The Historic Liverpool blog

Photograph taken from on top of Cmap Hill, Woolton, Liverpool

Camp Hill Iron Age enclosure, Woolton

In the woods above Woolton lie mysterious remains, amounting to little more than some dry stone walls, in a location reputed to have once held so much more.

Camp Hill is a name which suggests a settlement, if only temporary, with perhaps a military usage, and for years it has been assumed that the site was once the location of an Iron Age Hillfort. Hillforts have been defined as defended upland fortifications where high-ranking chieftains would gather their people around them and plot against their enemies, trade with allies, and swap war stories around the campfire, amidst much mead quaffing.

More recent research has cast doubt on these ideas, however. For a start, the archaeological evidence from the hillforts dotted around the country is extremely varied. Some forts had three or four huge ramparts, and were certainly heavily defended. There was even evidence (in the form of human bones with arrows embedded in them) of periods of violence at these sites. At the other end of the scale were smaller sites, with less evidence for defensible banks, and sometimes had very little evidence for any kind of activity in them at all. Shapes vary too. Even the period can’t be pinned down – some sites date from the late Bronze Age, though the majority can be placed in the Iron Age.

The upshot of this is that the vague phrase ‘hilltop enclosure’ is closer to the mark if you want to encompass all the sites that are known.

What are hilltop enclosures?

If these enclosures aren’t defended hillforts, then what were they for? Archaeologists have come up with some sophisticated and subtle theories which match the evidence which has come out of the ground.

Cattle corralling is one definite use, and some hilltop enclosures were used for human habitation as well. Religious and ceremonial activities were probably carried out too, at least at some of these hilltop sites.

And even if they weren’t defended, many of them would have been important symbols of power.

The landscape of Camp Hill

Like many similar sites, Camp Hill rises above the local area on a prominent stretch of high ground. Although there were other hills in the area, like Mossley Hill and other Merseyside uplands, for the locals of future Woolton, Camp Hill would have been of special importance, if only for its sheer presence.

Even if it was not inhabited, or defended, the hill would have acted as a recognisable landmark, a sign to returning travellers that they were home, and a reminder to visitors that a community who could build great monuments lived here. The number of hours work which needed to be put in to build such a monument was proof of the community’s ability to pull together for a common cause.

Further afield, links with neighbouring tribes may have been reinforced by the enclosure. It’s been shown that similar sites in Cheshire and Staffordshire, such as the well-known one at Beeston Castle (which has prehistoric origins), which were in use at the same time as Camp Hill, would often have been visible from each other. Vegetation or adverse weather conditions might have reduced this visibility, but it would have been easy to light a beacon, and at the very least remind your neighbours that you still existed in the gloom!

So whether or not the ‘camp’ was occupied for any stretch of time, it was an important monument and landmark in the most basic sense. You could compare it to Liverpool’s own St George’s Hall: it’s not only important when it is in use, but its very existence strengthens the community bonds of those who would pass it daily.

The evidence

It’s been suggested that Camp Hill was built in around 150BC, during the Iron Age. The first modern evidence is in map form, as a ‘Camp’ is marked on the Yates and Perry map of 1768. It’s a rough, almost square enclosure on this map, and may not reflect any remains visible on the ground.

Extract from Yates and Perry's map of 1768, showing Camp marked
‘Camp’ marked on Yates and Perry’s 1768 map of Liverpool

Excavations took place on the site in 1952 when a trial trench was dug in the area. Some small drystone walls were uncovered, but nothing was discovered which could date the remains with any certainty. The site is thought to be located near the Sunken Garden in Woolton Woods.

With this lack of firm evidence it’s possible that Camp Hill is nothing more than a legend based on local folklore. The site is on the edge of the large group of hilltop enclosures scattered across Cheshire and Staffordshire, so little research has been done on it.

Despite this, it’s worth keeping in mind that prehistoric Merseyside was more densely populated than is usually thought, and Camp Hill, if it existed, would have been part of a landscape which was incredibly important for locals while also sending out signals to fellow communities dozens of miles away.

Today: Woolton Woods

Today Camp Hill falls within Woolton Woods, a part of the Woolton Hall estate which was owned by the Ashton family from 1772. It passed through the Shand and Gaskell families until it was bought by the City of Liverpool in the 1920s, and is now a public park.

Since that time it has been laid out as gardens, more formal in feel than the other parks across the city. It’s possibly best known for the floral clock, and the tranquil and sheltered places it harbours.


Woolton Woods and Camphill – (accessed 12th December 2015)

South Liverpool, Woolton (accessed 12th December 2015)

Saunders, T. (ed), 2014, Hillforts in the North West and Beyond, Archaeological North West: New Series Volume 3 (2014), Council for British Archaeology North West

Image: Camp Hill, Woolton, by Sue Adair, via Geograph, released under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Teagle (crane) at 11 Dale Street

In the Victorian period Liverpool was Britain’s second greatest port. So there are hundreds of remnants of Liverpool’s trading golden age dotted around the landscape. We’re all familiar with the scores of warehouses, docks and the odd road bridge seen around town. But there are also tiny details which have survived and which give clues to the city’s history. This crane, known as a teagle, is one such detail.

A teagle is a type of crane which was used to lower goods directly into the basement of warehouses. One such crane adorns the side of 11 Dale Street in Hackins Hey. It’s in its original location, and presents several clues as to the nature of the building before it became a shared business space.

The crane and the trapdoor

This type of crane is known as a teagle. The teagle was invented in 1835 by the company Frost and Stutt. It was driven by belts (as opposed to the inefficient steam-driven lifts in use at the time). In the Dale Street case the machinery may have been in the basement of the building. This was under the crane, in the same place that merchandise was stored.

There is an old (now semi-blocked) trapdoor leading into the basement, as you can see in the photo. It’s no coincidence that this is next to the crane. Goods would have been brought here from the ships it came in on. Next, workmen hoisted those goods down into the basement. It was stored here until it moved to its next destination, such as the markets of Liverpool and Lancashire.

So this little arrangement of crane and trapdoor shows that the building’s basement was once used as a warehouse. Yet it may have been that the ground floor and first floor were offices. These offices may have belonged to the company which was storing the goods, but as often as not it made sense for an office owner to lease out the space to one (or more) other companies.

Dale Street warehouses

Liverpool’s Victorian land values on Dale Street were, as now, extremely high. Renting out your basement to a company who could make use of it was an efficient use of real estate. It also helped a company pay the rates bills, or have a warehouse near the river without shelling out on an entire building. Sometimes an unlit cellar would do.

The iron crane shows a beautiful attention to detail, with a moulded point in the shape of a pineapple at the top. Perhaps this makes reference to Liverpool’s many exotic trade destinations, or the warehouse contents. Foliage-like designs on the two wheels complete the crane. It’s sturdily attached to the building itself by a heavy circle of metal and stout bolts. Despite this the crane arm itself is rather light and elegant.

11 Dale Street, Liverpool

We can see on the 1891 map of the area that the premises were known as Queen Buildings. The detailed 1:500 map marks the crane itself, as well as the trapdoor into the basement. It also shows the inebriating number of public houses (P.H.) in the area, but we won’t dwell on that right now!

Ordnance Survey map of 1895, showing 11 Dale Street with crane
1895 Ordnance Survey 1:500 showing Queen Buildings and the teagle lift (click for larger)

And no doubt there are plenty of other cranes pock-marked about the city centre, from Kirkdale to Toxteth. After all, warehouses were spread right across that area. Let me know if you spot any more!

Image: The image of the crane is my own, and can be seen in my book, Liverpool: a landscape history, available signed from this site and (unsigned) from all good bookshops.


Everton Beacon

Liverpool has always been a trading port, and so it’s no surprise that features have come and gone in the landscape which sought to make this as easy and safe as possible.

Everton Beacon was one such feature, and took advantage of the natural rise in the ground to the north of Liverpool’s centre.

All the images we have of the Everton Beacon today are of a tower with two storeys (though some sources incorrectly state there to be three). It was built out of the classic Liverpool red-brown sandstone, probably from a source very close to the Beacon’s location. It was reported to be 25 feet tall and 6 feet square.

There was an earth-floored kitchen in the lower storey, with a fireplace in one corner. On the first floor was a living space and above that, on the roof, a cement and stone firebox in which could be set a blaze to make Everton Beacon more visible to vessels on the River Mersey. This may be why rumours have grown up around the Beacon to suggest that it was built to warn England of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

It’s been written that the Beacon was built in 1230 by Ranuf, Earl of Chester, but Robert Syers in his The history of Everton, including familiar dissertations on the people, and descriptive delineations of the several & separate properties of the township suggests that this is unlikely. Perhaps an earlier form of the Beacon was first erected then, replaced with the more recent version in later centuries.

Part of the reason to doubt a great age was the poor quality of the construction. Syers calls it poorly built and of little architectural merit. Towards the end of the building’s life it was in a very poor state, with a crack running right down its south side, and the whole thing laying “open, unwatched and unguarded” (and therefore uncared for).

Not just a beacon for guiding ships

Everton Beacon
Everton Beacon

Syers also tells us that marriages took place in Everton Beacon, the tower acting as a venue for those priests who were cast out of Liverpool during the Civil War for being on the wrong side. In Liverpool’s case the ‘wrong’ side was the King’s. This use of the tower puts its construction back at least to the 1640s or 1650s.

Other residents included a watch movement maker shortly after 1770, and a cobbler around 1783. Whether either of these lived here ‘officially’ (e.g. paid rent) is not known. The picture we get from these possibly unofficial residents is one of abandonment, both of the building and possibly the poor souls who found refuge here.

Syers also notes that it was most often frequented by ‘idlers and casual visitors’, who carved their names and initials into the soft stone walls. Apart from these occasional folk, the tower was open to the elements and the local cattle, who wandered in and out at will.

The End of Everton Beacon

Everton Beacon was poorly built, a useful pile of rock if nothing more. By the 18th Century it had dangerous cracks running down its walls and had been long neglected. One dark and stormy night in 1803, the flimsy structure was felled, perhaps by no more than a gust of wind, the last straw which broke its feeble back.

No obvious remains of the Beacon can be seen today, but its known that St. George’s Church in Everton was later built on or near the site, being the highest point of the hill. Recent map-based research by YO! Liverpool member ‘dazza’ suggests that in fact the site may be just to the south east of the church, raising the possibility that something of Everton Beacon’s foundations may be accessible to adventurous archaeologists.

Map extracts from 1790 and 1848 showing location of Everton Beacon
Dazza’s research points to a location just beyond St . George’s Church walls

References (which actually talks about Rupert’s Tower). Accessed 10th November 2015 Accessed 10th November 2015

Syers, Robert, 1830, The history of Everton, including familiar dissertations on the people, and descriptive delineations of the several & separate properties of the township, G & J Robinson, Liverpool.

Springfield Park, Prescot Road entrance

Knotty Ash Village, and Springfield Park, are part of a historic area. They’re on the edge of West Derby and also on the main route between Liverpool and Prescot, and then on to Manchester. The old mail coaches would have flown past in their day, and the tram routes have left their mark in turn.

Today it’s a busy dual carriageway, which splits either side of the Village Hall and runs down one edge of Springfield Park. One particular detail led me to have a closer look at the old maps…

Springfield Park and Springfield House

Springfield Park was once the grounds of Springfield House, one of many expensive and out-of-town Victorian properties in the area. The park’s obelisk, a monument to Nelson, was intended as a gift to Liverpool from one of its residents. The man, a sugar merchant called Mr Downward, had his gift rejected (dismissed as a ‘half Nelson’ by some wag on the council). So he decided to put it up in his own back garden, this being the grounds of Springfield Park.

In 1907 the park was bought by the city council for £14,000, and it’s been a public space ever since.

The old maps

The Ordnance Survey of 1888 - 1913 overlaid on the modern satellite view, showing how elements of Springfield Park survive into the new
The Ordnance Survey of 1888 – 1913 overlaid on the modern satellite view, showing how elements of the old landscape survive into the new

We can overlay the 1888 – 1913 Ordnance Survey with the modern satellite image (see above). This shows how the boundaries of Springfield House’s grounds match up well with Springfield Park. The Nelson Memorial is still in it’s original position, though its mark on the map is feint.

The northern lane of East Prescot Road is the newer one, cutting through the Park. The long driveway to the park almost matches the modern pathway, arcing all the way to the road. From there it crosses the northern carriageway to the southern (the original course of the Prescot road).

The entrance to Springfield Park, once the entrance to Springfield House, as seen in September 2008 on Google StreetView
The entrance to Springfield Park, once the entrance to Springfield House, as seen in September 2008 on Google StreetView

The image above shows the Google StreetView of this location for September 2008 (before the construction crew moved in). The Park entrance clearly inherited its placing from the original Springfield House entrance. The gap in the central reservation is a direct descendent of the House’s drive!

And by the looks of things, the new hospital will have an entrance on this site too. What a satisfying conclusion to this phase of the place’s landscape history!

Photo of the dock railway at Hartley Quay

Hartley Quay Dock Railway

The dock railway was built in Liverpool to solve a challenge which other cities did not face. With dock expansion, ships were docking further and further from the central business district. Places like Manchester and Bristol stood astride their rivers, and twice the mileage of docks fit in each mile of river than in Liverpool.

Therefore, much more than other places, railway transport became important to transporting goods. This could be from the outlying docks into town. Some went further, carrying on their journeys further into Britain, or onto new ships going elsewhere.

Dock railway remains

The remains of the dock railway are still embedded in parts of the docklands, even though the roads are now dedicated to other vehicles. It’s interesting to note that at one time the roads would have been shared between the locomotives on the one hand, and vehicles like trucks and horse-drawn carts on the other.

Even in the early 1960s steam engines could still be seen following a man with a flag near the Pier Head. But by then the increasing pressure from the motorcar was becoming too much. The main roads along the docklands – e.g. the Strand – were in need of modernisation to deal with the increased traffic.

Today, you can see the rails outside the Maritime Museum entrance, bounded by two sets of buffers. The rails run into a large iron-banded door to the north east side.

More information

The Dock Railway, 1962, Streets of Liverpool, Colin Wilkinson

Blessig's Style

Blessig’s Style: A hidden West Derby path

Liverpool is (like so many other places) full of the remains of hidden paths and landscape clues. Blessig’s Style is one such path in West Derby, once the home of ambassadors and merchants.

Continue reading

Sanctuary Stone, Castle Street

All sorts of stories are associated with the Sanctuary Stone. Its name conjures up anything from slave-related scenes to cheeky apple snatching medieval urchins. You might never see the same story told twice.

The Sanctuary Stone sits on Castle Street in the centre of Liverpool. Of greater certainty is that it marked one of the boundaries of the medieval markets which took place in the town for centuries. Three other similar stones would possibly have been seen on High Street, Dale Street and Water Street. All would have been a couple of feet tall originally. The remaining one is made of a coarse volcanic rock, in stark contrast to the native local sandstone. It probably arrived on the banks of the Mersey through the action of glaciers travelling down from the Lake District.

The original Sanctuary Stone

The word ‘sanctuary’ is often taken to mean that the law did not run within the bounds of the market. Some tales have the aforementioned street urchins being immune from arrest if they reached the Sanctuary Stone before the local copper laid a hand on them. This makes less sense if we think about the Stones as pillars. That’s not to mention the strangeness of this arbitrary method of law enforcement!

Still, it’s thought that the rule of law was slightly different during market and fair times. Policing was carried out by officers of the Crown. Justice meted out on the spot, rather than involving court summonses and time-consuming arrests.

Whether or not other Stones still remain under the road surfaces nearby, the Castle Street Sanctuary Stone is the only one known to still exist. It has been dug up several times in the last 100 years, most recently to accommodate roadworks in 2011. When it was replaced, a newly-minted pound coin was laid alongside it. This adds to two similar coins laid during previous excavations in 1937 and 1947.


Medieval Sanctuary Stone relaid in Liverpool City Centre – Liverpool Echo, 7th July 2011

Fossils, rocks and pubs, 16th September 2012 – The Naturalists’ Notebook, 17th September 2012

Candles, Carts & Carbolic: A Liverpool childhood between the wars

Is this the best Liverpool memoir? It’s certainly different to all the rest.

There are plenty of memoirs and autobiographies written by people who lived through some of Liverpool’s darkest days (or, at least, they lived in Liverpool’s darkest areas – not many memoirs by the Victorian gentry). Some are semi-fictionalised, like Her Benny, and Helen Forrester’s Twopence to Cross the Mersey, while others form the basis of photo books, like Scotland Road: the old neighbourhood, by Terry Cooke. Still more are dotted around the Web, shared on Facebook and passed around. Continue reading

Who’d be a Scouser?

Are you proud to be a Scouser? Are you relieved not to be a Scouser? Which is right?

I’ve recently started reading Candles, Carts & Carbolic: a Liverpool childhood between the Wars by J. Callaghan, which is rapidly becoming my favourite out of the many first hand memoirs of living in Liverpool in the last two centuries. Continue reading

Road sign labelled George's Dock Gates

George’s Dock Gates road sign

Liverpool, as a city, is master of reinventing itself. It re-uses parts of its landscape when priorities (and economics) change. The Pier Head area in general has seen many, many changes. The filling of the Pool, and the creation of the first wet dock, is perhaps the most significant. The road sign declaring George’s Dock Gates is another clue to these changes.

The disappearing George’s Dock Gates

Old Ordnance Survey maps (like the 1893 edition below) show a large open square area just to the river side of St Nicholas’s Church. This is labelled as George’s Dock Gates. It lay over the filled in form of George’s Dock Basin (which led into both George’s Dock and Prince’s Dock).

Map showing George's Dock Gates in 1893
George’s Dock Gates 1893

The street sign is not attached to an old section of the wall of George’s Dock Basin, contrary to what some other websites will tell you. Rather, it refers to this area, which acted as a sort of entry way into the central dock system. George’s Dock still held water when the walls of the churchyard were erected. The George’s Dock Gates name was already in use.

The name is marked on maps right through until the Three Graces replaced the dock basins behind the Pier Head. This map from the middle of the 20th Century still displays the name.

Map of George's Dock Gates in the 20th century
George’s Dock Gates 1959-72

For the city today, it’s a reminder that the busy dual carriageway area of the waterfront was once central to Liverpool’s central activity: trade and exchange.

Here’s 5 views of Google’s 3D Liverpool you might not have seen

It’s been all over the news lately: Liverpool is one of the first British cities to be rendered in three full dimensions on Google Earth. There was, as a crazy extra, a rumour going around that it was in preparation for a new Google office which was opening in the city.

Continue reading

Belated, retrospective book review: Culture of Capital by Nicky Allt

In this post I’m going to take a look at a book which was published eight years ago, but which I only got a copy of over Christmas 2013. And it’s taken me another 12 months to get around to reading it! Despite (or because of) it’s age, it makes an interesting read. Continue reading

Huyton Village Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

The church (dedicated to S. Michael) is of ancient foundation. The ornamentation of the font testifies to the pre-Norman date of the edifice. A handsome cross was erected on the village green, near the south-west corner of the churchyard in the jubilee year, 1897. It replaced an older cross, which was erected about the year 1819 from the design of the late Mr. Rickman. His original drawing is to be seen in an adjoining cottage. A photograph of the cross, taken about the year 1878, shows a slender Gothic pillar on a flight of  stone steps. Mr. F. T. Turton informs me that: “Prior to this date [1819] no cross existed. The ground was used for the purposes of bullbaiting and cockfighting; occupations which caused much trouble to the then young vicar of the parish, Ellis Ashton, and I have always understood that it was with the view of somewhat filling up the open space or green, that he was instrumental in having this cross erected. It is related of this vicar that the annoyance being so great, he did on more than one occasion take off his coat and severely castigate some of the offenders.”

Garston Churchyard Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

Mr. Cox writes (in 1888): “The base of the churchyard cross still lies opposite the site of the old south porch.” There is, however, some doubt whether this stone is the base of the cross, or the base of a column of the nave arcade of an older church, but Mr. Cox’s notes, which I give below, are of much interest: “Now, this hollowing at the top of the shaft . . . must have had another purpose. At Derby and many other places, the stump of the cross was so hollowed in order that in time of pestilence money might be placed in vinegar and disinfected before it was exchanged for the goods brought there. The seller left his goods and the buyer his money at the stone, but did not meet, for fear of infection. A stone closely resembling this was found by Dr. Kendrick at Warrington, and is now, I believe, in the museum. Is this old Garston Cross a plague stone? That churchyards were used as markets in the middle ages is a well-established fact.”

Much Woolton Cross

Woolton Cross was put up at the northern end of the original village in around 1350. A second cross, Hunt’s Cross, was erected at the southern end of the township, the pedestal of which still stands, topped with a concrete bollard.

Woolton Cross was restored in 1913 by Arthur Mather in celebration of Woolton becoming part of Liverpool (or perhaps to mourn its passing as a separate place!).

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

The ancient village of Much Woolton is two miles and a half inland from the bank of the Mersey and six and a half miles in a south-easterly direction from Walton-on-the-Hill. The Knights of S. John of Jerusalem had a grange here. A wake was held on Woolton Green on Midsummer Day. Mr. Cox (Transactions, Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, for 1895) describes the remains of the market cross as consisting of a short pyramidal chamfered shaft, socketted into an old base, which was carried on two steps. The site was the centre of the old village, where the district council offices now stand. The structure, I understand, was taken down about the year 1900, and given to Mr. Reynolds, who placed it in his garden.

Ordnance Survey map of Hunts Cross, Liverpool

Hunt’s Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

The words “pedestal of stone cross” occur on the 1848 six-inch ordnance map at “Hunt’s Cross,” close to Hunt’s Cross Station, at the intersection of Hunt’s Cross Lane and Sandy Lane, two miles inland from the river Mersey. The words “Hunt’s Cross House” occur on the map close to the site of the cross. Mr. Cox writes, 1895, that the remains of this cross consist of a massive square stone socket lying by a barn at the cross-roads near the station. The words “Cross Hillocks” and “Cross Hillock’s Farm” occur at the meeting of roads three miles east from Much Woolton Church. An interesting history of Garston from the pen of Mr. E.W. Cox is printed in the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire for 1888, with pictures of the village and crosses as they existed in the year 1850. At that date Garston was an old-fashioned fishing village near the Otter’s Pool, on the north bank of the Mersey, but of late years everythying has been changed by the formation of the docks and the advent of various manufacturing industries.

Image: Ordnance Survey map of Hunt’s Cross, c1842. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Garston Village Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

Mr. Cox writes: “The other cross stood below the rock on which was built Garston Hall at the head of the mill-dam, and just opposite to the bridge where the stream entered the pool; its site would be near the present centre of the junction of St. Mary’s Road and Chapel Road.” The remains consisted of a square solid base or pedestal and a portion of the square shaft. A view of it is given in the Binns Collection at Liverpool, in which is shown on one side of the base-stone the socket-holes for the stocks. Writing again in 1895 Mr. Cox says: “It is shown by Troughton on two steps, and probably marked a well, or limits of land belonging to the Abbey of Stanlaw. It was buried when St. Mary’s Road was made, and a public-house built over it. It was found again in making a drain, and was kept for many years by Father Smith on a new site. Inscribed on the new plinth is the appropriate motto, ‘Ecce crucem reddientem.'” The old base-stone and shaft, as rebuilt, are carried on a flight of four steps. Below the Latin inscription are these words: “The Garston Cross formerly erected by our Catholic forefathers in memory of the faith for which they suffered and of which they were robbed by the tyranny of their oppressors.”

Detail of Church Street Cross, Church Street, Liverpool

Church Street Cross

There is a brass Maltese cross embedded in the pedestrianised pavement of Church Street. It once lay in front of HMV before the building was converted into a passage through to School Lane and Liverpool ONE. The cross is related to St Peter’s Church, which once stood very close by and which gave Church Street its name.

It’s often said that the cross is in a position once covered by the altar of St Peter’s, but in reality the cross was first embedded in a kerbstone. This would have been soon after the church was demolished in 1922, before the street was pedestrianised. The cross has probably been moved around more than once as the street has been repaved. The cross is certainly within the boundaries of the old churchyard, however, and quite close to one of the old entrances to the church. It is also said that the brass came from the altar rail in St Peter’s.

Postcard of St Peter's Church. LiverpoolThe road has been significantly widened since the church was demolished, which is why it stands in the road today. St. Peter’s became the cathedral for Liverpool when the city became a parish in 1699. It was demolished once the present Anglican cathedral was ready to hold services.

Further Reading

The Brass Maltese Cross, Church Street, Liverpool, accessed 28th September 2019

Image: Church Street cross embedded in the pavement on Church Street, taken by the author.

Aerial photograph of the Ditton Brook area

Ditton Brook

Ditton Brook makes up the northern boundary of Halewood, and flows in a south-westerly direction before flowing out into the River Mersey between the town of Ditton and Hale Bank. Along with the River Alt, this river flows down a valley carved out when glacial ice pushed south from what is now the Irish Sea.

The archaeology of Ditton Brook

The Ditton Brook valley has been an important area of human settlement for thousands of years. Excavations have revealed the remains of half-finished stone tools in a settlement used around 4-5000 years BC.

In addition to the tools evidence was found of a fire (part of a temporary camp) and food preparation. As Ditton Brook was a source of fresh water, it would have naturally attracted settlers.

Where the stream runs into the Mersey, the slower water would have been a protected haven for fishing in the wider waters of the larger river. The area would have benefitted from both salt and fresh water fish from the two rivers.

In more recent years the brook has flowed through the industrial areas of Widnes and Ditton. The channel has been straightened just before it reaches the Mersey. The area has become more polluted, and St. Michael’s Municipal Golf Course was closed due to arsenic poisoning.

Further Reading

Everton Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

A water-colour drawing in the Binns Collection shows this cross in an open space near a cottage. A church appears in the distance. The head of the cross is gone, but a portion of the square shaft is shown socketted in the customary way into a pedestal, carried on a calvary or flight of three steps. The remains are almost exactly a fac-simile of what may now be seen any day at Cronton. In Syer’s History of Everton, published in 1830, a plan of the village is given, taken from an old deed, showing the “Headless Cross” on the common, near the beacon. Mr. Cox writes: “The remains of the cross which stood in the centre of the village were put into the Roundhouse when taken down. It was a market cross.” The site of the cross was one and a half miles south of Walton-on-the-Hill, and the same distance inland from the river bank.

Childwall Cross

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

The word “cross” in Gothic letters appears on the 1848 map one and a half miles east of Wavertree. Mr. Cox thus describes it in the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (volume for 1895): “On the roadside, near Well Lane, stood the slender octagonal shaft of a cross, on an octagon socket and three steps. It was a wayside cross, probably marking the lands of the monks of Stanlaw and Whalley, who had a cell there. The stones were thrown over into the field when the road was widened, and were thence carted away.” The church is of ancient foundation, and is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. Mr. W. Bowdon, of Gorsefield, Patricroft, writes June 24th, 1901: “I was at Childwall on Friday, and looked up what remains of the cross there. Two steps, base about twenty-seven inches, with a socket of about twelve inches, shaft and arms gone.” Mr. Harrison, in his Liverpool District Place-Names, tells us that the modern English equivalent of Childwall is Wellfield or Springfield. We have thus another instance of a well and a cross together.

Everton Well

From The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor:

Mr. Hope writes in his Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England: “There is a well here which has the reputation of being haunted, a fratricide having been committed there. It was a haunt of pick-pockets and other disorderly characters. It is now built over, and in a few short years the subterranean passage leading to the well will be forgotten.” The following extracts from the Crosse Deeds related to this town:- 1412. Quitclaim from Nicholas de Lyverpull, clerk, to John le Dey, of Lyverpull, his heirs and assigns, of one land of ground, lying between the Crosses next the Shootsacres, which Gilbert de Everton holds by the devise of Latilda de Sefton and the above Nicholas. Witnesses:- Robert de Derby, then Mayor of Lyverpull, Thomas de Bold and Roger de Holland, then Bailiffs of Lyverpull, Hugh de Botyll, Thomas de Gleest, and others. Given at Lyverpuul, in the third week of Lent [4-10 March] 14 Henry IV. [1412]. Grant from John Wodes and Alice his wife of Lyverpull, to John Crosse, of one selion of land, called le Dobul lond lying between the Crosses, in the field of Lyverpull, viz., two hallands lying upon the roadleading to the Breke and one halland on the same road, between the selion late of Derby on the north and land of the late John More on the south. Witnesses:- Hugh Harebron . . . Given at Lyverpull on the 20th day of May 12 Edward IV. [1472]. Grant from Richard Crosse, son and heir of John Crosse of Lyverpull, to WIlliam Crosse his brother and son of the said John of one tenement with houses and gardens, in le Dale strete Lyverpull, in the tenure of Henry Plombe, and of two buildings with chambers next the Cross in the same town. Witnesses, James Molyneux rector of Sefton . . . Given at Lyverpull on 10th September 18 Henry VII. [1502].

Ancient Crosses of Lancashire

The following are all extracts from The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire: the hundred of West Derby by Henry Taylor (1902).


In Baines’s Lancashire an old print is reproduced showing the village of Liverpool as it existed when both the castle (of which the Molyneux family were hereditary constables) and the embattled house of the Stanleys were still standing near the river. Between the retainers of these great families actual fighting took place in the streets in 1424. Owing to the rapid and enormous increase of this city almost all landmarks, including these buildings, have been swept away.* Liverpool, however, was not without the symbols at least of Christianity and peace and goodwill to men, for it had no less than five crosses. These are shown on an old map in the Binns collection at Liverpool. They were as follows:-

  • The High Cross, at the junction of Castle Street, High Street, Water Street, and Dale Street.
  • The White Cross, at the junction of Tithebarn Street, Oldhall Street, and Chapel Street.
  • The Red Cross, at the junction of Castle Street with Red Cross Street.
  • Towns-end Cross, at the junction of William Brown Street and Byrom Street, where the Technical Schools are now built.
  • S. Patrick’s Cross, at the junction of Tithebarn Street, Vauxhall Road, Marybone, and Hatton Garden.

The whole of these crosses have disappeared, but I give below all the information which I have been able to glean about them.

*It seems almost incredible that in the year 1565 the population was only about seven hundred.)

The history if the “Red Cross” is involved in some obscurity. On the map of Liverpool already referred to in the year 1539, the “Red Cross” is distincly marked in the position described above.

In Brookes History of Liverpool (published in 1853), the author states that a market for the sale of provisions, vegetables, butter, &t., was established early in the eighteenth century on the south side of S. George’s Church, where Alderman Tarleton afterwards erected an obelisk of red stone, which was called the “Red Cross” or “Tarleton’s Obelisk.” This fact, however, does not necessarily prove that a medieval cross did not stand on this site, for market crosses were rebuilt all over England many times over in the course of centuries.

The same author states that the “High Cross,” which was known to have stood at the junction of Castle Street, Water Street, and Dale Street, at the middle of the sixteenth century, for butcher’s meat, fish, and vegetables, was removed in the years 1673 to make way for the new town hall. Mr. Brooke tells us that a portion of the ancient cross called the “White Cross” was in existence within the memory of persons recently living, close to where the “White Cross” Market used to be held, and that the remains of “S. Patrick’s Cross” were not removed until a few years after the year 1775.

In an interesting article on “Lancashire Hearth Taxes” (Transactions of the Hsitoric Society, Lancashire and Cheshire, 1900) Mr. W. Ferguson Irvine says: “In 1701, the Earl of Macclesfield, who has superseded Lord Molyneux as constable of the castle, died, and the office, ins spite of Lord Molyneux’s claim to it as hereditary in his family, was given to Lord Rivers. The Corporation of Liverpool was at this time the tenant of the site…” One of the main objects of the application for the grant of the site of the castle was the scheme for making the new market there. The town suffered great inconvenience from the want of a proper market. the corn market was at the High Cross; the butchers occupied part of the area of the present exchange; the potato, shoe, and yarn market was at the White Cross, between Oldhall Street and High Street.

Mr. Irvine, in this article, quotes a letter written at that time about the markets, as follows: “I would propose, and I hope it will look faire, that the Butchers be at the new markett; the Butter, Cheese, and Poultry about the Change, as the Butchers were: The Corne markett as formerly, the Yarn markett, and the Pottatos at the White Cross.”

Some additional notes on the Liverpool crosses are given in the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1897), recording some discoveries recently made through the laying of electric wires. These notes are as follows:-

Almost at the centre of the street [the ancient High Street], and close to the surface, lay three large blocks of yellow stone about three feet long, two wide, and one thick, much worn and damaged. These lay exactly on the spot where the White Cross is known to have stood, and though they cannot be said with certainty to have belonged to its base, their position and character are suggestive.

The following notes occur in a paper contributed by Lieutenant-Colonel Fishwick, on “Lancashire in the Time of Charles II.,” to the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. xxxiii.: “In 1654 the streets of Liverpool were first lighted, the order on the town books being ‘that two lanthorne’s with two candles burning every night in the dark moon be set out at the High Cross and at the White Cross, and places prepared to set them in every night till eight of the clock.’” *

*In Liverpool in the Reign of Charles II., by Sir Edward Moore, edited by W.F. Irvine, are several references to the various crosses and markets in the town, which would interest those who desire to follow up this subject; and similarly in The Moore Rental (Chetham Society, 1847).
There can be little doubt that religion was promoted and stimulated in Liverpool by the inmates of Birkenhead priory, and it may be that the erection of the some of the ancient crosses in that town is due to their piety. Dr. Halley writes:-

Liverpool was becoming at that time a place of some importance. As early as the reign of Henry II. its fishermen and traders had been incorporated, and in the time of Edward I. they were able to defray the expenses of sending two representatives to Parliament. In the reign of Edward III. the ancient chapel of St. Nicholas, an appurtenance of the Vicarage of Walton, was consecrated as a sanctuary, in and around which the inhabitants of the chapelry had the privilege of interring their dead…. Of the ecclesiastics residing near Liverpool the prior of Birkenhead was the most considerable. He claimed property in the ferry for carrying passengers and goods across the Mersey, and the monopoly of providing accommodation for them on his own side of the water….

The invention and general adoption of railways brought about an amazing change throughout the whole of the country towns of England. During the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the nineteenth the Lancashire and Cheshire gentry, when the weather became dreary in the autumn and winter, and the roads impassable,* moved for a time into their town houses in Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Stockport, Preston, Lancaster, Ormskirk, and elsewhere. These towns were thus for a time the centres of social life, the market place and the market cross being places of resort for the discussion of foreign and domestic affairs. Note merely were punishments inflicted at the market cross, but “Notices” of every description were affixed to it. Thus, in Notes and Queries for January 12th 1901, we are informed that lists of those persons who took out certificates for hair powder (one guinea each) were to be fixed on the market cross and on the church or chapel.

* The following extract from Diary of Nicolas Blundell shows the terrible state of the roads at the beginning of the eighteenth century: “1724, Dec.8. – Fanny and I went to Wigan to be under Dr. Frans. Worthington, our health being very bad. The coach was overturned, and when we came neare Wigan it was laid fast the rode being so deep; we left it in the laine all night, and we went with our horses to Wigan, where we lodged at Kendall’s, the legs of man.”

Crosses in the Southern Part of the West Derby Hundred, Between Liverpool and Warrington

The ordnance maps show the sites or remains of no less than twenty ancient crosses in this part of Lancashire. Many have disappeared since the date of the 1848 survey. Some highly interesting notes by the Rev. Austin Powell concerning the crosses of this district appear in the volume for 1887 of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. This district (about ten miles from east to west and five from north to south) is a small oasis of old-world rural Lancashire hedged in by great manufacturing towns. The country is pretty and undulating, and contains several fine parks.

Plan of Port Sunlight from 1914

Port Sunlight: traces of nature in the man-made landscape

I visited Port Sunlight late last year. It was something I’d been meaning to do for ages, and it was a gorgeous day!

The reason it was (for want of a less pun-tastic phrase) right up my street is that Port Sunlight is a classic and easy-to-read ‘landscape’, in the sense that word is used on this blog: it was created in one quick phase, for one purpose, obliterating everything that came before it. And what’s more, it’s changed little since it was created.
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Drawing of a medieval manor

The historic villages of Liverpool – built to a template?

All born-and-bred Liverpudlians (and many more people) will be aware that the city is made up of a collection of villages. The villages used to sit comfortably in their landscape, surrounded by fields, lanes, streams and hills. Over time, they were swallowed up by the emerging behemoth of Liverpool itself.

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Aerial view of Croxteth Hall, taken in 1954

Croxteth Park from the air

Having written about Liverpool history for a while now, I’m lucky enough to be copied in to a lot of interesting tid-bits of the city’s past. This happened recently when Croxteth Park’s Twitter account posted several aerial shots from the middle of the last century. I’d like to share them with you here.

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