The Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas, to give this elevated parish church its full title, is the latest in a long line of places of worship rising from this spot on the banks of the Mersey. What’s more St Nicholas Church is the parish church of Liverpool.
The original stone chapel of St Mary del Quay was built in 1257, with subsequent buildings increasing in size as the city grew around it, with additions bolted on, rather precariously, to its medieval base. On Sunday 11 February 1810, as the congregation was arriving for morning service, the spire crashed into the nave below, killing 25 people – mostly children.
For centuries, the Mersey washed up alongside its walls – from which a battery of guns were placed to defend the river. Now, most of the original burial ground and church gardens have sunk beneath the new dual carriageway that separates St Nick’s from the waves.
The exterior of the church features a delicate and distinctive lantern spire, with a gleaming golden sailing ship (which survived from the earlier spire collapse) set high above the city. Inside, the church is hushed and restrained – with two chapels and some simple crucifixes fashioned from charred timbers of the nave destroyed in the Blitz in 1941 (the 19th century tower survived).
St Nicholas Church’s peaceful gardens offer a smashing view of the river, and feature a series of memorials to the Blitz and the ‘Dockers’ Cross’ crucifix, by which dockers would cross themselves, en route to work.
St Nicholas ChurchSt Nicholas Church