By the late 1700s, as town expanded, the fallow and flooded fields all around ( excuse alliteration!) had become a popular place for winter games on the frozen water, duels beyond the town limits, massing places for the militia and no doubt other nefarious or tryst-full matters, but way back in the early 1600s, the turbary actually stretched much further South in one vast continuous swathe, all the way along the slightly elevated higher grounds up to the current Devonshire Road, in what was Toxteth Park. And they were surprisingly sought after, in main by the two protagonists of this part of the tale, the rival landowners Sir Edward Moore and Lord Molyneux.
Though the families had previously been linked by marriage, a pervasive enmity had developed between the two, possibly on religious or political grounds, or maybe simply competitive, no-one knows any more. While the boggy marshland might not have been prime building land, it had two major things in its favour; first, it covered the most direct route east out of town ( it would be overstating it to refer to a road), but far more importantly, it was full of fuel.
At this time peat was the major fuel source used for homes and industries in the towns and villages, and this large tract of land, with turf which renewed itself every few years, was ideally placed to be a nice little earner. In his Rental books to his son William, Moore predicted and income of at least fifty pounds a year in 1667. I know you want me to tell you how much that is today but it isn’t as straightforward as that. A really interesting website on the subject can be found at measuringworth.com, which looks at value rather than a straight conversion of amounts, and would suggest the equivalent value of the resource today would be somewhere between ten thousand pounds and a quarter of a million! Either way, it’s a very valuable resource.
I dare assure you, you may sell fifty pounds worth at least of turf to the town in a year; for, of my knowledge, you have good black turf at least four yards deep; if so, it
may be worth two hundred pounds an acre, and you have ten acres of it ; in a word, you know not what it may be worth, lying so near a great town; and if you leave half
a yard of the bottom ungotten, once in forty years it swells and grows again. Besides this interest of your turf, if the water be taken from off the moss lake, it will be better for your windmill by ten pounds per annum, for that it will make the park mills want water, their greatest supply being from that lake.
Quoted in Liverpool in King Charles the Second’s Time
The fields had a third resource, one which was very much coming into its own. At either end, from the Moore’s holdings around Abercromby Square and from the Molyneux’s holdings in Toxteth Park at the other end, streams emerged, draining off the frequently excess water, and running right down to the Mersey.