The Stranger in Skelmersdale

Yesterday I was ‘The Stranger in Skelmersdale.’ One day, 200 years after my precious book, of being taken on a walk round a nearby town that I hardly know at all.

“The Stranger in Liverpool” – my precious 1820 guide for visitors.

I remember the moment I was introduced to Skelmersdale.

It’s a summer evening in 1965 and we’ve come out for a drive after our tea in the brand new family car, a dark blue Ford Cortina, ELV 397C. We’ve travelled out from North Liverpool into the Lancashire countryside. All winding lanes and old churches, where the most modern thing in the landscape is us in our car, until we arrive at what I remember as the crest of a hill where we are looking down into the huge bowl of a building site landscape:

“What’s that Dad?”
“It’s a new town they’re building down there. It’s going to be called Skelmersdale.”

After that my memories are few. Of riding through the brand new place most days on a Ribble bus, on my way to Wigan Tech, as the 1970s begin. A few years later some friends lose their home in Melling as the M58 is finally, and more than a bit late, built through there to Skelmersdale. Then in more recent years some contacts and one visit through my work with the School for Social Entrepreneurs. So, not much and definitely not enough to claim to know the place.

Which is how come I turn up here, late November in 2017, as The Stranger in Skelmersdale. Continue reading “The Stranger in Skelmersdale”

Mr Roscoe’s Garden: A Political History

Here at a sense of place we’re big appreciators of William Roscoe and all he did for the City of Liverpool and, well, for humanity generally. Helping to get the Transatlantic Slave Trade stopped, at considerable physical and financial risk to himself was no mean feat after all.

Mount Pleasant, where William Roscoe was born, 1753.
Mount Pleasant, where William Roscoe was born, 1753.

We followed his life, interests and achievements in two linked blog posts, early on in ‘It’s Liverpool in 1775’ and later in ‘It’s Liverpool in 1820’. But paid scant attention to his horticultural history, beyond his being born in a market garden on Mount Pleasant. Well today Sarah Horton puts that right with the tale of ‘Mr Roscoe’s Garden’ – its history, its importance and what we could all be doing now to save its legacy for future generations. Here’s Sarah.

For a long time, in fact, for several years, I’ve been in possession of a very attractive leaflet, titled ‘Liverpool’s Botanic Collection’. This is what it looks like:

Liv Bot leaflet

It describes a veritable cornucopia of botanical delights, saying they are displayed in the ‘Glass Houses of The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall and Country Park’. On the back of the leaflet is a map of Liverpool’s first Botanic Garden, just off Crown Street, founded in 1802 by William Roscoe. Plus a sketch of some very grand glasshouses.

Me and Ronnie had stumbled across the walled garden at Croxteth Hall early this year on a wet January afternoon on one of our rambles, and it certainly didn’t look anything like the exotic bounty illustrated on the leaflet. It was closed too. A dog walker told me he thought it wasn’t open anymore.

The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall.
January 2014, The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall.

So it’s something that’s long bothered me.  Just where are these botanic delights illustrated in the leaflet, which sound so exotic and exciting –  The 3/4 Span House, The Teak House, The Metal House and The Cedar House? And does Mr Roscoe’s garden still exist? Continue reading “Mr Roscoe’s Garden: A Political History”

The Stranger in Liverpool

Where would you take a first-time visitor to Liverpool to show them the best of the city? Well if it were the early 19th Century you’d obviously reach for your trusty copy of ‘The Stranger in Liverpool’ for sound advice. This early guidebook to  the ‘Town of Liverpool and its environs’ assists me to this day whenever I walk round the place pretending it’s some long gone time.

My 1820 edition of 'The Stranger in Liverpool'
My 1820 edition of ‘The Stranger in Liverpool’

For our visitor over these past few days, though, her principal guide while putting together what she’d like to explore, had been this very blog. Mandy Cheetham from Perth in Western Australia is a friend who has been reading the blog regularly since it started and therefore had  reassuringly opinionated ideas about what she wanted to see before she got here. So Sarah put together a map which omitted much of what most people come here for, and an itinerary of depth and taste. And off we set.

Mandy's map and itinerary, put together by Sarah.
Mandy’s map and itinerary, put together by Sarah.

Continue reading “The Stranger in Liverpool”