Bishop Francis James Chavasse DD
F J Chavasse was born in 1846, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford. Wadham College had at that time been greatly affected by the ministry of Hay Aitken who entered the university after his amazing evangelistic tour of Scotland during the 1859 Revival. When Chavasse entered the College he quickly came under the influence of the work of God there and his spiritual experience there undoubtedly shaped his life for future ministry. In later years F J Chavasse founded St Peters College in Oxford, and in 1900 he was nominated by Lord Salisbury to succeed J C Ryle as the second Bishop of Liverpool. He was most certainly a worthy successor to J C Ryle, continuing the strong evangelical tradition that had been established there. He was best remembered as the effective founder of the Liverpool Cathedral, said to be the largest in the UK. He had wanted a cathedral that would match the greatness of Liverpool. The idea first came up in 1885 when an Act of Parliament had previously authorised the building of a Cathedral, which was to be located near St George’s Hall, but this was rejected by the people of Liverpool. Sixteen years later Bishop Chavasse persuaded the people of Liverpool to embark upon the building of the cathedral without delay. Five sites were selected for the new cathedral – Commutation Row, Monument Place, Abercromby Square, St George’s Dock, and St James Mount. Some people had wanted the site of St Peters Church, in Church Street, but this was dismissed as too cramped. St James Mount was eventually chosen, and this was where it was built.
Bishop Chavasse was the bishop during the First World War and he excelled in pastoral care during this difficult time, particularly as he lost two of his sons in the conflict. He served as the bishop for 23 years. He had a distinguished family. All four of his sons served in the army during the war in non-combatant roles. One of them was killed in action, two of them received the military cross, the other one, Noel, received a double VC, the only person to do so in that war, but eventually dying of wounds received. Christopher followed his father into the ministry and eventually became Bishop of Rochester. Two of his daughters achieved fame in 1986 as the UK’s oldest twins at 100 years of age.
A memorial church, Christ Church, was subsequently built in Norris Green. He was buried in the founders’ plot in the Cathedral.