In 2001 the Archbishop’s Council and the Conservation Foundation set up The Friends of St James’ Garden and since that time the Friends have played a pivotal role in the reclamation of the site. It took years to remove the detritus and recreate long lost vistas – thereby promoting site usage and discouraging nefarious activity.
The Garden is now clean, green, safe and well used so that miscreants tend to stay away rather than putting themselves at risk of public scrutiny. Its ecological, historical and recreational potential is enormous:- it attracts visitors from near and far including some from the Americas and Australasia keen to see where their forebears were laid to rest.
Whilst much of the work underpinning renewal has been carried out and funded by the Friends, they gratefully acknowledge the support of Historic England, Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool City Council and Glendale plc (contractors), Merseyside Environmental Trust, National Museums Liverpool, P.H. Holt Foundation and the Tanner Trust.
The Council has resurfaced pathways, restored damaged stonework and provided stone block seating for the central performance space. Its contractors have collaborated enthusiastically, whilst the charities have refurbished neglected stonework and furthered the Friends’ educational outreach.
The Friends work with the Cathedral, the City Council, Liverpool Vision and National Museums Liverpool to maintain and safeguard the site so that its ecology and its history can be more widely appreciated and enjoyed.
Much remains to be done. The Garden and the Oratory are recognized by both English Heritage and Liverpool City Council as being ‘at risk’ and in need of on-going investment and structural refurbishment. This will require restoration of access from Hope Street, the stabilisation of 1,000 square metres of sandstone walling, the repair of paving dangerously damaged by a rising water table and the reduction of tree densities and canopies which stifle ground cover, promote erosion and provide the covert habitats much loved by miscreants.
The Friends have systematically cleared out rubbish, taken out vegetation threatening the integrity of the sandstone walling and instituted a planned programme of maintenance and replanting. Now fauna and flora flourish and the site is increasingly used as an educational resource and an outdoor performance space.