Press Cuttings 1981

It is perhaps not surprising that rumours began to circulate in the parish that SFX was to be demolished. It was not secret that there were those in positions of influence who felt that this was the most sensible solution to what was now a very severe problem. It was not long before a set of plans, formulated by a housing association, was put on display at the back of the church. These plans outlined, in some detail, new proposals for SFX church. The Sodality Chapel was to be refurbished and would become the new centre of worship at SFX, the belfry would remain in place and sheltered accommodation for old people would be built, set in an attractive courtyard.

To make way for all this, the nave of SFX church would be torn down. The illustrious old church which had served Liverpool and its people for well over a century, and had survived Hitler’s bombs in the Second World War, was to be reduced to rubble by demolition hammers.

 


The public outcry which greeted this news was considerable and the issue was debated at great length in both local and national newspapers and on the radio. The housing association and their supporters felt that their plans were practical and would be of more value to the area that a large, almost empty church, however beautiful the church happened to be. As they rightly pointed out, other beautiful churches had been knocked down under similar circumstances.

The opposition to the housing association plans came, not surprisingly, from parishioners who were outraged that their beloved old church was under threat of demolition.

Public indignation is a powerful weapon, but on its own it doesn’t always win the day. It needs to be organised and directed by someone with determination and commitment. SFX was fortunate to have such a man. His name was Billy Thistlewood, a local man born in Kempston Street, just a short distance from the church. Billy had served SFX faithfully since 1927 when he became an altar boy at the age of 10, becoming the church sacristan in 1982.

 

Billy with the steadfast and hard working support of campaigners including David Alton, MP and the Friends of SFX group, organised a petition and they all worked tirelessly to get people to sign it. The proof of their success was the 8,000 signatures it contained when it was finally handed to the Lord Mayor at the Town Hall. However the battle was still far from over and the arguments continued to rage. Finally, a meeting of the Archbishop’s council was held at the Curial Offices in Brownlow Hill under the chairmanship of Bishop O’Connor. Both sides had the opportunity to put forward their proposals, and a decision was reached on the future of SFX. To the delight of these stalwart campaigners, the decision was made in favour and SFX was saved.

 

The High Altar and Sanctuary in SFX

 

The church was now the responsibility of the diocese, and it would be nice to report that the decision to save SFX was followed by a period of growth and re-establishment, but sadly this was not to be. The problems, confronting the local community still existed, and the numbers attending Mass were depressingly low. It was a period which called for hard work and loyalty from those who remained. The church staff was so reduced to just a single priest, and difficult though his task undoubtedly was, he was fortunate to be able to rely upon the help and encouragement of a small but devoted band of parishioners, a group who could see beyond the present difficulties to the day SFX would once again be a vibrant and thriving church.

These faithful parishioners have helped bring us through the trying times of the 1980s and the first half of the 90s to where we are today.