Here’s a lovely neat little map of Liverpool’s earliest history, from Ramsay Muir’s classic 1907 book A History of Liverpool. Read more
It’s that time of the year again, so what better way to beat the winter blues than to treat yourself to the stuff below. Of course, you could also buy something for the historian in your life, but who’s gonna know?
I recently visited that there London, popping into the London Review Bookshop (a bricks-and-mortar relative of the London Review of Books – definitely pop in if you’re in the area!), where I stumbled across Maps, the first in an annual series of compilations by Five Leaves Press. It’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in ages, and I had to share it here. Read more
Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden is a community project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, looking at the history of local food in Liverpool. The three local groups involved, Friends of Everton Park, Friends of Sudley Estate and Transition Liverpool, are all interested in finding out whether knowing more about the past might inspire new ways of thinking about the future of local food in our city. For example, while it might seem strange now to say you were heading out to Aigburth to pick some fresh veg from the farms there, this was exactly what people were able to do only fifty or sixty years ago. With all the interest in developing more local food systems, including long allotment waiting lists and new ‘Growers’ groups, we wanted to gather together a picture of how people used to grow food locally. Read more
I’ve been obsessed with Liverpool’s docklands this week. I’ve been reading a lot about them while writing the 19th century chapter of my book. Although the book’s focus will be on the changing historic landscape of Liverpool and its docks, you can’t help but be drawn into the technological advances. These too helped create the dock landscape we see today. Read more
Following a request from one of our Facebook ‘Likers’ (particularly appropriate word for Scousers, perhaps), I posted an old map of Brook House Farm in Halewood. Here I want to post a slightly larger version, taking in more of the surrounding area which was, at this time, on the cusp of great changes.
I’ve often written about researching local history, either through maps, books, or old photos. But what’s been highlighted for me recently is that eventually all this feeds back, and you can occasionally use your knowledge gained through research to apply to a particular problem.
Most maps have dates on them. I don’t know about you, but I find a map’s publishing date of absolute importance, to the same extent as it is on a photograph. As becomes clear when you try to trace the changes in an area over time, the best results come from having the smallest possible gap between two maps in terms of their date.
So when I recently bought a couple of A-Z style street maps off eBay, I was disappointed to find no evidence of a date on them. I could tell they were more than a few years old by the paper they were printed on, and the price (“3/-“). I could also tell that they were (only just) post-Second World War (the Customs House was gone, but South Castle Street still ran straight through where Liverpool Crown Court now stands). But as a landscapophile (there’s that word again) and a cartophile, I really needed to know.
The dates of these maps turned out to be c.1962. How did I know? The progress of the Otterspool Promenade happened to be something I’d been researching for my post on the history of Knott’s Hole. The promenade was already started, but incomplete, and the extent to which this was mapped pointed to the exact date. Cross-referencing this with a few other features (suburban development, dockland changes) confirmed the likelihood of this point in history.
So, you may use maps to increase your knowledge of local history, but you can also use your local history knowledge to feed back on the things you see in photographs and maps (and the photos and maps themselves).
Here are a few other key points in Liverpool’s history that may help you spot when your source was created:
- Otterspool Promenade opened: 1950
- Football stadia (both Goodison Park and Anfield): 1892
- Norris Green and other suburbs: 1920s – 1930s
- Filling in of St George’s Dock: 1899
- Seaforth Container Port built: 1960s – 1972
- Slum clearance in Toxteth: 1966 – 1972
- Catholic Cathedral completed: 1967
- Anglican Cathedral completed: 1978
- St John’s Market destroyed: blitz – 1941, demolished 1964
- St John’s Shopping Centre (and beacon) built: 1969
- Clayton Square redeveloped: 1986
- Garden Festival site built: 1984
- Queensway Tunnel opened: 1934
Are there any others you can think of? Remember, these are the things that remodelled acres of the cityscape – things that, quite literally, redraw the map!
Image: Clayton Square in 1986, just before demolition…, from the Chester Walls website.
The former site of Liverpool’s historic Garden Festival was in the news in February 2010. Work got under way to restore the parkland and kick-restart the building of flats on the site. But the site started life as Knott’s Hole, a little square bay surrounded by cliffs.
Knott’s Hole was a real beauty spot, later filled with rubbish and contaminated with oil. But something of a revival happened in the late 20th Century.
Perhaps the new developments will do more than previous ones to restore the pleasant air of Knott’s Hole. However, Liverpool lost a unique landscape lost long ago.
Knott’s Hole and Dingle Point in the middle of the 19th Century
The earliest Ordnance Survey maps for Liverpool are from around 1850. At this time the Dingle area was purely rural. Liverpool lay to the north west, but this was an area of large houses. The houses had vast gardens, babbling streams and a long beach close to hand.
The houses included West Dingle, the Priory and Dudley House, which sat back from Aigburth Road along narrow lanes. The beach known as Jericho Shore stretched from Knott’s Hole in the north west towards Garston in the south east. Knott’s Hole itself was a narrow bay or inlet next to where the Dingle flowed out to the Mersey. Steep rocky cliffs stood to either side were, with Dingle Point to the south west.
By the time of the next map, published in 1894, Herculaneum Dock had appeared to the north. This marked the continued expansion of the docklands across the Toxteth waterfront.
Terraced houses came along, to the north east of the docks. Two hospitals appeared just inside the County Borough Boundary.
The lanes down which the large houses sat developed into a more formal settlement. St. Michael’s Hamlet, including Alwyn Street, Allington Street, Belgrave Street and St. Michael’s Road, were all built up. The Jericho Shore remained a wide beach.
Urbanisation in the 20th Century
By 1928, increasing urbanisation of the area surrounded the dingle with allotments. The area had become quite an orderly part of the grounds of West Dingle, the large house on the hillside.
Dense terraced housing was filling in the gaps not already taken up by the large villas. Toxteth and Liverpool slowly encroached on the rural outskirts.
The 1928 map also shows the south pier at Dingle Point. It is this structure which heralds the start of a complete transformation of the landscape, and one which we still look upon today.
The first development was an application to Liverpool City Council for the dumping of material dug from the Queensway Mersey Tunnel. The Council resurrected twenty-year-old plans to reclaim land from the river. In September 1929 dumping began of thousands of tonnes of rubble and household waste.
The concrete sea wall was complete by 1932, and the land behind it full by 1949.
After the War: Dingle from 1949
The 1949 map shows a handful of gas storage cylinders behind the pier. This area of the south docks was gradually becoming more and more industrialised What had once been a popular fishing destination now found its waters contaminated with oil. Fish stocks were disappearing.
Also by this time the houses on the hill had been demolished. The demolition of Dingle Head had happened before 1909.
More gas storage cylinders were built in the period up to 1960. Extensions to the promenade (which had opened in 1950) went northwards. The long beach of the Jericho Shore was reclaimed for building land.
The 1960 map shows the Otterspool river wall creeping northwards in preparation for the promenade extension. By 1964 the beach had totally disappeared, and the area was marked as Sand & Gravel.
By the late 1970s the sand and gravel too had gone, along with the gasometers. The railway remained, as did the pier, but nothing more than an embankment marked the area once covered with allotments and cut through with the channel of the Dingle. By the 1980s household waste formed the foundations of the whole area.
Unemployment, Riots, and a Garden Festival
This period was a low point in Liverpool’s history. The docks were falling empty as trade moved elsewhere. At the beginning of the 1980s the Toxteth riots drew the eyes of the country to the inner city’s social and economic problems.
For this reason Michael Heseltine, Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Minister for Merseyside’ ushered in another new use for the Dingle. The International Garden Festival took place in 1984. It was an attempt to showcase what Liverpool could do when it pooled its resources, and to spark regeneration in the area. The Garden Festival completely reshaped the landscape, whether or not it was an economic success.
The area recently landfilled was developed into extensive gardens. Where the shaded bay of Knott’s Hole once looked out on the Mersey, the Garden Festival Hall provided the focal point for the event amidst the lakes, statues and artworks. Then the Festival ended, and once again the Dingle waterfront fell into disrepair.
The years from 1984 until the turn of the Millennium were ones of little change. As planned, new housing replaced the dense terraces built in the early 20th Century. A new waterfront drive sped drivers from Garston to the city centre, past the high fences and trees of the former Garden Festival site.
In the mid 1990s Pleasure Island occupied the site, which meant a new use for the Hall and the Gardens themselves until the centre closed in 1999.
Campaigns have run to help preserve or save the Garden Festival site from ruin and unsympathetic development. Finally in recent months plans have been submitted and accepted to build new houses and, more importantly, parkland on the site. So perhaps what began history as a secluded beach surrounded by the genteel houses of the wealthy will enjoy new life in the 21st Century as a green space for the people of Liverpool to enjoy.
I used the following sources to research and write this article:
Yo Liverpool – a great source of photos from its members:
Otterspool, by Mike Royden
Although the Ordnance Survey maps chart the most significant changed in Liverpool’s history, older maps often are unique. They show details or aspects which no other map does, and can often show what was important to the map-maker. You can’t beat old maps for laying bare the great changes of a city like Liverpool.
Modern maps are often much more ‘objective’ in comparison. But old maps are still of use to the local historian, at the same time as being beautiful objects.
If you know of any others I’ve missed out, or other places where these maps are available, let us know in the comments!
Early Liverpool Maps
Liverpool developed from seven streets, laid out at its founding in 1215. Soon there was a castle, a chapel and the Tower, a fortified house built by the Stanley family in 1404. Maps of this period (1205-1700) do exist, most of them drawn later. Here are a few of the easiest plans of Liverpool to get hold of.
William Ashton included a simple sketch of 17th century Liverpool in his book ‘Evolution of a Coastline’ in 1920 (above).
Ashton also drew a top-down plan of Liverpool:
The book itself has recently been reprinted, so if you want a higher resolution copy you can pick up ‘Evolution of a Coastline‘ at Amazon.
Genmaps is a map site hosted by Rootsweb (part of Ancestry.com), and has a page on Lancashire maps. There’s a huge range, so I’ve collected the Liverpool entries in the following table. If you’re reading this in the dim and distant future, I recommend going to the original page, hitting Ctrl+F on your keyboard and searching for ‘liverpool’ to catch newer uploads.
|Name||Date||Map-maker and Notes|
|Liverpool||Early 18th century||Map maker not known|
|Swire’s plan of Liverpool||1720 (1824)||William Wales – Wales & Co. Castle Street Liverpool|
|Liverpool, street plan||ca.1801||George Cole. engr.J.Roper in The British Atlas|
|Liverpool, Warrington, Leigh area||1809||John Cary (detail of map above)|
|Liverpool||1832||Lt. Robert Dawson in Plans of the Cities and Boroughs of England and Wales: shewing their boundaries as established by the Boundaries’ Act, passed 11th July 1832|
|Liverpool, street plan||ca.1833||(includes plan of Liverpool in 1729) Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge|
|Plan of the Liverpool Docks||1846||Jesse Hartley (Dock Surveyor) engr. C.B. Graham, Washington, D.C.|
|Environs of Liverpool||1850||Thomas Cowperthwait (inset detail from England)|
|Liverpool Docks||ca.1860||J.Bartholomew for R. Fullarton.|
|Liverpool||1863||John Dower, published in The Weekly Dispatch|
|South West Liverpool||1863||B.R.Davies (detail from Liverpool map in The Weekly Dispatch Atlas)|
|Liverpool-Birkenhead area||ca.1870||A.Fullarton (detail from The Environs of Liverpool and the Estuaries of the Mersey & Dee)|
|The Town and Borough of Liverpool||1880||J. Bartholomew. (detail)|
|Plan of Liverpool||1881||Charles Letts|
|Liverpool.-sewers,contourlines and municipal boundaries||1882||Map maker not known|
|Liverpool – city plan||1883||George W. Bacon in The New Ordnance Atlas of the British Isles|
|Liverpool (Eastern Section)||1885||Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England and Wales. There’s a link through to a higher resolution version.|
|Liverpool (Western Section)||1885||Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England and Wales.|
|Liverpool||1897||Century Atlas Company. (detail from map of England and Wales) Quite a tiny map!|
|Liverpool||1898||Meyer in German lexikon Brockhaus. Published by Leipzig Bibliographisches Institut.|
|Liverpool: town-plan (and detail)||1900||K.Baedeker|
|Environs of Liverpool & the estuaries of the Mersey and Dee||ca.1910||J.Bartholomew|
|Liverpool Docks||1920||George Phillip (detail from The New Mercantile Marine Atlas)|
|Liverpool||1922||G.Bartholomew (detail from The Towns of England in The Times Atlas)|
Some of them are high resolution, and some not. Others have links to higher resolution versions of extracts below them.
Lancashire County Council
Lancashire County Council has the best collection of old maps for any student of Liverpool history. It runs from a reproduction of Gough’s 1320 map, through all the major map makers: Speed, Yates, Greenwood, Hennet.
Greenwood’s map of Lancashire from 1818, is undoubtedly the best! Click on the exact point you’re interested in, as this map has been cut up into sections when added to the site.
Old Maps of Liverpool
It will take a fuller article to go into all details hidden in maps like these. For us today they provide an immediate visual visit on the past, easy to interpret. For this reason one of my favourites has to be this 1833 Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge map (if only for the name!). It shows quite a lot of detail, including Bootle Castle at the end of Regent Street, an unfamiliarly station-free Lime Street, and is detailed right out to Kensington (the edge of the city back then). Click on the map to zoom in.
Oldest of the old maps
Finally, I want to mention a map I only saw for the first time recently. It is included in the modern edition of The Calderstones by Ron Cowell. The map was made in 1568 to help solve a boundary dispute between Allerton and Wavertree. Not only does it show the Calderstones, but it also shows the mysterious Rodgerstone and the Pikeloo Hill. The Rodgerstone might have been a single standing stone, while the Pikeloo Hill could be a burial mound. The Pikeloo Hill could even have been as large as Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in Wiltshire.
Not only does this seem to be the oldest map of the Liverpool area. It’s also a tantalising glimpse of a prehistoric complex now long lost. The map isn’t online, so if anyone has a high resolution scan, do get in touch.
Well, that rounds off this brief excursion into Liverpool maps. There are certainly some I’ve missed, so please share your own sources in the comments!
Image: Extract from the Greenwood map of Lancashire, 1818, available in full on the Lancashire County Council Old Maps of Lancashire website.
© Martin Greaney 2008-2018 unless otherwise stated.