History of Allerton: Calderstones, Mansions and Parks

Allerton is a green and pleasant land of parks, mansions and ‘neatly-kept hedges’. Early maps show that it remained entirely rural until the middle of the 19th Century. The history of Allerton stretches all the way from Liverpool’s oldest prehistoric remains to Victorian merchant palaces. From that time, the area became dotted with the homes of wealthy merchants. These have survived into today’s landscape, with the the houses gardens under new use. Even as Liverpool, Garston and Woolton encroached on all sides, Allerton kept its acres of open greenery. Now the area is home to some of Liverpool’s most evocative landmarks – the Calderstones, Strawberry Field, and Robin Hood’s Stone.

Alretune (Domesday); Allerton, 1306. Local pronunciation is said by the VCH to be ‘Ollerton’.

Origins: Anglo-Saxon ‘alr’ meaning alder, and ‘tun’, meaning enclosure.

Historic Features in Allerton

A Tidy Township

Allerton lies on the gentle slopes of a ridge that rises up from Garston. At the beginning of the 20th Century it still had a view overlooking the Mersey. The Victoria County History noted “An air of tidiness reigns over what remains of the natural features, with neatly-kept hedges and railed-in paddocks, and shrubs grown to rule and measure”. The soil was good, and useful for growing anything from root vegetables to tree plantations.

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Earliest Days on Merseyside

Although a handful of prehistoric objects are known from Liverpool, Allerton has both of the most spectacular ancient monuments in the city: the Calderstones and Robin Hood’s Stone. Little is known about these monuments. Robin Hood’s Stone is most likely a Bronze Age standing stone (perhaps even part of the Calderstones). The Calderstones themselves are the remains of a Neolithic or Bronze Age burial chamber.

These monuments, lying close together, were part of a larger prehistoric landscape. A Bronze Age cemetery once existed in Wavertree, and in Allerton itself the Pikeloo Hill and Rodgerstone are two more ancient monuments which have vanished from the landscape.

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Merchant Palaces

As the VCH suggested, Allerton was an attractive area for those wealthy enough to live here.

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1843

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1843

The 1st Edition OS map shows a scatter of farms and small houses (e.g. Booker’s Cottages, Beech Farm, Calder Cottage, Vale Cottages, Fletcher’s Farm – now Fletcher’s Barn). Larger homes include The Hall, Calderstones, Quarry Bank, Hay Hill, Greenhill and Allerton Hall. This map also shows the house known simply as ‘Allerton’, built right in the centre of the township, between Dowse House and Allerton Priory.

Allerton Hall is perhaps the most significant of the large houses in the area. It was owned in it’s time by two very different men. William Roscoe, famed abolitionist, moved in during 1799. Later, Richard Wright, a cotton trader, flew the Confederate Flag from Allerton Hall during his time there.

Streets of Allerton

The other main feature on the 1850 map is Allerton Road, winding north to south down the centre of the township. Folly Vale Lane (later Menlove Avenue and Vale Road) runs to the east, between Allerton and Woolton. Greenhill Road (later Mather Avenue) runs to the west, next to Garston. It crosses under the Edge Hill and Garston branch of the London and North Western Railway at Allerton Station (now Liverpool South Parkway).

The building of these merchants’ palaces continued to the end of the century; the 1891 edition shows the appearance of Strawberry Field and Allerton Tower.

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1891

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1891

The merchants’ wealth depended on the increase in trade and industry as part of the industrial revolution. The railways were expanding, and Speke Junction (where the London and North Western Railway met the Cheshire Lines Railway) grew to include Allerton Engine Shed and a group of new sidings (now all part of Allerton Traction Maintenance Depot).

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Allerton’s Parklands

Liverpool Corporation bought the area now known as Calderstones Park in 1902 from Henry & Charles MacIver, who had owned it since 1875. It is first marked as a park on the 1904 map, with the Allerton Oak shown within its boundaries.

The house known as ‘Forty Pits’ is shown opposite the junction of Allerton Road and Yew Tree Road. The area was wooded, and it was certainly an attractive cove of woodland and ponds until the 1970s. One of the ponds still exists behind the houses.

It is hard to know whether the pits were originally a quarry for sandstone or sand. It may have been a natural feature that the local house owner exploited to enhance his own lands.

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Expanding the Suburbs

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1952

Allerton on the Ordnance Survey map of 1952

The pace of change increased as the 20th Century reached the half way point. Areas like West Derby, Childwall and Woolton transformed into semi-detached suburbia, but Allerton remained a very green place. The biggest change on the 1939 map is the creation of Mather Avenue, leading from the Greenhill Nursery to the housing estates of Garston.

Other changes show the city encroaching: Short Butts Farm is now surrounded by Allerton Cemetery. Menlove Avenue grew from the widened and straightened Folly Vale Road. That now snakes off to the north just before it reaches Mendips, a kind of fossil of the former road.

By 1947 the edge of built-up Liverpool sits on the north boundary of the old township. By 1952 the metropolis had all but encompassed the parklands.

Hunt’s Cross

This is an area adjacent to Allerton, and paired with it as the Allerton and Hunts Cross city council ward. There is a cross in the centre of the suburb. Tradition says that the Liverpool Hunt used to meet in this area, but there was an area of land, now part of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, called Hunt’s Tenement (shown on a map of 1855). A closer link may be found here.

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Allerton as a suburb

Since the late 20th Century little has changed in Allerton. It is this feeling of history which gives Allerton its distinctive character. Although no remnants of the ‘natural’ landscape have survived, a huge proportion of the area has never been built on. The parks allow all of today’s Liverpudlians to enjoy something only the wealthiest could before they gave their estates to the city.

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Image: The north side of Woolton Road, taken by the author.

Bibliography

20 responses to “History of Allerton: Calderstones, Mansions and Parks”

  1. […] Victorian parks, West Derby has Croxteth Hall, Queens Drive and suburbia, Allerton its impressive large houses and the Calderstones, and Everton Rupert’s […]

  2. Francis Kenny says:

    Hi,

    Do you have any information on Gladstone Hall, next to John Lennon’s house?

    Thanks,

    Francis

    • Hi Francis,

      Do you mean the University Halls of Residence? This was established as a school – the Gladstone Mission Hall – in the 19th century, by the Gladstone Family who owned property in the area.

      Martin

  3. Julie Chapman says:

    Would you have any further information on Short Butts Farm in Allerton? My great grandmother’s family ran the farm in the 1800’s. Her name was Annie Ashcroft and her father was William Ashcroft. She married my great grandfather John Cumming Jephson on 25/9/1895. He lived in Garston (16 Seddon Road) with his family. He was an engineer. I have been tracing my ancestry and would like to know more about the area in which they lived.

    Many thanks

    Julie Chapman

    • Hi Julie,

      The only extra information I’ve been able to find that might be of interest is a Notice in The London Gazette for 1904 (PDF) regarding the death of Margaret Ashcroft, ‘late of Short Butts Farm’. It’s just asking that anyone who thinks they have a stake in her Will to get in touch!

      The farm was very near the railway, which meant that Brunt Lane had to be diverted when the line was laid. This is mentioned (along with Short Butts Farm) in another London Gazette, from 1876 (PDF). That helps to date the railway a little more closely! If John Cumming Jephson was an engineer, perhaps he had a close working relationship with the railway and the sidings which once existed in this area of Garston.

      Regards,
      Martin

    • Nick Ashcroft says:

      Julie, I have just found your post from back in 2012/2013. I would be interested in comparing notes as I believe we are related as part of our family used to own Ashcroft’s Farm!

  4. Peta O'Connor says:

    Are you able to enlighten me with any information on a William Hallett – I was told he was called Bill Hallett in Northallerton, he was an Inspector of Schools (retired in 1983) – he would have been my second cousin. I believe he is dead now. Did he marry? Have children? Any information or links or contacts would be much appreciated.

    Peta

  5. John Richards says:

    The Forty Pits was originally a cottage called Hillpit House. It is one of Liverpool’s oldest houses, dating from 1650 but extensively reconstructed in 1933. The house was once at the northern extremity of a large site containing numerous flooded marl pits (one of which survives) in a wooded area known as The Forty Pits that became a local beauty spot. The area corresponds to that currently bounded by Glendyke Road almost as far as Fawley Road, across the rear of Verdala Towers and back along Allerton Road. Marl is a clay or mud rich in calcium and magnesium carbonates that was used as a fertilizer. It is also said that white clay from the pits was used to make china at the old Liverpool Herculaneum Pottery. By 1911 the house was called Oakwood. The present lych gate was constructed from oak beams from the original property, presumably at the time of the renovation of the house in 1933, when it adopted its present name. The marl pit site survived essentially intact until the early 1970s, when it was redeveloped for housing in the face of a good deal of local opposition.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks so much for all that information! I’m trying to build this site into an encyclopaedia of such knowledge, so that’s a great start! I might get around to putting it on the History Map.

      If anyone else has any information like this, please feel free to contribute!

      Thanks again,
      Martin

  6. Matt Evans says:

    There is currently a request for planning permission to demolish Forty Pits (listed as 280 Allerton Road) and replace it with a three story block of 12 flats. It would be terrible to lose one of Liverpool’s most historic private houses. I would encourage MCS, its members and all who value the city’s heritage to contact the council’s planning department and object. Planning application reference is 16F/1948

    • john paul says:

      Hi Matt

      Fully agree with you mate as do so many of the locals. It is imperative with so little time to submit objections that as many people or even a committee submit their opposition to this plan asap. Please keep me in the loop regarding the support for refusing this application. Are you aware that the application is actually for a FOUR STORY block not a 3 story as can be seen from the plans but not the application text!

    • john paul says:

      Forty Pits should have a building preservation notice application which is a pre cursor to listed building consent

  7. paul .s.brown says:

    i agree it should have a preservation order put on it i used to go catching frogs and fish in the forty pits before they filled them in had some good times there red row joe will only throw it out

  8. Janet Hughes says:

    Hi there i am currently researching the paternal side of my family and the name that appears familiar to me is Ashcroft which i believe is the surname of my grandmothers married sister who lived in bookers cottages circa 1916. She was my grandmothers witness at her wedding to my grandfather John Smith Wilson originally from Lockerbie dumfriesshire. If anyone could enlighten me as to how my grandfather came to be in Liverpool after serving in the Cameron Highlanders before world war 1 i would be very grateful as i have been working on suppositions for a very.long time…..thanks

  9. Grace says:

    Can anyone give me any information/history about Allerton house/hall in the 1500s

    • Martin says:

      Hi Grace,

      I’ve not been able to find much about Allerton Hall in the 1500s. The manor was owned by the Lathom family, one of the large and important families in this part of Lancashire. The current hall wasn’t built until about 1736, though there would have been earlier halls on the same site. By that time the estate had already changed hands, to Richard Percival at first, and then John and James Hardman. It was under the Hardman’s ownership that the Hall was built.

      Regards,
      Martin

  10. Rob Jones says:

    I live in Booker Avenue. Booker cottages used to stand where the junior/infant school is now. I do have a photo. Booker is named after (click on the link)http://streetsofliverpool.co.uk/liverpool-and-the-booker-prize/

    • Martin says:

      That’s fascinating! I just noticed I’d commented on that blog when it was first posted, and I think I’d forgotten all about the link!

  11. T O'Rourke says:

    Im looking for any information to do with [the now] Allerton Allotments site Keswick Road. Any help would be great

    • Martin says:

      Hi,

      There’s not much to say about those allotments, except that they’ve been allotments for quite a while! They’re marked as such on the 1927 map, and apart from the encroachment of houses around the edges, have changed very little in the mean time!

      Best wishes,
      Martin

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