Public Parks and Green Spaces
A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill @ allertonOak  
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Birkenhead Park
Prince's Park
Historical Background
Merseyside was a worldwide leader in the early development of landscaped open spaces within urban areas for public recreation. First in the world was Birkenhead Park laid out in 1843-7 by Joseph Paxton. It was part of a grand vision at that time for 'The City of the Future' and its opening on Easter Monday 1847 was timed to coincide with the newly completed Birkenhead dock complex.
Birkenhead Park had a huge influence on subsequent urban park development in the UK, for example, Sefton Park in Liverpool, and elsewhere, most notably Central Park in New York. The model of a picturesque blend of open grassy areas, woodland, lakes, rockeries and winding pathways, with entrance lodges and grand gateways, was established here.
Prince's Park in Toxteth was the first park in Liverpool. It was the brainchild of Richard Vaughan Yates, a local iron merchant and philanthropist, who bought the land. He employed Joseph Paxton and James Pennethorne in 1842 to do the landscaping, though the park did not become fully public until 1918.
Sefton Park, Liverpool's largest park, began its life when Liverpool City Council purchased the land in Toxteth from Lord Sefton in 1867. The design was the work of Lewis Hornblower, a Liverpool architect who worked on the gates, bridges and lodges, and Edward André, a highly regarded Parisian landscape architect. The park was opened to the public in 1872.
Most of fine parks and other public spaces in Allerton and Mossley Hill owe their origins to the decline of the landed gentry in the early years of the 20th century and to Liverpool's City Council's commendable policy at that time of acquiring the land for public use.
Sefton Park in Winter
Sefton Park in Spring
Calderstones Park c.1907 by J. Hamilton Hey
Calderstone House
Fir Trees
The Four Seasons
The Jubilee Drive
The English Garden
Calderstones Park
In Neolithic times (4,500 - 2,500 BC), the burial chamber of an important local figure was constructed in Allerton, the remains of which became the Calderstones, now located in Calderstones Park close to their original position. The area must have had significance for the people of that time as the site of the park also once included a large mound called Pyckeloohill (possibly Pikelaw Hill) with two standing stones and a 'great stone' known as the Rodgerstone, all since lost.
In the centuries following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the land was part of the Manor of Allerton and passed through many changes of ownership. Presiding over all of this was the Allerton Oak, a tree said to be about 1000 years old. In mediaeval times, it reputedly provided shelter for sittings of the local Hundred Court. It may have suffered damage in the explosion of the gunpowder ship Lotty Sleigh on the River Mersey in 1864, and is now dependent upon a number of props that hold it up like something in a Salvador Dali painting.
Lead shot manufacturer Joseph Need Walker (1791-1865) acquired the Calderstone estate in 1825 and built the Georgian mansion Calderstone in 1828. The house and estate were bought by shipping magnate Charles I McIver (1813-1885) in 1875 and passed to his son Charles II (1851-1926) on his death. Both were sold to Liverpool Corporation in 1902 and Calderstones Park as such was opened in 1905 to accusations of wasting public money.
Behind the Mansion House is a largely wooded area with a magnificent collection of fir trees, many of North American origin. Much of this is thought to have been planted by Charles I McIver, whose involvement in transatlantic shipping lead him to develop an interest in the trees of the New World.
The adjoining Hart Hill estate was bought by another shipping magnate John Bibby (1810-1883), who built his mansion there. The house and estate eventually passed to his son Alfred Bibby (1847-1920) in 1898. He sold most of the grounds to Liverpool Corporation in 1913 to form an extension to Calderstones Park and making a total of 121 acres (49 ha). The house fell into disuse and was demolished in the early 1930s.
The imposing entrance to the park on Harthill Road features the Four Seasons, statues of allegorical figures of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. They were originally located on the roof of Brown's Buildings, an office block next to the Town Hall designed by James Picton in 1861-3. This was demolished in 1926 and the statues were relocated to their present position in 1928. The gateposts are supported by giant Atlantes (male caryatids or Atlas figures).
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.
The period 1951-1964 saw the park become the third location for the Botanic Gardens originally established by William Roscoe in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool. Following the bombing of many of the glasshouses in Wavertree Botanical Gardens during World War II, a new glasshouse complex was built here along with a glazed vestibule, now the home of the Calderstones.
The English Garden, a walled garden with trellises covered in climbing plants, seating areas, secluded paths and a lily pond, and the Flower Garden, an open plan walled garden with themed planting, also date from this period. The Bog Garden was originally a natural pond that had been used for dumping during the blitz. It was opened in 1955 with a stone bridge spanning a winding waterway, a valuable habitat for aquatic plants and animals.
The growing botanical importance of the park encouraged further horticultural improvements such as the creation of the Japanese Garden by park apprentices in 1969. It is a haven of peace and tranquility, sheltered from the wind and pervaded by the sound of trickling water (sometimes).
All of the above mattered little to the Militant Labour council in the 1980s, who had most of the glasshouse complex destroyed in a vindictive action against gardeners who refused to strike. The collection of rare and exotic plants was scattered and is still awaiting a proper home. Graffiti outside the surviving vestibule once read, 'Destroyed by the enemy in 1941 and again in 1984'.
In 1974, a fine set of elaborate wrought iron gates was donated to the park. These originally stood at Bidston Court, Birkenhead, which was demolished in 1930 and rebuilt as Hill Bark in Royden Park, Wirral. More recently the Bluebell Recovery Project has seen 2,000 bluebells planted on woodland fringes.
Many people still regard Calderstones Park as Liverpool's most beautiful.
The Calderstones
The Allerton Oak
The Boating Lake c.1935
The Lake Today
The English Garden area before its redevelopment
The Flower Garden
The Bog Garden
The Japanese Garden
The Bidston Court Gates
The North Field in Winter
Winter Firs
The Jubilee Drive in Winter
The Text Garden
The Rhododendron Walk
The Lake in Winter
Allerton as it was
The Obelisk
Allerton Golf Course
Calderstones Park sits at the head of the South Liverpool Green Wedge, a delightful area of open spaces that reaches 2¼ miles (3½ km) south-east to Allerton Cemetery with a maximum width of 1¼ miles (2 km) from the cemetery to Woolton Woods. It is entirely encased by the suburbs, yet few roads penetrate and it is possible to walk for miles without using them except as obstacles to cross.
Heading along the Green Wedge, the next public space is Allerton Golf Course. This was originally land associated with the mansion house known simply as Allerton. It was built for Jacob Fletcher (1791-1863), son of a successful privateer, in 1815, and remained in the Fletcher family until 1944, when it was gutted by fire.
The nearby obelisk 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.
Today walkers who do not choose to play golf are provided with a public right of way from Calderstones Park, across the golf course to Allerton Tower.
Allerton Golf Course in the 1920s
Allerton Golf Course in the autumn
Allerton Tower in its prime
The Yew Tree Walk
Monkey Puzzle Tree
Allerton Tower Park
Proceeding along the Green Wedge, next is Allerton Tower Park, which evolved from the estate surrounding the house called Allerton Tower, part of the original Allerton Hall estate. The house was ompleted in 1849 for Sir Hardman Earle (1792-1877), who became 1st Baronet of Allerton Tower in 1869.
The house and estate eventually passed Hardman's grandson Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Earle (1854-1939), the 3rd Baronet, who sold the estate to Liverpool Corporation in 1924. The landscaped grounds were opened to the public in 1927 as Allerton Tower Park and the house was demolished c.1950. All that remains today of the original buildings are the classically inspired lodge on Woolton Road and the orangery, stables and ice house.
The 35 acre (14 ha) 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. The main entrance is on Woolton Road, which, according to the Pevsner Guide, is 'one of the most beautiful dual-carriageways in the country [winding] gloriously between mature beeches, many on the central reservation'.
The Orangery
The Lodge
Woolton Road near Allerton Tower
Allerton Hall
Avenue of chestnut trees
Clarke Gardens
Next along the Green Wedge to the south east is Clarke Gardens. This was the seat of the Manor of Allerton for almost 850 years, which passed down the centuries to William Roscoe (1753-1851), among many others. He left us Allerton Hall in its present form. 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.
Today the hall is an unusual pub. 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.
The Green Wedge terminates in the south-east with Allerton Cemetery. However, it continues unabated out of our area to the north-east via Camp Hill and Woolton Woods.
Clarke Gardens in autumn
Greenbank Park
Greenbank Park
Greenbank Park in Mossley Hill was originally part of the Toxteth Park Estate. The land was traversed by the Upper Brook, which had its source in Sandown Lane, Wavertree. A house known as Green Bank was built sometime in the early 1700s and the brook was dammed to form a lake. In 1788 the estate became the seat of ship owner and merchant William Rathbone IV (1757-1809) and his descendents, who greatly expanded the house to its present form.
The house and estate eventually passed to William Rathbone VI (1819-1902), one of the founders of the University College of Liverpool, which went on to become Liverpool University. 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.
The house remained in the family until Emily Evelyn Rathbone and her husband and cousin Hugh Reynolds Rathbone took over in 1918 and the remainder of the estate was eventually donated to Liverpool University.
Today much of the park is open parkland with trees around the perimeter. It had Liverpool's first Old English Garden, part of the original estate, and boating lake.
Greenbank House
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
Follow the links to other parts of this site for further reading.
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.