr Cyril Thomas
1970 – 73 Fr Kevin Ashton
1971 – 73 Fr Francis Goulbourne
1974 – 75 Fr Bernard Bimson
1974 – 79 Fr Christopher Crowley
1977 – 84 Fr James Lahiff
1979 – 85 Fr Brian Crane
1980 – 1989 V. Rev. Mgr. John P. Mahony 1985 – 88 Fr Robert Starkey
1988 –1996 Fr Thomas Wood
1989 – 1999 V. Rev. Mgr. Peter W. Ryan 1997 - 2011 Deacon Adrian Dickinson
1999 - 2011 Rev. Fr. Patrick O’Brien

As Fr. Pat O’Brien's retirement approached, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer better known as the Redemptorists were asked by Archbishop Patrick Kelly to take over the Pastoral Care of St. Mary's. This would be in addition to their parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Bishop Eton. The Parishes would not be merged but would continue to exist in their own right.

Year Parish Priest Assistant Priest Permanent Deacon
2011 Fr. Timothy J. Buckley C.Ss.R Fr. Barrie O’Toole CSsR

Fr. Charles Randall CSsR

Deacon Adrian Dickinson
2012 Deacon Bernard Rigby


St. Mary's viewed from the rear.
Paschal Candle (2015) and view of the stained glass behind the main altar.


St Mary's is constructed in red sandstone and has a slate roof. It is orientated with the ritual east facing the northwest. The plan consists of a five-bay nave with a north porch but without aisles, large north and south transepts, a chancel with north and south chapels and sacristies. There is no tower. At the west end are diagonal buttresses, an entrance, and pointed windows containing Geometric tracery. The windows along the sides of the nave have two lights. In the south transept is a four-light window, and the north transept contains two two-light windows with a rose window above. In the chapel is a five-light window flanked by diagonal buttresses. The chapels are gabled with two-light windows. The south sacristy has one and two lights, with a rose window in the gable.


Inside the church, the high altar and reredos date from 1865, and were probably designed by E. W. Pugin. They were separated in 1948–50 by Weightman and Bullen, who placed the reredos against the east wall. The stained glass in the east window dates from 1878, and is a typical design by the Belgian stained glass painter Jean-Baptiste Capronnier. The two-manual pipe organ was built by Franklin Lloyd in 1895, and is situated in a gallery on the north wall of the church at the west end.

Stained glass windows

The main window was donated by the Jump family. At the apex is a representation of the last supper. St Benedict and Scholastica are pictured below and included because of the Parish being founded by Benedictines.

The saints below are (left to right) St Baldwin (a Benedictine reformer), St James, St Mary, St Henry and St Anne. These last four Saints are name saints of members of the Jump family buried outside near to the church porch. The inscription reads "Donante Jacob Jump luceo deo in domo" which translates as Dontate by James Jump to bring light to God’s house.

Above the word Donante can be seen the makers inscription J. P. Carpronnier, Brussels. Jean-Baptiste Capronnier (1814-1891) was a Belgian stained glass painter. Born in Brussels in 1814, he had much to do with the modern revival of glass-painting, and first made his reputation by his study of the old methods of workmanship, and his clever restorations of old examples, and copies made for the Brussels archaeological museum. He carried out windows for various churches in Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and elsewhere, and his work was commissioned also for France, Italy and England. At the Paris Exhibition of 1855 he won the only medal given for glass painting. He died in Brussels in 1891.

The window which can be found above the Lady Altar depicts St John the evangelist, St Mary and St Joseph. An inscription read "Pray for the soul of Joanna Simpson who died September 8, 1859". A Miss Simpson gave a gift £1000 towards the building of this Church

The window above our Sacred Heart Altar has images of St Elizabeth, St Anne and St Robert. All three saints are saint names of members of the Roskell family. Also look at the base of the main altar for the inscription about Joanna Roskell

The window in the South Transept was erected to the memory of Francis and Clare Reynolds, buried outside by the church entrance, who lived in what is now Reynolds Park. The window depicts St Francis and St Clare. Francis and Clare Reynolds were members of the third order of St Francis. The other two saints Elizabeth of Hungary and St Vincent de Paul are patrons of the third order. In the small panes below each saint are scenes from their life.

Central to the rose window, found in the North Transept is Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This icon was brought to Liverpool in 1866 by the Redemptorists.

Saint Mary's Main Window
Main Window St Mary's
Window above Lady Altar

Associated buildings

The Presbytery.
St Mary's School.


The presbytery was built in 1864, and designed by E. W. Pugin. It is constructed in stone, and has a slate roof. The presbytery has two storeys and a front of three bays, the outer bays projecting under gables. In the centre bay is a gablet, and the third bay contains a single-storey canted bay window. The presbytery is connected on the left by a single-storey corridor with a central gabled entrance and a ridge dormer. It is designated as a Grade II listed building.

Parish Centre (Formally Much Woolton Catholic Primary School)

The school was built in 1869, with its entrance in Mount Street. It is constructed in red sandstone with a slate roof. The school is in two storeys and has a nine-bay front, the central bay projecting forward under a gable. The windows in the ground floor have three lights under ogee heads; those in the upper floor have two lights under cusped heads. In the gable of the projecting wing is a rose window. The school is also listed at Grade II. The school building is now used at the Parish Hall and the ground floor is a Nursery.

See also

  • Grade II listed buildings in Liverpool-L25
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