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What is St. John’s Gardens in Liverpool? St. George’s Hall?

Liverpool City Council staff clean a section of the rarely seen Minton tiled floor of St George's Hall on August 2, 2013 in Liverpool, England.
Liverpool City Council staff clean a section of the rarely seen Minton tiled floor of St George's Hall on August 2, 2013 in Liverpool, England.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

St. John’s Garden’s is a former cemetery and the site of an 18th Century church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which in the 19th Century became a landscaped garden (not unlike Chicago’s Lincoln Park). It is west of St. George’s Hall, a huge neoclassical building across from the Lime Street Station, Liverpool’s terminal railway station.

St. George’s Hall is unusual because it was built to house both concert halls and law-courts. In 2007, Prince Charles re-opened St. George’s Hall after a £23,000,000 restoration.

The floor of St. George’s Hall is comprised of 30,000 handmade mosaic tiles. Normally, they are covered for their protection, but last year the public was able to view the floor from the 3rd to the 18th of August.

Notable for being “the best example of Minton tiles in the world,” (as Getty photographer Christopher Furlong out it), the floor was layed in 1852. It depicts dolphins, tritons, and sea nymphs, a reflection of the city's seafaring heritage.

In the 1980s, the Crown and Civil Courts moved to new quarters in Derby Square. St. George’s Hall is now used as an exhibition hall. The building is also home to Liverpool’s Tourist Information Centre and Heritage Centre.

Today, tours of the building include the ground floor and basement cells where prisoners awaiting trial were held, as were the condemned. People can rent out various rooms for weddings and corporate meetings. Film crews use the site, as well.

St. John’s Gardens has a number of monuments dedicated to people who had considerable impact on Liverpool and the country as a whole. The Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John (1860-1952) made the granite and bronze monument The King’s Liverpool Regiment. It commemorates the King’s Regiment (Liverpool), a historic British Royal Army regiment that was one of only a few to represent a city rather than a county.

An English sculptor, Sir George James Frampton (1860-1928), produced the bronze Rathbone Monument (1907), which commemorates William Rathbone VI (1819-1902), a merchant, philanthropist, and Member of Parliament who founded the district nursing movement and helped found the University College Liverpool (now the University of Liverpool) and the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). Frampton also executed the 1899 monument for an Anglican priest, Canon Thomas Major Lester (1829-1903), Vicar of St Mary's Kirkdale. He is remembered for the Kirkdale Child Charities, through which he operated the Major Street Ragged Schools and the Girls’ Home on Walton Road. Canon Lester also founded Stanley Hospital.

Another Frampton work is the Forwood Monument, unveiled in 1904. Sir Arthur Bower Forwood (1836-1898) was a merchant, ship-owner, and Conservative politician who served as Mayor of Liverpool, First Secretary of the Admiralty, and as a Privy Councillor. Queen Victoria made Forwood a baronet in 1895.

Another English sculptor, Sir Thomas Brock (1847-1922), made the Gladstone Monument. Born in Liverpool, the politician William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1899) started out as a High Tory but joined Sir Robert Peel’s breakaway faction of the Conservative Party and still later joined the Liberal Party. He served four times each as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1852-55, 1859-1866, 1873-74, and 1880-82) and Prime Minister (1868-1874, 1880-85, 1886, and 1892-94).[1]

Albert Bruce-Joy sculpted (1842-1924) sculpted the Alexander Balfour Monument. A. Balfour was a Scottish businessman and philanthropist who co-founded the shipping firm Balfour Williamson & Company in Liverpool and founded orphanages for the children of dead seamen. With a group of six other Liverpool businessmen, he co-founded Edge Hill College (now Edge Hill University) as England’s first non-denominational teacher’s college.

The English sculptor Frederick William Pomeroy (1856-1924) made the Nugent Monument (1906), which commemorates a Catholic secular priest, James Nugent (1822-1905), who was born in Liverpool and spent most of his life there, though he attended a Roman seminary and visited the U.S. several times. Fr. Nugent spent most of his life striving to help vulnerable people.[2]

[1] His reforms included the introduction of the secret vote, the extension of the franchise to 6,000,000 poor men in the countryside, and the dis-establishment of the Church of Ireland (which English colonists had imposed on Ireland), although in his 1838 book The State in its Relations with the Church he had argued the Anglican Church had a monopoly on truth so Catholics and Nonconformists (Protestants) should be excluded from holding office. By and large, he opposed colonial wars, and ended the Second Anglo-Afghan War and the First Boer War, but he also ordered the Bombardment of Alexandria, Egypt. Queen Victoria and the public held him responsible for not sending relief to Major-General Charles George Gordon in Khartoum, Sudan in time to save him and the people he tried to defend from the self-proclaim Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad (1845-1885), an event dramatized in the film Khartoum (1966). He unsuccessfully supported Home Rule for Ireland, which would have involved a devolved parliament, similar to the parliaments that Scotland and Wales have now, as called for by Charles Parnell’s Irish nationalists in Parliament. Gladstone also helped numerous women get out of prostitution.

[2] Fr. Nugent brought a teaching order, the Sisters of Notre Dame, to Mount Pleasant, in 1851. Two years later, Fr. Nugent opened the Catholic Institute where the future Cardinal Newman gave his famous lecture on the Turks. Between 1863 and 1885, Fr. Nugent served as chaplain of Walton Prison. In 1865 he established the Refuge for Homeless Boys. In 1867, he founded The Northern Press, which in 1872, became the Catholic Times. In the latter year, he organized for the spread of temperance the League of the Cross. In 1880, he co-founded the Liverpool Catholic Children's Protection Society. From 1885 he 1887, he founded and led the new mission Blundellsands.[The Blundellsands area north of Liverpool and the Blundellsands mission were named in honor of the famous Blundell family of Little Crosby, a village of Catholic recusants in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries before Catholic Emancipation in the 19th Century. William Blundell (1560-1638) of Blundell Hall created a graveyard at Harkirk for Catholic recusants whom Anglican authorizes refused to bury in churchyards. In 1630, the Court of the Star Chamber ordered the sheriff to tear down the wall around the graveyard, headstones, and other markers. They also disturbed some graves. However, Blundell squires continued to bury family members and other Catholics there until 1753. In 1889, Colonel Nicholas Blundell (1811-1894) built the Harkirk Chapel in the middle of this cemetery. The residents of Little Crosby could openly practice their faith when St. Mary’s Church was consecrated in 1843. Blundellsands is on the coast of the Irish Sea, west of Little Crosby.] To give people an alternative to drinking, Fr. Nugent organized a series of Saturday night free concerts. In 1891, he established on the street Bevington Bush a Refuge for Fallen Women and a Night Shelter for homeless women that received 2,300 poor women between 1891 and 1905. In 1892, Pope Leo XIII appointed him a domestic prelate with the title monsignor. Fr. Nugent purchased the Jubilee Hall in Burlington Street in memory of his golden jubilee as a priest, as a venue for temperance meetings and concerts. On May 5, 1897, Liverpudians presented Monsignor Nugent with his own portrait (later displayed at the Liverpool Art Gallery) and money he used to start the House of Providence, West Dingle, for young unmarried mothers with their first babies.

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