St Bride's Church, Percy Street, 19th century engraving

St Bride's Church, Percy Street, 19th century engraving

The foundation stone of St Bride's was laid on 25th August 1829.

The architect was Samuel Rowland and it was built in the fashionable Classical style. Notable features are the six massive Ionic columns and Egyptianate windows and doorways. The Church was first consecrated for use on December 29th 1830 by the Bishop of Chester and was completed and opened in February 1831. The 1820's and 30's were a time of considerable church building in the city. Several churches were sponsored by the Corporation who also paid for the subsequent running costs (e.g. St Michael in the City). St Bride's was different in that its building and running costs were financed by the congregation.

The building costs (£6,000) were met through the sale of shares (bearing a dividend) to the congregation and an interest bearing loan. Church running costs, mainly the minister and curate's stipends, were paid through pew rents. About a quarter of the pews were designated 'free' for the poor of the area. By the 1850's the income from pews was insufficient to meet the dividend on the original stock which was suspended. The first minister was the Revd. James Haldane Stewart. After the closure of his Percy Chapel in the St Pancras area of London, he was invited to Liverpool. It was at Mr. Haldane's suggestion that Percy Street was named.

The church founded the St Bride's National School, off Upper Stanhope Street, in the late 1830's. Around 600 of the area's poor children attended. The school was eventually closed in the late 1940's. The church also operated a hall (1878) in Percy Street (used for Sunday School, Band of Hope, uniformed groups etc.) which was closed in the 1960's, and a Mission Room in Rathbone Street.

In 1894, the interior of the Church was remodelled by the Rev Henry Rhodes at a cost of £1,175. By the late 1890's, the financial position of the church was worsening. The majority of the original founders had died and the population of the area was less able to provide income. By 1904 only 101 members paid pew rents and by 1911, the amount raised was insufficient even to meet the vicar's stipend which remained at £300, unchanged from 1831.

In 1904 the Liverpool and Wigan Churches Act allocated a parish to St Bride's which had up to that point been a district church within the parish of Liverpool.

In the late 1920's there was a move to close St Bride's and for the congregation to merge with nearby St Saviour's. Eventually with the compulsory purchase of St Saviour's in 1974, the two congregations did merge in the new parish of St Bride with St Saviour.

St Bride’s underwent something of a revival in the 1950’s under the ministry of the Revd. Alfred William Anderson-Brown, an evangelical who attracted a congregation of 60 to the morning service. He also ran a weekday Adult Fellowship Group with more than 100 members. The strength of the church at that time was probably also a reflection also of the strength of the community. In the 1950's, Toxteth was a tight-knit, poor but self-supporting community. Most of the residents had come through the war together and helped one another through times of hardship and poverty. Contemporary photographs show the multi-ethnic nature of the congregation at that time. Extensive demolition in the area in the early 1970's ripped the heart out of the community and churches like St Bride's began to struggle to hold on to their congregations and a sense of rootedness in the community.

In 1981 there was further consolidation with the formation of the Team Parish of St Luke in the City (including St Michael in the City Upper Pitt Street, St Bride's, St Stephen's Grove Street and later St Dunstan's Earle Road) with Canon Neville Black as the first Rector. In 1983 the interior of the Church was modified to incorporate a community room, meeting room, kitchen and several offices and the Church became a combined church and Christian community centre.

Through the 1990’s the church became home to many community and arts projects and while thriving as a centre of community, St Bride’s struggled to maintain a worshipping congregation in the context of the fast changing population in the local area. By 2006, the congregation of St Bride’s had fallen to just four and the Church faced bills of £500,000 to repair and restore the building. At that point a decision was taken to relaunch St Bride’s Liverpool with a vision of creating a place of worship for the city which is 'creative, progressive and inclusive'. Innovative morning and evening services have attracted new congregations to St Bride’s and together with our partners, St Bride’s is a hive of activity every day of the week.

From an original article by P.A. Young, with thanks