West Derby was once the centre of administration in the north west of England. As well as the seat of the Molyneux family, the township had its own castle and courthouse. However, as Liverpool grew in importance, the district was overshadowed by its near neighbour, and evolved into a wealthy suburb in the 19th Century.
Derbei, Domesday; West Derbie, 1177.
The name comes from the word deor (deer), and the place-ending by, meaning enclosure, so this was a park where deer were bred for the purposes of hunting. The relative importance of this township can be told from the ‘West’ added to the name sometime after the Norman conquest, to distinguish it from Derby in Derbyshire.
Historic Features in West Derby
The land to the north of West Derby was once mossland, reflected in names like Blackmoor Drive, which derived its name ultimately from a large house of that name, and Blackmoor Moss which once covered part of the district. Later, the village grew up around the gates of Croxteth Hall, which remains the centre of West Derby village to this day. The township of West Derby was much more widespread than this, however, reaching close to the town centre, and taking in Kensington, and Prescot Road, one of the principal roads out of Liverpool.
A portion of West Derby was taken into Liverpool in 1835, and another part in 1895. By 1907 there were still areas of West Derby which lay outside the city boundaries.
In the early decades of the 20th Century West Derby was noted as having a long line of houses stretching all the way from the city centre to West Derby village, although the area was relatively green, with wide spaces between the buildings. To the south of Prescot Road ran another road from Liverpool. At the foot of the hill this divided, one towards Low Hill, the other branch continuing up the hill to a large open space called Greenfield. This then divided again, forming Edge Lane parallel to Prescot Road, while the present Wavertree Road led to Wavertree, with Wavertree Hall on the north side. Smithdown Lane was the other branch, leading south near the Liverpool/Toxteth boundary towards Allerton. To the north of Prescot Road ran Rake Lane (now known as West Derby Road). This formed the boundary with Everton, and crossed the Tue Brook and Green Lane. It led to the mill at the top of Mill Lane (leading to West Derby village). West Derby was the ‘capital manor’ of the hundred of West Derby, which stretched from the Mersey to the Ribble in the north.
West Derby Castle, sited near St. Mary’s church in Meadow Lane, was probably built by Roger of Poitou in the late 11th Century, but had ceased to exist by 1297. It had lost its importance at the time that Liverpool, with its own castle, had risen to prominence.
Croxteth Hall was originally known as Barret’s Hall. The name of the Hall is drawn from the existing name of Croxteth Park, already in use at the time the name changed.
West Derby Chapel was situated in the centre of the village, a space now occupied by a monument. It was first mentioned in the mid-14th Century.
There was a free school in the village in 1677.
The area now known as Old Swan gets its name from the pub of that name, once known as the Three Swans.
Broad Green began life as a village around a wide green triangle. This area is now occupied by the Turnpike Tavern and housing estate to the south of Broadgreen Station.
A ‘street railway’ was laid through Old Swan from Fairfield in 1861. The tram system from Liverpool served West Derby, terminating at the village, and also a junction at Knotty Ash which linked up with the South West Lancashire tram system.
The London and North West Company’s railway travelled out from Liverpool Lime Street, via Edge Hill Station to the Crown Street terminus of the Liverpool to Manchester line. The railway had stations at Edge Lane, Tue Brook and Breck Road. The Cheshire Lines Committee railway ran to and from Southport, and stopped at Knotty Ash and West Derby stations.
Knotty Ash was the location for a brewery.
Acker’s mill and hall were converted into a farmhouse.