SYNOD square  FrMichael  parish

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The House

The House was built in 1776 with a two storied, nine-windowed front, facing north, surmounted by a pediment spanning the upper five central windows, and with a single-width porch with pilasters and a small pediment, traces of which are still visible. The upper pediment disappeared when a third storey with a hipped roof was added in the nineteenth century.

A keystone over a former garden door in the south front is dated 1776, with the letters H.K. These stand for Hezekiah Kirkpatrick, a Unitarian minister and schoolmaster for whom the house was built as a boarding school for boys by 'Nicholas Aston Esq. of Woolton, and a few other gentlemen.' Their high hopes that Eton House School would rival the College at Windsor failed. After ten years the Rev. Hezekiah left Liverpool for Wigan. In 1786, Eton House was bought by Lord George Murray. His interests were with horses and hounds, perhaps at Aintree and Altcar. He built spacious stables to the west of the house. Despite marrying a Liverpool heiress, Lord George also disposed of the property, after ten years. The house came back into Unitarian ownership. Dr. Crompton, whose name survives in Crompton's Lane on the east side of the property, and his family lived in Eton Hall (sic) from 1797 to 1843. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family were regular visitors, and Robert Southey came in 1801.


When Dr. Crompton died, Eton House and the land bounded by Crompton's, Green and Cinder Lanes came into Catholic hands. Henry Sharples, a timber merchant of Liverpool, divided the property with his cousin, Bishop James Sharples, the coadjutor to Bishop George Brown, Vicar Apostolic of the Lancashire District from 1840. Henry Sharples built the fine stone house, now St. Joseph's Home, to the west of Eton House, calling it 'Oswaldcroft,' and lived in it till 1874. The altar in honour of St. Joseph in the church is a memorial to him. The Bishops made Eton House their official residence, which came to be known as Bishop(s') Eton, the name retained to this day. Bishop Sharples, with the future Cardinal Wiseman, was much engaged in negotiations with Rome to restore the English hierarchy and was possibly the bishop-elect for the new See of Nottingham when he died in 1850. Bishop Brown moved to the city centre, nearer to St. Nicholas pro-Cathedral, in 1850. He encouraged the Redemptorists to acquire the house and chapel.


During the 1840s, The Bishops, aided by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, (who also designed Oswaldcroft,) had erected a small private chapel, more or less on the site of the present church, with a separate slender bell-tower situated near the south side of the sanctuary.

The chapel bore the name of 'Our Lady of the Annunciation,' a title kept in 1858 by the Redemptorists for their church. Also built in the 1840s were the lodge and the stone gateway, now lacking its gates, leading into the property from Woolton Road. On the arch of this gateway may be seen the initials, surmounted by mitres, of the two Bishops, Brown and Sharples. Nearly a century later (1932) a stone statue of another Bishop, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Founder of the Redemptorists, was placed in the niche of this gateway to commemorate the bicentenary of the foundation of his Congregation.

With the restoration of the English hierarchy in 1850 Bishop Brown moved to Catherine Street. Active in England since June 1843, the Redemptorists were seeking a northern base for their parochial mission work. On the advice of Father (later Monsignor) James Nugent, the famous apostle of street children, whose statue stands in St. John's Gardens, Liverpool, Bishop Brown invited the Redemptorists into his diocese. On June 10th 1851, the house of Bishop Eton was theirs. The chapel was opened for public worship on June 29th, 1851, a few days after the first three missioners arrived. By the end of 1851 the community had grown: five priests and three brothers were in residence.

Between 1862 and 1912 various wings, to the east, the south and in parallel with the church were built. These were for students, juvanists, and retreatants as well as for a library and for a larger community with its guests. Except for the retreat house chapel, added in 1965 - now the freestanding Parish Fisher-More Hall, these were all demolished and the original house modernised during major re-structuring in 1984. A double storey, double width, bay window and roof balcony from the library block of 1892 remain at the southeast, facing the garden.

A. E. Hodgetts C.Ss.R


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