History of St Michael's

Below are extracts from our History Book, now available to buy in the Church on Open Saturdays.

The Cast Iron Shore

The Cast Iron Shore, colloquially known as the ‘The Cazzy’, is the name given to a stretch of the bank of the River Mersey in South Liverpool. The Cazzy roughly stretches from the Dingle to Otterspool promenade.

The name was given to this area due to the number of iron works and iron ship building works along the shore as well as the extensive use of the cast iron in buildings. The extent of its use could even be seen in the shore line, as it was stained red from all the remaining ferric oxide in the sand. The ‘Cast Iron Shore’ is even mentioned in the lyrics of the Beatles song ‘Glass Onion’. 

John Cragg and Thomas Rickman

Rickman and Cragg jointly won a contract to design and build a new church in Everton on the site of an old storm-damaged beacon. They completed in 1814 and built St George’s, Everton for a grand total of £11,500, with Cragg himself contributing £600. Internally it was mostly constructed of Cragg’s iron with the Gothic design owing to Rickman. Prefabricated iron was transported from the Mersey Iron Foundry and then bolted together inside the church. It was the first of its kind to use prefabricated iron on such a large scale.

Even before the foundation stone of St George’s had been laid, Cragg had bought land at the south east side of Toxteth Park. In 1814 the second Cragg/Rickman venture was commenced. The total cost of the second church St Michael in the Hamlet was £7865, believed to be entirely funded by Cragg himself. The dramatically reduced cost is most likely down to the reusing of the design and many cast moldings from St George. St Michael’s exploited the use of iron further by using iron extensively on the exterior as well as the interior.   

St Michael’s Church

An Act of Parliament permitting the existence of the church was obtained in 1815 the preamble of which runs

‘Whereas owing to the great increase of inhabitants with Toxteth Park, in the Parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, in the County Palatine of Lancaster, a Chapel for Divine Worship there is becoming necessary’.

The church itself is an apotheosis of iron. There is an extensive list of Cragg’s foundry.  The windows and door surrounds, the window crestings, the columns, the roof tracery, the arches, clerestory cladding, the parapets, finials, copings, the window tracery and not forgetting, the church fence, which carries its own Grade II listing. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner suggests that Rickman was not all too pleased with Cragg’s iron ‘his iron work is too stiff in his head to bend to any beauty’.