My research into the Cast Iron Shore (the old beach between the Dingle and Otterspool areas of South Liverpool) was helped recently by the recommendation of Pak Chan for me to search the British Newspaper Archive, this has unearthed a wealth of information about the area, from descriptions of the shore when it was still a beauty spot, to more sombre accounts of countless people who have died in the area by accident, by their own hand or by someone else.
Most shocking was to discover that The Albert Hotel on Lark Lane was once used as a temporary mortuary and to hold inquests to determine the cause of death.
‘The Albert’ is one of my favourite pubs and one I have visited countless times over the last 35 years. I have never heard of its gruesome past before, and as I can’t find anything on the internet about it, it’s possible that local historians and ghost story writers might be unaware also.
The pub was commissioned by Thomas Gibson, Edward Jones and Robert Cain (of Barn Hey) on June 12, 1873. This was over ten years before the new developments of terraced housing appeared. As the population increased greatly the “Toxteth Guardians” would meet to discuss matters of sanitation and public health, this included the need for sewers, education establishments and a mortuary. Sadly the shore was the scene of many accidents and suicides, one article mentions 3 bodies washed up on St Michael’s shore in the space of only 4 weeks! The total number through history must be considerable. The shore was also popular for shooting both for sport and famously for a duel in 1804 between Mr. Sparling and Mr. Grayson.
“We trust that the police will be directed strictly to attend to this neighbourhood, and particularly to the shore near the Dingle, where respectable residents of that vicinity dare scarcely venture to walk in consequence of the very frequent and dangerous practice of men and boys firing guns in the most random manner.”
No mortuary in Toxteth Park creates a problem in storing the bodies
In 1891 Edwin Johns was killed by an accidental shot to the forehead by his friend, a Police Sergeant, William Montague whilst shooting gulls at Dingle Point on the Cast Iron Shore. Although this is one of the later accounts, it perfectly demonstrates the problem faced in Toxteth Park:
“The need for a public mortuary in Toxteth-Park has been repeatedly demonstrated of late, and less than a fortnight since a resolution from the Toxteth Board of Guardians was forwarded to the local board asking them to put into operation their powers under the Public Health Act. The local board can no longer delay taking action in matter. Three bodies have in four weeks been removed from St. Michael’s shore. At an inquest upon one of these bodies the jury strongly commented upon the lack of accommodation, which is once more brought under the painful notice of the public in the present instance.”
The Albert Hotel, Lark Lane used as a mortuary
Without a mortuary in Toxteth Park the Albert Hotel had been used to store dead bodies found in the area and washed up on the beach.
“Bodies in a decomposed state, and presenting a most shocking spectacle, had been found on the Cast Iron Shore, and the Police found great difficulty in finding a suitable place to deposit the remains, there being no mortuary in the township.” “…That the Local board be requested to avail themselves of the power conferred upon them by The Public Health Act, 1875, and provide a mortuary within their district for the deposit of dead bodies cast up the river.”
To think of dead bodies, some badly decomposed, being kept in the back room of a hotel shows the desperation of the situation. I can’t help thinking of the poor guests also staying there, I remember coming across a dead pig that was washed up by the old Dingle jetty and the memory of the smell stayed with me for days so I am sure the guests would of been aware. Just imagine the reviews if they had ‘Trip Advisor’ back then?
The articles I have found show the ‘Albert’s’ gruesome sideline running from 1876 to at least 1891 so it would be safe to assume that the number of the bodies kept there was very high. Lark Lane Police Station was built in 1885, which I would of thought was a more suitable location. The article below, although one of the later news stories, highlights the area’s shortcomings.
1885 and the suicide of Robert George Harvey (20) by drinking Carbolic Acid in the “Lovers Walk” Toxteth Park. The body was kept in the Albert Hotel where the inquest was also held.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 04 July 1885. Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive ©
Suicide by hanging beside the railway line between Fulwood park and St Michael’s. The body and inquest was at the Albert.
Liverpool Mercury – Saturday 14 August 1880. Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive ©
Suicide of Samuel John Dawson by cutting his own throat with a razor after taking poison. Body found by the Fairy Glen Bridge. The Inquest was at the Albert Hotel.
Liverpool Mercury – Thursday 14 May 1891. Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive ©
The Iron Bridge, Sefton Park. Photograph: http://kafkasworld.com/2013/07/iron-bridge-sefton-park-liverpool/
Update: The Masonic also used as a Mortuary
After posting about the ‘Albert’s’ past I thought I would look at lark Lane’s other old pub The Masonic (now The Lodge).
That hotel was also used in the same capacity.
“The foreman of the jury expressed his surprise that through the want of a mortuary it became necessary to bring decomposed bodies to a public house”
The body of Gerald Wheelan found on St Michael’s shore and his body kept in The Masonic Hotel.
the article also calls for the Jury to be paid a small allowance – to emulate their Garston friends.
Liverpool Mercury – Thursday 09 August 1888
Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive ©
The same boy but two days previouslyLiverpool Mercury – Tuesday 07 August 1888
Duels on the Mersey
Hamilton/Burr duel in New Jersey in 1804, the same year as the Dingle Duel gives a good impression of meeting at Knott’s Hole.
A famous duel was fought on the beach of Knott’s Hole a the Dingle in 1804 between Mr. Sparling and Mr. Grayson. This account is from “RECOLLECTIONS OF OLD LIVERPOOL BY A NONAGENARIAN.” 1836.
“The occasion of the duel was a conversation that occurred in Mr. Grayson’s carriage, between that gentleman and Major Brooks (who was shot by Colonel Bolton in the ensuing year), on their way to dine at Mr. Grayson’s, at Wavertree. Mr. Grayson, it seems, called Mr. Sparling “a villain,” for breaking off the marriage between himself and a relative of Mr. Grayson’s. Major Brooks repeated this conversation to Mr. Sparling, who instantly commenced a correspondence with Mr. Grayson, calling upon him to apologise for his language. This correspondence continued from October until the time the duel was fought—the meeting being the consequence of the unsatisfactory results of the communications between the parties. They met at a place called Knot’s Hole, near the shore by the Aigburth-road. Mr. Sparling was attended by Captain Colquitt, commanding the Princess frigate, then in the river. Mr. Grayson’s second was Dr. MacCartney. After the fatal shots were fired Mr. Grayson’s servant found his master alone, lying on the ground with his face downwards. He was desperately wounded in the thigh, and was taken back to Liverpool as quickly as possible. He lingered until the following Sunday, when he died. Mr. Sparling and Captain Colquitt were, at the coroner’s inquest, found guilty of murder, and were tried at Lancaster, on the 4th of April, before Sir Alan Chambre. Sergeant Cockle, Attorney-General for the County Palatine of Lancaster, led for the crown; with him were Messrs. Clark and Scarlett (afterwards Sir James); attorneys, Messrs. Ellames and Norris. For the prisoners, Messrs. Park (afterwards Baron Park), Wood, Topping, Raincock, and Heald; attorney, Mr. William Statham”.
“…The judge on summing up decidedly leaned towards the prisoners, and the result was a verdict of “Not Guilty.” The same jury was afterwards empanelled to try Mr. Sparling, Captain Colquitt, and Dr. MacCartney on another indictment, but no evidence being brought forward, they were all acquitted.”
The Last Duel
It is often said that the last duel fought in Liverpool was between Colonel John Bolton and Major Edward Brooks (both originally from Ulverston) at Miller’s Dam, Aigburth Road, in 1805.
Brooks was the man who had fuelled the earlier duel by relaying a private conversation between himself and Mr Grayson regarding Mr. Sparling. Brooks had asked his employer Bolton, (President of the West India Association for a pay rise but was refused, Brooks challenged him to a duel but a tip off by the police (possibly by Brooks himself) this was called off. One year later, and more insults by Brooks, another meeting resulted in Brooks firing first, missing Bolton. Bolton’s shot hit Brooks in the eye killing him instantly. Bolton escaped punishment.
Although the Brooks and Bolton duel is recorded as the last Liverpool Duel, the Liverpool Mercury records one between Italian sailors 42 years later. Duelling was outlawed in 1838 so perhaps the Bolton/Brooks duel was the last ‘legal’ meeting. The book ‘The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900′ by Michael Macilwee tells of numerous violent meeting in Liverpool.
“The lenient verdicts on the duellists suggest that those living in the early nineteenth century displayed a greater tolerance towards acts of violence compared to the present day. As the century progressed the authorities increasingly frowned upon duelling and other forms of violence. In the poorer districts, however, physical brutallity remained a valid means of expression. In rough neighbourhoods, fisticuffs provided an opportunity to gain a reputaion. Indeed, street-fighting became a a form of sport used to display toughness and status in the neighbourhood. Steet brawlers emulated some of the ceremonies of the professional prize-fight, coming up to scratch and so on. Today such a fight would be called a ‘straightener’.”
‘The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900’ by Michael Macilwee
The Italian Duel
The Dingle was also the location for another less well-known duel between Italian sailors, this time a little less civilised and fought with long-bladed sailor’s clasp knives. Injuries included wounds to the head and arm near to the elbow “so much so that amputation of the limb will be necessary”. It seems both survived and recovered enough to face charges in court. The clippings below are a short time apart.
Tragedies on the Cast Iron Shore
Most of these newspaper stories date before the building of The Albert and portray an area that has witnessed countless tragedies. Even more poignant to myself is the fact that my Uncle Alec died by drowning in the Mersey in 1969, his body was found several days later.
The first tragedy is mentioned in Robert Griffiths’ history of Toxteth, it records the death of the Reverend Thomas Spencer, drowned after swimming by the Herculaneum Potteries.
Tinted stone lithograph of The Tall House by W.G.Herdman, published in Pictorial Relics of Ancient Liverpool, 1843. Courtesy of http://www.ancestryimages.com
More about the Tall House here: https://theprioryandthecastironshore.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/robert-griffiths-toxteth-park-dickensons-dingle/
The Cast Iron Shore, “a temporary paradise”
In stark contrast to the previous News reports, here is a column from the Liverpool Daily Post – Wednesday 16 August 1916.
The descriptions of the Cast Iron Shore “free from the almost ubiquitous flapper”and Calderstones Park “tout ce qu’l y a de plus beau” – “the most wonderful thing that could exist”, contrast sharply with report of the death toll of Liverpool Policemen in the July push of 1916 (The Somme) in the First World War.
The next two clippings are readers answers to an article about place names from 1915. It is interesting that nearly one hundred years ago the origins of the name “The Cast Iron Shore” was unknown to a lot of people. This was also one hundred years after John Cragg built the Church that gave the beach its name.
My thanks got to the British Newspaper Archive for all these clippings.
I highly recommend a visit to their site: http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Look out for special offers as I had a months subscription for only £1.