Waterloo Park

Incumbents of St Mary's

The Revd Henry Burrowes, M.A.  Curate-in-Charge
Perpetual Curate
The Revd S.J.Sykes, B.A.  Perpetual Curate 
The Revd Percival Carman, M.A.  Vicar  1939-1946
The Revd C Wood Vicar 1946-1953
The Revd R Thomas Vicar 1953-1960
The Revd C.W.E.Pennell  Vicar  1961-1986
The Revd R.J.Hutchinson, B.Sc. Priest-in-Charge  1987-1996
The Revd Neil Kelley Vicar 1999-

Charles Lamb's 'The Story of Crosby' records that 'Waterloo hardly existed in 1835, and for the next fifty years it grew but slowly and was almost entirely confined to the sea front … in 1857 the only building in South Road was the Liver Inn.' He further records that the population increased from 6168 in 1871 to 9118 in 1881, 17328 in 1891 and 31180 in 1931. Churches were built in 1865 (St John's), 1866 (Congregational), 1875 (St Andrew's Presbyterian) and 1877 (St Mary's). In the 1880s, however, Waterloo Park consisted of only a few large houses standing in their own grounds and there were no houses at all to the north of the church. Subsequent development has led to St Mary's standing in a relatively secluded position, remote from any main traffic artery.

 In 1933 the land to the south of the church, formerly Waterloo Park Cricket Club and Waterloo Park Tennis Club, was sold for development and the Brook Vale estate was built, with further small developments after the Second World War. Further developments are likely to be limited due to the lack of suitable land in the parish area.

 However, the steady increase in population in the late 19th century created the climate for the foundation of St Mary's in the 1870s. The key dates in the church's development are as follows:

Dedication of 'iron church'  30.12.1877
Consecration of permanent church  17.2.1886
Opening of parish hall  6.6.1901
Completion of nave  25.9.1907
Ante-room to hall opened  1908
Annexe to hall opened  22.4.1924
Above: The Altar and Sanctuary

Right: The North Trancept and Baptistry

The order of events shows the priority given during Canon Sykes' time to providing congregational facilities before the completion of the church itself. The Iron Church of 1877 served part of St John's parish but was presumably only seen as a temporary measure as Dr Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool, laid the foundation stone of its permanent successor only five years later, on 31st July, 1882 - although it was not finally consecrated until 1886. A weakness in the foundations meant that the original design for a steeple had to be changed to the present squat crenellated tower - the difference in colour of the stone can still be seen on the tower and elsewhere in the building. Lighter, tubular bells also replaced the planned heavier peal.

St Mary's, like St Faith's, could not gain full parish status until the departure of the incumbent from whose parish it was carved: this occurred in 1901 when St Mary's perpetual curate became its first proper vicar. Mr Burrows, the first incumbent, died in 1897, to be replaced by an 'old boy' of St Mary's, who, later as Canon Sykes, began a forty year ministry at St Mary's.

 In 1901 not only did St Mary's become a 'proper parish', but a vicarage was bought in Park Road, electric lighting was installed in the church and the new Parish Hall was opened. Spiritual and social life flourished in the years that followed, with congregations at Mattins and Evensong probably averaging some 250-300 at each service. In the next few years the church was extended and an ante-room added to the Hall. A major Mission in 1909 saw further increases to the congregational roll, and later in 1920, following the Great War, St John's Chapel was dedicated as a War Memorial.

 Further growth in the 1920s and 1930s led to the purchase of adjacent land and the building of an annexe to the Hall, reached through a covered connection and facing the new Brookvale estate: it was opened in April 1934.

 Various subsequent additions to the church have featured a Robert Thompson altar and reredos (with mouse carvings) and a new East Window replacing one lost in the Blitz, as well as the inevitable rewirings and redecoration work.

 The years since the church's foundation have seen a variety of organisations come and go. The first such organisation seems to have been the 'King's Messengers' in 1901, followed by a Ladies' Sewing Party, and Arts Guild and a Young Women's Class. The C.E.M.S, a Cricket Club, Scouts and a Servers' Guild were started, with the Mothers' Union opening a branch in 1916. Guides were started in the 1920s, together with various sports clubs and youth clubs. 'Sadly', the 1989 history records, 'most of these organisations are now defunct, but in their time they provided a very real answer to the needs of the community.' In more recent times the trend has been for outside organisations such as the Waterloo Park Orchestra, the Crosby Art Group, a Toddlers' Group, a Badminton Club, SSHELP (Sefton Self Help Group) to use the Hall facilities, together with various 'one-off' activities.

 The 1989 history summarises the story of St Mary's as one of continuing change. 'The period preceding the first world war can be said to have been the most rewarding… Many factors contributed to the decline of numbers in subsequent years…. The geographical situation of our church has also had an adverse effect. Not only are we situated in a quiet backwater of Waterloo, but many people are now frightened of going out at night.

 'All this sounds like an excuse for the present situation. Far from it. If the present members of our church were not looking to the future with faith and hope, we would not be considering spending vast sums of money in putting out buildings to rights. We received a heritage from our forbears, and it is now up to us to pass that heritage on to future generations in good order so that the work of the church as a whole, and St Mary's in particular, will continue unabated. To this end, not only must we preserve and improve our buildings, but we must also support our leaders in all that they are trying to do spiritually. Let us all work together to extend Christ's Kingdom in this part of Waterloo.'

 The decade since the publication of this brief history have seen further and significant changes. Following the first process of parish reorganisation in the Waterloo area, St Mary's was for some years joined as a United Benefice with the neighbouring church of Christ Church, Waterloo, under the continuing ministry of the Revd Ray Hutchinson. More recently the ongoing process of rationalisation of clergy numbers and parish sizes led to a protracted series of meetings, with a view to further reducing the stipendiary priests serving in the Waterloo and Crosby area. As a result of this process, the United Benefice mentioned above has been dissolved. Christ Church now shares an incumbent with St John's, Waterloo, while we at St Mary's share ours with the neighbouring parish of St Faith, Great Crosby, with the Vicar of the United Benefice living in the Vicarage attached to St Faith's. The Revd Neil Kelley was appointed in 1999 and since then we have enjoyed opportunities presented by these new parish pairings and to the many good things which we are sure the Holy Spirit has in store for our two parishes to the east of Liverpool Road. As in 1889 we are happy to work together to further God's Kingdom and we continue to pray for strength and guidance to lead our parishes forward into the new Millenium.We have several combined services and social events with St Faiths and look forward to developing the links between the two churches.

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e-mail to: Fr Neil Kelley The Vicar
e-mail to: Chris Price