History of Allerton
Allerton is a green and pleasant land of parks, mansions and ‘neatly-kept hedges’. Early maps show that it remained – like much of suburban Liverpool – entirely rural until the middle of the 19th Century. From that time, the area became dotted with the homes of wealthy merchants. These have survived into today’s landscape, with new uses for the buildings and parkland created from the gardens.
- A Tidy Township
- Earliest Days on Merseyside
- Merchant Palaces
- Public Parklands
- Expanding Suburbia
- Allerton as a Suburb
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 monument and Park, Strawberry Field, and Robin Hood’s Stone.
Alretune (Domesday); Allerton, 1306. Local pronunciation was said by the VCH to be ‘Ollerton’.
Origins: Anglo-Saxon ‘alr’ meaning alder, and ‘tun’, meaning enclosure.
Allerton lies on the gentle slopes of a ridge which 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.
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, except to say that Robin Hood’s Stone is most likely a Bronze Age standing stone (or perhaps part of the Caldertones), while the Calderstones themselves are the remains of a Neolithic or Bronze Age burial chamber.
These monuments, which lie close together, were part of a larger prehistoric landscape. A Bronze Age cemetery is known to have existed in Wavertree, and in in Allerton itself the Pikeloo Hill and Rodgerstone are two more ancient monuments which have vanished from the landscape.
As the VCH suggested, Allerton was an attractive area for those wealthy enough to live here.
As well as the usual scatter of farms and small houses (e.g. Booker’s Cottages, Beech Farm, Calder Cottage, Vale Cottages, Fletcher’s Farm – now Fletcher’s Barn), the First Edition Ordnance Survey map (1850) shows most prominently 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.
The other main feature recognisable 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, while Greenhill Road (later Mather Avenue) runs to the west, next to Garston, crossing 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 great merchants’ palaces continued to the end of the century; the 1891 edition shows the appearance of Strawberry Field and Allerton Tower.
The wealth of the merchants was of course linked to the increase in trade and industry as part of the industrial revolution. Even in the suburbs the effects of this could not be avoided. 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).
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, and the Allerton Oak is shown within its boundaries.
Another newly-marked feature are the ‘Forty Pits’ just north of and opposite the junction between Allerton Road and Yew Tree Road. The map shows the area to be wooded, and the it was certainly an attractive cove of woodland and ponds until the 1970s. One of the ponds still exists behind the houses.
Whether this strange arrangement was originally a quarry for sandstone or sand is hard to discover, but it may have been a natural feature taken advantage of by the local house owner to enhance his own lands.
The pace of change increased dramatically in Liverpool’s suburbs as the 20th Century reached the half way point. But although areas like West Derby, Childwall and Woolton were being transformed into semi-detached suburbia, Allerton remained a very green place. The biggest change on the 1939 map is the creation of Mather Avenue, which leads from the Greenhill Nursery to the housing estates of Garston.
Other changes show the encroachment of the city: Short Butts Farm, once sitting alone amongst fields, is now surrounded by Allerton Cemetery. Menlove Avenue has been created from the widened and straightened Folly Vale Road, which 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, and by 1952 the metropolis had all but encompassed the parklands.
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, and although tradition says that the Liverpool Hunt used to meet in this area, there was an area of land, now part of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, called Hunt’s Tenement (shown on a map of 1855), and a closer link may be found here.
Since the late 20th Century very little has changed in Allerton, and it is this feature of the landscape, 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, and the parks – the ‘green lungs’ of the city – allow all of today’s Liverpudlians to enjoy the landscape the way only the wealthiest men and women did before they bequeathed their estates to the city.
- Allerton, Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia, retrieved 23rd January 2010
- http://www.mersey-gateway.org/pastliverpool/housing/mansions/mansions.htm – details of Forty Pits under Mansions, PASTLIVErpool, retrieved 23rd January 2010
- Cowell, R., 2008, The Calderstones: a prehistoric tomb in Liverpool, Merseyside Archaeological Society, Liverpool.
- Farrer, W., & Brownbill, J., 1907, ‘Townships: Allerton’, A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, pp. 128-131.