South Liverpool
Allerton (Calderstones Park)
Last updated 20th March 2014
   Home Page: merseySights       Home Page: allertonOak      
The Central Field
Many regard Calderstones Park as Liverpool's most beautiful. 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 thr park close to their original location. 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, said to be about 1000 years old. ...
The Central field in Winter
... 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 McIver (1813-1885) in 1875 and passed to his son Charles (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. 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 North Field in Winter
The Four Seasons
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).
The Calderstones
The Calderstones first appear in recorded history in connection with a township boundary dispute between the Molyneux family of Wavertree and the Lathom family of Allerton in the 1560s. In 1568 a survey was carried out by the Duchy of Lancaster and a map produced. On it are shown the positions of the Calderstones, a large mound called Pyckeloohill (possibly Pikelaw Hill) with two standing stones and a 'great stone' known as the Rodgerstone. The Calderstones were on a prominent site at a meeting of four lanes and were a recognised marker for the intersection of the townships of Gateacre, Allerton and Wavertree. The burial chamber with its mound seems to have been fairly intact at the time of the 1568 survey. Just three stones are described as visible above the earth. By about 1765, the mound had been disturbed and a number of urns removed. By 1800 the site had been partially destroyed, a process completed by about 1833, when Beech Lane was widened. In 1845 the resident of Calderstone House, Joseph Walker, was having his lodge and drive built and had the stones arranged in a circle and enclosed in a wall (still there at the junction of Calderstones Road and Menlove Avenue) with railings. It is thought that they had not been moved far from their original position as the surrounding network of roads is ancient. The arrangement of the stones was based upon the belief then current that they were the remains of a Druidical stone circle. The Calderstones were left to the weather and industrial pollution on Walker's site until 1954, when Liverpool Corporation removed them for cleaning and restoration. In 1964 they were erected randomly in their present location in the Botanical Gardens vestibule in Calderstones Park. There remain six irregular sandstone monoliths of different sizes with a variety of markings: spirals, concentric circles, arcs, cup marks, cup and ring marks and footprints. Several of these styles of carving are similar to examples found in burial chambers in Ireland and Anglesey, indicating the possibility of cultural influences spreading here from Ireland via North Wales about 4,000 years ago. Others markings may be graffiti from the last 200-500 years. Footprint marks are more unusual and perhaps indicate influences from Brittany and elsewhere. Because of their decorations, these stones may have been the walls of the burial chamber, the others having been appropriated by local people over the years.
The Calderstones in Baines's Directory (1825)
Close by the farm on which the famous Allerton oak stands, and just at the point where four ways meet, are a quantity of remains called Calder stones [...]. From the circumstance that in digging about them urns made of the coarsest clay [and] containing human dust and bones have been discovered, there is reason to believe that they indicate an ancient burying place [...]. Some of the urns were dug up about sixty years ago, and were in the possession of Mr. Mercer of Allerton.
The Calderstones as recalled by local gardener John Peers in the early 1800s
[I] remembered the Calderstones well, before they were set up in their present position. The roads at that time were narrow country lanes. At this place there are four cross roads, and the stones lay upon a large mound at the roadside, high above the road, on [...] the south side. Only a few of the larger stones could be seen lying flat near the top, partly buried in the earth, and a few of the points of the other stones. Upon this mound, in the summer, after work, and on Sundays, the boys and men from the neighbouring farms would come and lie in the sun. [..] [I] well remembered the mound being destroyed. They were widening the road about the time it was done away with. When they dug down into it they found more of the stones, and the marked ones were among them. For some time the stones were laid aside on the farm, and afterwards some of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood had those now standing set up; others were taken away. Mr. Booker had the largest and set it up in his field, where it now is for the cattle to rub on. He thought that there were two more large stones. but did not remember what became of them. When the stones were dug down to, they seemed rather tumbled about in the mound. They looked as if they had been a little hut or cellar. Below the stones was found a large quantity of burnt bones, white and in small pieces. He thought there must have been a cart-load or two.
Sandstone Monolith
Near the present location of the Calderstones stands a sandstone pillar that possesses a rather mysterious sculptural quality. Quarry workers' chisel marks give the game away as regards its potential antiquity and in fact it seems to have had a more prosaic original use as a scratching post for cattle. It is sometimes erroneously called Jesse Hartley's Stone. My thanks to Nigel Sharp, Parks Development Officer, for this information.
Jesse Hartley's Stone
Jesse Hartley's Stone is a notched shaft of granite, a sample provided for Jesse Hartley's Dock Engineer. The present location was originally within the grounds of Harthill House and the pillar was erected by Hartley's daughter, Fanny, wife of John Bibby, as a monument to her father. It is quite difficult to spot in the hedgerow to the right of the vestibule that houses the Calderstones. My thanks to Nigel Sharp, Parks Development Officer, for this information.
Calderstones Mansion
Originally a farmhouse called Grove House stood on this site (now in Calderstones Park), land owned by Thomas Martin, a Liverpool merchant. Lead shot manufacturer Joseph Need Walker (1791-1865) 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 (1813-1885) 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 (1851-1926) 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 for the house and outbuildings to undertake restoration work and develop a heritage and cultural centre.
Fir Trees
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 originated by Charles McIver of Calderstone, whose involvement in transatlantic shipping lead to him developing an interest in the trees of the New World.
Winter Firs
The Rockery
The Jubilee Drive
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. By this time Calderstones was already being hailed as Liverpool's most beautiful park.
The Jubilee Drive
The Jubilee Drive in Winter
The Pond in the English Garden
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 Militant Labour council in the 1980s 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'.
The Flower Garden
Early spring blooms.
The Flower Garden in Winter
The Japanese Garden
The growing botanical importance of the park encouraged further horticultural improvements such as the creation of a Japanese Garden by park apprentices in 1969, a haven of peace and tranquility, sheltered from the wind and pervaded by the sound of trickling water.
The Pond in the Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden in Winter
The Text Garden
This garden is planted in yew and box to form the names of flowers when viewed from above (see image on Google Earth).
The Rhododendron Walk
This path presents a stunning display of rhododendron and azalea blossoms during May. The azaleas also perfume the air with an intoxicating scent.
The Bidston Court Gates
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.
The Path to the Rose Garden ...
Half way along the Rhododendron Walk is this little path, which leads to the Rose Garden.
... and in Winter
The Lake
The 7 acre (3 ha) boating lake was constructed as part of the government supported unemployment relief scheme that built the Jubilee Drive. It opened in 1933 but is no longer used for boating.
The Lake in Winter
The Bog Garden
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 Allerton Oak in Autumn
Allerton was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when the entire population of Lancashire south of the River Ribble was less than 2000. The Allerton Oak is said to be about 1000 years old. In mediaeval times, it reputedly provided shelter for sittings of the local Hundred Court. Its dilapidated state may be due to the explosion of the gunpowder ship Lotty Sleigh over three miles away on the River Mersey in 1864. It is dependent upon a number of props that hold it up like something in a Salvador Dali painting.
The Allerton Oak in Summer
Still vigorous in its summer garb.
The Allerton Oak In Winter
Calderstones Park at
The Calderstones by Mike Royden
Rare Trees of Calderstones Park
The Reader Organisation at Calderstones Mansion House