Landscape
A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill @ allertonOak  
 
A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill home page
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Topography
The lay of the land in Allerton and Mossley Hill for the last few thousand years would have been much as it is now. Generally speaking the area is characterised by a broad valley sloping gently downwards in a south-easterly direction towards Garston. The higher ground to the west is Mossley Hill itself (height 204 ft, 62 m), which drops down steeply further west towards Aigburth. To the east is the Green Wedge (maximum height 240 ft, 73 m) and further east the slopes leading the higher ground of Black Wood in Childwall (height 273 ft, 80 m) and Woolton Hill (height 292 ft, 89 m, at Woolton reservoir, Liverpool's highest point). To the north the land rises towards Olive Mount in Wavertree (height 223 ft, 68 m).
Higher ground to the west at Mossley Hill
Higher ground to the east at Fletcher's Farm
Topography of Allerton and Mossley Hill with the border depicted by the broken line (contours in metres)
Greenbank Lake
Rivers
Historically three brooks crossed the region, traces of two of which remain. The Upper Brook had its source in Sandown Lane, Wavertree, and crossed the north-western corner of Mossley Hill from the Brook House Inn (original building 1754), through Greenbank Park (where it was dammed to form the lake) and on into The Dell in Sefton Park, from where it joined the Lower Brook coming in from Edge Hill, and flowed into the Mersey at Otterspool.
Solomon's Brook, now lost, was named after one Dr. Solomon, who lived in the neighbourhood around 1800. Its source was in the field behind Dovedale Road, from where it flowed south, past Mossley Hill Station, to join and follow the path of present day Cooper Avenue. Around this junction point was a local beauty spot where a footpath called Solomon's Vaults, named after Dr. Solomon's mausoleum, ran alongside the stream. This stream eventually flowed into the Mersey at Garston Docks.
The third, unnamed, brook rose at the northern end of Vale Road and its mostly dry course can still be followed as a defile running from the opposite side of Menlove Avenue, across Allerton Tower Gardens and Clark Gardens, to Allerton Cemetery, from where it has been filled in. It originally flowed down to Oak Farm on Springwood Avenue, where it joined another stream coming in from Hunts Cross to enter the Mersey at Garston Docks.
Solomon's Vaults by Charles R. Wood c.1910
Countryside
From the time of the Anglo Saxons to the early 19th century, the landscape remained essentially unchanged: a mix of farms, crop fields and pastures, wooded higher ground and quiet country lanes. As we have already noted, the Anglo-Saxon placenames in the area provide a clue as to the nature of the landscape over 1000 years ago: place of oaks, alder-tree settlement, grassy settlement, goat field, wood by a slope, oak tree by water, brushwood, wavering tree. Later on the old byways had aquired names like Beech Lane, Elmswood Road, Green Lane, Greenhill Road, Heath Lane, Rose Lane and Woodland Road. Allerton appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Alretune. Sometime, traditionally during the 11th century but probably several centuries later, an oak sapling appeared in Allerton and the tree is still with us: the Allerton Oak. By the 13th century, the adjoining region to the north-west was King John's hunting domain, Toxteth Park. The modern name Allerton first appeared in 1306.
By 1801 the population of Allerton was only 178. In his book of 1820, A Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland and of two Passages over the Atlantic in the Years 1805 and 1806, Benjamin Silliman, describing a visit to William Roscoe at Allerton Hall, writes
  Our road to Allerton Hall was through a most delightful country. The river Mersey was on our right, and the fields sloped with gentle declivity to its banks. The county of Cheshire was extensively in view over the river, and beyond that, Wales with its rude mountains.
At the time he made his visit, he would probably have passed along a tree-lined avenue that then stretched from the obelisk by Allerton Manor all the way to his destination at Allerton Hall. By 1841 the population of Allerton had risen to 443. In 1848, Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England records:
  Allerton, a township, in the parish of Childwall, [...] containing in 1846 about 800 inhabitants. The township comprises 1531 acres, and consists partly of a luxuriant vale, and partly of gently rising hills, which command fine views of the river Mersey at its widest part, with portions of Cheshire and North Wales. The air is salubrious, and the scenery adorned with wood; the soil is of various quality, in some parts sandy, and in others a stiff clay. [...] There is a quarry of red sandstone.
The quarry referred to was either the one at the bottom of Crompton's Lane or one by Quarry Bank. Neither survive. There would have been a few other grand houses, such as Allerton Priory, Sudley, Calderstone and Green Bank, in the area by that time. The precursor of the London and North Western Railway, along with its Allerton and Mossley Hill stations, had appeared by the time of the 1850 Ordnance Survey. It is not quite clear when the name Mossley Hill first turned up, though it is of much more recent origin than the name Allerton and clearly has descriptive connotations. The Yates and Perry map of 1762 shows a house called Mosley Hill; it was probably demolished in the late 18th century and is now the site of the university halls of residence. Sometime between the 1850 and 1894 Ordnance Surveys, the name transferred to the whole district, though maybe nearer the earlier date as Mossley Hill Station appears as such on the earlier map.
The 1870s saw the construction of the two magnificent churches of St. Matthew and St. James in Mossley Hill and All Hallows in Allerton. By the late 19th century, many wealthy professionals had chosen to build their mansions on the higher and more wooded ground of Allerton and Mossley Hill. Greenbank Park was purchased for the public by Liverpool Corporation in the 1890s. By the early 1900s, suburban encroachment into the north of Mossley Hill was just beginning and Calderstones Park had been purchased by Liverpool Corporation. In 1907 the Victoria History of the County of Lancaster tells us that:
  Allerton is a suburban township containing 1,586 acres pleasantly situated on the gentle slopes of a ridge which rises on the eastern side to 230 feet above sea level, overlooking the River Mersey across the adjacent township of Garston. There are several large residences with their private grounds set in the midst of pastures and a few arable fields. There are plantations of trees, some of a fair size for a suburban district. An air of tidiness reigns over what remains of the natural features, with neatly-kept hedges and railed-in paddocks, and shrubs grown to rule and measure. The roads are good, and the soil, apparently clay and sand, appears fertile, and is of course much cultivated; good cereals are successfully grown. The pebble beds of the Bunter Series of the new red sandstone or trias underlie the entire township.
The same source informs us that at that time the local pronunciation of Allerton was Ollerton. In the same year, Dixon Scott, in his book Liverpool, has this to say about Mossley Hill:
  [In Mossley Hill ] grave roads, filled with that indescribable hushed exclusiveness which only tall, ripe, sandstone walls and overarching leafage have power to confer, lead up the hill towards the Church. There are deliberate lodges and sudden glimpses of deep-breathing lawn; life grows leisurely and communicative; the silence is full of confessions. The Church itself, bulking monumentally against the sky, continues the warm, grave intimacy: even the green stillness that encircles it seems fuller of humanity than all the acres, dense with flesh and blood, over at Everton and Anfield. It is always worth while, therefore, to step through to the farther wall. There, in a flash, you find you have come again to the uttermost edge of the town. A great landscape leaps suddenly out from beneath your feet, woods curve distantly about it, sweet airs bring a company of quiet sounds.
Well, it doesn't get much better than that, does it? I have to say that, despite the purple prose, his description of this particular part of Mossley Hill still holds good if you can find a lull in the traffic on Rose Lane. The 'great landscape' he talks about is the view over Allerton to the east and south-east.
The Allerton Oak c.1900
Fields near Mossley Hill Church c.1898
Calderstones Road in 1918
Menlove Avenue
Mather Avenue
Suburbanisation
The population of Allerton in 1901 was 1,101. In the early 1900s, trams came into service along Smithdown Road and continued along Church Road into Wavertree Village. At the end of the decade, Allerton Cemetery opened with its three gothic chapels being completed five years later. The 1920s saw the acquisition of Allerton Golf Course, Allerton Tower Park and Clark Gardens for the public by Liverpool Corporation. These three, together with the cemetery and Calderstones Park, became known as the Green Wedge. The two tree-lined arterial routes of Menlove and Mather Avenues were also constructed in the 1920s with tramlines down their central reservations. Although these routes at that time would have largely passed through open fields on their way to Woolton and Garston, the 1930s saw a significant expansion of suburban housing and infrastructure. The area saw relatively little damage during the bombings of the Second World War, and a major second phase of suburban expansion took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The middle years of the 20th century saw the demolition of many of the mansion houses.
Since the 1960s, the area has remained unchanged in its broad features, although new uses have been found for some of the buildings. A major reason for this is the deliberate preservation of the highly attractive green spaces, including Greenbank Park and the Green Wedge, the latter being over 2 miles (3 km) long and over half a mile (1 km) wide at its widest point. There are also large areas of playing fields and all of this has very much limited the scope for new building.
In the early years of the 21st century Allerton and Mossley Hill are attractive and leafy suburban areas. The green spaces are still (for the moment) intact and lovelier than ever, and the Allerton Oak struggles on bravely. Greenbank House belongs to Liverpool University, Calderstones House to Liverpool City Council and Sudley House is a museum. Allerton Hall is a pub and its distant obelisk, though no longer in the line of sight, is still there in the trees. The surviving mansion houses are mostly educational establishments or luxury apartment blocks. Fate has been kinder to the original lodges, many of which have survived to become attractive houses where the mansions they once served have disappeared.
The two major churches are as grand as ever, of course, though the one in Mossley Hill suffered bomb damage in World War II and was carefully restored in the 1950s. The trams disappeared in the 1950s and their routes became rows of beautiful trees, many of which are a riot of blossom in the spring. Among more recent properties, the childhood residences of John Lennon and Paul McCartney draw thousands of tourists and the associated locations Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and Quarry Bank will be evocative to some. Allerton Road and Rose Lane have become thriving areas for shopping, eating and drinking. The current population of Allerton is about 11,500. It would be wonderful to be able to see more of how the area once looked, and this short introduction may help you to picture it, but even in the present day it has managed to retain a lot of its charm and appeal.
 
Acknowledgements
This is a non-commercial website that is intended entirely for research and ducational purposes. If I have unintentionally breached copyright with any images, I hope that the copyright owner will tolerate my usage in the present context, otherwise I will remove the material. Modern colour photographs are by the author.