In the neighbourhood: Mossley Hill and Aigburth, Part 2

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.

The 'mother and baby home' that's still standing.

The ‘mother and baby home’ that’s still standing.

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.

'Crofton' - the Lodge first.

‘Crofton’ – the Lodge first.

Just next to the main house. Derelict when I last passed, a few years ago.

Just next to the main house. Derelict when I last passed, a few years ago.

Now renovated into a mixture of apartments and houses.

Now renovated into a collection of apartments and houses.

This part of the hill a mix of surviving lodges and more recent housing built where the merchants used to live.

This part of the hill a mix of surviving lodges and more recent housing built where the merchants used to live.

Closer to Aigburth Road, the main local arterial road, there is terraced housing from early in the 20th Century.

Including this splendid Church Hall.

Including this splendid Church Hall.

Built long after its accompanying church. for the education and the scout and guide troops of the new parishioners?

Built long after its accompanying church. For the education and the Scout and Guide troops of the new parishioners?

Here is the church, St Anne's.

Here is the church, St Anne’s.

Built in 1837 on land provided by John Moss of nearby Otterspool House. A railway pioneer and, earlier in his life, a slave owner.

A Grade II listed building.

A Grade II listed building.

Along Aigburth Road we move on from the 1830s to the 1950s.

A gently timeless arcade of suburban shops.

A gently timeless arcade of suburban shops.

Their owners may change. But the need for coffee...

Their owners may change. But the need for coffee…

Flowers and Christmas Trees...

Drinks and Christmas Trees…

And meals out together is permanent.

And meals out together is permanent.

Turning the corner…

Wonder where this road goes?

Wonder where this road goes?

More timeless, settled suburbia?

More timeless, settled suburbia?

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.

The proposed Aigburth Docks c PA Ypong

The proposed Aigburth Docks  © PA Young, Garston and District Historical Society

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.

Along Mersey Road, these old cottages would have faced the Aigburth Dock wall.

Along Mersey Road, these old cottages would have faced the Aigburth Docks wall.

As would this lovely house.

As would this lovely house.

This, I think, is the lodge of a merchant's house called '

This, I think, is the lodge of a merchant’s house called ‘The Lawn’

‘The Lawn’ was demolished during the 20th Century.

And replaced by Riversdale Tech - lots of maritime courses here.

And replaced by Riversdale Tech – lots of maritime courses here.

Riversdale went in 2003.

Replaced by new housing.

Replaced by new housing.

Though the old 'Lawn' wall remains.

Though the old ‘Lawn’ wall remains.

With gates to Mersey Road Allotments opposite. Where gates to Aigburth Docks might have been?

With gates to Mersey Road Allotments opposite. Where gates to Aigburth Docks might have been?

Then just before reaching what’s now Otterspool Promenade and the river is this open gateway.

Is this what's marked on the above map as 'The Beach'?

Is this the entrance to a house marked on the above map as ‘The Beach’?

Not sure, but faster than you can say ‘No entry’ I’m in there.

Finding mostly overgrowth, but also this oak.

Finding mostly overgrowth, but also this oak.

And a bit of a building.

And a bit of an old building.

Emerging close to the new housing, on what's obviously the field around Riversdale.

Emerging close to the new housing, on what’s obviously the field around Riversdale.

And out through a gap in the old Tech College fence.

And out through a gap in the old Tech College fence.

On to Otterspool Prom.

On to Otterspool Prom.

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?

In this aerial photograph from the 1930s the construction of Otterspool Prom has started.

In this aerial photograph from the 1930s the construction of Otterspool Prom has started.

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.

For today, down at the river the tide is still high from the storms of the previous days.

For today, down at the river the tide is still high from the storms and floods of the previous days.

But yachts may safely sail.

But yachts may safely sail.

While downstream are Cammell Laird's and Birkenhead Docks, here no docks were built.

While downstream are Cammell Laird’s and Birkenhead Docks, while here no docks were built.

Turning away from the river, late now in the afternoon.

Turning away from the river, late now in the afternoon.

Passing what remains of Otterspool House, where John Moss, provider of the land for St Anne's church, lived. lived

Passing what remains of Otterspool House, where John Moss, provider of the land for St Anne’s church, lived.

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.”

For today its back up to Aigburth Road.

For today its back up to Aigburth Road.

By the lake in Sefton Park as the sun goes down.

By the lake in Sefton Park as the sun goes down.

Then across the Park to see Sarah at her allotment.

Then across the Park to see Sarah at her allotment.

Mossley Hill 64

A peaceful fire at the end of a very full day's explorations.

A peaceful fire at the end of a very full day’s explorations.

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.

10 thoughts on “In the neighbourhood: Mossley Hill and Aigburth, Part 2

  1. stan cotter

    I can recall Kelton becoming a nursing home for a period when I was in the ambulance service.

    Do you know anything about the dock supposedly built near Otterspool Prom many years ago. It was never used as the tide couldnt reach it. Is this anything to do with the Aigburth dock you mention here?

    Well done again my friend, a really interesting blog

    Reply
  2. tom knight

    Great blog thanks Ronnie, enjoyed reading it. I was walking up Mersey Road with the kids today and have been intrigued by those old gateposts by the allotments for some time. Judging from your comment in the blog and what I had just found out not 10 mins earlier was indeed the site of the “The Beach”. Tradesmen’s entrance next to them apparently and marked with a benchmark. You know any more about the site? I found some info about the “The Lawns”. Will have to get busy over half term!

    Reply
  3. Ronnie Hughes Post author

    No I don’t know any more Tom. This section of Aigburth is missing from the Godfrey 1906 OS maps (It’s on a Cheshire sheet apparently, which is mostly river). So the only map I’ve seen ‘The Beach’ on is the one of the proposed docks reproduced above. You can see it much bigger if you click on the map. If you find out more over half-term let me know.

    Reply
  4. tom knight

    Will do. I just re-read the bit about the proposed docks and clicked on the map to zoom in. It would have transformed Mersey Road as you say. Took the boys down to The Beach today and had a mooch round – the brickwork as you found and the oak tree seem wonderfully out of place in what most people may assume is just a copse. Half term beckons.

    Reply
  5. Ronnie Hughes Post author

    We’ll done you and the boys. History can be all sorts of stories, but the version where you see the bricks and the gate posts of what actually happened is the best kind, I always think.

    Reply
  6. Rosie

    Hi – What a great Blog!
    We lived at the bottom of Beechwood Road from 1944 onwards, (My parents having been forced to move from North Rd, then Riversdale Road during ‘the war’ (WWll) . I remember the opening of The Prom (1950) well, it then started at the bottom of our road, and we used to spend hours watching ships going to Garston Docks, either from a cold foggy wet prom or from the (‘freezing!) bathroom window!!
    The Lawn was a house owned by an older lady, namely Mrs Parker – my father used to help her with ‘buiding’ problems, (he was a Chartered Surveyor working in Town) Just one correction – I believe that The Technical College was built on what was my Grandparents site following a direct hit on the house and garden, the house was ‘Royston’ in Riversdale Road. I wonder whether Errington Lodge still stands in Mersey Road – our family was big, they worked hard (you might call them Merchants, I suppose!!), and lived in many big houses in Aigburth and Grassendale – I was born many years ago during the war the Rosslyn Nursing Home in Mossley Hill and have extraordinarily happy memories of the post-war period, and a ‘Victorian approach to life that seems a million miles away today!!

    Reply
  7. Lisa

    Hello, I was wondering if you have a link or information on the adoptee who was born at Kelton House. I have just found that family had helped a cousin from Ireland who gave birth here, stay with them for a day or two before she headed back home. Was around 1967.

    Reply

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