Waterloo hardly existed in 1835 and for the next fifty years it grew but slowly and was almost entirely confined to the sea front. In 1857 the only building on South Road was the Liver Inn.
The population increased from 6,000 in 1871 to 9,000 in 1881, just over 17,000 in 1891 and up to 31,000 by 1931. Owing to the increasing population, more places of worship were needed and St. John's Church was built in 1865, the Congregational Church in 1866, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in 1875 and St. Mary's in 1877. In the 1880's however, Waterloo Park consisted of only a few large houses standing in extensive grounds and there were no houses at all to the north of it.
Our Church stand in a secluded position, remote from an main traffic route. In 1933, the land south of the Church, formerly Waterloo Park Cricket Club and Waterloo Park Tennis Club, was sold for development and the present Brook Vale estate was built. There were a few further small developments after the war in Ronald Road and Eshelby Close.
With this climate of steady increase in population, the parish church of St. Mary's has been a key part of the community over the past 130 years .
Key dates for our buildings are:
Dedication of the iron church 30th December 1877
Consecration of permanent church 17th February 1886
Parish Hall opened 6th June 1901
Completion of the nave 25th September 1907
Ante-room added to the Parish Hall 1908
Annexe to the Parish Hall opened 22nd April 1934
The order of events is interesting. One of the first decisions which Canon Sykes had to make at the beginning of his ministry at St. Mary's was whether to concentrate on the completion of the church itself or whether to promote the building of a Parish Hall. He chose the latter on the grounds that the life of the church needed facilities to meet other than at public worship and he never regretted the decision.
The "iron church" served part of the Parish of St. John's, Waterloo, the curate-in-charge being the Rev. Henry Burrowes M.A. This iron church must, from the outset, have been regarded as only a temporary expedient as, less than five years later, on 31st July 1882, the foundation stone of the permanent church was laid by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool, Dr. Ryle. Although the new building was completed and licensed for worship in November 1883, difficulties arose which delayed consecration until 17th February 1886.
One of the difficulties was a weakness in the foundations and the original concept of a church with a steeple had to be changed. We now have a squat crenellated tower which has its own appeal. A further alteration had to be made in the belfry where it was thought that a peal of "proper" bells could not be accommodated. Therefore, tubular bells which are much lighter were installed.
At the time of consecration, St Mary's was still not a "parish" nor was its incumbent a "vicar" as according to the law, until the death or resignation of the Vicar of the Parish from which the area of work a new church is formed, it is only a "district" and its incumbent the "perpetual curate". This did not occur until 1901 when Canon Herbert Jones resigned the incumbency of St. John's.
In the meantime, the church suffered a grievous loss with the death of Mr. Burrowes. The choice of successor fell upon the Rev. S. J. Sykes, BA who at the time held a curacy in Worcestershire although he had previously been a resident of Waterloo and a worshipper at the church. Thus commenced a ministry of over forty years and the name of Canon Sykes will always be associated with St. Mary's.
1901 proved to be a memorable year for the church. In February, a vicarage and benefice house in Park Road were purchased at a cost of £2,017, 11s. and 9d. and the incumbent moved into the former from his residence in Birchdale Road. In APril, a bazaar held in the Town Hall in aid of the Building Fund raised £1,070, 1s 9d. and the new Parish Hall was opened in August. This, with furnishings, cost £1,750. The same month, St. Mary's became a self-contained parish and later that year, electric lighting was installed in the church, the first in Waterloo to adopt this form of illumination.
The Opening of the parish hall had an immediate effect on the general activities. Sunday School and Bible Classes thrived. Monthly "parish gatherings" were inaugurated in 1902, these took the form of concerts, recitals, dramatic readings etc., a feature of the parish which is still evident today.
At this time, attendance was approximately 200-250 at Matins and Evensong which with the accommodation available then must have meant a very full church. Later, after the nave had been extended, numbers were estimated at 250-300.
Continuing fund raising enabled the church to be further developed with a carriage drive being added and the floor re-tiled in 1904. The same year, the foundation stone for a new extension was laid on 25th September. In the meantime, the Parish Hall was not forgotten and a gift of £100 in 1907 enabled plans for an ante-room to be drawn up. The work was completed in 1908 and facilitated a new boiler installation which improved the heating to the enlarged church.
The Great War brought some disruption but following victory in 1920, St John's Chapel within the church was dedicated as a War Memorial. The small blue carpet before the altar in the Chapel is a piece of the Coronation carpet of King Edward VII, the Peacemaker.
The PCC in 1933 were able to acquire land to the south of the church, the old cricket ground and work commenced on an annexe to the hall. The new annexe, with its entrance facing the Brookvale Estate was opened in April 1934 and this completed the building as they are seen today although there have been many interior changes.
In 1936 , a new "Thompson" (the Mouseman) altar and reredos were presented to the church (the mice incorporated into the design can be seen if you look hard!). New oak choir stalls were installed as a memorial to Canon Sykes, whilst the east window, a victim of the blitz, was replaced. In 1946, the font was moved from the west end of the church to a new baptistry in the north transept. A glass screen now separates the narthex from the main portion of the nave, whilst the south porch has been converted into a memorial chapel.