St Agnes
Ullet Road

Our founder was, of course, responsible, as were others of his large and generous family, for founding more than one other church in  the Liverpool Diocese. Possibly the most splendid of these is the great church of St Agnes, Ullet Road, Sefton Park in Liverpool. The article reproduced below, kindly provided by Mr Frank Cranmer, tells the story of Horsfall's long connection with that place, as well as providing information about other churches, existing or long gone, with which he was connected. The paragraphs about St Faith's contain one minor inaccuracy in the reproduction of the wording of the stone engraving in our chancel. The vigilant are invited to track this down!

The Church Times: January 18th, 1935


Mr. Douglas Horsfall's Unique Jubilee

On January 21, 1885, the beautiful church of St.Agnes, Ullet Road, Liverpool, was consecrated by the first Bishop of Liverpool, Dr Ryle. The fiftieth anniversary is at hand, and it is an occasion which is unique in the annals of the Church of England.  For, while in every generation of the long history of the Church there have arisen devout sons and daughters who have given munificently to the furtherance of Christ's work, it can be asserted with confidence that no other instance exists where a man has given a church and has lived to see its fiftieth anniversary. Mr. Douglas Horsfall offered to build St. Agnes' Church in 1885 as a young man of twenty-six. It was consecrated in 1885, and on January 21 next he will return thanks to Almighty God on the fiftieth anniversary of its consecration.

The Horsfall family have been notable church builders. They were settled in Yorkshire from the fourteenth century, and came to Liverpool in the eighteenth century. Charles Horsfall, of Mere-bank, Everton, was Mayor of Liverpool in 1832. When he died, his thirteen children built Christ Church, Everton, in his memory. His second son, Robert Horsfall, the father of the subject of. this article, built St. Margaret's, Princes Road, the first ''High" church to be built in Liverpool. At its consecration there were formidable riots, and subsequently its famous vicar, Mr. Bell Cox, was one of those priests who went to prison for the Faith. Another son of Horsfall built Chrtist Church, Linnet Lane. The history of the Horsfall family is part of the history of Liverpool.Their coat-of-arms, along  with those of other Liverpool families, can be seen  in  St. Luke's Church, Bold Street.

The Orange temper had not cooled when Douglas Horsfall set his hand to build his first church, which was to be a memorial to his father. St. Agnes' Church is erected on land given by Lord Sefton. Its designer was Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral.    With its groined roof and dog-tooth ornament, it is generally conceded to be the most beautiful modern church in the diocese. But, before it could be consecrated, a multitude of difficulties had to be overcome.    The Bishop took a very uncertain line, and was embarrassed by resolutions, petitions, and the like. When he finally consented to consecrate it, the Orange, element was frantic and the Protestant Standard published a paragraph surrounded; by a  mourning border, and headed, ‘Mournful Death of  Bishop Ryle's Evangelical  and Protestant   Principles," and ending  with the quotation,  “He sold his birthright for a mess of pottage"!  During   the  week of  the consecration, among the preachers were the Bishop of Durham  (Lightfoot), the  Bishop of Chester  (Stubbs), Archdeacon Denison, Canon Carter, Canon Hole, and Canon Knox-Little.   It was under these auspices; that the first vicar, the Rev. C. C. Elcum, began his long incumbency of more than forty-two years.  Faithful priest and faithful  pastor, he laboured in the teeth  of' prejudice and  misunderstanding, such  as we  in  our  day can hardly realize, and left behind him a memory honoured far beyond the confines of. his congregation.

A little before this, Horsfall had acquired by purchase the advowson of St. Paul's Church, Liverpool.  This church rejoiced (or otherwise) in the curious arrangement  of  two incumbents. The issue of the Church Times of May 9, 1884, contains an article on this church, and it is there recorded that on a recent Sunday, at Mattins,  there were  twenty-two adults  present  and  about  the same number of children. The choir consisted of four small girls, two small boys, and the clerk. The joint incumbents had a united age of one hundred and fifty. The place was, in fact, derelict. Five years later both incumbencies had fallen in, and new life for the parish, began. Eventually, however, changed conditions made the closing of the church desirable. The site was sold to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and, with the large sum received, Horsfall built the magnificent church of St. Paul, Stoneycroft, to the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott. This was consecrated in 1910.

In 1880, the advowson of St. Catherine's, Abercromby Square, was sold by public auction. Horsfall bought it. The Protestant Standard of February 20, 1886, was clear as to the condition of the parish. " We cannot say that St. Catherine's, by falling into Mr. Horsfall's hands, will lose one particle of spiritual power, and that for the very simple reason, that we know not of one particle of spiritual power that it has to lose." Here was another derelict. The episcopal residence being within the parochial boundaries, both Bishop Ryle and Bishop Chavasse were parishioners. So dire was the state of this church, that about this time the cleaner, not being able to get her wage of one shilling and sixpence a week, sued the vicar and wardens for it, and at the hearing a bankrupt condition was disclosed. A few years later, the Liverpool Mercury representative attended the morning service, and found twelve adults and eighteen children in a church holding twelve hundred. In 1891, a vacancy in the benefice occurred, and Horsfall nominated the Rev. P. H. Leary, later Preb. Leary of St. Augustine's, Kilburn. A memorable ministry then began, and St. Catherine's has ever since been a church throbbing with life, and a centre of Catholic teaching.

In 1898, Horsfall offered yet another church. St Faith’s, Great Crosby, is a cathedral-like structure situated  in a suburban district. It was consecrated by Archbishop Maclagan in April,1900. Its purpose was made plain, for on the chancel walls is cut this inscription: "The Church of Saint 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 sixty years' reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria." In the   meantime,  St. Agnes' had  been equipped with a vicarage, parish hall, and daughter church, St. Pancras, by the generosity of Horsfall and his   mother, Mrs. Robert Horsfall.

So much for Douglas Horsfall as church builder. It is a noble record, but it does not touch on some of the main points of his activities. Perhaps his greatest work is the founding of St. Chad's College, Durham. Realizing that there were many men with the true vocation for Holy Orders, who were prevented from entering the ministry by their inability to pay for their training, he founded a theological college in the little village of Hlooton Pagnell, in Yorkshire.

The venture thus begun ultimately resulted in the great work that is being done at St. Chad's College, to which institution the founder, in the course of the years, has been a most consistent and generous friend. Horsfall placed the charge of this work in the hands of the Rev. S. R. P. Moulsdale, who, when this project was launched, was a young curate working in Everton. The choice was soon amply justified. From relatively small beginnings, the work was built up, till now, in St. Chad's College the University of Durham has one of its chief assets. The Governing Body of the College contains many famous names, and its chairman is he Bishop of Lichfield, to whose fostering care St. Chad's owes so much. Mr. Moulsdale at present, holds the high position of Vice-Chancellor of the University, a well-deserved honour to the man himself and to the College over which he presides. To found a College in an ancient University is not given to most men. That it only stands as one of many great benefactions in Horsfall's life is a tribute to the greatness of his many activities. Through St. Child's, and other channels, Douglas Horsfall has made it possible, financially, for hundreds of men to test their vocation. In England and overseas .there arc priests, many of them holding high and responsible posts, who recognize,with affectionate gratitude, what has been wrought for them and for the Church they serve by this, great Churchman.

The diocese of Liverpool fifty years ago was predominantly Orange. It still presents problems-owing to this factor that are unknown elsewhere. For the whole of this long span of time every priest, who has striven to uphold the Catholic position of the Church of England, has known that in Horsfall he had a friend who would never let him down, no matter what the forces were that were arrayed against him. When from time to time there are rejoicings over the changed aspect of Liverpool Churchmanship, remembrance should he had of that man, who more than any other has been the human instrument of that change.

Almost as soon as St. Agnes' was consecrated, Horsfall built a house for himself nearly opposite the church. He was in his forty-eighth year as people's warden when, some two years ago, he resigned office. For more than thirty years, every Sunday he conducted a Bible class for lads, and the influence, of this on the lives of generations of youths cannot be estimated. For a still longer period he identified himself with the athletic side of the boys’ lives, .and he founded and conducted a gymnasium which was a pattern of what such things should be. Of his private generosity it is not possible to speak. Some of his many almoners may have a faint perception of the full facts. All that own be said with certainty is that there exist very many families and individuals who have every reason to know the depth of Horsfall's sympathy and the greatness of his heart. But while this is a subject that can be but barely touched upon, there is a kindred activity that has never been able to be concealed. No man has taken more pains to help men, and especially young men, to obtain employment. Men in great and influential posts to-day owe their first chance to his kindly interest and to the influence that his commanding position in the business life of Liverpool was able to bear.

In 1907, the University of Durham recognized his munificence by conferring upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. But such recognition, acceptable as it; was, is a small recompense beside that which comes to him from the grateful hearts of those many whom he has helped. The Church has had no greater benefactor in this generation. And as the venerable Churchman makes his thanksgiving on January 21, he will be surrounded by the prayers, affection, and good wishes of an innumerable company, whose courage has been strengthened and whose minds have been inspired by their friendship with Douglas Horsfall.'

To this writer, a few of the comments above are of particular interest. Although St Faith's never suffered for the faith to the extent of the riots and imprisonment visited upon St Margaret's, Prince's Road, I can remember the pickets of the Protestant Truth Society at our doors when the first Roman Catholic preacher visited us. And our official history (available online at this site) records other attempts to disrupt our worship and the regular cries of the bus-conductors (remember them?) passing St Faith's: 'Change here for Rome!'

A further ironic reflection: the church of St Paul, as mentioned above, was considered 'derelict' in 1881 when, despite its two ancient incumbents, it had only some forty or so present at Mattins. Many a city church today would be glad to have that many attending, perhaps....

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