Douglas Horsfall R.I.P.

The death of our founder, Douglas Horsfall, in February, 1936 was marked by a respectful obituary in 'The Times' newspaper, then as now the country's principal journal of record.

Not long afterwards, Sir Frederick Radcliffe wrote to the same paper, wishing to  put the record straight with regard to that part of the obituary which referred to the funding of the East Window of Liverpool Cathedral.

The text of this letter can be found by following this link; the text of the obituary itself is reproduced below.


A photo by Bacon and Sons, Liverpool, reproduced from The Church Times of January 18, 1935.

The Times, Monday February 10th, 1936

Mr H.D.Horsfall
A builder of churches in Liverpool

Mr Howard Douglas Horsfall, who died on Saturday at Mere Bank, Liverpool, at the age of 79, was for many years head of one of the leading firms of stockbrokers in Liverpool. He was best known in the city, however, as a generous benefactor of the Church.

He was the second son of Mr Robert Horsfall, of Grassendale Priory, and a nephew of Mr Thomas Barry Horsfall, an African merchant of Liverpool, who was Mayor in 1847-48, and M.P. for Liverpool  from 1853 - 1868. Mr Horsfall was at Eton in 1870-71, boarding at Mr Vidal's dame's house, and 'Ionica' Johnson was his tutor. He then entered the stockbroking office of his father, whose benefactions to the church had included the building of St Margaret's, Princes Road, Liverpool. Like his father, Mr Horsfall was deeply attached to the Anglo-Catholic movement, and so convinced was he of the need for the training of clergy in that school of thought that he founded St Chad's Hall at Durham University in 1904, and at one time was bearing the cost of the training of upwards of 40 men for the ministry. In recognition of this the University gave him the honorary degree of M.A.

Mr Horsfall was a generous contributor to the fund for the building of Liverpool Cathedral, and if he could have had his way he would have paid for the East window. He wanted the subject of the window to be the Crucifixion. Dr. Chavasse, the then Bishop, did not agree, and an offer from another quarter to provide a window depicting the Ascension was accepted. Mr Horsfall's chief gift to the diocese was St. Agnes' Church, Ullet Road, Liverpool. This cost 25,000 to build, and his family spent much in adding to its beauty in the years that followed. It is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful modern churches in the country, and last year was its jubilee year. From the time of its opening till 1932 Mr Horsfall was one of its wardens. He gave up his office because of friction that had arisen, and eventually went to worship elsewhere. But his interest in St Agnes' never wavered, and in 1935 he presented it with more stained-glass windows as an act of thankfulness for having been spared to see the church reach its jubilee. He was also one of the founders of St Pancras Church, and towards the close of the Episcopate of Dr. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, he built St. Faith's Church, Great Crosby. Mr Horsfall was a patron of St Catherine's, Abercromby Square, and of St Paul's, St Paul's Square, Liverpool. The latter was eventually bought by the L.M.S. Railway Company, and a new church of St Paul was erected in one of the suburbs.

Mr Horsfall married in 1887 Mabel, eldest daughter of Mr Egerton Parks Smith, formerly of the Royal Artillery. She died in 1921. He had two sons and two daughters. One of the sons, Mr Robert Elcum Horsfall, fell in the War. The surviving son is Major Ewart Douglas Horsfall, M.C., who was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, and rowed in the Oxford boat in 1912 and 1913 (stroke) in 1914.

A visitor returning to St Faith's in the 1990s recalls seeing Mr Horsfall, wearing his trademark headgear, sitting in the choirstalls at St Faith's - almost certainly during the period referred to above when he 'worshipped elsewhere'.

Two other points of interest: the obituary does not mention Mr Horsfalls' presence at the jubilee celebrations of St Agnes' Ullet Road: follow the index page link below to read about it and a little about other churches. And the present writer (a lover of railways!) believes that it would have been the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, not the London Midland and Scottish, which bought up St Paul's.....

Back to the Horsfall connection index page

Back to St Faith's home page