The Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas is the Anglican parish church of Liverpool. The site is said to have been a place of worship since at least 1257. The church is situated close to the River Mersey near the Pier Head. The Chapel of St Nicholas (Patron Saint of Sailors) was built on the site of St Mary del Quay, which in 1355 was determined to be too small for the growing borough of Liverpool. It is a Grade II listed building and an active parish church in the diocese of Liverpool, the archdeaconry of Liverpool and the deanery of Liverpool North. The church was once the tallest building in Liverpool at 53 metres from 1813-1868.
Reformation and beyond
During the English Reformation, the chantries were abolished. The building was adapted in stages to suit the form of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer. Between 1673 and 1718, the building was extended piecemeal, and galleries were built to seat the increasing population of Liverpool. A spire was added in 1746. In 1699 Liverpool, now with a population of about 5,000 people, was created an independent parish with (unusually) two parish churches and two rectors. Our Lady and St Nicholas (the "Old Church" or St Nicks) and the new parish church of St Peter's were established as the parish churches. In 1775, the parish decided to rebuild the walls of the existing church. The galleries were kept, as the congregation paid pew rents. A new roof was set atop classical columns, which rested on medieval bases. The reconstructed church had walls four feet longer than the original structure. By the year 1865, there were 27 churches in the parish, housing around 275,000 people. Since 1916 Our Lady and St Nicholas has been the Parish Church of Liverpool. St Peter's, which was situated in Church Street, was demolished in 1922, having served as pro-cathedral for the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool.
Disaster befalls the church
Over the years, as new churches were built, the "Old Church" continued to serve a congregation. Members repeatedly warned officials that the spire was unsafe. On Sunday 11 February 1810, as the bells rang and people were gathering for the morning service, the spire crashed into the nave below, killing 25 people. Twenty-one were under 15 years old, and most were girls from Moorfields Charity School. The original ring of six bells, dating from 1636–1724, was destroyed in the disaster. An eyewitness account is found in Stonehouse's Recollections of Old Liverpool. Recollections of Old Liverpool, by A Nonagenarian
Between 1811 and 1815, a new tower and lantern were built at the north side of the church. The tower was designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester. The last remains of the original chapel of St Mary del Quay, which had been used as a tavern, were demolished. Within the tower, a new ring of 12 bells was installed, cast by Dobson of Downham Market. The Tenor bell was recast by Warners in 1912. Over the years, several small changes were made to the church for liturgical reasons. The most notable changes occurred between 1851 and 1852. The Parish Centre was built in the 1920s to accommodate community life and a church school. Apart from these changes, the church remained the same between 1815 and 1940.
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