Distinguished Early Residents
A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill @ allertonOak  
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Historical Background
Prior to the 18th century, Allerton and Mossley Hill were rural areas with a few large estates owned by aristocratic families and tenant farmers working their land. The seat of the Manor of Allerton had been Allerton Hall since mediaeval times. There were never any well-defined villages and there was little in the way of significant industry such as in neighbouring Garston and Woolton. Many of the oldest surviving buildings were originally farmhouses. The population density was low; by 1801 the population of Allerton was still only 178.   Nevertheless, several early writers commented on the particular beauty of the countryside and the fact that the air was sweet and free of industrial pollution. It was this, no doubt, that, around 1800, began to attract wealthy merchants and other professionals to the area to buy land and build their impressive mansions. They were men of taste and the properties that remain from this pre-Victorian period in general surpass those built in the second half of the 19th century in beauty and architectural significance.
St. John Almond
John Almond was born in Allerton in about 1576 and spent his childhood there and in Woolton, where he went to school. His family were Catholics at a time when this was illegal. He was taken to Ireland when he was eight years old to continue his studies, which he completed in Reims, France. He went to the English College in Rome in 1596 and was ordained into the priesthood in 1598. His love of England and his fellow Catholics caused him to return in the risky role of missionary priest in 1602. He led an itinerant lifestyle for 10 years ministering to Catholics and defending the Catholic faith to those who opposed it.   He was a gifted speaker with a courageous but modest nature, who tended to be well respected by those on both sides with whom he came into contact. However, his activities inevitably led to clashes with the state and the higher Anglican clergy. He was arrested in 1608 and again in 1612, when he was tried for high treason and taken to Tyburn to be hanged, drawn and quartered. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.
St. John Almond
William Roscoe and Allerton Hall
The site of Allerton Hall (Springwood Avenue) was probably the location of the Manor of Allerton from mediaeval times, although we have no idea of the buildings here until the early 17th century. The manor had been held by the Lathom family since 1441 and Allerton Hall itself first appeared as the home of the widowed Elizabeth Lathom from 1602 until her death in 1624. The original Jacobean house would have dated from this time and its remains can be seen in drawings made in the late 18th century.
The Lathoms were Royalists and the estate was seized by Cromwell's parliament in 1652. It was sold to the Sumners and then to the Percivals. The last Percival heir failed in business and the estate was bought by the wealthy merchants John and James Hardman in 1736. Both had died by 1755, but during this period part of the Jacobean house had been demolished and the central part and western wing of the new building had been finished. James's widow continued to reside at Allerton Hall until her death in 1795.
William Roscoe by Martin Archer Shee
(1822) in the Walker Art Gallery
The estate was then purchased by William Roscoe and James Clegg, who jointly held the manorial rights. However, Clegg resided at Green Hill in Allerton while Roscoe took up residence in the hall. He found the Jacobean hall in an advanced state of decay and had it demolished. He went on to complete the building to its present symmetrical form by 1812 and, being an italophile, was delighted with its Palladian architecture. He also had the ground laid out as a park.
Roscoe was born in Liverpool in 1753, the son of a publican on Mount Pleasant. He first went into business in 1774 as a lawyer. At the same time he was an outspoken campaigner against the slave trade and a devoted student of Italian language, art and literature, writing notable books on Lorenzo de Medici and Pope Leo X, along with much poetry. He gave up legal practice in 1796 and became involved in reclamation of the waterlogged Chat Moss area for agriculture and in restoring the affairs of his friend William Clarke's bank.
He became MP for Liverpool in 1806 and voted in favour of the successful abolition of the slave trade, but stood down the following year. Also around this time he led a group of Liverpool botanists to create the Liverpool Botanic Garden, near Mount Pleasant; this was relocated to a new site in Wavertree in 1830. Trouble with his banking interests in 1816 forced the sale of his books and pictures and several further years of struggle to maintain the bank's solvency only led to his bankruptcy in 1820. He lived out his final years until his death in 1831 working in the library of his friend Thomas Coke at Holkham Hall, Norfolk.
Allerton Hall today
After his bankruptcy, Roscoe's portion of the Allerton Hall estate was sold to James Willasey, the subsequent resident, who is identified on Sherriff's map of 1823. It then passed to Pattison Ellames, Lawrence Richardson Baily and finally Thomas Clarke in 1886. Various additions around the back of the hall were made later in the 19th century. Clarke was the final lord of the manor until his death in 1911. His six sons all settled elsewhere and in 1923 his son Charles Samuel Clarke presented Allerton Hall to the City of Liverpool in memory of his father. The family name survives in the surrounding public park known as Clarke Gardens.
The interior of the hall was severely damaged by fire in 1994-5. The surviving parts of the original interior are the west room, with panelled walls and a stucco ceiling, parts of Roscoe's library towards the other end of the house, a 'hot house' and a sundial of 1750. It is now open to the public as a pub.
Allerton Hall from the east in the late 1700s
Allerton Hall from the north in the late 1700s
Allerton Hall by 1812
This engraving of the view from the east in the late 1700s shows the remaining part of the Elizabeth Lathom's Jacobean House after partial demolition by the Hardmans c.1740: a three storey east wing and recessed central section. It also shows the west wing and central portion of the Hardman's new building set in the rudimentary landscaping of the time. The engraving of the view from the north dates from a similar period and is from The Pictorial History of the County of Lancaster, 1842. It reveals the tower of the Jacobean hall and an unobstructed view over the River Mersey, much commented on at the time, to the hills on the other side. The view of the hall as it would have been in 1812 shows the Palladian building completed by Roscoe along with some of the landscaping. The engraving is by J.P. Neale and is taken from his book Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, 1824.
Dr. Samuel Solomon
Dr. Samuel Solomon made his fortune as a purveyor of a dubious medicine that he called the Cordial Balm of Gilead. A failed boot polish salesman and newspaper proprietor from Newcastle, he set up practice in Marybone, Liverpool, in the 1790s, selling his elixir that he claimed would cure, among other things, indigestion, hypocondria, intemperance, sexual debility, horrors of the mind and debauchery. It was probably no more than a blend of spices and strong brandy.
Another of his products was Solomon's Abstergent Lotion, supposed to render the face 'fair and delicate and removing every kind of stain, tan, sunburn or freckle which rouge, long illness or fatigue generally produce'. He made a fortune through an eventual 400 agencies in Britain and other places around the world.
Dr. Solomon's Balm of Gilead
He bought a mansion in Kensington, Liverpool, then in the country, that he called Gilead House (there are still roads in Kensington called Gilead, Solomon and Balm Streets). Later he acquired an estate in Mossley Hill where he erected his own mausoleum, said to be a costly monument of fine white sandstone, in which he and six members of his family were laid to rest. This was situated between present-day Pitville and Brodie Avenues. The coming of the Edge Hill and Garston railway ensured its demise and it was demolished in 1840.
He gave his name to Solomon's Brook and Solomon's Vaults, a stream and footpath once regarded as a local beauty spot but long since lost to surburban development.
Peter Baker and Carnatic House
Among the houses no longer standing, perhaps the most noteworthy are the sequence built over many years on the site of ancient Mosley (sic.) Hall, which may have given its name to the district, on Mossley Hill Road. The house and estate were purchased by shipwright Peter Baker in about 1778 on the proceeds of the sale of the ship Carnatic, captured from the French in an act of privateering in 1788. The cargo was worth an estimated £400,000, including £135,000 in diamonds. He demolished the hall and built a new mansion, Mossley Hill. With a nod to its origins the house subsequently became known, first as a joke and later officially, as Carnatic Hall. Baker became Mayor of Liverpool and died in office in 1796.   By 1881 the house was in the ownership of shipowner Walter Holland (1843-1915), but burned down in 1891; he built a new house in a similar style and was still living there in 1911 and, presumably, until his death. The estate was purchased by the University of Liverpool in 1947 and the house demolished in 1964 to begin the construction of the present halls of residence.
Carnatic Hall c.1935
Josias Booker and Poplar Grove
The West India merchant Josias Booker (1794-1865) was one of the earliest to have his country mansion, called Poplar Grove (later Ivy House), in Allerton. It stood on the corner of Booker's Lane (now Booker Avenue) and Greenhill Road. He made his fortune in cotton and later sugar in Demerera, British Guiana (now Guyana). He set up business in 1815, the year after the colony was ceded to the British by the Dutch, and was managing a plantation by 1818. He was noted for the concern over the welfare of his workers that he demonstrated and his introduction of cattle and machinery to ease their labour.
Josias founded the firm Booker Brothers with his brother George, settled in Poplar Grove in 1828 and opened an office in Liverpool in 1829. After falling out with Liverpool shipowners, they formed a shipping line bought their first ship in 1835, to be followed by many others. In 1838 the company began acquiring sugar plantations and eventually domimated the industry in the colony.
Josias was active in Liverpool business, being instrumental in forming the Royal Insurance Company in 1841, and public life. He built Booker's Cottages with gardens on Booker's Lane for his farmworkers. His daughter Margaret founded a small school for poor children next to the cottages in 1861 and ran it at her own expense for a number of years. Josias remained in Poplar Grove until his death in 1865. The family remained in the house until it was sold in 1886 to shipowner Edward Bromhead (1841-1910), who probably renamed it Ivy House. Along with the cottages and school, it was finally demolished in 1936-7. The school was replaced by the present Booker Avenue School. The shipping line became the Booker Line in 1911.
The Rathbone Family and Green Bank
The house originally known as Green Bank (Greenbank Lane) was built sometime in the early 1700s on part of the Toxteth Park Estate. At that time it stood on the west bank of the Upper Brook and appears as such on the Yates and Perry map of 1768. In 1788 William Rathbone IV (1757-1809) leased the house and 24 acres of land from the Earl of Sefton. Just before he died, he purchased the estate and his widow Hannah Mary undertook many alterations to the house according to his wishes. Much new building was undertaken in the Gothic style, especially the eastern aspect, and the cast iron screen, verandah and balcony were added on the south side. The remains of the original brick-built house are visible at the right hand side of the eastern façade.
William Rathbone IV was a ship owner and merchant, extensively but not exclusively involved in trade between the United States and Liverpool. His family were timber merchants who went into shipbuilding. The family firm William Rathbone & Sons was founded in Liverpool in 1746. His family were Quakers but he fell out with the organisation and religious bodies in general, though occasionally joining Unitarian congregations. He was a cultured man devoted to liberal public causes, a committed opponent of the slavery and a founder member of the Liverpool Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. In his abolitionist activities he was a great supporter of his friend William Roscoe, but also fell out with other Liverpool merchants.
The house was next taken over by William Rathbone V (1787-1868), the eldest son, who also inherited the family's commercial interests in conjunction with his younger brother Richard. He appears as the owner of Green Bank on Sherriff's map of 1823. He was involved in parliamentary and municipal reform and as a result became Mayor of Liverpool in 1837. He helped establish public baths and washhouses in Liverpool following the cholera epidemic and was in charge of the New England relief fund for the Irish Potato Famine. He also promoted interdenominational equal rights in education. One of his great-grandsons was the actor Basil Rathbone.
Statue of William Rathbone VI in St. John's Gardens
William Rathbone VI (1819-1902) became a partner in his father's firm in 1841. He built up the fortunes of the business, which had been slipping, by broadening its sphere of operations, particularly in China, and expanding the shipping fleet. He decided when young to devote a significant proportion of his income to public projects with a focus upon the needs of the poor, especially in effective management of charity work, establishment of district nursing and educational provision. He became chairman of the local liberal party and in 1868 one of the three MPs for Liverpool. This was the year his father died and he bacame head of the family at Green Bank. In 1882 he helped to found the University College of Liverpool, which went on to become Liverpool University, of which he was president from 1992. He retired from politics in 1895. In 1897 he sold part of his land to Liverpool Corporation for the formation of Greenbank Park on the condition it remain a public space.
William's widow Emily remained in the house until her death in 1918, when his daughter Emily Evelyn and her husband and cousin Hugh Reynolds Rathbone took over. They both had strong connections with Liverpool University and donated part of their land for student accommodation. Derby Hall was opened there in 1939. Eleanor Rathbone (1872-1946), William's youngest daughter, a reknowned MP and campaigner for women's rights, also lived in the house for part of her life. Hugh died in 1940 and between then and 1948 the remaining parts of the estate were donated by their children. The Admiralty requisitioned the house 1940 but it was donated to the University in 1944 as an annexe to Derby Hall. Rathbone Hall was opened in 1959 and Gladstone and Roscoe Halls in 1964. In that year the house became a student and staff social club and in 1988 adminstrative offices. At the time of writing it is disused.
Green Bank from the east c.1815
Green Bank from the east c.1900
Greenbank House today from the south
The c.1815 engraving is from Nicholson's Views in the Vicinity of Liverpool, 1821, by Samuel and George Nicholson. It shows the Gothic extension on the east side and the Upper Brook in the foreground. The photo c.1900 shows the same aspect in the time of William Rathbone VI. The present day photo shows the south side with the cast iron screen, verandah and balcony.
Eton House
Eton House and Oswaldcroft
The original two-storied Eton House (Woolton Road) was built in 1776 as a boarding school for boys for Hezekiah Kirkpatrick, a Unitarian minister and schoolmaster. It was bought in 1786 by Lord George Murray, who was keen on horses and hunting and built spacious stables to the west of the house. He in turn sold the property in 1797 to the Unitarian Dr. Peter Crompton, whose name survives in nearby Crompton's Lane. He and his family lived there until 1843. Apparently Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family were regular visitors and Robert Southey came in 1801.
On Crompton's death, the house and surrounding lands were bought by Liverpool timber merchant and Catholic Henry Sharples and shared with his cousin Bishop James Sharples. Henry built the large house Oswaldcroft next door and lived there until 1874. James Sharples and George Brown (later bishop of Liverpool) made the house their official residence and in 1845 erected a chapel to a design by the celebrated father of the Gothic revival Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. The lodge and gateway (bearing the initials of the two bishops) were also designed by him and date from this time.
The Redemptorists took up residence in 1851 and demolished the chapel to build the present Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation to a design by the architect's son Edward Welby Pugin. The house was bebuilt at the same time, adding a third storey and the prominent tower and modifying the northern façade. The complex is now known as Bishop Eton, the seat of the Roman Catholic Parish of the Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers.
Bishop Eton lodge and gateway
Sudley House from the east
Sudley House from the south
The drawing room
The dining room
The Robinson and Holt Families and Sudley
The land upon which Sudley (Mossley Hill Road) stands was part of the possessions of the Tarleton family from the middle of the 16th century to the early 1800s. The land was split up and sold in 1809 and the 29 acres (12 ha) parcel that became the Sudley estate was bought by the corn merchant Nicholas Robinson (1769-1854) for £4500. The boundary walls were apparently constructed in 1811 and the family moved into the newly completed house in 1821.
Robinson's grandson, writing of his grandfather, said that 'Sudley House and buildings and all it contained were, like him, all of the best, substantial, thorough, no cheap thing for show, all made to last'. He became Mayor of Liverpool in 1828-9. After his death his unmarried daughters Cicely (d.1877) and Ellen (d.1880) lived on in the house until Ellen's death, when his son Charles took over for a short time. However, he sold the house and estate to George II Holt (1825-1896) in 1882 for £22,000 to go and live at another family property in Shropshire.
George II's father George I (1790-1861) had moved to Liverpool as a young man and made his fortune in cotton broking. George II served his apprenticeship in Liverpool with T. and J. Brocklebank and became a shipowner and merchant, founding the Lamport and Holt Line in 1845 with William James Lamport. He married Elizabeth Bright (1833-1920) from another shipping family and they had a single child Emma Georgina (1862-1944). The family moved into the house in 1884 from Sandfield Park, West Derby, and he made a number of changes, including relocation of the main entrance from the east side to its present location on the north side, construction of the garden verandah on the south side and construction of the tower. He also transformed the interior.
George II was a strong supporter of Liverpool University College (later Liverpool University), where he founded and endowed the chairs of physiology and pathology. He was also a noted art collector, a passion acquired from his father, and filled the house with works by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Edwin Landseer, John Everett Millais, J.M.W. Turner, George Romney, Henry Raeburn, Camille Corot and many others.
Among George II's younger brothers, Alfred Holt (1830-1911) was the founder of the Blue Funnel Line and Robert Durning Holt (1832-1908), a shipowner, cotton broker and politician, was the first Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1883 following its grant of city status in 1880.
After George II's death, Elizabeth and Emma lived on in the house having inherited an estate and fortune worth about £600,000. Elizabeth died in 1920. Emma was a bright and gifted child and studied the history of archtecture at Liverpool University College. Like her father, she was a noted philanthropist (a friend of Eleanor Rathbone) and supporter of Liverpool University, in particular the higher education of women. She and her mother funded a new physics laboratory, which was opened in 1904 and named the George Holt Laboratory in honour of her father. Emma was elected to the council of the University in 1909 and served until 1934. A distant cousin and frequent visitor during his childhood in the 1930s was the jazz singer and art critic George Melly. He described her as 'plain with a long face, an incipient moustache, and very small eyes [...] shrewd and self-aware. [...] Her character was original and her generosity, especially to young people, unstinting'.
Emma never married. She remained in the house until 1940 when failing health caused her to move to her country home Tent Lodge in Coniston, Cumbria. She died there in 1944 and was buried at Toxteth Unitarian Chapel. On her death, she bequeathed the house and estate, complete with all of the art works, and £20,000 for their upkeep to the City of Liverpool. During World War II, the house was used as officers' quarters for the Women's Royal Naval Service. After the war it was a public library for a time. It is now run by National Museums Liverpool.
Haymaking at Sudley c. 1890
George Holt by Robert E. Morrison (1892)
Emma Holt by Percy Bigland (1889)
The back garden at Sudley
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
You can read a full account of the life of St. John Almond at Saints.SQPN.com. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has detailed biographies of many famous people. It is free to use, but you will need a public library membership card to register. I have consulted it for the lives of William Roscoe, William Rathbone IV, William Rathbone V and William Rathbone VI. For Dr. Solomon see the interesting article Dr. Solomon's Balm of Gilead by Colin Gould; I have borrowed his photograph of the medicine bottles. There is much more on Josias Booker in Passage from India to El Dorado - Guyana and the Great Migration by David Hollet.
For more on the History of Bishop Eton see the Bishop Eton website. Further details of Sudley and the Holt family are available at National Museums Liverpool, but there is much more information at the house itself, a visit to which is strongly recommended. Census returns, available from several genealogical websites for a subscription fee, provide further information about the families. The indispensible architectural guide is, as always, Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West (The Buildings of England, Pevsner Architectural Guides), Richard Pollard & Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006. The photo of the statue of William Rathbone VI is a freely licensed image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
This is a non-commercial website that is intended entirely for research and educational purposes. If I have unintentionally breached copyright with any images, I hope that the copyright owner will tolerate my usage in the present context, otherwise I will remove the material. Modern colour photographs are by the author.