The present baptismal font arrived in 1861 and was first used for a baptism on Easter Sunday of that year. In those days it stood in the Pieta recess under the old choir loft before being moved to the newly built Sodality Chapel in 1887. Now, in 1998, it is close to its original position, at the rear of the main church.
The period from 1859 to 1865 is largely hidden from us due to the lack of historical documents relating to the events at the time. It is, however, safe to assume that St Frances Xavier’s was growing in strength. We know that masses in the honour of the Sacred heart were numerous and that the Purgatorial Society, whose aim was to pray for the holy souls, was flourishing. We know too, that a young Men’s Society was formed in 1857 and a society for women in 1858.

The Church interior in 1873
The Mission Cross

One of the most outstanding features of St Francis Xavier’s church is the magnificent crucifix which hangs over the central aisle. According to a diary kept at the time, it arrived in the church during the second week in January 1866 when the weather was “very violent, wind, rain and hail. Mr. Early (from the makers) arrived. The cross and the accompanying figures were safety lodged in the church and the scaffolding commenced. January 10th: the Blessed Sacrament removed from the church after the 8.30 am Mass, as the experience of yesterday had shown that it could not respectfully be left there whilst the work proceeded.” The entry for January 11th makes interesting reading: “Erection of Rood continued. Men allowed beer twice a day during work” while the entry for January 13th might raise a wry smile: “Erection of Rood finished but not completed because not hung quite straight.”

The Stations of the Cross in St Francis Xavier’s are especially beautiful. They are made of Caen stone and were donated to the church by Miss Tasker although there is some doubt about the precise date of the donation. Many favour 1868 but Father Ryan notes that, by 1872, some fingers were missing from certain figures on the Stations and concludes that “so much damage in four years does not seem credible.” He suggests that 1858 might be a more accurate date for their installation. There is no doubt at all regarding the arrival of the church’s peal of bells; they were installed in 1870. Bishop Goss blessed the bells on July 24th before they were hung in the belfry. They were rung for the first time on 31st July, the feast of St Ignatius, and the Liverpool Mercury described how huge crowds filled Salisbury Street and Langsdale Street to hear the first strokes.
Not that the sound pleased everyone ….! The Reverent Vernon White was then minister of the Presbyterian Church on the corner of Salisbury Street and Islington. He was furious about the bells and said they could be heard inside his church during services. His threats of legal action were taken seriously at St Francis Xavier’s and the Rector, Father George Porter, defused the situation by changing the time of the evening service from 7 pm to 6.30 pm. The original bells lasted until 1915 and, once again, they were greeted by huge crowds in the streets surrounding the church. In 1872, Father George Porter left St Francis Xavier’s to become Bishop of Bombay and was succeeded as Rector by his brother, Thomas.

One of the Stations of the Cross