Toxteth Park: Parkfield & Park Nook

Continuing the series of properties described in Robert Griffiths’ book from 1907 ‘History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth’, the next area dealt with here is the Dingle end of Aigburth Road, in particular the properties known as Parkfield and Park Nook in Princes Park.

The properties are indicated here on this map from the 1860s.
Parkfield Estate and Park Nook. On the opposite side of Ullet Road from Park Nook is the charmingly named Cottage of Content.

parkfield-18451845 Tithe Map map showing both buildings. Prince’s Park had only been created three years earlier together with Park Nook, shown at the top on the right of St. Paul’s Church.


This was part of an large estate of the same name. Parkfield was already lost 37 years before Griffiths’ book, to make way for the Toxteth Congregational Church, itself demolished in 1971.

Today nothing remains of Parkfield, the location of the main house is now taken up by the Sandringham Medical Centre and on the site of the lodge is a McDonalds restaurant. Parkfield and Little Parkfield Roads were built on the land of the estate.

Little Parkfield Road
“Wm. Hogg’s Dairy Est. 1872, Parkfield Farm”, Little Parkfield Road.
You can read about Hoggs and other “Cowhouses of Liverpool’ here:

Here is Robert Griffiths description of Parkfield written in 1907:

Toxteth Congregational Church
The foundation stone of this handsome, Gothic structure was laid October 31st, 1870. This church originated in the Old Chapel, South Hill Road, erected in 1833. it is said, through the munificence of a gentleman who was attacked by robbers, while walking along Aigburth Road, and who took this means of expressing his gratitude to the residents who rescued him from the hands of the ruffians. Before the erection of the church, the land on this corner was occupied by the mansion and grounds of Mr. C. Tayleur, and was known as The Parkfield Estate,

The Parkfield Estate
This extended a considerable way down Ullet Road, on the one side, and as far as Lark Lane on the other. Through it, under an avenue of trees, ran the stream known as Dickenson’s Dingle.

The Old Stone Lodge
still stands next to the church (in 1907, this was since demolished), on the main road, and a portion of a wall of one of the far buildings still exists in one of the back gardens in Sandringham Drive. Many years ago, it is said, the lodge-keeper of this estate, on opening his door one morning, found deposited on the step a bag containing a large sum of money. This contained a note, which stated that it was an act of restitution for money taken from the estate some years before. The anonymous Zacchreus was never discovered.  

5208876510_1a1e3ef770_bToxteth Congregational Church on the corner of Ullet Road and Aigburth Road, taken in March 1964 before the road was widened.
Photo: Liverpool Record Office on Philip Mayers Flickr page Philip Mayer

Parkfield 2017
The same view in 2017, looking down to Aigburth Road, Google Street view.

Parkfield covered a large area, I have coloured it above to show a comparison with the size of Princes Park.

Yates and Perry Map of 1768
and Parkfield is Highlighted Red.

Prince's Park Appraisal final illustrated version with cover
James Sheriff’s Map of 1816 showing Parkfield owned by R. Gladstone Esq.

Robert Gladstone

The Yates and Perry map from 1768 shows two buildings on the estate but does not list the name or the owner. James Sheriff’s map of 1816 shows Parkfield in the ownership of Robert Gladstone Esq.

Born Robert Gladstones in 1773 to Thomas Gladstones and Helen Neilson. Robert was was a Liverpool merchant and uncle to the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Robert married Catherine Steuart, the daughter of Adam Steuart and Grace M’Adam of Liverpool on 11 May 1801. Catherine died at Parkfield in 1818.

Adam Steuart appears to have been born in Liverpool in 1750 and died in 1820, his father in turn was Alexander Steaurt. On the map above from 1816 the land close to Parkfield is owned by Mr. A. Stewart so it is possible he built the house and laid out the grounds in the middle to late 1700s.

Gladstone the Slave Owner

Robert was a merchant and Chairman of the Liverpool East India Company, The Liverpool and Manchester Railway and also the Liverpool Shipowners Association. With his brother John Gladstone they traded to the West Indies and East India, both were slave owners who were awarded compensation by the British Government in 1835, “slavery had been abolished in 1807 but it but it had taken another 26 years to effect the emancipation of the enslaved”, the Government compensated the slave owners not the slaves. See also Slave Owners of Aigburth Road post.

2nd Nov 1835 | 468 Enslaved | £9225 16S 5D
Robert Gladstone, brother of John Gladstone (q.v.) and uncle of William, and original claimant as the owner-in-fee of Great Valley in Manchester Jamaica, who died 31/08/1835. The compensation was awarded to his executors (Robert Gladstone, Thomas Steuart Gladstone and William Gladstone, each of whom q.v.). His three executors and trustees were his sons and made responsible for dividing the estate equally between all children.

Charles Tayleur

On the 1835 survey by Jonathan Bennison, the estate was owned by Charles Tayleur. Charles was a business associate of Gladstone and also John Moss of Otterspool. Griffiths’ mentions Mr C. Tayleur by name only, an indication that he was using the map alone for reference.

Charles Tayleur.

Charles Tayleur was born in 1785, the son of William Tayleur from Shropshire. He grew up in Market Drayton and moved to Liverpool when he was married to Jane Hill from Liverpool at St. Thomas’ on  June 1, 1801.

In 1814 they were living at 19 Rodney Street. In 1823 he moved to Parkfield, at this time his company Tayleur Charles and Co. had a counting office at 2 Wolstenholme Square. Tayleur had various businesses including shipping, importing and exporting and a director of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

tayleur-liverpool-mercury-friday-21-april-1820Liverpool Mercury – Friday 31 December 1813

Liverpool Mercury – Friday 22 September 1815

Liverpool Mercury – Friday 21 April 1820


Railway pioneer and founder of the Vulcan foundry

In 1830 he collaborated in founding The Vulcan Foundry at Bank Quay with Robert Stephenson the son of George Stephenson, who in 1830, built the first public inter-city railway line in the world, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The location of the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows being halfway between Liverpool and Manchester was the perfect solution for Stephenson who previously had to transport his locomotives from Newcastle-on-Tyne.

The first Locomotive to be built at the Vulcan Foundry was for the North Union Railway part of what is now the West Coast Mainline between Wigan & Preston. The Locomotive was named ‘Tayleur’ after him and was shortly followed by three more locomotives for the nearby Warrington & Newton Railway that opened in 1831. He supplied Isambard Kingdom Brunel with the first 19 locomotives for the Great Western Railway.

vulcan-foundry-no1-tayleur-mr-hargreaves-1833The first Locomotive to be built at the Vulcan Foundry “The Tayleur”

“The Social and Economic Development of Crewe, 1780-1923” states that In 1835 he helped finance the Grand Junction, the first railway to pass though Crewe. His partners included John Moss of Otterspool, Sir Hardman Earle. Robert Gladstone. Charles Lawrence, Joseph Sandars, J. C. Ewart, the Croppers and Robert Barbour.

Visit of the Railway Directors to Manchester
In consequence of the notice given that the Directors of the Railway were to visit Manchester on Monday morning a great number of persons assembled at the railway works, to see them take their departure. At 8.45am the directors consisting of Charles LAWRENCE, John MOSS, Joseph SANDERS, R. GLADSTONE, W. ROTHERHAM, R. HARRISON, H. EARLE, James BOURNE, D. HODGSON, and W. W. CURRIE Esq’rs, and Henry BOOTH Esq, the treasurer, took their seats in two of the new coaches provided for them, in which were also, Charles TAYLEUR Esq, John CROPPER, Jun, Esq etc, and after passing through the small tunnel, seven carriages laden with stone were attached to the engine. The weight of the two coaches with passengers was about 5 tons, 7 stone waggons, 27 tons, Engine, tender and water, 7 tons. gross weight 39 tons.
Liverpool Mercury, June 18th 1830

In 1847 the Bank Quay Foundry was taken over by the Vulcan Foundry, and it was here that the materials for the Conway and Menai Straits Tubular Bridge were prepared.

Vulcan exported locomotives all over the world, to Russia in 1837 and Japan in 1871. In 1929 they supplied the first electric locomotive for India. During World War II the factory built the “Matilda tank” tank. “the only British tank to serve from the start of the war to its end”.

Matilda_Tank_Vulcan_Village_1941_small.jpgMk 2 ‘Matilda’ Tank being driven through Vulcan Village to the testing ground.

Information and information of The Vulcan Foundry Newton-le-Willows courtesy of:

See also:

Llamas in the Dingle!

V0021566 A llama. Stipple engraving by Huet, the younger, after Huet,

In 1835, a publication called the “List of the animals in the Liverpool Zoological Gardens” shows us that Tayleur donated a Llama that he kept at Parkfield to the Zoo, in fact he had at least five of them which must have been an odd site for the Dingle locals.

“There have been several llamas and alpacas introduced at various times. In 1841 there were in England: at the Earl of Derby’s, Knowsley Hall, Lancashire, 16 ; at the Marquis of Breadalbane’s, 6 ; Duke of Montrose’s, 3 ; Earl Fitzwilliam’s, 1 ; Zoological Gardens, Dublin, 6 ; Zoological Gardens, Eegent’s Park, 2 ; J. J. Hegan’s, Esq., Harrow Hall, Cheshire, 7 ; Charles Tayleure’s, Esq., Parkfield, near Liverpool, 5 ; John Edwards’, Esq., Pye Nest, Halifax, 6 ; Mr. Stephenson’s, Olan, 6 ; Wm. Bennett’s, Esq., Farringdon, 12 ; Surrey Zoological Gardens, 1 ; Zoological Gardens, Liverpool, 3 ; travelling caravans, 4 ; total, 79″.
History of Progress in Great Britain


The Botanist

As well as being a home to exotic creatures, the gardens of Parkfield were also home to a collection of rare plant specimens. Tayleur won many competitions for his Cacti and Orchids. In 1849 he invited the public to view The Night-Blooming Cereus, which only blooms at night and then dies the following day.

taleur-botanist-liverpool-mercury-friday-08-june-1838Liverpool Mercury – Friday 08 June 1838

the-gardeners-chronicle-volume-3-january-1-1843The Gardeners’ Chronicle: Volume 3. January 1, 1843

night-blowing-cereus-friday-11-may-1849Liverpool Mercury 11th May 1849

selenicereus_grandiflorus00The Night-Blooming Cereus, Selenicereus Grandiflorus: Wikipedia

Fire at Parkfield

In June 1832 vagrants who had been driven away after sleeping under the hay at Parkfield took their revenge by setting fire to the hay stacks.

tayleur-liverpool-mercury-friday-01-june-1832Liverpool Mercury Friday 01 June 1832

Tayleur’s ship raided by Pirates

In 1828 a ship owned by Tayleur called the Carraboo was taken by pirates:

“The Carraboo proceeded on her voyage toward Buenos Ayres, till the 20th of July 1828, when south of the island of Madeira, she was boarded and forcibly taken possession of by an armed piratical vessel. The captain of the Carraboo and the whole crew, and all the passengers, were removed from her and taken on board the pirate vessel, and a master and crew from the pirate, were substituted and left on board the Carraboo. After three days confinement on board the pirate vessel, the captain, crew and passengers of the Carraboo were all forcibly put to sea in a small boat.”

Pirates.jpgThe Law Journal for the Year 1832-1949

Move to Torquay

According to Graces Guide; “with the fortune that Charles made he bought estates in Leicestershire – at Charnwood, Hucclescote, Charnley and Donnington-le-Heath, all to the west of Leicester. He also bought estates in Devon – at Sandwell, Morleigh, Woodley, Place Captain, Hendham, Higher and Lower Preston, Harberton, Hazzard, Belsford, Babbercombe and St Mary Church in the Torquay and Totnes areas.”

In 1851 he purchased Hampton House in Babbacombe. As I was researching Tayleur I came across Fiona Freer; an author who has written a book recently about Tayleur and his family whilst living at Hampton House. They had moved there in 1851 and after Charles’ death Hampton House was inherited by his son William Houlbrooke Tayleur. The family faced several tragedies and William became insane “Although the doctors would have expected him to die within a short period of time, William lived on, hopelessly insane, for twenty long years”.

“A Long Time Dying, The story of the Tayleurs of Torquay” by Fiona freer


“The Victorian Titanic”

RMS Tayleur Wikipedia

Whilst living in Torquay, Charles Tayleur’s Vulcan Foundry also built the worlds first iron sea-going vessel again named the ‘Tayleur’.

This vessel “Hailed as faster, bigger and safer than any vessel of her kind” sank on its maiden voyage and has been called as the Titanic of it’s era. RMS Tayleur was a full rigged iron clipper designed by William Rennie, and like the Titanic, was also chartered by the White Star Line. She left Liverpool on 19 January 1854, on her maiden voyage to Melbourne, Australia. Of more than 650 aboard, only 280 survived.

Charles Tayleur died the same year.

“Her compasses did not work properly because of the iron hull. The crew believed that they were sailing south through the Irish Sea, but were actually travelling west towards Ireland. On 21 January 1854, within 48 hours of sailing, Tayleur found herself in a fog and a storm, heading straight for the island of Lambay. The rudder was undersized for her tonnage, so that she was unable to tack around the island. The rigging was also faulty; the ropes had not been properly stretched, so that they became slack, making it nearly impossible to control the sails. Despite dropping both anchors as soon as rocks were sighted, she ran aground on the eastcoast of Lambay Island, about five miles from Dublin Bay”.


A book about RMS Tayleur by Gill Hoffs is available to preview and purchase:
The Sinking of RMS Tayleur

Gill Hoff’s WordPress site:


Park Nook, Princes Park

Surprisingly this house was not mentioned by Griffiths, but Park Nook was built in 1844 as part of the Princes Park development that had opened two years earlier. The land for Princes Park had been donated by Richard Vaughan Yates and was designed by Joseph Paxton and James Pennethorne. Around the park was built a series of fine houses including Princes Park Mansions.

“Joseph Paxton (1803-65) was commissioned to design the park together with the surrounding belt of housing by Richard Vaughan Yates in 1842. The rental from building plots was designed to pay for the maintenance of the park which was exclusively for the use of residents.” Historic England

Princes Park MansionsPrinces Park Mansions,a neighbour of Park Nook and a surviving example of the luxurious housing that surrounds the park.

James Martineau

James Martineau by George Frederic WattsJames Martineau – Replica (National Portrait Galley) by George Frederic Watts, 1873

One plot of land was purchased by James Martineau, “an English religious philosopher influential in the history of Unitarianism”, with money lent to him by Misses Yates. Martineau designed the house to his own specification which according to the description below was not to everyone’s taste:

“On Wednesday we called for the Martineaus in their new house in the Prince’s Park—the extreme West End of Liverpool— A pie-crust sort of house, with all the “curiosities and niceties that a Unitarian Minister could wish.”

In August 1849 Princes Park was the scene of a grand campaign to raise funds in support of the Northern and Southern Hospitals, raising £9,593. A lithograph by  John R. Isaac commemorated the event and was drawn from the roof of Park Nook.

the-fancy-fair-princes-parkThe fancy fair, Prince’s Park, Liverpool, August, 1849 by John R. Isaac, lithographer.
“On the occasion of the Philanthropic Festival when £9593.6.2 was realized and divided between the Infirmary, the Northern and Southern Hospitals” Library of Congress

park-nookA close up of the roof of Park Nook, overlooking Princes Park.

Liverpool Mail 11 August 1849
A clipping from the Liverpool Mail, 11th August 1849.
Find My Past British Newspapers 1710-1963

I had initially thought that the figure standing on the roof holding his hat was James Martineau, but, thanks to Rev. David Steers, (blogger, editor of ‘Faith and Freedom’ and the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society) we now know that at the time of the Fancy Fair, he had taken a long leave of absence while they were building Hope Street church and was traveling around Europe. Martineau was in Silesia on 11th August 1849 but it could be that he returned briefly or that artistic license was used to include him, as standing on the roof of Park Nook was a favourite pastime for Martineau. The view from Park Nook would have taken in the new park, St. Paul’s church, the Ancient Chapel in the Dingle, the Croppers mansions, the city of Liverpool and beyond to the Welsh hills.

Martineau had even designed a windmill that was installed on the roof that powered a pump to take water into the house:

“Much personal labour was spent upon the house, and its maintenance and beautification were a source of interest and recreation to him. In these matters he submitted to no conventions. Now he was to be seen astride upon the ridge of the roof, regulating the action of a sort of small windmill of his own design, which pumped up the water for domestic use.”

“Father and one of our uncles had devised a little windmill, which was placed on the roof of the house, and the wind used to pump up the water into the cistern in the attics. But when there was no wind to turn the mill, and the cistern was nearly empty, father would take off his coat, and climb out of the attic window, and sit on the parapet with one leg outside, doing the work of the wind, and pumping up the water till the cistern was filled. It always made us creep to look up from below, and see him on the very edge against the sky, his shirt sleeves and his curly hair fluttering as he moved ; but he only laughed merrily when we were frightened, and said he was perfectly safe.”
James Martineau, theologian and teacher; a study of his life and thought

martineau-park-nook-18511851 Census showing the Martineaus at Park Nook. From Find My Past.

Martineau; Philosopher and theologian

The Martineau Society which “aims to highlight the principles of freedom of conscience advocated in the nineteenth century by Harriet Martineau and her brother, Dr. James Martineau.” gives us some information about the man:

“James Martineau, philosopher and theologian, is best remembered for his views on religion based on reason and conscience. He wrote many books, perhaps the best well known is ‘The Seat of Authority in Religion’. He was first apprenticed as an engineer but very soon decided to train for the Unitarian ministry and entered Manchester College which was then at York. As a qualified Unitarian minister he started his ministry in Dublin, 1828, and married Helen Higginson in December, 1828. In the summer of 1832 he moved from Dublin to Liverpool where he was a great success. He was at one time President of the Philosophical Society and took a full part in Liverpool’s social life. He joined the staff of Manchester College in 1840, at the time of its return to Manchester. James was involved with Unitarian affairs nationally, e.g. the passage of the Dissenters’ Chapels Act, the opening of the universities to dissenters without doctrinal tests, and the decision to move Manchester College to London (associated with University College London) where in due course he became principal (1869-85) and president in 1887. James Martineau was a devoted family man, but no grandchildren were born. He died at the age of 95 in January 1900.” The Martineau Society

David Steers on his excellent Velvethummingbee blog tells us that Martineau was the Minister for The Paradise Street Chapel in 1832 and later Hope Street.

“Paradise Street was built in 1791 and was a dissenting church of some importance in Liverpool at the time. In the nineteenth century no less a person than James Martineau became the minister – a fitting appointment to a congregation that was cultured, wealthy and influential. They had built their meeting house on the grand scale, with a central cupola it was octagonal with a classical frontage and adorned with elegant stone urns along the balustrade. Martineau arrived in 1832 and established a name for himself as a preacher, teacher and philosopher linking up with other prominent figures in Liverpool and the north west including John Hamilton Thom, Charles Wicksteed, and John James Tayler.

…But partly through the changing environment around the old chapel, which had become more commercially orientated and less like an area the well-to-do might want to visit, and partly also because of the more devotional worship that Martineau introduced, the congregation felt a need to abandon their old church and build something new. Accordingly a grand gothic church was built on Hope Street and Martineau and his congregation departed to their new home, selling the old place off.
David Steers, Velvet Humming Bee

hope-streetHope Street Church on the right of the original Philharmonic Hall.
Courtesy of David Steers

Spartacus Educational tells us “In his books Martineau was strong critic of materialism and was one of the first philosophers to recognize the importance of Darwin’s theory of evolution”.

Tragedy at Park Nook

Early in 1845  Martineau’s nine years old son Herbert became seriously ill. The disease was mysterious, and its long course was marked by fitfulness of improvement and decline, which alternately raised the hopes, and deepened the fears, of the anxious parents. Autumn passed into winter, and the inevitable close drew near. Before the dawn of March 28th, 1846, Herbert passed away.

He is buried in the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth where a monument states:

In Memory of Herbert, Son of James and Helen Martineau,
Aged 10 years.
O life too fair! upon thy brow
We saw the light where thou art now
O Death too sad! in thy deep shade
All but our sorrow seemed to fade.
O Heaven too rich! not long detain
thine exiles from the sight again.
Born august 11 1835:
Died March 28 1846

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge related to James Martineau

The Duchess of York’s great, great, grandmother was Elisabeth Martineau who was born in Norwich in 1794. She was the older sister of James and Harriet Martineau.

“Harriet Martineau, to whom Kate bears more than a passing resemblance, is today a largely forgotten figure, yet during the Victorian era she was a powerhouse, a towering intellect who braved male prejudice to carve out a unique career in the world of letters. She is generally acknowledged as the first woman sociologist.

“The daughter of a Unitarian Norwich cloth manufacturer, she shot to fame in 1832 as author of Illustrations of Political Economy – twenty-five short stories showing how economic conditions impacted on the lives of ordinary people in a variety of social environments. She visited America in 1834 for two years and identified with the anti-slavery cause, which she promoted in her journalism for the rest of her working life. She also wrote fiction, travel books on America and the Middle East, and political analyses of conditions in India and Ireland, and is regarded by many regarded as the first significant British woman sociologist. Her lively and provocative Autobiography was written in 1855 but published posthumously in 1877. Despite two extended periods of ill-health, from 1839 10 1844, and from 1855 until her death, the last phase of Harriet Martineau’s career was as a journalist primarily for The Daily News (though she wrote for many other journals and papers]. She never married. Harriet Martineau was a unique figure in Victorian culture, and a key contributor to a wide range of its intellectual and social debates.”

Harriet Martineau, more than a passing resemblance to Kate Middleton?

More here:

Secret Underground Tunnels

Park Nook had a series of mysterious tunnels beneath it that survived long after the house was demolished. We are fortunate that biographers of Martineau mention the tunnels here:

“The planning and progress of the scheme was, says Mr. Martineau, a constant source of interest and amusement in the family for upwards of a year; especially as the rapid slope of the ground involved a terrace-garden, and a story more behind than before, and a mysterious tunnel-passage from the back door, and other first rate provisions for ‘hide-and-seek.’ Hither we removed in 1844: and though the increased distance from town was sometimes inconvenient, the ampler space, the perfect quiet, the pure air, the outlook on grass and foliage and flowers, and the vicinity of some of our best friends, especially the good sisters Yates of Farmfield, far outweighed in benefit the added tax upon time and exertion.”

It has been said that Martineau may have been inspired to build these tunnels by Joseph Williamson known as the Mole of Edge Hill because of a labyrinth of tunnels he built.

Williamson was Martineau’s friend and landlord when he had lived in Mason Street in Edge Hill when he first moved to Liverpool in 1832.

After Williamson had purchased the land in 1805 he had begun to build houses of “the strangest description, without any rational plans”, “His major project was to build a labyrinth of brick-arched tunnels in various directions and over various lengths within the sandstone. This tunnel-building continued until Williamson’s death in 1840.”  

“The following year the family outgrew their first home in Mount Street, and moved to a larger house in Mason Street, Edgehill. It was ‘next door to Dr. Raffles,’ relates Dr. Martineau, ‘who was always a pleasant neighbour. In the same terrace lived Rev. Mr. Hall, the liberal incumbent of the Church for the Blind. The street for the most part belonged to an eccentric old man, (Williamson) who picked his tenants by uncountable whims of fancy. On my applying for the house, he kept me in suspense while he hid me in the drollest way to find out who I was: at last he said, ” Yes, sir, you shall have it; and then with the Rev. Hull, the Rev. Dr. Raffles, and the Rev. Mr. Martineau, it will be strange if we have not a trinity that will keep the devil out of the street.” On the credit of this function I remained there seven years.”

cropped-martineau-and-raffles-mason-st-18411841 census of Mason Street showing the Martineau family living next to Dr. Raffles.

In 2002 sections of Williamson’s amazing tunnels were excavated and are open to the public for guided tours and for special events. See here: Williamson Tunnels

Park Nook was demolished in the 1960s and the grounds became overgrown, however the tunnels survived much longer. I am indebted to Chris Iles, Trustee & Photographer of Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels as he kindly shared an issue of their ‘Mole” newsletter from 2001, here is an extract and two amazing photos that are possibly the only surviving record:

“He was much younger than his landlord and in old papers he (Martineau) claims that his small children would play in the tunnels beneath his Mason Street house. Furthermore, it is said that when he moved to Princes Park in the 1840s he purposely had his new house built with underground passages, in the Williamson style, so that they could continue to do so.

In June (2001), we found some remains of them in the undergrowth on the south side of the park (thanks to FoWT member Joe Wareing for the tip off!). The blocks lining the main tunnel are well made and in super condition. All that remains of the house otherwise are numerous large sandstone blocks strewn around, some ornately carved. Perhaps the stone for the house came from the stocks which were doubtless left around Mason Street on Williamson’s death”.

Passage enrance hidden in the Undergrowth
Passage entrance hidden in undergrowth. Courtesy FoWT Williamson Tunnels

Emerging from the 40 foot long tunnelEmerging from 40-foot long tunnel. Courtesy FoWT Williamson Tunnels

After Martineau

In 1866 Park Nook was advertised for sale or let, the advertisement below from The Liverpool Mail gives a good description of the interior but oddly neglects to mention the tunnels.

Park Nook Liverpool Mail - Saturday 02 June 1866

From at least 1861 to 1911 (or later), the house was the residence of the Duff family. Robert Duff (born about 1822) was a Scottish born East India merchant.

1861 Duff family Park Nook
1861 Census showing the Duff family at Park Nook

Robert’s fourth son Edward Gordon Duff became an expert on early printed books:

Legacy of Edward Gordon Duff (1863–1924)

The Prize arose out of the bequest of Edward Gordon Duff, who died in 1924. Duff was bibliographer and librarian with a particular interest in early printed books. Born in Liverpool on 16 February 1863, he gained a B.A. from Wadham College, Oxford, in 1887. In 1893, Mrs Rylands, widow of John Rylands, Manchester’s wealthiest merchant, appointed him her librarian. He had the task of cataloguing her collection, and supervising its transfer to the new John Rylands Library in Manchester. The library was inaugurated in October 1899, but Duff resigned shortly afterwards and supported himself and his research with freelance work. Among other achievements, Duff was President of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, and the Sandars Reader in Bibliography at Cambridge University in 1898-1899, 1903-1904 and 1910-1911. He died on 28 September 1924.

Duff’s first book, Early Printed Books, was published in 1893, followed by Early English Printing in 1896. Other works included two textbooks, The Printers, Stationers and Bookbinders of Westminster and London from 1476 to 1535, a biographical dictionary, A Century of the English Book Trade, 1457–1557 (1905), and a bibliography of Fifteenth Century English Books (1917).
Legacy of Edward Gordon Duff (1863–1924)

1911 Edward Gordon Duff Park Nook
1911 Census showing Edward Gordon Duff at Park Nook

By the 1930s Park Nook was the residence of D. Milner Brown, Hon. Sec. Liverpool Women’s Air Raid Precaution Council, see below:

park nook 1939

The Battle of Park Nook

Once demolished, the site of Park Nook became overgrown and a haven for wildlife, when plans were announced around 2001 to develop the site into ‘luxury’ flats, environmental campaigners staged a protest:

“Shortly after the contractors appeared on the scene protesters started to arrive and invade the site in brave attempts to stop the destruction. Security Guards employed by Sentinel Management removed protesters from the site by dragging them and one protester was injured when security guards turned violent. Security guards hurriedly attempted to construct a safety fence around the felling area 45 minutes AFTER felling had begun and even as the fence was almost erected the driver of one of the two diggers pushed over a stand of trees close to the fence line sending branches and splinters of wood over the barrier towards security and protesters.  

Security guards who had grown up in the area were challenged by their peers who had come out to protest. One woman found one of her neighbours as a security guard and asked him, “Why are you doing this, this (development) is just for rich people, we walk in this park for free, we use this area everyday, these are our trees, you’re just doing this for the rich.” He didn’t know and had no answer for her.

Children from the local school came out to join the protest, shouting, “Get out, this is our area.” and taking photographs with their mobile phones”.

indy media park nookThe diggers move onto the site of Park Nook

The Guardian newspaper reported the battle in an article entitled ‘Losing the plot’:

“Within days of contractors’ hoardings going up, the protesters had torn them down to use as barricades at the plot on the edge of Princes Park in Toxteth, Liverpool. Overnight, the protest became a cause célèbre…

Webb (Cyril) bought Park Nook in the 1960s. When Liverpool council invited him to build high-rise flats there he refused, believing they were not right for the area. From then until 1999, when planning permission was granted for two three-storey blocks of flats, the site has become overgrown and – protesters claim – one of the few areas of wilderness in the city.

One resident, writer and broadcaster Fritz Spiegl, used the letters page of the Liverpool Daily Post to express his concerns. “Liverpool can ill afford to lose any more parkland and trees,” he said. “The nook is a haven for wildlife.” Chris Lovell, spokesman for the Friends of Princes Park, the group leading the opposition, says: “This is a beautiful spot – designated a green space by the council – which we believe local residents have made use of for many years.”

But the protesters don’t have it all their own way. When they suggested that bats, a protected species, were nesting on the land, the Webbs called in Clemency Fisher, curator of birds and mammals at National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. She sympathises with the Webbs and says: “I was extremely impressed with how sensitive and careful they had been to take ecological matters into account. If you are a multi-million-pound corporation, you can soak up this kind of thing, but if you are a small family firm, you get it in the neck. “There is no evidence that bats have used any of the trees, says Fisher. “The site is a small piece of scrub . . . too isolated to be of huge interest.”
The Guardian ‘Losing the plot’

In the end the development went ahead and is now the uninspiring Glade Park Court. It is incredible that the flats at the back share the same view of the park as Park Nook had in the 1840s. I wonder if any trace of the tunnels still remain?

Glade Park Court
Glade Park Court on Ullet Road, built on the site of Park Nook


Further reading:

Robert Gladstone
The Gladstones by S. G. Checkland 1971

Charles Tayleur
www.enginemuseum.orgThe Sinking of RMS Tayleur
Fiona Freer ‘A long time dying. The Story of the Tayleurs of Torquay’

James Martineau

Duff Family
Legacy of Edward Gordon Duff (1863–1924)


7 comments on “Toxteth Park: Parkfield & Park Nook

  1. David Steers says:

    Thank you for a really excellent post. Full of information about Parkfield and Park Nook which I didn’t know and which I suspect is not widely known at all. It is terrible that the site of Park Nook was given over to developers as recently as the 1980s.

  2. Sandra Deane says:

    Fantastic as all of your articles have been I look forward to your next instalment

  3. clay says:

    I lived in the cottage next to that park nook in the early 90s, found an anderson air raid shelter after cutting back the over grown garden.

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