Atmospheric ‘third cathedral’ reopens after 18-month lockdown with new exhibition.
Following 18 months of closure, one of Liverpool’s architectural hidden gems has reopened its doors. The Lutyens Crypt is launching a brand new exhibition, co-curated by the local community and developed through lockdown.
The Crypt, buried deep under the Metropolitan Cathedral, is all that remains of towering plans for a cathedral for Liverpool, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1930. It was due to become the largest cathedral in the world, but the project was abandoned after the Second World War.
With four vast neo-classical halls featuring intricate brickwork, leadlight windows and vaulted ceilings, the Crypt is an unexpected and ambitious contrast to the striking, modernist cathedral that now sits above it. The dramatic space is often referred to as ‘Liverpool’s third cathedral’.
Members of the public can once again visit the atmospheric Lutyens Crypt – which now includes a permanent exhibition exploring its fascinating story and the cathedral-that- never-was. Co-curated by members of the local community Secrets of the Crypt takes visitors back through hundreds of years of history to discover the people and stories behind this astonishing space, including:
• Apprentice bricklayer 19 year-old Arthur Brady, who was the only man left working on the crypt when his colleagues were called up to fight in WWII. Once he was called up, construction came to a standstill for 15 years.
• The crypt as a focal point for celebration and sadness in the city. It became an air-raid shelter for local people during WWII; and later saw more than 1 million people turning out for the visit of the Pope in 1982 and an outdoor mass for more than 9,000 people on 16 April 1989, the day after the Hillsborough disaster.
The exhibition forms part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded Metropolitan Perspectives project, which connects members of the local community with heritage and creative professionals to create a range of exciting new visitor experiences within the Grade II* listed Cathedral.
Volunteer and local resident Debi Eastwood says, “I’d not visited the Cathedral before starting this project, but I’ve loved learning about its fascinating history. As part of the project we attended workshops and training days, and spent time in the Cathedral archives. It’s amazing to think that things we discovered have made it into the final exhibition. I’ve made friends and learned so much thanks to this project.”
The second phase of the project – a brand new immersive audio tour of the Cathedral – will launch in mid-October.
Entrance to the Crypt also includes access to its glittering Treasury, which contains a priceless collection of church artefacts and sacred vessels – the largest of such kind in the North West.