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Exclusive: Spooky St Andrew's church set to be student homes

A room with a view - and a ghost who wouldn't let it lie

Written by . Published on November 29th 2011.

Exclusive: Spooky St Andrew's church set to be student homes

WILLIAM McKenzie, the gambling railway worker, buried sitting in a chair in Liverpool’s historic Rodney Street, is to be given new neighbours ....100 students.

For years, his pyramid-shaped tomb is one of the highlights of the ghost-walks around Liverpool. 

Psychics  are said to shudder as they hear how Mackenzie sold his soul to the Devil, and demanded his body was placed in a seating position above ground within the pyramid, a hand of cards in front of him, to prevent the Devil from claiming it. McKenzie’s  ghost is said to haunt Rodney Street.

Soon though, McKenzie will be up against a new brand of high spirits in the area – the student sort.

 The grave is within the grounds of disused St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Rodney Street, set to be transformed into a home for students.

The building is one of the top priorities in Liverpool for rescue by the government conservation agency, English Heritage.

The city council’s planning committee today (Nov 29) approved an application to transform the church, originally built for the Scottish Presbyterians in Liverpool in 1823.

The body of the church was designed by Daniel Stewart and the Greek revival façade was designed by the renowned architect John Foster (Junior). It is one of Foster’s few surviving buildings.

St Andrews Rodney StreetSt Andrew's Rodney StreetThe former church is a Grade II* listed building and is next to another listed building, a former Sunday cchool building, which is not part of the plan.

The plan involved creating five floors within the outer walls of the church which will see the two distinctive towers fully restored.

A report to local politicians says the plan will respect the integrity and significance of the listed structures and will save it from further decline. The scheme, insist planners,  will also preserve the historic character of the Rodney Street Conservation Area and the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site

The church was closed in 1976 and has remained vacant since, suffering a serious fire in 1984, which destroyed one of the two towers. The decline led to the church being  included on the city’s Buildings at Risk Register.

Developers Middle England Developments, have been handed a list of conditions to ensure the historic importance of the building is protected.

Concerns were raised by heritage champion Florence Gersten of Save Our City campaign. The Rodney Street Association was also worried about the number of students destined to live on the site. A number of Rodney Street residents also complained the scheme would lead to noise and nuisance from students.

However the applicants say all student residents will have to comply with a strict code of conduct to prevent noise and nuisance.

Looking for a soul to steal

There are two completely different stories about how McKenzie came to be involved with the Devil in the first place. One says that he asked for the Devil’s help to win a high-stakes poker game; the Devil agreed, in return for his soul.

(Click here to add text)Back in the boxThe other version has McKenzie becoming an atheist on the premature death of his sweetheart and leading a life of drinking and (successful) gambling. One night, he meets his match playing poker, in the form of the mysterious Mr Madison.

McKenzie loses literally all of his money, and Madison invites him to play one last hand. McKenzie protests that he has nothing left to gamble with, but Madison asks “What about your soul?”

McKenzie initially refuses, now suspecting who ‘Mr Madison’ really is. Madison chall­enges him that if he is an atheist then he cannot believe in the reality of the soul, and therefore has nothing to lose. McKenzie finally agrees, and of course loses the game. Madison says that he will take McKenzie’s soul after he is buried, and immediately vanishes. 

Source: Fortean Times.

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

AnonymousDecember 1st 2011.

One has to say, if one of these universities ever goes bust this city will be up the swannee. The city centre has allowed itself to become totally dependent on them coming year after year, it'll be a disaster if one year they don't.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2011.

Apparently the story about selling his soul is a load of hokum which probably emanated from Liverpool's greatest fantasist Tom Slemen. Sadly it detracts from the fact that McKenzie was a great railway engineer who I think invented the railway carriage coupling amongst other things.
It is more of a mystery that the church mysteriously burn't to the ground the day before Hatton was about to sell it.

Shunted from behindDecember 1st 2011.

I bet there have been a few couplings in there

Molly TovkoktailDecember 1st 2011.

Yes it's spookily uncanny how awkwardly-listed buildings burst into flames whenever a developer gets one in his sights, isn't it?

The old church on the corner of Canning Street and Catharine Street which was Grade II Listed burst into flames at 7am one Sunday morning and neighbours had to be evacuated from their homes.

According to the Echo, a petrol can and other fire-raising implements were found at the scene but the paper never bothered to report if anyone was ever caught and punished.

Needless to say the ugly flats were thrown up in the church's place in no time.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 5th 2012.

Ye what? This church burnt down in the 1980s and is only getting developed now. Same for the Canning/Catharine Street one. Bit of a conspiracy theory strectch to suggest they were burnt down specically so several owners later they could be re dveloped.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2012.

work started today I noticed, they're moving rubble, have strimmers in place to clear the front and sides around the graves and have taken the key stones which have fallen from one tower and placed on tarpaulin, for what can only be assumed, rebuilding at some point in the future.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Matt PeoplesFebruary 27th 2012.


AnonymousApril 17th 2012.

Why are the destroying the Liverpool heritage! Cant we do something to save the church? It is not just an old church it is English history and we have to save it!

AnonymousApril 17th 2012.

Once again, developers and planners will do anything they like in this city. No accountability, no democracy

Reader XxxMarch 2nd 2014.

As I resident on Rodney st living in a place that faces this building, the council ignored our letters... it is now like a doss house, not full of students but drunk stag do types, I've had sick on the doorstep most weekends and people urinating in the street.... thanks for that Liverpool council - A council tax payer.

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