Classic interior picture of the Iron Church showing the metal frame.
The ‘Iron Church’ helped inspire cast iron frame structures like Liverpool’s Royal Liver Buildingand the skyscrapers of New York.
The use of an emerging cast iron building technology in the late 18thand early 19th centuries had previously been restricted to industrial buildings like Shropshire’s Ditherington Flax Mill(1797), arguably the first iron-framed structure in the world and ‘the grandfather of skyscrapers’. This revolution was driven by the need to reduce the fire risk in the emerging factories, particularly in mills like Ditherington.
Liverpool builder John Cragg and architect Thomas Rickman recognised the cross-over opportunities for other large buildings. The cast iron technology was still in its infancy, but it would enable them to build high and wide while opening up views within a church environment that had previously been greatly affected by giant stone pillars.
The slender cast iron pillars that would make St George’s so light and airy would set a template for others to follow worldwide.However, Cragg’s dogged practicality often jarred with Rickman’s classical instincts. In 1811 alone, Rickman studied 3,000 ecclesiastical buildings and gave a series of lectures on medieval architecture to the Philosophical Society of Liverpool. He met Cragg who no doubt talked enthusiastically about the new iron-age, not design beauty.
In 2010, a Swiss architect attended a community event at St George’s. He declared that Everton’s ‘Iron Church’ – like Ditherington – was a critical starting point for those later ambitious skyscraper designers in cities like New York and Liverpool’s first acknowledged ‘skyscraper’ was the famous 1911 Royal Liver Building. He saw St George’s as one of the wonders of the building world. Naturally, we would agree with him.