Much of the hard work which led to the building of the church was done by the Society of St Francis Xavier. This was a group of lay people, some of whom had been educated at Stoneyhurst, the Jesuit College. They were all fully aware of Liverpool's debt to the Jesuits who had battled for the faith in the dark days with courage and tenacity, having arrived in the city in the seventeenth century. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the population of Liverpool was growing at a considerable rate. In 1811, the number of people living in Liverpool had reached 100,000 and by 1831 this figure had risen to 205,572. In the opinion of the members of the Society of St Francis Xavier, Liverpool needed another Catholic church and, at their first meeting on January 21st 1840 at the Rose and Crown in Cheapside, they declared: "We, the undersigned, form ourselves into a provisional committee for the formation of a society with a view to erecting a Catholic church in a Liverpool to be presented to the president of Stoneyhurst College."

 

Thos Lightbound (1811-1895)

 

They certainly had no intention of letting the grass grow under their feet and, two weeks after the first meeting in the Rose and Crown, they met again to confirm that they had "secured a plot of land in Salisbury Street, situated about halfway between the chapels of St Anthony and St Nicholas, in a respectable part of the town and where a church would be desirable." Filled with zeal, as they were, the Society of St Francis Xavier were somewhat put out to learn that not all Liverpool Catholics shared their enthusiasm for a new church. St Anthony's parish felt that the proposed site for St Francis Xavier's was a little to close for comfort. Even the Jesuit hierarchy gave the plan a cool reception.

A copy of the original architect's drawing of SFX

Finally, good sense prevailed and permission was given for the erection of the church. Sixty year old Father West was appointed the first Rector of St Francis Xavier's and it was his responsibility to make sure that the building work was properly done. The job could not have been given to a better person. He came from a long line of devout Catholics and it was in his uncle's house in Dale Street the Catholics had secretly celebrated Mass after the original Jesuit chapel in Lumber Street had been destroyed by a mob in 1746.

The Jubilee Choir with Fr Jas. Hayes and Choirmaster Mr J. Hodson