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The Victoria County History of Lancashire discusses Liverpool in terms of its townships. The names of these townships are recognisable as the main suburban centres of Liverpool today, and so remain a useful way to divide up the history of the city. The following articles take the reader through the changes in these townships – often important medieval centres in their own right – and how they became part of Liverpool itself.

Ordnance Survey map of south Liverpool, 1934

History of Halewood: community spirit, enclosure and enterprise

The township of Halewood lies between the two rivers of the Ditton and the Ramsbrook. The Ditton was straightened from its natural course in the 19th century.

The fields along the footpath from Speke to Hale are known as Portway fields, and this is probably a reference to the ‘Portway’ occurring in the Much Woolton charters.

Although the most interesting and detailed history of Halebank comes in the medieval and modern periods, it’s worth noting that some Roman remains were found by the former Ditton Station when a well was sunk.

Historic Features in Halewood

The Halewood Landscape

Halewood was the largest township in the parish of Childwall before the 19th century, at three miles long, and two wide, and covering 3800 acres. Strangely, the north west of the township came under the remit of Childwall parish church, whilst the south east was with Hale church. This divide extended to other parts of Halewood’s history, as we’ll see.

Despite its riverside location, the coast was never a significant factor in Halewood’s landscape history. There was no decent anchorage here, and activity was focussed inland. This is in contrast to Hale, where Hale Ford and the River Mersey were key parts of its history.

Roads

The main roads through Halewood were from Prescot to Hale (and, importantly, Hale Ford), and from Halebank in the east of the township to Woolton, Childwall and on into the rest of Liverpool to the north. Processes like enclosure changed the road system, but by 1783 a survey of the land shows that the recognisable streetscape was in existence already by then.

Map of Halewood, 1947, from the New Popular Edition
A map of Halewood in 1947. Many of the major routeways seen here have been in existence for centuries.

The Hale to Widnes road ran parallel to the River Mersey, joined by the Liverpool to Woolton road. It then ran near Halebank Street, on the west border of the township, through into Gateacre.

An old road from Liverpool to Hale, through Childwall and Gateacre, had degenerated by the 20th century into a pathway along Halewood’s boundary with Speke. An existing pathway between Speke and Hale seems to be the continuation of this old road.

Community

The roads themselves were in very poor condition. They were muddy trackways with wide green verges, used as common grazing.

Because of the poor state of the roads, amongst other reasons, historian Janet Hollinshead saw Halewood as a static community. Whether psychologically or physically, Halewood was hard to traverse or leave. Records show that few marriages took place where both partners were from outside Halewood, the parish of their birth. The level was 12%, compared to 30% in other townships.

Halewood was also far from centres of authority; the nearest magistrate being in Speke. This gave Halewood a certain level of autonomy, and Hollinshead suggested it led to a close-knit community.

As an example, she mentions one Hannah Hitchmough. When she fell on hard times, the community gave her board, clothing and even tobacco. In another case, public subscription furnished the funeral of a pauper, Samuel Stephenson, with flowers. As in other parts of the region and country, there were Overseers of the Poor who administered money where it was needed.

A manor court brought the community together annually. The court filled manorial office posts and recorded tenancy transfers, but was also a place to swap gossip and news. Of all the posts assigned, the Inspector of Highways probably had the easiest job, what with there being only two roads (and a couple of bridges) to see to!

The Forest

Henry II (1154 – 1189) put an area from ‘Flaxpool to the Quintbridge’ into Royal Forest (Quintbridge Close near the railway triangle may be the site of the latter. The site was once Morris’s Farm). In fact, ‘Halewood’ was originally the ‘wood of Hale’ as you might expect, though it was a separate township before the 15th century. By the early 13th century (Henry III’s time) Halewood had been disafforested (removed from Forest Law, not necessarily cleared of trees).

The clearance of trees from Halewood was a much longer affair. This had effects later in history, as we’ll see, because the late clearance of woodlands meant that new land was created after Enclosure had made its mark.

Land ownership and farming

Naturally, farming was the biggest occupation in Halewood until recent times. The Holland family owned much of the land in Halewood, but were based in Halebank. The Irelands owned parts of Halebank, but with the family seat in Halewood. This led to frequent property disputes.

Land was held in strips, with common agreement amongst the community as to the crops to grow in each strip, and the timetable of crop and pasture rotation. Setting fields aside for pasture on a regular basis allowed the land to recover, get manured, as well as simply giving animals somewhere to graze.

The east end of the township was an open field system like this before the west end, which was wooded for longer.

Settlement patterns in Halewood

As an isolated and little-occupied area, Halewood showed no real nucleus of settlement for a long time. Historian Mike Royden suggested that there were three centres. A linear settlement ran along the road south of Lovell’s Hall, with three farms on the north side of it while a second was at the crossroads to the west of this linear settlements. Finally a small hamlet surrounded Halebank Green on the edges of the open fields.

The earliest buildings were of timber, with their foundations made of stone. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a cornmill standing in the centre of Halewood Green. A cropmark is still sometimes visible, with a corresponding rise in the ground. There was also a gap in the hedge on the edge of the Green where the path to the mill joined the road.

Halewood, on a map from 1849
‘Mill Ring House’ might be clue to the former location of Halewood’s windmill

True settlement only really got going in the 1870s, after the church, the school and the station were built, and the population began to rise.

Buildings and Landmarks

Halewood has four Grade II listed buildings.

Yew Tree House: was originally a hunting lodge of the Earls of Derby, probably built in the middle of the 17th century. The building is of sandstone with a slate roof, and has mullioned sash windows. Some of these are, unusually, horizontal sashes. The house had wings added in 1780 and 1850, both of brick.

Photograph of Yew Tree House, Halewood
Yew Tree House, Halewood (released under a Creative Commons license via Wikimedia)

Foxhill House: This house is Georgian, and brick-built. It has two storeys, which are symmetrical, and like Yew Tree House (and many other Georgian buildings) has sashes. It was built in around 1800.

St Nicholas’ Church: The church was built from local sandstone between 1838 and 1839. Before this, the nearest church was in Hale or Childwall. A transept and apse were added in 1847, and in 1882 a tower added. A year later the bells completed the church. Stained glass windows in the church are by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, making this an important building.

Photograph of St. Nicholas's Church, Halewood Green
St Nicholas Church and old schoolhouse, Halewood Green (released under a Creative Commons license by Sue Adair, via Geograph)

Blackie’s Grave: In 1942 the horse of Lt. Leonard Comer Wall, Blackie, was laid to rest in this corner of a Halewood field. Blackie had survived The First World War (and his owner), and lived to the ripe old age of 35. The site was taken over by the RSPCA, who still have an office nearby, and Historic England recognise the grave as an important historical place.

Other buildings of interest

Lovell’s Hall: This was one of the larger dwellings in Halewood. It was a large house with a moat. Although its above-ground remains have totally disappeared, the moat is visible as a square dip in a field at the Halebank end of the township. It’s especially clear from the air.

There were two pubs in Halewood: the Eagle & Child (c.1750) in the North End, and the Cock & Trumpet at Halebank. There might also have been what we would now (for better or worse) call ‘pop-up’ pubs from time to time. These would be informal, unofficial places where you could buy beer, that might not be open all year round.

Old photograph of Eagle and child pub, Halewood
The Eagle and Child pub in the last century, from Pinterest

There was also the Derby Arms, which was an old pub, but that had been rebuilt completely in the 1930s. The British Lion stood in Church Road near the junction with Gerrard’s Lane. It was run at one time by Joe English, born in Barbados, and closed in 1899.

Halewood had its own workhouse, in a cottage rented from the Earl of Derby in 1722. It was run at a cost of 6d per annum, and had space for 40 people. It worked with other parts of the community to give aid to the homeless (‘vagrants’) and gave the poor a coal allowance and schooling.

The Hollies: This was originally the smith’s house, but became a private school after the smith moved across the road. The school was run by a Miss Hilton and a Mrs Lowcock. In 1840 a plot of land was give by Lord Derby to open a church school. This cost £300 and opened in 1842. In 1842 a new school building opened for the boys, while the girls and infants stayed in the original building.

Before this the nearest school had been in Much Woolton (and that for boys only) or Hale (for which fees were paid). There might have been an informal school in Hale, but no record of it exists.

Enclosure

As a rural and ‘static’ township, Hale’s history was heavily affected by anything related to its farming activity. Enclosure had a great effect across the country, and Hale is a great local example. We’re indebted to Mike Royden, and his thesis on the enclosure of Halewood. He’s also pulled together a number of other sources which look into the community of Halewood in the medieval and early modern periods. A lot of what follows relies on research into those sources, and I encourage you to read them yourself, as they’re fully illustrated.

We’ve already seen that a lot of the land around Hale was parcelled into the scattered ownership of Lord Derby and the Ireland-Blackburne family. Sir John Ireland-Blackburne was particularly keen to consolidate his holdings, and no doubt saw opportunities to make gains at the expense of common land. Lord Derby held areas around North End and Lovel’s Hall, and would have had similar ambitions.

In the 18th century there were three ‘common’ fields, all next to Ditton Brook: Barbers Meadow, Myre Meadow, and Lady Meadow. But grazing was only allowed in these fields if you held a roodland (a measure of land equal to a quarter of an acre) in these meadows.

In western parts of Halewood land tended to be held in blocks rather than strips. This area had begun life as woodland, and so new land was created from it through ‘assarting’. Assarting is the piecemeal taking of ‘bites’ from the woodland through tree felling.

People therefore tended to own larger acreages, with their houses in the centre of their plots. Nevertheless, the Enclosure Act still gave the opportunity for people to consolidate scattered holdings even here.

Early Enclosure Acts needed community consent, so a meeting was called in Halewood. Previous enclosure processes had not been unanimously agreed. In 1676 Gilbert Tarleton has been indicted for unlawful enclosure of the commons this township. However, on 6th January 1803 the Earl of Derby was granted an award to enclose the Waste in Halewood.

(It’s worth pointing out at this point that Enclosure Acts mention by name the people involved. So if you have Liverpool ancestors who might be named in these areas, they may be useful documents to consult. The Liverpool Record Office can point you in the right direction.)

Effects of Enclosure in Halewood

Between 1700 and 1847 around two million acres of waste (defined as ‘unused’ land where animals were grazed in common) were enclosed.

Halewood Green was most affected: villagers lost their rights to graze land at the side of the road and on the common. The common was given to the lords of the manor (Derby and Ireland-Blackburne). Maps 40 years later show that roadside grazing had still not been brought into the nearby fields. Maybe the land was not good enough for regular farming after all.

In east Halewood the Hall Field (south of Lovel’s Hall) was still open in the 17th century. Enclosure happened only gradually in the late 18th century.

In addition to the three roads which had their roadside grazing removed, four private roads were created, and three roads closed. Allegedly these had been either impassible, or were in the way of the creation of larger fields. Passage therefore improved in some cases, but it added to the loss of roadside grazing.

Enclosure cost money. There was the physical work to remove or add boundaries, fences and ditches, and the surveyors had to be paid. Eight acres of land were sold to raise money. Almost all of this came from the Green.

The majority of the land enclosed at this time was split between Lord Derby and Ireland-Blackburne. The two men consolidated their holdings, and brought them closer to their seats. Ireland-Blackburne added 100 acres to his Halewood holdings (10 of which were still small scattered allotments), while Derby added 85.

The rest was split between the former strip field owners, who got land loosely based on the location of land they had already possessed. This was not always that close. Derby and Ireland-Blackburne got the best of this deal, but few others got their land close to their homes. Those with one allotment were meant to have that single piece close to hand. Those with two were guaranteed a maximum of one to be near. One William Holland, of the formerly important Holland family, did indeed have two close by, so perhaps something of his importance still held. Holland’s estates were in two areas, joined together by a convenient path.

One of the other major effects was that Halewood began to grow. The British Lion pub opened in the late 19th century facing Church Road, with a handful of cottages built nearby. The influx began soon after Enclosure, and then levelled off. But it meant there was no demolition of cottages, and in fact new cottages continued to be built into the mid 19th century. The community was not, contrary to expectation, broken up. Royden suggests that this was because there was a variety of non-agricultural jobs at this point. People were not so reliant on farming for their income as they were in other parts of the country.

Housing in Halewood

When we think of the history of Halewood, we often focus on its role as ‘overspill’ from post-war Liverpool. Indeed, families were moved here from central parts of the city when low quality houses were demolished. But at first progress was slow. In the 1960s parts of the former Common were earmarked for housing development, although at first nothing was built. North End grew slightly, and Foxhill House was still there, overlooking the Green.

Then the first two maisonettes (three or four storey blocks of flats) were built on Roseheath Drive and Torrington Drive. As time went on, Halewood developed into one of the three largest overspill areas for Liverpool. In the space of four years the “rural idyll of hedges, broccoli and carrots disappeared underneath Liverpool’s bricks and concrete” (Fletcher, in Belchem, 2006: 396).

The Railway at Halewood

The Cheshire Lines Railway arrived in the 1870s, taking up the south east area of the railway triangle. Parts of Holland’s Farm remained in the area when Royden wrote his history in 1989. In 1873 the Halewood section was complete, the embankment using spoil dug from the tunnels. The triangle itself was completed by 1879, allowing traffic to be redirected to the docks. (The whole triangle closed in the 1960s, and is now a nature reserve).

1927 map of Halewood
Halewood railway triangle, complete with railway cottages, seen here in 1927

The London and North West Railway joined Liverpool with Warrington and Crewe, with stations at Halebank and Ditton Junction when these areas were still rural. The Cheshire Lines Committee had a station near Halewood too, with a western branch taking trains to Southport.

Working on the railway became a new option for local residents. This could be on the trains themselves, in the stations, or in one of the many workshops which open to service and repair the engines and rails. This was another alternative to farming, and also encouraged people to commute from outside Halewood. The static community was seeing change. Twenty cottages opened for railway employees on the east side of the triangle, and on Lower Lane. Later on, the ‘Barracks’ (previously a farmhouse on Lower Lane) was taken over by the railway company to house six families. It lasted until the 1950s when it was condemned.

In 1874 the slope and footbridge to Halewood Station was completed. Later on, the footbridge was replaced by a second slope to the other platform.

The first station, on Bailey’s Lane, closed in 1951, with a replacement not arriving until 1988, on Hollies Road.

Industry and work

A watermill and a windmill were recorded in the township in early modern times. This reflects wider trends on Merseyside, as there were such mills in other townships and the town of Liverpool itself. The windmill in Halewood was on Halewood Green, and the watermill on Ditton Brook. There was also a pinfold at the junction between Mackett’s Lane and Higher Lane, and a tithe barn on the lane to the Hutt.

For centuries arable cultivation was the most important agricultural activity (it’s known that the first potato crop was 1680!). This is different to much of the north west of England, which was pasture, and Frank Walker in 1939 called it the only important arable cultivation in north west England. He identified the light and well drained soils and decent climate as factors in this. (1939, The historical geography of Southwest Lancashire before the Industrial Revolution, by Frank Walker.) There was a grain market at Hale, and another at Prescot, so no shortage of places to sell the fruits of this labour.

The Old Hutt and its gatehouse acted as farm buildings for many years until it was demolished. The passageway through the gatehouse was living space for the farm.

In the 19th century Halewood had a blacksmith, a village shop, a brewery, and two tanneries (recorded in 1665 and 1672). One of the tanneries stood in the Bridgefield, which became Tannersmiths Lane later on. The street is now simply Tanner’s Lane. This tannery closed at the end of the 18th century and merged with the Penketh tannery near Warrington.

There were a couple of other industrial locations. The Ditton Brook ironworks stood by the Mersey, the buildings of which later became a grease factory. A Mr. Willis of Halsnead built a staith (a landing stage) for unloading coal in around 1790.

The blacksmith’s workshop became the Hollies, while the smith moved across the road to work next to the Eagle and Child, where he also made coffins. The Hollies became a private school once the smith had vacated.

People in Halewood had done a variety of jobs over the centuries. As far back as 1700 – 1725 there was an increase in people whose work depended on commerce outside Halewood (going from 1.5% to 6%). At the same time there was a reduction in agricultural workers from 65% to 50.5%. Mixed farming continued, including dairy farming, despite the fertile soil.

There were a couple of watchmakers and makers of watch parts. Prescot was a centre of watchmaking, and so the proximity to Halewood was an important part of this.

In 1940 Ward Blenkinsop (founded the year before) opened a pharmaceutical factory near Halebank. Mr Ward himself lived in Hollies Road (then called Wood Road).

Map of Halewood, 1981
The giant Ford car assembly plant as it was on the 1981 map of Halewood

The greatest industrial presence in Halewood arrived in 1963. Ford opened their new factory after some concentrated encouragement from the government of the day. The idea was that companies would site their factories in areas of the country that were suffering in the post-Second World War depression. Workers trained in a hangar at Speke Airport.

The factory itself was massive: 2.8 million square feet, 346 acres at a cost of £30 million. The Speke landscape was crucial for the success of the venture. The flat land on the inside bend of the Mersey flood plain is flat, offering space for expansion.

Later Halewood history

Although Halewood has been a world-famous name since the 1960s, thanks to Ford, there is some continuity with earlier history. The close-knit community that survived Enclosure also survived the arrival of this international company. The 20th century history of Halewood township is one of community support.

In 1965 the Halewood Community Council (HCC) was formed by social workers and the Liverpool Council of Social Service (http://www.lcvs.org.uk/about-us/lcvs-history/). The HCC eventually moved to James McColl House. In 1974 the group organised the Halewood Festival.

As a newly enlarged community after the Second World War, Halewood lacked some services like a Methodist chapel. To solve this, the Methodists and Anglicans came together in the Meth-An project. St Mary’s Church was built as a result in 1967. There was a brief interlude when a fire gutted the church in 1972, but by 1974 it had been rebuilt and re-opened.

On the 4th of June 1982 the Derrick Adams Centre opened. This had children’s facilities, offices, meeting rooms, a play room and a coffee bar.

A brief list of other buildings of interest in Halewood:

  • The Hayes (1867 house)
  • Wellcroft Cottages
  • Brooke House
  • Harefield / Ashton Hey
  • Ireland’s Farm
  • Old rectory (house with a Georgian frontage)
  • First World War memorial (19 men lost their lives in the Great War, and 28 in the Second World War).

Resources

Ford Escort in Halewood: 50 years since first car made: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-merseyside-42995117/ford-escort-in-halewood-50-years-since-first-car-made (BBC, accessed 12/02/2018)

Halewood, Wikipedia.org, accessed on 2nd June 2018

Halewood History Group, Halewood Village: a short history, unknown year (early 1980s), accessed via Mike Royden’s Sources for History page.

Hollinshead, J.E., 1981, Halewood township: a community in the early eighteenth century, Trans Hist Soc Lancashire and Cheshire, vol 130, 1981

Listed Buildings in Halewood, Wikipedia, accessed on 2nd June 2018

Royden, M., Halewood Local History Pages, accessed 2nd June 2018

Royden, M., 1990, The Effects of Enclosure on Nineteenth Century Halewood, University of Liverpool thesis.

Royden, M., 2010, Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors, Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley (Amazon UK)

History of Huyton

There was no clear boundary between the townships of Huyton and Roby, to the south west of Huyton, but the boundary with Whiston was by a brook running through Tarbock to join Ditton Brook.

Hitune, Read more

History of Kirkdale

Kirkdale occupies an area of flat land on the banks of the Mersey, formerly consisting of sand hills, for which this part of the Sefton coast is still well known. It is one of the oldest coastal settlements, Read more

History of Liverpool

Before King John discovered the Liverpool’s potential as a launchpad for his Irish campaigns, there was little more than a few scattered settlements on the north bank of the Mersey. However, the creation Read more

History of Speke

Speke has always been a large township on the banks of the Mersey. Speke village itself never grew in size like the inner suburbs of Everton and Toxteth, but the large expanses of flat land attracted industry Read more

Extract from Morden's map of Lancashire, 1722

History of Toxteth

Toxteth has a very long history of its own. Entering history as two manors, the area became a hunting forest, and a Royal Park. For almost 400 years this prevented the area from changing or developing to any great extent, and the amount of agriculture that was allowed in the forest was very small.

In the 17th century, however, Toxteth’s park status was removed, and first farmers, then industrialists, moved in to take advantage of the newly available land. With industry came residential areas, and soon Toxteth was filling with the terraces it is still largely known for today. Many of these terraces were unfit for habitation, and slum clearance began before the 19th century was over. In the late 20th century, more clearances took place, and this area of land next to the Mersey began to enter a new age of redevelopment, although this was not also without its critics.

In this Article

Origins of the name

Stochestede, Dom. Bk.; Tokestat, 1207; Toxstake, 1228; Tokstad, 1257; Toxstath, 1297; Toxsteth, 1447. (VCH Lancs, III)

May be Old English: Stochestede (in the Domesday Book) means the stockaded place.

Alternative explanations claim the word to be a derivation of Toki’s Staith, meaning the landing place of a man named Toki. This version of the definition is less favoured than the other, however.

Historic Features in Toxteth

The Landscape of Toxteth Park

The landscape of Toxteth is undulating, rising to a peak at the north east, and there are three miles of waterfront. Toxteth lies to the south of Liverpool city centre, and before the Pool was filled in for the Old Dock travellers had to cross the Townsend Bridge, across the Moss Lake Brook, and past the Fall Well to get to the Park.

Map of Toxteth Park showing relation to Liverpool, from Greenwood's map of 1818
Toxteth Park in relation to Liverpool, from Greenwood’s map of 1818

The flat areas between Parliament Street and Brownlow Hill are all that remains of the Moss Lake. The overflow from this lake, which powered a mill in the area, fed into a stream that flowed into the old Pool.

An important landmark in the area was the stream which flowed from the north east, divided into two and flowed into the Mersey in the form of the Dingle, at an inlet called Knott’s Hole, and the Otterspool, or Oskelbrook, a short distance further south.

Historically, the boundary of Toxteth Park ran from Queen’s Dock on the Mersey, down Parliament and Upper Parliament Streets, across the junction with Smithdown Road and Lodge Lane to Penny Lane, then Queen’s Drive and Aigburth Vale, before coming back to the Mersey at Otterspool.

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Otterspool

Map of Knott's Hole, from the 1908 Ordnance Survey map
Knott’s Hole on the 1908 OS map

Known as Osklebrok during the reign of King John, the Otterspool springs in Wavertree, and actually consists of two brooks. Otterspool was once quite a violent stream, falling 35 metres (120 feet) in just over 1km (1100 yards) many years ago. It was widened in the 19th Century for the lakes in Greenbank and Sefton Parks, and now runs under Aigburth Road at Vale and can be seen at gates of Otterspool Park.

Otterspool promenade was opened in 1950 using 30 million tonnes of rubbish and spoil from the Queensway Tunnel excavations. It was extended in 1984 with the 250 acre Garden Festival site, and is now part of the Sustrans cycle route.

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Dingle

The Dingle, once known as Dickenson’s Dingle, was a stream which flowed through St Michael’s Hamlet, and the area nearby keeps the name of the old stream.

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The Prehistoric and Roman Eras

Prehistory

As with the majority of Merseyside, very little is known of the Toxteth area before the Medieval period.

The Calder Stones are the oldest relics of human activity, and once formed a Neolithic burial mound in the vicinity of Calderstones Park, in the nearby township of Allerton. Another possible prehistoric monument is the Robin Hood Stone. Although its mythical connections are clear, this may be a standing stone, possibly existing in isolation or once part of the prehistoric landscape also occupied by the Calder Stones.

The Roman Occupation

The remains of a Roman road were uncovered in the 19th century near St Mary’s in Grassendale, with the route also picked up close to the river in Otterspool some time later. However, very little Roman activity is known from the area west of the road running from Chester up through Warrington and towards Carlisle. The discovery of a small number of Roman coins attests to contact between Roman and local people, but more than that we cannot say.

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The Medieval Period

The Early Medieval Period (Domesday Book)

By the time of the 10th Century AD, the township of Toxteth was divided into two manors, owned by the Saxon thegnes Bernulf and Stainulf. Toxteth was recorded in Domesday as just one of a handful of coastal settlements on the banks of the Mersey, along with the manor of Smithdown (Smeedon) inland, and Garston (Gerstun) to the south. The area was part of the Hundred of West Derby, given to Roger of Poictou by William the Conqueror for his loyalty in the invasion of 1066.

King John, increasing his holdings in the area after founding the borough of Liverpool, decided to take Toxteth back into Crown hands, and by 1212 we find that Richard, son of Thurstan, had been given Thingwall in an exchange with the King, who took Toxteth and incorporated it into his hunting forest, alongside Croxteth and Simonswood. It was John who enlarged Toxteth by adding Smithdown manor to it.

The Later Medieval Period (14th Century)

By the 14th century the park was fenced around as a Royal Park. The Park had two lodges – Upper and Lower – the first of which sat at what is now the junction between Sefton Park Road and Ullet Road (the entrance to Sefton Park). The Lower Lodge may have survived, in small pieces, near Jericho Farm, Fulwood Park, into the 20th century, and may have stood on the site of Otterspool Station.

The main entrance way to the park from the north, and Liverpool, was Park Road.

The land remained as a Royal hunting forest for around 300 years.

In 1316 the land was offered to Whalley Abbey, in order that they build a monastery there. The offer was never taken up, however, and the land is recorded as being in the possession of Liverpool Castle in 1327, and in the hands of the Molyneux family by 1346.

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Early Modern Toxteth (16th Century – 18th Century)

The End of the Park and the Rise of Agriculture

At the end of the 16th century, actions were taken with the aim of dis-parking Toxteth. This would have allowed the locals to graze their animals on the land, a practise which already took place to some extent. Eventually, in 1604, Toxteth was indeed disparked by James I, although the bounding wall was still in existence as late as 1671. The disparking began the first major change in the landscape since the hunting forest was created in the 14th century. The conversion to arable and pasture land progressed rapidly.

Photograph of Toxteth Chapel, by Neil Evans via Wikipedia
Toxteth Chapel, by Neil Evans via Wikipedia

The 17th century saw a number of settlers being attracted to the area to take advantage of the new farmland, from both Liverpool itself and beyond. The land was broken up into farms, and one of the most notable communities moved into the area: the Puritans. They settled in the area around Otterspool, dubbing the stream the ‘Little Jordan’, and the area the ‘Holy Land’, a name which is still often used. The Puritans built the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth (right) in the 1610s, appointing the 15 year old Richard Mather as the master of the attached school in 1611, and preacher in 1618.

By 1800 there were four farms on land leased from Lord Molyneux: Jericho and the Three Sixes in Fulwood Park, Parr’s on Mill Street, and Rimmer’s in Dingle Lane. As exploitation of the old Park went on, this number increased and the landscape took on a much more agricultural appearance.

The Rise of Industry

Small scale industry was also a growing feature by the 17th Century.

Mather’s Dam was originally the site of a water mill on the east side of Warwick Street. This reservoir formed from a stream at the top of Upper Warwick Street, which ran across the road and down the slope to the River Mersey. The whole area here was laid out for houses once the stream ran dry in the 18th century, although the water remained standing for some years afterwards. The land between Warwick Street and Northill Street remained on a lease with the mill, but when this burned down in 1866, speculative builders moved in to develop the area.

Jackson’s Dam, sited on the shore line on what is now Sefton Street, occupied the area from the bottom of Warwick Street, across Northumberland Street. The complex included a tide mill and reservoirs. By the second half of the 18th century, industry had become the dominant feature of the landscape.

At the end of the 19th Century, the stream feeding the mill at Otterspool was beginning to run dry. Around 1772 Charles Roe leased land nearby from the Earl of Sefton and built a small copper works. At this time there were only a few scattered residences on the road from Liverpool to Aigburth. A year later Yates and Perry’s map shows seven large villas at the junction of Lodge Lane and Ullet Lane, as well as a large barn and a number of outbuildings associated with Lodge Farm. By the end of the decade requests were being made for a timber yard on Lord Sefton’s land, a sign of the future importance of the timber trade in this part of the city.

Even in the following decade the former Toxteth Park itself was still exclusively rural, although the creeping urbanisation in the north was catching up with the boundary. Even by 1775 Old Park Road, Smithdown Lane, Lodge Lane and the eastern extent of Ullet Road were the only streets in the area.

New Liverpool

In 1771 the farm of Thomas Turner was laid out for streets by the Earl of Sefton, and an Act of Parliament was obtained by the Earl for the granting out of building leases. This made it possible for a Liverpool-born builder, Cuthbert Bisbrown, who lived in Paradise Street to plan ‘New Liverpool’, a town to be built on Sefton’s lands to the south of the city.

This ambitious scheme was in competition with the cities of Bath and Edinburgh, which were both creating impressive Georgian landscapes at this time. The end result was the area known as Harrington, named after Isabella, the first Countess Sefton, and daughter of the 2nd Earl of Harrington. Unfortunately, finance at the time of the American War of Independence was scarce, and Bisbrown was bankrupt by February 1776.

Toxteth Terraces

The main streets created in the area were well built and wide, but Cuthbert’s plans never addressed the infilling of the area, which was packed with poorly built and dense blocks of dingy courts and back-to-backs. As many people as possible were crammed into the space, with no thought beyond the profit of the builders, and some of the buildings had walls of half a brick thickness.

Herculaneum ceramic, Apotheosis of George Washington (c.1800-1802), by cliff1066 via Flickr

In 1794 the land occupied by Charles Roe’s copper works was bought and converted into a pottery. In another two years this had become the Herculaneum Pottery Company of Worthington, Humble, Holland and others.

Although the pottery industry had declined in Liverpool at this time, the landscape around Toxteth provided water transport for the raw materials and products, as well as a market for the goods, and the factory did well. The surrounding district was developed to the advantage of the factory, including workshops surrounding the main site and a hamlet for the workers. The employees themselves were transported en masse from Staffordshire, well known for its expertise in the craft. The incomers were escorted into the area in November 1796, to the sound of band music and great celebration.

By 1811 there was still little further south than Northumberland Road, although the most rapid expansion in the wider region occurred in Toxteth Park, and Everton to the north, while other areas were losing population. The growing areas were Welsh heartlands in the city, attesting to the importance of this group to the growing Merseyside, and Toxteth was also becoming known as a ‘Sailortown’.

Industrial expansion kept pace with the development of Toxteth, and in 1810 the Mersey Forge was founded on Grafton Street, near flour mills standing further inland. The forge later expanded into the Mersey Steel and Iron Company, and stood near the present Toxteth docklands. Brooke and Owen’s brewery in Blair Street, only built in 1794, was dismantled in 1826 and the area covered with further terraces and courts.

The Toxteth docklands themselves were expanding in the area. Queen’s Dock was constructed in 1796. Brunswick in 1811 and Coburg Docks were built in 1840, both for the expanding timber trade. Toxteth, Harrington and Herculaneum Docks were built on or near the site of the former Herculaneum Pottery, which was dismantled in 1833. Also on the riverside were shipbuilding yards, and a ferry terminal. From 1825-35 ropewalks were established in Lodge Lane.

The timber trade was certainly beginning to dominate the area, with large timber yards along Grafton and Caryl Street. Up to 1823 few buildings could be found south of Hill Street, but the construction of Brunswick Dock (1830), changed all this. By 1835 buildings had spring up as far as Northumberland Street, with few gaps left. By the end of the next decade the street had been extended as far as Wellington Road, and Mill Street was also lined with buildings. Park Road south of the Peacock Tavern (1812), Chester Street (1815) and Windsor Street (1823) were all created in this period. The population was by now growing rapidly and more densely, fuelled by the expanding timber trade and dock expansion.

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Residential Expansion (18th – 19th Century)

New Roads and More Terraces

What Picton termed “pioneer cottages” had been built on the west side of Park Road by 1803; otherwise the area had consisted of green fields and stone walls.

Larger Georgian and Victorian houses were built along Princes Road, Princes Avenue (the Boulevard) and the Georgian Quarter in Canning over the coming decades. As William Leece mentions in a comment on this site: “the expansion of the city to the south of Upper Parliament Street and east of Mill Street seems to have paused for for several years before resuming in the 1850s and 60s. The road from what is now the Rialto to Princes Park (ie Princes Avenue etc) was laid out in the 1840s, but its character looks to have been semi-rural in the early days” (see comment on the Liverpool History Map page). Mill Street is first mentioned in the Directory of this year. Parliament Street, which got its name from an Act of Parliament granted to the Earl of Sefton for its laying out, had only four houses on it in 1790, and 21 residents. Up until 1807 the street terminated at a quarry on St. James Walk, where a windmill stood. In this year it was extended until it reached boundary with West Derby. However, growth in this area remained slow, and little more was built on it until the first years of the nineteenth century.

In 1822 the area of Windsor was laid out: the area enclosed by Parliament Street, Lodge Lane, Crown Street, and Upper Stanhope Street (now Beaumont Street) began to be developed. Lands west of this, known as the Parliament Fields and belonging to the Earl of Sefton, had demanded high prices and so avoided development as late as 1875.

Park Hill Road was opened up in 1824, and South Hill Road soon afterwards. In the beginning, these were lined with the large villas of wealthy residents, but later these were replaced with rows of smaller terraces. In 1826 Upper Stanhope Street, Upper Hill Street, Chester Street and Windsor Street were purchased from Lord Sefton by the Wesleyans, and laid out Wesley, Fletcher, Clarke and Newton Streets, and a Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1827. Park Street was laid out for houses in 1826, and John Hughes purchased yet more land from Lord Sefton, before laying it out for residential streets. Land between Princes Road and Warwick Street was first built on in 1830, and nearly covered as far as Upper Hill Street within twenty years. From Upper Hill Street to Upper Warwick Street followed between 1864 to 1868.

Population increase and Migration

During the 1840s dense housing communities expanded at an incredible rate. Back-to-back terraces accounted for 65-70% of the total housing in Liverpool in the 1840s. The population never increased by less than 60% in each census between 1801 and 1851: in 1844 Irish migrants arrived in great numbers, fleeing the Potato Famine, and the building of the Greek Church on the corner of Princes Road in 1870 attested to the growing importance of the Greek community in Liverpool.

Toxteth Becomes Part of Liverpool

This massive growth in Toxteth was by no means an unusual trend. Liverpool itself was expanding as a city, and the municipal boundary took in the northern portion of the Park in 1835, along with Kirkdale, Everton and parts of West Derby. In 1895 the remaining portion became part of the city. All in all the landscape of Toxteth’s slums reflected that of any maritime town of this time concerned with commerce.

Former industrial areas were soon also given over to residential areas. Between 1849 and 1865, land south of the Welsh Congregational Church (land bought by Hughes) was converted from quarries to terraces. In 1860, land adjacent to the Liverpool and Harrington Waterworks (built in 1846) was laid out for housing, although land was slow to be built upon here. The roads were appropriately named after rivers.

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19th Century Growth and Expansion

Photograph of Park Lane, Liverpool
Shops and trams on Park Lane, Liverpool, 1898

Toxteth continued to grow rapidly in the middle of the nineteenth century. Princes Road was laid out around 1846, soon after Princes Park, with Croxteth Road at around the same time. Green Heys Road was constructed in 1850, Grove Park commenced as a cul-de-sac in 1852, and Bentley Road appeared in 1862. Snowdon, Danube and Avon Street had appeared a year earlier. Northumberland and Park Street were built up around 1850, and Haslow Street in 1866 (then known as Egerton Street). The area from Park Street to Wellington Road was gradually built upon from 1850-70, close to one of the last windmills to stand in the area. To cope with the expanding population, 30 acres were set aside for Toxteth Cemetery in 1856, later enlarged to 40 acres.

However, not all the areas in Toxteth were crowding as fast as others. By 1875, from the bottom of Wellington Street and west of Grafton Street only ten cottages could be seen, and these the remnants of the Herculaneum Pottery hamlet. The area between South Hill Street and Dingle Lane were not yet built on densely: a scattering of large villas occupied the land, their gardens opening onto South Hill Grove, at the time a “verdant pasture”. The western part of this tract of land was in fact still occupied by the estate of Park Hill House. The house at this time lay on the boundary between Liverpool and Toxteth, between the rural and the commercial. Dingle was known to be “one of the most lovely bits of scenery in the neighbourhood”.

North Street (now Northill Street), High Park Street and South Street were only finally filling in by 1875 after standing empty for a time. Apart from a small number of good houses at the bottom of Upper Parliament Street, the area here was still vacant. In fact, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Toxteth, along with Everton and parts of West Derby, was losing population to other areas of Liverpool.

Parks

The cemetery was not the only open space in this part of the town. From 1864, over the next eight years, Liverpool Corporation created almost 500 acres of parkland for public use. Princes Park, laid out in 1843, was soon encircled by the large villas of the wealthy, first built on the east side. The Dingle was widened for the lake, and a red granite obelisk was erected to Richard Vaughan Yates, who had purchased the land for the park, in 1858. Otterspool was widened for the boating lakes in Sefton Park (created 1865) and Greenbank Park. Today the brook can be seen as it emerges from under Aigburth Road at the gates of Otterspool Park.

Transport

Transport became an issue for many cities in England while the inner city areas were growing with the Industrial Revolution. In 1869 the first horse-drawn tramway took passengers from the Dingle to Liverpool Town Hall. The Liverpool Overhead Railway had its southern terminus at Dingle. There were railway stations at St. James, St. Michael’s and Sefton Park.

A ferry had been proposed as early as 1775, at around the time Bisbrown was planning New Liverpool, and a tavern and landing stage were built. The tavern was known as the Tall House, due to its loftiness and isolation in this undeveloped part of the region. Unfortunately, the scheme was before its time, and was eventually abandoned. The ferry station was used as a ‘Ladies’ School’, later a tavern itself, and was demolished in 1844. In later years a ferry service began between the shore near the Tall House, taking passengers towards New Ferry.

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20th Century Slum Clearance

The rapid expansion of Liverpool took its toll on the urban landscape. In 1955 the Medical Officer of Health estimated that there were 88,000 unfit dwellings in the city (45% of the total housing stock). Ten years later little had been done to tackle the problem, and the number was still 78,000. 33,000 of these houses were in Toxteth, Abercromby and Everton, and a massive programme of slum clearance was initiated. Rows and rows of uniform terraces were demolished, and replaced with high and low rise flats, new houses and maisonettes. Many people moved or were forced away from the area. 42 square miles of Liverpool were affected by the clearances, and 88 action areas were identified across Toxteth, Abercromby, Everton and Kirkdale.

Photo taken from the top of the Anglican Cathedral, showing new housing and Toxteth in the distance
Modern housing aroudn the Anglican Cathedral replacing Victorian slums. Toxteth is in the distance

Other regeneration projects began in the post-War era. Otterspool promenade was opened to the public in July 1950, constructed of 30 million tonnes of landfill and upcast from the Queensway tunnel.

However, unemployment had been increasing in the area due to containerisation of the docks. Tension existed between the black community and the local police force, and following a similar period of civil unrest in Brixton earlier that year, the Toxteth Riots broke out in July 1981.

In the wake of the violence, the Merseyside Development Corporation was formed in 1981 challenged with building the Garden Festival site: “a test of the continental model as a vehicle for the investment in resources targeting inner city development”. A certain amount of optimism gripped those in Liverpool, but many were sceptical of the new developments. 180 new homes were built on the Garden Festival site, but the New Heartlands Project, a scheme set up to administer the urban regeneration, soon became a “euphemism for ripping the heart out of the city”.

Nevertheless, in the quarter century up to 2000 a strategy based on tourism, leisure, housing and tertiary sector employment meant that the landscape along the shore, and indeed inland, was altering in a way never seen in this part of the city since the massive expansion in terraces, parkland and factories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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Further Reading

Cover of the book The Transit of Venus, by Peter Aughton
Transit of Venus: The Brief, Brilliant Life of Jeremiah Horrocks, Father of British Astronomy by Peter Aughton

Many of the best resources for Toxteth history are the usual suspects:

  • Toxteth on Wikipedia – brings together the history with the politics, geography and regeneration of the area. Also includes a list of ‘Notable Residents’.
  • Township of Toxteth Park – part of the Victoria County History of Lancashire (1907) is available in full on the British History website.
  • The History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth – a reprint of a Victorian history from ‘ancient times’ up to about 1905. Enjoyable mostly for the romanticism of its approach to medieval history, and loose standards when declaring bits of old stone as ‘doubtless the remains of King John’s hunting lodge’.
  • The Transit of Venus (left) – a biography of Jeremiah Horrocks’s short life. Horrocks was the first to predict the transit of Venus across the Sun, and although little known, made great progress in the field of astronomy.

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