A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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This township extends over four miles from north to south, and three and a half from east to west, having a total area of 6,203 acres. (fn. 1) A portion of it was taken within the municipal borough of Liverpool as early as 1835; (fn. 2) and the greater part of the remainder in 1895; (fn. 3) the rural division outside Liverpool contains 2,594 acres. The population of the whole in 1901 was 132,669, only 2,119 belonging to the part outside the city.
The portion absorbed by Liverpool in 1835 formed a ward of the borough, known as West Derby Ward; this was in 1895 divided into three—Low Hill, Kensington, and Edge Hill, while the portion then freshly included was divided into two wards—Fairfield and West Derby; the division between them being the railway from Edge Hill to the Bootle docks. The rural portion of the township is governed by a parish council. (fn. 4)
In the eighteenth century the township was divided into four quarters: Woodside, on the east; Town row, embracing the village and the north-west portion; Low Hill, on the border of Liverpool; and Ackers End, the Old Swan district. (fn. 5)
The township lies on the edge of the open country, where the smoke-laden air of the city is exchanged for the fresher breezes which blow over open fields and through masses of foliage. True, there is hardly a break in the long line of houses from the city to the village of West Derby, but the larger houses set amidst gardens and paddocks are separated by airy spaces and are overshadowed by trees. The country is very flat, and has, except in the far east, the unmistakable stamp of suburbanism. In the easterly direction are the plantations and grounds of Croxteth Hall; in the north is open land which was once mossland, a large cemetery being a conspicuous object in the level country. South and west are more crowded with houses, where such suburban neighbourhoods as Knotty Ash, Broad Green, and Old Swan are situated. The old-fashioned village of West Derby still presents a countrified aspect in spite of the advent of electric cars, and clusters principally about the gates of Croxteth Park. The open ground is chiefly pasture, but crops of corn and potatoes are raised in a loamy soil.
The geological formation is mostly the new red sandstone or trias, consisting of pebble beds of the bunter series on the west and in the centre, alternating with the upper mottled sandstone of the same series between the centre and the west, recurring on the eastern side, except where a small area of the coal measures crops up in Croxteth Park. These alternating areas of different formation extend through the township and beyond from north-west to south-east.
The map of 1768 (fn. 6) shows how the town has grown up. At that time the principal road out of Liverpool, leading to Prescot and Warrington, ascended eastward, (fn. 7) by Cheetham's Brow, to Low Hill, and went onward (fn. 8) with fields on either side for about two miles to the Old Swan Inn, (fn. 9) which has since given name to the hamlet around it.
At the 'Old Swan' the road divided. The main track, as Prescot Lane, went north-east, passing Knotty Ash, (fn. 10) a small hamlet, near which the Dovecote was built. (fn. 11) The other track, as Petticoat Lane, (fn. 12) went east to Broad Green, then a small hamlet round a triangular space.
To the south of Prescot Road another led eastward from Liverpool. At the foot of the hill it divided, one road bending towards Low Hill, (fn. 13) the other going direct to the top of the hill, where was a large open space called Greenfield. (fn. 14) Here again the road divided, Edge Lane (fn. 15) running parallel to the Prescot Road, while the other road (fn. 16) led to Wavertree, passing Wavertree Hall (fn. 17) on the north side. Smithdown Lane (fn. 18) led southward, near the Liverpool and Toxteth boundary, towards Allerton.
To the north of the Prescot Road a third road ran eastward; it was then called Rake Lane, (fn. 19) and formed for some distance the boundary between this township and Everton. After passing the Upper Breck, (fn. 20) the road, as Rocky Lane, descended the hill, (fn. 21) and then crossed Tue Brook, (fn. 22) which here gives its name to the neighbourhood. From the crossing Green Lane (fn. 23) led away to the 'Old Swan.' The main road (fn. 24) led upward to the Mill-house, near which had stood the ancient Derby windmill, Lark Hill (fn. 25) lying to the north. As Mill Lane the road then descended to the village with its ancient chapel, (fn. 26) being further prolonged, as Castle Lane, in the direction of Croxteth Hall.
At the village cross-roads led south-east to Town Row, from which Deys Lane (fn. 27) branched off; and north-west past New Hall in Carr Lane to Walton village. Carr Lane was a continuation of a road from Liverpool which crossed the Tue Brook at Club Moor, (fn. 28) and went deviously onward to Kirkby. In this part of the township are now the hamlet of Dog and Gun, with the West Derby Cemetery, opened 1884, to the west, and the district called Gill Moss. From Derby mill mentioned above a lane led south past Blackmoor Moss. (fn. 29) A little to the east stood the Round House, otherwise known as Sandfield. (fn. 30)
The roads above described continue to be the main thoroughfares. Most of them are traversed by the Liverpool tramway system, which facilitates access to the village, as also to Old Swan and Knotty Ash, where there is a junction with the South-west Lancashire tramway system. The London and North-Western Company's line outward from Liverpool passes through the township, the important station of Edge Hill being situated within it; the original terminus (1830) of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was a little distance away, in Crown Street. The same company's branch line from Edge Hill to Bootle, formed about 1866, has stations at Edge Lane, Stanley, Tue Brook, and Breck Road, opened in 1870. The Cheshire Lines Committee's Southport Railway also passes through, more to the east, with stations at Knotty Ash and West Derby, opened in 1884.
WEST DERBY was the capital manor of the hundred, to which it gave name. As a royal manor it stands first in Domesday Book in the description of the land 'Between Ribble and Mersey,' and with its six berewicks was assessed at four hides; there was land for fifteen ploughs; and a forest two leagues long and one broad, with an aery of hawks. King Edward held it in 1066, and by the Conqueror it was given to Roger of Poitou who had temporarily lost his fief before 1086; (fn. 31) but in 1094 Count Roger gave the tithe of his demesne in this vill to the abbey of St. Martin of Séez. (fn. 32) It is possible that he built the castle here. After his banishment in 1102 West Derby with his other manors escheated to the crown, and was about 1115 granted to Stephen of Blois as part of the honour of Lancaster. (fn. 33)
West Derby is next mentioned in 1169, when it and the other members of the demesne in the hundred were tallaged at £11 3s. 4d. (fn. 34) The castle was repaired in 1197 at a cost of 100s., (fn. 35) and after the death of King Richard a garrison was stationed in it to preserve the peace of the county; (fn. 36) three years later considerable additions and repairs were carried out. (fn. 37) During his struggle with the barons King John kept a sufficient garrison here, (fn. 38) and for some years the castle seems to have been occupied; (fn. 39) by 1297, however, it had ceased to exist, for it was returned that 'in the town fields of Derby there was a certain site of an old castle, where the capital messuage used to be, with the circuit of the ditches.' (fn. 40)
At the beginning of the thirteenth century the vill was farmed by the king's bondmen or villeins at an ancient assized rent of £6, which the king had augmented by £2 since Easter, 1201. (fn. 41) A considerable number of the people were removed to Liverpool in 1208 to form the new borough, and the sheriff had an allowance of the farm of the hundred, probably to make up for his loss on this account. (fn. 42) There was anciently a considerable area of woodland, extending to 2,880 customary acres at the date of Domesday. In 1228 the boundaries of this were described by the knights who made the perambulation of the forest. (fn. 43) The clearing and improvement of the land went on rapidly, (fn. 44) and in 1296 there were 30½ burgages held by the tenants; two mills were in operation—a windmill and a horse-mill. (fn. 45) During the thirteenth century the descent of the manor followed that of the wapentake and land between Ribble and Mersey, but in 1316 Thomas, earl of Lancaster, gave the manor, with 300 acres of wood, to Robert de Holand, (fn. 46) and about four years later confirmed the grant with large additions, viz., the manor of West Derby, 'nigh Liverpool,' with its demesnes of the Hay of Croxteth, the manors of Torrisholme and Nether Kellet, the keepership of the forest in the earl's lands and forests, and the bailiwick of the serjeanty of Lonsdale, Furness, and Cartmel, land in the Hope nigh Manchester, with the bailiwick of the serjeanty of Salfordshire, and manors and lands in many other counties. (fn. 47) In 1322 the manor fell into the king's hands upon the earl's attainder, but upon the restoration of the honour to his brother Henry of Lancaster passed again into the earl's demesne and descended in his line. It was completely surveyed in 1323, when it was found that Thomas de Hale and thirteen other free tenants held 250 acres of land and 2½ burgages; Hugh the reeve held two oxgangs by serjeanty; sixtynine men held thirty-one burgages and twenty oxgangs of land; and 433 others held 1,816 acres and many houses, the total return being about £74. (fn. 48) In 1348 the issues of the manor amounted to £125. (fn. 49) The office of bailiff of the manor appears to have been united with that of bailiff of the vill (not borough) of Liverpool. (fn. 50) In the sixteenth century the Molyneuxes of Sefton were stewards of the manor. (fn. 51)
Some grants of annuities from the issues of the manor are on record. (fn. 52)
The Act of 1609 relating to the creation and confirmation of copyhold lands in Lancashire had special application to West Derby. (fn. 53)
From 1327 downwards the manor was held by the house of Lancaster and by the kings as dukes of Lancaster; but in 1628 Charles I sold it to certain citizens of London, together with all lands and tenements within the same, and in Everton and Wavertree. (fn. 54) An amended grant was made in November, 1638; (fn. 55) and in the following year the manor was transferred to James, Lord Stanley and Strange, afterwards seventh earl of Derby. (fn. 56) It remained with his descendants till 1717, when it was sold, with other Derby manors, to Isaac Greene, (fn. 57) and has descended like Childwall to the marquis of Salisbury, the present lord of the manor. (fn. 58) Courts are held.
A body of commissioners for the management of the lands formerly waste has long been in existence. (fn. 59)
The sites of four ancient mills are known: A water-mill by the castle, below the church; a horse-mill at the castle; a windmill in Mill Lane; and Ackers Mill, in the eastern corner of the township. (fn. 60)
Croxteth Hall, formerly called Barret's Hall, the chief seat of the earl of Sefton, is situated in this township on the borders of Croxteth Park, from which it takes its name. The Molyneux family acquired it in Henry VI's reign, when Sir Richard Molyneux was steward of the manor, (fn. 61) and about 1540 was one of the chief residences of the Molyneux family. (fn. 62) The deeds at Croxteth show various acquisitions of land in West Derby, beginning in 1545. (fn. 63).
The oldest part of the existing building is the western half of the south wing, now much hidden by kitchens built in front of it in 1874. It is of brick with stone dressings and mullioned windows, and has two bays projecting southward. Its date is c. 1575–1600, the details being plain, and it is probable that the house of which it is the only surviving portion was neither large nor elaborate. The south front may originally have had a third projecting bay to the west, destroyed by the building of the west wing, and perhaps a courtyard on the north, but of this there is no trace.
The west wing is the finest part of the building and was added, as dates upon it show, between 1702 and 1714. It has a raised terrace on the west, and contains a fine set of lofty panelled rooms opening one from another, the grand staircase being at its north-east angle. Sefton Hall, the old house of the Molyneux family, was dismantled in 1720, and this wing doubtless marks the date at which its abandonment in favour of Croxteth was finally decided on. Work had been going on at a somewhat earlier time, as a date of 1693 and the initials of William Molyneux on a spout-head behind the tower on the west front go to prove. The stables also had been rebuilt before this time by Caryll Molyneux in 1678, and were added to in 1706.
A north wing was added about 1790, but has recently (1902–4) been rebuilt to harmonize with the west front, the old brewhouse and bakehouse, which had been incorporated with the work of 1790, being destroyed in the process. In 1874–7 an east front was built and the south front lengthened to join it, while the dining-room at the south end of the west wing was lengthened southwards and the grand staircase renewed.
The present house, therefore, is built round a quadrangle, and its greatest dimensions are 205 ft. by 135. Its chief merit lies in the early eighteenth-century work, the details of the panelling being very good, but of the fittings of the old house little remains except a small oak door, nail-studded like those at Pool Hall (1576), Moor Hall (1566), and Hale Hall (c. 1600), and looking as if it were not now in its original position. Its Y-shaped iron knocker is in a curious position near the upper hinge, and the door may be part of a larger one cut down.
New Hall, on the borders of Fazakerley and Walton, became the property of the family of Molyneux of Alt Grange about the end of the sixteenth century, and early in the eighteenth seems to have become their chief residence. (fn. 64) It is a plain specimen of the H-shaped type, and bears the date 1660. It passed, with Huyton, to the Unsworths, and was by Thomas Molyneux-Seel sold to Arthur Heywood, banker, of Liverpool. (fn. 65)
The Norris family had an estate here in the fourteenth century, acquired by William, a younger son of John le Norreys of Speke. (fn. 66) It descended in the fifteenth century to Thomas Norris, (fn. 67) whose daughter and heir Lettice married her distant cousin Thomas Norris of Speke, and so carried the estate back to the parent stock. One of their grandsons, William Norris, was settled here, his estate remaining with his descendants to the end of the seventeenth century. (fn. 68) The family remained constant to the Roman Church and had to face loss and suffering in consequence, especially during the Commonwealth; (fn. 69) thus the threat of a fresh outbreak of persecution as a result of the Oates plot appears to have broken the resolution of 'Mr. Norris of Derby,' who conformed to the legally established religion in 1681. (fn. 70) Norris Green is supposed to indicate the site of their estate.
The Moores (fn. 71) and Crosses (fn. 72) of Liverpool had lands here about 1600. The Dwerryhouse family also occur. (fn. 73) In 1631 Robert Fazakerley (fn. 74) and Robert Mercer (fn. 75) of West Derby paid £10 each on declining knighthood. About the same time George Standish had an estate here, which the Parliamentary authorities sequestered for recusancy; he died in 1653, and his son and heir James, who was 'no recusant' and very poor, petitioned for a restoration, which was at last granted. (fn. 76)
The freeholders of 1600, in addition to families already mentioned, were Robert Longworth and Robert Bower. (fn. 77) The landowners of 1628 contributing to the subsidy were Robert Fazakerley, Andrew Norris, Hugh Rose, Ralph Mercer, and Hugh Riding. (fn. 78) Some other names occur among the sequestrations of the Commonwealth period. (fn. 79)
The hearth tax of 1662 shows a number of residents styled 'Mr.' viz: Richard Molyneux, Robert Mercer, James Standish, Richard Lathom, Hugh Rose, William Holme, and Joshua Ambrose the curate. John Lyon and Alice Rycroft had houses of five and four hearths respectively. (fn. 80)
Among the 'papists' who registered estates in 1717 were the following connected with this township: William Lancaster of Ormskirk, Richard Whittle, Margaret Pye, and Robert Chantrell. (fn. 81)
The first distinct allusion to the chapel of West Derby occurs in the middle of the fourteenth century. (fn. 82) About a century later there is mention of its reparation, (fn. 83) and in 1494 Henry VII allowed five marks out of the issues of the manor towards the maintenance of a chapel for the celebration of divine service within the lordship. (fn. 84) The next time it occurs is in connexion with the spoliations of the Reformation period. (fn. 85) During the succeeding century its history is obscure; probably the new services were maintained more or less regularly, a 'reading minister' being supplied, as was the case about 1612. (fn. 86) An improvement afterwards took place, and under the Commonwealth a serious attempt was made here, as in other places, to minister to the religious needs of the people in the sense of those in authority, so that in 1650 the surveyors found 'a godly minister,' Mr. Norcott, supplying the cure. (fn. 87) After the Restoration the older order probably returned. Bishop Gastrell, about 1720, found that the curate's stipend was £43 2s. 8d., which included £15 from the inhabitants, and that in 1719 leave had been given to build an aisle on each side of the chapel. There was a resident curate, for the 'house and ground' is mentioned, (fn. 88) and about this time the township built a house called the 'Parsonage' for the curate. (fn. 89) A new service of communion plate was provided in 1760. (fn. 90) In 1793 it appears that 'Sacrament Day' came five times a year.
The ancient structure (fn. 91) was pulled down after the building of the new church, 1853–6. It seems to have undergone much rebuilding in the eighteenth century, but at its destruction part of an ancient gable was discovered in the west wall, so that something at least of the old work remained till the last. The chief records of its later history are to be found in the earliest West Derby Vestry Book, begun in 1744. In 1745 the stone pillars under the steeple and the steeple itself were taken down and rebuilt, and in 1747 the chapel was 'uniformed down on both sides to the west end of the steeple.'
Views taken shortly before its destruction show a building with two east gables and windows of gothic style in them, a large south aisle with two tiers of classical windows, the upper tier to light a gallery, and at the west end of the church a small bell turret and flagstaff. The new church was designed by Sir G. G. Scott, and is a very good specimen of his work, cruciform, with a pinnacled central tower. (fn. 92)
The following have been curates (fn. 93) and rectors:
|oc.||1592||Thomas Wainwright (fn. 94)|
|oc.||1609||Edward Dowell (fn. 95)|
|oc.||1648||William Norcott (fn. 96)|
|oc.||1662||Joshua Ambrose (fn. 97)|
|1676||Thomas Hall (fn. 98)|
|1688||William Atherton (fn. 99)|
|oc.||1723||John Worthington (fn. 100)|
|1733||Edward Davies, B.A. (fn. 101)|
|1756||Thomas Mallory, LL.B. (Trin. Coll. Camb.)|
|1798||Richard Blacow, M.A. (fn. 102)|
|c.||1840||William Moriarty, M.A.|
|1846||John Stewart, M.A. (St. John's Coll. Camb.)|
|1889||Percy Stewart, M.A. (Trin. Coll. Camb.)|
The Established Church has now fifteen other places of worship in the township. St. Mary's, Edge Hill, was erected in 1813; a small burial ground surrounds it. The incumbents are presented by trustees. (fn. 103)
St. Jude's, Hardwick Street, was built by subscription in 1831. (fn. 104) St. Anne's, Stanley, built at the same time, was entirely rebuilt in 1890 by Mr. Fenwick Harrison as a memorial of his father. (fn. 105) At Knotty Ash St. John the Evangelist's was built in 1835. (fn. 106) St. Stephen the Martyr's, Crown Street, was built in 1851. In consequence of the opening of the railway tunnel from Lime Street to Edge Hill it was taken down and rebuilt in 1882 on an adjacent site just within the boundary of Liverpool. (fn. 107) The incumbents of these four churches are presented by the rectors of West Derby. (fn. 108)
St. John's the Divine in Fairfield was built in 1852; the Hyndman trustees are patrons. (fn. 109) St. Andrew's, Edge Lane, was licensed as a chapel of ease in 1904.
In Mill Lane, West Derby, St. James's Church was built in 1846 and enlarged in 1879; the representatives of the late Mrs. Mary Thornton are patrons. St. Catherine's, Edge Hill, was erected in 1863. St. Nathaniel's, Windsor, obscurely situated in the midst of a poor and crowded district, was built in 1869. It was burnt down in 1904 and rebuilt. (fn. 110) The beautiful church of St. John the Baptist, Tue Brook, was built in 1871. (fn. 111) Christ Church, Kensington, was opened in 1870. (fn. 112) All Saints', Stonycroft, was built in 1875. The patronage of these five churches is vested in different bodies of trustees. St. Cyprian's, Edge Lane, was erected in 1881; Simeon's trustees have the patronage. (fn. 113)
On the Spekeland Estate being sold for building purposes the Earle family reserved a plot of ground and built thereon a memorial church, St. Dunstan's, Earle Road, opened in 1899; the Earle trustees are the patrons. The church of St. Philip, Sheil Road, opened in 1885, has replaced the old church of the same title in Liverpool, (fn. 114) sold in 1882; the patronage is in the hands of trustees.
The adherents of the Reformed Church of England for many years conducted services at Tue Brook, as a protest against what they considered the 'ritualism' at St. John the Baptist's. About 1893 they erected a small chapel.
The Wesleyan Methodists have churches as follows: Brunswick chapel, Moss Street, built in 1810; it is one of the centres of Liverpool Methodism, and the Conference has been held there. There are two mission halls in connexion with it. Cardwell Street chapel, Edge Hill, was built in 1880, and Aigburth Street in 1896; Fairfield chapel in 1867; Tue Brook chapel in 1886. The last-named building was formerly a Presbyterian chapel in Bootle; it was taken down and rebuilt on this site; there are two mission rooms connected with it. St. Paul's, Stonycroft, was built in 1865; and the Birch memorial chapel in Edge Lane in 1884. At West Derby village there is a chapel in Crosby Green, built about 1840. At Plimsoll Street, Edge Hill, is a Welsh Wesleyan chapel. The United Methodist Free Church have a place of worship in Durning Road, built in 1877. The Primitive Methodists have churches in Edge Hill, Kensington, and Tue Brook.
The Baptists have several churches. Pembroke chapel, built in 1839, was the scene of the ministrations of the Rev. Charles M. Birrell, (fn. 115) who died in 1880; the present minister is the Rev. Charles F. Aked. Empire Street chapel was built in 1886. Kensington chapel, 1889, represents the old Soho Street chapel, built in 1837. Cottenham Street and Tue Brook chapels were built in 1876. A Welsh Baptist chapel in Edge Lane, 1887, represents a migration from Juno Street, where a chapel was built in 1858.
The Congregationalist churches are Green Lane, Stanley, built in 1865; Norwood, near Sheil Park, in 1870; and Edge Hill, 1877. (fn. 116) A Welsh Congregational chapel in Kensington was built in 1881. (fn. 117)
The United Free Gospellers have a chapel at Edge Hill, called Mount Zion. (fn. 118)
The Presbyterian Church of England has places of worship at Fairfield, built in 1864; Earle Road, 1882; Tue Brook, founded in 1896. (fn. 119) The Reformed Presbyterians have a chapel in Hall Lane. (fn. 120) Olive hall, West Derby village, built about 1860, has been used by various Christian evangelists.
The adherents of the Roman Catholic Church in the township long remained relatively numerous; (fn. 121) they were able probably to hear mass from time to time at Croxteth or some other of the larger houses, but no records are available until the middle of the seventeenth century, after which the story of the Croxteth chaplaincy is fairly continuous. It was long served by the Jesuits and then by the Benedictines. On the first earl of Sefton conforming to the Established religion in 1769, the priest in charge turned some rooms at a house in Gill Moss into a chapel, which remained in use until 1824, when the adjoining church of St. Swithin was opened. It has a chalice and some paintings brought from the old chapel in the hall. This church was served by the Jesuits till 1887, when it was handed over to the secular clergy. There is a small graveyard. The baptismal register dates from 1757. (fn. 122) No other mission was begun until 1839, when some stables at Old Swan were used, pending the erection of St. Oswald's, opened in 1842. This is a pleasing building, designed by A. W. Pugin. (fn. 123) St. Anne's, Edge Hill, begun in 1843 as an offshoot of St. Peter's, Seel Street, is served by the English Benedictines; mass was at first said in a room in the priest's house, but in 1846 the church was opened. (fn. 124) The Sacred Heart mission, Mount Vernon, was established in 1857; the chapel of St. Ethelburga's convent was used until, in 1886, the new church was opened. St. Paul's, West Derby, a school chapel, was opened in 1880; Yew Tree Cemetery is served from it. The mission of St. Sebastian, Fairfield, was opened in 1904 in a room of the convent of Adoraration and Reparation. (fn. 125) St. Cecilia's, Tue Brook, was begun in 1905. St. Ethelburga's Convent for the sisters of Mercy, already mentioned, was opened in 1843. The Blind Asylum in Brunswick Road is managed by sisters of Charity, who also conduct the Poor Law schools at Leyfield, West Derby village.