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Thread: St James Church dig up 2,500 bodies, including slaves

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    Exclamation St James Church dig up 2,500 bodies, including slaves

    THOUSANDS of bodies could be exhumed by the Church of England under a project to help bring a historic Liverpool church back to life.

    The Diocese of Liverpool cannot afford to renovate the historic St James Church in the shadow of the city?s Anglican Cathedral.

    But it says it could bankroll a redevelopment by building a three-storey office and apart-ment block in the grounds.

    That could mean having to disturb the last resting place of those buried at the church, including many former slaves.

    Last night, a Diocesan spokesman confirmed: ?Church records show that there may be the remains of 2,500 bodies that the Diocese may want to exhume and reinter.?

    The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, is behind the vision to bring St James?s back to life.

    Church authorities now want to dig test pits to find out what state the bodies buried there are in.

    Strict guidelines control re-burial of human remains, and the interment process could still prove prohibitively costly.

    The Diocese wants to build the block along Upper Stanhope Street, in Toxteth. The ?8.7m project will include ?1.9m of renovations to the church.

    Rent-paying tenants in the offices and flats would provide an income for the church, which needs a new roof, extensive point-ing and a interior refurbishment.


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    Project leader Rev Neil Short said last night: ?These explora-tions are vital to see whether we can carry on with the project to develop a new church at St James.

    ?We are very aware that work of this kind can create sensitivities among a number of people, and are keen to show that we are doing this in the most responsible way possible.

    ?We are taking expert architectural and archaeological advice on the best way forward, and will carry out all work according to legal guidelines.?

    A spokesperson for the Diocese added: ?We want to be honest and open. We don?t want people driving past the graveyard and seeing that there?s digging going and wondering what it is.

    ?The exciting thing is we?ve got a vision for a church to come back into use for the community.?

    St James?s closed its doors in the mid-1970s, but the last burial was in 1898 and the Diocese says ?very few? took place after 1851.

    The Diocese are planning to build a block containing up to 20 units of ?supported housing? over administration and conference areas. The flats will provide capital funds and income for the church, which will be connected to the block via its lobby. The building will have a footprint of around 1,200 sq m.

    The ground floor will include offices, seminar rooms, a lounge, a kitchen and toilets.

    Some of the office space will be leased on a long term basis. The Anthony Walker Foundation ? set up in honour of the murdered Huyton school boy ? has expressed an interest in taking on some of the offices. A public information document circulated by Rev Short adds: ?The aim is to plant a creative open evangelical church in the centre of Liverpool to connect with the growing residential population and the huge transient population who work, socialise or attend university in the city.

    ?It will bring a transforming Christian presence into a largely unchurched area. Fundamentally, we hope that this will become a beacon church inside and outside the city and diocese of Liverpool.

    ?St James is a much loved treasure, a link to our history and of enormous townscape value.?

    Having cost ?3,000 to build, the church was consecrated in July, 1775, and is one of the oldest standing Liverpool churches. It is also thought to be the oldest British building using cast-iron pillars.

    Many slave traders frequented the church and some of their slaves were baptised there. The Diocese thinks black slaves may be among those whose final resting places will be disturbed. It says it has been in discussions with Liverpool?s International Slavery Museum about the possible exhumations.

    Richard Benjamin, head of the museum, confirmed he was work-ing with church representatives to look into putting on an exhibition about the history of St James.

    Cllr Steve Munby, whose Riverside ward covers St James, discovered his great-great-great-great-grandfather was buried in the church in the early 19th century.

    He told the Daily Post: ?I?m supporting this as a local coun-cillor. It?s a thoroughly positive development.

    ?I 100% support this and congratulate Neil and other stakeholders who are trying to bring this wonderful building back into use.

    ?Whenever there?s an issue about disturbing graves, it?s a very sensitive issue. But all the people laid to rest hopefully will be managed sensitively.

    ?Rather than our ancestors being buried near a ruined church, it will be better to bring it back in use.?

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Well I didn't know about the cast iron pillars to be honest (thought only St. Georges and St Michaels had these) and certainly didn't know about the slaves, of which I thought there were only supposed to be a handful that ever set foot here.
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    I'm glad the Church is overseeing this project and not some developer given free reign - I'm sure the bodies will be treated with great respect and sensitivity.

    I'm also very glad that the church is so open about what it wants to do, at least this way it can diffuse any conspiracy theories about mass graves that certain people may want to invent.

    St James is a lovely old church and i'm glad it can be saved.

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Default St James Church Toxteth

    St James Church is a surviving example of the early use of thin cast iron columns which support the balcony. It wasn't the first to use these. From memory this was an industrial building in Shrewsbury, Shropshire

    There is no evidence that slaves were buried at St James. The ownership of slaves in England was abolished in England before St James was built in 1775. There may be some black servants buried there.

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    I am not really a religious person but on reading the article that Kev so kindly posted up I was reminded of the story of the temple being used to trade. Now I do understand that the churches of certain denominations struggle particularily if there is a pretty or prestegious place to worship and that there is a need to grow and bring religion out into the community or religion but is this not the same as trading in the temple? I am not saying aye just offering it up as a talking point.

    I am sure the bodies will be treated with respect.
    I'm not starting a Nark,
    Do you worship at ANFIELD or Goodiston park?

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Default Exhumations and Mammon

    Quote Originally Posted by No-ones_Princess View Post
    I am not really a religious person but on reading the article that Kev so kindly posted up I was reminded of the story of the temple being used to trade. Now I do understand that the churches of certain denominations struggle particularily if there is a pretty or prestegious place to worship and that there is a need to grow and bring religion out into the community or religion but is this not the same as trading in the temple? I am not saying aye just offering it up as a talking point.

    I am sure the bodies will be treated with respect.
    Exhumation of remains and reinterment to reuse part or all of a churchyard has of course gone on for centuries. Not least at St James, Toxteth around 1900 when part of the churchyard was removed for road widening purposes. The same happened at St Nicholas Pierhead, Liverpool and that famous parish churchyard, St Peter's Church St Liverpool has been completed subsumed to mammon, the latest incarnation of which is the Liverpool One shopping centre entrance off Church Street.

    Many may not know that the now demolished Myrtle St Children's Hospital was built on the site of St Mary's graveyard.

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    And I believe Myrtle Gardens was built on the site of the Holy innocents and orphanage which had a graveyard (hence nearby Orphan st)?
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    Quote Originally Posted by taffy View Post
    Exhumation of remains and reinterment to reuse part or all of a churchyard has of course gone on for centuries. Not least at St James, Toxteth around 1900 when part of the churchyard was removed for road widening purposes. The same happened at St Nicholas Pierhead, Liverpool and that famous parish churchyard, St Peter's Church St Liverpool has been completed subsumed to mammon, the latest incarnation of which is the Liverpool One shopping centre entrance off Church Street.
    Road widening is not something which trades and although I expect great sums of money will have changed hands its not the same as trading in the temple.

    I really love YO though for the knowledge gained
    I'm not starting a Nark,
    Do you worship at ANFIELD or Goodiston park?

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    Well I didn't know about the cast iron pillars to be honest (thought only St. Georges and St Michaels had these) and certainly didn't know about the slaves, of which I thought there were only supposed to be a handful that ever set foot here.
    The "slaves" were no doubt, ex slaves, and were legitimately employed by people. Ex slaves worked on ships as cabin boys and the likes and ended up in Liverpool as free people.

    My cousin was married there just before the church closed.

    The church was a partial cast iron structure - the oldest they say was in Shrewsbury I believe, a flax mill, Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury. It is supposed to be the first iron-framed building in the world. Built in 1797, its fireproof combination of cast iron columns and cast iron beams developed into the modern steel frame which made skyscrapers possible. It was not a full iron frame though, with some walls being structural.

    St. James' Church predates it by 22 years. Although the church was not an iron framed as such, just using cast iron columns. Iron was not used for the floors. St. James' church is construction-wise one of the most important buildings in the world.
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    At first I thought they were going to demolish the church and was ready to chain myself to the railings!

    I work a couple of streets away from the church and it really is lovely. It's not used, and is just falling apart through lack of maintenance - so the plan may work to save the building. However, there's something not quite right removing people from their final resting places so I'm not sure if I agree with this proposed plan.

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    Is nothing sacred? Can't people rest in peace? It just smacks of money again.

    Firstly they plonk a stupid rabbit on the tower which will have cost thousands, now some rich money grabber wants the land for new offices and is prepared to dig up hundreds of bodies.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfael View Post
    Is nothing sacred? Can't people rest in peace? It just smacks of money again.

    Firstly they plonk a stupid rabbit on the tower which will have cost thousands, now some rich money grabber wants the land for new offices and is prepared to dig up hundreds of bodies.

    I think the funding for the sheltered housing/office development will be self generated through grants etc. It's not a commercial development but rather a Church initiative. The income from the building will help fund the running of the Church which has been subject to extensive vandalism over the years and has not been used as a church since the mid 1970s.

    With regards to bodies resting in peace, you'll know about the "bone house" at All Saints Church, Childwall. Such charnel houses were a common feature of English Parish Churches. These bodies certainly did not rest in peace. This will not happen at St James. The bones will be reintered in the same churchyard. The 2500 bodies is an estimate based on the area of land needed for the development.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    Well I didn't know about the cast iron pillars to be honest (thought only St. Georges and St Michaels had these) and certainly didn't know about the slaves, of which I thought there were only supposed to be a handful that ever set foot here.
    You are right, Ged,mainly,these would be "personal" slaves/servants!

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by No-ones_Princess View Post
    Road widening is not something which trades and although I expect great sums of money will have changed hands its not the same as trading in the temple.

    I really love YO though for the knowledge gained
    Interestingly the nave of the Parish church historically belonged to the parishioners and the chancel to the rector. As such the nave was also essentially the village hall and much business was carried on there. This secular use of the nave did at times cause problems. The St James development is Church originated and not an external speculatice devlopment. It relates to the churchyard and not the Church

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    Hope that piece of crap green light gets taken off the church. Artists are getting worse.

    Glad to see It's being renovated though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfael View Post
    Is nothing sacred? Can't people rest in peace? It just smacks of money again.

    Firstly they plonk a stupid rabbit on the tower which will have cost thousands, now some rich money grabber wants the land for new offices and is prepared to dig up hundreds of bodies.

    Is true, but when i went up there two weeks ago i could not see a gravestone? i may have missed them as workmen where there. If there is no gravestones, then maybe it would be better to move them, this way they should get some kind of marker and can be remembered. i for one had no idea that there where ex slaves buried there, letting the public know would be a fantastic tribute to them.

    The grave yard down below the Anglican Cathedral, is this not connected to St James? im sure i read it somewhere? ( mind you im sure some people are aliens ) i could be wrong? is this graveyard older than the cathedral?
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    Anyone have a photo of this church and churchyard as it looks now?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronijayne View Post
    Anyone have a photo of this church and churchyard as it looks now?
    Do a Google

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronijayne View Post
    Anyone have a photo of this church and churchyard as it looks now?






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    Quote Originally Posted by Spike View Post
    Is true, but when i went up there two weeks ago i could not see a gravestone? i may have missed them as workmen where there. If there is no gravestones, then maybe it would be better to move them, this way they should get some kind of marker and can be remembered. i for one had no idea that there where ex slaves buried there, letting the public know would be a fantastic tribute to them.

    The grave yard down below the Anglican Cathedral, is this not connected to St James? im sure i read it somewhere? ( mind you im sure some people are aliens ) i could be wrong? is this graveyard older than the cathedral?
    All the gravestones bar one were taken away at the turn of the 20th C by Liverpool City Council and the grounds turned into an ornamental garden . It's a shame these grounds have largely been neglected over the last 100 years, no least the crumbling wall bounding Upper Parliament St. Would it were a Green Flag Park like St Nicholas , Pierhead, where also all the gravestones and bodies were removed around 1900.

    There's no connection I 'm aware of between St James Churchyard and St James Cemetery.

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Default St James Toxteth info & photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronijayne View Post
    Anyone have a photo of this church and churchyard as it looks now?
    See Church web site

    Homepage | Pioneer Ministry in Liverpool City Centre

    Also

    Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerk Project - Parish of St James, Toxteth

    and

    St James Church in Toxteth

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    Excellent pics AD and thanks for the posts, really helpful and informative.
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    Thank you so much for the pics. It has been a beautiful church, the 'bones' of it are lovely although it looks cold and lonely now.
    Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Default St James Church Toxteth

    Here's a few internal photos I took in 2003 following some internal refurbishment, rewiring , plastering etc.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by taffy; 10-11-2008 at 08:42 AM.

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    It definitely, by the pictures, needs some flowers in my opinion to brighten it up ...

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    Thanks for the pics
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    Default St James Toxteth refurbishment

    Quote Originally Posted by naked lilac View Post
    It definitely, by the pictures, needs some flowers in my opinion to brighten it up ...
    The church has been a wreck for 30 years suffering the ravages of vandalism and arson following its closure. Part of the rationale behind themulti million pound project is to bring the church back to life. Flowers will look nice but it will take a lot more than that !!!

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    This is a fascinating and informative thread. I've walked past that church literally hundreds of times over the years and knew none of this information.
    I hope it all turns out for the better and they treat the bodies with the utmost respect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by taffy View Post
    The church has been a wreck for 30 years suffering the ravages of vandalism and arson following its closure. Part of the rationale behind themulti million pound project is to bring the church back to life. Flowers will look nice but it will take a lot more than that !!!
    Yes, I understand that fully Taffy. I have read about this task.. I was just commenting on the pic, that just captured my eye , as bleak.. Just a little comment of open thought there..

    Glad something is being done about restoring it.. and hopefully, they due take care in the respect of the bodies.

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    I think it stinks to be honest. Moving bodies for a purpose such as a church extension or when a church has been demolished is one thing - i.e. for the good of the congregation, but to move bodies simply because there will be a load of money to be made in this project stinks.

    Whether the church is redundant or not, it is in that state for a reason, simply because there are no church goers who continued to support the church. For the church to re-open, there has to be a need of a new congregation, not just because someone can make a load of money out of it.

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