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Church of St Luke

Case study: Berry Street, Liverpool L1 9DN (North West)

List entry number: 1280622

St Luke’s building at risk, from the air
St Luke’s is in the heart of Liverpool. A burnt out shell, it represents a powerful unofficial memorial to those who died during the Second World War. Its exposure to the elements is resulting in major decay of the stonework.

Background and history

St Luke's has a fascinating history. It was built in the early 19th century to an advanced Gothic design. It was burned out in the Second World War (WWII, WW2). Now it's a cultural venue and unofficial war memorial.

The grade II* listed building was designed by John Foster Senior, Liverpool Corporation's Surveyor. It was completed under the supervision of his son and successor, John Foster Junior. Building work began in 1811 and took 20 years to complete. The work included the construction of an ambitious and richly ornate chancel. This was based on the 15th century Beauchamp Chapel in Warwick.

It was originally used as both a place of worship and a concert hall. Use as a concert hall lasted until Liverpool Philharmonic Hall was built in 1849.

Given its strategic importance as a port, Liverpool was a key target for the Germans. Severely damaged by bombing in May 1941, the church lost its roof but the walls remained standing.

The structure was retained after the war and remains owned by Liverpool City Council. It has become an unofficial war memorial, known locally as 'St Luke's the Bombed Out Church'.

With its tall, graceful tower, St Luke's sits proudly at the end of Bold Street in the city centre. It is a familiar and much loved building to both Liverpudlians and tourists alike. In recent years it's been used to host a range of cultural activities, exhibitions and events.

Is it at risk?

St Luke's was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2003.

A roofless shell since the Second World War, its condition has been slowly deteriorating for many years. Minimal consolidation work was carried out to cap the exposed wall heads with concrete. This is now failing and vegetation has become established in the masonry. Extensive use was made of iron elements within the masonry. The iron is now corroding and causing stones to crack and parts of the structure to become unstable.

A 2014 condition survey highlighted around £500K of essential works needed to make the church safe for continued use. 

St Luke’s building at risk from the inside
‘The bombed out church’ has been used flexibly in recent years to host a range of cultural activities, such as art exhibitions and music performances. It welcomes thousands of visitors each year through its doors.

What's the current situation?

We are supporting Liverpool City Council by providing £250K in grant aid over the next three years. This will match their own investment. The project forms part of our shared heritage strategy with the council for prioritised action in Liverpool.

The first phase of works has begun. This includes repairs to masonry and wall cappings, removal of damaging vegetation and the replacement of corroded fixings. Another two phases of work will follow.

It is anticipated that this long-standing Heritage at Risk case will come off the Register in 2017.

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