South Liverpool
Wavertree including Mossley Hill
Last updated 7th April 2016
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Further information:
    Bark Hill Holmestead Road names (origins)
    Carnatic House Holt (family) St. Barnabas (church)
    Dovedale Baptist Church Kelton St. Michael and St. James (church)
    Dovedale Towers Mansions (lost) Sherriff's map
    Geology Mossley House Solomon, Samuel
    Geography North Mossley Hill Road (mansions) Solomon's Brook
    Greenbank House Old Roads and villages Sudley House
    Greenbank Park Penny Lane Yates and Perry map
    Holmefield Rathbone (family)  
Mossley Hill and Sefton Park
Historic Wavertree
Wavertree Village
In the 1700s, Wavertree was still a country village with only about 50 houses. However, by the end of the century, rich merchants already had their eye on the area as a place to build their villas away from the increasingly polluted atmosphere of Liverpool. Among the large houses built here at around that time were Olive Mount, Sandown Hall, Westdale House and the Grange. The Picton Clock Tower was presented to the people of Wavertree by architect Sir James Picton in 1884, having been designed by him as a memorial to his wife Sarah. He chose the site, at the centre of the old village, so that the clock could be seen by as many people as possible. It is described in the Pevsner Guide as 'an eclectic renaissance curiosity in brick and stone'. An inscription reads: 'Time wasted is existence; used is life.'
Wavertree in Fragments (1817) by Matthew Gregson
Wavertree is a pleasant village and has increased with Liverpool, within these few years, in a rapid manner [...]. The salubrity of the air is highly and very deservedly spoken of. In 1731 the township contained fifty houses.
Wavertree in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)
The orthography of the name in ancient records has the remarkable variations of Waudter, Wavre, Wastpull, Wastyete, and Wartre. [...] Its proximity to Liverpool, and the salubrity of the air, have made it the residence of numerous wealthy families, and the land is fast increasing in value. The high grounds on the east form a fine shelter to the lower parts, which include the Wellington road; and a new road is projected, from Gateacre, past Wavertree, through Spekelands, to the end of Myrtle-street, Liverpool [Woolton Road? - if so, it wasn't completed past Wavertree]; the houses are to be of the first class, and the road will form one of the principal entrances into the town. [...] In the township is an extensive brewery, established in 1836, and subsequently much enlarged by the proprietor, Mr. John Anderton.
Wavertree in the Liverpool Daily Post of 1895
Wavertree [...] is, as it were, one of the arms which, like other great towns, Liverpool, in the manner of a vast octopus of bricks and mortar, stretches into the country along the main roads which lead into it. At the point where this area of Wavertree joins on to the body of the city we have the brick and mortar plague now passing through its acutest stage [...] streets of cottages awkwardly fitted in anywhere, or leading into other streets, which seem in turn to lead nowhere. There are villainous-looking wastes, whose surfaces present an alternation of stagnant pools and hillocks of tipped rubbish, a lonely public-house or two built as speculations in 'futures' on what may turn out to be 'desirable corner lots', a grimy brick church, and board schools [...] but [...] the wastes are slowly and by degrees disappearing before the enterprise of the inevitable builder.
Wavertree in the Victoria History of the County of Lancaster (1907)
The highest land is in the centre and north, rising to an elevation of over 200 ft.: the surface slopes away in the other directions, especially on the Liverpool side. The old village stood on the higher part of this westward slope, beside the road from Liverpool to Woolton, here called High Street; it has now grown into a town. The eastern half of the township still retains a rural or suburban character. [...] The Liverpool tramway system extends to the top of the High street. Near the terminus is a small green with a pond, and close by is Monks' well. [...] Close by is a clock tower commemorating Sir James Picton, the Liverpool architect and antiquary, who lived in Olive Mount. To the east is a piece of ground which by the terms of the enclosure award must remain an open space for ever. Near it is the old windmill. Lower down, towards the railway, is the fine children's playground presented to Liverpool by an anonymous benefactor.
Wavertree Village and High Street
Wavertree High Street stands at a parting of the ways for travellers from Liverpool to Old Swan, Childwall and Gateacre.
The Lamb, Wavertree Village
The present Lamb, an imposing Georgian-style brick building, dates from the 1850s and was built on the site of smaller pub of the same name. The brick archway was used for horse-drawn omnibuses plying between Wavertree and the centre of Liverpool at a fare of six pence (beyond the reach of ordinary folk). In the early nineteenth century, township meetings in Wavertree were advertised as taking place at 'the Sign of the Lamb'.
The Coffee House, Wavertree Village
The Coffee House is probably Wavertree's oldest surviving pub, already listed in 1777. It was a very popular venue for day excursions from Liverpool and no doubt some of the more exuberant trippers ended up in the local lock-up. By 1900 it was owned by Liverpool brewer Robert Cain and the sumptuous interior (much altered since) was the work of architect Walter Thomas, famous as the interior designer of other Cain's pubs in the city centre such as the Philharmonic and the Vines. Notice the row of tiny old brick cottages to the right.
White Cottage, Wavertree Village
White Cottage (now a funeral directors' business) is probably the oldest building in Wavertree, possibly 17th century.
Wavertree Lock-Up, Wavertree Village
Wavertree lock-up, sometimes known as The Round house, a small sandstone building, was built in 1796 for the accommodation of drunks and other prisoners overnight. Before it was built, the local Constable could claim two shillings a night (a lot of money) for accommodating prisoners in his own house. Evidently the lock-up was considered good value for money. The present pointed roof, complete with weather-vane, was added in 1869 as part of a restoration by James Picton, who saved the lock-up from demolition. It replaced the earlier flatter roof, which had proved to be insecure, though after 1845 the new police station had taken over its function as a jail. It was occasionally used to isolate cholera victims from the rest of the community. The triangular village green on which it stands is the only surviving piece of common land in Liverpool and the last vestige of the much larger Wavertree Green, much of which was enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1768.
Old Shop Front, Wavertree Village
No. 102 High Street has a rare Georgian bow-fronted window, the only surviving example in Liverpool. For this reason the building is Grade II listed, along with the properties on either side. It has been the home of craftsmen for most of its days. An 1846 map shows it as a sadler's shop and around the end of the 19th century a cycle manufacturer and then a boot repairer took over. By 1980 the shop was occupied by Wavertree's last surviving traditional cobbler and the window was on the verge of disintegration. Fortunately it was saved and expertly restored by the wood-turner who then began to sell his wares from the premises.
England's Smallest House, Wavertree Village
No. 95 High Street, now merged with the Cock and Bottle pub, is known as 'The Smallest House in England' (which is no doubt disputed). Just 6 ft (2 m) wide and 14 ft (4 m) from front to back, it was occupied as a house until 1925. There are stories of a husband and wife having raised eight children here and that the original staircase was only 8 inches (20 cm) wide. The frontage was renovated in 1998 by the pub owners in an attempt to restore its original appearance. The house itself was probably built around 1850 in what had been a side passageway (the Cock and Bottle was then a temperance coffee house). The building on the other side may date back to the 1760s although its appearance has been aesthetically ruined by the new shop front.
Orford Street, Wavertree Village
Orford Street, Sandown Lane and Salisbury Terrace form a charming area of unspoilt 19th century housing to the north of busy Wavertree High Street. Non-locals (until now like me, who only lives a few miles away) will probably be unaware of this area, which genuinely evokes more tranquil past times. Orford Street is one of the most attractive streets in Wavertree Village and every house is a listed building, mostly built between 1848 and 1852. The laying-out of Orford Street was the idea of one Dr. Kenyon, whose High Street residence backed on to it. Professional men acting as local property developers seems to have been quite a common occurrence in Victorian Wavertree. Sandown Lane has houses dating from 1837 and the stuccoed Sandown Terrace of 1837-45. Salisbury Terrace is another well-hidden corner of old Wavertree.
George Harrison's Birthplace, Wavertree Village
Beatle George Harrison's birthplace was here at 12 Arnold Grove. George's parents moved to this house following their marriage in 1930 and George was born here in 1943. His three elder siblings Louise, Harry and Peter were also born here. The family moved to Speke when he was only 6 years old. George has recalled: 'It was OK that house [...] Outside there was a little yard [...] and for a period of time we had a little henhouse where we kept cockerels.' Unlike the houses associated with the early lives John Lennon and Paul McCartney, this one does not seem to have warranted the commemorative English Heritage Blue Plaque, though maybe the owners weren't too keen on being inundated with geeks like myself.
Botanic Gardens
Liverpool's first botanic garden had been opened in 1803 at Mosslake Fields near to Abercromby Square in the Georgian Quarter. William Roscoe, among others, took a central role in raising the capital required and it housed his famous botanic collection. By the late 1820s, a new, less polluted site was sought away from the city centre and the result was the site now known as Wavertree Botanic Garden, finally opened in 1836. The original walled garden was acquired by Liverpool Corporation 1846 and by 1856 Wavertree Park, the 25 acre (10 ha) surrounding site, was laid out. This was further extended to the present park in the late 19th century. The walled garden became home to vast Kew Gardens style glasshouses, erected in the 1870s and replacing the smaller original one. The main entrance to the new glasshouses was at the top of the steps in this picture. They were destroyed during World War II. The botanic collection was finally moved to a site within Calderstones Park, opening in 1964. That site was destroyed in the 1980s under the auspices of the Militant Labour regime on Liverpool City Council. Graffiti outside once read, 'Destroyed by the enemy in the 1940s and the 1980s'.
The Bluecoat School
Pevsner describes the imposing Edwardian Baroque Bluecoat School as 'without doubt the most impressive building in Wavertree and one of the most impressive half-dozen of its date in Lancashire'. It was opened in 1906, when the pupils were transferred from Bluecoat Chambers (1718) in the town centre to 'the countryside'. The school had been founded as a charity for poor children and retained an 'orphanage' role until the late 1940s, the boys and girls in their old-fashioned dress having been a familiar sight in Wavertree during the interwar years. Bluecoat schools date back to Tudor times and the long blue coat is a survival of the ordinary attire of schoolboys and apprentices of that time.
Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity dates from 1794 and was described by John Betjeman as 'Liverpool's best Georgian church'. Its construction marks the arrival of rich merchants' habitats in the area at this time.
Holy Trinity Churchyard
Wavertree Playground
In May 1895, an anonymous donor purchased the Grange estate, following demolition of the house of that name, and presented the whole 108 acres to the City of Liverpool. He had levelled and grassed the area and suggested the name Wavertree Playground. It was to be a venue for organised sports and a place for children to run about in, not a park in the Victorian tradition. The Playground was opened by the Lord Mayor amid great rejoicing, a march past of 12,000 children and a fireworks display watched by 60,000 people, on 7th September 1895. The new park was immediately nicknamed The Mystery on account of the anonymity of the donor.
The Monks' Well
This is a place where charitable contributions were once collected. The base of the cross (added with the cross itself in the late 19th century) bears the inscription 'Qui non dat quod habet Doemon infra ridet' and 'Anno 1414', roughly meaning 'The Devil laughs below at he who does not give what he has'. The date 1414 may not be an exaggeration. The Pevsner Guide describes the lower stonework including the arch as 'undoubtedly mediaeval'. Moss's Liverpool Guide of 1796 states that a monastic house was once alongside. On the cross itself is the inscription 'Deus dedit homo bibit' or 'God gives, man drinks' (I'm thinking of adopting that for my coat of arms). The whole lies on the site of a spring where pure water once bubbled out from the sandstone of Olive Mount. The archway, now bricked up, once led to steps giving access to a stone cistern containing water. A much grander Monkswell House appeared nearby in the 19th century. This was demolished in the 1930s and the well presented to the City Council to become one of Liverpool's first listed 'buildings' in 1952.
Mill Cottages
Mill Cottages, dating from 1730, stand beside an ancient right-of-way connecting what are now Beverley Road and Woolton Road. Near the Beverley Road end is the site of the old Wavertree Windmill, which was in intermittent operation until 1890 but was pulled down in 1916 following irreparable storm damage in 1895. There were large sandstone quarries on either side, probably the source of the stone for Holy Trinity Church and Wavertree Lock-Up.
Sandy Knowe
Architect James Picton (also surveyor, historian and promoter of public libraries) designed Sandy Knowe for himself in 1847, having selected the highest point of Olive Mount at 215 feet (65 m) above sea level for its situation. It is built of red sandstone in a Jacobean style. Picton was also a literary scholar and named his house after the farm where Sir Walter Scott was brought up. He died here in 1889. The house has been converted into sheltered flats.
Olive Mount
The Georgian mansion Olive Mount , built of local cream sandstone, set the pattern for a whole series of similar houses standing in their own grounds and forming a ring around Wavertree Village centre. It was built in the early 1790s for James Swan, a prosperous grocer and tea dealer who had business premises in Castle Street, Liverpool. The whole area is known as Olive Mount, one of Liverpool's highest points, but it is not known which name came first. The mansion now houses Mersey Care NHS Trust Learning Disabilities Directorate.
Outbuilding of Wavertree Lodge
This old outbuilding on Old Mill Lane is all that survives of Wavertree Lodge, another of the grand mansions built in the Olive Mount area of Wavertree.
Olive Mount Cutting
Olive Mount railway cutting is a sandstone chasm through which cuts the Liverpool to Manchester railway. It was one of the engineering wonders of the age when it opened in 1830, at half its current width, to the world's first railway passengers. It is nearly 2 miles (3 km) long and up to 70 ft (21 m) deep. The work was carried out by an army of navvies with the help of horses and explosives but very few mechanical aids. People from a wide area would travel to the Mill Lane bridge to gaze down at George Stephenson's Rocket locomotive and others - it must have been quite a sight. The cutting was increased in width from two to four tracks later in the 19th century.
Nook Rise, Wavertree Garden Suburb
The construction of Wavertree Garden Suburb, originally known as Liverpool Garden Suburb began in 1910 on farmland made available to tenants on favourable terms by Lord Salisbury. The original plan had been for high density terraced housing, but the terms allowed rents for the new plan, the brainchild of Henry Harvey Vivian, Liberal MP for Birkenhead and urban planner, to be similar to those being charged by the landlords of conventional terraces. The first house was completed in 1910 and when construction ceased in 1915, 360 of the originally planned 1800 houses had been completed. The site was chosen for its proximity to Queen's Drive, a major boulevard ring road that was opened in 1910, although a railway station, which never materialised, was intended as well. The layout and housing were designed by Raymond Unwin and G.L. Sutcliffe. Unwin's work on the west side of Wavertree Nook Road was the earlier. Sutcliffe's work from 1913 was on the east around Fieldway Green, although he probably designed some of the houses on the west side as well. The plans proposed a 'simple leafy layout and low, rough-cast cottages [yielding an] understated effect'. The housing density was 11 per acre (0.4 ha) contrasting with the originally planned terraced housing at 41 per acre. Although the Garden Suburb Movement was founded on Socialist principles and the belief that the working class deserved better and more affordable housing, the first tenants of Wavertree Garden Suburb were largely middle-class, as they needed to be able to afford a compulsory down-payment in rent and a purchase of shares in the development, which was run as a tenants' cooperative. They would have found themselves in an isolated location in houses quite different from any built in Liverpool before, with gardens front and back. Some of them were attracted by the political ideals of the founders, though others complained in the columns of the residents' magazine The Thingwallian about the 'compulsory Communism' which used part of their rent to pay for recreational and other social facilities.
Fieldway Green, Wavertree Garden Suburb
The Liverpool Mercury in 1911 reported on some local culture: 'The social life of the Liverpool Garden Suburb was appropriately inaugurated by a Garden Party held on Saturday July 1st. To the accompaniment of cheerful conversation, about eighty sat down to tea, provided by the Ladies' Committee, and served on one of the greens. The Garden Suburb Choir then made its first appearance. [...] Two sessions have been held of the open-air parliament, which, after the fashion of the old village fathers, meets on Saturday 'evenings on the green', for the informal discussion 'of matters of interest'. Gardening topics have so far occupied attention, but local history and other matters will be treated by experts, and discussed with the freedom which a comfortable seat and a pipe in the open air engender.' In 1913 it commented upon the housing: 'Each house has its own plot of ground for a garden and is planned so that a maximum amount of light and sunshine may be put upon it. The living room or working room has the sunniest aspect generally. It is a feature of the builders to supply all the fittings necessary for the electric light. The servant question has been solved largely by the introduction of many up-to-date internal arrangements for labour saving.'
Wavertree Garden Suburb Institute
A pair of unusually designed early 19th century stone cottages on Thingwall Road was converted for temporary use as Wavertree Garden Suburb Institute in 1912, a role that it retains to this day as the originally intended institute was never erected.