Monday, 19 June 2017

Garston, Liverpool

Garston Village, now a suburb of Liverpool, has a different culture all of its own, and only became part of the city of Liverpool in 1902. For me, it has a feel of an old Mersey town, more akin to the Widnes of old, separate in its own way, but part of the vibrant Mersey culture. An example of this is how the Blackburne family from Hale, operated their saltworks in Garston, creating a dock in the later eighteenth century, and how this was competing for a time with the saltworks at nearby Oglet. The maritime history of course blends together a number of industrial towns along the banks of the Mersey, all dependent on each other in a way during the industrial period, from Warrington, Fiddlers Ferry and Widnes, which saw the links to the Sankey Canal system that took the St. Helens coal into Liverpool, and carried all other goods from the industries that sprang up along its banks. Boat building, maintenance yards and ship breaking industries all developed at various times along the river, the cycle of life, death and rebirth being a striking metaphor on the unforgiving river.

Garston was an industrial centre that depended on the River Mersey for its life-blood; from the docks, the saltworks, the mills and the fishing that took place there. Indeed there still is a fish market in Garston. Memories of the 'mud-people' still resonate in Garston, a kind of nineteenth century mud lark community that beech-combed the Mersey mud flats for coal and anything else they could find.

Under the bridge in Garston can be found St. Michael's church, built on a prominent hill, overlooking the Mersey down the road. The earliest church was built on the site in 1225, the second church in 1715, and the present church dates from 1877. Some of the oldest cottages still standing are Seafield Cottages which can be seen along Chapel Road, though there are many old pubs and many other cottages of interest such as Laburnum Terrace and the cottages tucked away in Belmont Place for example.




Garston Reading Rooms, opened 1861. The Reading Rooms was the location for the Inquest into the James Maybrick poisoning case in June 1889. His wife Florence Maybrick who was charged with his murder, was present but kept in the library. The capacity for the Reading Rooms was 500, and it was filled, with a large crowd gathered outside.

The Garston Reading Rooms.

The inside of the Reading Rooms.

The plaque showing when the Reading Rooms opened, erected by the working men of Garston in memory of Hugh Gaskell Sutton Esq. The Gaskell family were local philanthropists, and a member of the extended family can be found buried in Gateacre Chapel.

St. Michael's Church, Garston, on an elevated position.

There have been three churches on the site; the first dated from 1225, the second from 1715, and the present Gothic church was constructed in 1877.

A painting of the interior of the second church.

The interior of the present church.

A hatchment from Speke Hall, now hanging in the church.

Another hatchment from Speke Hall.

A pillar in the graveyard that belonged to the second early eighteenth century church.

The gravestone in St. Michael's churchyard of James Richards, a mariner from Penzance in Cornwall, who drowned at Garston in 1813 aged 19.  The Mersey was sometimes unforgiving and there are many graves of young sailors in various church yards along the river, such as the one shown in St. Mary's in Hale.

A view of the same grave around 15 years ago showing the Mill in the background, since demolished.

Emblems of mortality displayed on the grave of Richard Kay who died in 1724. In St. Michael's churchyard.


Another grave slab (slightly worn) showing the symbol of the swan feeding two signets, similar to a grave in St. Oswald's, Old Swan, though that particular image showed three signets being fed.

A memorial to John Blackburne Esq, who died in 1826. The Blackburne family built the first dock in Garston in 1793 for their saltworks. The main family resided at Hale Hall.


All photos by Dr David Harrison
© Dr David Harrison 2017.










Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hale Village, near Liverpool


I normally post up a summary of the latest history walk around a part of Liverpool so the students can be reminded of some of the historical details and share the photos. The most recent history walk was around Hale village, situated on the Mersey in-between Widnes and Speke, a hidden gem of a village with a rich history indeed.

Hale has managed to keep its village feel despite the industry on the Mersey and is now somewhat out-of-the-way, tucked on the banks of river, but up until the eighteenth century, a ford over the river leading into the village was one of the main crossing points. The church has a tower that dates from the fourteenth century, the rest of the church dating from 1758-9, though there were later restorations and additions, especially after a fire in 1977. There was Hale Hall, situated in what is now the park, and had been the seat of the Ireland family from the medieval period. The Ireland family married into the Blackburne family, and the Hall continued to the residence of the family until the 1930s, and was demolished in 1981. Sir Winston Churchill was said to have stayed at the Hall.

There is also the ‘Childe of Hale’, a resident giant John Middleton, born 1578 – 1623 and was 9 feet 3 inches tall, who, according to the story,  was the body guard to Sir Gilbert Ireland. Ireland took Middleton down to London were he fought the Kings champion and won, and on his way back to Hale, he stopped off at Brasenose College where he left a hand print that was still on display for Samuel Pepys to mention in his diary on the 9th June 1668. The giants grave is in the church yard. The aesthetic feel of the village is helped by the thatched cottages, one of which is said to have been Middleton’s cottage.
The gatehouse for Hale Hall, now the entrance for the park 

Date of 1876 on the mock-Tudor gatehouse


Vine Cottage dated 1858

A cottage in Hale

According to local tradition, this was the giants cottage, his legs sticking out of the two windows when he slept. It's a nice tradition. 

The front of the 'Giants Cottage'.

Another thatched cottage in Hale.

The interior of St. Mary's Church in Hale.

The hatchments in the church are copies, the originals destroyed in the fire of 1977. The commemorative brasses still show the creases from the heat of the blaze.


The door to the belfry.

The winding steps that lead to the top of the tower which dates from the fourteenth century.

The gravestone of John Maddock who drowned in the Mersey in 1819. Hale was also a fishing village and many young men from the village earned a living from the river, be it fishing or trade.

The Giants grave in the church yard.

Just outside Hale village is the Beehive pub.

The date above the door shows 1805.

A barn opposite the Beehive.



All photos by Dr David Harrison
© Dr David Harrison 2017.