Saturday, 30 June 2007

St George's Church, Everton

St George's Church, Everton

While searching for more information on the Myers family, (see previous post) I visited St George's churchyard in Everton. St Georges church, also known as the Iron Church, towers over the city of Liverpool as it stands at the highest point on the hill. It was built in 1814 by, and for, the wealthy merchants who lived in what must have been a beautiful village overlooking the city and the River Mersey.

The view from the churchyard must have been a sight to behold, especially on a summers evening as the sunsets out over Liverpool bay colouring the sky various shades of red.

Liverpool Bay

This picture taken from Leasowe shows how dramatic the bay can look in the evening sun.

In those days, the river would have been teeming with sailing ships bringing back sugar, spices, cotton and all manner of goods that would add to the merchant's wealth.

An old postcard showing a view of the river and
New Brighton

The view inspired James Atherton of Lodge-lane (later St George's hill), one of the major contributors to the building of the church, to create the town of New Brighton on a sandy corner of the Wirral Peninsula known as Rock Point. Atherton's New Brighton would become a fashionable retreat from the smogs of the city for the wealthy and eventually a thriving seaside resort in its heyday.

Postcard showing New Brighton Ferry

Even today, although it doesn't pull the kiss-me-quick crowds it did at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, it still attracts quite a few visitors. Mention the name "New Brighton" to any Liverpudlian and they will regale you with fond memories of going out for the day on the ferry, visiting the fair or dancing in the Tower ballroom.

Old postcard showing the Tower

James Atherton died in 1855 long before the Tower was built (1896 - 1900). He chose to be buried back at St Georges church with his children James, Charles, and Henry who died before him. His wife, daughter Caroline and family plus others are also buried there. His funeral, like all other funerals at St Georges, would not have entered via the west gate. He made this a stipulation when he gave the land to the church as this gate was opposite to his mansion. James Atherton's gravestone is very big and doesn't show up clearly on this photograph.

Atherton's gravestone

There are a number of other interesting gravestones in the cemetery which hint at Liverpool's dark past. Buried here are some of the wealthy merchants who traded in slaves making fortunes and beginning dynasties who would go into "legitimate businesses" when the British slave trade was abolished in 1807. This was not necessarily the end of the slavery as it was carried on in various guises way into the middle of the 19th century.

Horsfall Gravestone

Horsfall Family

One of the gravestones is that of Charles Horsfall of Netherfield-lane, Everton who died at the ripe old age of 70 in 1846. Charles Horsfall and his family led interesting lives - he was the Mayor of Liverpool 1832 - 33 and possibly involved in slavery. It was not unusual for such successful businessmen to become Mayor of Liverpool - others such as Foster Cunliffe, Thomas Golightly, Thomas Leyland and George Dunbar were slavers who made fortunes from the trade, to name just a few. Note that George Dunbar was mentioned in the previous post as an early business partner of Messrs. Ewart & Myers.

Charles Horsfall was married to Dorothy Hall who died in 1826 at the age of 43. Dorothy Hall was the daughter of another Dorothy Hall and Thomas Berry, a merchant who owned a slave. She was born in Jamaica in 1780 and christened in Kingston. Charles owned a plantation in Jamaica.

Piggott Gravestone

Gravestone of Mary Piggott of Barbadoes

An intriguing grave is that of Mary Piggott of Barbadoes. She must have been important/wealthy enough to warrant a large stone, but there is no mention of any descendants as was common practice . I wonder what the mysterious inscription on the stone meant "Here the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest"?

Harman Gravestone

Gravestone of Thomas L Harman of New Orleans

Thomas L. Harman - late of New Orleans - Thomas Harman was one of the first Aldermen to be elected for the 5th ward in New Orleans first elections following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The 5th ward contains some of the most historic parts of New Orleans such as the French Quarter and the Cabildo where he was sworn to office.

Beaumont Gravestone

George Beaumont FRCS

George Beaumont was a Surgeon who worked in the Liverpool Dispensary. He died from Typhus caught during carrying out his professional duties. The Liverpool Mercury (1820) said he and another surgeon were "distinguished by zeal and industry in the cultivation of their talents, and by diligence and humanity in the discharge of their official duties"

The Dispensary for the treatment of the poor, which stood on the site of the old Littlewoods store in Church St (soon to be a new Primark), was supported by wealthy slave traders such as the Heywoods. Surprisingly, while making fortunes from the terrible trade in human life they also considered themselves to be philanthropists and supporters of the arts.

Since writing the above post about St Georges, I was able to visit the church thanks to the kindness of Bob Harrington. It was a very rainy Sunday a week before the 12th of July and the Orange parade. As I stood outside the church with my husband waiting for the service to finish, we could hear the pipes and drums of the marching band drawing closer and closer. Large umbrellas sheltered them from the heavy rain as they were practised for the following week, no doubt hoping that the sun would shine when they did it for real.

Bob and friends from the church invited us in and gave us a hot drink before showing us around the wonderful church.

The East Window

The east window was dedicated on 4th April 1952. The original window was destroyed during WW2. The picture below shows the east window and some of the beautiful iron work which earned the church the nickname of the "Iron Church".

The unusual design is the work of architect Thomas Rickman with the iron cast at the foundry of Thomas Cragg.

You can read more about this design and others at This is an excellent site by the Pevsner Architectural Guides and the Buildings Books Trust supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

After leaving the church the rain held off for a few minutes before the next downpour. I remembered the grave of the curiously named "Netlam Tory" and his wife Eliza and managed to get a photograph intending to do some research. The gravestone was partially covered with soil washed across it by the heavy rain but still readable.

The gravestone of Netlam and Eliza Tory

The inscription states "In memory of Netlam Tory Esq, for many years a resident in the island of Jamaica died 16th February 1855 aged 71 years...............................................Eliza Tory who died 27th January 1885 in her ninety second year. "This woman was full of good works and alms which she did...... She hath done what she could do"

Netlam Tory married Eliza Maskew in 1838 in Liverpool. The 1841 census for Everton shows that they lived in Netherfield Road, which was previously called Lower-lane. Their neighbours were merchants and brokers and like most of the inhabitants in the road, they were wealthy enough to employ servants. The census decribes Netlam as a 55 year old man of Independent means. His wife Eliza is 45 years old, neither of them were born in the county. They have three servants at this time. Eliza next turns up on the 1861 as a well-provided-for widow living in Richmond Park with servants to look after her. The 1861 census tells us that she was born in Kendall in Westmoreland. There doesn't appear to be any reference to them in the 1851 census and Netlam died in 1855. The inscription on the gravestone indicates that Netlam lived in Jamaica for some time but this may have been before his marriage, although he may have still had interests there during his marriage.

There are three references to Netlam Tory on the internet. Firstly, the British Library have a painting of Kingston Harbour, Jamaica, published in 1825, showing a store owned by a certain Netlam Tory.

Secondly, on July 17th 1829 a Netlam Tory joined the Jamaican Agricultural Society as reported in The Gardener's Magazine

Lastly, the 1840 Jamaica Almanac lists Netlam Tory as a proprietor owning 40 acres called Logwood Tavern.

If these are all the same person, then he must have lived in Jamaica before his marriage and spent some time there later. It's impossible to know if Eliza went with him.

Eliza continued to live in Liverpool at 3 Richmond Park with servants until her death. There is no record of any children living with her. The inscription on her grave indicates that she was a good person who helped others during her lifetime but little else can be found out about her at the moment.

This blog has described the stories behind only a few of the fascinating graves at this church yard. For me, they are a window into Liverpool's entrepreneurial past as a city built on trade with other countries. They record stories of people who aren't that much different from today - moving to a growing city to make their fortunes. The ancient method of recording information about someone in stone together with modern technology of the internet has brought these people to life again. After all, isn't this what they wanted when they had their names carved into marble or granite, to be remembered by future generations?

The following picture brings this post to a close. During our visit, Bob Harrington gave us this beautiful picture of St George's at night

St George's at night

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