Anglesey and North Wales are very close to Liverpool hearts. Countless Welsh builders helped create some of our inner suburbs in distinctive yellow brick, and the red bricks of the University are Welsh too. More recently, there can’t be many Scousers who haven’t had a day trip or two to Llandudno, Conwy or Beaumaris.
On the weekend of 13th to 15th May 2016 I joined a Neolithic Studies Group tour to Anglesey, or Ynys Môn, to have a look at much older remains of Wales’s inhabitants, and inevitably ponder on how old the links to Merseyside could be. You’re probably two steps ahead of me already, but I’ll catch up with you in good time. Read more
There’s nothing like a gathering of like minds to get the keyboard fingers itching to put down a few words! And this past Saturday (2nd April, 2016), the Spirits of Place symposium held at the Calderstones Mansion was just one of those gatherings.
Robin Hood’s Stone (or the Robin Hood Stone) is a Neolithic or Bronze Age standing stone currently to be found within a set of railings on the corner of Booker Avenue and Archerfield Road. It originally stood to the north east in the middle of a field known as Stone Hey, but was moved when the nearby houses were built in 1928.
Robin Hood’s Stone is a roughly rectangular stone around two metres high, just under a metre wide and half a metre thick. Deep grooves run down one of the larger faces, and these stop at what would have been the original ground level. Everything beyond the end of the grooves was buried when Robin Hood’s Stone was in Stone Hey.
After it was placed inside the railings, a bronze plaque was attached with some information about its origins:
“This Monolith known as Robin Hood’s Stone, stood in a field named the Stone Hey at a spot 280 feet bearing North from its present position, to which it was moved in August 1928. The arrow below indicates the direction of the original site. This side of the stone formerly faced South”.
Engraved at the base of the stone, as has been mentioned, are a collection of cup and ring marks. Marks like these, made of concentric carved rings with circular ‘cups’ at their centre, can be found across the west and north of Britain and in Ireland too.
Robin Hood’s Stone originally stood to the north east of its current site, in a field known appropriately as Stone Hey. ‘Hey’ is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, and suggests an enclosure, possibly for animals. It’s been suggested that a farmer brought the stone to this field to let the grazing animals scratch themselves on it.
Although Robin Hood’s Stone may originally have been part of the Calderstones, we know that it has stood alone in this part of Liverpool since at least 1771, when Eye’s map of Liverpool shows the Stone Hey field name. So it’s sensible to suggest that, although the Stone itself is not marked on that map, it was in this field at that time.
A boundary dispute of 1568, which uses a number of ancient monuments as boundary markers, mentions that a stone was removed from the mound of the Calderstones in around 1550. This may or may not have been Robin Hood’s Stone, but the cup and ring markings near the base of the pillar date the stone to a similar era to the Calderstones.
So the movement of Robin Hood’s Stone could have taken it from the Calderstones mound itself, to Stone Hey (now the location of 11 Greenwood Road), and finally 280 feet south east to its present location on Booker Avenue in 1928.
The very name of the stone is a reference, of course, to the famed archer of Sherwood Forest, and this comes from the long grooves in the rock. Legend has it that these grooves were made by medieval archers sharpening their arrow heads on the stone in the course of practising their aim. There’s no direct evidence for this, and the Robin Hood name is merely an extra layer in the mythology.
Another more gruesome legend suggests that the grooves are there as drains for the blood of the Druids’ human sacrifices! Needless to say this is a typical over-excited Victorian story, and quite far from the truth.
The mysterious carvings on the base of the monument, buried for so long in the ground at Stone Hey, have been seen by Alfred Watkins, inventor of ley lines, as a map of local leys. Considering Watkins ideas about the power of leys, it’s not entirely clear why you’d need a map of them…
Excavation and protection
Prior to its relocation to Booker Avenue, the Stone was excavated on October 29th 1910, which was when the carvings were rediscovered. These have since been compared to the carvings on the Calderstones, dating Robin Hood’s Stone to a similar date, the Neolithic.
In 1924 the Stone became a Scheduled Ancient Monument, but due to the threat posed by the new housing, it was relocated to its present site in August 1928 by the Liverpool Corporation and the Mersey Building Company. It was protected with the iron railings, and has stood in this state ever since.
Allerton is a green and pleasant land of parks, mansions and ‘neatly-kept hedges’. Early maps show that it remained entirely rural until the middle of the 19th Century. The history of Allerton stretches all the way from Liverpool’s oldest prehistoric remains to Victorian merchant palaces. Read more
Although the Ordnance Survey maps chart the most significant changed in Liverpool’s history, older maps often are unique. They show details or aspects which no other map does, and can often show what was important to the map-maker. You can’t beat old maps for laying bare the great changes of a city like Liverpool.
Modern maps are often much more ‘objective’ in comparison. But old maps are still of use to the local historian, at the same time as being beautiful objects.
If you know of any others I’ve missed out, or other places where these maps are available, let us know in the comments!
Early Liverpool Maps
Liverpool developed from seven streets, laid out at its founding in 1215. Soon there was a castle, a chapel and the Tower, a fortified house built by the Stanley family in 1404. Maps of this period (1205-1700) do exist, most of them drawn later. Here are a few of the easiest plans of Liverpool to get hold of.
William Ashton included a simple sketch of 17th century Liverpool in his book ‘Evolution of a Coastline’ in 1920 (above).
Ashton also drew a top-down plan of Liverpool:
The book itself has recently been reprinted, so if you want a higher resolution copy you can pick up ‘Evolution of a Coastline‘ at Amazon.
Genmaps is a map site hosted by Rootsweb (part of Ancestry.com), and has a page on Lancashire maps. There’s a huge range, so I’ve collected the Liverpool entries in the following table. If you’re reading this in the dim and distant future, I recommend going to the original page, hitting Ctrl+F on your keyboard and searching for ‘liverpool’ to catch newer uploads.
G.Bartholomew (detail from The Towns of England in The Times Atlas)
Some of them are high resolution, and some not. Others have links to higher resolution versions of extracts below them.
Lancashire County Council
Lancashire County Council has the best collection of old maps for any student of Liverpool history. It runs from a reproduction of Gough’s 1320 map, through all the major map makers: Speed, Yates, Greenwood, Hennet.
Greenwood’s map of Lancashire from 1818, is undoubtedly the best! Click on the exact point you’re interested in, as this map has been cut up into sections when added to the site.
Old Maps of Liverpool
It will take a fuller article to go into all details hidden in maps like these. For us today they provide an immediate visual visit on the past, easy to interpret. For this reason one of my favourites has to be this 1833 Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge map (if only for the name!). It shows quite a lot of detail, including Bootle Castle at the end of Regent Street, an unfamiliarly station-free Lime Street, and is detailed right out to Kensington (the edge of the city back then). Click on the map to zoom in.
Oldest of the old maps
Finally, I want to mention a map I only saw for the first time recently. It is included in the modern edition of The Calderstones by Ron Cowell. The map was made in 1568 to help solve a boundary dispute between Allerton and Wavertree. Not only does it show the Calderstones, but it also shows the mysterious Rodgerstone and the Pikeloo Hill. The Rodgerstone might have been a single standing stone, while the Pikeloo Hill could be a burial mound. The Pikeloo Hill could even have been as large as Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in Wiltshire.
Not only does this seem to be the oldest map of the Liverpool area. It’s also a tantalising glimpse of a prehistoric complex now long lost. The map isn’t online, so if anyone has a high resolution scan, do get in touch.
Well, that rounds off this brief excursion into Liverpool maps. There are certainly some I’ve missed, so please share your own sources in the comments!
Image: Extract from the Greenwood map of Lancashire, 1818, available in full on the Lancashire County Council Old Maps of Lancashire website.