Liverpool History Society Questions

A selection of Liverpool history questions submitted to the Liverpool History Society

>The Oratory at Liverpool Cathedral



on a recent visit to Liverpool I enjoyed a tour of Liverpool Cathedral and noticed a classical building near the entrance.  I think it is call “The Oratory”.  I would like to know more about this building, but could not find it in my guide book.  Can you please help?



Huskisson Memorial

Tracey Emin Sculpture
 “Roman Standard bird”

30/11/2009 - Posted by | The Oratory at Liverpool Cathedral


  1. Guten Tag Gunter,

    The Oratory is the former chapel of St James’s Cemetery, a now disused burial ground on the east side of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. St James’s Cemetery was originally a quarry and provided the stone from which the Town Hall and other public buildings in the city were constructed. It was exhausted by the 1820s and was adapted as a cemetery. Liverpool’s only public cemetery at the time was the Necropolis at Low Hill, opened in 1825.

    A managing company for the new cemetery was established in 1826 through a parliamentary act and the architect John Foster (1786 – 1846) was appointed to design buildings and to lay out the ground. Foster subsequently created a cemetery of grandeur. The cemetery was opened on 13 January 1829. He laid out with winding paths and planted with trees. To the north west Foster built the Oratory laying the foundation stone in 1827 and a house for the minister he also provided a monumental entrance arch and a porter’s lodge in the South East corner. The purpose of the Oratory was to accommodate funeral services before burials took place in the cemetery, but it was also used as a kind of cenotaph for housing monuments to the deceased. Following the closure of the cemetery in 1936, the Oratory fell into disuse and was transferred to the Liverpool Cathedral Building Committee. In 1986 it became part of the newly formed National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.

    Foster also designed a small circular temple which marks the grave of William Huskisson (1770 – 1830), the Liverpool MP killed at the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester railway.

    Outside the Oratory on a pole is Tracey Emin`s sculpture “Roman Standard bird” .


    Rob Ainsworth
    Programme Secretary & Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Comment by Liverpool History | 30/11/2009 | Reply

  2. In September 1827, at the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the Oratory, Jonathan Brooks , the Rector of Liverpool said:

    “On the spot where we now stand, will soon arise a specimen of the purest era of Grecian art…long to remain a monument no less of the piety of the age that erected it, than of the classical purity of taste in the architect who designed it. It will possess all those beauties which were characteristic of the noblest, as it was the earliest, invention of the building art — grandeur, simplicity and harmony, united with that degree of ornament with which true taste refines and dignifies the vigorous conceptions of genius. It will be a counterpart of those beautiful and much admired temples of the most polished nations of antiquity: not, indeed, to be applied for the same purposes as they were…but to be devoted to the pure, and simple, and chaste, and impressive services of reformed Christian worship.”


    Rob Ainsworth

    Programme Secretary & Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Comment by Liverpool History | 30/11/2009 | Reply

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