It isn’t known quite when some of the lanes and streets out of Liverpool village were finally formed in their modern incarnations, but some still follow the routes of the earliest paths and tracks out of the Town centre. The basic route of Scotland Road was originally the northernmost navigable route for travel of any distance at all, with the South blocked by the Sea Lake and ‘the Pool itself’, but by 1600, to head out East after crossing the river you would look to the route of the current Duke Street up to Faulkner Street ( then ‘Crabtree Lane’), and over Moss-lake brook up Smithdown Road, or you would head up to Mount Pleasant and then up to Edge Lane or Prescot Road.
If you ever wondered why Mount Pleasant curves to the left around the Catholic Cathedral, this is because it follows the original pathway, and skirts around the edge of the Moss Lake Fields where they begin, just below Abercromby Square. It was at this turning point that Liverpool’s most famous ‘Bowling Green’ neatly slotted, at the end of Hope Street where the Liverpool Medical Institute now lives, next to the Everyman Theatre. And here that William Roscoe Snr had a tavern called ‘The Old Bowling Green House’, and that the younger William Roscoe, botanist, abolitionist and poet was born, his playground the Mosslake fields where Abercromby Square now sits. To digress on a digression, it’s often claimed that the more famous Roscoe grew up here, and tended his father’s market garden. Actually the Roscoe’s moved house within a year of Roscoe’s birth and a second, larger ‘Bowling Green’ tavern, complete with market garden, appeared further down Mount Pleasant, nearer Rodney Street and became the family home. Not hugely fascinating, but facts is facts, as they say. More of Roscoe later.
What do you call someone from Liverpool? We'll ignore the joke answers, but until relatively recently, it wouldn't have been Scouse or Scouser. These terms only gained initial popularity in the forties, and only wider popularity in sixties ( Alf Garnett and The Monkees shouldering some of the blame for that). Earlier in the century the derogatory 'Wacker' was common, but in the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries it would have been a Dickie Liver, or more commonly, a 'Dickie Sam'.
In the 1800s and 1900s, most inhabitants of the city wouldn't have been able to claim ancestry here, the melting port of the growing port, influx of Irish, Scots and Lancastrians meant most families were fairly 'new' to the area. The 'Dickie Sam' was therefore the character of a Liverpudlian ( or Liverpolitan as it would more commonly have been known), rather than birthright.
There are several possibly attributions for the name ‘Dicky Sam’, and as is often the way, the most common is the most unlikely.
Most commonly descriptions say it is after Dicky Sam's, public house at the pierhead, but this is putting the Sam before the Dickie. The pub was named after the term ( which pre-dates it) rather than the other way around.
The most popular justifications are from Lancashire dialect as a way of putting the inhabitants down, using the transatlantic trade links to create Dicky Sam as a poorer relation of ‘Uncle Sam’. Or as a ‘bog dweller’, as I’ll explain.
The spelling by the way, does vary in different accounts. Which is 'correct' would depend on the real derivation of the term, which we will never definitively know. But as I like you, I'll give you a hint as to my own interpretation:
Looking at the length of time the term ‘Dicky Sam’ appeared for, and its acceptance as 'common parlance', it is likely the term was originally a very old monicker. The celtic derivation for Fen Dweller, or Bog Man ( dighe samhadhe) is particularly pertinent to Abercromby Square, but the whole area surrounding Liverpool used to be heathland and fenland. Before 1700 fellow Lancastrians looked down on this minor port and its commerce, or lack of it (despite relying on the then Town for the Irish trade themselves), so associating the inhabitants with the ‘land of bogs’ is quite conceivable.
The links to America, and the later creation of the 'Uncle Sam' moniker ( allegedly after a New York meat dealer) might naturally have lead to the adoption of ‘Dicky Sam’ in a new context over time. It is certainly true that the close links between Liverpool and America were claimed wholeheartedly and proudly by Liverpolitans.
Outside Liverpool, ‘Dicky Sam’ was used as a term of insult for exactly the same reason. Just as a 'dickey' is a fake shirt, inhabitants were seen as wannabe Americans by some of the London merchants, hence 'Dicky Sam' as a term both of affection and derision.
When is an acre not an acre? When it’s a Cheshire acre. Or a Lancashire acre. To get your bearings on this beginning of the Corporation estate, an acre is usually defined today as 4,840 square yards. But never shy of gain where it’s to be had in the North West, a ‘Lancashire acre’ was the equivalent of 7,840 square yards, and a ‘Cheshire acre’ even more valuable at 10,240 square yards. In total the land granted would have been roughly 100 metres wide and 500 metres long, and was at furthest possible end of the peat rich Moss Lake fields from Toxteth Park.
For several hundred years this area was a vital part of fuel source, and water source for the town of Liverpool. It makes me wonder whether there might be any truth in the suggested origin of the name of ‘Dicky Sam’ for occupants of the town as outlined in the FAQ… which I may repeat next post for interest
No posts today. Am too excited about going to the Wales Comiccon in Wrexham!
Nearly done with him, don't worry...
The previous examples might seem to stray a little from the core subject, but I think it is useful in highlighting the mindset which was emerging as modern ‘business Liverpool’ took shape, with tenants and landowners alike aware of the growth of the town. It also highlights the kind of man we are dealing with, so when Moore complains at losses from Molyneux’s business practices, and his care for the good of the town, we should take this with a pinch of salt.
Moore had a brief victory as the Moss Lake Brook was unblocked to flow again to the North, though the victory was short-lived and unnecessary. Within thirty years of writing the first wet dock was built on the inlet, the course of the stream up through the Town ( up the current Paradise Street and Whitechapel) was filled in and built over, and peat was no longer needed as fuel. In an ironic reversal of fortunes this was followed by a period when the course of the brook was deliberately flooded just North of the square to provide a reservoir and clean water for Liverpool.
I stated that the importance of the lands Abercromby Square sits on goes back to the sixteen hundreds, but if you’ll allow me a moment’s indulgence, more technically it actually goes back to the 1300s: And the first granting of the Corporation estate. Well, to be absolutely accurate the history actually goes back further to the point when the area was known as ‘West Derby Fen’, but speculation on that point is in my chapter on Liverpool’s origins.
The great common above the town had always been a source of fuel, but the locals had their favourite spots to dig. The cynic might suggest that some planning was involved, and the outcome intended, but in 1309, Edmund Crouchback, the Earl of Lancaster, was fed up with villagers digging peat out of his Toxteth Park hunting estate ( the lands later granted to Lord Molyneux). As nefarious peat digging was almost impossible to police, especially given the lack of a police force in the fourteenth century, the easiest solution was to offer an alternative to the Burgesses of Liverpool.
So, for the princely sum of one silver penny a year, six Cheshire acres on the upper East side of the pool ‘adjoining the Mill Pond of the village of Liverpool’, namely over today’s Faulkner Street and Abercromby Square to Brownlow Hill, and ending to the East just shy of the current Grove Street, and to the West just above Hope Street, were granted to form the first part of the Liverpool Corporation Estate. This also then marked the boundary with Edge Hill and the borough of Everton.
For a final example, Moore does show some compassion after a fashion, or maybe he’s just scared of witches. Though not scared enough not suggest throwing out the daughter and re-letting the house when the ‘witch’ dies. Note the atypical repeated ‘Amen’, just to be on the safe side.
A poor old woman. Her own sister, Margaret Loy, being arraigned for a witch, confessed she was one; and when she was asked how long she had so been, replied, since the death of her mother, who died thirty years ago; and at her decease she had nothing to leave her, and this widow Bridge, that were sisters, but her two spirits; and named them, the eldest spirit to this widow, and the other spirit to her the said Margaret Loy.
God bless me and all mine from such legacies : Amen.
This house is out of lease, yet for charity I permit this old woman to be in it only for the old rent; whenever she dies put her daughter out of it, for she is one of the [most] wicked, drunken, swearing, and cursing women in England, and a lewd woman besides. God bless us from her : Amen.
This is a brave place to build on a gallant house and a great back side. You may have one pound a year rent, three rent hens, and three days' shearing, for it; or, may be, you may lay the next house at the south end to it; and then it would be a most stately place indeed Consider well what you do, two houses being better than one. Rent at present, £o, 13s. od
from The Moore Rental
Apologies to anyone joining mid-blog. You can find the history on the right but I'm currently posting parts of my draft second chapter on the history of the Square and its occupants. We're talking about the area before Abercromby square was built in case you wondered!
The following example shows both sides of the coin. Moore’s uncle had impregnated the widow Finlow, and given her a house in return ( not a bad deal for the time), and her other son Richard had subsequently inherited the lease, though it was now costing fourteen shillings a year ( ‘old rent’ is yearly rent as in today’s market, the new style rent was an upfront large ‘fine’ or fee, and a lower annual amount of shillings, chickens and shearing, aka day’s service to the landowner).
By building a new street ( Fenwick Street) Moore was increasing his holdings and wealth, and to do it, he claimed back land already leased to make the road and new buildings. Richard Finlow had agreed, but only if his current lease terms were extended at the same cost for additional years ( so that his brother and sister got the same deal if they outlived him), and to drop the chickens, days labour and two shillings off the rent as well. It might seem a fairly steep ask until Moore admits at the end, once their lease is done he’ll be able to re-let the property for fifty pounds up front, and a pound a year thereafter! Given the fact he’ll be making similar profits on each of his new property leases on the street he’s creating, it doesn’t seem too bad a deal after all. Though Moore still complains they’re taking advantage of his ‘good nature’.
His old rent was fourteen shillings a year; this is only a house and a good back side ; I had only a small fine for it. In regard, my uncle Robert More got his mother with child, he procured me to give her this house for nothing. This Richard is her son, a very honest fellow : but when I made the Fenwick street, I took a little piece of his back side from him, which now lies to Robert Worrell's house; and he made me give him a life or two, I know not whether, into this house, for nothing, and likewise to abate him seven shillings of his old rent, and to abate him two days' shearing ; and all this was for a little piece of his back side, the which I know he could not have set for five shillings a year ; yet you may see what you must expect from your tenants, if they find your necessities require their help. Therefore serve God, and look honestly to your own ; for there is not a foot I have had from any one of them, but they have made me pay ten times the worth of it… This house will be worth fifty pounds fine, and to raise the rent to one pound a year. Lives in it are: him, the said Richard, John his brother, and Ann his sister ; three rent hens at Easter ; one day's shearing.
From Moore's Rental