St James' Gardens (1)
St James' Street, Liverpool L8

Picture by Dave Wood
 
Alternative View of St James' Gardens
 
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Designer: John Foster junior
 

The great chasm between the cathedral and Gambier Terrace is unrelated to the cathedral although it would be romantically fitting to imagine that enormous edifice being gouged out from the Bunter sandstone and lifted to its present pre-eminence. A quarry from at least the sixteenth century, it provided much of the stone for the early city and docks but was exhausted by 1825. It was then laid out as a municipal necropolis by John Foster junior who also designed the Oratory chapel. Only after it was converted did it take the name of St James' Cemetery after the nearby church of St James in Park Place. It can now be entered by the great gate and lodge house on the corner of St James Street & Upper Parliament Street or by the narrow path which plunges down into a short tunnel beside The Oratory which is by the corner of Upper Duke Street and Cathedral Gardens.

John Foster junior enclosed three sides of the quarry with great walls of dressed stone, along which he drove the great ceremonial carriage ramps that descend from either end of Hope Street, crossing at the mid-point from which level terraces radiate. Along the ramps and terraces over 100 catacombs were hewn and the levelled floor was laid out formally with winding paths loosely based on Pere-la-Chaise in Paris. After nearly 58,000 burials it was closed as a cemetery and developed as a civic park from 1936 onwards. Piecemeal attempts at landscaping in the twentieth century saw almost all the gravestones moved and sometimes used as paving. At the same time an economical but oddly serene setting for the mineral spring was created against the centre of the Hope Street wall. By the late 20th century this great space was neglected and vandalised. Now styled St James' Gardens it has been rescued largely through the work of volunteers. (http://www.stjamescemetery.co.uk/).

Throughout there are obelisks, monuments and huge gravestones, each telling its own story. The Huskisson Mausoleum in the heart of St James' is described separately but if you treat the mausoleum door as 12 o' clock on a watch face, then at 8. o' clock, almost touching the mausoleum is the huge gravestone of John Foster junior, the architect of this cemetery and much else besides. Between the Huskisson Mausoleum and the bottom of the Oratory Path, set into the base of the steep slope below the cathedral are the huge gravestones which list the many childhood deaths of Bluecoat Hospital. In the north eastern corner, amidst the forest of obelisks, close to the foot of the north carriage ramp is the Duguid Monument, an eight foot high cabinet of pink granite topped by an open scroll. It chronicles the deaths of the Duguids in Mendoza, Rosario and 'Buenos Ayres' in far Argentina. In the north western corner, below the oratory, next to the tallest obelisk is a memorial to Mary & Ernest Allen, two of the thirty five persons drowned in the sinking of the S.S. Ellen Vannin in 1910. Near to the base of the Oratory path is a memorial to Captain Elisha Halsey of Charleston, Carolina, who was stabbed to death at sea in 1844 (though a Liverpool jury acquitted the perpetrator on the grounds of extreme provocation). Finally, overlooking the top of the Oratory path are two tall obelisks. Just to the left of the top of the emerging path is a monument erected by public subscription in 1856, dedicated to the memory of seven privates who returned from the Crimea, landing at Liverpool, only to die of injuries and illness before onward travel. To the right inside The Oratory Grounds is the Gandy Obelisk.

Sources:
St James Cemetery
Seaport by Quentin Hughes
& Discover Liverpool by Ken Pye

Alan Maycock 2007

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