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Garston Reminiscences

Garston History

These Garston Reminscences have been republished from the Society's Publication of the same title. This is a text only version. If you wish to purchase the full version including images, click on the Publications tab opposite for more details in the Past and Present Series, item B4.


Section 1: The 'Old Village - Garston in 1881 by Tom Garner

Section 2: The Avenue By Bill Hitchen

Section 3: Post War Building On The Outskirts Of Garston by Rick Stansfield

Remembered in 1951 by Tom Garner

I was standing by the big lamp at the bottom of the village, when I saw the bus coming down the hill. It made a brave show, drawn by four horses driven by Mr Broughton in his tall hat and riding breeches. It circled the lamp and drew up to its destination - the Queens Hotel.(fig 1)

Figure 1 Horse bus in 1902 on Aigburth Road.

The passengers alighted and I turned to the right down Church Road. Here was the house dairy and shippons of our local milkman. He was a well-educated man if rather eccentric. Every day he drove his cows from the field in Speke Road for milking. He was dressed in shirt, knee breeches and a drover's hat. He was always ready for an argument and invariably took the opposite view of the questioner. The result was that the cows were usually late for the milking.

Passing the railway station, which is now closed for passengers, I proceeded under the stone railway bridge, (fig 2)now replaced by a large modern bridge, and walked on until I reached the Cock and Trumpet Inn.

Figure 2 Old stone railway bridge
Behind this was the old water mill (fig 3) which was used for grinding corn. A stream behind supplied the power, and this connected with the Dingle, a large lake of unknown depth which ran down to the river and discharged the overflow in the Old Salt Docks. They consisted of two tidal docks which filled at high water and ran dry when the tide went out. Fishing boats discharged their catches of fish and shrimps here and the local people came and bought from them.

Figure 3 Garston Old Mill

The shore here was very stony and just outside lay the Black Rocks which were dangerous for shipping when the weather turned stormy. The Dingle has now been filled up, the Salt Docks and the Black Rocks levelled and in their place we have the modern Saltbridge Dock and a system of railway sidings. To continue, we reach the Old Dock, where the principal trade was timber from the Baltic countries and copper ore from Spain. The large timber was discharged from the sailing vessels through a square door in the bow of the ship into the dock, where it floated in the water and was picked up by the cranes on the quay.

I now proceeded on my way to the village, up King Street, passing the brickfields owned by Mr John Tushingham which extended from here to the boundary adjoining the grounds of Speke Hall. On the river side of these fields I passed Hamilton's Iron Works, now Francis Morton's & Co, and further on I came to the Copper Works owned by Bibby's.
Proceeding up Window Lane, I turned into Banks Road. On the right were more brickfields with a public path which came out in Speke Road near the railway bridge.

I walked on until I reached the National Schools. The headmaster then was Robert Wright. He was a clever man, even though he did not spare the rod and spoil the child, and I received a splendid grounding for my education there. Every year we held the school concert in the old Reading Room in Wellington Street. This was a great event and there were packed houses every night.
Crossing the road I reached St Michael's Church. The vicar at that time was Dr Oliver. In the cemetery adjoining this, there still stood the old church, a square structure with stained glass windows. This was demolished some years later.

I crossed under the old stone bridge again and reached the blacksmiths shop owned by John Mason, where I often watched him shoeing the horses belonging to the local farmers. Next to him was a thatched cottage owned by a man called Paddy Flynn. He carried on the business of a marine store dealer and there were odds and ends of all kinds of ironwork in his yard which you could buy cheaply.

At the back of these houses were the sandstone cliffs, on top of which was a field adjoining the railway. Crossing Speke Road and passing three shops, we reached the Dam. This was a large hollow in the ground into which ran a stream flowing through the 'Willows'. After heavy rain a large lake formed and the surplus water ran into the sewer past the sluice gates. When these were closed it filled up all the hollow which made it an ideal spot for skating and swimming. On the high banks adjoining, there was a level field on which we used to play football. The drawback was the ball very often was kicked into the water and it took us some time to fish it out again.

Walking up Speke Road again we reached the fields, bounded by a low stone wall. Walking over the stone bridge we passed a large detached house and grounds called Beech House. Mr Bibby, the owner of the Copper Works, lived here for many years.(fig 4)
Further along we reached the 'Avenue' a beautiful country walk which led to the Garston Cricket Club ground. Prominent members were the Gough family who lived in the cottage opposite.
Retracing my steps I passed the farm (Dutch Farm) and cottage occupied by Mr Ashcroft, and his numerous family, till we reached Speke Road again.

Figure 4 Beech House

Mr W Ashcroft, Garston
His many friends were very sorry to learn last week of the death of Garston's oldest and most colourful personality.
He was 94 year old Mr William Ashcroft of 5 Russell Place, who until a few months before his death, lived at Dutch Farm, Garston. For many years he was engaged in farming and also conducted a coal business. Last October he moved to Russell Place to live with his daughter Phyllis. Of yeoman farming stock, in his younger days he worked on his father's farm in Allerton.

He was born in Duke Street Garston and for a time lived at the cottage adjoining the old smithy, which used to stand opposite the Queen's Hotel.
All his life he was a keen gardener and his garden at Dutch Farm was said to be one of the best in the district. Often referred to as a 'Jack of all trades,' he had a reputation for being able to turn his hand to almost anything.
At one time he was sidesman at Garston Parish Church.
He leaves three daughters and two sons.
The funeral takes place at Garston Parish Church today (Thursday).


By the late Bill Hitchen

The venue was aptly named, for on a warm sunny day or evening, a walk along this lane was, as a boy, a great adventure.

It started opposite the Cenotaph in Woolton Road, and wound its way through stately verdant green-leafed trees, like a triumphal arch, with the hedgerows in late spring and early summer covered in white blossom tinged with red, a truly country lane. (fig5)

At some earlier period in time there must have been a gate across the entrance, because on either side stood large sandstone pillars about five feet high.

After passing Haigh House, on the left and without realising you had crossed the bridge over the Cheshire Lines Railway (now part of Merseyrail's Liverpool to Hunts Cross line) you came upon a wooden gate-like fence. Like the story of The Railway Children, folk of all ages would stand by or sit on top of the fence and watch the trains roar out from under the bridge after leaving Garston Station. Most, of course, were the local stopping trains to Southport via Gateacre, or Manchester and Stockport via Warrington. If you were lucky you might see the long distance LNER express trains to Sheffield and the east coast.

Continuing our walk, on the right was Rose Cottage hidden by high hedges, you eventually came, on the left, upon Fern Cottage with its well kept lawn, whilst close by was Smith's Farm House and pig styes, together with the duck pond, with a tree stretching halfway across.

Opposite the pond was the Garston Cricket Ground, with its beautiful lush turf.

According to the Rev J.M. Swift's book, Garston Cricket Club was formed in December 1886 and played the first match away at Melling on Saturday 14 May 1887. Had they still been in existence, they would, this year, have been celebrating their 100th year, sadly however, the club and ground are no more.

A little distance past the cricket ground the Avenue narrowed to a single steep footpath crossing The Willows which flowed round the cricket ground until it disappeared into a man-made gully in Island Road, now part of Horrocks Avenue.

After reaching the top of the rise of land again, you came into Ashcroft's farmyard, through the yard the path divided to the right to Speke and opposite the Match-works, to the left, to the iron bridge which took you across the main Liverpool Lime Street to London line.

Over the bridge the footpath disappeared through the fields towards Hunts Cross and Speke.(fig 6)

It was just over the bridge where we boys spent many happy hours during the summer holidays watching the express trains roar past, taking the curve at speed to Speke Junction on their way south. The only well-known engine I can distinctly recall is the Royal Scot. All that separated us from the railway track was the open wooden railway fence.

What has happened to the Avenue?

It is not possible to take Bill's walk today, even for a few yards, such has been the extent of redevelopment, although if you look carefully there are just one or two signs of the past.

To revisit the route you start at the cenotaph and look across to the British Legion car park entrance. The sand stone wall is still there and the gateposts although now fallen, can still be seen.

Walking through the entrance directly ahead of you across the car park there is an unusual kink in the fence that indicates where the road crossed the railway. In the winter when the leaves are off the trees you can look through the fence and see the sand stone abutments in the railway cutting where the bridge crossed over. (fig 7)

You now need to cross the railway via the Woolton Road bridge and turn up by the school into Holman Road. Rose Cottage would have stood in the school playing field and the road would have passed through the large block of flats in the end of the road. (fig 8)

Everything now becomes conjectural with the lack of familiar landmarks to tie in the early ordnance survey maps.

Follow the road round to the left and walk through the housing estate. Bill's walk would have taken you through the houses and their back gardens. Walking along the road you are crossing the site of the cricket club.

You will eventually come to the site of a children's playground which has a narrow footpath fenced either side with railings and a hawthorn hedge. Part of this path may be the route of the narrow path Bill took towards 'The Willows'.

Ashcrofts farmyard is now under the St John Almond School playing field and the junction in the path is no longer there. The iron bridge over the railway has gone but the triangular railway junction is still there.

The Willows has been filled in but from the playing field beyond the playground look back towards the school to see its route.

The Avenue walk is all but a memory but thanks to Bill we have its atmosphere recorded. The Society would value any similar articles, particularly from those with long memories, of events or changes in Garston that we will turn into a similar leaflet. We will do the typing and find illustrations etc, all we need are your experiences.
Roy Forshaw

3. Post War Building On The Outskirts Of Garston
by Rick Stansfield

When Roy Forshaw showed me the draft of The Avenue by the late Bill Hitchen it made me remember that on the outskirts of Garston Village in the 1940's there was still large areas of land awaiting development. These provided ideal sites for the local youths to spend their summer holidays and weekends exploring.

I will try to recall these sites, some very small, others quite large. They lay in the area broadly bounded by Mather Avenue, Rose Lane down to the river along both sides of Aigburth Road and St. Mary's Road as far as Bowden Road and back to Mather Avenue.

I was 9 years old in 1944 the war was drawing to a close and many of these sites had started to be developed and had been left in 1939 as partly completed building sites for housing and schools. Others were large houses that had just been demolished prior to development.

The area from Bowden Road along the east side of St. Mary's Road and Aigburth Road as far as Aigburth Hall Avenue was largely developed. (Fig 9)

With the exception of Cressington and Grassendale Parks, large areas of land remained to be developed to the riverside and remains so to this day.

The land at the end of the Garston by-pass from Dock Road to Cressington Park to the west of the railway still lays empty. I believe a road is to be built from the roundabout at the end of the bypass to the docks. This may well open the area for development for residential or expansion of the docks .

The site now occupied by the social security Office (locally known as the house of plenty) (fig 10) was yet to be developed but, although having suffered severe damage by an incendiary bomb, the District Garage still traded and remains in the hands of the same family to this day.

Cressington and Grassendale Parks have seen substantial development since the 1940's. This has not been on derelict sites but mainly in the private gardens of some of the larger houses.

On the promenade of both parks set into the pavements on the land side of the river were flights of steps leading down to an opening in the river wall to enable residents to access the foreshore but these have long since been filled in.

Near the junction of Grassendale Road and Beechwood Road to the right of the park gates is a lane which also led to the foreshore and WAS known to the local lads as Rubbish Lane.

During the summer we used to go down there to the foreshore and try to construct rafts to sail down the river on the tide. Fortunately, by and large, they where a failure and usually dumped the occupants in to the river before it got too deep.

The last time I tried to get down there the lane was blocked by rubbish from the adjacent new houses. On checking a recent road atlas I found the lane is now called Back Lane. I think rubbish lane is more appropriate in memory of its more recent neighbours.

(fig 11) On the corner of Aigburth Road and Grassendale Road stood Woodend Farm Dairy which, if my memory serves me correctly, used to house between 15 to 20 milking cows. Adjacent to the farmhouse on the corner of Bennison Drive was a path with an overgrown privit hedge that led to a dairy shop where you could purchase milk tickets. You put your empty milk bottles on your front door step together with a milk ticket for each full bottle required which the milk delivery man would exchange for the equivalent bottles of milk from his horse drawn cart.

Later the farm became a pig farm and eventually the site was sold to become a petrol station. The farm was known locally as "Dougies Farm" after its owner John Dougdale. One of the milk delivery men was "Bill Smith" who took over the milk and dairy business and operated it from a shop on the corner of Garston Old Road and St. Mary's Road with the help of his daughter. Was this one of the first staff buyouts.

It is my intention later to return to Woodend Farm when I deal with Aigburth Road and Riversdale Road but for now let us take a further look at other parts of Grassendale Road.

On the other corner of Grassendale Road in the 1940s stood the convent school of La Sagesse which was on the site of the residence Holmleigh. The entrance gate posts can still be seen opposite to Raneleigh Drive and was used as the main entrance to the school. The grounds had not been developed at this time and most of the local lads tended to give it a wide berth, especially at night when the sight of a nun in the traditional habit was enough to make the boldest amongst us climb the nearest wall out of the place. The area has since been developed and is now the site of Tudor court and other housing.

If you were to turn right off Grassendale Road immediately before you enter Rubbish Lane (sorry Back Lane) there was a wide foot path closed to traffic by a gate. Today this path is called Beechwood Road but in those days it was not named. To the left of this gate was the entrance to a farm and Garston Co-op sports ground. The farm was Batty's farm (not the one on Florida Court site) and a field called Jack's field (fig 12). The outline of the entrance can still be seen as a new joint of stone in the wall between Back Lane and Beechwood Road. All of this site is now occupied by Chaloner Grove Monksferry Way estate.

Beyond the gate the footpath was bounded by a low wall behind which was a white blossom hawthorn hedge and fields of grazing cattle which ran as far as the railway line and were part of Beechwood farm owned by the Bateman family. This is on the site of the council housing estate with the two multi storey blocks called Riverview heights, the other multi story block on the other side of the road is called Kingsman House formerly owned by the Alfred Holt Line as student accommodation and at the time of writing (November 2000) has just been demolished.

The rest of Beechwood Road as far as the river was scarcely populated save for a few large houses. The one nearest the river had been demolished prior to the beginning of the war and was used as a cycle track by the local lads and now is the site of Beechwood Nursing Home and Greenways Special School.

I think it only fair to point out that these are personal memories of nearly 60 years ago and some of the family names of the local farms may have become confused in my mind, although I am quite sure there will be enough people who remember the area in those days who will be more than pleased - nay delighted - to point out my errors.

The area of land between Beechwood Road and Riversdale Road from about 150 yards on the river side of the railway to Aigburth Road was owned by Liverpool Cricket Club . Entry was by a turn stile situated on the corner of Riversdale Road with a charge of sixpence (2 1/2p in to days money). However the local lads knew another way in by climbing the wall on Beechwood Road and bunking in under the wooden stand that stood along the south side of the ground in those days.

Several large houses stood on the north side of Riversdale Road as far as the railway leaving all the land between the railway and the river at that time awaiting the construction of Riversdale Technical College. This land was used prior to the start of construction as a grazing field for the cows from Woodend Farm in Grassendale Road.

Construction had been completed to the double tram track on the reserved central reservation of Aigburth Road between Beechwood Road and Sefton Park but the war had delayed the completion of the construction of the present dual carriage way either side of the central reservation. (fig 13)

However the dual carriage way did cause major problems on each side of the reserved tram track. The new roads each carried one lane of traffic in each direction. The lane nearest the river was designated for heavy traffic and as one would expect was used by the Crosville bus service in both directions. However the lane furthest away from the river was designated for light traffic and (don't ask me why) was used by the corporation buses no 82 in both directions with a cross over at Mersey Road for ALL city bound traffic.

By now no doubt you will all realise why I said I would return to Woodend farm when I deal with Riversdale Road and Aigburth Road , it was pretty obvious really. During my school holidays in order to even further confuse the traffic situation each evening I would help Mr. Dougdale's cow man drive the cows up Riversdale Road along the pavement outside the Cricket Club , across the flow of traffic outside the Aigburth Hotel as far as Grassendale Road , back across the main road and into Woodend Farm. During this exercise the cow man who had a carrier bike used to shovel the manure dropped on the pavement by the cows into a box on the front of the carrier bike. This exercise was carried out every morning and every evening. Try this out today if you like!

As I have said, although not yet in full use most of the dual carriage way from Sefton Park to Beechwood Road had been completed but was used mostly for two way traffic. Other areas of the dual carriagway had been competed but were only used as two way service roads. These were from the bowling green wall of the Aigburth Hotel past Ranelagh Drive, Fairacre Road, and Riverbank Road as far as St Austins Church .

The other section started at the corner of Garston Old Road to Bowden Road leaving the section in between requiring demolition before the dualling of the roads could be completed in the 1950s.

All the demolition had to take place on the eastern side of Aigburth Road which included the forecourt of Beechwood Garage , all of the Aigburth Hotel (fig 14) including the bowling green, together with the Cressington and Grassendale Hotels on each corner of Eslington Street.

The other major problem was that the bodies in the graves in St Austins Church Yard had to be exhumed and re- interned elsewhere before the work could start on that section of Aigburth Road. The reserved tram track was never extended beyond Beechwood Road because of the conversion of the tram routes to buses in June 1953.

St. Austin's Church School was a very small affair in those days, although the church owned all the land to rear of the houses in Riverbank Road as far the houses in Darby Road, the land was yet to be developed and the school was held in what is now the parish club. The new school was built in the early 1950s in two phases the first phase being the section nearest the old school house and playground.

Riverbank Road and Fairacre Road had been completed before the start of World War 2 together with the south side of Ranelagh Drive North and the houses on Aigburth Road from the Aigburth hotel and the first house on the north side of Ranelagh Drive North. (fig 15)

Next to this house were large blocks of white stone piled up as much as 20 feet high providing an ideal playground for the local lads together with the hand operated crane which stood on the site. These blocks of stone were not intended as a playground feature but were meant as a store for the blocks of stone salvaged after the bombing of Lewis's store on 3rd.May 1941.

Each block was numbered so that they could be put back in their correct place during the reconstruction of the store after the war, but it is not known if they were ever used for this purpose.

The remainder of the land to the rear of the houses in the Serpentine and Darby Road was in use as Lewis's sports ground with a sports pavilion and tennis courts at the Darby Road end of the ground. The ground was kept in excellent condition by the groundsman called Harry Price who lived off Aigburth Road near to Woodlands Road I believe.

The land was sold to Liverpool City Council by Lewis's on the understanding that it could only be sold for housing if a new price for the land was negotiated with Lewis's. The land was used as a school playing field for a period and later designated as a public park and must be one of the few parks in this city that has been sold off for housing development.

The housing on Ranelagh Drive South had been largely completed prior to the start of the war with the exception of two gaps on each side of the road, which were used as allotments during the war. I don't think they were official allotments but were taken over by local residents for the duration of the war.

Another contribution to the war effort was the land on the corner of Ranelagh Drive South and Darby Road, which was used for the construction of an E.W.S. (emergency water supply) tank built of brick about eight feet deep and took up the space of about six houses and their gardens. I remember it as a very large structure prone to leaks which the National Fire Service as it was then called had to pump out with a trailer pump so that it could be repaired after which they had to refill it. Towards the end of the war the level of the water was lowered and it became a general dumping ground before it was demolished and housing built on the site.

Apart from the first few houses on the south side of Endfield Park off Darby Road most of the land between there and the north side of Elder Gardens was yet to be developed as far as the back of the houses on the west side of Allengate Road. A hawthorn hedge formed what was to become the dividing line between Endfield Park and what is now Lynas Gardens, the rough line of which formed a central path of the allotment gardens which occupied the site until after the war. There were also lime pits on the site at that time and a place just over the fence facing Riverbank Road where the local chimney sweep left the soot he had collected for the allotment holders to use on their vegetables. The local lads by and large left the allotments alone but many dens were constructed between the hawthorn hedge and Endfield Park.

In those days Ivy Avenue was a cul-de-sac closed off at the end of the terraced houses by the brick wall of the city engineer's depot in Garston Old Road rather unfairly referred to as the bin yard but it was rather more than that in the 1940s. True it was used as a bin yard in that the horse drawn bin collection vehicles were parked there over night and the horses were also stabled there. It was also used as a base and store for other sections of the department including the road repair group and the street lighting section who were responsible for the repair of both gas and electric street lights.

Most of the street lighting was out of use because of the blackout during the war but when the war was nearly over the main road overhead lights were repaired from this depot using hand push carts which held a tower ladder to enable the repair crew to reach the lights.

There were offices in the building adjacent to the entrance of the yard where the public could pay their rates, and a public weighbridge was available with an office just inside the yard. The wall at the end of Ivy Avenue was demolished in the 1950s and the land used for housing leaving the depot a shadow of its former self, in fact the whole depot is now closed. I wonder if future residents will realise why their homes were built in a road called Cobble Stone Corner at the end of Ivy Avenue. If the rest of the council yard is sold for housing it could give scope for such road names as 'Stable Close', 'Gas Light Alley', 'Granite Road Set Lane', or even 'Horse Droppings Place'.

Another area, which had yet to be developed, was the site of Batty's farm off South Mossley Hill Road, (fig 16) today the site of Florida Court together with the houses on the corner of Ravenstone Road and the western side of Brodie Avenue.

The stone farm buildings bounded by a low wall on the South Mossley Hill Road side were put to various uses after the war. The cows that grazed on the field adjoining Brodie Avenue while the 80 bus drove past were housed there.
Later the first pedestrian controlled fleet of battery operated milk floats owned by the Garston Co-op were garaged there in order that their batteries could be recharged overnight.

I well remember living in Fairacre Road on the first day they were in use. All the residents coming out to see the two milk maids breaking the law one sitting on the back while the one sitting on the front controlled the vehicle with the steering handle pulled towards her hardly making it a pedestrian controlled vehicle. The farm buildings were later partly rented to some of the older lads to store and repair motor cycles, in fact I bought my first motor bike from one of the lads who stored his bikes there.

On the eastern side of Brodie Avenue the block of shops were completed with the exception of the one nearest to town that was built after the war. Most of the land on the corner of Eastcote Road and Lynton Close still awaited development and was used by the local lads prior to the housing development there and on the other side of Brodie Avenue including Kirkmaiden Road and part of Glenhead Road.

Another area of land yet to be developed was known as Booker Woods situated between Cooper Avenue North and Brodie Avenue now the site of Martin Road and Martin Close. It was the site of a large house and grounds demolished before the war and left for us lads to use as a cycle track and somewhere to take the girl friend.

Prior to the construction of Armitage Gardens off Booker Avenue it was possible to get behind the houses adjacent to the bridge and walk along the top of the railway embankment. This was very useful when the Sheep Dog Trials were held every year on the Heron Eccles playing fields because we used to climb in that way and save 6d admission fee.

The council housing between the Heron Eccles playing fields and Greenhill Road had still to be developed as did the Greenhills public house and the sheltered accommodation Booker House.

That I fear is more or less it apart from the development in Rosemount Road the site of the Liverpool Zoo and some of the farms dealt with in Barbara Price's article. Both of these articles are still available from the G.D.H.S.

What do I miss most about those days? Here are just a few:

1. Milk tokens (why does the milkman always come for his money when the news is on T.V.).

2. Cows in local fields (in fact I miss the local fields).

3. Areas of self-made cycle dirt tracks. (Surely they were better than terrorising pedestrians on the pavement)

4. Horse drawn bin wagons. (Children don't shovel up horse manure these days to put on their father's roses).

5. "Trams that went right round" as they used to say. You didn't have to change at Garston in the wind and rain to get from Mather Avenue to Aigburth Road and visa versa. The no.8 became the no. 33 you stayed on and the conductor changed the number.

As I have said earlier these are personal memories of nearly 60 years ago and many memories fade as age takes hold however gradually and a degree of confusion sets in. All I will say to the critics is that is how I remembered it when I wrote. Correct me by all means but remember I took the trouble to write it down for the G.D.H.S. have you? Remember your correction could well be the start of your own article.

The photographs in this article have been mostly produced from the City Engineers Photograph Archive with the permission of Liverpool Record Office.

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