Not the Square but an interesting story about a building just round the corner which is planned for demolition. We just don't seem to care too much about the history of our buildings what with this and the Lime Street demolitions. Shame on us :-(
I know. I've been a bad boy not writing, and I'll be honest, I ain't been researching either this week. I decided that feeling ill I deserved some comfort reading ( Bill Bryson's latest) and comfort TV ( Blacklist). I am girding myself up to start writing again thoug, promise. To prove it, tonight, while a little out of my timeframe, I've been hunting down some nice details about Herbert Frohlich, who worked at out groundbreaking theoretical physics department in the 1950s. And that isn't quite as random as it sounds as the department was based in number 6 Abercromby Square at the time.
Just to fill you in, my plans blogwise for the coming weeks are a) Get round to watching the film of Under Milk Wood I bought myself for Christmas b) Start posting parts of the Square history 1600-1800 and c) Start writing the chapter afterwards on the building of the Square. So you have all that to look forward to.
ps I lied about the Magic Eye in the picture if you're still staring boss-eyed at it and imagining a hidden sailboat or something.
Been a bit under the weather this week with a bug so keep looking at the picture to amuse yourself for another day or so. Maybe I've done one of those Magic Eye things with it, and if you stare long enough you'll see a hidden image ;-)
I feel bad for not putting a photo up, so here instead is George Perry's view of Liverpool in 1770 for your delectation.
Can't find the link to the map I was going to post, sorry :-(
Without the aid of a time machine we can never be certain, but putting the various references together, in Domesday we have great areas of forest and fen, with settlements in a line at Low Hill, at Esmedum ( logic would dictate if it was a fort it would have been at the high point around Lodge Lane, and two more somewhere around Princes Park ( south of the fens) and Otterspool. The site of Liverpool north of the ‘pool’ inlet itself was a part of West Derby, the lands south of ‘the pool’, while of little use for farming, belonged to Smithdown up to the approximate area of Parliament Street.
By the time King John planned his new town, Liverpool was a separate entity, and all lands South of ‘the pool’ counted as ‘Toxteth’ manor ( incorporating Smithdown). These lands, swapped by the King with Lord Molyneux, were split the area into the Royal Park itself ( Toxteth Park), and the 'great heath' and Mosslake.
If this alleged swapping of lands with the King is actually true, it might explain the dispute between Edward Moore and Lord Molyneux listed in the Rental of 1667. When he owned the whole area, Edmund Crouchback gave the Mosslake fields to the Liverpool Corporation, who then sublet to Moore. Molyneux meanwhile, ‘Lord’ of Toxteth since the twelfth century, claimed ancestral ownership of the whole heath and Mosslake, arguing it hadn't been Crouchback's to give.
I'll give you a little breather from the hardcore before I go onto the next part and the meat of the story. I hope you'll excuse me but I'll skip the whole creation of Liverpool town itself bit, as its very well documented elsewhere, and after a few posts on other things jump to around 1600, which is when the story of the Moss Lake and what was to be Abercromby square really picks up again, and also links into the reasons for the creation of the first dock and Liverpool's explosion as a port.
Sorry for the break in service, have been down in London at a conference and meeting up with old friends, including the poet Sean Bonney. His new book, Letters Against the Firmament is just out and highly recommended, and not just by me. Sean's blog is here.
Anyway, Toxteth Park...
Shortly after this, large areas of South Lancashire are deforested, and the Testa de Neville’ defines the boundaries of Toxteth Park. Without confusing matters by using contemporary named like Bromegge and Oskelesbrok, this thirteenth century document describes the area between Otterspool and Liverpool itself, bounded by the watercourse up the ‘Pool’, past Byrom Street, up to Brownlow Hill and along the line of Smithdown Lane to Lodge Lane, then across to the area of Lark Lane and back down to the Mersey. Within this, we know ‘Toxteth Park’ was bounded along the course of Parliament Street at its North edge, and that in grants to Thomas earl of Lancaster in 1316 Smithdown and Toxteth are still linked as the same place, but with one part enclosed and one part ‘open’. Shall I put a map in next time to make this easier to follow? Oh, okay then.
Low Hill ( quite apart from the references given above), has always been claimed to be an ancient hamlet. We know that by 1066 both Smithdown and Toxteth had been in existence for some time, with logic dictating there was likely a path between them, above the ‘fen’ and below the woods of Wavertree, and leading on to Low Hill, as the next nearest settlement. To my mind, there is a strong probablility that this path followed the route of what became Smithdown Lane.
There are a number of early documents listing Toxteth and Smithdown as being together, which culminate in the interesting description of rents in the time of Charles I for ‘Toxteth, Smithdon Moss and Letherpoole’.
The Domesday listings give Smithdown ( or Esmedun) as a huge area ( Picton determines the equivalence of 180 statute acres), and given the nearby forests of West Derby to the East ( at Wavertree), Toxteth to the South and SouthWest, and the fact it has a very small tax (geld unit), it would be reasonable to assume a lot of the land is unworkable, so probably either fen or forest.
Over time the place referred to later as Toxteth Park seems to have overlapped in written descriptions. In Domesday there are two Toxteth entries ( as the original name Stochestede), which Picton determines to etymologically mean ‘the wooden settlement’, suggesting two land holdings within the forest. Over time the names seem to have conflated, and by the time of the formation of Liverpool King John is creating the Royal Toxteth Park from the landholdings, swapped for ground in Litherland.
Don't worry, we're nearly up to Liverpool history proper, with talk about the actual plot we're on about and the building of the Square and everything!