Classic exterior picture of the Iron Church.
The builder and the architect – contrasting figures that clashed before completing a revolutionary building masterpiece
The building of St George’s Church in Everton became a fascinating and often confrontational affair between architect Thomas Rickman (1776-1841) and builder John Cragg (1767-1854) before the ‘Iron Church’ was finally completed in 1814.
Cragg was a complex individual, one of the promoters of the original Liverpool Cotton Exchange and a founder member of the prestigious Liverpool Athenaeum Club. He was described as “a most intelligent and enterprising iron founder” by contemporary author A.T. Brown who then added: “He is a remarkable man to whom I cannot find a single gracious allusion on anyone’s part.”
Rickman, a self taught architect, was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire. His early career ambitions lay in the world of medicine and he practiced in Lewes, Sussex, from 1801 to 1803, before dramatically switching career. Rickman was then employed in London with a corn factor before moving to Liverpool in 1808 to work as an insurance clerk.
It was in Liverpool that he met Cragg who had the benefit of owning an iron foundry. Theirpairing at St George’s would clearly be complicated as they worked through a revolutionary building plan, each with their own priorities.
The foundation stone was finally laid on 19 April 1813, but architect Rickman did not attend the following year when the church was consecrated. It was suggested he may have been ‘kept in the dark’ about the event by the powerful and influential Cragg. However, together they combined to create something that has been very special for over 200 years.
St George’s Church in black and white
Cartoon image of Rickman