South Liverpool
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Last updated 1st June 2016
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Walk: The South Liverpool Green Wedge
Allerton Road
All Hallows Church
Menlove Avenue
A Brief History of Allerton
Allerton is a suburban area of housing, parks and other green spaces bounded by the townships of Wavertree, Childwall, Woolton, Speke and Garston. This page presents an overview of Allerton and its history along the lines of other merseySights pages. For a much more comprehensive treatment see A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill.
The earliest known inhabitants of Allerton were Neolithic people (4,500 - 2,500 BC). They left behind a burial and ceremonial site, the remains of which survive as the Calderstones and the Robin Hood Stone. Allerton appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Alretune from the Anglo-Saxon for Alder-tree farm or settlement and and was held by Roger de Poitou. The modern name Allerton first appeared in 1306. The manor passed through several hands to the Lathoms in the 15th century, who subsequently built the first Allerton Hall. It was most likely at this time that the famous Allerton Oak tree was a sapling. Several more changes of hands brought the manor to William Roscoe and James Clegg at the end of the 18th century, who jointly held the manorial rights. Finally it was purchased by Thomas Clarke, who died in 1911. The hall and estate were subsequently donated to the City of Liverpool by his sons.
From the time of the Anglo Saxons to the early 19th century, the landscape remained essentially unchanged: a mix of farms, crop fields and pastures, wooded higher ground and quiet country lanes. By 1801 the population of Allerton was still only 178. By the middle of the 19th century there were a couple of sandstone quarries and a few other grand houses, such as Allerton Priory and Calderstone. The precursor of the London and North Western Railway and its Allerton station, also date from this time.
The 1870s saw the construction of the magnificent All Hallows Church and in the later 19th century many wealthy professionals chose to build their mansions on the higher and more wooded ground. In the early 1900s, Calderstones Park had been purchased by Liverpool Corporation. The population of Allerton in 1901 was still only 1,101. Around 1910, Allerton Cemetery opened with its three gothic chapels completed five years later. The 1920s saw the acquisition of Allerton Golf Course, Allerton Tower Park and Clark Gardens for the public by Liverpool Corporation. These three, together with the cemetery and Calderstones Park, became known as the Green Wedge.
The two tree-lined arterial routes of Menlove and Mather Avenues were also constructed in the 1920s with tramlines down their central reservations. Although these routes at that time would have largely passed through open fields on their way to Woolton and Garston, the 1930s saw a significant expansion of suburban housing and infrastructure. The area saw relatively little damage during the bombings of the Second World War, and a major second phase of suburban expansion took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The middle years of the 20th century saw the demolition of many of the mansion houses.
Since the 1960s, the area has remained unchanged in its broad features, although new uses have been found for many of the old buildings. A major reason for this is the deliberate preservation of playing fields and highly attractive green spaces such as the Green Wedge - over 2 miles (3½ km) long and over half a mile (1 km) wide at its widest point. This has very much limited the scope for new building. In the early years of the 21st century, Allerton is still an attractive leafy suburb.
Allerton Hall
Calderstones Park
Mather Avenue
The Calderstones
The Calderstones and the Robin Hood Stone
Allerton is particulary fortunate considering the extent of suburbanisation to have the remains of important Neolithic monuments. The Calderstones are the most important of those surviving. Although now arranged as a stone circle in the Botanical Gardens vestibule in Calderstones Park, these stones are thought to be the remains of a nearby burial chamber, dating from the end of the Neolithic period (c.2,500 BC), that was dismantled in the early 19th century. Another monolith is the Robin Hood Stone, which has also been relocated and is now situated on Booker Avenue.
The area was of great significance to the Neolithic people. In the 16th century there also existed a large mound called Pyckeloohill (possibly Pikelaw Hill) with two standing stones and a 'great stone' known as the Rodgerstone, none of which have survived. The Calderstones were originally located on a prominent site at a meeting of four lanes (now Menlove Avenue, Druids Cross Road and Calderstones Road) and were a recognised marker for the intersection of the townships of Gateacre (then Little Woolton), Allerton and Wavertree.
The surviving Calderstones consist of six irregular sandstone monoliths of different sizes with a variety of markings: spirals, concentric circles, arcs, cup marks, cup and ring marks and footprints. These decorations sugest that the stones may have been the walls of a burial chamber. The Robin Hood Stone bears some of the same markings and is thought to have been part of the same structure, but was moved c.1550. It also displays deeply cut grooves suggestive of use at one time for the sharpening of arrows.
The Robin Hood Stone
William Roscoe by Martin Archer Shee
(1822) in the Walker Art Gallery
Clarke Gardens
William Roscoe and Allerton Hall
The site of Allerton Hall (on 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 estate was later purchased by William Roscoe and James Clegg, though 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. He first went into business in 1774 as a lawyer. At the same time he was an outspoken campaigner against the slave trade, a poet and a devoted student of Italian language, art and literature. 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 first Liverpool Botanic Garden, near Mount Pleasant. Trouble with his banking interests in 1816 eventually 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.
The final lord of the manor was Thomas Clarke, who died in 1911. In 1923 his son Charles Samuel Clarke presented Allerton Hall and its remaining estate to the City of Liverpool for use as a public park in memory of his father, after whom the park was named Clarke Gardens. In the 1990s a large part of the park was planted with young trees and left to develop as a natural wilderness for wildlife. This has developed into mature woodland threaded by secluded paths, a unique feature in the parks of Liverpool. The remainder consists of large fields dotted with magnificent trees. Today the hall is an unusual pub.
Other notable residents before the Victorian Era were St. John Almond, Dr. Samuel Solomon, Peter Baker and Josias Booker.
Allerton Hall in the late 1700s and today
Allerton Priory
Other 19th Century Residences
The land upon which the Allerton Priory estate (off Allerton Road) stands was in the possession of William Roscoe at the beginning of the 19th century but he sold it in 1806. By about 1812 is was owned by merchant William Calton Rutson, who also acquired the Allerton Tower estate and built the original house called Allerton Lodge. The estate eventually passed in 1832 to cotton broker Theodore Woolman Rathbone, who sold the plot that became Allerton Tower to Sir Hardman Earle in the 1840s and renamed the rest Allerton Priory.
Following Rathbone's death in 1863, John Grant Morris, a colliery owner and, for a time, Mayor of Liverpool, acquired the estate and demolished the old house. He built the present Allerton Priory, an extraordinary and vast Gothic pile completed in 1871 to a design of Alfred Waterhouse. It is situated in a beautiful and secluded woodland setting entered by a pretty lodge on Allerton Road via a long, romantically landscaped, sunken, wooded drive with imported rocks. It is now part of an exclusive apartment and housing development.
Allerton Priory Lodge
Allerton Tower in its former glory
Allerton Tower Lodge
Allerton Tower was designed by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, who is most famous for St. George's Hall in Liverpool, and was completed in 1849, two years after Elmes's death. It was built by Sir Hardman Earl, who became 1st Baronet of Allerton Tower in 1869. Hardman became one of the original promoters of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and also became a director of the London and North Western Railway. Earlestown in Lancashire was named after him because of his involvement in viaduct construction for the railways and the jobs and housing that it brought to the area.
Hardman was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Earle and he in turn by his son Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Earle, the 3rd Baronet. He sold the estate to Liverpool Corporation in 1924. The house was demolished and the landscaped grounds were opened to the public in 1927 as Allerton Tower Park. All that remains today of the original buildings are the classically inspired lodge on Woolton Road and the orangery and stables. The park today has a pleasantly natural feel with a touch of formal planting, especially a secluded walled garden with laburnum arch, and is one of the least visited in the area.
Allerton Tower Orangery
Allerton in better times
The house known simply as Allerton (off Allerton Road) was built for Jacob Fletcher, son of a successful privateer, in 1815. After Jacob's death, the house was taken over by Alfred Fletcher, a cotton broker and director of the London and North Western Railway, who was still living there in 1911.
The grounds were converted into Allerton Municipal Golf Course in 1921. The house remained the home of the Fletcher family until 1944, when it was gutted by fire. The shell of the ground floor with its colonnade is all that remains of it. The neoclassical lodge on Allerton Road survives, along with the imposing gatepiers.
The Ruins of Allerton
Calderstone House
The mansion known as Calderstone was built on the site of a farm called Grove House. Lead shot manufacturer Joseph Need Walker acquired the estate in 1825 through debt settlement and demolished the old house. In its place the Georgian mansion Calderstone was completed in 1828. The house and estate were acquired by Charles McIver in 1875. He was a Liverpool shipping magnate, who had joined Samuel Cunard in establishing the British and North American Royal Steam Packet Company, later known as the Cunard Line. His son Charles subsequently took over the estate.
The house and estate were sold to Liverpool Corporation in 1902 and became Calderstones Park. The house has been altered over the years and for a long time was used as council offices. In 2014 the Reader Organisation purchased a 125 year lease from Liverpool City Council to develop an international reading, heritage and cultural centre.
Calderstone Coach House
Springwood (Woolton Road and Springwood Avenue) dates from 1839 and was built for plantation owner William Shand, who never completed it. It was bought and completed in the 1840s by Sir Thomas II Brocklebank of the famous shipping family.
The shipbuilding and shipping company was founded in Whitehaven, Cumberland, in 1770 by Daniel Brocklebank. It became the Brocklebank Line in 1801 when two of the sons, Thomas I and John, took control after their father's death. Thomas I moved to Liverpool in 1819, leaving John in Whitehaven to run the Bransty shipyard and ropery.
Springwood Lodge
Hart Hill Lodge
Hart Hill (Harthill Road) was built for John Bibby II, a merchant and second son of John Bibby I, shipping magnate and founder of the Bibby Line in 1805. The house was probably constructed in around 1840 and the main lodge on Harthill Road probably dates from that time. Later a second lodge was constructed on Calderstones Road. John II married Fanny Hartley, daughter of Jesse Hartley, famous for constructing much of the Liverpool waterfront. She died before him in 1856 and, as a memorial to her, he built All Hallows Church in Allerton, which was completed in 1876. The house was eventually taken over in 1898 by John II and Fanny's younger son Alfred Bibby.
In the first decade of the 20th century, the house was sold to St. Helens glass manufacturer Charles Joseph Bishop. He sold most of the grounds to Liverpool Corporation in 1913 to form the Harthill Estate extension to Calderstones Park. He may have moved out at that time, but at any rate the house eventually fell into disuse and was demolished in the early 1930s. Only the lodges now survive.
Hart Hill New Lodge
New Heys in 1862
New Heys, on Allerton Road, is one of Alfred Waterhouse's earlier mansions, completed in 1865 for lawyer William Ganby Bateson. It was acquired from him, probably on his death, by shipowner John William Hughes, who lived there until his death. The large Gothic structure has been converted into apartments.
New Heys
Hartfield is the older of the two mansions on Harthill Road that have been subsumed into the present Calderstones School. It is Italianate in style and probably dates from the late 1840s. Aaron Brown, a provision merchant operating from Chapel Street in the city centre, moved into the house in the 1850s and lived there until the 1880s, presumably until his death.
Thre house was then bought by shipowner John Bankes Walmsley, who added the sandstone tower, porch and verandah. His widow Caroline Moody Walmsley was still living in the house in 1911, and perhaps until its sale in the early 1920s, when it became Calder High School for Girls. The lodge also survives on Calderstones Road.
Hartfield Lodge
Quarry Bank
The other mansion that became Calderstones School is the gothic Quarry Bank, built for timber merchant James Bland. It was named after the quarry that once stood on the site. It eventually passed to general draper William Henry Watts, who sold it for conversion into Quarry Bank High School for Boys in 1921.
The school became famous as the alma mater of Beatle John Lennon. It merged with Calder High School for Girls in 1967 to become Quarry Bank Comprehensive School and is now Calderstones School. The lodge, coach house and stables also survive.
Quarry Bank Lodge
Heath Cottage
Other properties in Allerton, all of which predate 1800, are Hillpit House (The Forty Pits), Heath Cottage, Oak Farm and Hill House (Fletcher's Farm).
Hill House (Fletcher's Farm)
All Hallows Church
The East Window
All Hallows Church
The Grade I Listed All Hallows church is the finest in the area. It was built in 1872-76 for John Bibby II, a merchant and second son of John Bibby I, shipping magnate and founder of the Bibby Line. He donated £20,000 for the construction, which was intended as a tribute to his first wife Fanny née Hartley, who was born on All Hallows Eve and had died in 1856.
The church was designed in the Perpendicular Style by Liverpool architect George Enoch Grayson. The foundation stone was laid on All Hallows Eve, 1872. The exterior is local red sandstone and the interior makes much use of white stone from Storeton.
Of particular interest in All Hallows is the outstanding ensemble of stained glass. 14 of the 15 stained glass windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, with supporting foliate lights in the earlier windows designed by William Morris, and constructed by William Morris & Co. They have a remarkable symmetry of concept embodying clear storytelling and represent some of the finest Victorian stained glass anywhere.
Burne-Jones thought that the east window of 1875-6, The Adoration of the Lamb, probably based on a painting by Van Eyck, was his finest window design. Christ is portrayed as the Lamb of God surrounded by the Evangelists and angels, with cherubim and seraphim in the tracery. The overall tone is delicate whites and browns. Typical of late Burne-Jones is the single composition spread across all of the lights. The later south isle windows employ stronger colours. The use of deep pink, mauve and dark blue is very unusual.
All Hallows interior
The Ascension in the South Aisle
The Four Seasons
The Lake
Calderstones Park
Lead shot manufacturer Joseph Need Walker acquired the Calderstone estate in 1825 and built the Georgian mansion Calderstone in 1828. The house and estate were sold to Liverpool Corporation in 1902 and Calderstones Park was opened in 1905 to accusations of wasting public money. The adjoining Hart Hill estate was bought by another shipping magnate John Bibby, who built his mansion there. The family sold most of the grounds to Liverpool Corporation in 1913 to form an extension to Calderstones Park, making a total of 121 acres (49 ha).
The imposing entrance to the park on Harthill Road features the Four Seasons, statues of allegorical figures of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
In 1931, the main drive, a government supported unemployment relief scheme, was constructed from the Four Seasons entrance across the park to Yew Tree Road. This became known as Jubilee Drive in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935, when the trees were planted along its length. Also part of the government scheme was the boating lake, opened in 1933. By this time Calderstones was already being hailed as Liverpool's most beautiful park.
Behind the Mansion House is a largely wooded area with a magnificent collection of fir trees, many of North American origin. Also of note are the English Garden, a walled garden with trellises covered in climbing plants, seating areas, secluded paths and a lily pond, the Flower Garden, an open plan walled garden with themed planting and the Japanese Garden, a haven of peace and tranquility sheltered from the wind. The Bog Garden was originally a natural pond ner the lake that had been used for dumping during the blitz but now has a stone bridge spanning a winding waterway, a valuable habitat for aquatic plants and animals.
The Jubilee Drive
The English Garden
The Allerton Oak in Autumn
The Allerton Oak
The Allerton Oak is a famous old tree in Calderstones Park just behind the Mansion House that, of course, lends its name to this website. It is much-loved by visitors on account of its antiquity and delapidated appearance.
Local legends surround the tree, which has been said to be over 1000 years old for as long as I can remember. It seems unlikely that it is that old - the circumference of the trunk suggests 500-600 years. When the house and estate were sold to Liverpool Corporation in 1902, the tree was first fitted with props to support its spreading lower branches that continue to provide a somewhat Daliesque appeal. The trunk may have started to exhibit some of the fracturing that is such a conspicuous feature these days and the height was later reduced.
However, the tree went on to survive the bombing of the Second World War, during which Christmas Cards containing one of its leaves were sent to staff of Liverpool Corporation Parks and Gardens Department who were serving in the armed forces.
The railings had appeared by 1970, in which year the Liverpool Echo reported that the tree was doomed to die by 2020 due to rot in the trunk. It does not now look as though this is going to happen, but proper care and attention will be needed to preserve it.
The Allerton Oak c.1905
Mendips ( 251 Menlove Avenue)
Allerton and the Beatles
Mendips, 251 Menlove Avenue, in Woolton (though just over the boundary of Allerton) was the home of John Winston Lennon, musician, song-writer, composer and political activist, from 1945 to 1963. He lived there with his mother's sister, his aunt Mary Elizabeth 'Mimi' Smith. In 1962 he went to Quarry Bank High School in Allerton. The band he formed there, The Quarrymen, first practiced at Mendips. He carried out a campaign of rebellion against the school values and performed poorly in his schoolwork, his only his interest being in art. He kept a notebook, the Daily Howl, containing satirical verses and caricatures foreshadowing the style and content of his later published works.
20 Forthlin Road in Allerton was the home of James Paul McCartney, musician, song-writer and composer, from 1955 to 1963. In 1957 Paul met John Lennon and The Quarrymen at a St Peter's Church Hall fête in Woolton. Paul was invited to join soon afterwards as a rhythm guitarist, and so began his close working relationship with John. The band would practice in the house in Forthlin Road. George Harrison joined in 1958 as lead guitarist, followed by John's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe in 1960. Other members of the The Quarrymen dropped out and they adopted the name The Beatles in 1960. They recruited drummer Pete Best shortly before starting to perform in Hamburg. They rehearsed and wrote many of their earliest songs at Paul's house.
Both houses have been reconstructed in an authentic 1950s style with plenty of early memorabilia and can be visited courtesy of the National Trust.
20 Forthlin Road
The Anglican Chapel
Allerton Cemetery: The site of Allerton Cemetery south of Springwood Avenue was purchased from the Allerton Hall Estate in 1906 by Liverpool City Council. The layout is based upon a broad central avenue, with grave spaces set back from the main walks behind planted borders to give an impression of a pleasant park. A considerable area of evergreens was planted to retain the atmosphere during the winter. By 1911, the red sandstone lodge, gates, superintendent's house and three chapels (Anglican, Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist) were nearing completion. The chapels have fallen into disuse but the whole site is Grade II listed.
All Souls Church: The Grade II listed All Souls Church was built in 1925-7. It is an imposing structure in Italian Romanesque/Byzantine style with a towering campanile, built mainly of brick that supposedly changes in colour with the changing light. The elegant interior features skilful use of brick and stone and a dramatic sense of space and height with soaring Romanesque arches.
All Souls Church
The Obelisk
The Obelisk: The obelisk that stands near the ruins of the Allerton mansion once marked the start of a tree-lined avenue leading all the way to Allerton Hall. The avenue, but not the obelisk, is shown on the 1768 Yates and Perry map. The obelisk itself appears on Sherriff's 1823 map and possibly dates from William Roscoe's time at Allerton Hall. The grounds of Allerton were acquired by the City Council and converted into Allerton Municipal Golf Course in 1921.
Liverpool South Parkway Station: In the 1960s it was proposed that there be a common station for Merseyrail and the Intercity Line so that long distance passengers could transfer to local suburban stations without going into the centre of Liverpool. There was also going to be an outer rail loop serving the eastern suburbs of the city that never materialised. The new station, Liverpool South Parkway, on the site of the former Allerton Station and South Liverpool Football Club ground, finally opened in 2006, driven also by the need to provide effective onward public transport by bus to the rapidly expanding Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Liverpool South Parkway Station
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
For a thorough discussion of the architecture, 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 is a must read.
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.