A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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Crossebi, 1176; Major Grosseby, 1211; Crosseby, 1212; Micle Crosseby, 1292; Much and Great Crosby were both used in the sixteenth century.
The ancient township of Great Crosby, which includes Waterloo, lies on the northern shore of the estuary of the Mersey, with a level sandy beach extending over three miles from north-west to southeast; it stretches inland some two miles, and has an area of 2,168 acres, (fn. 1) of which 1,907 acres belong to the present diminished township. The population in 1901 was 7,555, and that of Waterloo 9,839.
The country is flat and sandy, being in places still very marshy, so that deep ditches, especially in the north, are required to drain the fields and meadows. The crops grown are principally oats, rye, and potatoes. At Hall Road there are golf-links on both sides of the railway, and a broad stretch of sandhills, yet unbuilt upon, extends along the northern half of the sea coast. The geological formation consists of the keuper series of the new red sandstone or trias, being represented almost entirely by lower keuper sandstones, but in the southern part of the township the waterstone is found overlying the former. From the shore inland for three-quarters of a mile the underlying formation is obscured by blown sand.
The village, which lies more than a mile inland, is becoming modernized and growing quickly, especially along the principal road, that from Liverpool to Southport, which crosses the township in a northerly direction, with roads branching off to the shore and to Thornton. The Liverpool and Southport line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, opened in 1848, with stations at Waterloo and Blundellsands, also passes through the township. An electric tramway connects Great Crosby with the Seaforth terminus of the Liverpool Overhead Railway.
The township of Waterloo has been carved out of the southern part of Great Crosby. To the north of it are Brighton le Sands and Blundellsands; these places consist principally of modern residences, which afford Liverpool people convenient dwellings at the seaside. In 1889 Colonel Nicholas Blundell gave 3½ acres to the local board for a recreation ground. (fn. 2)
Crosby Channel forms the principal entrance to the Mersey; it is about three-quarters of a mile wide. By constant dredging a sufficient depth of water for the passage of the great liners is maintained. There is a lightship in the channel.
The Crosby races used to be held once or twice a year—the first week of August was the proper time— on a course on the shore side of Great and Little Crosby, which had been 'stooped out' by William Blundell in 1654 at the request of Lord Molyneux. The date is noticeable. (fn. 6)
The little triangular green of the village is now paved. Here is the ancient St. Michael's Well, which has been covered in, and is surmounted with steps and a wooden cross. (fn. 7) There are sundials dated 1766 and 1795 at the Mulberries and Crosby House.
The 'submerged forest' off the coast of Great and Little Crosby was described as visible in 1796. (fn. 8)
A great boulder stone, found close by, is placed in the village, protected by an iron railing.
Lawrence Johnson, educated at Oxford and Douay, executed in 1582 and declared 'Blessed' by Leo XIII in 1886, was son of Richard Johnson of Great Crosby, and laboured for a short time in Lancashire. (fn. 9)
A local board for the part not included in Waterloo-with-Seaforth was formed in 1863; (fn. 10) this in 1894 became an urban district council with nine members.
GREAT CROSBY is not mentioned by name in Domesday Book, being in 1066 one of the six berewicks dependent on the royal manor of West Derby. (fn. 11) This dependency continued after the Conquest, the manor, assessed as four plough-lands, forming part of the demesne of the honour of Lancaster (fn. 12) attached to West Derby, until it was sold by Charles I in 1625 to Lord Mandeville and others. (fn. 13) From this time it descended with Sefton until in 1798 it was sold, the purchaser being a trustee of the Blundells of Little Crosby. (fn. 14) The present lord of the manor is Mr. William Joseph Blundell. (fn. 15)
This family's connexion with the place began in the twelfth century, John, count of Mortain, having granted it between 1189 and 1194 to his forester, Robert de Ainsdale, at a yearly rent of 100s. (fn. 16) This grant was probably revoked after John's rebellion in 1194, (fn. 17) for on coming to the throne he confirmed it. (fn. 18) It was, however, very soon resigned or forfeited, for in 1212 it was found that Robert de Ainsdale held only an eighth part of the manor, that is four oxgangs of land, and that by the service of being steward; (fn. 19) the tenure was converted during the reign of Henry III into fee farm, for 10s. yearly. (fn. 20) This portion remained with Robert's descendants, (fn. 21) whose history is given in the account of the adjacent manor of Little Crosby.
Another eighth portion or the manor was in 1212 held by Simon de Crosby. (fn. 22) He was followed about 1225 by Robert de Crosby; (fn. 23) Richard de Crosby (fn. 24) and others bearing the local name (fn. 25) occur later; but during the thirteenth century one Sturmi de Crosby succeeded, and sold it to William son of Henry de Walton. (fn. 26) This William was followed by his son Simon (fn. 27) and grandson Henry, the latter being returned as holding half a plough-land here in 1323–4. (fn. 28) Yet it would seem clear that before this date Simon de Walton had sold his lands to Nicholas Blundell, (fn. 29) for they were settled as dower upon Agnes, (fn. 30) the widow of Nicholas's son David; and were afterwards granted to his grandson Richard, who married Emma daughter of Thomas de Molyneux of Sefton. (fn. 31) They were in 1346 held by Emma's brother Thomas de Molyneux, perhaps as trustee. (fn. 32) There were no children by the marriage, and in 1352 William, as son and heir of Nicholas Blundell, a brother of David, claimed from Thomas son of Thomas de Molyneux two oxgangs of land in Great Crosby which he alleged should have descended to him. (fn. 33) It does not appear whether this estate reverted to the Blundells of Crosby or passed to the heirs of Thomas. (fn. 34)
Another portion, also originally an eighth, was held in 1212 by Roger Mallot or Malloc, (fn. 35) and descended soon afterwards to Robert Mallot. (fn. 36) Thomas Banastre held it by charter in 1298; (fn. 37) while in 1323–4 John and William sons of Roger had the same portion. (fn. 38) A sub-division followed, and in 1346 the tenants of each of the three oxgangs of land which composed the tenement were separately recorded thus: Richard de Wall, paying 1s. 6d.; Robert de Wyresdale, Roger Bolymer, and Margery daughter of Thomas Jordanson, 3s.; and William Rogerson with John del Dale, half; and Henry Woodward, half, 3s. (fn. 39) Some fragments can be traced further, and appear to have been acquired by Molyneux of Sefton. (fn. 40)
The greater part of the land of the manor was held in villeinage, and in the extent of 1323–4 already quoted is a list of the twenty-four holdings, the tenements ranging from a quarter of an oxgang to three and a half oxgangs, with a note appended that the oxgang of land contained 5 acres, the assized rent being at the rate of 4s. 6d. for each oxgang of land. It is further stated that 'the commonalty of the town of Crosby holds a certain field called the Ford, and pays 10s. yearly at Michaelmas.' (fn. 41) The extent of 1346 enters much more minutely into the customs and conditions of the township. (fn. 42) The free tenants remained as formerly, but William de Liverpool, clerk, and Nichola his wife, had acquired 6 acres next Balifield by charter of the lord's father. (fn. 43)
In 1246 the town of Great Crosby was amerced 40s. for wreckage found on the shore, because the booty was taken without warrant and hidden. (fn. 44)
In the reign of Henry VI there was a dispute between Henry Blundell, lord of Little Crosby, and the king's tenants of Great Crosby about the boundaries. By the assent of Sir Richard Molyneux, steward of the latter place, Thomas Lathom, then escheator, was made arbitrator, and taking sixteen of the tenants he rode with them himself to survey the boundary, setting up the meres then and there, after which Henry Blundell made a ditch along the boundary so marked out. (fn. 45)
It was an established rule that no man should build any house except within the precincts of the town, wherefore the king's tenants in 1532 complained that a certain Nicholas Johnson, supported by James Blundell of Ince and about forty companions, had built a house on a new site, in defiance of the other tenants and the constables of the town. Moreover 'the said Nicholas, with eight others, for about three weeks after the said house was built, armed with bows, arrows, bucklers, &c., kept watch by night, so that the said tenants durst not walk out in the evening as they had been accustomed to do, and see their goods.' Further, on the Eve of St. Michael in Monte Tumba he had gone into the chapel and kept the door shut, so that neither 'strange pilgrims' nor the townspeople could enter to pray or make their offerings. (fn. 46)
Queen Elizabeth in 1602 enclosed 200 acres of the common or waste lands of the manor, to be enjoyed by the tenants in severalty by copy of court roll according to the custom of the manor, paying 4d. for every acre improved, and to be subject to the usual fines. (fn. 47)
The Johnson family appear to have been among the principal tenants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but it is difficult to trace the family back with certainty owing to the use of the christian name as surname in the precise sense, as 'son of John,' so that the surname varied from generation to generation. (fn. 48)
A number of 'Papists' registered their estates here in 1717—Henry Aspinwall of Croxteth, Richard Cartwright, Edward Hatton, John Hunt, John Johnson, Robert Johnson, John Lurting, Thomas Syers and Mary his wife, Thomas Thelwall, and Richard Westhead. (fn. 49)
The court rolls of the manor, dating from the time of Henry VIII, are kept in a box in St. Luke's church gallery. A few earlier ones are at Croxteth. (fn. 50)
Although from its name it may be supposed that there had been a chapel at Great Crosby from an early time, the first direct reference hitherto noticed is that quoted above, in 1532. From this it will be seen that it was a place of pilgrimage, and it may further be gathered that the feast day was St. Michael in Monte Tumba, 16 October. (fn. 53)
The Parliamentary Commissioners of 1650 described it as 'an ancient chapel well situated, the present incumbent being Mr. John Kidd, an able minister, who hath for his salary the tithes of the said place, being worth £30 per annum,' and they considered that it might be made an independent parish church. (fn. 54)
The old chapel of St. Michael was replaced in 1774 by a brick building with a tower. (fn. 55) This was pulled down in 1864, though the tower continued to stand until 1880. The present church of St. Luke, on the main road, some quarter of a mile from the old one, was built in 1854. There is a graveyard.
The church plate includes a paten (date 1724) given by Mrs. Elizabeth Martin in 1766; and a chalice (initials I.L.) of Elizabethan style, but apparently of eighteenth-century manufacture, the corresponding paten of which is among the Sefton church plate. There is a sundial (date 1752) in the churchyard.
The following is an imperfect list of curates-incharge and incumbents since the beginning of the seventeenth century (fn. 56); several of them were also masters of the grammar school:—
Modern churches connected with the Establishment are those of St. Nicholas, Blundellsands, and St. Faith, Great Crosby. The former was built in 1874, (fn. 57) the latter in 1900. The incumbents are presented by bodies of trustees.
The Presbyterian Church of England built a chapel at Blundellsands in 1898. There is a Wesleyan Methodist church at Blundellsands, built in 1891; it has a tall and graceful spire. The Congregationalists have a school church near the village, built in 1884. (fn. 58)
The Roman Catholic church of SS. Peter and Paul, Great Crosby, was opened in 1894. The mission was inaugurated in 1825. There are convents of the Sisters of Nazareth and the Sisters of St. Paul, the former occupying Crosby House. At Blundellsands the church of St. Joseph was opened in 1886. (fn. 59)
The grammar school was founded in 1619 by the will of John Harrison, citizen and merchant tailor of London, whose father had been born in Great Crosby. (fn. 60) Another school, at first called the Mistress's School, was founded by the will of Catherine Halsall, 1758. (fn. 61)