1st January, 1930
The story of S. Faith's is an unbroken record of development. It was founded to make a contribution of truth and life which the whole Church needs. It has established and preserved that contribution in a fine spirit of devotion and sacrifice. For its future I can wish no better than that it should be maintained along the lines by which it has been so far guided. May the Divine Blessing rest abundantly in peace and love on all who lead and all who share its life and work.
Albert Augustus David, Bishop of Liverpool in 1930
National Portrait Gallery collection
HISTORY OF S. FAITH, GT. CROSBY.
St Faith's in 1900
Anyone who travels by road from Liverpool to Southport cannot fail to notice on the right hand side, some five (seven. Ed.) miles from the former place, a large and beautiful church, commandingly situated on the high road in the midst of considerable grounds. This is the Church of S. Faith, which is now the centre of a large and growing population, and from which radiates a vigorous and active Church life. At the beginning there were no signs of these things. That they have become realities is due to the faith and foresight of two men.
The first of these is Mr. H. Douglas Horsfall to whom the Church in the diocese of Liverpool owes more than can be easily said. He had already built and given to the diocese the church of S. Agnes, Toxteth. And, later, he built the almost equally beautiful church of S. Paul’s. Stoneycroft. Between these two magnificent gifts he conceived the idea of building S. Faith’s, and carried his project into execution. It was indeed a noble gift. Some of its most beautiful points will be noticed in detail later on. But here it will be sufficient to say that the more it is critically examined the greater are the beauties it reveals. With this scheme in his mind, Mr. Horsfall approached Bishop Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, who was then in the last years of his long episcopate.
It was obvious that the new Church, if and when built, would emphasise an aspect of Churchmanship with which the Bishop had little sympathy. It says much for his grasp of essential things that he did not hesitate, and threw himself into the plan with the full enthusiasm of his vigorous character. Consulted as to where the Church should be he suggested the area where it was ultimately placed. He saw with the eye of a statesman that while at the moment the population was small and that fields were more apparent than houses, a Church so placed would provide for the needs of a not distant future. It is a pleasant thing to think that while we are rejoicing at the completion of thirty years of our history, the diocese of which we form a part and of which Bishop Ryle was the first Bishop is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. On May 24th, 1898, the foundation stone was laid by a small boy, Robert Elcum Horsfall, the elder son of our Founder. The Church was consecrated on April 21st, 1900, by Archbishop Maclagan of York, Bishop Ryle having died in the meantime. When we look round to-day and see the nearly two thousand houses in the parish, it is interesting to remember that a photograph taken of the Church shortly after its erection shows not a single house in view. There were few streets, and hardly one complete. How truly has the wisdom of those who planned the Church been justified by the intervening years!
S. Faith’s is a one-span Church built to the plans of Messrs. Grayson & Ould, of Liverpool, It seats between 900 and 1,000 people. From practically every seat in the Church one can get an uninterrupted view of the Altar. And above the Altar is perhaps the most beautiful thing in the Church - the triptych. This is in mosaic and is by Salviati of Venice. The central panel is of Christ upon the Cross, and the Blessed Virgin and S. John stand on either side. On other panels are the figures of the Four Evangelists.
On the twenty-first anniversary of the consecration of S. Faith’s (April 21st, 1921), the Chancel Screen was dedicated. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, the architect of Liverpool Cathedral, and the work was carried out by Mr. Griffith, of Bevington Hill. Liverpool. This beautiful addition was given by Mr. Horsfall and on one of the dwarf walls of the Chancel the inscription tells its sad but proud tale: “A.M.D.G. In loving memory of Robert Elcum Horsfall, killed in action,November 20th,1917. Requiescat in pace.” The small boy who had taken the chief part nineteen years before, when the Church was begun, had grown to manhood at the time of world crisis. On such as he had the defence of this country been laid. The wonderful story of their chivalry and their courage will never die. He and the best of that generation gave their all in defence of their country. Sorrow and pride struggle for mastery when we think of them. The screen itself is a specially appropriate memorial. On its west side the figures of four saints stand in niches, S. Agnes. S. Paul, S. Catherine and S. Chad. The first three are the patron saints of three Liverpool Churches for which Captain Horsfall was a trustee. While S. Chad links up the Church with that great college of Durham, on the governing body of which Captain Horsfall sat, which owes so much to his father, and in which the patronage of S. Faith’s now rests. The screen is specially designed to allow the Altar to be plainly visible. It achieves this in a remarkable way, and while adding to the beauty of the East End of the Church it in no way obstructs. Many visitors come from time to time to see what must be one of the most beautiful modern screens to be found anywhere.
The Church is plentifully supplied with windows, and in consequence the light is excellent. In the process of time doubtless these will be filled with stained glass, which would add much to the attractiveness of the building. At the moment there are only five such windows. The S. Faith’s window is on the north side and was erected to the memory of Ferdinand Anderton Latham in 1902. On the south side are four windows, part of an arranged plan, and are all by Messrs. James Powell and Sons, of London, who were entrusted with the windows of Liverpool Cathedral. The first is to the memory of James Jones, Chorister, 1914 to 1924, and depicts the Venerable Bede. The second commemorates James Walthew Waugh. Organist, 1910 to 1924, and the figure is that of S. Benedict Biscop. The third and fourth are to the memory of Thomas Howe Baxter, first Vicar of S. Faith's, 1900 to 1915, the subjects being S. Hilda and S. Wilfrid.
The font is of marble and was sculptured by Mr. Griffith, of Bevington Hill. He was also responsible for the fine and spacious pulpit. The choir stalls, sedilia and the casing of the organ are of mahogany, the exquisite carving also coming from the same skilled source. In 1921 the gas lighting was replaced by a fine scheme of electricity at a cost of over £500. The plans for this change were made by Mr. Devey, of Port Sunlight, and on a faculty being applied for won the praise of the Chancellor.
In 1916, in the vicariate of Rev. H. B. Bentley Smith, the South Transept was fitted as a Lady Chapel, the funds being raised as a memorial to those who had fallen in the war. The chapel is much used for the daily services and also for private prayer.
To establish a congregation and to organise a new parish is no mean task. To this work the Rev. T. H. Baxter, a graduate of S. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and who had served two curacies in London, was appointed. The position was full of hope, but also presented certain difficulties. On the one hand the parish was equipped with one of the finest, of churches with ample accommodation. On the other hand there was no congregation in being.
There was no hall for Sunday School and other purposes. The population, which ultimately would be great, had not arrived in anything but scanty numbers. Moreover, the Church had been built for a definite purpose. On the Chancel wall, the following inscription is carved: “The (actually ‘This..’ Ed.) Church of S. Faith is dedicated to the Honour and Glory of Almighty God as a thank offering for the revival of Catholic Faith and Doctrine in the Church of England during the 6O years’ reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.” In no corner of England were the principles of the Catholic Revival more misunderstood or more suspect than round about the city of Liverpool. Such were some of the problems that confronted the first Vicar of S. Faith's. He met them with two weapons. He was a man of real spiritual depth. Against his character no word could be uttered and never was uttered. To misunderstanding and suspicion he quietly and humbly opposed the life of a priest bent upon his task. In face of this concrete fact calumny died a natural death. Houses and homes and lives were opened to his teaching and influence, which could have been opened in no other way. And then, he was a man of much common sense. He was content to abide his time. To hurry ceremonial and ritual in the face of the popular feeling would have been suicidal. To teach he was never afraid. To frighten unnecessarily was not his policy. During his time no vestments were worn. He even preserved Morning Prayer in the chief position on a Sunday. Criticism was easy and was not lacking.The writer of this history cannot say that he regards this as in all points the wisest policy. But at any rate it showed a real desire to understand people's views and even their prejudices. In those early days a drastic move would have been to court disaster. And though the advance may have been unduly delayed, the policy of caution and consideration has been in actual fact largely justified.
A concrete mark of Mr. Baxter’s time as Vicar is the very fine and useful Parish Hall. The records of the early days of S. Faith’s make interesting reading. Hardly had the work settled in its stride before the need of a hall became evident. Some years had to elapse before anything definite could be done. But the matter was never lost sight of, and indeed could not be, for the discomfort of being without such a building became even more apparent as the years passed and the work developed. In 1906 the first part of the Parish Hall was built. This section is the southern part of the present structure and consists of the large hall and cloak rooms. In 1910 a further move was made and the hall was completed by the addition of an upper room, and two small rooms and permanent kitchen on the ground floor. All the money for this was not in hand, and in point of fact it was not till 1920 that the debt was finally cleared. But the credit for adding this important arm to the equipment of S.Faith's must always rest with Mr. Baxter and the congregation which he led.
This period (that, of Mr. Baxter's incumbency) was in every sense a pioneer one. In 1915 he felt that, the opportunity presenting itself, another leader would consolidate the work so admirably begun. He exchanged benefices with Rev. H. B. Bentley-Smith, Vicar of Coatham, near Redcar. Mr. Bentley-Smith was a graduate of S. John’s College, Cambridge, and had been in orders thirteen years. Reference has already been made to the beautiful Lady Chapel, which was fitted up at his instigation. Another mark of his time, at S. Faith’s was the abolition of pew rents. One aisle had always been given up to pew rented seats. Mr. Bentley-Smith courageously swept them away to the great benefit of the spiritual life of the Church. It is few indeed to-day who can be found bold enough to champion a system which has been called “splitting up the House of God into small holdings.” Other changes were made of a more controversial character. That these changes had to come ultimately is no reflection on Mr. Baxter’s policy of delay. Rather the reverse, for the changes provoked (even so late as 1916) a considerable stir. The Sung Eucharist took the place of Morning Prayer. Vestments were introduced. Times for hearing confessions were announced. That these were right and proper moves no one holds more strongly than the present writer. Whether the time was ripe for them is another question about which those who were not in the parish at the time cannot form a right judgment. The war, too, involved an extra strain on parish priests. Mr. Bentley-Smith's health showed signs of being unable to stand the physical effort required. Problems within and without the parish pressed him, and in April, 1918, following upon a breakdown in health he resigned the living.
It was not until October 19th, 1918, that the third (and present) Vicar of S. Faith’s, Rev. J. Brierley, (above) was instituted. He was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge. After serving two curacies he had been appointed by the Bishop of Southwell (Bishop Hoskyns) as Secretary to the Southwell Diocesan Finance Association. Subsequently he had held for three years the benefice of Greatham, in the diocese of Durham. The position was difficult, and the long interregnum of six months while the parish had been without a head had naturally not improved matters. Though it must be gratefully acknowledged that things would have been far worse had it not been for the self-sacrificing and untiring efforts of the curate-in-charge, Rev. T. R. Musgrave, now Vicar of S. James’, Oldham. The changes had unsettled people. The congregation was small and rather disheartened. There were exceedingly heavy debts on the parochial funds. To crown all, within three weeks of the new vicar's arrival, Mr. Musgrave was stricken down with serious illness, which incapacitated him for three years.
It has been said that the glory of the Church of England is its laity. Certainly, in this moment of discouragement the new incumbent was never allowed to feel that he bore the burden of responsibility alone. No words can be too high for the devotion which was forthcoming in every adverse circumstance. The parish priest found to his hand a body of communicants of the very highest principles and the most untiring zeal. Such a spirit never goes unblessed by God. Gradually and slowly the difficulties were overcome and the position made secure. By 1920 the debts had been wiped off. In 1921, as has been said, Mr. Horsfall gave the beautiful Chancel Screen. In the same year (and this also has been noted) the congregation raised over £500, and electric light was installed in the Church. Almost in the same month a bigger venture was entered upon and a Vicarage was purchased at a cost of over £2,000. This sum was raised and all debts cleared in two years. As an example of the spirit which animates the work it is interesting to note that the last £285 of debt on the Vicarage was paid by an individual who has remained so truly anonymous that to this day not even the officers know who he (or she) was. Between 1924 and 1926 four of the five stained glass windows referred to above were erected. In 1924 electric light was installed in the Parish Hall, and the whole place decorated and the stage enlarged. One of the great difficulties has always been the small endowment at the disposal of the benefice. This only amounted to £183 a year, and of course meant that a very large contribution from the collections was needed to augment this sum. After the war the position was further complicated by the fact that the purchasing power of money had fallen. From 1920 onwards frequent and self-sacrificing schemes have been carried through to place this matter on a more secure basis, and in consequence the endowment of the living now stands at £190 a year. Acknowledgement must be made at this point of the generous help which has been forthcoming from time to time from Diocesan Funds. And this co-operation between Diocese and Parish has also received substantial support from sources outside the congregation. This practical sympathy has been of untold value to the development of the work. From 1924 onwards attention has also been given to the question of raising an endowment for the Curacy Fund, having in view the need of a larger staff. The endowment for this purpose now stands at £153 a year. In 1927 it became apparent that the parish not only had a big population, but was likely to have a considerably bigger one in the future. With the strong backing of the Bishop of Liverpool an effort was commenced to increase the staff from two clergy to three. Grants for this purpose were promised both from the Diocese and also from the Additional Curates’ Society. And from December, 1928. three clergy have been at work at S. Faith’s.
This necessary and intensive work in parochial matters has not had an adverse effect on the practical interest of the parish in the wider activities of the Church. The quota to the Diocese has been paid with unfailing regularity. S. Faith’s has taken a consistent and most, generous part in Preventive and Rescue work, Hospitals, Waifs and Strays, the Industrial Christian Fellowship, etc., and the multifarious societies which do their work in Christ’s name have found aid and support from the congregation. The contribution to the work of the Church Abroad has steadily increased year by year, until in 1929 it rose to a record sum.
The passing years has also seen not merely growth in numbers but also (Laus Deo!) growth in spiritual power. The activities enumerated above are only signs of spiritual life. No Church can rely on a better body of workers, either from the point of view either of numbers or of efficiency. The Altar is the centre of our life. One doubts very much whether any other Altar in the Diocese is so thronged. And the power generated there finds its outlet in the consecrated efforts that are made for the work of the Church in the parish and beyond.
No record of this parish could be complete without mention of the Mission which Canon Peter Green conducted towards the end of 1925. It came just at a time when such an effort was needed. Months of work and player in preparation preceded it. And it was conducted by one of the great mission preachers of our time. No one who took part will ever forget it. And it left us with a congregational life which beat more strongly and was more truly consecrated.
All this, feebly told as it is, is the record of a comparatively short period in the history of a parish. It begins with a Church placed amidst corn fields. It leaves off with the Church the centre of a great population, with a congregational life strong and long established ready for the task to which God calls her. Often in the intervening years difficulties have seemed insurmountable and despair near at hand. Yet looking back we are filled with a sense of immense thanksgiving. We think with gratitude of those who have worshipped with us and have passed beyond the Veil, leaving behind the examples of godly lives to encourage us in our task. We think too of the many who have loved S. Faith’s and do love it and now, in other parishes in other parts of England (and beyond) are taking their part - and more than their part - in the work of the Church. Especially do we think of those who have risen up from our midst at the clear call of God and have gone to serve Him beyond the seas in Melanesia, India, Canada, and elsewhere. We look back quietly now at our time of anniversary and try to learn the lesson God is trying to teach us. Just as an artist who to look at his work in its true proportions, stands away from it in thoughtful contemplation, so we at this time withdraw from our work and its claims for a moment that from the height of God’s mountain of vision we may look at the world in which we must needs return to complete our life’s task. The past unfolds before our eyes for us to learn our lesson. There are many imperfections and blemishes. But we see that all the time God has been shaping our purposes and overruling out wilfulness that His good purpose might be achieved We go forward’ then, more humble and (pray God) more faithful because we have thought of the past. And our minds turn to the future certain that God has a work for us to do, seeing clearly that He is ready to guide and strengthen us, and fervently desiring that our lives may come ever closer to God so that we can see His vision and rise to obey His call.
Vicars of S. Faith.
1900 - THOMAS HOWE BAXTER. B.A. Subsequently Vicar of Coatham in the Diocese of York. R.I.P
1915 - HAROLD BENTLEY BENTLEY-SMITH. B.A. Vicar of All Souls, Hastings in Diocese of Chichester.
1918 – JOHN BRIERLEY. M.A. Hon. Chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool.
John Brierley with James Howard Foy, 1928
WILLIAM ALBERT REEVES, M.A. Subsequently Vicar of Paulton. in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. R.I.P.
PERCY YOULDEN JOHNSON, B.A. Vicar of S. Mary at Elms, Ipswich, in the Diocese of S. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
DAVID GEORGE FEE SMITH. B.A. Acting Assistant Priest at S. Faith’s during the building of his own Church. R.I.P.
THOMAS RANDOLPH MUSGRAVE. B.A. Vicar of S. James', Oldham, in the Diocese of Manchester.
BASIL SCHOLFIELD. B.Sc. Vicar of Kentmere, in the Diocese of Carlisle.
TOM HENRY FLORENCE, M.A. Licensed to officiate in the Diocese of Liverpool.
JAMES HOWARD FOY. Senior Assistant Priest of S. Faith's.
WILFRED LEWIS MARK WAY, B.A. Assistant Priest of St Faith's
John Brierley with Mark Way (later Bishop of Masasi) and...?Church Wardens
1900 - J Eshelby
1901 - J Eshelby
1902 - W.E. Taylor
1903 - J.S. Fairclough
1904 –C.W. Huson
1905 –C.W. Huson
1906 –C.W. Huson
1907 –C.W. Huson
1908 –C.W. Huson
1909 –C.W. Huson
1911 –S.R Taylor
1912 –S.R Taylor
1913 –S.R Taylor
1914 –S.R Taylor
1915 –S.R Taylor
1916 – W.A. Shaw
1917 – W.A. Shaw
1918 – W.A. Shaw
1919 – H.J. Lister
1920 – S.R Taylor
1921 – S.R Taylor
1922 – S.R Taylor
1923 – S.R Taylor
1924 – S.R Taylor
1925 – H.J. Lister
1926 – J.R Mellick
1927 – J.R Mellick
1928 – J.R Mellick
1929 – J.R Mellick
Waterloo Printing & Staty. Coy, Ltd. 4 Bath Street, Waterloo
George Houldin's 1950 History of St Faith's
Chris Price's 1975 History of St Faith's
'The Story of St Faith's' index page