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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Knowsley (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 43474 95831



II* Parish church of 1844 by E. Sharpe, extended 1860 by Paley, 1871 by Paley & Austin, 1892-93 by Paley, Austin & Paley with glass by Shrigley & Hunt.

MATERIALS: Snecked sandstone, hammer-dressed to north chapel, freestone dressings, graded stone-tile roof.

PLAN: Aisled nave, north porch, west tower, transepts, chancel with north (Derby) chapel and south vestry.

EXTERIOR: Mainly in Early-English style. The archaeologically convincing west tower and spire dominate. The tower is 3 stages, with shallow angle buttresses in the lower 2 stages. The west doorway has 2 orders of shafts and dogtooth moulding in the arch. Above are lancets in the lower stage. The second stage has shorter pointed windows with nook-shafted surrounds. The upper stage has blind arches on ringed shafts either side of 2-light openings with blind-quatrefoil tracery. The broach stone spire has 2 tiers of lucarnes. Nave and aisles are 5 buttressed bays with low freestone parapets and coped gables. They have pairs of clerestorey and aisle lancets in each bay. The porch has a 2-centred arch on semi-circular responds, but is marred by the double doors inserted in 1982. Transepts have set-back buttresses, corbel table and 2-light Decorated north and south windows and small cusped west windows. The chancel, which has a corbel table and a rainwater head dated 1871, has a 5-light east window with Perpendicular tracery, and two 2-light south windows with Decorated tracery. The north chapel is in a more free Decorated style. The 4-light window is beneath a segmental arch spanning the wall between buttresses, and above which is rich diaperwork in the gable. The 3-bay north wall has 3-light windows, a frieze of shallow quatrefoils beneath the sill band and pilasters with blind tracery. The vestry is L-shaped against the south transept and chancel. It has square-headed windows and re-set east doorway taken from the previous vestry.

INTERIOR: The tall tower arch has a continuous chamfer, and beneath the tower is a rib vault. The nave is narrow and tall, 6 bays internally, including a wider bay across the transepts. Quatrefoil piers have foliage capitals and 2 orders of ovolo moulding in the arches. The nave has an arched-brace roof on corbelled wall shafts that contribute to the strong vertical emphasis, and beneath the clerestorey is a string course. The chancel arch is on clustered shafts with stiff-leaf capitals. The label has big head stops of Queen Victoria and Archbishop of Canterbury. The chancel has a 5-bay cusped arched-brace roof on foliage corbels, with painted trusses and polygonal rafters behind. The 3-bay arcade to the chapel has piers set diagonally with attached ringed polished shafts and stiff-leaf capitals. The painted wooden rib vault is on full-height ringed shafts in the north wall. There is a 2-bay arcade between chapel and transept, which has a central octagonal pier and double-chamfered arches. East windows of chapel and chancel have shafted rere-arches, and in the north chancel wall is a credence shelf under a cusped arch. The transepts have roofs of closely spaced arched braces. Walls are plastered, except for the exposed stone walls of the chapel. There are C19 relief tiles in the nave, raised floorboards below pews, and encaustic tiles in the chapel.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The chief fixtures of interest are at the east end and are associated with the Derby family. In the chapel is the monument to Edward Stanley, the 14th Earl (d 1869). It is a recumbent effigy by Matthew Noble, dated 1871, on a Gothic tomb chest. Chancel walls are decorated with memorial mosaics. On the south side are scenes from the Nativity below a band of angels (1912-13), and on the north side are angels (1923). The octagonal font, carved in 1890 by Stubbs & Sons of Liverpool, has a stem with attached shafts and bowl with raised foliage and crosses. Aisles have benches with arms rests, tops decorated with foliage, and quatrefoils with relief foliage. The nave was originally without seating, and its plain benches are a later addition. (All benches west of the north porch have been removed.) The polygonal pulpit is c1946. Choir stalls of 1915 have ends with blind tracery and poppy heads, and frontal with open arcading. The rear of a priest¿s stall, facing into the chapel, has a large relief of the Transfiguration. In the chapel, stalls are arranged in an L-plan and have curved backs and arm rests, and arcaded front. The reredos is a low blind arcade on polished marble shafts and painted diaper panels. Two items were probably brought from Knowsley Hall: a Royal Arms of 1567, possibly from a chapel screen, and a seat, dated 1646, which is richly decorated and has relief scenes of the Adoration and Presentation. The tower screen is by Austin & Paley (1904), although the upper section was added in 1982. There is a brass plaque to George Charles Hale (d 1902) by Jones & Willis. The east window shows Christ and Archangels, by Shrigley & Hunt (1893). Chancel south windows are by Powell & Sons (1923), transept windows are by Lavers & Barraud (1871), and there is heraldic glass in the aisle west windows.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES. Churchyard stone wall with saddleback coping, incorporating 2 arched entrances under gables, and shed of rock-faced stone and stone-tile roof. Lych-gate dated 1895 under shingled gambrel roof.

HISTORY: Built in 1841-44 by Edmund Sharpe (1809-77), architect of Lancaster, for £20,000. It was built at the expense of the 13th Earl of Derby, of Knowsley Hall. Sharpe worked under Thomas Rickman before starting his own successful practice, although he left the architectural profession in 1851, handing the practice to his partner Edward Paley (1823-95). Transepts were added by Paley in 1860. In 1868 Paley formed a partnership with Hubert Austin (1841-1915), and as Paley & Austin they added a Derby family chapel in 1871, the money raised by public subscription. The chapel houses the monument to Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1868), who was Conservative Prime Minister in the 1850s and 1860s. In 1892-93 the chancel fenestration was changed, and the south vestry was extended, all by the same firm, now joined by Henry Paley (1865-1946) as partner. In 1981-82 pews were removed from the west end of the nave, the north transept was separated from the main body of the church by a glazed screen and service rooms were created in the tower base.

SOURCES: Carr, M., A Short History of Knowsley Church, n.d. Pollard, R and Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England: Lancashire, Liverpool and the South-West (2006), 223.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of St Mary, Knowsley, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * The church is a convincing essay in the Early-English style, with tower and spire of elegant proportions and correct details, and significant later additions including the richly detailed Derby chapel. * The interior is well-detailed and impressive, of lofty proportions and with a vaulted tower base and wooden vault in the Derby Chapel. * The church is very strongly linked to the Stanley family, the Earls of Derby, of Knowsley Hall and the Derby Chapel houses the memorial to Edward Stanley, a former Prime Minister. * The interior contains many other fixtures of special interest, including early C20 wall mosaics, aisle seating of 1844, good-quality stained glass by Shrigley & Hunt and Powell & Sons, and items brought from Knowsley Hall, including a C17 seat and Elizabethan Royal Arms.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 13 Sep 1999
Reference: IOE01/01903/29
Rights: Copyright IoE Mrs Anne Gilmore. Source Historic England Archive
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