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 Society Information

 West Derby History

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 Lowlands History

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Events for 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Google “ West Derby Society”

                                                                         Summer 2015                                                      


                                                                  Courthouse Planning Issues 

The West Derby Society (WDS) is backing amended alterations affecting the yard behind the Grade II*-listed Tudor Courthouse in the Village.

The changes are linked to restaurants adjoining the historic building.

WDS alerted Liverpool City Council, which owns the Courthouse and yard, after new ventilators and pipes appeared on the restaurant walls.

Hot water was discharged through a poorly-installed pipe into an open grid. Two large ventilators belch hot fumes over the yard and gooey substances dribble down the restaurant esterior walls.

On 14 June WDS held a site meeting with a surveyor employed by one of the restaurants. It is understood retrospective planning permission is being saught for the alterations.


The surveyor drew up a draft schedule of works including bringing the pipes together and discharging into drains on restaurant land, not the Courthouse yard. This work was carried out almost immediately (above).

WDS is nurturing a natural fern garden to enhance the Courthouse. This has been affected by works linked to the restaurants.

There is also an issue with the general public being denied views of the rear of the Courthouse.

Until the recent works, people were able to see the back at all times.


One of the restaurants has erected a solid screen (above) between its premises and the flower shop, blocking the view.

WDS wants windows installed in the screen so that the Courthouse can once again be viewed.

WDS chairman Stephen Guy says: “We are delighted some remedial work was done so quickly.

“We believe these ventilators and pipes had a detrimental affect on our unique historic attraction, Britain ’s only post-medieval freestanding courthouse. We also want it to be visible to all.”


        Substantial new shutters have now been fitted to the Courthouse south window, replacing rotten ones. Shutters have been replaced numerous times over the centuries.


                                                                    Horse Power

Steven Spielberg's film War Horse sparked huge interest in the role that Lathom Park , near Ormskirk, played in the 1914-18 war effort, writes Alastair Caird.

However, having been given the Hollywood treatment some misconceptions have taken root about the work of West Lancashire ’s war horses. 

Prior to the Great War no British Army had ever gone into conflict without horses. In summer 1914 no-one could have forseen how much it would become reliant on an animal sharing qualities with the bravest of men - courage, steadfastness, determination, strength and, above all, loyalty.

The army of 1914 was small and ill-prepared for war but it was the best trained in the world. By August 1914 there were around 26,000 army horses and within weeks that had increased by 140,000 following an act of parliament commandeering horses from farmers, businesses, livery yards and private owners.


This number was to prove small compared to the amount that was eventually needed to prosecute the “war to end all wars”. War Office statistics indicate that between September 1914 and November 1917 215,000 horses and mules passed through Lathom Park . Given that the war ran for another year, 300,000 is not an excessive final number.

Lathom Park , Lord Lathom’s ancestral home, was 15 miles from Liverpool . He offered his spacious hall and parklands to the War Dept should no other nearer suitable location be forthcoming. Canada Dock, along with the Landing Stage, became focal points for the importation of horses and mules in the north. Transported by cargo ship across the Atlantic hoping to evade the German U boat threat, this was a perilous journey with horses packed into ships’ holds. It is an unfortunate but sad fact of war that many horses and merchant crews perished with their valuable cargoes.


 The horses were transported from Liverpool into Ormskirk Station goods yard. After unloading they were driven on the hoof through the country lanes into Lathom Park .

Work commenced at Lathom in September 1914 under the guidance of Sir John Jackson. It was set out originally as a civilian establishment with a military-style layout. The depot had Army Regimental HQ staff formed from Army Service Corps troops. It was this Regiment (ASC) that was the major unit at the depot, assisted by a detachment from the Army Veterinary Corps (AVC) whose local HQ was at nearby Scarisbrick Hall.


In January 1915 the civilian personnel at the depot became militarised overnight with most men enlisting in either the ASC or AVC - it was much more economical. All foremen became NCOs within a few weeks and much of the civilian existence ended. The result was a military establishment much larger than its predesessor.

However, civilian employment continued as no camp could function without it. With the advent of conscription in 1916, men of fighting age were compulsorily enlisted and many older people were employed in military depots. Including the Army Ordinance Depot at Burscough established in 1910, the area now resembled a rural garrison - the economic and social impact of was enormous. The pubs of Lathom, Burscough,

Skelmersdale and Newburgh villages were well requented by troops, while Ormskirk businesses were far richer having the army on their doorstep.

The Remount Depot was primarily for breaking / training horses to work in teams, of four, six or eight for hauling guns and wagons. The human element was training men to drive horse teams. Not all these men had previous experience and needed to be trained to handle horses, hence schooling in a suitable environment. Some horses were broken to be ridden as officers’ mounts while others went to reserve cavalry units elsewhere in the UK .

The romantic indiscretion of War Horse depicting the King Edward’s Horse charging the German Maxim guns is fanciful. Mounted cavalry indeed did exist but were mainly employed to protect the lines of communication between rear depots and the front. In truth they saw very little action – there were only four cavalry charges in the conflict. These included one by Indian cavalry in 1916 and another involving the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba , Palestine .


War Office archives inform us that some 5,600 men passed through Lathom Park by November 1917 while adding there had been significant shortages of personnel owing to a) the dispatch of squadrons and reinforcements overseas and b) the drafting of A-category men to combat units.

This is ambiguous because given the number of regiments employed in recruiting within South West Lancashire  - 12 - and considering the location of many recruiting places nationally, it is unlikely that Lathom Park would have recruited such a large number while it had an important strategic focus on horses. The papers show the number “passed through” Lathom Park rather than “passed out”.


                                                                          NEW DIG BOOK

Oxford Archaeology North has announced the latest release in the Lancaster Imprint Series: Archaeology at the Waterfront 1: Investigating Liverpools Historic Docks. This volume presents findings of the largest archaeological investigation along Liverpool ’s historic waterfront by Oxford Archaeology North and the National Museums Liverpool Field Archaeology Unit.


This work centres on Mann Island, Pier Head and central docks - all places that either fall within or directly adjacent to the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage site. The dig was carried out before the construction of commercial development, Museum of Liverpool and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal extension. The investigations uncovered numerous remains relating to 18th  and 19th century dock building and land reclamation as well as clues to the waterfront and town during these periods.

The archaeological evidence has been complemented by detailed historic research providing significant insights into the dynamic evolving system of dock and quayside developments between the early 18th and 20th centuries. This development was part of Liverpool ’s wider history - the archaeological remains reflect the port’s post-medieval growth, 19th century commercial zenith and 20th century decline prior to the extensive urban regeneration schemes on the present -day waterfront.

This extensive investigation shows how archaeology along the waterfront uncovers  the nuances of an area integral to the rise and success of Liverpool still exerting a significant sway on the port’s cultural and economic identity.



                                                            TIME TRAVELLER TO WEST DERBY VILLAGE

A hazy morning, a housewife cleans her step, the lamplighter extinguishes the glow of the gas as the sun struggles through the mist. A carter pauses outside the inn waiting to get going on his daily round, a tram for town awaits its passengers by the village monument.

The upper picture shows a similar scene today but being early morning, a little less lively. Soon it will be bustling with cars, buses and shoppers.

A History of the County of Lancashire written in 1907 gives the following description: “ 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. 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 , however, still presents a countrified aspect in spite of the advent of electric cars. The open ground is chiefly pasture but crops of corn  and potatoes are raised in a loamy soil”.

Few memories come as misty-eyed as this for those of a certain age, in which case you know what comes next:

“The time is a quarter to two , this is the BBC Light Programme for mothers and children at home, are you ready for the music? When it stops Catherine Edwards will be here to speak to you”.


Then followed that wonderful music, the gently lilting Berceuse from Faures’ Dolly Suite.

So began Listen with Mother, every afternoon at 1.45pm (just before Womans Hour) , a daily ritual, except for weekends. The 15-minute programme included songs and a story for children under five. At its peak the audience was more than one million a day.

The nursery rhymes were beautifully set to music by Ann Driver and sung by George Dixon and Eileen Brown. There can not be many children of that generation who did not march up and down with the Grand Old Duke of York or tumble into the ditch with the old man falling from his horse.


Meanwhile Mary Mary Quite Contrary was growing neat rows of silver bells and cockleshells in her garden, whilst the King of Spain’s daughter regularly visited A Little Nut Tree on which grew only a silver nutmeg and a golden pear. Humpty Dumpty could often be discovered precariously seated on a high wall and Ding Dong Dell Pussy was in the well, though all turned out for the best when we discovered who had put her there! So Polly put the kettle on we will all have tea.

Happy days!



                                                                       Mystery Revealed


 The coach left West Derby Village for the 17th consecutive WDS mystery tour on 17 June.

Once again our driver was Dave and we headed south directed by the chairman on his customery front perch.

Black Wood sailed by, then Gateacre Grange and Woolton Village . We trundled through Garston village and on past Toxteth Ancient Chapel.

Thankfully there was no repetition of last year’s mishap when we went through the toll barrier at the Birkenhead end of the tunnel.

Onwards to The Dell and Rock Ferry, an area blitzed in the war. We paused to take in the stunning view of the Mersey while two boys playfully boxed at the old pier entrance.


The coach carried on south through Eastham before following the lanes to Willaston – passing a modern pony and trap on the way.

It was then north again through Heswall into the timeless countryside around Thurstaston and Caldy.

After passing through West Kirby we reached our destination – Hoylake. Our stopping place is pictured (above) about 60 years ago.

Some of us went for a short walk to look at the old lighthouse, unusually surrounded by houses, and the seashore which was comfortably deserted – it was a chilly, dull evening.

We then adjourned to a nearby hotel set in pleasant grounds.

After about an hour’s stop we boarded the coach and carried on through north Wirral and home via the Wallasey Tunnel.


                                                                          Holly Lodge Hutchinsons

WDS has been in touch with Terry Hutchinson Powell, a member of the family who lived in Holly Lodge House currently threatened by demolition.

Terry has contacted Mayor Joe Anderson and builders Redrow backing WDS’s call for a re-think.

He has also appeared on Radio Merseyside and been interviewed by the Liverpool Echo.

Terry, who lives in Liverpool , provided us with some fascinating background to the family and their links with Holly Lodge.



Before it became a school (above, circa 1930), the house was occupied by Terry’s great-great-great uncle Edward Hutchinson, a wealthy corn miller.

The family company – Hutchinson ’s Flour Mills, later Mersey Mills was sold to Rank Hovis in 1960.

Family members linked to Holly Lodge include the Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1910 -11, Samuel Mason Hutchinson.

Other include: a headmaster of Edinburgh’s Fettes College, two Anglican priests, a Methodist minister, one Oxford rowing blue and a current deputy lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire.

Many others gave their lives in both world wars including Phyllis Hutchinson, lost on the Lusitania – her body was never found. Phyllis, born in Oxton.

Latterly she lived at Woodcroft, Eleanor Road , Bidston.

Terry says: “Phyllis worked very hard for the war effort. She then went to New York for a bit of rest and relaxation.

“She stayed with her uncle Bob Franks, an agent to Andrew Carnegie, before boarding the Lusitania .”

There is a memorial to Phyllis in Bidston Parish Church , Wirral. Other members of the Hutchinson family have joined the protest against the proposed demolition.

* Visit the new Lusitania exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum , featuring artefacts from the doomed liner including a rare lifejacket. Admission free.




                                                             Lost Houses

Your chairman had these two interesting e-mails about vanished local houses.

Linda Byron wrote: I believe that my ancestors may have lived in Tuebrook House in the early 1800s. The family were called Segar and I have letters addressed to Tue Brook House, Green Lane . [demolished to make way for the Carlton cinema]. I believe they had connections with Ormskirk, possibly farming, and there is also mention of a Liverpool corn merchant.  However, there were long-standing connections with St Mary's Church in West Derby for baptisms, marriages etc.

Janet Rome wrote about a front page article in the West Derby Link: My husband’s grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Hayward was born and raised at Leyfield Priory. Her grandfather was Peter Thomson who was involved in the construction of the Edge Hill railway.

 It is good to see these local connections.


                                                        Chairman’s Comments

I have recently had two old clocks repaired by a local horologist.

This had me musing – perhaps predictably – about passing time.

The first clock dates from about 1953, made by the famous Smith company. It has a lovely chime and must have seemed rather old-fashioned even when new.

The factory carried on until about 1968 when quartz clocks became the rage, making clockwork largely redundant.

My second timepiece, produced in Germany by the Winterhalter Clock Co, dates from around 1908 when it cost the fairly substantial amount of £30. This was still about half the price of an equivalent English clock.

Housed in a polished wooden case in the architectural style, it is known as a boardroom clock as they were popular on business premises.


I lived in Rainhill Stoops for 24 years and was interested in the area’s watchmaking tradition. A friend’s mother worked in the Prescot Watch Factory before she married. This purpose-built premises still stands although it closed after its products were undercut by cheaper foreign products.

When I moved to Rainhill in the 1970s there were still one or two former watch workshops. They were greenhouse-type buildings presumably because the intricate work needed lots of light.

Watchmakers often specialised in various components and the output of many hands went towards creating a watch.

There were associated cottage industries in the area, including making specialist tools, which continued until the 1960s.

As well as passing time, this got me thinking about how often British production has been copied then destroyed by cheaper foreign competitors. However, we continue as world-leading innovators and inventors.

Stephen Guy