Monday, September 25, 2006
St. Mary's Church, Birkenhead
“When the first extensive changes of property were made in Birkenhead in1817, mr Price engaged with Messrs. Hetherington and Grindrod of Liverpool, that he would erect a Church, at his own expense, on the elevated ground immediately adjacent to the ruins of the ancient Priory, which were then surrounded with fields, having only a footpath from the old Chapel to the Chester Road. Accordingly on the 19th July 1819, the foundation stone of a Church, dedicated to St.Mary, was laid with much ceremony by the Right Hon. Lord Kenyon.
The building, in the first instance, comprehended only a body and chancel, with a north and south porch, having also a tower and spire: but the increased population of the township having rendered further accommodation requisite, two transepts, each 42 feet by 36, have subsequently been added. These are evidently not the production of the eminent architect and antiquary, Thomas Rickman, by whom the original designs for the Church – the first to be built – were furnished.
Externally the Church is principally distinguished by an elegant tower and spire, together about 130 feet in height: the latter is a very conspicuous object from every part of the surrounding neighbourhood. The tower contains a peal of six fine-toned bells, and is furnished with a clock, placed much too low for general utility. The Churchyard is extensive, and includes the ancient burial ground of the Priory in which are several tombs of an old date, but there are no monuments of interest in either. An old gravestone discovered in 1818, and which from the description appears to have covered the remains of one of the ancient priors, Thomas Rayneford, has been worked into the wall near the door of the old Chapter House, wherein nearly five centuries since. He presided over the Councils of the Priory.
The church has latterly become, by purchase, the property of William Jackson, Esq. Whose name is so intimately connected with Birkenhead. The Rev. Andrew Knox is, and for the last seventeen years has been the Incumbent.”
(The history of the Hundred of Wirral by William Williams Mortimer first published in 1847 by Whittaker & Co., London)