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A BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST DERBY
Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, long ago West Derby had a castle and Royal hunting forest. In those days it must have been a wild and inhospitable place - a few cottages linked by rutted tracks.
However, it was an important village and older than Liverpool itself. The West Derby Hundred was and is a legal entity, covering much of south Lancashire.
In the Village, West Derby Courthouse and the Yeoman’s House opposite are the oldest buildings in the district - both dating from around 1586, when Elizabeth I was on the throne.
It was in Victorian times that West Derby was transformed from a rustic backwater to a bustling township housing some of Liverpool’s wealthiest merchants.
The city had grown into the Second City of the Empire, trading far and wide and generating great wealth. In the 1850s, Lord Sefton remodelled West Derby Village to make a suitable ‘gateway’ for Croxteth Hall. The old chapel was pulled down and replaced by a grand cathedral-like parish church to reflect the status of the area. New buildings were put up around the newly-created Village square while an imposing gateway and lodge guarded a sweeping drive leading down to the Hall.
This investment was matched by the merchants who built about 60 mansions in the district. Well-known families like the Holts, Tates and Witherses had homes set back from newly-created roads and driveways. Mansions with names like Alder Hey, Blackmoor and Bellefield - although long demolished - are still remembered today.
In the 1930s West Derby was transformed as many mansions were torn down and their grounds covered by private semi-detached houses. Large corporation estates were built in Norris Green and Dovecot and later in Croxteth. In the 1960s, the Beatles were associated with West Derby when they regularly played at the Casbah Club.
However, much of historic West Derby remains - including mansions like Lowlands, Kiln Hey and Broughton Hall along with, of course, Croxteth Hall. The West Derby Society seeks to raise awareness about our rich history and is constantly watching out for any threats to the historic environment.