A walk in Woolton (part 2)

Good morning all! Today it’s time to get back to Rambler5319’s walk around Liverpool. Enjoy….

You remember we finished last week (21.11.12) having come along the narrow path called Mill Stile and were just about to turn right into Church Road.

There wasn’t time to visit but, if we’d turned left and walked just over a quarter of mile up the hill, we’d have come to Reservoir Road. No prizes for guessing what is there – yep a storage reservoir, one of a number around the city. Liverpool’s water requirements, like many other expanding & industrialising cities, grew substantially during the 19th century.

Sadly, in this case, the residents of the village of Llanwddyn in North Wales were forced out of their homes in 1889 to help satisfy that need. They’d had to watch the dam across the River Vyrnwy being built knowing the end was coming.

The reservoir formed behind the dam was named Lake Vyrnwy which then became a water source for the city. Calling it a “lake” makes it sound just like a natural feature of the landscape. It gives no hint of what had been sacrificed in the name of progress: the village parish church, 2 chapels, 3 inns, 10 farmhouses & 37 houses had disappeared under the water. (The 1851 Census shows there were Welsh people living in the Woolton area. I wonder if any worked on the reservoir building and its tower not realising the background to it.) The lake can hold 13 million gallons of water when full and its surface area covers the equivalent of 600 football pitches; and it still supplies the city today. If the water in the lake was petrol and you got about 35 mpg you could drive from Venus to the Earth and all the way out to Jupiter and still have some left over! Anyway, back to Earth, and after turning right, a little way down the road we come to St Peter’s Church.

A chapel was first built on the site in 1826 but, after population growth over the next 60 years, a number of wealthy merchants gave the money for a new church building which opened in 1887. Sandstone from the quarry was used as it was literally on their doorstep.

We’re visiting the church hall across the road first as this is famous for being the place where, at a church fete on 6th July 1957, Paul McCartney met John Lennon and the Quarrymen.

There are a couple of photos from that date (showing the group on the back of a lorry) at this website http://www.beatlesbible.com/1957/07/06/john-lennon-meets-paul-mccartney/.

Here’s the Church Hall:

And here is a close-up of the plaque under the middle window. This is the actual place where the two guys met:

Now cross over the road to St Peter’s Church. It is also famous because in the graveyard is this headstone:

Just read down the names on the headstone. Can you see it? Now you know where they probably got the idea for the name Eleanor Rigby which appears in the lyrics of the song. McCartney later admitted the choice of names in the song was probably a subconscious remembering from the times spent in and around the graveyard. This was half of another Beatles double A-side with Yellow Submarine on the other. It reached No.1 in Aug 1966 and stayed there for 4 weeks.

Can you see the name John McKenzie in this next picture?

(There is no suggestion that he was a priest but I think poetic licence took over when McCartney wrote the lyrics.) If you know the song Eleanor Rigby, there are a few lines in it about a Father McKenzie:

a) Writing the words of a sermon that no-one will hear

b) Darning his socks in the night when there is nobody there

c) Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave.

You need to look left and up slightly, in between the vertical stems of two crosses, for the lightish brown stone. (It’s 3 rows back and the only other one you can see with an inscription.) That stone has the Eleanor Rigby name if you can enlarge the pic.

Continuing down the hill the first turn left is Mason St. Here we find a cinema called the Woolton Picture House. You can just about see the name above the doors although the protruding metal framework prevented me getting a clear pic of it:

It has a very interesting history dating back to 1927. In the world of films, The Jazz Singer released in Oct 1927 (starring Al Jolson) is considered the first talking picture film; and the first words spoken were, “Wait a minute, wait a minute! You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” I wonder if it was shown here in Woolton after the place opened in Dec. Here’s the close up of the plaque on the wall just to the right of the cinema entrance:

It is one of the old-fashioned style single screen cinemas and as you can see from the pic, “the oldest surviving cinema in Liverpool.”

Downhill again from here and turn right at the bottom. Just along on the right is something which looks a bit strange. Here it is:

It seems to be a sunken car park but the sign, just inside the sandstone post at the other end on the left of my pic, tells us we’re in what is called Lodes Pond. It did have water in it at one time which explains the stone banks around the U-shaped floor. Apparently, after a dispute with the Lord of the Manor the local district council ordered that the water had to be, “kept in perpetuity for the use of cattle”. So essentially it was a huge cattle watering trough.

Check out the pic on Flickr from 1936 (taken from a similar position) when it was full of water: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68767304@N03/8121915910/sizes/l/in/pool-1435847@N20/

I noted one of the small terraced houses behind where I took the photo from has called itself Lodes Pond View. With the absence of any water in the “Pond” I suppose its added value potential in any future sale will be somewhat limited as it actually looks out on to a car park.

Crossing the road and heading towards the traffic lights we come to a pub called The Coffee House. On the side facing us is a date stone showing 1641 as you can see in this photo below. Jeremiah Horrocks, the famous English astronomer, with connections to Liverpool’s Otterspool Pool Park (just 4 miles away) died the same year it opened; the future Charles II was just 11 years old; The English Civil War started the following year; and Liverpool itself was under siege by the Royalist Prince Rupert in 1644 so perhaps Woolton’s two known Catholic supporters at the time would not have gone in for a drink.

We continue walking a little bit further and on the left we come to a small shop on the corner called The Liverpool Cheese Company.

Naturally it sells cheese but there are so many types it’s hard to know what you might like. Here’s just one of the display cases.

Some years ago the owner recommended a particular type for me to try. Now I’m not a blue cheese person especially after trying some Danish Blue once but he convinced me to try a piece of Shropshire Blue. It’s sort of not quite what you expect a blue cheese to taste like and I was pleasantly surprised. Anyway I tried some and have returned a number of times to get more of it.

Here’s the piece I got today:

In addition to cheese, a number of other products are available. A few years ago the shop posted an order for me which was a present for someone. It was a piece of a cheese called Stinking Bishop. The Telegraph newspaper reported it had been voted Britain’s smelliest cheese in 2009. It was mentioned in the Wallace & Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit(2005) and apparently sales rocketed by 500% following the film’s release.

The shop also can make up presentation baskets with wine, cheese & other items they stock. Check out their website: http://www.liverpoolcheesecompany.co.uk/. It’s really worth a visit to see everything on offer including advice on how to wrap & store cheese.

Click on the cheese section and there are 13 pages of the different types on sale. There have got to be loads there you’ve never heard of. Anyone know these: Allerdale Goat, Snowdonia Pickle Power, Sykes Fell Ewe, Inglewhite Smoked Goat, Gabriel Blue EweorShorrock’s Strong Lancashire Bomb?Just looking at the names conjures up a desire to try them. Imagine that after dinner conversation when you say, “Have you never tried Snowdonia Pickle Power?” and, following blank looks all around, you then launch into a glowing report of how wonderful a cheese it is.

Btw I wouldn’t recommend the Stinking Bishop variety unless you have a very strong constitution. Also it needs careful storage as the smell can affect (infect?) other items in the fridge as the person to whom I sent my gift told me what some other items tasted like after the cheese had been in there.

Despite the presence of a large supermarket just at the back of this shop and another one close by there is a dedicated bunch of loyal customers who keep coming back here for the service they receive and the varieties on offer which they can’t get elsewhere. I have on occasion had to queue outside on the pavement as it’s been packed inside.

Over the road, just beyond the traffic lights, we come to the village cross. Local history records say the cross was erected around 1350AD by the Knights Hospitaller; they also built a water mill in the area early in the 14th Century. These men were a group of monks and knights, recruited from Western European nations, who protected the routes to Jerusalem used by pilgrims to the Holy City. They took the monastic vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. However, they added a fourth vow which bound them to protect pilgrims and fight any attackers.

They had been given the village of Woolton and its lands, around 1180, by the constable of Chester under whose control the area was. This land was rented out to tenants but upon their death the heir would have to pay the value of one third of that person’s “moveable” possessions; that would be stuff like cows, ploughs, stools and cooking pots.

Basically it was a form of death duties but at 33%; and all, even the poorest, had to pay them to the Knights. It’s interesting to note from history that in 1187, following the siege of Jerusalem and its eventual surrender to Saladin, they and a number of inhabitants were allowed out of the city provided they paid a ransom. The Hospitallers & the Templars led the first two columns of people to leave having been given a promise of safe passage by the conquerors.

Here’s the cross:

Just across the road in the window of a newsagents shop was this sign:

I wonder how much you were paid when you did your paper round. I bet it wasn’t anywhere near £20 ($32) for 6 mornings (7am-7.45am)! Would be interesting to see what the paper boy/girl rates are like in other countries. Anyone from US/Canada or rest of the world help with info to compare with UK?

We continue walking along Speke Road until we turn right into School Lane. Keep walking along the lane until you come to a place where it narrows. You will see this building on your left although I had to go to the other end to take the picture looking back the way I’d come. Unfortunately undergrowth and tree branches obscured both ends:

What is interesting is the inscription over the door and here’s a close-up.

If you can’t make it out, it says: “Much Woolton Old School. The Oldest Elementary School Building in Lancashire” with the date of 1610 also inscribed in the stonework. It is believed that the actual building may pre-date 1610 as there is a reference to a bequest made in 1606 to provide a schoolmaster at Woolton. However this and other tangential refs don’t identify this particular building just the area; records from 1608 suggest an estimated population of 130 (29 households) so I’m not sure how many pupils there might have been when it was up and running.

From here it was back into the village and out on the road which would return me to my start point. On the way I saw this establishment:

Now I confess I know almost nothing about spas; I’d never even heard of one of these. Have you got one near where you live? The website for one in Bangkok advertises a number of treatments that work out to about £60/hour so I guess the UK rates could be higher.

They also offer what seems to be a most luxurious treatment called The Botanical Refresh lasting, if you can spare the time, 5 hours 15 mins!! It consists of the following: Pebble Foot Bath (10 mins), Herbal Steam (20 mins), choice of Let’s Relax or Body Reviver (120 mins), Reviving Foot Massage (30 mins), Two Course Healthy Spa Cuisine & Healing Drink, Aromatherapy Facial (60 mins), Spa Manicure or Spa Pedicure (75 mins). (And yes, it does add up to 315 mins or 5 ¼ hrs.) In Bangkok it will cost you 14,500 Baht (that’s approx £295/$473, so again roughly £60/$96 per hour).

And that was the end of the visit to Woolton – time to head home and a bath (not a spa) for the tired legs. It had been a good walk and a good day. Woolton is definitely an area of great historical interest. Even one guy I met who lived there didn’t know about 2 or 3 things I’d found. There’d been stuff from the 12th century to 1610, from the Victorians to the Beatles sites and right up to the present day. I’ll definitely visit again.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Fascinating! As for the paper route. I was an assistant route man in my early 20’s. I worked about 1 hour an evening and was paid fairly well. I think it was $5.00/hr and worked about 20 hours total per week.


  2. […] last week’s Walk in Woolton (Part 2) and my visit to The Liverpool Cheese Company this week I decided to buy a piece of one of the […]


  3. Posted by Derek on October 19, 2014 at 18:19

    The cheese company I rememer it as a dairy with a milk carton machine outside so Saturday was afternoon matinee at the cinema and a carton of milk on the way home down manor road more fun in the winter sliding all the way down the hill


  4. Posted by Ayme Smith on February 23, 2015 at 19:51

    Thank you for this – I really enjoyed reading through all of it.

    Regarding the name on the gravestone, in one of the photos above – in the song by the Beatles, Eleanor Rigby – just recently – I listened to an interview with Paul Mc Cartney and he stated that the original name in the song for the priest, which he created, was ‘Father McCartney.’

    Lennon dissuaded him from using the same surname as his – and then way in which they solved finding a replacement name, was to just pick up a (then) current telephone directory – and starting with the ‘Mac’s – McCartney picked at random, the name McKenzie. Hence, the authentic origin of the name of the priest in Eleanor Rigby.

    I would be most grateful if anyone could please tell me where the old dairy – ‘Smith’s Dairy’ was in Woolton please?

    Some people have said it was on the ground of the old Bear Brand Factory – but according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimi_Smith)

    ” During the war the government took over the Smiths’ farmland for war work”

    I’m not sure if this government acquisition of land, was the original building which ‘Bear Brand’ then took over and used as their manufacturing site.

    I would just be most grateful of any help in locating the original ‘Smith’s Dairy’ – as I’ve not had any luck in even locating copies of any old maps from this time.

    This dairy owned by the Smith family was a ‘Fourth Generation’ of dairy farmers. Surely, someone must have an idea of the lay-out and land boundaries of this farm – even if there is no proof via maps?

    If you or anyone you know can help – I would so appreciate it.

    Many thanks – Ayme


    • Posted by yesiam5319 on February 24, 2015 at 11:59

      Tks info on the MacKenzie name.

      Refs to location of Smith’s dairy farm.
      The site below mentions the Tesco Supermarket as being on the land occupied by the Smith Farm which as you pointed out was the Bear Brand Factory before them so it looks like that’s where one farm was.

      (Copy/Paste this link if you want ot read the whole thing)


      I have a copy of an old 1904 OS Map for Woolton and the farm is not labelled anywhere but then neither is Salisbury’s Dairy on the site of The Liverpool Cheese Company. Neither of the two farms is mentioned in a book (49 pages, History of Much Woolton by Lally & Gnosspelius) which gives some very detailed info on the history of the area but maybe not enough on the recent stuff to be of much help..

      I CHECKED THE 1911 CENSUS and found this entry for 120 Allerton Road, Woolton
      Francis Smith, 42, Married, Head, Cow Keeper
      Alice Smith, 41, Wife
      And children:
      Eleanor, 16 (Student); Frank, 14 (Office Boy in Excise Office); Robert, 12; Alice, 10; George Toogood, 8; Alfred, 4
      Also boarding at the same address was Harold Whitfield, 25 a Cowman.

      You’ve prob seen this quote: During 1942–1943, Mimi’s sister Julia lived with Lennon at The Dairy Cottage; 120a Allerton Road, Woolton, which was owned by the Smith family. It does though confirm the location of the Tesco site as one of the farms as it lies behind these houses (No.s 120 & 120a).

      I CHECKED THE 1901 CENSUS and found this entry for 38 Castle Street, Woolton
      Francis Smith, 34, Married, Head, Cow Keeper
      Alice Smith, 33, Wife
      And children:
      Mary G, 9; Eleanor, 6; Francis, 4; Robert, 2; Alice, 7 months

      I CHECKED THE 1891 CENSUS and couldn’t find the family but not exhaustive search would take a lot more time to widen the search

      I CHECKED THE 1881 CENSUS and found this entry for 87 Quarry Street, Woolton.
      Mary Ellen Smith, 40, Widow, Beer Seller
      Francis Smith, 13, Son, Scholar (Obviously before he married Alice and living with his Mum)
      Ann Benson, 69, Widow, Mother (to MES), Cow Keeper
      Mary Ellen Willdig, 16, Cousin, Scholar

      I’m not sure this is the right FS but the age and residence being Woolton mean it’s a possibility. The 1871 has MES as a 30 yr old widow (a Beerhouse Keeper) and son Francis 3 yrs old at the same Quarry St address.


      • Posted by David Owen on October 31, 2015 at 12:15

        Hello, The 1881 Census yes you have the right Francis Smith. Mary Ellen Smith (nee Toogood – which is where Francis’s son George Toogood Smith got his middle name) is living with her mother, who had by then remarried (Mr Benson) and been widowed again.

        I am currently researching the whole family down from James (Jacobus) Smith and I believe Esther Blundell. The family line you are looking at from James’s son Francis (b1801) who married Eunice Lowe. they had seven children of which Francis married Mary Ellen Toogood. They had two children Frances (died aged 3) and Francis

        Francis (1801) had a twin brother William. James and Esther had eight Children.

        James Smith would be the first of the four generations to own the farm in the Woolton area.

        The main Liverpool Library/museum appears to hold some Smith family (of Woolton) documents. These may hold further clues regarding the farms. I plan to visit soon.

  5. Posted by Barb on June 27, 2018 at 10:02

    What was on the site of Woolton Mews 21 Quarry Street which backs onto the Pit Place cottages ? I know there was a skateboard park somewhere there in 70’s


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