Continuing this week’s walk through the southern suburbs of Liverpool, culminating in a major surprise that would have changed South Liverpool forever.
I paused the story of this week’s walk here at Kelton House.
Thank you for the contacts about this through Twitter. Including from someone who was born here in 1967 and adopted the following year without ever being told about it by his adoptive parents. Secrets on secrets.
So, walking on now, downhill towards the river, arriving at another Victorian Merchant’s house.
Closer to Aigburth Road, the main local arterial road, there is terraced housing from early in the 20th Century.
Built in 1837 on land provided by John Moss of nearby Otterspool House. A railway pioneer and, earlier in his life, a slave owner.
Along Aigburth Road we move on from the 1830s to the 1950s.
Turning the corner…
Well, it is. But let’s pause while I tell you a story, then show you a map of what it might have looked like round here.
From late in the 19th Century, the same time as the terraced housing we’ve just seen was being built on the other side of Aigburth Road, there were plans to build Aigburth Docks down here. So everything you’re about to see, from here to the river, along to and including Otterspool, and back up close to the edge of Sefton Park – could have been docklands. The Cheshire Lines Railway Company was buying up the land for the docks. And they and other railway companies were buying up other local land for railyards and warehouses and getting it all sorted out with Mersey Docks & Harbour Board and in Parliament (You can see the Acts they were getting passed on the map).
After all, it’s 1911 by the time of this map, Liverpool is one of the busiest ports on Earth. It’s docks are expanding towards the north of the city. So why not to the south as well?
Here are the plans, covering nearly everywhere we’ve been and will go today.
I’m very grateful to Paul Young of the Garston and District Historical Society for letting me use this map. When I first saw it at an exhibition during the summer I could hardly believe my own eyes as I’ve never seen the possibility referred to anywhere else. I think of myself as reasonably familiar with the history of Liverpool, but this ‘might have been’ would have transformed the landscape of my life.
So let’s walk on with newly opened eyes.
‘The Lawn’ was demolished during the 20th Century.
Riversdale went in 2003.
Then just before reaching what’s now Otterspool Promenade and the river is this open gateway.
Not sure, but faster than you can say ‘No entry’ I’m in there.
Here becoming very conscious of the landscape that might have been. I have this fixed in my mental map of Liverpool as ‘where they put the rocks from the Mersey Tunnel’. And now I see how that very nearly didn’t happen.
So I pause and I wonder why Aigburth Docks isn’t here? Was it the interruption of the First World War? Were some ships already getting too big by 1911 to come and dock this far upstream? Did some political action from even further upstream Garston Docks stop it? Or was Liverpool’s 20th Century decline as a port already starting to happen?
Perhaps Paul Young or other members of the Garston And District Historical society could enlighten us?
But you can clearly see where the docks would have been. Thickly wooded Mersey Road, running right to left in the centre of the picture would have been the southern edge of the docks.
And I have no more stories to tell you from today. But if you want to know considerably more about Otterspool and a much smaller coaling dock that actually did get started here, then Paul Young sent me this link which I’ll explore here another day.
Paul also provides this comment on where exactly ARE Aigburth and Mossley Hill?
“Mossley Hill and Aigburth are very moveable feasts and much of what people call “Aigburth” these days is actually in Toxteth. It’s even more confusing when the local council ward called Mossley Hill encompasses much of the old Aigburth Ward. Mossley Hill itself is very confusing and bears no relation to the Council District signs! The northern boundary of Aigburth is the old Otterspool stream ( once called the River Jordan). That part of Liverpool also locally called “Aigburth” from Otterspool to Dingle Lane etc, is actually in Toxteth despite its modern L17 post code.
The only correctly located Aigburth District signpost is on Victoria Rd near Carnatic Rd. The old Garston Wavertree boundary marker ( G : W) can still be seen in the nearby bus stop. There used to be an Aigburth District sign near Jericho Lane junction with Riverside Drive but the locals in the new houses to the north along Riverside Drive screamed blue murder as it meant they weren’t now in Aigburth. Worse still other signs suggested they might even be in the Dingle. Politics prevailed and the signs were removed never to be seen again.
If you walk along Ashfield Rd towards Aigburth Vale, you’ll see the old Toxteth Garston boundary marker ( TTP : TG) next to the Boots the Chemist.”
Once again, all credit to Paul Young and the Garston and District Historical Society for permission to use their copyright material and for other help with this post.
Aerial photograph of Aigburth in the 1930s from ‘Liverpool from the air’ by Colin Wilkinson.
See also Part 1 of this walk.