“There are many corners of Liverpool where beauty lingers for those who look for it.”
St. Michael’s in the Hamlet, ‘A Liverpool Beauty spot’, Liverpool Evening Express 1944.
If you are unacquainted with south-Liverpool you’d never guess that just a few minutes walk from the busy dual carriageway of Aigburth Road lies a charming old ‘hamlet’, nestled around a church designed by two of Britain’s most noted architects.
St. Michael’s church was built in 1815, the church and surrounding hamlet of white-washed, old buildings used cast-iron in their construction and decoration. Known locally as “The Cast Iron Church”, this led to the nearby stretch of coast to be named locally as “The Cast Iron Shore’ or “The Cazzie” for short.
Over 200 years later, the vision of the developer is still clear with the original houses being built with the same Gothic details to compliment the church. Even though there has been several stages of house building since its creation, like these on Southwood Road shown below, the charm and character of the area has not diminished.
Spring, my favourite time to visit St Michaels Hamlet with the blossom in bloom on Southwood Road, viewed here from Bryanston Road.
A Sonnet to St. Michael’s written in 1864
St. Michael’s Hamlet has a magic quality, something I felt in my childhood when it was our playground, Robert Griffiths referred to this in 1907 when he wrote his history of Toxteth Park, and a poet, calling himself ‘Moschus’, captured it in this sonnet he penned in 1864:
Here is a nook for poesy and quite,
Villa’d and laned ‘neath faery tutelage –
Slopes of pied green, orchards of swart-gold fruitage,
Trees of antiquity, and hamadryad.
Many the glistening May morn here I spent,
Pasturing on beauty in impressionable boyhood.
The diamond-blazing panes in Phoebus’ eye
Eddied in changeful splendours as I went,
While Michael’s cocks clang’d morn-smit ecstacy.
Here Romanesque-browned lovers plight their faith
‘Neath the golden moon, the mild symposiarch.
‘Mid May’s pied carnival or June’s tanned swathe,
Feeding their thoughts on the spirit of flowers rath,
Swung from their censers in the sacred dark.
If there was ever a phrase that sums up my thoughts about Liverpool, it would be this caption for a photograph of St. Michael’s in the Hamlet that I chose to open this post, “There are many corners of Liverpool where beauty lingers for those who look for it”. It was written during WWII on March 3rd 1944, three months before D-Day, the major turning point of the war. So much of the city had been devastated by enemy bombing that a scene of a sleepy English hamlet must have given hope that all was not lost.
Listed buildings in a designated conservation area
St. Michael’s Hamlet was designated as a Conservation Area on 12th December 1968. St. Michael’s Church is a Grade 1 Listed building and many of the houses are Grade 2 Listed.
The Listed buildings of St. Michael’s Hamlet.
For a map with active links to more information about the individual houses, or any area in Britain, go here: www.historicengland.org.uk and type the postcode L17 7BD.
For the existence of the church and its hamlet, we are indebted to John Cragg, a wealthy Iron founder “with a penchant for church building”, his Mersey Iron-Foundry was situated in Tithebarn Street.
Cragg was keen to develop the use of cast-iron in churches and to this end recruited the architects Joseph Michael Gandy and Thomas Rickman. Rickman had started as an amateur architect, born in Maidehead he moved to Liverpool and was an accountant in the Insurance firm of Thomas and John Ashton Case.
Their first completed cast-iron church was St Georges church in Everton in 1813. They were to build two others; St. Michael’s in Toxteth Park and finally St. Phillip’s in Hardman Street (now demolished). *see December 2017 update at the bottom of this post.
St. George’s Church Everton in 1831: www.liverpoolpicturebook.com
St. George’s Church Everton today www.stgeorgeseverton.com
St. Phillip’s Church on Hardman Street (1816-1882) www.allertonoak.com
A cast-iron window frame designed by Thomas Rickman. “Part of a window from St Mary’s Church, Birkenhead (near Liverpool), built as part of a scheme to establish Birkenhead as a bathing resort”. Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017.
Cragg’s dream of a Gothic hamlet was so successful that, in the 1880s, when the surrounding area witnessed an influx of thousands of newcomers in the new terraced housing, the new residents assumed that the settlement had a much longer history. This continues today with many people thinking the ruins in Priory Woods were the remains of an ancient monastic building, rather than a private house. Robert Griffiths, writing over 110 years ago, mentions the fantastic histories that had been attributed to the area even then;
“Here is sufficient material for the romantic mind to weave a history of the district. Many such histories have, from time to time, arisen, and which, if not exactly authentic, have at least proved of surpassing interest”.
Here is how Robert Griffiths described the area in 1907:
“For over a generation a strange mixture of legend and mystery has been woven around the little hamlet of St. Michael’s. This is accounted for by the existence in the fields half-way between St. Michael’s and Otterspool of a subterranean cave, with an underground passage leading thereto. Numerous subterranean “tunnels” a mediaeval-looking ruined castle. on the high banks of what was once a stream through fields, and a group of antique-looking buildings with an ecclesiastical appearance bearing the distinctively monastical titles, ” The Hermitage,” “The Friars,” “The Nunneries,” “The Cloisters,” and “The Abbotsfield” were grouped around the Church of St. Michael’s-in-the-Hamlet.
(Griffiths later explains that ‘Castle’ referred to was a 19th century folly built by Mr. Sothern of ‘The Priory’ and the ‘subterranean tunnel’ was an ice house built on the banks of the stream running through Dickenson’s Dingle).
Researching the history of these houses can be a little confusing because the names have changed over the years. For instance, It is sometimes said that Cragg built five houses including his own, Hollybank, there were in fact six, Abbotsfield on Southwood Road being the other. I have yet to find any evidence that the house know as Glebelands was ever called The Friary (if anyone has any proof I would be very pleased to include it here) but another house named The Friars was close by.
The first phase of houses built by Cragg can be seen on Bennison’s map of 1835, coloured below to show their locations:
St Michaels Church
Hollybank (John Craggs House on St Michaels Road)
The Friary/Glebelands (the original Vicarage next to the church)
The Nunnery/Carfax (corner of St Michaels Road and St Michaels Church Road)
The Hermitage (St Michaels Church Road)
The Cloisters (St Michaels Road)
Abbotsfield (22 Southwood Road. This became Norwegian Sailors’ Church, now a private house again.
Also visible on the map are the second stage of houses including The Beach, Dudley House, St. Michael’s Mount, The Priory and The Friars. Cragg’s name appears twice on the map; next to Holly Bank and also The Cloisters, the second appearance is to indicate he owned the land. The Friars is shown to be the property of Cyrus Morrall, a member of the Select Vestry with John Cragg. (representing and managing the concerns of the parish)
A plan from the sale of The Priory Estate (drawn at a rotation of almost 90° clockwise). John Fletcher, of St. Michael’s Mount, owns the land to the west and John Cragg owns the land to the north and to the east. Lot 2 is a property called Dudley House and next to it was The Friars, as it is not shown as part of this estate it is probable that The Friars was owned by Cragg.
Prior to Cragg developing the area, St. Michael’s was known as ‘Dickenson’s Dingle‘. This rural Dingle had one of four streams of Toxteth Park running through it. The stream entered entered the Mersey by the nearby shore, which at that time had fisheries close by.
The stream of Dickenson’s Dingle, long since dried up, still ran at the time of Bennison’s map. It made its way beneath St. Michael’s Road via a culvert, it then re-emerged near to Holly Bank (what is now Neilson Road), the path of the dried-up stream can still be traced in the grounds of the house today, Robert Griffiths mentions an earthen causeway next to Hollybank that led to the church and this can also be seen on the map as a dotted curved line.
St. Michael’s Church as seen from Dickenson’s Dingle, from Robert Griffiths’ book.
Date of the houses
Although it is often written that the houses were constructed at the same time of the church, the maps of James Sherriff would suggest that building of the houses started between 1816 and 1823:
James Sherriff’s map of 1816; I have coloured the church for indentification. No houses are shown.
James Sherriff’s map of 1823; again coloured and now showing 3 houses and St. Michael’s Road has been laid out. As it is not a very accurate map it would be difficult to identify the individual houses. Original map: www.allertonoak.com
A section of the 1845 Tithe Award Map. St. Michael’s Church Road, then called Church Lane, ends just after the house known as Glebelands. St. Michael’s Church Road was simply Church Lane and finished just after the Vicarage “Glebelands”. Also of interest is the small road to the left of the church above the number 405, this was Backhouse Road, named after the family that lived in the Old Hall on the corner. Later this would be much extended to the west and become Bryanston Road.
It is doubtful that Thomas Rickman designed the houses as his diaries state that he disapproved of the Gothic villas for their incorrect styling (here). Cragg had submitting a design for St. George’s church without Rickman knowing, which led to them winning the contact, so it entirely possible that he continued to appropriate designs in his house-building ventures.
A description of St. Michael’s in 1855
Below is an extract from a 1855 report about the health of Toxteth Park which gives us an insight into the area, 40 years after the church was built. It shows how many houses existed at that time, that there were no sewers, just open drains filling up a pond or directly onto the shore, and that the cemetery was so full that the ground level was considerably raised.
Five gentlemen who were residents, who stated that:
“the Hamlet contains a church, 22 houses, and eight cottages ; that there is no main sewer, merely surface drainage into a brook and into a pond ; that there is a small brick drain down the lane on the north side of the hamlet, which discharges above high-water mark ; that the houses on the south-west also drain upon the shore, which is very offensive ; that the water is supplied from wells and from the Liverpool waterworks ; that the hamlet is lighted with gas during the winter months; and that in addition to the county police, there is a private watchman, supported by the inhabitants ; that the road from Aigburth-road to the church gates (St. Michael’s Road) is maintained by the commissioners, the rest kept in repair by the owners, who are, however, rated by the commissioners ; that the church was consecrated in 1815 ; that the south side of its cemetery is completely covered with tombs, and the north side so full that its level is considerably raised.”
St. Michael’s may have looked posh but with no drains it would have smelt the same as the poorer houses half a mile down the road. 1855 British Newspaper Archive.
St. Michael’s Church
Robert Griffiths said of the church:
ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH
‘was built in 1815, for a chapel of ease in connection with St. Mary’s, Walton, from designs by Thomas Rickman. Mr. Cragg, of the old “Mersey” Iron Foundry, Tithebarn Street, was concerned in its construction. This gentleman was a friend of Pugin, the architect, who, in the beginning of the last century, published several works advocating the Gothic style of architecture and the use of iron in the construction of churches. Much of the detail of this beautiful building is of iron cast at Mr. Cragg’s foundry.
“The History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth”, 1907
The first church to be completed by Cragg, Gandy and Rickman was St Georges in Everton, although designs for St. Michael’s church had started before St. George’s. An article from the Liverpool Mercury on 28th October 1814 described the St. George’s church as:
“built in the Gothic style, and we can only add, that it is considered as one of the handsomest structures of its kind in the kingdom, and does credit to the contractor, John Cragg, Esq, of the Mersey Iron-Foundry.”
Liverpool Mercury on 28th October 1814. British Newspaper Archive
John Cragg had purchased the land for St. Michael’s from Charles Molyneux, 3rd Earl of Sefton. The artist and architect Joseph Michael Gandy had produced designs for St. Michael’s as early as 1809, and when Cragg met Rickman in 1812, he asked him to make new drawings. Work was started before St. Georges Church was completed and Cragg personally funded the building at a cost of £7,865 and recruited the same architects to design it. The difficulty of attributing the design of the churches can be seen in this excerpt describing St. George’s Everton from ‘The buildings of England: Lancashire: Liverpool and the Southwest’ by Richard Pollard and Nikolaus Pevsner:
“It is impossible to disentangle Craggs, Gandy’s and Rickman’s contributions.
Some cast-iron elements shown in Gandy’s drawings are very close to the executed building, but these could have been designed by Cragg before Gandy’s involvement. Certainly Cragg had already cast some components before Rickman appeared on the scene”.
The designs J. M. Gandy drew for St. Michael’s Church in 1810 are held at the V&A Museum. A selection of these are shown below, some familiar whilst others are radically different:
Architectural drawings by Joseph Michael Gandy. “Sheets of plans, elevations and sections for St Michael’s Church, Toxteth, Liverpool (1810)”
All images Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017.
Joseph Michael Gandy by Henry William Pickersgill artuk.org
Born in 1771, Gandy was the “English artist, visionary architect and architectural theorist, most noted for his imaginative paintings depicting Sir John Soane‘s architectural designs”. He died in a private asylum in Plympton in 1843.
St. Michael’s church was consecrated on Wednesday 21st June 1815 in the reign of George III, (four years before the birth of Queen Victoria). The Battle of Waterloo had been fought just three days before so the service was one of Thanksgiving for the victory.
The consecration of St. Michael’s Church on the 30th June 1815. British Newspaper Archive
The first baptism was on the 25 Jun 1815 and gives the name of the first Minister James Hamer B. D., the child who was christened was William Cope, son of Alice and William Cope, William was an engraver at the nearby Herculaneum Pottery works. The church would witness many births, marriages and deaths of Pottery workers, a stone tablet commemorating the deaths of seven Herculaneum workers was erected in 1824. William Hesketh was the Assistant Minister. Hesketh (1790-1858) would go on to baptise, marry and bury many of Toxteth Park’s residents, and do great work for the community, raising money the the poor, the victims of the Irish Famine and starting a school. In 1822 Hesketh married Lucy Hannah Satterthwaite who ran a Ladies School at St. Michaels Old Hall, James Hamer was the Minister at Hesketh’s wedding service.
Marriage record of William Hesketh and Lucy Hannah Satterthwaite in 1822. Ancestry.com
In 1826 a memorial tablet commemorating the Toxteth born astronomer Jeremiah Horrox was erected inside the church. Horrox was born in the Lower Lodge at Otterspool, you can read more here.
In memory of Jeremiah Horrox one of the greatest astronomers this Kingdom ever produced. Born in Toxteth Park in 1619. Died 1641 aged 22. His observations were made at Hoole 8 miles from Preston where he predicted, and was the first person who saw, the transit of Venus over the sun.
This memorial was erected by M Holden, astronomer, AD 1826.
Franceys & Spence fecit, L’pool.
The interior of the church showing the extensive use of cast-iron finlasonpartnership.co.uk
A timeline of the use of cast-iron in buildings
A paper for the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire from 1957 by R. Dickinson Ph.D., F.R.I.C, entitled “James Nasmyth and the Liverpool Iron Trade” provides an excellent timeline of the use of iron in buildings:
“Cragg also played a part in the introduction of iron as a building material. The eighteenth-century spinning and weaving mills were constructed with timber floors; these absorbed oil from the machinery and were a serious fire hazard. The replacement of timber by iron and masonry was a logical step towards the construction of fire-proof buildings.
The earliest known example in England of the use of iron as a structural material was in St. Anne’s Church, Liverpool, built 1770-72, where cast iron columns support the galleries, but the first iron-framed building was a mill built at Derby in 1792-93. About 1790, John Wilkinson, that believer in iron who kept a selection of cast-iron coffins at his home as presents for his friends, assisted his workers in building their Wesleyan Chapel at Bilston, Staffordshire, by casting at his Bradley Works iron columns, window frames and pulpit.
The combination of these structural and decorative trends was appropriately accomplished in Liverpool where, in the period 1813 to 1816, Thomas Rickman and John Cragg built three churches almost entirely of iron”.
HSLC, James Nasmyth and the Liverpool Iron Trade by R. Dickinson
By the late 1860s the church had fallen into disrepair and faced demolition. A restoration was organised of the churchwardens, Colonel Thomas Wilson. Wilson recruited the Scottish architects William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley.
A more recent renovation in 2011, with the aid of a grant aid from English Heritage, commissioned the Finlason Partnership for a major phase of repairs to the top of the Tower, images of the complex work involved can be seen here: finlasonpartnership.co.uk
The white houses of St. Michael’s in the Hamlet surround the Church. Aigburth Park is front left and St. Michael’s School is on the right.
Hollybank is traditionally known as the home of John Cragg, although the only records I have found of Cragg’s address is St. James’ Mount (the Liverpool ‘Anglican’ Cathedral was built where his house stood). Cragg is listed as living at St. James’ Mount in electoral lists of 1806 and 1825, and census records of 1841 and 1851. Cragg also died at the Mount and was buried at the cemetery his house overlooked. Being a wealthy man it is possible he had two homes, with St. Michael’s Hamlet being his country residence.
The house today, the archway has been filled-in and a doorway and window added.
Robert Griffiths wrote in 1907:
“Holly Bank, St. Michael’s Road, Mr. Cragg built for his own residence. The front portion of the building was the stables, where the major portion of St. Michael’s congregation, who in those days came long distances, stabled their horses. The animals were led round through the side gate to the back, where they reached the stables by an earthen causeway. Iron also entered largely into the composition of the house, the staircase and windows being of this material. The title deeds of the property, which we have been permitted to inspect through the courtesy of Mr. T. Brown, state that the land on which the present hamlet stands originally belonged to the Earl of Sefton. About 1803 it was put up for public auction, and was then described as:
“All that piece of land known as Dickenson’s Dingle, reaching from Park Lane, the High Road which runs from the ancient Park Chapel to Garston, down to the River.”
In the 1850s, Holly Bank was the home to Laurence Richardson Baily, an Average Adjuster and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1885 to 1886.
Baily was director of the Great Northern Railway, of the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway, and of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. He was chairman of British Continental African Company and of Reliance Marine Insurance Company, and a government nominee on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. He was president of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and was a J.P. for Liverpool. He later lived at Allerton Hall. (Wikipedia)
Although not mentioned by name, this advertisement from 1855 is for Hollybank.
The first mention by name of Hollybank in the newspapers I could find is 1868 when it is occupied by Joseph Robinson Esq. Robinson was born in Preston and started the brewery “Robinsons and Prestons Brewery Co Ltd” situated on the corner of Nelson Street and St. James Street.
Robinson owned 45 public houses, leading him to face fierce criticism in the press, like this public letter to him, printed in 1870:
“Do you doubt the allegation? Then go any evening to one of your 45 houses, and see for yourself the horrible work achieved there… Gaze upon that scene of sin and sorrow, of wreck and ruin, and try whether you can come to the conclusion that you are doing right in facilitating the headlong rush to death and doom of those hapless creatures…
Who are these customers? Here is one. He bears the honoured name of father and husband, but is now tottering to his ignominious end ; and while his last coppers are dropping into your till, a home, with all its claims and responsibilities, is supperless and desolate, its silence broken with the cry of children asking for bread, and the sobs of a broken-hearted wife muttering her maledictions upon the public house, which has emptied the purse…
Here is another. She is a mother with a babe in her arms. Follow her home, and watch her, as, overcome with stupor, she smothers her infant and contributes to another sacrifice on the altar of drunkeness.
Here is one more – a ragged and miserable sot, without home or friends. Follow him to the river side, a maddened inebriate, and see him plunge into its tide to extinguish his now inebriated existence.”
Robinson was also a Liberal MP representing the Scotland Ward, who in 1863 was the victim of a Tory smear campaign that led to a court case for libel.
In 1862 Robinson took Thomas Wood “A primitive Methodist Preacher” to court for obtaining employment as a gardener with false references, he was sentenced to a £20 fine and 20 days hard labour in Kirkdale Gaol. Robinson died in 1871 and was buried in St. Michael’s churchyard.
On the 1911 census, Holly Bank was occupied by Charles Richard Krell, a Liverpool born Cotton Merchant and Broker and his brother George Casper, an Insurance Clerk. They were sons of Karl Christian Wilhelm Krell, born 1840 in Württemberg, Germany to Karl Wilhelm Krell and Adeleide Lechler.
1911 census showing the Krell brothers living at Holly Bank. Findmypast.com
The Krell family’s grave is at Toxteth Park Cemetery:
Three white stone tiers with a cross. In loving memory of Charles Christian William KRELL born October 5th 1840, died August 23rd 1905 also of his wife Julie KRELL, born November 11th 1851, died September 19th 1931 Also of Charles Richard KRELL, born December 3rd 1876, died February 10th 1937. And in memory of George Caspar KRELL, born May 27th 1879, died November 24th 1944.
In 1961 the house became a Folk music club, set up by Jacqueline McDonald and Bridget Mary O’Donnell, better known as Jacqui and Bridie:
“Early in 1961, Bridie placed an advert in the Liverpool ECHO to advertise their new club. “No-one understood what it was though,” laughs Jacqui. “The first person to knock on the door was a man who had no idea what folk music was but he’d brought along his collection of stamps.”
Eventually, some singers turned up and the club did well, quickly swelling its ranks from 20 to over 100. “They were all in our little living room,” she chuckles. “Thankfully, there was no health and safety legislation back then.”
The club soon outgrew its little house. “One night we had 110 people and we realised we needed bigger premises,” explains Jacqui. “We looked around for venues and finally settle on the domestic mission in Mill Street.”
It was unlicensed premises – as many venues were in those days – and the pair made coffee for the interval and served up home-made Scouse”.
Jacqui and Bridie’s ‘Hold back the dawn’ released in 1965, photographed on the steps of Holly Bank?
See also: Jacqui & Bridies Folk Club
A summer house named ‘Camelia house’ in the grounds of Holly Bank, as seen from the roof of St Michael’s Church. Photo: Liverpool Echo
Originally the Vicarage for St. Michael’s Church, this house is now called Glebelands but often referred to in histories of the area as The Friary – although I can’t find any historical document or map that records it by that name. Another property called ‘The Friars’, mentioned earlier was further towards the shore, after the Cloisters and close to Dudley House and The Priory. Because of this is is very difficult to be sure that any early records relate to this house.
In 1901 Glebelands was occupied by Thomas Moore a Commercial Cashier. In 1911 by Richard Henry Meister, (a Prussian Cotton Merchant who had a son killed in battle in 1894),
The name Glebelands is derived from ‘Glebe’ “an area of land within an ecclesiastical parish used to support a parish priest”
Glebelands, St. Michael’s Church Road. Photograph www.allertonoak.com
In 1917 a couple of advertisements appeared from the owner of Glebelands, one for the sale of Mountain Cottages in Foxdale on the Isle of Man for £85 and £45, the other for the sale of ‘bargain’ motorcycles at £6, £7, £3 and £2. An indication of how times have changed is that the cheapest cottage is just over 6 times the price of the most expensive motorcycle.
1917 British Newspaper Archive
A photograph from a 1944 newspaper feature on the church shows the right part of the house painted in a mock-tudor style.
1944, British Newspaper Archive
The Nunnery / Carfax
In 1871 it was the house of George Henry Brown, a Cotton Broker, but the house is not listed by name. In 1881 the house appears on the Census simply as ‘Brown House” and It is not until 1891 that the first appearance of the name “The Nunnery” is shown on the census.
The house then came into the possession of his nephew, Alexander Theodore Brown and it is likely that Alexander, a barrister, was responsible for renaming the house as Carfax because in 1945 a newspaper article uses that name as his residence – it was reported that left a gross estate of £32,927. 1/16th of the amount was left to the University of Liverpool.
Interestingly the article refers to it being on Carfax Street, but this may be because of the meaning of the word Carfax; “A carfax or carrefour is a place where (usually four) roads or streets meet, from French carrefurcs, from Latin quadrifurcus, “four forks.” The roads in question being St. Michael’s Road, St. Michael’s Church Road and Alpass Road.
Liverpool Evening Express 28th June 1945. British Newspaper Archive
The Hermitage in 2017
Colonel Thomas Wilson lived at the Hermitage from the 1860s to the 1880s.
He was an Oil Merchant but also a churchwarden to St. Michael’s Church. In the late 1860s when the church was in a dilapidated state and risked demolition, it was this man who organised the restoration of the church.
In 1891 The Hermitage was the residence of Arthur Benson Rathbone (1853-1915), a Cotton Merchant and part of the prominent Rathbone family. Described by his brother George as “the best-dressed Unitarian in Chapel”. His parents were William Benson Rathbone and Hannah Sophia Greg (see The Cloisters below for other members of this family). Arthur married Emma Catherine Forget, daughter of Charles J. Forget and Louisa Bourgeois. Arthur was a Major 4th Lancashire Artillery Volunteer Corps. The family later moved to Formby. See here for more information on this family
In 1901 The Hermitage was home to Domingo De Larrinaga, a Ship Owner. “a successful Basque shipping family in Liverpool. From the 1860s the Larrinaga Steamship Company made regular journeys to the Philippines, stopping off in the great trading ports of Hong Kong and Singapore. The Larrinaga’s bought silks, lacquer boxes and Chinese-style furniture for their grand Liverpool homes”. Liverpool Museums
Domingo de Larrinaga provided the organ for St. Charles Church on Aigburth Road “which was blessed and used for the first time on 23rd September 1900” St Charles Church history
The grave of Minnie & Domingo de Larrinaga in Allerton Cemetery: Wikipedia
This property was purchased by Sisters of Notre Dame and is now part of the Aigburth Park Student Halls of Liverpool Hope University.
The Cloisters is mentioned from 1848 as being the residence of John Orred and his family. John was born on 28th June 1810 in Rodney Street, the son of George and Frances. He followed his father’s occupation as a solicitor who had an office at No. 4 Exchange Alley. In 1855 he is recorded as living at ‘Mayfield’, Aigburth. Mayfield Road, by Grassendale, was named after the house, it still has several beautiful old houses surviving. John Orred married Catharina Mary Willink, daughter of Daniel Willink, Esq., consul of his Majesty the King the Netherlands, merchant and owner of ‘La bonne Intention’ slave plantation in British Guiana.
For a brief period in the 1860s, Eustace Greg lived there, he was the son of William Rathbone Greg, owner of Quarry Bank Mill, and grandson of Hannah Lightbody. Eustace’s wife, Emily Rathbone Greg, edited the “Reynolds-Rathbone Diaries and Letters: 1753-1839″
In 1870s/80s George Jevons lived at the Cloisters, Born in 1818, his parents were Rev. William Jevons and Fanny (Worthington), he was an Iron and Tin merchant and manufacturer with the firm Biddulph, Wood, and Jevons.
George was the uncle of William Stanley Jevons (1835–1882) – economist and philosopher. W. S. Jevon’s brother Tom, and his cousin William Edgar also lived at St. Michael’s Hamlet. Whilst staying at his cousin’s house, William Stanley was to have a revelation:
28th March 1866.
“I cannot forget or omit to record this day last week. I was
sleeping as usual for the night at St. Michael’s Hamlet. As I awoke in the morning, the
sun was shining brightly into my room. There was a consciousness on my mind that I
was the discoverer of the true logic of the future. For a few minutes I felt a delight
such as one can seldom hope to feel. But it would not last long—I remembered only
too soon how unworthy and weak an instrument I was for accomplishing so great a
work, and how hardly could I expect to do it.”
W. S. Jevons was a grandson of William Roscoe. In 1864, after staying at St. Michael’s Hamlet he visited Allerton Hall, Roscoe’s home from 1779 to 1816:
“23d May 1864.—Yesterday I walked with Tom and Will Jevons from St. Michael’s
Hamlet to Allerton and the neighbourhood. We walked in the fields near the Hall, and in every way it was an hour of pleasant feeling to me. I could not but reflect upon
those from whom I come. I could not but feel the hope that I may do my duty and use
my powers as well, and I was filled with the beauty and cheerfulness of the scene
“I have not however been at all inactive as will be seen. Last Saturday, Lucy agreed to go with me to the South Shore as a walk; we went by the omnibus to the Iron Church & then walked as Lucy wished to the shore below the Dingle. There she made two small sketches, while I collected plants, in which however I was not so successful as I expected. I got the Plantago Maritima, Aster Tripolium’ & others”.
William Stanley Jevons (1 September 1835 – 13 August 1882). English economist and logician. wikipedia
A kiss under the Mistletoe ends up in court
In 1877, Margaret Brisbowne, a servant to George Jevons at The Cloisters, was walking to the house at 10:00pm on Christmas Eve when she was assaulted by John Taylor, a 17 year old. Taylor had jumped out on her as she was walking through the Hamlet and “sprang out from a recess in a wall, seized her by the arms, pulled her about in an improper manner, and kissed her”. Miss Brisbrowne went to the Cloisters and told Mr. Jevons’ gardener who accompanied her to complain to the youth’s parents. Taylor’s excuse was that he had a piece of mistletoe in his hand, the judge wasn’t convinced and fined him 40 shillings with the alternative of a month’s imprisonment.
Sisters of Notre Dame
In 1884 the house was purchased by the Sisters of Notre Dame, a Catholic institute founded to provide education to the poor. In 1855 the Sisters had started a Teacher Training College for Catholic women at Mount Pleasant and needed another location. As well as The Cloisters, the Sisters also purchased two other properties in the Hamlet, The Friary and The Hermitage. These properties now being part of ‘Aigburth Park’ a residential complex of Liverpool Hope University.
The entrance to Aigburth Park Student Village. Image: Liverpool Hope University
The photograph and text below is from a 1920 book on the life of Sister Mary of St. Philip (1825 – 1904), who was instrumental in purchasing the houses:
“It chanced one day that, as she and Sister Mary of St. Philip were scanning the daily paper for the report of the proceedings of the City Council, their eyes were arrested by an advertisement of a property for sale, designated by a name of happy omen : “The Cloisters, in St. Michael’s Hamlet.” It was a dwelling-house with pleasure grounds, kitchen-garden and paddock, and gardener’s cottage, situated very near the Dingle, and affording a fine view of the Mersey and the Cheshire coast…
In January 1884, the students visited The Cloisters for the first time, and even in
midwinter its quiet loveliness enchanted them. Sister Mary of St. Philip wrote: “ Shut in from the outer world by beech and sycamore trees and a girdle of evergreens, the spot looked as calm and secluded as Tennyson’s island valley of Avilion.” When old students recall The Cloisters, one day in the year will stand out in sharper, clearer outline than any other. In May came the Feast of St. Philip. Then, indeed, his namesake showed in her children’s midst as queen and mother, when they gathered round her on the greensward at The Cloisters, to read her an address in prose or verse, to sing their ringing chorus helped by the blackbirds and thrushes, and then, per chance, to play before her, amid the rhododendrons and may blossom, some graceful masque or pastoral fantasy—scenes from As You Like It, or their charming dramatic arrangement of The Princess. After tea in the meadow came the famous Dumb Charades, in which Sister Mary of St. Philip took her spirited part; and then, as the shadows of the great beeches lengthened across the lawn, she gathered them round the image of Our Lady beneath the verandah to say the Rosary, and sing St. Philip’s hymn by way of farewell.
All through the exceptionally beautiful summer of 1884 The Cloisters was a never-failing source of delight and of healthful recreation. Tennis was played on the lawn, and games
of all kinds in the meadow. Science and sewing classes were held there, and in June the Inspectors sat under the trees hearing the reading and recitation of the students.’
Many years later an adjacent property bearing the equally felicitous name of The Friary was purchased by the Sisters, and is now used as a hostel for University students”.
Sister Mary of St. Philip (Frances Mary Lescher) 1825-1904
The advertisement the Nuns had seen for The Cloisters in 1883.
British Newspaper Archive
In the 1870s, Abbotfield was the residence of David Lloyd Davies, a timber merchant.
In the 1880s it was home to Richard M. Carey an American Merchant and in the 1890s, William M. Belcher a Cotton Merchant.
Stanley Samuel Gilbert Cohen lived at Abbotsfield before 1911 as he appears on the census of that year, prior to there he had lived in his parents house nearby called ‘The Priory’. He was the son of Alderman Louis Cohen, the head of Lewis’ department store. Stanley served in the British Army in the Boer War (1st Volunteer Battalion, the King’s Regiment) and was a Major in the First World War (5th Battalion King’s Own) Regiment where he was wounded twice and suffered a gas attack. He had two brothers who also fought in the war; Lieut. George Hubert Cohens died fighting near La Bassée on May 17th 1915 and Major Benn Jack Brunel Cohen, was wounded at the Third Battle of Ypres, and both legs were amputated above the knee. He used an electric wheelchair for most of his life afterwards. In 1917 Stanley Cohen had an Aberdeen Terrier named “Ypres” after the battle.
Cohen’s dog, Ypres, goes missing from Abbotsfield in 1917. British Newspaper Archive.
Cohen was a major contributor to the Great Ormond Street For Sick Children. In 1945 he had left over £1.2 million in his will with £2,000 going to Great Ormond Street alone.
In 1948 Abbotsfield was purchased by a religious organisation called the Norwegian Church Abroad. In 1916 they had purchased a house in Great George Square with a view to establishing a permanent establishment in the city, this was opened in 1920. As this church was too small for their needs, Abbotsfield was purchased and opened on 25 June 1950. Although not as close to the docks as Great George Square, the location in St Michael’s Hamlet had its benefits “Especially the large garden was popular, as the seafarers were used for recreation, play and not least sports competitions”. This house was known locally as ‘The Norwegian Fisherman’s Church’.
This church was a valuable part of the community of St. Michael’s Hamlet for many years, it is now a private house.
Images of the Norwegian Sailor’s Church, the bird decoration is the Church’s symbol. Images from: www.sjomannskirken.no
Other than having a foundry on Tithebarn Street and his church building activities, very little is known about John Cragg’s life, Wikipedia states he was born in Warrington in 1767 (this has been taken from the 1851 census but it is incorrect).
As Cragg never married there are not many records to help find him, apart from the 1841 and 1851 census’ where he is living at St James Mount, Liverpool. As several men by the same name who were born in the same period it was difficult to know for sure I had the right one. But, after months of searching, I found this record from 1854 in the British Newspaper Archive:
John Yeoman, Esq., Sutton-on-the-Derwent, to Frances, daughter of Mr. Joshua Cragg, of Macclesfield, and niece to the late John Cragg, Esq., of the Mount, In this town.
As I knew it was the correct address for John Cragg, I could be sure that Joshua was his brother and Frances was his niece. This small family notice allowed me to piece his family together.
On Frances’ marriage record in 1854, Joshua is a ‘Currier’ (specialist in the leather processing industry) and his wife is Mary Mather. In the 1841 census they are living with their daughter Sarah at Bridge Street Okell’s Buildings, Prestbury, Cheshire.
Joshua’s and John’s father (also called Joshua) was a wealthy Yeoman farmer and owned several properties. Their mother was Hanna. So, prehaps for the first time, here is a short biography of John Cragg.
John Cragg, Iron Man
John Cragg was born on Christmas Eve 1775 and had a twin brother, Allen (sometimes spelt Alan). They were baptised on the 2nd February 1776 at Mottram St. Andrew. John had four more brothers and three sisters.
The birth and baptism records of John Cragg and his twin brother Allen. (I have cropped the image to fit better on screen. Findmypast.com
His other brothers were Joshua (1770), Thomas (1773), two sons called Ralph (one born in 1781 died aged 4 months) and his sisters were Hanna (Knight) (1778), Mary (Whitelegg) Ellen (1785 died aged 4 years).
On 20th January 1776, just a month after the birth of the twins, their father, Joshua, took out a lease on Carrington Hall, it is likely then that John would have spent his early life, from at the hall.
Joshua Cragg of Mottram [St] Andrew yeoman
Property: a capital messuage or mansion house in Carrington called Carrington Hall, now in the possession of Josiah Collier as undertenant, and fields or parcels of land thereto belonging, part of Carrington demesne, called the Hemp Croft, the Hall Croft, the Pasture Gossoms, the Meadow Gossoms, the Dunge Croft, the Mare Hey, the Clappers, the Intack, the Bank Croft, the Nans Croft, the Old Damm, the Lower Damm Field, the Big Damm Field, the Little Damm Field, the Middle Damm Field, the Higher and Lower School Fields, the Great and Little Moss Fields, the Moss Lane, the Great and Little Booth Heys, the Long Hilly, the Short Hilly, the Coney Greave, the Great and Little Wheat Eyes, the Hoarding, the Deep Carr, the Oultons, the Over Hill, the Shaw Wood, and the Winstanley (134 a. 2 r. 12 p.), and all outhouses, barns, shippons, yards, orchards and gardens; also all tithes due from the premises; except the wagon house and chamber above the workshop, closes called the Rough Field, the Ecclesmere and the Trealey, and half of Carrington Tithe Barn.
Term: 11 years.
This lease was renewed several times, in 1800 Joshua Cragg took another lease of the Hall, which he assigned to his son (and John’s twin) Allen Cragg in 1808, upon Allen Cragg’s execution of a joint bond for payment of the rent due to the Earl of Stamford. Allen Cragg held the lease until at least 1817.
Carrington is a village and civil parish, historically a part of Cheshire, now in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, Greater Manchester.
Death of John’s father
Joshua Cragg Senior died on 30th August 1818 and was buried at Saint George Churchyard in Carrington with his wife Hannah and the two children that died in infancy, Ralph and Ellen:
“Sacred to the memory of Joshua Cragg who departed this life August 30th 1818 aged 85 years. Hannah the wife of Joshua Cragg who departed this life December 26th 1805 aged 54 years. Why do we mourn departed friends or shake it at death’s alarms, Tis but the voice that Jesus sends, to call us to his arms. Are we not tending upwards too, as fast as time can move, nor should we wish the hours more slow, to keep us from our love. Also 27th July 1781 Ralph their son aged 4 months.
31st December 1785 Ellen their daughter aged 3 years”.
The grave of John’s parents, Joshua and Hanna Cragg.
Photograph courtesy of Jim Hunt.
Also buried in the same graveyard is John Cragg’s twin brother Allen, alongside his wife:
“In memory of Allen Cragg who departed this life August 5th 1828 aged 52 years. Also Martha Cragg who departed this life November 1st 1827 aged 49 year”.
The grave of Allen Cragg, John’s twin brother. Photograph courtesy of Jim Hunt.
Thanks to Jim Hunt at Findagrave.com for both grave records
The Will of Joshua Cragg from 1818 show that he left his sons and daughters, including John, £100 each and a share of his estate. Joshua inherited a desk and bookcase from Carrington Hall together with Joshua’s ‘wearing apparel’. By the time of his father’s Will, John Cragg was already so wealthy as a Foundry-owner and landowner that he could personally fund the building of churches and houses.
The Will of Joshua Cragg from 1818. Image from Findmypast.com
John Cragg’s move to Liverpool
John is shown on an Election List for 1806 as living at St James’ Mount. His foundry, (although not named as such) appears on a map of 1794 when Cragg would have been 29 years of age. As mentioned earlier, Cragg was said to have lived at Hollybank in St. Michael’s but from 1806 to his death, the only address recorded is St James’ Mount, also known as St. James’ Walk.
The location of St. James’ Mount was on the hill overlooking St. James’ Cemetery. The houses were demolished in 1904 to make way for the Liverpool ‘Anglican’ Cathedral. The cemetery below the mount had originally been a quarry but the stone was exhausted by 1825, in 1827 the Oratory was built (and still stands today) and in 1829 the cemetery opened.
This photograph from about 1902 shows a crowded cemetery. Top right is the Oratory and the ministers house on St. James Mount can be seen to the left.
Image courtesy of www.stjamescemetery.co.uk
St. James’ Mount on the right, the site of the Liverpool ‘Anglican’ Cathedral
Image courtesy of www.stjamescemetery.co.uk
The Minister’s House shown during the construction of the cathedral.
Image courtesy of www.stjamescemetery.co.uk
The Gardener’s Lodge at St. James Cemetery as seen from Upper Parliament street, a surviving building that was erected in 1826.
For a full history of St. James’ Cemetery, and a list of over 14,000 burials, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this site: www.stjamescemetery.co.uk
Shown below are the 1841 and 1851 census records, the only two that show John Cragg. Census records, taken every ten years, are only available from 1841 and he died in 1854. As often happens in census records, in the 1851 Census his place of birth is incorrect; Warrington is shown instead of Prestbury or Macclesfield (nearly 25 miles away).
In the 1841 census, Cragg has the unusual address of “The Cemetery”, it’s still his address today because in 1854 he was buried there.
1841 and 1851 census records. http://www.findmypast.com.
Cragg did not break his links to his home village of Prestbury, as he presented the Rev. Robert Laurence Townsend of Prestbury as Minister for St. Phillip’s on Hardman Street.
As mentioned earlier, Cragg was a member of the Select Vestry, being a Churchwarden with Moses Benson (son of Moses Benson, the Liverpool Slave Trader). The article below is too long to include in full but the opening paragraph shows Cragg objecting to £16,000 being paid to the ‘Casual Poor’ and he was supported by Benson.
Cragg’s Foundry and property portfolio
Cragg’s foundry was located on the corner of Tithebarn Street and Cheapside. It was built on the site of the old ‘Tithe Barn’ that had stood since the time of Henry VIII and that gave the street its name (more about that later).
As well as the foundry and property at St. Michael’s Hamlet, Cragg also owned three warehouses – one at the Goree Piazzas and two in Tithebarn Street. He also owned a Smith’s Shop and eight dwelling houses on the south side Tithebarn Street. (the houses were occupied by R. Wrigley and Son, E. Bower, E. Parkinson, T.Butler, Elizabeth Hill, M. Mead, J. Joynson, Samuel Bayley and Andrew Smith).
1836 map showing the Mersey Foundry. Map from this excellent resource by Dave Wood: Dave Wood’s maps on Liverpool 1207
Liverpool Mercury 1847 showing Cragg’s warehouses on the south side of Tithebarn Street, Edward Whitelegg is also mentioned – Cragg’s brother-in-law through his sister Mary. British Newspaper Archive.
Liverpool Mail 1851 showing Cragg’s Warehouse on Tithebarn Street.
British Newspaper Archive
An advertisement appeared in the Liverpool Mercury in 1843 when Cragg was selling the foundry, this was just for the remaining stock after a previous sale but it gives us an idea of the machinery at the foundry:
The REMAINING STOCK and UTENSILS IN TRADE of the MERSEY IRON FOUNDRY, comprising a 6-HORSE HAND GEER STEAM-ENGINE with Boiler, &c. ; a POWERFUL BORING MILL, a SUGAR MILL, several TURNING LATHES , a small SCREWING MACHINE, a LARGE and EXCELLENT WOOD CRANE, with Chain, Blocks and Pulleys ; several SMALLER WOOD and CAST IRON ditto, of different powers ; a great variety of CASTING BOXES, SMITHY TOOLS in ANVILS, SWAGE BLOCKS, VICES, BELLOWS, &c. Large and Small Furnace Ladels, Sugar Pan Patterns in sizes, a large quantity of casting boxes for pots and pans, 3 ship cabooshes, several valuable Architectural Castings of Arches, Pillars, Rails, &c. a quantity of Welsh Kettles, Rice-pans, a large Garden Roller, Cast and Wrought Scrap-iron, &c.
From the advertisement we can also an insight into Cragg’s manufacturing process of the cast-iron components for churches, including the iron patterns for his three churches.
A VERY EXTENSIVE ASSORTMENT of WOOD and IRON PATTERNS and MODELS for GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE, consisting of Arches of different dimensions, WINDOW FRAMES and SASHES, Panels, &c. ; Bannisters, Rails, amongst which will be found the patterns for those Gothic Structures, ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH, Toxteth-park, ST. PHILLIP’S, Hardman Street, Liverpool, and ST. GEORGE’S, Everton with others suited for domestic building, together with a variety of Articles useful to the Trade.
Sugar Pans for plantations in the West Indies
Cragg initially made his money from exporting ship Cabooses (kitchens), pots and pans and ‘Sugar Pans’. The sugar pans were for the West Indies plantations, these were mentioned by the Scottish engineer, James Nasmyth, in his autobiography in 1881:
“Among the other well known men to whom I was introduced at Liverpool was John Cragg, a most intelligent and enterprising iron founder. He was an extensive manufacturer of the large sugar-boiling pans used in the West Indies.
Sugar had become the main crop of the West Indies plantations, the slave trade in the British Empire was abolished with the Slave Trade Act of 1807, but it was with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 that the institution was gradually abolished. Cragg’s foundry would have been of the many industries that made fortunes supplying the trade.
Examples of sugar boiling pans in the West Indies, the conical moulds on the left are to make sugar-loaves. Picture: South Ayrshire History
James Nasmyth also mentions Cragg’s church building:
“He had also given his attention to the introduction of iron into buildings of different sorts. Being a man of artistic taste he had even introduced cast-iron into Gothic architecture. In order to exhibit, in an impressive form, the uses of his favourite metal, he erected at his own cost a very elegant church in the northern part of Liverpool. Cast-iron was introduced, not only in the material parts of the structure, but into the Gothic columns and Gothic tracery of the windows, as well as into the lofty and elegant spire. Iron was also employed in the external ornamental details, where delicate yet effective decoration was desirable…”
Cragg offered Nasmyth a chance to be his successor at the foundry:
My introduction to Mr. Cragg led to an acquaintance, and then to a friendship. When the ice was broken which was very soon he told me that he was desirous of retiring from the more active part of his business. Whether he liked my looks or not I do not know; but,quite unexpectedly, he made me a very tempting offer to enter his works as his successor. He had already amassed a fortune, and I might do the same. I could only thank him most sincerely for his kindness. But, on carefully thinking the matter over, I declined the proposal”.
James Nasmyth, Engineer. An Autobiography 1881
It seems not everyone was fully appreciative of Cragg and Rickman’s work, James Allanson Picton, in his 1875 book “Memorials of Liverpool”, wrote of Rickman