Tag West Derby

Ridge and Furrow, Medieval farming remains in West Derby

Ridge and Furrow formations are possibly one of the best-known archaeological features which survive into the modern day. You can see these long, sinuous raises beds of earth across Britain. They survive particularly well in Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Derbyshire, as well as in other counties.

The remains of this farming technique are visible in two fields in West Derby, both on Eaton Road. The Walker Playing Fields near Kiln Hey are one location, while the Bill Shankly Playing fields on the corner with Barnfield Drive is the other.

They are best viewed in low sunlight, or after a light snowfall. Occasionally a lone golfer tees off from their slopes of a late summer evening!

Ridge and furrow in Liverpool

Ridge and furrow is a form of ploughing that first appears in Britain shortly after the Romans left, and lasted well into the 17th century.

In those times, groups of animals (oxen or, later, horses) pulled a single-sided plough which turned the soil over to one side. This side never altered, which is why the ridge of soil was able to build up.

"Medieval Ridge and Furrow above Wood Stanway - geograph.org.uk - 640050" by Philip Halling. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Medieval_Ridge_and_Furrow_above_Wood_Stanway_-_geograph.org.uk_-_640050.jpg#/media/File:Medieval_Ridge_and_Furrow_above_Wood_Stanway_-_geograph.org.uk_-_640050.jpg Low sunlight shows off this great examples of well-preserved ridge and furrow above Wood Stanway, Gloucestershire

At the same time, the furrows were useful drainage channels. Crops like wheat were kept high and dry where they would otherwise have drowned. Rainwater would then have flowed down the furrows to a ditch at the bottom of the slope; ridge and furrow always ran up and down slope rather than across.

The ridges were an elongated reverse-S shape – largely straight with slight curves where the plough and animals turned. This helped the team to line up with the next furrow.

Each of the ridges which grew up became known as a land. Lands were a measure of area and value, such as when calculating the work a ploughman had done.

Survival of ridge and furrow

Ridge and furrow lines could be built up to 6 feet in height in some places, and so they take a lot of punishment before they’re wiped from the landscape. Modern ploughing will quickly reduce the ridges to nothing. Where no ploughing has taken place since their formation, ridges can survive up to 2 or 3 feet (almost 1 metre).

The two fields we’re looking at here have remains around a foot tall in some cases. However, the ridge and furrow lies at the edges, as the fields are used for football. The sports fields themselves have been levelled.

What this tells us about West Derby

The moderate survival of this ridge and furrow in West Derby can be taken to mean many things.

Either this land went totally out of use once the open field system was no longer in operation. Or perhaps cattle or sheep were grazed here instead. Ridge and furrow survive fairly well when grazed instead of used for crops.

It’s also a fact that parts of south Lancashire were fairly waterlogged in their natural state. The land may simply have been unsuitable for crop growing.

Perhaps the local population fell to the extent that the number of fields needed for crops went down.

Main image: Ridge and furrow remains on the Walker Playing Fields, Eaton Road, West Derby.

Ridge and furrow photograph: Medieval Ridge and Furrow above Wood Stanway – geograph.org.uk – 640050” by Philip Halling. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Yeoman’s House, West Derby Village

The ‘Yeoman’s House’ (as it is known locally) dates from the 1580s, so is a cherished historical feature in the village of West Derby. Others include the similarly-aged courthouse across the road.

The stocks to one side, and the beautiful red brick cottages around the entrance to Croxteth Park add to the historic landscape. That’s not to mention the other monuments dotted around the area too, and the great history of West Derby in general.

Yeoman’s House photo gallery

The building was put up for sale in 2017, so new photos were taken by estate agents. The photos below are all from the estate agents who put the property on the market:

 

Further Reading

Liverpool’s 400-year-old courthouse where you could be put in the stocks for not having a pig-ring – Liverpool Echo (accessed 18th Nov 2017)

Parkside Drive – a West Derby bypass?

Plans were once put together to make West Derby a more peaceful village. Only a few clues now remain to those plans.

Martin’s Note: I’m indebted to the West Derby Society again for revealing this feature to me, in a post on their Facebook page back in December 2015.

Having been a political centre for many centuries, the history of West Derby is as a cross-roads for many journeys, and has had the shops, pubs, churches and schools which attract people on a regular basis.

West Derby Village was even once a tram terminus, and remains a busy thoroughfare to this day. And so it seems that, during Liverpool’s progressive and expansive decades – the 1920s and 1930s – the suggestion was made for a ‘by-pass’ (though not the type of multi-lane, multi-mile bypass we envisage these days!) to skirt around the village. It was hoped that this would make it a quieter, less congested place.

Screenshot from Facebook West Derby Society Group

The original West Derby Society post which inspired this article

As the West Derby Society post shows, a map was drawn up by the city engineers in 1936, showing the proposed route. The road, marked on this map in red, would have taken Blackmoor Drive right through to Town Row (it currently stops short of Aysgarth Avenue).

From there the road would have created a fork in front of St. Paul’s Church, with Town Row heading one way and the new road heading more directly north. The plan shows the road joining up with South Parkside Drive, and running all the way through to Melwood Drive. It then joins Parkside Drive again on the north side of Croxteth Park before hitting Muirhead Avenue.

Apparently it was the Second World War which put the plans on hold, and they were never completed. Also, the Earl of Sefton was none too pleased about the prospect of having a road going through his park!

Map showing West Derby with proposed road scheme

The map showing the proposed route (in red) where the never-completed road would have run.
Map courtesy of West Derby Society

The landscape clues and remains

What immediately strikes you as you look at the map is the name Parkside Drive. We still have South Parkside Drive and Parkside Drive, so it’s no doubt that the road in its entirety would have been known as Parkside Drive. One of the most satisfying elements of this is that not only does it explain the two disconnected stretches of Parksides, but it also shows that an actual park-side road would have been in existence, earning the name more truly than the current pair, perhaps!

Looking at the near-contemporary Ordnance Survey map of 1937 raises a few interesting points too. Blackmoor Drive is in place by this date, stopping at the point that it does today. There is also a gap between the houses on Aysgarth Avenue which is wider at the spot where the by-pass would have been. Also, an area of Apsley Road is left without buildings. Were these merely accidents of development related to plot ownership, or where they deliberately kept undeveloped in case the road scheme went ahead?

Looking further north, at South Parkside Drive itself, it’s certain that the roads and houses were built with the full Parkside Drive in mind. South Parkside Drive extends up to the boundary of Croxteth Park, even where this prevented the building of two or three more houses. It’s this short stretch, and the Croxteth Park boundary wall, which are shown in the photograph at the top of this page.

So even today, with the bypass plans faded from living memory, there are still clues in the landscape – the street names and the oddly short ‘extra’ length of South Parkside Drive, which show what might have been.

Springfield Park, Prescot Road entrance

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

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

Springfield Park and Springfield House

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

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

The old maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The historic villages of Liverpool – built to a template?

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

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The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire

Happy New Year all! This year I’ll be concentrating on more maps of Liverpool and the surrounding area, with only a smattering of news when it suits. First up: a lovely little book from 1902, detailing one man’s niche interest…

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Alder Hey and the Remains of War

Those of you trying to drive past Sainsbury’s on East Prescot Road in West Derby may have found themselves diverted around a police bomb squad. A suspected hand grenade was discovered in Springfield Park as work began on the new Alder Hey hospital.

There are conflicting reports as to whether this was a modern grenade or one from the First World War. Hopefully someone will clear this up at some point, but it gives me a good excuse to look at a brief period in Alder Hey’s history: when the grounds of the hospital and park were used as an American army camp. Read more

Mr. John Dewsnap and the teaching of history

This morning, the funeral of Mr. John Dewsnap took place. He was my teacher in year 6 of primary school at Blackmoor Park in West Derby (c.1992-3), and was an inspiration. It might not be too far fetched to say that, if not for him, you might not be reading these words on this website, because he was one of the biggest influences on my love of history. Read more

Five fossils of Liverpool’s founding year

On August 23rd Liverpool celebrated 804 years as a town! OK, so it’s no ‘2007’, but it’s a good time to have a look back the best part of a millennium. There are quite a few things which were laid down in 1207, the evidence of which is still visible today.
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Churches, and Rural Landscapes in Urban Liverpool

This article was inspired by Celia Heritage’s recent article on parish churches. Her love of churches, in terms of history, began through researching family history and looking for ancestors’ gravestones.

What to look out for in a parish church

What to Look Out For in a Parish Church is the first article on the revamped Celia’s Blog. The article is a really interesting run-through of the oft-missed aspects of church architecture and archaeology and those features which any observant onlooker can spot.
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7 ways in which Liverpool *is* the Museum of Liverpool

The new Museum of Liverpool opens this week, to great fanfare and after what seems like a long wait.

‘Museum of Liverpool’ is a very fitting name too, because this is a museum about the city, and about the people. It’s the largest national museum dedicated to a city in over a century, and opens in a year when the M Shed in Bristol, the Cardiff Story, and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum Project bring similar attractions to those places.

But just as the Museum of Liverpool will capture the city in a nutshell, the city beyond is a museum in itself. For starters, it contains objects that have survived from the past into a new use in the present, but unlike the museum, they’re not on here for display’s sake.

But, in a sense, Liverpool is the Museum of Liverpool: Read more

Toxteth – redressing the balance

July 2011 marked 30 years since the violence in Toxteth which would hang a cloud over the suburb of Liverpool for decades Read more

Liverpool Heroes 3: Vikings in Liverpool

OK, so perhaps the Norse are as far from the ‘Liverpool Radicals’ we have in mind in 2011 as it’s possible to get.

They’re distant in time, left little visible trace in our city, and went about changing society through the delicate application of pointy-horned helmets.

But of course none of that is strictly true. There are traces of the Norse presence on our doorstep, and may have paved the way for Liverpool itself to be settled half a millennium after they first arrived. Read more

Woodland on Merseyside and the Mersey Forest

The year 2011 was declared as the International Year of Forests by the UN (see the Echo for some of Liverpool’s plans). The very modern Mersey Forest has seen 8 million new trees planted since 1994. But there’s a much longer and fascinating history of woodland and forest in this area.

The origins of the woodland

As the glaciers of the last ice age began to retreat about 12 – 10,000 years ago the dry land left behind became tundra. Shrubs, moss and lichen only slowly populated this cold, dry landscape.

Only gradually did the first woodland – larger plants such as juniper, then birch, hazel, elm and oak – establish themselves. By around 5000 years ago more familiar woodland – oak and elm – had become permanent features of the landscape. It was around this time that humans made their first impacts on the natural environment.

Prehistoric woodland

The earliest periods of human activity in the north west of England are the Mesolithic and Neolithic (the middle and new stone ages). As the effects of melting ice had not fully taken effect, the sea was around 20m lower than it is today. If you’ve visited the Crosby coast you’ll know just how shallow the slope of the land is, and so the coast was 15-20km further out than it is now.

Not only humans and animals occupied the land, but also the trees of the widespread oak woodland. Sea level rose and the land was flooded. The waters submerged these trees and protected them beneath layers of water and silt. The petrified remains of tree stumps can therefore still be seen at low tide right across the coast from Anglesey to Southport.

As well as the drowned trees, areas further inland suffered from periodic flooding and water-logging, creating marshy ground, ponds and streams.

By the Neolithic, gaps appeared in the woodland, with humans felling trees. The cleared land was then used for their first attempts at farming.

Into the Bronze and Iron Ages (and the Roman period), wherever people settled they cleared the forest. The climate became colder and wetter again at the beginning of the Bronze Age, and so marshlands and bogs spread to replace tree cover.

Medieval Merseyside

Place names are one of the major sources of evidence for medieval settlement in the region. These rarely give clues about the woodland (they mostly talk of ‘British farm’, ‘boundary river’ and ‘settlement’). An exception is West Derby (deorby = enclosure with deer, or a hunting park). Also, we know that Edward the Confessor had a hunting lodge in the area (possibly on on Lodge Lane). This suggests that the landscape (perhaps for many miles beyond West Derby itself) was covered in trees and pasture. This made a suitable habitat for the deer.

It’s important at this point to define a special use of the word ‘Forest’. A Royal Forest was not just a collection of trees. It was a space likely enclosed by a pale, a large bank and ditch. The pale might even have a fence on top, and came with a whole host of regulations, privileges and restrictions on its use.

Roger of Poictou was one of William of Normandy’s allies in the invasion of 1066. William rewarded him with the Hundred of West Derby, bringing Toxteth, Croxteth and Smithdown into one royal forest. This cemented West Derby’s administrative importance, and paved the way for Liverpool’s birth two hundred years later.

Toxteth and its Park

Toxteth remained a fenced-off royal park for hundreds of years. In fact, the restrictions on building or farming in royal parks began to hinder 16th century Liverpool’s growth. James I eventually ‘disparked’ Toxteth in 1604, and entrepreneurial farmers rapidly took advantage. The farmers transformed the newly available land from tree-and-pasture to pastoral and arable.

While there was no longer much royal passion for hunting in Liverpool, the city grew rapidly in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Farming, industry and housing nibbled away at the edges of rural Lancashire. It was only in the late 19th Century that the city made efforts to preserve some of these green and pleasant areas. The rich merchants who lived in Toxteth wanted to escape the increasingly polluted city. Poorer workers in the inner city and inner suburbs (Kirkdale, Everton and eventually also Toxteth) could also benefit.

For this reason we have a string of parks around the old city boundary. Two of these – Princes and Sefton Parks – have remained undeveloped. They have remained so since the time they were part of Toxteth Park. However, whether any of the trees there today have such a long pedigree is questionable!

Woodland on Merseyside

We leave off where we came in: with the Mersey Forest. This modern project is the successor to the ‘green lungs’ of Liverpool. These were the parks (Sefton, Newsham, Stanley) opened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also restores some of the natural woodland which covered the area for millennia before Liverpool started to thrive.

The ancient woodland of this part of the world developed gradually after the last ice age. Prehistoric communities slowly cleared the woodland, using the land to farm and rear animals. This process was slow at first, of course. Eventually royal order fenced off a lot of the woodland, protecting it from change by royal order.

Over the past 200 years industrial and commercial concerns saw the clearance of almost all the woodland. The city’s benevolent (or self-interested) rich put new walls in place, protecting parks for all the city’s inhabitants. Still, the environment deteriorated in the face of human action until the later years of the 20th Century. Preservation of natural resources became a much more prominent concern, and in 1994 the Mersey Forest was created. The partnership billed the project as ‘woodlands on your doorstep’.

Mersey Forest

The project, via the Mersey Forest partnership, has had great success in regenerating woodland on Merseyside, as set out in their ‘5 Facts’:

  • Through community and partnership working, we have planted more than 8 million trees.
  • To date more than 6,000 hectares of new woodland and improved habitats have been achieved, an area 500 times the size of Wembley Stadium.
  • Since 1994, more than 70% of the woodlands in The Mersey Forest have been brought into management to secure their long-term future.
  • For every £1 invested in The Mersey Forest, £8 of outputs is generated, thanks to the way we maximise our funding.
  • 60% of people living in The Mersey Forest use their local woodlands – with nearly 20% visiting at least once a week.

Liverpool has a long forest history. It has made plans for Merseyside’s woodlands to continue to thrive for millennia more.

Image: Golden Park Woods (Early morning sun among the Oaks and Plane trees of Sefton park, Liverpool) by Ben Mitchell, released under a Creative Commons license.

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