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14 August 2007

NEWSLETTER NO 33                             14 August 2007


Old, old Liverpool

The oldest signs of human activity in Merseyside are the Calderstones, six large stones which once formed the structure of a burial mound. There is little evidence of the Romans in Liverpool though there are reports of traces a Roman pavement being found in Otterspool and Grassendale and of a Roman site at Tarbock. The Romans were certainly active in Wirral, a road running from Chester to a port at Meols, passing a quarry, used by the Romans, at Storeton. Traces of a Roman bridge were reportedly found under part of Birkenhead.

There are no visible signs of Liverpool Castle, completed in 1235 and located where the Queen Victoria memorial now stands, or of the seven original streets, laid out on the orders of King John, which fanned out from the old High Street, next to the modern Town Hall, though the modern street pattern is evidence of where they were.

Childwall Church is ancient, St Nicholas Church and Walton Church are of ancient origin but so badly damaged in World War II that little of the originals remain. Speke Hall, completed in 1599 is a glorious example of black-and-white architecture and Liverpool’s oldest compete building.

And that is almost all there is which predates 1600 ……. Except for a little known treasure of great age surviving on the fringes of Sefton Park. Records show that Toxteth deer park, set up for King John as a sporting ground and as a source of meat, had two hunting lodges. The park, comprising some 2,300 acres, was bounded by modern Parliament Street, Upper Parliament Street, Smithdown Road and the Otterspool, where the little river originally known as the Osklesbrok and later as the Jordan flowed into the Mersey.  The Park had a wall some seven miles long with an entrance gate near where St James’ Church now stands, just below the Anglican Cathedral. One lodge is said to have been on the site of the Merseyrail line near Otterspool. No definite remains of it have been identified.

The reported site of the other, the “Higher Lodge”, is in Sefton Park Road, which was once known as Lodge Lane, of which it was an extension. There today stands an elegant house which is a mixture of Victorian, Georgian and earlier building. Part of the interior is thought to be of medieval origin. There are three-foot thick walls, partly of red sandstone, and a metal back-plate in the fireplace bearing the date 1588 and representations of a fleur-de-lys, and anchor rope and what appear to be grapes.  It’s not likely that King John himself visited this lodge but who knows what other medieval VIPs may have done?                                                     

     Andrew Pearce