Friday, 6 July 2012

St Oswald’s Church, Liverpool

Earlier this week I set off to have a look at St. Oswald's church in Old Swan. When you glared at the map it does not seem that far from Liverpool Lime Street station. In times past I would happily have walked this sort of distance – I often walked from Toxteth to Liverpool city centre. On this day I was exhausted long before I made it to St. Oswald Street. Along Edge Lane you could see the St. Oswald church tower beckoning in the distance and all to imperceptibly getting closer.

Normally I don't have much time for either church or religion, neither mean more to me than a vague curiosity value. So why this trip? Later this year I am starting an Open University module that consists of a rapid romp through the arts. One topic is the architect Augustus Pugin [ ] so it seemed a good idea to have at least a peek at one of his buildings; a peek all close up and personal. St. Oswald was built in 1840 and only the tower remains of Pugin's original. Here are a few photos I took on the day.

Overall I was a little disappointed by the church. With what I'd read about Pugin I was expecting some stand out architecture but what I saw was little different from hundreds of other such buildings. It was pleasant enough as architecture but little more; it must be enthusiasts that put all that effort into writing such books and like – only to disappoint the amateur like me. Still I'm glad I've seen it. The church was locked so I didn't get to see inside.

On leaving the small churchyard you could see the Victorian graves, the neatly cut hedges, you walked under the shade of a thriving tree; behind you was the empty locked church with its about to crumble façade; ahead was a small archway, adorned with moss, leading out onto the empty pavement; in the distance was the low hum of Edge Lane and the traffic making its way to or from Liverpool; just below this hum you could almost hear the chatter of a few local sitting outside a nearby pub. But there, across the road, dominating everything, was the aggressive utilitarianism of a Tesco superstore; it rammed its functionality and commercialism in your face. At this time of day a steady trickle of traffic meanders in and out and all the surrounding pavements and walkways are forced to conform to its monetary demands.

Was Catholicism, or indeed any church, any less demanding of uniformity? Probably not. But even a lifelong atheist like me cannot help feeling a little twinge of nostalgia.

I got the bus back into Liverpool – I was now minimising the amount or walking I needed to do – and onto an all-day-breakfast at a little café. Frankly this was the most enjoyable part of the day.

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