- St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool
"St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church" is a former church in Seel Street,
Liverpool, Englandnow transformed into a restaurant and bar called Alma de Cuba - "the soul of Cuba".
St. Peter's was built in 1788 by Rev A.B. MacDonald of the
Order of St Benedict(O.S.B.); the area was mostly rural at the time. The church survived as a Catholicbuilding until 1976, after which it served the local Polish community for a short time. For this reason it is affectionately known as 'the Polish Church'.
Up until its closure, St. Peter's was the oldest (surviving) Catholic Church in Liverpool.
Some milestones in St Peter's history include:
7 September 1788- opening of St Peter's.
11 September 1788- The 'Liverpool Advertiser' reports that "On Sunday last, a new Roman Catholic Chapel in Seel St. was opened with high Mass: and a sermon by the Rev. Mr. McDonald."
28 September 1788- first baptisms performed, with the first entry: "Was baptised Mary, daughter of John and Mary Goosse; Sponsors, Paul Hewit and Margaret Yates".
1 April 1789- perpetual lease granted by the City Corporation, "to Father McDonald and successors, of the site of St. Peter's Chapel, so long as a place of worship." A separate lease granted for the house and schools, at an annual ground rent of twelve pence.
29 July 1814- Death of Fr Archibald Benedict McDonald, O.S.B.. On the Founder's Monument was inscribed: "In the vaults of this chapel are deposited the remains of the Rev. Archibald MacDonald, who departed this life on the 29th July, 1814, aged 78 years. The founder of this chapel, and for a period of 26 years its liberal, intelligent and revered pastor, to whose memory the Catholics of Liverpool erect this moument. - R.I.P."
*1817/1818 - The church is enlarged. The enlargement includes the porch and the gallery, and possibly encompassed part of the Presbytery.
*1817 - The opening of St Peter's Schools in Seel Street, the "first Catholic School founded". In fact the school probably transferred from a smaller school founded opposite the church in 1789.
*1840 - Fr Vincent Glover, O.S.B., died of fever on 6th August, contracted whilst attending the sick. Fr Glover had served the Parish for 22 years.
*1845 - A major extension to the church takes place. Next to St. Peter's Church stood the house in which the priests had lived for over 60 years. The main part of the floors were removed and the wall between the church and the house was taken down. The result created the Sanctuary (the Altar area of the current church). The front room of the house then became the Sacristy (apparently currently used by the Alma de Cuba restaurant as a storeroom). The extension was carried out under the auspices of Fr James Francis Appleton, O.S.B., the Parish Priest at the time.
*1847 - In 1846 and 1847 hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants landed in Liverpool to escape the famine, and they swarmed to the poorer quarters of the town. An epidemic of typhus began ("the Great Plague") and at a Vestry Meeting on 8th June 1847 it was reported that 57,701 cases of typhus had been dealt with (compared with 420 cases in the corresponding period of the previous year). Fr Appleton, O.S.B., died of typhus fever contracted whilst adminsitering to the sick on 26th May 1847 A Century and a Half - Notes on St. Peter's (Seel Street) 1788-1938, published 1938] . The
English Benedictine CongregationHistory records that " [He] was gradually recovering when contrary to Doctor's orders he very injudiciously took some Whisky which acted like poison on his constitution and terminated his life." [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=appleton Fr Francis Appleton's entry in the English Benedictine Congregation History] ]
*1854 - The last burial takes place in St. Peter's vaults.
*1856 - Fr Davey, O.S.B. and '400 children' walk in the "Peace Procession" to celebrate the end of the
*1864 - The Lady Chapel was built in memory of Fr Benedict Bonney, O.S.B..
*1872 - Fr Scarisbrook, O.S.B. was consecrated Bishop of
Mauritiusat St. Peter's.
*1898 - The Lady Altar is erected to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Fr Anderson's enetering the Order of St. Benedict.
*1920 - Electric light installed for the first time in the Church and Church redecorated. Funds for this refurbishment were raised by sources including an "extrodinarily successful" Grand Bazaar held 14th-16th October 1920. The cost of this work entailed "an outlay of several hundred pounds". This work was undertaken during the period when Fr Basil Primavesi, O.S.B., was Parish Priest.
*1940-1941 - Fr Louis Joseph D'Andria, O.S.B., writes a series of letters to Fr Kevin Byrne, O.S.B., Abbot of
Ampleforth Abbeyabout life in Liverpool during the Blitz. These letters are subsequently published in a book [ [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0953102076 Coping with the Blitz, St Peter's, Seel Street, Liverpool 1940-41: Letters from Louis Joseph D'Andria to Kevin Herbert Byrne, Abbot of Ampleforth, 1940-41] ] . Fr D'Andria left St Peter's after the heavy bombing of May 1941 [http://www.plantata.org.uk/papers/obits/byrne/dandria_l.htm#SOURCE Obituary to Fr Louis D'Andria, O.S.B.] ] . Fr D'Andria was active in collecting historical and contemporary material from the St Peter's and the surrounding districts from his arrival in the Parish in 1930. These materials were deposited at the Liverpool Records Office upon his death [http://archive.liverpool.gov.uk/dserve.exe?&dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=show.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqPos=114&dsqSearch=((text)='st%20peter') The D'Andria Collection of materials in Liverpool Record Office] ] .
*1962 - Fr Martin Rocheford, O.S.B., deposits the pre-1837 Parish Registers at the Liverpool Records Office. [ [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/A2A/records.aspx?cat=138-28p&cid=-1&Gsm=2008-06-18/ List of St Peter's, Seel Street documents held at The Liverpool Record Office and Local History Service] ]
*1976 - transferred to the Polish Community and for a short time was known as Our Lady of Czestochowa.
*1978 - The Parish is closed and falls into a period of disuse.
*1978 - The Parish records are deposited in the Liverpool Records office by Fr Everest. The Parish Registers were transferred to St. Vincent de Paul's RC Church.
*1993 - The Church is deconsecrated.
20 November 2003- A press release is issued stating that funding has been approved to convert the Grade-II listed building of St Peter's Church into high-specification offices by Urban Splash. Funding is received from the EU (£260k), the North West Development Agency(£190k) and Urban Splashitself (£450k) [ [http://www.lmu.livjm.ac.uk/gonw/Upload/1344.pdf The Government News Network North West - Press Release November 2003 on development of St Peter's] ] .
7 January 2004- The BBCreport that developers have discovered the body of Fr Bede Brewer, O.S.B. in the crypt of St Peter's. Dom Bede Brewer was one of the founding members of Ampleforth Collegein 1802, and President of English Benedictines [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/3376493.stm BBC News Report on Fr Brewer's remains being transferred to Ampleforth Abbey] ] . The Liverpool Echoalso indicate that Ampleforth Abbey was keen to reclaim all of the monastic bodies in St Peter's crypt [ [http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2004/01/06/founder-monk-returns-home-100252-13786561/ Liverpool Echo report on return of Fr Brewer's remains to Ampleforth Abbey - 6th January 2004] ] .
*2004 - Fr Brewer was reburied at
Ampleforth Abbeyin July 2004 [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=brewer&next=Start+search Fr Bede Brewer's entry in the English Benedictine Congregation History] ] [http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Founder-reburied-at-Ampleforth-Abbey.831821.jp Yorkshire Post report on return of the bodies of Fr Bede Brewer and other Benedictine Monks to Ampleforth] ] along with the remains of 6 other monks. In total there were 22 bodies in the crypt of St Peter's (8 monks and 14 lay people). In addition to Dom Bede Brewer, the monks reburied at Ampleforth Abbeyaccording to the Yorkshire Postwere monks James Calderbank [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=calderbank English Benedictine History Reference for James Calderbank O.S.B.] ] , Denis Allerton [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=allerton English Benedictine History Reference for Denis Allerton O.S.B.] ] , Benedict Glover [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=glover English Benedictine History Reference for Benedict Glover O.S.B.] ] , Francis Fairclough [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=fairclough English Benedictine History Reference for Francis Fairclough O.S.B.] ] , Gregory Robinson [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=robinson English Benedictine History Reference for Gregory Robinson O.S.B.] ] and Joseph Glover [ [http://www.plantata.org.uk/people.php?choice=surname&target=glover English Benedictine History Reference for Joseph Glover O.S.B.] ] . However, St Peter's founder, Fr McDonald, was the first buried in St Peter's crypt and his coffin was not clearly labelled (unlike the 7 other monks). Due to this fact and other pressures (such as time) it was not possible to positively identify Fr McDonald's remains, and so he was reburied along with the remains of 14 lay people in Ford Cemetery in Liverpool, MerseysidePrivate communication with the Archivist at Ampleforth Abbey] .
*2005 - In September 2005 the ultra stylish bar and restaurant Alma-De-Cuba opens in St Peter's Church.
*2007 - In June 2007 the Alma de Cuba is sold to investment company CGI Ltd who plan to expand the brand across the North West of England [ [http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news//2007/06/20/alma-de-cuba-is-sold-to-investors-50061-19324111/ Liverpool Echo report on purchase of Alma de Cuba by TGI Ltd - 20th June 2007] ] .
There is a story retold concerning Fr Basil Primavesi who was Parish Priest at St Peter's from 1929 until his death in 1937. One night during his tenure:
"The church was even threatened with destruction by a great fire which seemed likely to cross Back Seel Street. Fr Basil, roused from sleep, went down, placed a medal of St. Benedict on the church wall and returned to bed. A change of wind followed and materially aided the task of the fire-engines which had arrived."
The puzzles of the Church Extensions
There appears to be no clear account of when the main extension to the church (listed as 1845 above) actually took place. This is remarkable as it is such a notable change in the Parish history. The situation is neatly summed in "A Century and a Half - Notes on St. Peter's (Seel Street) 1788-1938" by an author who clearly has access to the Parish Records:
"Even the year (of the extension) has been variously stated. Allanson [http://www.plantata.org.uk/papers/obits/willson/allanson_a.htm Obituary of the English Benedictine Historian Fr Athanasius Allanson, O.S.B.] ] says 1845." (Fr Allanson wrote volumes on the English Benedictine History, and these were made available to the author by the then Abbot of Ampleforth). "The Centenary Commemoration says 1843. A note made about 1850 in a private account book mentions 1845. The Seel Street Guide (1868) gives 1846. However, the Church Notices book seemed decisive. On the last Sunday of Pentecost, 1845, the following was read: 'After to-day there will be no Mass either on Sundays or week-days in this chapel until the Sunday before Christmas when it will be again reopened for Divine Service...The Vestry will be opened every Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock as usual for baptisms.' The next notices are dated 4th Sunday of Advent, 1845. So between November 23rd and December 21st is the time of the building of the new sanctuary."
It is interesting to note that the "Official Handbook" of the Grand Bazaar (1920) makes no note of an extension around 1845, though this could just be an omission.
The "Official Handbook" of the Grand Bazaar also mentions an apparently earlier extension: "1817 - Opening of New extension of St Peter's, previously a part of Presbytery. Sermon preached by Father Baines, O.S.B., of Bath, regarded as principal pulpit orator of his day (Burke, p. 35)." In "A Century and a half..." the author states that Fr Robinson, O.S.B.'s, tenure (which began in 1816) saw many changes to the parish. "In his second year" therefore 1818 " the church was 'enlarged' according to several brief notices, but judging by the picture of 1810, this can only mean the addition of the porch and of the gallery. However, the alteration was important enough to cause a solemn reopening on November 27th, 1812...". The date here of 1812 makes no sense, so is likely to be a typo for 1818. It is interesting that the author of "A Century and a half..." is unaware of any part of the Presbytery being used for the 1818 extension, though the authors of the Bazaar Handbook may have simply have made an error. It is also worth noting that the author of "A Century and a half..." again quotes Allanson's volumes regarding the extension around 1818 which state that "gallery enlarged and organ built over the altar."
It would appear then that there are at least two extensions to the church, one ~ 1818, and a later more significant one ~ 1845. However, the lack of clarity in the documents available and those referenced by the authors is a puzzle.
The following is an extract from the Press Account on the Centenary of St Peter's in 1888, and explains some of the history of Catholic churches in Liverpool leading up to the founding of St Peter's:
“In 1701, Father Gillibrand, S. J., Chaplain of the Squire of Crosby, established the first religious services held in the city for Catholics for upwards of a century. In 1707, he came to reside permanently in Liverpool. In 1736, Father Hardisty, S. J., built the first Catholic Chapel, in Edmund Street. It was demolished by a mob in 1746. While a new chapel was being built, under the guise of a warehouse, by a wealthy merchant, named Pippard, the Catholics met stealthily for worship in the house of a Mr. and Mrs. Green in Dale Street, and the only friends of the proscribed ones were two large-hearted and tolerant Presbyterians who lived in adjoining houses, and who helped the Papists to gain, without observation, access to their temporary place of meeting. The Mission was and is still called St. Mary's.
In 1783, it passed out of the hands of the Jesuits into those of another learned Order, that of St. Benedict. In 1758, the chapel in Edmund Street had been destroyed during a riot, and a new building took its place in Lumber Street, of which no trace remains, its place now being held in Highfield Street by the fine Church planned by Augustus Welby Pugin, when that great designer's influence was beginning to be felt in the revival of Gothic architecture. Father Archibald MacDonald, O.S.B., was the first Benedictine attached to St. Mary's, in 1783, and it was he, who in 1788, founded St. Peter's. One hundred years ago, the site of St. Peter's, now pressed by closely-clustered dwellings, factories and warehouses, had a rural environment. The choice of the spot on which to build the new church incurred for the zealous monk the mild displeasure of his superiors, who suggested it was too far out of town. Still, there St. Peter's was built, and there it still stands to-day.
Prominent on the venerable church are white marble memorials of departed Priests, who have ministered there.
On the Founder's monument we read: " In the vaults of this chapel are deposited the remains of the Rev. Archibald MacDonald, who departed this life on the 29th July, 1814, aged 78 years. The founder of this chapel, and for a period of 26 years its liberal, intelligent and revered pastor, to whose memory the Catholicks of Liverpool erect this monument.—R.I.P."
The other monuments are those of Father William Tarleton, O.S.B., who died in 1816 of typhus fever, caught while consoling the sick; Dr. James Appleton, O.S.B., D.D., who died a martyr of charity, in 1847; Father John Robinson, O.S.B, who passed away, deeply mourned by his flock, in 1837, and Father Vincent Glover, O.S B , who died in 1840, aged 49.”
Church Street in Liverpool takes its name from the former St Peter's Church (now demolished) which was "the first church built in Lancashire after the Reformation" [ [http://www.toxteth.net/places/liverpool/churches/st%20peters.htm St Peter's Church - Church Street] ] . Students of history should not confuse this church with St Peter's R.C. Church in Seel Street.
The key references for most of the historical information listed on these pages are:
* The "Official Handbook" of the Grand Bazaar (held October 14th-16th, 1920);
* "A Century and a Half - Notes on St. Peter's (Seel Street) 1788-1938". No author is listed for this publication though it appears to have been printed in 1938 by O.H. Bateman & Co. Ltd. There is evidence to suggest that the booklet was written by Fr Louis Joseph D'Andria, O.S.B. .
* [http://www.alma-de-cuba.com/ Alma de Cuba Restaurant and Bar]
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/A2A/records.aspx?cat=138-28p&cid=-1&Gsm=2008-06-18/ List of St Peter's, Seel Street documents held at The Liverpool Record Office and Local History Service]
* [http://www.plantata.org.uk/ The English Benedictine Congregation History]
* [http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/liverpoolecho/campaigns/stoptherot/ Stop the Rot campaign]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~hibernia/churches/pet.htm St Peter's RC Church -History, Records and Information on the Ancestry Website]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hibernia/churches/pet/pet01.htm St Peter's RC church - Pictures]
* [http://www.lan-opc.org.uk/Liverpool/Liverpool-Central/stpeterrc.html St Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Seel Street Liverpool L1 - Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerks entry]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hibernia/churches/rcpic.htm Pictures of RC Churches in the Liverpool Area including St. Peter's]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hibernia/churches/pet/roch01.htm Pictures of Fr Martin Rocheford]
* [http://www.plantata.org.uk/papers/obits/byrne/primavesi_b.htm Obituary for Fr Basil Primavesi]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hibernia/churches/pet/pet001.htm Internal pictures of the stained glass windows in St Peter's Church]
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