Building the cathedral

Black and white photograph of a flattened building site with a church and spire adjacent

Excavations for the foundations in 1931. Photograph from the Stewart Bale collection.

The site for the cathedral on Brownlow Hill, occupied by the old Liverpool Workhouse, was purchased for £10,000 and cleared, and a fundraising programme was launched. On 5 June 1933 crowds gathered to watch the foundation stone being laid. First to be built was the crypt, a series of complex vaulted brick spaces, intended to be faced with granite.

Work was halted in 1941 because of the war. During the war the unfinished crypt was used as an air-raid shelter. Building was resumed after the war.

By 1953, Lutyens' original estimate of £3 million had risen to £27 million. In the changed atmosphere of the post-war period, the cathedral now seemed an impossible dream and Lutyens’ design was abandoned.

The architect Adrian Gilbert Scott was asked to design a smaller domed building, but this too was abandoned. In 1959 a competition was held for a smaller cathedral on the site. This was won by Sir Frederick Gibberd and his cathedral was opened in 1967.

Photograph of an outdoor service with a large crowd before steps and an altar

Laying the foundation stone.
Photograph from the Stewart Bale collection.