St. Matthew, Apostle

St. MatthewMatthew was one of the twelve apostles and writer of the gospel that bears his name. According to his own account he was a tax collector for the occupying Romans (9:9 & 10:2) and therefore despised by his fellow Jews. He was also called Levi, the son of Alphaeus, in Mark 2:14. Tradition has it that he preached the gospel to the Jews in Israel for 15 years after Jesus’ death and then went to other countries, possibly Persia and Ethiopia. He is believed to have died a martyr’s death.

According to Papias (early 2nd century) Matthew wrote his gospel in the “Hebrew tongue” – probably actually Aramaic. However we only have the Greek version, which may have been translated by Matthew himself. As a tax collector he would have been fluent in both Aramaic and Greek.


Parish History

Captain Matthew Honan, Benefactor

Above the West Doors can be found a brass plaque with the following inscription:

was built through the generosity of
who left the money for the erection, in the diocese of Liverpool,
of a Church in memory of his parents and relations.
CAPTAIN MATTHEW HONAN, of the 1 st Battalion South Lancashire
Regiment, was killed in action on November 14th, 1916.

Matthew Honan was an architect turned soldier who gave his life for his country, his soul to God, and his worldly goods to the patron Saint whose name he loved.

The youngest son of the late Robert Barker Honan, he was born in Liverpool, in 1878.

He studied architecture in Liverpool, and was articled with the firm of Messrs. Grayson & Quid. Soon after he had passed for the A.RIB.A. his ability attracted the attention of the late Archbishop Whiteside, with the result that, quite apart from what we may term his lay, or civil, practice, he was entrusted with many constructions and alterations in various churches in the diocese. He designed and built a new church for the monks of the Order of St. Benedict, at Warrington and also was the architect for the temporary Church of St Cecilia’s Parish, Tuebrook.

By November, 1914, he was in the Army. He soldiered well, throwing himself into his new life with an enthusiasm that never faltered, and by 1915 he had gained his captaincy. After six weeks in the Dardanelles, he was wounded in the head, and sent back to England. Very soon after his arrival he developed enteric fever, but on his recovery he had only a short period of home service and then went to France to join the 1st Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment.

On November 14th, 1916 he was detailed for outpost duty, and "went missing" during an attack on the German lines near Beaumont Hamel. His body was eventually found, and now lies in Grandecourt Cemetery.

Parish Foundation

When Father Walter Hothersall was appointed rector in 1922, he had a small congregation, but no place in which to say Mass. The few hundred Catholics had a priest, a site, and a future. That was all. They assembled for the first time on the afternoon of Good Friday, in the loft over the barn and cowshed which Mr. W. P. Gardner, of New Hall Farm, kindly placed at Father Hothersall's disposal. Those for whom there was accommodation climbed an old ship's ladder into the loft, but there was a large overflow congregation in the surrounding field

On November 19th 1922, St. Matthew's Hall was opened as a temporary church being formally opened by Archbishop Keating on April 19th, 1923. The blessing and laying of the foundation stone of the new church was celebrated by Bishop Dobson on August 19th, 1928.

On Sunday, March 16th, 1930, Archbishop Downey conducted the Solemn Opening of the Church. Designed by the celebrated Francis Xavier Velarde it was already famous as one of the outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture.

Already beautiful from the outside most visitors are astonished by the grace of design to be found within. The baldachinno (canopy) over the altar draws attention immediately to the purpose of the building as it frames the altar. The green and gold colour scheme unites this with the altar front and the Stations of the Cross and Crucifix. The Altar Front, Stations and Crucifix were sculpted by H Tyson Smyth who is also responsible for the sculpted reliefs on the Liverpool Cenotaph and Birkenhead War Memorial as well as many other notable local monuments.