« Liutprand of Cremona Liverpool Livias »



Diocese of Liverpool/Liverpolium (Liverpolitana).

One of the thirteen dioceses into which Pius IX divided Catholic England, 29 September, 1850, when he re-established the Catholic hierarchy.

In addition to the Isle of Man it contains all North Lancashire (Amounderness and Lonsdale Hundreds), and the western portion of South Lancashire (West Derby and Leyland Hundreds), whilst the eastern portion of South Lancashire (Salford and Blackburn Hundreds), constitutes the Diocese of Salford. The diocese at present (1910) has a Catholic population of 366,611 souls. There are 184 public churches and chapels and 172 public elementary schools containing 74,100 children and 1720 teachers. There are 458 priests, 332 secular and 126 regulars including 59 Jesuits, 36 Benedictines, 10 Redemptorists, 7 Passionists, 7 members of St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions, 4 Fathers of the Holy Ghost, and 3 Oblates of Mary Immaculate. There are also the Irish Christian Brothers and the Brothers of Charity and in some 70 convents there are 1000 nuns belonging to the various orders or congregations of the Sisters of Mercy, Faithful Companions of Jesus, Sisters of Notre Dame, Good Shepherd Sisters, Sisters of Charity, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of Nazareth, Carmelites, etc. In various institutions provision is made for the blind, the aged poor, unemployed servants, penitents and fallen women, whilst for boys and girls there are orphanages, homes and refuges, poor-law schools, industrial and reformatory schools, etc. The following table contains statistics of the principal towns of the diocese:

  • Liverpool - Pop. (1910) 760,000 - 143,000 Catholics - 140 priests - 39 churches - 29 convents
  • Preston - 117,000 - 34,000 - 26 - 7 - 7
  • St. Helen's - 95,000 - 24,000 - 26 - 9 - 4
  • Wigan 89,000 - 19,000 - 16 - 6 - 2
  • Warrington - 73,000 - 9,000 - 9 - 4 - 1
  • Bootle - 70,000 - 21,000 - 14 - 4 -
  • Blackpool - 63,000 - 4,000 - 6 - 3 - 1
  • Barrow - 62,000 - 5,000 - 5 - 3 - 1
  • Southport - 48,000 - 2,000 - 3 - 2 - 1
  • Leigh - 45,000 - 7,000 - 8 - 4 -
  • Lancaster - 41,000 - 4,000 - 5 - 2 - 3
  • Chorley - 30,000 - 7,000 - 7 - 4 -


Elementary education is provided in 172 Catholic schools attended by 74,000 children. Higher education for girls is given in the convents of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Liverpool, St. Helen's, Birkdale, and Wigan; of the Faithful Companions of Jesus in Liverpool and Preston; of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary at Great Crosby; of the Sisters of Mercy at Liverpool; and of the Holy Child Jesus at Preston and Blackpool. The great training college of the Sisters of Notre Dame at Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, trains female teachers for all parts of England. For boys there are in Liverpool the Catholic Institute under the Irish Christian Brothers, and St. Francis Xavier's College under the Jesuit Fathers, who have also a Catholic College in Preston, whilst in St. Helen's there is a Catholic Grammar School under the secular clergy and lay masters. St. Peter's College, Freshfield, trains boys in the humanities, before they enter the Foreign Missionary College established by the late Cardinal Vaughan at Mill Hill, London. The ecclesiastical students for the diocese make their preparatory studies at St. Edward's College, Liverpool (established in 1842) and then study philosophy and theology at the diocesan seminary of St. Joseph's, Upholland, near Wigan.


From 1688 to 1840 Lancashire was subject to the Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District of England. In 1840 the Northern District was divided into three districts: the Northern District (Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Durham, now the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle), the Yorkshire District, now the Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Leeds, and the Lancashire District containing with all Lancaster, the Isle of Man, and Cheshire. The first Vicar Apostolic of the new Lancashire District was Bishop George Hilary Brown (b. 13 Jan., 1786), who after being for twenty-one years rector of St. Peter's, Lancaster, was consecrated on 24 August, 1840, at Liverpool, by Bishop John Briggs, with the title of Bishop of Bugia in partibus, which in 1842 was changed to Bishop of Tloa in partibus. In 1843 Dr. James Sharples was consecrated coadjutor, but died in August, 1850. The following month the Lancashire District was broken into three parts, Cheshire became part of Shrewsbury Diocese, South-eastern Lancashire became the Salford Diocese, and the rest of Lancashire with the Isle of Man became the Liverpool Diocese, of which Bishop Brown remained bishop. In 1853 be obtained another coadjutor, Canon Alexander Goss, of St. Edward's College (b. 5 July, 1814, at Ormskirk), who was consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman as Bishop of Gerra. Bishop Brown died, 25 January, 1856, and was succeeded by Bishop Goss, who ruled as ordinary for seventeen years and died, 3 October, 1872. After an interval of five months Canon Bernard O'Reilly (b. 10 January, 1824, at Ballybeg, County Meath, Ireland), was consecrated by Cardinal Manning 19 March, 1873. During his long episcopacy of twenty-one years he opened some twenty-two churches in Liverpool city and the immediate neighbourhood, but his special work was the diocesan seminary of St. Joseph at Upholland, of which the foundation stone was laid on the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph, 18 April, 1880, the college being ready to receive the students on 22 September, 1883. Two years later, on Trinity eve, 30 May, 1885, the first body of students were raised to the priesthood within its walls. Its second rector, Mgr John Bilsborrow, was taken from it in 1892 to become Bishop of Salford. Bishop O'Reilly died on 9 April, 1894, and was buried in the seminary.

Canon Thomas Whiteside (b. at Lancaster on 17 April, 1857; ordained priest in Rome, 30 May, 1885), who was the third president of the seminary, was, at the age of thirty-seven years, consecrated fourth Bishop of Liverpool by Cardinal Vaughan. The increase in the number of clergy since his accession has made possible more thorough pastoral work. During the years 1890 to 1905, the number approaching Easter Communion increased from 146,000 to 186,000; those attending Sunday school from 138,000 to 180,000, some 16,000 non-Catholics were received into the Church, whilst about two million communions are received in the course of the year by about 250,000, who have made their first communion. A very large proportion of the Catholics of the diocese, especially in the towns, are of Irish birth or descent, though in the country parts and in North Lancashire many old Lancashire Catholic families remain which during the ages that have elapsed from the Reformation have never lost the faith.

Originally Lancashire belonged to the Kingdom of Northumbria and the Diocese of York, but in 642 Southern Lancashire became part of Mercia and of the Diocese of Lichfield. Henry VIII, in 1542, made Chester, including South Lancashire, into a separate diocese. In Queen Elizabeth's time it is the Protestant Bishop of Chester who complains that there is a confederacy of Lancashire Papists, and that "from Warrington all along the sea-coast of Lancashire, the gentlemen were of that faction and withdraw themselves from religion" (i.e., from attending the Protestant service). For this crime fifty Lancashire Catholic gentlemen were arrested in one night, and in 1587 six hundred Catholic recusants were prosecuted. A yearly fine of £260 was the penalty paid in some cases for twenty years for refusing to attend the Protestant service, and after death refusal of Christian burial. At Rossall, in North Lancashire, was born Cardinal Allen, the founder of the Seminary of Douai, which in five years sent a hundred priests to face the martyr's death in England. Amongst the Lancashire martyrs were the Ven. George Haydock, b. 1556 at Cottam Hall, Preston, and martyred in 1589 at the age of 28 at Tyborne; Ven. John Thulis, b. at Upholland, near Wigan, and martyred at Lancaster in 1616, Ven. Edmund Arrowsmith, b. at Haydock, near St. Helens in 1585, and in 1628, at the age of 43, martyred at Lancaster. His "holy hand" is still devoutly kept in the church of Ashton-in-Makerfield.

In addition to the manliness of the Lancashire character and the example of sacrifice given by the Lancashire gentry, the Gerards, Blundells, Molyneuxes, Andertons, Cliftons, Scarisbricks, Gillows, the close connexion which Lancashire has always had with Ireland has done much for this preservation of the faith. Traces of this connexion are seen in the old St. Patrick's Cross of Liverpool which was supposed to mark the spot where St. Patrick preached before sailing to Ireland, and in the pre-Reformation chalice still preserved at Fernyhalgh, near Preston, which bears the date of 1529 and an inscription testifying that it was given by "Dosius Maguire, Chieftain of Fermanagh". Again the Irish famine of 1847 filled the Lancashire towns with Irish exiles so that hardly one can be found without its church of St. Patrick to mark their devotion to him who brought them their Catholic Faith.

The Catholic Directory, 1850-1910; Liverpool Catholic Annual, 1880-1910; Hughes, Liverpool Quarant' Ore Guide, 1895-1910; Hughes, Catholic Guide to Liverpool, 1903; Liverpool Catholic Times and Catholic Fireside; Gibson, Cavalier's Note-book; Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire; Cheetham Society.--Norris Papers and Chauntries of Lancashire; Haydock Papers; Burke, History of Catholic Liverpool, 1910; Blundell, Crosby Records; Challoner, Missionary Priests; Camm, English Martyrs; Crosby Records.--Harkirke Burial Register; Fishwick, History of Lancashire; Picton, Memorials of Liverpool and Liverpool Municipal Records; Camden, Britannia; Leland, Itinerary; Muir, History of Liverpool, 1907; Baines, Commerce and Town of Liverpool; Brooke, Liverpool as It Was; Dixon Scott, Liverpool; Gillow, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath., passim.


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