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Rail remains of Liverpool Riverside Station

Following the curve of Princes Parade, on the north west side of Princes Dock, are a set of rails which are one of the few clues left to the presence of Liverpool Riverside Station.

Today the rails might look odd, as they are constructed like a tramway’s, with heavy stone setts bringing the level of the ground up around the top of the rails. The rails themselves, though you cannot necessarily see it, are heavier than normal tram rails, though they are the same shape, as they are built to carry much heavier loads. The rails were especially built for the network around the docks, owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and all the rails in the circuit are similar.

These are all clues to the unique history of Liverpool Riverside Station, and the unusual measures taken to keep it competitive.

Liverpool Riverside Station

Photograph of Liverpool Riverside station taken in 1914
A transatlantic liner alongside the London & North Western Railway’s Liverpool Riverside station, about 1914. © National Railway Museum and SSPL

Liverpool Riverside Station was a railway station owned by the administrators of the Liverpool dock estate, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB). It was opened on 12th June 1895, and provided a link for liner traffic (cargo, post, passengers) to get onto the intercity rail network without having to first navigate bustling Liverpool itself. The trains to Riverside came across the city using the Waterloo Tunnel from Edge Hill Station.

Before the station existed, anything or anyone disembarking from a liner at Princes Dock would be far from any of the main Liverpool rail terminals – Lime Street, Central and Exchange, for example. Until the late 19th century they were forced to make their own way across town, but with increasing competition for liner traffic with Southampton, a decision was made to remedy the situation, and Riverside was built right next to the landing stage.

In fact, passengers were protected from the elements right from the moment they left the ship, by a glazed roof over the roadway which ran between the station and the river, right up to the large, wide doorways flanked the station as it sat parallel to the waiting ships. Passengers were further treated to an immaculately-kept station with refreshments, booking facilities, and a waiting room all maintained to exacting standards within the two storey building. For more practical purposes, offices of the MDHB and customs facilities were also in that building.

The station did so well to improve the link between liner arrivals and the national rail network that it was chosen to serve arrivals soldiers from the US and the Empire during both world Wars. Nearly 2.5 million passed through its doors.

The landscape of Riverside Station

Map of Liverpool Riverside Station
Liverpool Riverside Station shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1954 (Scale 1:1250). (Click for larger version)

However, things were not perfect for Riverside Station. The route between Waterloo Goods Station and Riverside shared road space with other vehicles and foot traffic. Coupled with the tight curvature of the railway lines, this means that all of the MDHB lines were operated at walking pace. Between Waterloo and Riverside, a man walked in front of the rail vehicle with a red flag, ensuring the safety of other road users, while another man walked ahead of the train operating Annett’s keys to prepare the swing bridge and points. The steep ascent to back to Edge Hill just slowed journey times even more.

This wasn’t made any easier by the small locomotives in use. The ground around the docks was not strong enough to deal with mainline locomotives (this was, after all, reclaimed land), so at first the only engines light enough to service the Waterloo-Riverside route were LNWR Coal Tank locomotives. These small engines moved trains from the river to Edge Hill station, where carriages could be transferred to larger engines for the onward journey. The small tank engines were more able to take the tight curves than the larger main line trains would have been, but the incline to Edge Hill challenged them, and sometimes both the Webb engines were needed to force a single heavy train up the hill.

Plans were already in place by 1949 to strengthen the infrastructure of the area when a ship hit the landing stage and damaged the station. Once the works to repair the station and strengthen the land were complete, mainline locomotives could finally come all the way to Riverside Station. British Railways trains now ran on the MDHB lines.

Riverside Station’s days were numbered, however. The rise of air travel in the 1960s led to a decline in Atlantic liner traffic. Shipping in general was declining by this point too. In addition, the main line to London was electrified in the 1960s, but this did not extend past Edge Hill, and Riverside Station floundered in a technological backwater. The last train to use the station was carrying soldiers bound for Belfast in 1971, and the station building was demolished in 1990. The trackbed was used as a car park for a decade (and some parts still are), until dockland redevelopments brought buildings to the site in the early 21st century.

But some of the rails of the ‘Riverside Railway’ are still there today, and literally point the keen historian towards the site of one of Liverpool’s most important disappeared stations.


Station Name: LIVERPOOL RIVERSIDE, http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/l/liverpool_riverside/, accessed 19th February 2016


Liverpool Riverside station, about 1914, is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) licence, and is available at http://www.nrm.org.uk/ourcollection/photo?group=Euston&objid=1997-7409_LMS_3143.

The Great Floating Landing-Stage at Liverpool Photo: Mersey Dock & Harbour Board, by Andy Dingley (scanner)Scan from Harry Golding , ed. (1931) The Wonder Book of Engineering Wonders (2nd ed.), London: Ward, Lock & Co., and is Public Domain via Wikipedia

Blackburne Place ventilation shaft and the Wapping Tunnel

This red brick and sandstone tower on Blackburne Place is a beautiful ventilation shaft for a railway which once ran beneath it, and could be seen as representing the tunnel and railway in a nutshell.

The tunnel itself, Wapping Tunnel, is partly bored through the local natural sandstone, with brick lining above, mirroring the architecture of the Blackburne Place building. The arches on the ventilation shaft are suggestive of the tunnel entrances which can be seen all along the line of the railway – the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway – particularly around Edge Hill Station and Chatsworth Drive.

The building was originally one of five, with only three others – between Crown Street and Smithdown Lane and on Grenville Street South, remaining. Two were demolished, once having stood on Great George Street and Myrtle Street respectively. The shaft building on Crown Street is of a simpler, brick-only octagonal design, while that near Grenville Street South is square like at Blackburne Place.

When Wapping Tunnel was being constructed, vertical shafts were dug and the excavation of the tunnel was begun at these spots, heading outwards in two directions with the intention of meeting up with the other pilot holes. After some controversy surrounding the original survey calculations the surveyor Charles Vignoles resigned and was replaced with Joseph Locke, who re-did the work.

It has been suggested that the ventilation shafts like that on Blackburne Place sit on the position of those original holes, with the buildings above ground being constructed over those holes first dug in 1826.

Wapping Tunnel

Wapping Tunnel, begun in 1826 and opened in 1830, was an impressive feat of engineering. No other tunnel had been dug under a city before, and the 22 feet by 16 feet dimensions of the tunnel were unlike anything attempted before.

What is more, the tunnel was on a 1:48 incline, meaning that locomotives built in its early years were not powerful enough to pull trains up to Edge Hill from the river front. To get around this problem, carts were pulled up via ropes (and, later, cables) by stationary steam engines located close to the Chatsworth Drive exit of the tunnel.

Within the tunnel itself are signal gongs, which were placed near the end of the tunnel to warn drivers that they were approaching the tunnel entrance. A small number of accidents had happened at tunnel entrances in the past where drivers had become disoriented. These gongs are still in place in brackets on the Wapping Tunnel’s wall.

When opened, the interior walls were whitewashed, and the length of the tunnel was gas-lit. Pedestrians were allowed to walk through the tunnel for several years, even after it became operational, though eventually it was realised just how dangerous this was!

As the southern docks declined in use with the development of ships too large to use them, the Wapping Tunnel railway became unviable, and closed to traffic in 1965.

Image: Martin Greaney


Wapping Tunnel, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wapping_Tunnel, accessed 14th January 2016

Site Name: WAPPING TUNNEL , Subterranea Britannica, http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/wapping_tunnel/index.shtml, accessed 14th January 2016

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

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. Read more

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.

Read more

Bootle: seaside village

Today’s map is taken from a detailed one that I picked up recently, from the Illustrated Globe Encyclopedia printed in 1878.

The point of interest I’m drawing your attention to is Bootle. In 1878, and also visible on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, the village of Bootle sits alone to the north of Liverpool. The docks to the west have stretched this far north, but Bootle’s strong links with the port were still a little way in the future. Read more

Photograph of the Blue Plaque dedicated to Jesse Hartley

Liverpool Heroes 4: Jesse Hartley

Continuing our look at the men and women who have had the greatest impact on the Liverpool landscape, this time we examine the work of Jesse Hartley, dock engineer.

Jesse Hartley (1780-1860) is best known as the architect of the Albert Dock. But this was just one of his achievements as Civil Engineer and Superintendent of the Concerns of the Dock Estate in Liverpool from 1824 to 1860, and his career was one which changed the face of Liverpool. It’s a landscape we can still see today, and his buildings continue to affect how we move through and how we deal with the built environment of the city.

Read more

History of Huyton: Roby, the railway and remodelling

Historically, Huyton and Roby had no clear boundary between them, but the boundary with Whiston was by a brook running through Tarbock to join Ditton Brook. The history of Huyton is closely conencted to that of Roby.

Names: Hitune, Domesday; Houton, 1258; Huton, 1278; Hyton and Huyton, 1292. The last form is the most common spelling from 1300. Rabil, Domesday; Rabi, 1292; Roby, 1332 and after.

The area around Huyton is fairly flat in the south, although the land is more undulating in the north. The Victoria County History called it a ‘pleasant residential area’. This comment was apparently to be borne out by the suburban expansion of the post-war period. Norris Green, Walton and Huyton were all areas of rapid expansion in the 1950s and 60s. In Huyton, however, an earlier phase of building had happened in the 1930s. In the 1960s it was realised that the first phase hadn’t been enough to cope with the growing population.

Historic Features in Huyton

Note on the text: as with many local history topics, my research on the history of Huyton is very dependent on one source. In the case of Huyton, this is the book Huyton & Roby: a history of two ownships by Alan King (see References section for full details). This is a brilliant book full of information – far more than I’ve needed to use here. I highly recommend that publication if you’re interested in the history of Huyton.

Landscape history of Huyton

We know that the whole of south west Lancashire was a mossy and boggy area 2000 years ago. This might be the reason why there is so little evidence for settlement in Britain’s earliest history.

A couple of small finds hint tantalisingly at what might have gone on in the area before Huyton was founded. The only prehistoric find is a Bronze Age arrowhead found in a garden in 1925. A hoard of Roman coins was found in Tarbock in 1838 (Green, F.)). Instead we’d have to look to the Chester-Warrington-Carlisle road for the nearest centre of activity from those times.

The founding of Huyton

‘Huy’ might have meant a landing place – where settlers alighted their boats – probably a spot on the River Alt. Green suggests it’s a name from the British languages spoke by people before the Viking and Norse influx. It’s not that this area was particularly good for defence, but putting your settlement on dry land was an essential first step in populating an area. The higher ground would have been the only real option.

Huyton was to be founded in the middle of the wetlands that previous communities had ignored. Even now, names in the local area remind us of the type of landscape that the first settlers would have encountered. Woolfall Heath and Page Moss are obvious references to damp areas, and Carr Lane takes part of its name from the Norse word kjarr, which means scrub or brushwood. Many places in Britain containing ‘carr’ in their name are in low-lying areas of lakes and mosslands (Green, F.). The first settlement was on raised drier land in the midst of this damp moss.

Frank Green suggests that the beginnings of the villages of Huyton and Roby can be traced back to the 10th century (AD 900 – 925). A Roby Road excavation in 1990 revealed two superimposed buildings and several rubbish pits containing 14th and 15th century pottery (Green, F.).

In contrast to Huyton, Roby is a Norse name. Liverpool history fans will recognise that the ‘by’ ending, like that of West Derby, refers to a settlement. The ‘ro’ element means ‘border’, so we know that the people who lived there thought of themselves as sitting on the edge of one land, looking across to another. This ‘other’ place might be as simple as the neighbouring parish of Childwall.

Raby on the Wirral has a similar name origin, though in their case it might be that this town was on the border between Norse settlements and British ones to the south. Comparing the place names is helpful in suggesting Huyton is the older settlement, because the Norse arrived in a land already populted by the British. Alison Cassidy suggests it could be as old as the 5th century (cited by Green, F.).

Huyton was worth 10 shillings at Domesday, an amount of money which suggests it was a relatively wealthy (or perhaps agriculturally productive) area compared to those nearby. West Derby was the only more valuable township in the region. Green suggests it shows Huyton was a thriving town even then.

Early history of Huyton

The two manors of Huyton and Roby were owned by different thegns before the Conquest. Dot held Huyton and Tarbock while Uctred held Knowsley and Roby (plus other places in the west, such as West Derby). As the parish Huyton now contains all four of these areas things must have changed hands later on (King, 1984: 9). An interesting difference between Huyton at Domesday and West Derby is the lack of woodland recorded at the former. This almost certainly suggests it was a less wooded area than West Derby and other parts of Lancashire. There were probably still copses and stands of trees dotted around the landscape.

Being an important centre from the medieval period, Huyton has seen a long continuous history since the 14th century. A fair was granted to Huyton in 1304, in an attempt to draw trade to the town and turn it into a regional centre. Robert de Lathom, part of the notable Huyton family, and who had been the man responsible for setting up the market, was probably trying to raise extra money, in the form of fees from stallholders.

It may even have been the case that the market was already in existence (Roby would have had to have been producing surplus produce to make it viable), with Robert trying to turn it into a revenue stream. Although it started well, the market went into decline, Green says because of population decline after the Plague (plus competition with Prescot, Warrington and Liverpool). It may have limped on for a while, being mentioned in legal documents (King, 1984: 16), but eventually stopped.

In 1372 Roby applied to become a borough, with all the benefits familiar to people studying Liverpool’s early history. However, this attempt came to nothing, and none of the burgage plots that would have been created can be seen in the landscape today (King, 1984: 19).

The crossroads at Roby are the oldest part of the built landscape, with Station Road (originally known as Twig Lane), Roby Road and Carr Lane leading away from it. There are also the remains of a village cross (possibly an old boundary stone (Green)), but little else surviving from this early period. The cross was erected in the village green in 1819 or 1820. The idea was allegedly to fill up the space used for cock-fighting and bull-baiting!

Huyton Hey, a farmhouse by 1907, and the adjacent site of a moated farmhouse, are two more of the oldest features.

Huyton church and parish

It’s likely that Huyton had a church before the Conquest (King, 1984: 9). We can say this because Knowsley, the main manor in the area, didn’t have a church. This is an odd situation, so there must already have been a church in the area. Huyton is the most likely place.

In the centuries after the Conquest, Huyton became the parish which covered the whole area. Robert de Lathom founded Burscough Priory and gave it Huyton Church as a money-earning endowment in around 1189-1191. This was more ceremonial than a truly profitable addition to their estate. The first canons for Burscough Priory probably came from Norton Priory (Runcorn), which was another Augustinian establishment, and the de Lathom grant of Huyton church is the first documentary evidence for a church in Huyton.

The parish of Huyton became part of Lancashire. This lent stability to the area, though its nearness to the royal hunting forest of Toxteth, Croxteth and Simonswood limited development and farming. Richard’s son Robert gave land in Roby to Burscough Priory, and Richard’s half-brother, Richard de Knowsley, gave the priory his mill pool at Woolfall (as well as the right to collect pig food – chestnuts, beech nuts and acorns – from trees in ‘the wood of Huyton’). The mill pool was only one of at least three other water features in the area, attesting to the watery nature of the landscape. The donors of these gifts would have expected returns in the form of benefits to their sould after death. King (1984: 13) notes that the priory’s grange (farm) was probably somewhere just west of Huyton church.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries had a knock-on effect for Huyton, as the sudden closing of Burscough Priory removed a source of building upkeep. A refusal to keep a church in repair brought fines, and this threat led to work being carried out in the years up to 1555.

Huyton and the Royal Hunting Forest

The royal hunting forest of south west Lancashire stretched from Toxteth, eastwards well towards Knowsley. Although both Huyton and Roby fell outside the forest itself, they were in the ‘purlieu’, which meant they were on the edges and subject to some of the special laws of the forest. It should be remembered that, despite the ‘forest’ name, a royal hunting forest needn’t be wooded in all places.

For example, it was illegal to block deer moving into or out of the forest, even if you just wanted to stop them eating your crops by building a fence! If you wanted to hunt smaller animals like rabbits and birds, you had to be given special permission.

Despite these rules, the forest court moved around the country (and so wasn’t frequent). King (1984: 14) notes that defendants might die before their hearing came around! So despite the importance of forest law to the king, enforcement was another matter, and forest law was already losing its force by the end of the 14th century.

Agricultural and Industrial Huyton

Medieval fields in Huyton

King has identified locations in Huyton’s medieval layout. The townfield (where most of the good land was divided between farmers) was where we now see Archway and Rupert Roads. It stretched from here across to the outside edge of Huyton with Roby Primary School. It extended as far as White Lodge Avenue and Salerno Drive around to Bluebell Lane. This is seen on the map of 1850 (see figure).

1850 map showing the area covered by the Huyton townfield
1850 map (1:2500) showing the area covered by the Huyton townfield

The townfield of Roby sat on the north side of the later railway between Grinton Lodge and Grinton Crescent. King acknowledges that this can’t have been its original shape.

Early industry in Huyton

Huyton quarry was notable a hundred years ago for the presence of coal shafts and ventilators. The Huyton Quarry mine was the closest of the south Lancashire coal mines to Liverpool. The coal measures worked by these mines were to the south east of the old village, and the area is still known as Huyton Quarry. In around 1830 wire drawing (for watchmaking) was present in Huyton. There was a brewery, as in many villages in the area.

Most of the industry in the region was expanding from the east. Liverpool itself was encroaching from the west (King, 1984: 39). The tithe map gives us some clues to the first phases of industrialisation. It records a marble works, a colliery tram road, Coal Pit Hey (a field with a clear industrial element) and Oil Mill Cottages.

On a slightly different note, there’s a Cookstool Pit Hey (on the 1848 maps labelled Cock Stool Pit), now probably lost under the railway. Aside from quarrying and coal mining, we see pottery (coarse earthenware), an ironworks, a blue works, electric lamp works and a chairmaking factory (History – Huyton). An important aspect of the Industrial Revolution was migration, and in the 19th century Welsh miners moved here to man the Cronton colliery, one part of the Lancashire coalfield (Wikipedia).

Huyton fields

Having been mostly pastoral (grazing) farmland for centuries (Huyton – History), Huyton farming became more mixed in the 250 years up to 1850 (King, 1984: 31). Enclosure, which changed so much of Britain’s landscape, came early to the township. Almost all of Roby was enclosed by the end of the 16th century. The townfield (see above) survived in some shape until Huyton was fully built up.

Apart from the townfield, fields were very small, bounded by hedges, and collected into small farms. It was only in the final 50 year s of this period that a lot of these small farms came together to form larger ones.

King has looked at field names, and concludes that cattle (for milk and cheese) and pigs were the most common animals. Oats, barley and beans feature in field names too. Aside from crops and livestock, field names tell of clay, sand, moss, carr and green. Carr itself, as well as ‘slack’, another field name in the area, are words derived from Old Norse terms. There is Pincroft Croft on Lawton Road, marking the former place of an enclosure for stray animals (King, 1984: 32).

Coaches, turnpikes and trains

Roads and turnpikes

In the last 250 years transport has done as much as anything else to shape Huyton. For centuries one of the main routes into Liverpool went through the Huyton township (skirting Huyton and Roby villages to the north). What started out as a packhorse trail evolved into a major coaching route from Prescot. It was an important dry route through this marshy region. Coal from Prescot was an important part of the road’s use. This was part of the reason why it became a turnpike under an Act of April 26, 1726 (Timetoast). Charging tolls for its use paid for its upkeep. Later, in 1771, another Act turned Bluebell Lane into a turnpike (ibid).

Huyton in 1850 (1:10,560)
Huyton in 1850 (1:10,560): Largely rural, but with the railway running through the township

Along with the main turnpike route, there were branches and barriers to prevent people getting around the tolls. One of the branches came through Roby village. The ‘Prescot Gate’ was near Whiteside’s or Lurdy’s Lane (near the former location of the Eagle and Child pub). King assumes that Lurdy’s Lane is Lordon Lane. Another toll gate was the Roby Gate at Widow Price’s barn, Roby Town End. This is close to the present Tollbar Cottage (which isn’t the original toll house, either having been rebuilt or extended since that time to a second storey). The Stop Gate was on Diana’s (later Dinas) Lane where it leaves Twig Lane, which stopped people getting around the Prescot Gate. The turnpike system lasted until the rise of the railways in the 1830s.

The railway in Huyton

The London and North West Railway ran through the centre of Huyton, and just to the east of the village a branch led to Prescot and St. Helens. On one of the key dates in rail history – the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway – the Duke of Wellington (the Prime Minister no less!) alighted at Roby station. Roby was one of three stations in the township, the other two being Huyton Gate (now known simply as Huyton) and Huyton Quarry (now closed).

Huyton in 1890 (1:2500)
Huyton in 1890 (1:2500): the area around the station is building up its popularity amongst the commuting class

The opening of the railway, in many parts of the region, encouraged the wealthy to move further from their place of work. This took them away from the perceived dirt and grime of the city centres, and Huyton was one of the places they escaped to. When they moved in, they built big villas which survive in places to this day.

The railway embankment which runs from Broad Green to Roby was probably built from the material excavated by the digging of the cutting closer to Liverpool (King, 1984: 44). When the railway first opened, it met the road at a level crossing, but the growing traffic soon made this an inconvenience. Archway Road at Huyton and Bridge Road at Roby are the result of raising the rails onto the embankment. The tunnels are closer than they need to be, because each one connected two portions of land by their respective owners (King, 1984: 44).

Residents of Huyton and Roby

Huyton had changed only slowly up to the 19th century, but after the railway arrived it started to develop much faster. Naturally, the houses of this time gravitate around the station. King points out that this is a move away from the old centre of Huyton, which was St Michael’s Church (King, 1984: 49). The rise in population mean that Roby became a parish in 1853.

Villas of the industrialists

The Orchard saw the building of the biggest houses – large villas in their own grounds. Huyton Hall was the first to be built, along with Greenhill in the late 1850s. In contrast to the likes of Roby Hall, which was built by John Williamson, the mayor of Liverpool in 1761, these houses were occupied by merchants and industrialists – hop merchants, sugar magnates and owners of copper and paint works (ibid). As Huyton was away from the main built up area of Liverpool, quite a number of large houses had the space to grow up. The Hazels (or Red Hazels) and Hurst House were in the north east corner of the township; Wolfall Hall was on the north boundary, Dam House on the Roby border, and Huyton Hey just south of the station (Farrer & Brownbill, 1907).

King also identified Huyton Park as an area of development (1984: 50). He found that the population of these houses was particularly diverse for the time, with industrialists originally from places like Suffolk and Cumberland.

The first reference to a school in Huyton was in 1527, and a new school opened in the area in 1555. The new school was for the benefit of the children of this rural community, and paid for by local benefactors. Liverpool College for Girls opened in 1894, with the borders living in some of the outlying villas that Huyton’s rich early commuters had built for themselves in the 1850s. They were concentrated in ‘The Orchard’ and St Mary’s Road (History – Huyton).

Development of large villas came to a stop by 1891. Better road conditions were making rail travel (Huyton’s main attraction) less crucial. Liverpool suburbs like Allerton, Mossley Hill and Woolton were becoming popular with those wanting to escape the city centre. At the same time Huyton itself was becoming more industrialised (see above) and land was running out – farmers were less willing to sell the good agricultural land and a lot of other land was marshy (King, 1984: 52).

In 1901 Roby Hall Estate was given to the city of Liverpool as Bowring Park. The gift gave 100 acres of parkland to the citizens, as well as the mansion and some cottages. The Liverpool Mercury noted the beautiful flower displays in the park, and how old Roby Hall had been divided into houses for gardners (Liverpool Mercury, 1907).

Pre-war housing

Huyton completely changed its character as the 20th century progressed. The first new housing estate of this time, Huyton Farm Estate, began life when Liverpool Council bought land from Lord Derby in 1932 (King, 1984: 56). The Council then built three housing estates in the north west of the township. Fincham House Estate (1933) was influenced by garden cities, and the optimism of moving people out of the cities. Longview Estate was started by 1936 and Woolfall Heath Estate was begun in 1937, though the Second World War meant that this was never completed. Today you can see a change in the housing type on, for example, Beechburn Crescent, where 1930s houses give way to 1970s residences. The roads around here should have carried on to the north of Western Avenue, but the houses there were only recently started .

OS map of Huyton, 1927 (1:2500)
Huyton, 1927 (1:2500): the area south of the railway is very built up, and there are new rows of houses just outside the village

Longview and Woolfall Heath estates were also built at this time, along with a handful of other developments at the same time: St John’s Estate, Boundary House Farm Estate, Thingwall Farm Estate, Page Moss Estate, Sunnyside Estate, Bowring Park Estate and Belfield Estate. Diana’s Lane and Twig Lane were both constructed in 1936, and the west end of Diana’s Lane was straightened. Tarbock Road was widened in 1937-8.

These speedy developments (1236 houses in 1931, 8619 in 1938), as in many cases around Merseyside, didn’t go precisely to plan. Facilities were limited for the number of new arrivals. A plan for an ‘Outer Circle Road’ to use the route of Princess Drive and Kingsway was not put into effect before the War broke out in 1939.

To offset the lack of facilities, Jubilee Park was laid out as a modern recreation ground starting in 1937. Cricket and football pavilions, a bowling green, shop, cafe, stores, kitchen and toilets, mini golf, grass and hard tennis courts (five of each), bandstand, greenhouse, potting shed and lodge for a superintendent rounded out a well thought through park (King, 1984: 61). King George’s Playing Fields also had a good assortment of facilities, with space for football, hockey, tennis, bowls, playground, a pavilion, showers, dressing rooms and a caretaker’s flat (ibid).

Huyton houses in the Second World War

When the Second World War began, Huyton was thought to be far enough away from Liverpool to be safe from air raids. Because of this, no children were evacuated from the area (though air raid shelters were built) (Wikipedia). Despite this confidence, houses in Huyton were indeed damaged during the Blitz. It has often been alleged that the bombers were forbidden to come home with unused ammunition (and a lighter aircraft is more likely to make it home safely). Either way, scatters of explosives did fall in the area, damaging houses around Page Moss, Jeffrey’s Crescent, Coronation Drive and Reva Road in Swanside (History – Huyton).

OS map of Huyton, 1955-6 (1:2500)
Huyton, 1955-6 (1:2500): Suburban housing has greatly expanded to the west, and this map shows the military camp used by American forces in the Second World War

An internment camp was built in the residential streets of Huyton. With all the new house-building, there were streets with enough empty houses to do this. These streets (in the Page Moss area, and on the King George V playing fields (History – Huyton)) were surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The camps played host to ‘enemy aliens’ (Germans and Austrians living in Britain) brought from across the country, as well as prisoners of war.

The variety of professions of these ‘aliens’ created a diverse population, and the men managed to entertain each other with talks and other events (King, 1984: 69). There were also houses used to base American servicemen. The intention had been to move the German internees to the Isle of Man, but after the sinking of the Arandora Star transport deportations were put on hold because of safety concerns in the Irish Sea (Wikipedia).

Post-war history of Huyton and the precinct

When peace came, the demand for houses across Britain became even greater, and Huyton responded to the demand. The estates built in the decade after 1945 included housing near the Hag plantation, Brookhouse Estate, Bloomfield estate, and St John’s Estate, all complete by mid-1950s. Mosscroft Farm Estate was begun in 1957 (King, 1984: 64).

As well as housing, the centre of Huyton village was developing as the population increased. New central buildings included the Huyton Suite (now known as the Venue) in 1975 and the central library in 1978 (History – Huyton). The completion of the west end of the M62 in 1976 meant houses in Roby were demolished, but the overall effect was to create a quieter Roby (King, 1984: 65).

Huyton had long positioned itself as independent from Liverpool, a city which otherwise would naturally have absorbed it. It’s partly for this reason that Huyton became part of Knowsley Borough Council in 1974 (when Merseyside was created next door).

Huyton was keen to become a centre in itself, out of the shadow of Liverpool. The plans to create a new town centre grew out of this ambition, and led to the demolition of almost the entire village in the years up to 1975. (Conservation Areas across Knowsley, including Huyton, have since been designated in the area to preserve what wasn’t lost in the 1970s).

OS map of Huyton, 1977-7 (1:1250)
Huyton, 1977-7 (1:1250): A detailed look at the complete remodelling of Huyton in the middle of the 20th century. A lot was still to be built by this time.

The precinct was built around Derby Road and concentrated dozens of new shops, offices and flats, creating a centre of gravity for the surrounding area. The precinct also included new council offices, police, fire and ambulance, and was pedestrianised. Sherborne Square was created on the site of the former council offices, and Archway Road/Huyton Lane was widened and straightened (King, 1984: 55-68).


Huyton and Roby have enjoyed a long history. Their names reveal that they were founded long before William the Conqueror came to these shores. Ambitions to make them important boroughs with markets didn’t work out, but the independent spirit of the area has preserved its independence from Liverpool right into the 21st century.

OS map of Huyton, 1990-1, (1:10,000)
Huyton, 1990-1, (1:10,000): the township remains independent of Liverpool, but the urban landscape stretches seamlessly from the Mersey to here in Knowsley

The history of Huyton has depended on its location on the route between Liverpool and the wider hinterland. At first this was road-based, but technology moved on. The rail and later the motorway are just the most recent stages in this pattern.

Huyton is a modern town, but still has many clues to its older form. It has the large villas now used by educational institutes and the small cottages on Blue Bell Lane. If Huyton can maintain the balance between heritage and innovation, then it will have gained most from its long history.


Farrer, W., & Brownbill, J., 1907, The Victoria History of the County of Lancaster, vol III

Green, F., Medieval Roby – From the 10th to the 14th Century, http://www.roydenhistory.co.uk/mrlhp/students/medievalroby/medievalroby.htm, accessed 29th April 2019

History – Huyton, http://archives.knowsley.gov.uk/huyton/history-of-huyton/, accessed 28th April 2019

King, A., 1984, Huyton & Roby: a history of two ownships, Department of Leisure Services, Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley Libraries Division

Time Toast, https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-huyton, accessed 27th April 2019

Bowring Estate the gift of Alderman W. B. BOWRING to the city. June 1907, http://www.old-merseytimes.co.uk/bowringpark.html, accessed 30th April 2019 (from Liverpool Mercury, June 15th, 1907)

Wikipedia, Huyton, accessed 27th April 2019

Image: Hurst House, Huyton Lane cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Sue Adairgeograph.org.uk/p/131351

Extract from the 1890 Ordnance Survey Map of Edge Hill, Liverpool

Edge Hill – the First Ever Passenger Station

Edge Hill has had two stations. The earlier of these was the first passenger station in the world, along with Liverpool Street in Manchester.

The first of the two stations opened in 1830, and sat in a sandstone cutting with three tunnels at one end. The passenger terminal at Crown Street lay at the end of one of these tunnels, but was rarely used. At the other end of the station sat a stationary steam engine. This powered the system which brought trains up the hill from Wapping Dock station.

Edge Hill’s new station

The new Edge Hill station opened in 1836, further north-east than the original. A tunnel ran from here to the new Lime Street Station, which was built as a more central passenger terminus for Liverpool than the Crown Street one.

All that’s left on the ‘surface’ are the fascinating ruins of the Wapping cutting, and a small stretch of track which still sticks out into the green space between Overbury Street and Smithdown Lane. Below ground the new tunnel still takes passengers from the new Edge Hill Station to Lime Street. The tunnel and cutting now blaze an impressive streak across the inner city.