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Passing Through Westhead

Passing Through Westhead

The Skem Jazzer at Westhead Halt in 1951

The Skem Jazzer at Westhead Halt in 1951

Westhead, along with Newburgh, was a hamlet in the township of Lathom, according to the mid 19th century directories.

In 1851, a new church was built in the hamlet to serve the township of Lathom and the new church was dedicated to St James.

The land was donated by the 1st Baron Skelmersdale, Edward Wilbrahim- Bootle, of Lathom House, the sandstone was provided by Edward Stanley of Cross Hall, who at that time owned the quarry in Ruff Wood. The cost of the build was met in full by Lord Derby, who assigned the architect Sydney Smirke to create a unique church for Lathom. Smirke had designed the circular reading room at the British Library, the Bethlem Royal Hospital (now housing the Imperial War Museum) and Bickerstaffe, Holy Trinity Church.

The Halton Castle in Westhead

The Halton Castle in Westhead, which was operated by the Culshaw family for over 50 years

Westhead was the home of pit workers and agricultural labourers with a scattered population, the hub of the village was the Halton Castle Inn, the landlord from the 1850s being James Culshaw, who had been a servant at Lathom House prior to being granted the license at the Halton Castle, his brother William being the landlord of the Queen’s Head in Ormskirk, both inns being part of the Lathom estate holdings.

The Culshaw family continued to hold the license at the Halton Castle for several generations into the 20th century.

Westhead Halt was a request stop of the Skelmersdale to Rainford line, remaining a favourite amongst rail enthusiasts because of the link to the Skem Jazzer.

The Quarry in Ruff Wood

The Quarry in Ruff Wood

If you came along to the re-opening of Ormskirk Civic Hall on Saturday, 9th April you may well have met a direct descendant of James Culshaw of the Halton Castle. Jon Culshaw, TV impressionist and comedian, was there to cut the ribbon and start a new chapter in the history of one of Ormskirk’s most important historic buildings.

The Court Is In Session

The Court Is In Session

Sir Samuel Brighouse

Sir Samuel Brighouse

The new Law Court and Police Station opened in Derby Street in the 1850s to great anticipation.  It was hoped that the growth of the town and the business community in the town would benefit from the new asset and service.

The Police Court, the Monthly Sessions, the Brewster Sessions as well as the Magistrates Courts, brought all kinds of cases and people to the town.  The Coroners Court was also held there and for many many years the South West Lancs Coroner was Sir Samuel Brighouse, a man raised in the town who knew the area and the people well. Born at Lathom August 1st 1849, he went to the Grammar School and then law school and became a solicitor, founding the law firm of Brighouse, Brighouse and Jones in 1871. Winning the election to county coroner in 1884, he held the post for 56 years , reputedly carrying out around 25,000 inquests, he was also a steward for Lord Derby viagra vente canada.

James Maybrick, the cotton merchant suspected of being Jack the Ripper

Though the identity of “Jack the Ripper” remains in question, many believe cotton merchant James Maybrick committed the five infamous murders before his own wife killed him!

Early in his career he oversaw the inquest into the death of James Maybrick, at one time the main suspect in the Jack the Ripper case. His determination to see the work of not just coroners, but mortuaries and police surgeons held in the highest esteem by everyone is what seems to have driven his career, not caring for the tutting and head shakes of the elected authorities. Knighted in 1934 he died 15th January 1940.  If he felt strongly about a subject, no matter how mundane, he felt it worth fighting for.

These are his own words, sent in a letter to the Advertiser on 29th May 1922:.

Sir

Dear old Derby Street, if it could only speak.  Its utterances would surely be a new edition of the ‘Book of Lamentations’.  Paved with setts, the old-fashioned carts of the farmer ground out cries from it that worried the scholars in the United Charity Schools, the lawyers in their offices, the justices on their judicial bench, and the police.  And ultimately the setts were removed, and a span new macadam Derby Street was made and was duly christened on the day it was opened by a heavy unwieldly tractor engine, which left sore places that never seemed to heal. Aspirants for the Local Board came along, and swore by all their Gods that they alone could save the town, and incidentally Derby Street, from ruin and disgrace.

They were elected, and Derby Street wept at their apostasy.

Latterly in the moonlight Derby Street has looked like No Man’s Land in the Great War – all holes and craters.

Quite recently – it only seems a few days ago – the Urban District Council, with monies squeezed out of the long-suffering ratepayers of this long-suffering town, or with monies secured from the County Council of Lancashire – I care not which – gave Derby Street a new coat of something, and the inhabitants on each side thereof slept in peace. And now with the last week, after patching the poor dear in places, they have poured tar on it and scattered chippings on it, and they have left it for the traffic to do the rest.  Every good housewife in Derby Street has just finished her spring cleaning and now her good man walks over her spring cleaned carpet and leaves tar and chippings behind.

Was there ever such a subject for mirth as Derby Street?

Overwhelmed with official and domestic cares, I seek no solace other than a glance at my dear street. A retrospective thought of all it had undergone convinces me that no human being could undergo what it has gone through and survive.

Poor dear Derby Street! I recollect you a street of green fields, where boys played with pipe stumps instead of marbles, and motor cars were unknown.

And if you could only speak, poor thing? What would you say about those who have pulled you to pieces, clothed you in new garments, put patches on you, overhauled you, mauled you, messed you about and have left you, as you now are, an object of scorn and derision, and an example of what a street should NOT be.  

S . Brighouse.

A brief biography of Sir Samuel Brighouse

A brief biography of Sir Samuel Brighouse. Click on the image for a larger view.

Ormskirk Bygone Times has several records and documents relating to Sir Samuel’s early years as a boy in the town and they have been added to our mobile display. If any school, group or organisation would like us to put on an exhibition for them, please contact us through our social media group at https://www.facebook.com/Ormskirkbygonetimes or through our website here.

An Important Little Street

An Important Little Street

Derby Street West looking from the parish church. From OBTs unique slide collection

Derby Street West looking from the parish church. From OBTs unique slide collection

The unimaginatively but logically named street, Derby Street West, was built to ease congestion in the town around the late 1890s.  Most likely it did start off as a two- way street, especially as the Fire Station was situated on the south side behind what is now Walter Brown House.

Built parallel to Church Alley, the street initially consisted of neat garden fronted 3 up 2 down terraced houses, mostly on the North side and the council yard and fire station on the south side, with the Council Yard foreman living at No 1.  A row of quasi semis was built on the South Side several decades later.

Biggs Car Dealers on Derby Street West

Biggs Car Dealers on Derby Street West

For a small street it was a busy part of the town, not only housing the fire station, but also several shops and businesses. The first motor vehicle dealer in the town was Herefordshire born William Biggs, he opened his business at 32 Derby Street West, along with his brother Harry.  The business was mainly bicycles in the early 1900s with the motor vehicle business growing in the town within a decade.

Derby Street West From Burscough Street showing Gould's hairdressers and barbers first right at No 2 and the Fire Station entrance opposite on the left

Derby Street West From Burscough Street showing Gould’s hairdressers and barbers first right at No 2 and the Fire Station entrance opposite on the left

Another successful business in the street was that of hairdresser John Crompton Gouge of 2 Derby Street West.  John Crompton Gouge was the grandson of Aughton Street hairdresser John Crompton, a well known business in the town dating to the early 19th Century.  Initially running a business from his father-in-laws home in Burscough Street, Gouge and his wife, Margaret nee Fyles, ran the shop there up until his death in 1927 and then his son John, a barber, inherited the business.

Derby Street West Circa 1910, Biggs motor dealers at 32 on the left, Rudds music shop at 28 and no 16 at either end of the second terrace

Derby Street West Circa 1910, Biggs motor dealers at 32 on the left, Rudds music shop at 28 and no 16 at either end of the second terrace

The drama in the street was well provided by the fire station, the engine, known affectionately by locals as ‘The Orme’ was pulled by six horses  belonging to Alf Brown from the Commercial Hotel, they had another high profile roll,  pulling the hearse belonging to Mr Brown, whose other occupation apart from landlord was as an undertaker.  A firsthand account of a call out for the fire engine from 1910 recalls how, having only travelled 100 yards from the station to just near the Drill Hall, a wheel came off the engine because the horses took the bend around into Southport Road so fast.

A record bought from Frederick Rudd's Derby Street West store

A record bought from Frederick Rudd’s Derby Street West store

Another business which thrived for many years in the street was that of Frederick Brooker Rudd, he had two premises there, No 16 and No 28. He was a piano and organ tuner & repairer by trade and moved to Ormskirk from Everton before 1920.  He married the daughter of Scottish born Tailor, William Gardiner, who lived around the corner at 47 Burscough Street, next door to Knowles House, William Gardiner worked for the Poor Law Guardians and was the tailor to the Union Workhouse.  Frederick Rudds business developed into selling recorded music and gramophones from No 28, he died in 1961.

In 1971, No 28 became another music store, Soundgood Records was opened there in October 1971 by Liverpool and England football legend Tommy Smith.

Soundsgood Records opened in 1971 on Derby Street West

Soundsgood Records opened in 1971 on Derby Street West

If anyone has any memories of the businesses and families who occupied Derby Street West please think about sharing them with the group at https://www.facebook.com/Ormskirkbygonetimes

The Iron Horse

The Iron Horse

Ormskirk Railway Station

Ormskirk Railway Station

The Railway reached Ormskirk in the 1840s and with its arrival a whole new world of opportunity opened up for ordinary people of the town.  Everyday travel to work at all destinations to Liverpool and Preston meant that people were motivated to learn new trades and skills and this meant a change in income.

The type of housing being built in the town to accommodate the professional working class and the growing number of successful tradesmen led to the building of the towns own areas of superior quality housing.  Many of these large detached houses are still standing today in the St Helens Road, Ruff Lane and later Knowsley Road, areas.  Southport Road was also a part of the town which saw rapid development from a road containing old cottages and a busy rope factory to a well planned modern street offering larger homes to the business people living and working in the town.

New housing on Ruff Lane. Built as a result of expansion after the introduction of the railway to Ormskirk

New housing on Ruff Lane. Built as a result of expansion after the introduction of the railway to Ormskirk

The Railway also created a demand for hotel and Inn accommodation which in turn led to the renovation and extension of several town centre hostelries. The Commercial Hotel on Railway Road became a thriving concern for travellers and there was also carriage service there for travellers wishing to visit the area on business or pleasure.

Market Days were destination points for travellers from all over the County and indeed beyond and this swelled the towns population each Thursday and Saturday, bringing revenue to the town regularly and allowing many local businesses to expand and diversify.  With the emergence of the retail concept in the latter half of the 19th century, shops in Ormskirk became bigger and better appointed with a wide range of stock on offer to visitors and locals, the range of market stalls began to change from farm produce and agricultural supplies to more domestic needs, like materials, clothing, footwear and even souvenirs for the visitors to take away with them.

a souvenir seller on Ormskirk Market

a souvenir seller on Ormskirk Market

Ormskirk thrived with the new Railway connection and continued to expand and grow , whilst its local agricultural production increased with the new markets the farmers could reach using the goods trains into Preston and Liverpool.

If you have any of your own stories about the railway in Ormskirk we would love to hear them, you can get in touch with us here.

Before The Railway Came To Town

Before The Railway Came To Town

The Railway line was built in 1849 from Liverpool to Preston, passing through Ormskirk and from then on opening up a whole world of opportunity for local people to leave, or for strangers to arrive.

Before the railway came, people of the town had the choice of coach travel on various routes and the coaching inns ran a strict timetable.

The original King's Arms

The original King’s Arms

In the early 1820s, the King’s Arms on Moor Street was the staging post for four very important coaching routes.  Daily journeys aboard the ‘Invincible  left Ormskirk at 6am for Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh and then at 6pm for Liverpool. A coach to Leeds left the King’s Arms daily at 6am calling at Blackburn, Burnley, Colne and Keighley. The Royal Liverpool  left at Noon daily for Lancaster  where a passenger could change to the Lord Exmouth and travel on to Newcastle. The Liverpool coach left at 3 in the afternoon. The Royal Pilot ran to Manchester in Summer on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11am.

The George and Dragon public house at the corner of Church Street and Aughton Street was also a busy staging post, with five established routes,  The Mail coaches to Liverpool  and Carlisle left at 8.30pm each day.  The Telegraph Mail service ran to Kendal at 10am and to Liverpool at 6pm. The New Times ran to Carlisle at 6am and to Liverpool  at 7pm.  The Umpire left for Liverpool at 12noon and for Newcastle at 5pm.  The Eclipse ran to Liverpool  at 9.30am and to Southport at 5pm.

The Wheatsheaf in Burscough Street  had a coaching route with The Amity leaving for Liverpool every Wednesday and Saturday at 7am returning at 7am the next day and a Sunday excursion to Southport  during the summer at 8am returning at 8pm.

Aughton Street with the Talbot in on the left

Aughton Street with the Talbot in on the left

By the late 1820s, a London Royal Mail coach was stopping off in Ormskirk at the George and Dragon every evening at 6pm,  the established routes above carried on into the 1830s with the Talbot Inn introducing the Fair Trader calling from Liverpool  daily at 1.30pm on the way to Kendal and the Royal Irish Mail from Lancaster calling every day at 4pm.

These established routes were starting to dwindle into the 1840s, the Ship Inn on Moor Street played host to the Southport to St Helens noon coach with The Victoria covering the Wigan to Southport route daily calling at the King’s Arms at 9.45am and returning at 5.30.

By 1855, there is just one route still in operation, a coach from the Railway Station, calling at the King’s Arms at 11.15 on it’s way to Southport and returning at 4.30pm.

A busy clock tower with a coach outside the King's Arms

A busy clock tower with a coach outside the King’s Arms

By 1869 all the routes have ended. The Railway took the trade.  Faster, cleaner, probably more reliable, though this is hard to say.

Ormskirk Bygone Times have a database of all the towns pubs if anyone has an interest in the history of trade in the town.

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