St Peter’s Church Woolton, Liverpool is visited by scores of Beatles fans every day to see the grave of Eleanor Rigby. It is also the final resting place of former Liverpool FC manager Bob Paisley, the only British boss to win three European Cups. In addition to these two notable interments, there are many more worth paying respects to as well.
The original St Peter’s Church was built in 1826 using sandstone from a local quarry. It sat 200 but by the 1880s it was far too small for the growing Woolton population. The new 500 capacity church was opened in October 1887 and its ninety feet tower is the highest point in Liverpool.
The grave that most people come to see is that of Eleanor Rigby, who died in 1939 at the age of 44 in the same house in which she was born in nearby Vale Road. Eleanor was a hospital worker and the granddaughter of a local stonemason. When asked in 1984 if the gravestone was an inspiration for the Beatles song of the same name, Paul McCartney responded that it wasn’t, but as he had cut through the cemetery many times with John Lennon it may well have been in his subconscious.
Bob Paisley’s grave is a very humble one, containing the inscription ‘He remained an ordinary man amid extraordinary achievements’. Paisley died of Alzheimer’s Disease in 1996 and buried alongside him is his devoted wife Jessie, who passed away in 2012. Paisley’s son Graham is the present verger of the church.
In the far left corner of the older section of the churchyard is the grave of a hero from the Crimean War. William Sewell suffered a serious head wound during the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 and was medically discharged from the army aged just 23. He took a job as a coachman for the Earle family and remained with them for forty years, working for them at Spekelands in Edge Hill and then Allerton Hall. Sewell, who was living in Rose Lane when he died in 1910, is buried in the grave alongside his wife two of his three children.
Members of Sewell’s employers, the Earle family are buried in St Peters Church Woolton too. Sir Hardman Earle, who died aged 84 in 1877, was a director of the London & North Western Railway Company and Justice of the Peace. His eldest son Sir Thomas Earle was Mayor of Liverpool in 1853. He died in 1900 at the age of 77 and was also buried in the churchyard. The Earle family seat, Allerton Hall, is now a pub and restaurant.