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A Moving Story
In 1858, local benefactor, R. Hardy Wrigley, donated 2 drinking fountains to the town of Ormskirk. They were elaborate red sandstone bowls, positioned beneath an apex roofed portico. One fountain was sited on the corner of the then newly re-built Derby Street Railway Bridge, and the other was positioned on the bridge over the brook at the corner of Dyers Lane and Aughton Street.
The one we will all know, on the Derby Street Bridge, has a metal lions head spout. An oblong plaque was placed with the fountain naming the benefactor and the date 1858 was placed below the Apex. The one on the Derby Street Bridge is still there along with all the original detail. It is also a Grade II listed monument. As is the fountain in the St Helens Road Park. But the mystery here is, where did the Aughton Street bridge one go? There are people who can recall the Dyers Lane Fountain, but does anyone know why it was removed or where it was sent to?
The original design of Ormskirk clock tower in 1876 by Mr Balmer included drinking fountains fronting Church Street and Moor Street and a commemorative slab fronting Aughton Street. The full description of the Clock Tower construction is quite detailed.
So the clock had it’s own fountains from 1878, the Derby Street Bridge and Aughton Street Bridge had their own fountains from 1858.
The Lions head spouts on the clock tower fountains were added to all the fountains in 1998 by the WLDC. When and why were the plaques removed from the clock tower? Or are they re-sited somewhere? Did WLDC add the lions head spout to the railway bridge fountain in 1998 too?
Our photographic evidence for the twin fountains donated by Mr Wrigley shows the exact positions, could the history of flooding on Dyers Lane have led to the fountain being removed/relocated? Was the water supply to these fountains from an artesian well and the water table re-routed to the fountains?
The description of the clock tower from 1877 does not match the current photos, the fountains appear to have been moved at some point.
We have many photos of the Clock Tower over time and many images of the Derby Street Bridge but we think we have the only image of the Dyers Lane Bridge Fountain in our collection of original glass slides.
If you have any clues to the missing fountain’s whereabouts, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.
Let’s see if we can solve this mystery.
Take A Seat
There are people in this World who still dig for gold and there are people who buy lotto tickets every week in an attempt to make their dreams come true. Ormskirk Bygone Times’ heritage hunters just strive to seek out, rescue and repatriate lost artefacts from the town.
This week the hunt was on for something seemingly lost from the town forever but with some spot on research and some cunning detective work worthy of Columbo himself, something beautiful, rare and dripping with nostalgia was brought back to the town.
A row of five original art deco seats from the Regal Cinema, Church Street, has been bought and returned to Ormskirk by the team.
With peacock blue crushed velvet, silver trimmed covers, deep sprung seats and distinctive silver panels at the end of each row, the 800 seat lower stalls and 300 seat balcony must have seemed like a palace to cinema goers in the town.
The cinema, with its ruched metallic curtain across a wide panoramic screen, officially opened February 10th 1936, although the Ormskirk Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society had used the venue for a performance of the Yeoman of the Guard in January .
The Cinema was designed in the art deco style with elaborate features and rich colours that mimicked the glamour of Hollywood Hills. The foyer was decorated with blue woodwork and doors with silver metalwork which must have looked very glamorous. A concierge was employed at the entrance complete with cap and uniform, quite probably in livery matching the blue and silver colour scheme. The Regal closed on November 23rd 1963 (the Day after JFK was assassinated) and for a short time it was used as a bingo hall and the seats were still in place.
We have a photo of the remodelling of the frontage from 1963/64 when it became a supermarket, prior to Tesco taking over. In around 1965, the 1100 seats were removed and presumably split into lots for sale. OBT was able to track down one lot of around 100 seats which had been bought by a Liverpool Church and have been in use in the Church ever since. The seats recently once again came up for sale and OBT have purchased the row of five, and will hopefully acquire a further set of 5, to make a full row of 10, over the next few months.
It is anticipated that this will be a great feature for our mobile displays in the future and people will be able to have their photos taken sitting in the seats that they fondly remember from their youth!
If you have your own memories of the Regal why not get in touch and share them with us!
Troqueer was a small settlement on the East side of Aughton Street that in the mid-1800s housed a huge Irish Immigrant population, all crammed into an area of small courts containing rows of tightly packed, hastily constructed cottages. St Patrick’s Court, situated between the Black Horse Inn and the Victoria Inn (later the Queens) was almost exclusively for the Irish Agricultural labourers who came into the town to find work they were familiar with.
Looking at the 1851 and 1861 census returns for St Patrick’s Court, there are dozens and dozens of children, all under 10 years old, all born Ormskirk and without exception, both parents are recorded as born Ireland. The Irish Agricultural Labourers were welcomed to the town, the Railway had brought them in after having enticed many local agricultural labourers into jobs on the railway and the trade the railway subsequently brought into the town meant that for local workers, other job opportunities other than working in agriculture presented themselves.
Moving northwards beyond St Patrick’s Court, and its accompanying beerhouse , the buildings change to the grand first residence, before he moved to Ormskirk Hall, Burscough Street, of Dr Charles Price Symonds, the Yorkshire born surgeon, who, on moving to Ormskirk to set up his practise in the late 1840s and married a local girl, Martha Stockley, in 1850, before opening his first surgery in a large house with landscaped gardens to the rear and adjoining on its north side the the large double fronted town residence of retired Pwhelli born landed proprietor, Hugh Owen, which as early as 1851 was named on town maps as the Troqueer Buildings. Hugh Owen lived there as far back as 1841, being listed under, ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’ in an 1848 Slater’s Directory. Although 20 years earlier he had a tinplate works in Market Place. Hugh Owen died aged 83 in 1856 and was buried at the Parish Church on 7th July that year.
After Owen’s death, his son Richard Owen inherited Troqueer and moved in there with his family. Richard Owen was an ironmonger with an ironmongers and small foundry on Moor Street next to the King’s Arms, which later, when Richard Owen retired to Scarborough after 1871, became Wainwright’s Ironmongers and then the Corn Exchange.
Troqueer saw changes during the 1870s and was split into a smaller residence for Henry Hydes, the wine and spirit merchant, with some of the rear of the property being made into a court for separate small dwellings, when Hydes moved across the road to 32 Aughton Street to open a wine merchants shop, Troqueer was bought by George James Cammack, the Mineral Water Manufacturer who ran the business with great success for several decades from those premises. The Water Manufacturing business was huge at that time as bottled mineral water was a safe and healthy option to pump water. Remains of the factory we believe still exist to the rear of Aughton Street across to Bridge Avenue.
George James Cammack only moved from Troqueer between 1916 and 1919. The next information we have is that the building became the Labour Party Headquarters in the town and was used as the campaign HQ for the Ormskirk candidate 28 year old Harold Wilson in 1945. Wilson served as the Town’s MP from 1945 until 1950.
The descriptions of the grand interior court of Troqueer mention large black marble columns and huge black painted doors. The building was demolished in the 1970s and remains as the telephone exchange car park. If anyone can add anything, or indeed correct any of this research, please do get in touch.
Ormskirk In Deed
Property in and around Ormskirk has constantly changed hands for many years. Prime commercial sites at The Cross and along the four converging thoroughfares were valuable pieces of real estate with huge potential. Further out from the centre of town, small areas of development created their own importance to the town.
One such iconic property was the large, street fronted, 9 room house known for many years as Dr Suffern’s house, (He had started his practise in Railway Road) which was situated at the corner of Burscough Street and Derby Street, where the police station is now.
Ormskirk Bygone Times has acquired an original Indentured deed for this property dating back to 30th April 1821. An Indentured deed was a transfer of title written out twice by hand onto a large sheet of paper, the large page was then cut into two parts, a top part and a bottom part, with the indented cutting edge perfectly matching at the join, this was to avoid any attempt of forgery.
The property is described in the deed as being “at the west corner of Lydiate Lane and in part to the front of Burscough Street…”. Derby Street was originally known as Lydiate Lane right into the 20th Century. The size of the building is recorded as “containing in front to the said street twenty two feet five inches and to the said lane thirty five feet, eight inches more or less..”. The picture of the house shows the side view of the property and this matches the dimensions given in the deed quite clearly.
The owner of the house had been James Moorcroft, he had died and his nephew, Robert Moorcroft had been left as a trustee of the estate. Robert Moorcroft had however died before the estate could be settled and his own executors were left with the responsibility of disposing of the house. The executors were Henry Sharples, Gentleman and John Travis, Butcher, who were signing over the deeds to Thomas Hancock, Surgeon. There was a tenant in the property, Mrs Sarah Astley.
The Deed also covers a property across the lane, a dwelling house at the start of Butcher’s Row, which was in the tenancy of Edward Houghton. The ownership of this property is recorded in the deed as the “ inheritance of John Tatlock more late of Richard Tatlock afterwards of Richard Johnson in light of his wife afterwards of James Guest more late of Thomas Helsby…” Thomas Helsby then sold the property to James Moorcroft who then owned both sides of the Lane at its junction with Burscough Street.
The property in Butcher’s Row was adjoining the dwelling house that was being used as a public dispensary, this was before the purpose built dispensary building was founded by Dr Brandreth in 1830. (Now the Farmer’s Club).
The large house was still standing into the early 1960s, the adjoining properties to the front of Burscough Street were 3 storey houses but with no inside bathroom and they had become damp. The families were moved into Local Authority Housing and the whole block was demolished to make traffic flow easier at the junction and also to create a much needed car park.
This part of the town at one time saw some wonderful buildings, Knowles House opposite, demolished to build the library, Waveney House at No 3 Derby Street, once the Miss Valentines School for Young Ladies. The Walter Brown building across the corner still remains.
Ormskirk Bygone Times now has four original deeds dating back to the early 1700s relating properties in the area. They are always displayed at our public events and always draw a lot of interest.
The History Of Coronation Park
To mark the Coronation of King Edward VII in August 1902, plans were begun in Ormskirk to build a Public Park from public and private subscription along with a sum from the UDC coffers. The plan was to build on land that had previously been known as ‘Old Pants Rope Walk’ (Map 1, 1851) and had included allotments and orchards, the park was to cover a 20 acre site behind the Aughton Street Gas Works.
The Earl of Derby had been one of the main subscribers to the building fund. Initial access was via a rough track from Aughton Street running alongside the old Black Bull pub. (Map 2 1908). Within a short time the access track was adopted by the Urban District Council and named Park Road.
The park construction had begun in 1904 and in August of that year a reward was offered by Town Surveyor Hugh W Chadwick in the sum of 10 shillings to ‘any person giving such information that will lead to the conviction of the person or persons who have smashed the Iron Check Valve in the lake in the Coronation Park’
The lake was fed by a sluice gate letting water in from Brook Acre and on several occasions over the years the lake has been drained and cleared of sludge and debris. The main type of fish used to be roach though most children will more likely recall sticklebacks, jam jars and fish nets from Mansergh’s shop being linked to the lake.
The Park was unceremoniously opened to the public on 14th June 1905. The public had already started using the park but delays in arranging an official opening date were caused by the UDC being unable to obtain a date when Lady Derby (Constance Lathom) could commit to attend the opening. Conscious of the increasing frustration of the town ratepayers and in a concerted effort to justify the delay, the Clerk to the Council Fred C. Hill (Frederick Charles Hill, Solicitor of Square House, Lathom) had made his correspondence with Lady Derby available to the press. On April 28th 1905 he had written to Lady Derby appealing for her attendance at an opening ceremony before the end of May. On May 2nd Lady Derby replied from her London Residence, Derby House, St James’s Square , S.W. and assured the UDC that ‘We would like very much to be able to accept your invitation to open the new Park……Yours Sincerely, Constance Derby‘ Fred Hill duly replied directly on receipt of Lady Derby’s letter, informing her in his letter of the 4th May that ‘Wednesday is the usual half-holiday in Ormskirk and would be most convenient to the inhabitants for the opening of the Park’. He then went on to suggest either the 31st May or failing that the 24th May.
A full 6 days later Lady Derby replied from Holwood Hayes , Kent, ‘I fear we must give up the idea of being able to accept your kind invitation because we have so many engagements in the South during these next two months….’
The matter of the official opening was then debated at the meeting of the UDC on Tuesday 6th June, when the Chairman Mr F. A. Jones (Frederick Aneurin Jones, deputy County Coroner and Solicitor of ‘Glenridding’ Ormskirk)invited the opinions of the committee regarding the opening of the park without ceremony. Committee member Mr W. Fyles (William Fyles, House Builder of Knowlsey Road ) remarked. ‘The sooner it is opened the better , as people seem to be impatient for the opening’. Mr J. Peet (probably retired farmer from Wimbrick Farm, Joseph Peet) remarked that, ‘They (The public) were making use of it already, There were a large number in it on Sunday night.’. Mr T. O. Williams commented , ‘ Seeing that the negotiations with the Countess of Derby had fallen through I proposed that the Park be opened by our respected Chairman’s wife on Wednesday next, the 14th inst.’. Mr Williams, (the Aughton Street Tailor) went on to remark : ‘People are clamouring for the opening …’ The Chairman, Mr Jones felt sure his wife would be honoured to have been asked but also felt she would decline the honour, it was put to the vote that the Park be opened on Wednesday 14th June ,’…without any formality whatsoever…’.
Apart from the turfed areas, pathways and the lake, ‘thirty garden seats’ were provided ,which were made and supplied after tender by J.J. Balmforth of Aughton Street.
When the Bowling Green behind the old Black Bull pub closed it meant there was no green close to the park and plans were started to bring a green and other recreational amenities to the park.
The Park has had various alterations and additions over its 120 years. During the 1920s a pavilion was added overlooking the lake with a public drinking fountain close by. It was not until post Second World War that the Bowling Green, Putting Green and Tennis Courts were added. Two blocks of public conveniences were also added, one near to the main gate and one where the old pavilion had been. A new Pavilion was sited adjacent to the Bowling Green.
There are pictures showing a set of swings in the corner of the park near to the exit onto Vicarage Road , the main recreation facilities, i.e. swings , slides, roundabouts and the dreaded witches hat, were all set out in the corner at the Park Avenue entrance in the late 50s/early 60s.
There were two slides put in for children, a big one and a really big one. The really big one was the cause of more than one accident!
Many people will remember a local character Sam Pealing , who for around 15 years was the caretaker at the park who reserved your tennis court, issued you with your pitch and put iron or shouted at you for jumping in the lake.
One of the most popular and well used features added in the late 60s was the huge drainage pipe craned into position near to the concrete sand pit next to the lake. Remembered fondly by many people it was the simplest idea but a huge success. Until of course it became a hazard.
In 1952 the park was the venue for a Gymkhana that attracted 5000 visitors. The Summer Holiday Play Schemes were attended by hundreds of children who sat on the grass throughout endless punch and judy shows in the hot summers of the 1970s, not a drop of sunscreen in sight. The park continues to host events that need a wide open town centre accessible space.
The Comrades Cenotaph was relocated to the park in the last few years and beneath this is a time capsule . The name of each man lost in the Great War, that was originally skilfully handwritten on a paper Memorial and used to hang in the old club, is being added to a plinth which will be placed alongside the Cenotaph later this year and form a real focus for those wishing to remember local men who gave their lives during the Great War.
Burscough Street In Old Photographs
Alfred Wragg had trained as an apprentice photographer in Bury and then Ormskirk from the 1880s under his father Herbert, as had Alfred’s older sister Caroline and younger brother Herbert Jnr. Caroline set up her own photography studio on Mesnes Street in Wigan in the 1890s and Herbert set his up in Church Street, Leigh. Alfred took over his father’s business at 30 Burscough Street. Alfred’s skill with the photography equipment meant he was not restricted to studio work and during his career he took hundreds of pictures in and around the Ormskirk district, recording a moment in time of a street or building. For this we will be forever grateful.
The first image (Image 1) shows the exterior of Alfred’s studio at 30 Burscough Street around 1905. Looking towards the clock, number 28 and the next building, number 26, is the old Ormskirk Hall, the residence for many decades of doctor’s practices, including that of Dr Marsden who was tragically killed in a flying accident in 1946. Ormskirk Hall was a large Georgian style double fronted three storey town house with a grand portico entrance supported by twin columns (Image 2). No 28 after the demolition of Ormskirk Hall became Soundsgood Records in 1975 when the Wheatsheaf Walk development was completed.
Evans and Ball had begun their wholesale grocery business at No 32, the other side of Wragg’s studio, but between 1895 and 1901 they took over No 22 Burscough Street and their operation thrived, they remained there into the 1960s.
Immediately after Evans & Ball’s warehouse stood the Wheatsheaf Hotel. This was another Georgian building with an entrance to their rear/side yard. A coach and horse had to negotiate a tight turn to pull out of the yard into the narrow street. The Wheatsheaf staircase was apparently one of the finest examples of Georgian wrought iron work in England. The Wheatsheaf was demolished in the mid 1960s to make way for the new development that took it’s name, Wheatsheaf Walk. If you look at the picture of the Wheatsheaf, taken in c. 1962, (Image 3), almost opposite was Swarbricks Pork Butchers.
This short run of shops and businesses in just one of the streets of Ormskirk, contained so much valuable history of the town, we strive at Ormskirk Bygone Times to make that history more easily accessible to people and if you can contribute with local knowledge or photographs you can contact us here.
Market Cross or Horology Square?
In the years before the Ormskirk Clock Tower was erected in 1876, there had been nothing to identify the spot but the name Market Cross. No structure or marker has been in situ for generations. The name may even derive from the road system and there may never have been an actual cross there at all. Certainly when tenders were invited for the design and build of the tower, one local whit wrote to the Advertiser suggesting, ‘ Surely the archives of our semi-fossilised Court Leet would throw some light on the architectural form of this ancient Cross, and if no member of that venerable body is of an antiquarian turn of mind, they might mortify the flesh by denying themselves the periodical dinners, and divert the proceeds to employ a gentleman with a taste for routing amongst what Carlyle called their “dry-as-dust “ accumulations……’
Market Place was used as the address for the businesses on each corner. In the 1820s, Bookseller Wm Leak’s printers and circulating library was at the corner of Aughton Street and Moor Street, with the George & Dragon on the corner of Church Street and Aughton Street , the Eagle & Child at the corner of Church Street and Burscough Street and Owen’s Ironmongers on the corner of Burscough Street and Moor Street.
The width of Moor Street merging with the narrowness of Church Street isn’t really an issue in modern times, but for those who remember the through traffic, especially on Market Days or coupled with Southport Flower Show, will truly know the meaning of traffic congestion. Add that to the traffic lights at the clock and buses or Westbrook Lorries turning into and up from Aughton Street, it was a risky place to cross at any time.
Some of the businesses used the Market Cross address into the 1900s, Mawdsleys famous gingerbread bakers just used ‘The Cross’ as their address.
The George & Dragon became the National Westminster bank, The Eagle & Child became Stoners, then Kirk’s, then briefly Lawrence’s butchers and was for many years Johnson’s the cleaners when the business moved from Moor Street.
Owen’s Ironmongers became Pennington’s Tailors in the early 1900s, it was HP Radio for a good while, Collingwood Jewellers in the 80s and then H. Samuels.
Martin’s Bank held it’s position for many years and the building has remained a bastian of financial service to the town.
Images before the Clock Tower are pretty rare but one day something may turn up.