In the centre of Liverpool you will find a church. Well, more than one church really. If there is one thing that Liverpool is not short of it is churches, strangely enough. Only one of these churches however, will be lacking in some rather important architectural features, namely a roof and any windows. In the cold and rainy north-west of England these two features are really rather important.
St. Luke’s Church Liverpool has proudly stood watch over Liverpool’s city centre since its consecration in 1831. The church was once the centre of the area’s religious community, known as the Doctor’s Church due to the number of surgeons who called nearby Rodney Street home. The congregation must have been a rather eclectic mix of doctors and dockers, Scousers and sailors, being so close to the once thriving docklands on the shores of the River Mersey.
For more than one hundred years St. Luke’s Church remained central to the city of Liverpool, the one time Second City of the Empire.
The Port of Liverpool
The Port of Liverpool and the areas surrounding the city were highly important to the Allied war effort during WWII. The large River Mersey port had for many years been the UK’s main transport link with North America, which became all the more important during the war years. It is said that the docks in Liverpool handled over 90% of all the war material brought into Britain from abroad! This, and the number of allied naval ships anchoring in the Mersey placed Liverpool squarely in the sights of the German Luftwaffe. By the end of the war Liverpool had the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed area of the country outside of London.
The Liverpool Blitz
In early May 1941 Liverpool was the target of an air assault that would eventually kill almost 2900 people. Over the course of the weeklong bombing campaign an estimated 681 Luftwaffe bombers dropped over 2400 high explosive and incendiary bombs on the already war-torn city.
On the night of Monday 5th May 1941 one of those incendiary bombs was dropped on St. Luke’s Church. The building burned along with the rest of the city for days, unable to be controlled by the already over stretched fire and emergency services.
Ever since that fateful evening St. Luke’s Church has remained standing in the centre of the bustling city of Liverpool, serving as a stark reminder of the horror’s that this northern city has had to endure.
The Bombed-Out Church
Today St. Luke’s, better known locally as the Bombed Out Church, is an oasis of calm in the middle of a very hectic city. The grounds house a memorial to those who died in the Irish Famine, and in the last few years has become the home of a local art collective, Urban Strawberry Lunch. The group now holds regular events in the Bombed-Out Church, including open air movie showings and photographic exhibits. The Urban Strawberry Lunch has helped to breathe life back into this historic landmark, making it more than just a burnt out shell.
The next time you’re in Liverpool make sure that you venture away from the Docks and explore St. Luke’s, one of the most moving and interesting memorials I have ever come across.