Welfare of Liverpool - Reflection by Canon Philip


This month the country waits to find out who the next Prime Minister will be, and how they will guide the country through the stormy months to come, as fuel bills rocket and war continues to be fought in Ukraine. We look to the future with anxieties, but not without hope, because God is with us, and the Kingdom is coming.

In the dark days of the 1940s the Cathedral’s architect Giles Gilbert Scott wrestled with some of the same challenges we face – many had experienced a decade or more of squeezed living standards, the provision of good housing was an enormous challenge, and he sat at his drawing board and drew up a scheme for what post-war Liverpool might look like, with the rising Cathedral at its centre. The image that survives is tantalising.

Interwar Liverpool was famous across the world for the quality and extent of its schemes of public housing, highly sought after, well maintained and built, heated by gas not dirty old coal. Because so many still worked on the docks, in casual work, the city recognised that the strategy of sending people to new estates miles away would not suit everyone. And so, inspired by examples in Vienna, Liverpool built tenement flats. St Andrew’s Gardens is the only surviving block – ‘The Bullring’.

Scott imagines thousands of people living on the Cathedral’s doorstep in new housing owned by the City. In the end, of course, one of the great achievements of Dean Walters was to oversee the creation of a village within the City, including the housing where the Cathedral Chapter now live. You may have heard that Scott once drew up plans for a bridge across St James’ Gardens. But if you look at this scheme he has built flats in it, and at one end filled it in, perhaps with an underground carpark, below office buildings.

I notice that he wanted to knock down Foster’s lovely Oratory, the little Greek temple that sits by the Cathedral entrance. You might not admire every detail of his daydream, but the ambition, reflected most of all in the part that was built – the Cathedral itself – is impressive, and inspiring for us today, as we pray and work for the welfare of the city in which God has set us. 

Canon Philip Anderson