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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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)