Saint Patrick's Cross Liverpool

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Saint Patrick

A modern view of the former location of St. Patrick's Cross taken from Hatton Garden showing Vauxhall Road opposite and Marybone on the right

"As the ancient town cross of St. Patrick once stood on the fringe of it, where Vauxhall Road and Marybone join, perhaps it was in consequence that the district was chosen as a settlement by so many sons and daughters of Erin." - Liverpool Echo, 1929.


Thomas Burke in his "Catholic History of Liverpool" refers to the traditional belief that St. Patrick had visited Liverpool:-


"By this time the Jesuits had built a chapel in Lumber Street, Old Hall Street, and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin under the title of St. Mary. It was in the fitness of things that the site was chosen. Hard by was the pre-Reformation foundation in Chapel Street, while in the immediate neighbourhood was the spot where a well-founded tradition says St. Patrick preached on his way to the Isle of Man.


In Marybone, within a few yards of the present church of Holy Cross, a water fountain marks the place on which stood for centuries St. Patrick's Cross, as marked on old maps of the town, and which was in existence as late as 1775. In an Act of Parliament passed in 1771, to secure the repair of the road between Preston and Liverpool, the cross is specially named, because the street now called Marybone was then 'the road to Ormskirk'.


The neighbourhood possessed other traditions of Ireland's patron saint, the street between Cheapside and Hatton Garden bearing the name of St. Patrick's Hill."


Thomas Burke also made a passing comment about the disappearance of St. Patrick's Cross. I would like to know the source of his belief that the cross was destroyed. He mentions the loss of St. Patrick's Cross here where he is discussing the statue at St. Patrick's church:-


"The fine statue of St. Patrick which stands outside the church was ordered by (John Brancker) from a Dublin firm of sculptors and placed in position in November, 1827. It has the distinction of being the first Catholic emblem displayed to public gaze in Liverpool since St. Patrick's Cross in Marybone had been destroyed."  


James Wallace acknowledges the antiquity of St. Patrick's Cross:-


"There is nothing more of antiquity relating to Liverpool, excepting an old cross, which formerly stood at the corner of Pinfold-Lane, opposite the Flashes, and reported to have been placed there in commemoration of St. Patrick, who is said to have rested here on his passage to Ireland."


Richard Brooke tells us about an old statue in Liverpool:-


"In 1815 the present handsome Gothic tower and lanthorn (of Liverpool Parish Church) were erected. In early times the image of St. Patrick stood in the church yard, and mariners going to sea used to offer up vows and prayers before it; but, with the decline of an ignorant and superstitious age, the image disappeared."


A note of caution about Brooke's identification of the statue. Other historians referencing the old statue say it was an image of St. Nicholas and I am inclined to agree with them. The full name of Liverpool Parish Church is "Our Lady and St. Nicholas with St. Anne". St. Nicholas is also known for his patronage of mariners amongst other things!


William Enfield criticises the stories about St. Patrick in Liverpool:-


"But it would be little entertainment to the reader to detain him longer in the pursuit of doubtful facts, or to puzzle him with conjectures which must after all be involved in uncertainty. Nor would it answer any valuable purpose, to amuse him with the traditional story of St. Patrick's visit to Leverpool in his way to Ireland, in commemoration of which a cross was erected, that still gives name to the place where it formerly stood; or to embellish this history with any of those marvellous tales which are the natural offspring of ignorance and superstition, and which the credulous vulgar will always preserve from oblivion without the aid of historical records."


Sir James Picton comments on St. Patrick's Cross:-


"At the cross-roads stood St. Patrick's Cross, an ancient structure, the street immediately adjoining being called Patrick's Hill. There exists no information whatever as to the time of erection of this or any of the other crosses; but imagination, as is usual in such cases, supplies the deficiency. It has been gravely propounded that St. Patrick sailed from Liverpool in A.D. 444 on his way to evangelise the Irish, and that the cross was erected to commemorate the event!


se non è vero, è ben trovato


(Latin to English translation: "even if it is not true, it is well conceived")


Those who are inclined to believe it have at least the advantage of challenging the incredulous to prove it was not so. The cross remained down to about 1775, at which period persons not very long deceased remembered to have seen its remains."