Brief History of Much Woolton
Much Woolton was once part of the ancient
Childwall Parish and was one of the ten parish divisions mentioned in the
Domesday Book survey of 1085-86: Allerton, Childwall, Garston, Hale, Halewood, Little Woolton, Much Woolton, Speke, Thingwall
The earliest known settlement in Much Woolton is the Iron Age encampment, located in Camp
Hill but, because a Victorian Villa was built on
the site, it is difficult to ascertain how long the camp was occupied or
who may have built it.
Why 'Much' Woolton? This probably derives from higher or lower (as in
Bebington), great or little (as in Crosby), Much or Little (as in
Woolton), and suggests land that is an offshoot from a larger part or
possibly higher/lower in elevation. The name Woolton - Uluetune in the
Domesday Book - derives from Wulfa's tun (tun: village farm, homestead),
which is Anglo Saxon in origin.
The boundaries of Much Woolton were mentioned as early as 1658:*
"beginning at the bottom of Out Lane - as following Halewood Road to
Gateacre, turning up the brow [Gateacre Brow] and then to the hill called
Gallowtree... and so lineally to some Meer Stones against a pit, marking
the edge of Allerton [about the north end of Vale Road] thence the line
followed the old watercourse [across Menlove Avenue and just east of Elm
Cottage on Springwood Avenue] to a nook of a Close called Pendleton's and
then met the boundary of Speke [by the railway bridge under Speke Hall
Road] followed Hillfoot Road [once Poor House Lane] and Hillfoot Avenue,
and so down the middle of the lane from Mackett's House... and to the Out
* Source: 1658, Rental of Much
Woolton, (MS) in Salisbury Papers, Liverpool Record Office.
Shortly after the Domesday survey Woolton became part of the barony of Halton and Widnes.
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem
In 1113 a religious brethren of
Hospitallers, the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, were
guarding routes to protect Christians who were on a Pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. By 1189 the Order had charge of Woolton, granted to them in a
Charter by John, Constable of Chester. In 1421 the Order appointed Sir
Henry le Norreys of Speke as seneschal (Steward in charge of
administration) of all of the lands in south Lancashire, which included
Woolton. The Knights Hospitallers held land in Woolton for nearly 360
years (confiscated by Queen Elizabeth in 1559 who held the land until
1609), and in England for over 400 years.
The manorial rights to Woolton passed
from Queen Elizabeth to James 1st who sold them to William, 6th Earl of
Derby. Woolton then passed to Isaac Green, through his daughter to her son
Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall (MP for Liverpool 1780-96), and are presently
owned by the Marquis of Salisbury.
A Village Cross was erected c.1350 (which
remains to this day) to mark what was then the north boundary of the
village centre, the 'town garden' or 'the green' with the Hunts Cross
marking the southern boundary. The Village Cross, damaged at an unknown
date, was restored by Arthur S Mather in 1913 in celebration of Woolton
being incorporated into the City of Liverpool.
Whilst agriculture may have been the
mainstay throughout Woolton's early history, this fact changed when the
gentry of Liverpool sought more peaceful, quieter and less polluted
surroundings to live. From then on business at the local quarries
increased as the gentry purchased large parcels of land in and around
Woolton, especially from the sale of the Allerton Hall estate, to build
their mansion houses, most
notable of these being: Allerton Priory, Allerton Tower, and Springwood
etc. Woolton also has the estates of Camp
Hill, Woolton Wood, and land for the erection of the Convalescent Home
(presently the privately owned Woolton Manor Nursing Home) and the sale of
the estate of Gateacre Hall that ultimately gave us Reynolds Park.
One can only sigh in frustration at the
reasons for the demise of many of the fine mansions that were built on
these estates: Woolton Wood, Camp Hill, Allerton Tower, Grove House (Allerton)
etc, but take solace from the land that remains, which have become
recreational woodlands, golf courses (Doe Park) and parks, the most worthy
of the latter being Reynolds Park and Woolton Wood, both within Woolton
and which proudly fly the Civic Trust Green Flag award.
Woolton today must surely be the most
desirable district to reside, the area being surrounded by the parklands
of Calderstones, Beechley, Allerton Tower, Woolton Wood, Black Wood,
Clarke Gardens, Eric Hardy Nature Reserve, Camp Hill, Childwall Woods,
Halewood Triangle Country Park, Reynolds Park, and the golf courses of
Woolton, Netherley and Allerton.
The village centre boasts two of the most
respected 'members only' clubs, and some of the
finest restaurants and pubs
(some of the latter with strict dress code) you would expect to find in a
city centre and all within a few minutes walk of each other.
'jewel in the crown' of Woolton is, without question, Woolton
Hall, a Grade I listed building that was saved from demolition and now stands as
the finest example of Robert Adam's work in the north of England.