History of St Patrick, Southport

 

The Beginnings
In 1912 the small Catholic population of Marshside and Churchtown to the north of Southport, moved into their new Church. It had been built largely through the generosity of an Irishman who had found good fortune in America later in his life. He had at one time been part of a small community of Irish families which had originally arrived looking for work in the local cockle-picking industry at Marshside, prior to the Irish potato famine of 1846. They had settled at the top end of Fleetwood Road on what is now Hesketh golf course. The 1876 Southport Directory has a separate entry for “Little Ireland” in which it lists 47 householders and a ‘Roman Catholic School’. The occupations were listed as … labourers, charwomen, cocklers, hawkers, tailors, a brick layer, a cab driver, a fisherman, a gardener, a grocer, a joiner….

 

The school referred to was a small cottage used for the handful of children – and apparently called “St. Patrick’s School”. This cottage is there to this day, now used as the green keeper’s cottage attached to the golf course. Perhaps in those early days when a priest was passing through it was also used for Mass. By all accounts the small settlement was pretty wretched, and the people lived in squalid conditions. When the present church of St. Marie-on-the-Sands was built in 1875, in the town centre, the settlers walked on Sundays all the way there for Mass, and back. It was the memory of this inconvenience which eventually caused the benefactor to ask the local priest to build a small church in the Marshside area for the people who had settled there, and he agreed to endow it, so long as it was under the patronage of ‘St. Patrick’.

 

The enclave continued to deteriorate, and with the reluctance of the landlord to upgrade the properties, as required by the local council, in 1902 the dwellings were ordered to be burned to the ground and the site cleared under police supervision. The only building which survived was the cottage now used by the greenkeeper at the golf course. The inhabitants, reluctantly, were dispersed and offered newly built accommodation around Hampton Road, Boundary Street and Broome Road, nearer the Town Centre.

 

A few more Catholic families had moved into the area during this time, and so it was decided to fulfil the wishes of the benefactor and to build the church. Records indicate that the new church, built in 1912 cost the princely sum of £1,500! The land for the new church on Marshside Road was donated by the Scarisbrick family, themselves Catholics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building of a Catholic Church in this area was not all that welcome, and after the footings and foundations had been destroyed during the night on a couple of occasions, a police guard, mainly from Liverpool, to avoid compromising the local force, had to be appointed to see the process through. In spite of these set backs the project went ahead.

 

The impressive ceiling of the new church was made from pitch pine timber, and the pieces were all cut at a small saw mill in School Street (later to become Bath Street) named ‘Petries’. The timbers were brought up from School Street on a hand cart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pulpit, altar, benches, Stations of the Cross and statues of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady and St. Joseph were given by Holy Family Parish from their chapel attached to the school, which they had used prior to the building of their new church at Brompton Road. But all did not go smoothly. After just two years all the floorboards in the new St. Patrick’s had to be renewed because a lack of adequate ventilation had resulted in extensive dry rot. In order to finance repairs a number of the items donated by Holy Family had to be sold, including the original statue of St. Joseph. This was eventually replaced in 1967 by the impressive statue, hand carved by Demetz of Northern Italy, which can be seen today in the new church.

 

For the first 22 years of its life (from 1912 to 1934) St. Patrick’s was not a parish in its own right, but a ‘chapel of ease’. A visiting priest, Dean Cahill from St. Marie’s, came each Sunday by taxi to open up, celebrate Mass, and lock up again until the following week. Archbishop Whiteside had opened the new church but declared it a ‘folly’ – insisting that there would never be enough people to make it viable. Indeed on more than one occasion it was muted that the church should be closed down for lack of members. But the few faithful attenders (there were rarely more than between twelve and twenty people present at Sunday Mass) held firm and the church survived.

 

St Patrick’s Catholic Church

In the Pastoral Area of Southport and the Archdiocese of Liverpool

Contact:

Tel: 01704 228943 or 01704 531229

Email: stpatricks.southport@rcaolp.co.uk

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