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Exclusive: Third cathedral hangs onto a £1 prayer

High hope for future of Princes Road's derelict Welsh church

Published on November 3rd 2009.

Exclusive: Third cathedral hangs onto a £1 prayer

IN our Liverpool home we have not one, but two cathedrals to spare – and one is about to change hands for just a pound.

Toxteth Cathedral, the run-down Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road, is to be sold to a preservation group after the District Valuer placed a price tag on the freehold of just a quid.

It’s the latest twist in a long running saga that will see Liverpool’s undisputed third cathedral restored to its former glory.

A century ago there were more Welsh speakers living in Liverpool than in Cardiff. It was hardly surprising the city was known as the Capital of North Wales.

Focal point for this massive community, numbering around 30,000, was the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Princes Road. Even today its known as Toxteth Cathedral.

With its spire reaching a height of around 200ft it dominates the Toxteth landscape. Sadly it is a derelict ruin.

But not for much longer if a revival plan is agreed by the council’s executive board this Friday.

The church, opened in 1868 and designed by the remarkable architectural duo the Audsley brothers, William and George, will be given new life.

During their many years in Liverpool, the two Scots also designed the Princes Road Synagogue.

The building’s misfortunes follow the ups and downs of Liverpool 8. Just as a mass exodus saw many well-off families moving out of the grand houses and mansions from the 1950s and into the 1960s the church’s congregation dwindled.

In 1982, it was sold the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, a Nigerian based Christian offshoot with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Their dream of creating a huge place of worship in Liverpool foundered and the building became vacant in the early 1990s. Serious vandalism, removal of artefacts and general disrepair threatened the future of this beautiful Gothic revival structure that had played a key role in the life of Upstairs, Downstairs Toxteth.

The council took legal action against the Brotherhood and carried our essential

By Larry Neild

repairs to stop the building collapsing.

The bill reached £350,000 with the council going to court to recover the money from the Brotherhood. They’ve paid up, meaning the council got back the cost of emergency repairs.

Under the proposed deal the council will pay the Brotherhood £50,000, though, in reality, the Nigerian church order will receive much less. The crucial freehold will be sold for £1 to a partnership between Merseyside Building Preservation Trust and the Heritage Trust for the North West.

They will be able to access preservation funding for restoration work.

New studies have come up with possible uses for the building - residential, office space or a small heritage centre dedicated to the work of its architects.

It’s a pity the church was plundered and has lost many, if not most of its internal treasures. But at least it will continue to figure on the city’s skyline.


The prolific Audsley brothers, were responsible for a number ofoutstanding Liverpool landmarks including the nearby Grade I listed Old Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, which they described as the best of Eastern and Western schools of art.

They designed the original Racquet Club in Upper Parliament Street, destroyed at the height of the Toxteth riots of 1981, and the Grade II listed Streatlam Towers on Princes Road. They were also responsible for the Grade II listed Christ Church, Kensington.

They eventually left for America where they designed the Bowling Green Building at 11 Broadway in Manhattan, credited as one of the earliest examples of a US skyscraper. It was to become the US headquarters of the White Star Line, owner of the ill-fated Titanic.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jospehine ButlerNovember 2nd 2009.

Hopefully Maghull developments won't get their hands on it.

Secret SquirrelNovember 2nd 2009.

What a terrible shame that something like this has been allowed to happen! This is our chance to redeem it! I like the idea of a heritage centre rather than offices.

ObserverNovember 2nd 2009.

It's great something is to be done to 'save' this spectacular building. Isn't it typical of Liverpool we allow such special structures to fall into this state in the first place. I recall reading that since the Toxteth Riots over £400m has been spent in and around the Granby area - that would equate to half of the entire cost of building Liverpool One. Can you see improvements or works that remotely equate to the equivalent of half of Liverpool One?The big problem for Liverpool is there are so many quangos and special area bodies they hide behind each other. I'd love to see a document detailing how all that money has been spent, how much on land acquisitions, CPOs, actual building, oh and how much on consultants, master plans and reports printed on special paper that cannot gather dust.But on a positive note thank you for highlighting the latest on the Toxteth Cathedral.

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2009.

Audsley was a bit of a flaneur by the look of it.

The BossNovember 2nd 2009.


JohnbdNovember 2nd 2009.

To Observer - absolutely spot on. Agree with every word. These spending figures are frightening, I don't know if you have ever built anything, but the cost of materials is an unbelievebly small percentage of the costs. Either the brickies et al are all receiving bankers size bonuses, or a deal of skimming is going on. I know what I think

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