Liverpool is a city full of architectural brilliance, from the Gothic splendour of the Anglican Cathedral to the industrial monument that is the Albert Dock. The suburbs of the city also have hidden gems, with large Victorian merchant houses, nineteenth century landscaped parks filled with unsuspecting glass houses and lakes, and churches that where once filled with heaving congregations. There are also hidden treasures to be found underneath Liverpool, and presented here are three underground sites that provide a glimpse to the past of this great port.
The Catacombs of St. Anthony’s Church, Scotland Road
St. Anthony’s Church is a Catholic Church built in 1833, which replaced an earlier chapel that was founded by the Reverend Jean Baptiste Antoinet Gerardot, who escaped the French Revolution of 1789 and came to Liverpool. The Church is of a Gothic design, and the catacombs underneath the Church are well worth a visit; their ‘oval structure’ helping to support the weight of the Church above. There are burials in the catacombs and there is an ongoing project by St. Anthony’s to construct a database of baptisms, marriages and burials, which will give an insight into the Catholic and Irish population of the area in the nineteenth century.
The Cellar of Elm House, Anfield
Elm House is an early Victorian manor house situated in Anfield, not to be confused with the Elm House that merchant and philanthropist Christopher Rawdon resided in, which is now demolished and was once situated where the ‘triangular green space’ is almost opposite Cabbage Hall. The existing Elm House is currently residence to the Ambulance Headquarters, but is truly a hidden gem in regards to its architecture, remaining features, and its surviving cellar. Like Woolton Hall, which I discussed in the previous Underground Liverpool article, it provides an example of a nineteenth century storage place, with bricked up entrance-ways and cold whitewashed corridors leading to hidden enclaves.
St. James’ Cemetery
What is now known as St. James’ Cemetery was once a sandstone quarry, but during the early nineteenth century, it was redesigned as a cemetery by architect John Foster Jnr to serve the nearby St. James’ Church. Since the opening years of the twentieth century, the cemetery has been in the shadow of the Anglican Cathedral, and is accessed through a tunnel that is cut into the sandstone. The cemetery itself reveals Masonic monuments and family vaults, such as the Rathbone’s, which are set within the sandstone like secret caves. Eighteenth century graffiti adorns the sandstone face and an old spring of sweet tasting water can be found coming out of the bare rock. There is also the Greek-revival Oratory designed by Foster, which can be seen perched on the sandstone outcrop, and the monument to early nineteenth century MP William Huskisson which dominates the centre of the cemetery.