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It was odd that the building, ‘which housed so many deadly fighter planes during the war, should now be used as a place of Christian worship’

Archbishop Downey at the opening of the church, with Fr Maher and (2nd left) F X Velarde

by Neil Sayer, Archdiocesan Archivist


In July 1949 the parish of St Aidan, Huyton was officially created. Over the course of its existence, it had two church buildings but both were adaptations, and it never had a purpose-built church. Merged with neighbouring St Agnes in 2021, the amalgamated parish itself is now in need of a new church.


After the Second World War, Liverpool City Council was one of the first local authorities to resume its programme of house-building. By 1949, new housing estates in the Baker’s Green and Brookhouse districts of Huyton had created a need for a new parish, and St Aidan’s was established to serve the needs of over 2,000 Catholics. Accompanied by a silver band and glorious weather, Archbishop Richard Downey opened the first church, on Adswood Road, on 3 July 1949.


This was in a converted aeroplane hangar disposed of by the Air Ministry at the end of the war. Liverpool architect Francis Xavier Velarde went to Burtonwood airfield with the first parish priest, Father Thomas Maher, to buy the hangar, and received instructions to convert it into a temporary church to seat 500 people. Given post-war building restrictions, this was the best that could be hoped for. From the architect’s description, it seems that in fact the only part of the hangar that remained was the steel framing.


Brick and concrete, with an aluminium roof, formed most of the church. As Velarde commented, it was odd that the building, ‘which housed so many deadly fighter planes during the war, should now be used as a place of Christian worship’. Despite the church’s temporary nature, well-known artists came forward to provide its furnishings. The Stations of the Cross were made by Philip Lindsey Clark, noted for war memorials as well as religious art.


The altar, candlesticks and crucifix were designed by George Herbert Tyson Smith, a local sculptor who was also well-known for war memorials including the Liverpool Cenotaph. Wood was still in short supply, so the pews were made from a variety of second-hand materials, which meant, said Velarde, that they were ‘painted to hide the many defects’. The wood-block floor was recycled from a blitzed church in Liverpool. The second church was originally the infant department of the primary school. With falling numbers of pupils, the parish infants’ and junior schools amalgamated in 1990.


The infants’ school was then redeveloped into a parish centre, under the guidance of Liverpool architects Peter Pozzoni and Peter Moore. The entrance, administration and service areas became the new presbytery (the former presbytery being repurposed as a convent), and the assembly hall was given a flat-roofed extension and a new frontage in order to form the church.


The new church was opened and consecrated on 19 June 1992 and the old church was demolished. The baptismal font and some of the statues were used in the new church, giving a sense of continuity. Sadly, the altar and Stations of the Cross were fixed in concrete, but a new altar was created by a local stonemason, Jean Christopher Simone. Its Celtic cross design highlighted St Aidan’s connection to Lindisfarne in Northumbria.


Meanwhile, the Stations of the Cross came from the Good Shepherd Convent in Woolton and there were benches donated by the parishioners of St Aloysius following the reordering of their own church.

In 1949, the first St Aidan’s Church had been the third new church opened by Archbishop Downey in the space of five weeks. By the time Archbishop Derek Worlock opened the second church in 1992, Huyton Deanery comprised six churches.


Five still remain, but St Aidan’s was recently sold off and now parishioners worship at St Agnes’ Church. Almost 60 years old, this is now in need of replacement and options are being explored – and perhaps as, in the past, some kind of recycling will be the order of the day once more.


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