A potted History of Maghull

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The township of Maghull sits upon the fertile expanse of the South West Lancashire plain, astride the road and rail routes that run northwards from Liverpool. Below the sprawl of semi-detached houses, school, shops and roads that comprise Maghull, lie the fields and brooks that once formed a rich rural parish. For those living in Maghull during the 21st century, it is difficult to imagine the aspects that confronted the first Anglo/Saxon settlers who pushed westwards into what was a remote, thinly populated area.

The first record of Maghull appears in the Doomsday Book; where it is recorded as a manor belonging to Uctred in the time of Edward the Confessor. Uctred was a man of some influence in the lands that lay between the rivers Ribble and Mersey. It is not known how Uctred met his end, but by 1086 Roger of Poictou held Uctred's lands.

The classic medieval village  of the schoolbook comprises a cluster of houses around a church or chapel with a Manor house set on the edge, the whole being surrounded by three great fields divided into strips and shared between the inhabitants. However this pattern was not predominant in Lancashire and from an early time the fields were enclosed. John Leland, a traveler of Tudor times records, 'closes all the way', in the county of Lancashire. Many of the old fields of Maghull were of considerable antiquity and, as we shall see, this ancient pattern still shows through in the layout of the present housing estates.

The most remarkable ancient site in Maghull is the Chapel in the grounds of St. Andrews church. This little known chapel had the distinction of being the oldest ecclesiastical building on Merseyside. Its outstanding feature is the window of its north chapel and it is dated between 1280  and 1290. Only the oldest parts remain, since much of the later additions were demolished in 1883. It was planned to demolish the whole building but fortunately local opinion was vehemently against the 'ruthless destruction', of the old church.

By the fifteenth century three branches of the Maghull family had emerged. A deed of 1442 illustrates this growth of the Maghull clan, as the following attested to a deed relating to Alice Barber, Thomas de Maghull of Clent, Thomas de Maghull of the Carr and Riehard de Maghull. This deed also makes reference to Kennetsheath now called Kennessee Green. Twenty-four years later, this land, then spelt Kenetis Hede passed into the hands of Ralph Molyneux.

The tithe map of Maghull, compiled in 1840, provides us with a few clues to the use of the land in various parts of Maghull, since it records all the ancient field names.By 1840 the greater part of the land in Maghull was devoted to crops but in earlier times the proportion devoted to pasture was much greater. This is shown .by the large number of field names relating to grassland, for example, Old Meadow, Old Pasture, Pasture Field.

The arrival of the canal coincided with the rebuilding of the Chapel. In 1777 the Chapel was totally rebuilt and it appears that some of the medieval masonry was used for foundations. The medieval nave had been pulled down in 1756, although it took over twenty years before the money  was available to provide extra accommodation. A Mr. Longbotham conceived the canal in 1767 as a major transport link between Leeds and Liverpool. The advice of Brindley was sought and work began in 1770. By 1774 it was navigable between Liverpool and Newburgh and the building had entailed quarrying for stone and digging for Clay. The sandstone of Maghull was noted for its suitability for service as grindstones. The 1849 census shows two quarries. Until a few years ago a large number of clay pits were to be found scattered throughout the parish. Many were dug to provide marl. The whole length of the canal was not finished until 1816 but it was designed to take barges 72 feet by 14 feet, very large by national standards.

Maghull already had facilities for travelers along the main "Liverpool Road" and with the advent of the canal the number of inns and beer houses soon increased. Many still stood until this century, the earliest being the 'Red Lion' demolished some years ago. Another inn was to be found on the Liverpool side of the Red Lion bridge which was called the 'Hare and Grey- Hound’. Following the toll road north from the 'Red Lion' the canal runs alongside the highway and between the two the 'Hare and Hounds' still stands, still further north a cluster of pubs lay literally within a stones throw. This group included the 'Butchers Arms', 'Tashy Lunts', the 'Coach and Horses' and 'The Boatswain'. Today only 'The Coach and Horses' remains and that has been re-established on a new site. The old inn still stands, serving as a shop, opposite Green Lane Junction. Two more beer houses were to be found near Hall Lane bridge; the 'Horse and Jockey' and the 'Travelers Rest' .

In 1780 a new Maghull Manor was built near the site of the original, this handsome building still stands preserved in the tranquil grounds of the epileptic colony, now known as the Parkhaven Trust

The first National census was taken in 1801, Maghull's population is recorded as 534: within 100 years it was to almost treble. In 1815 it was much the same, and a survey revealed 108 inhabited houses occupied by 71 families engaged in agriculture, 29 in trade, manufactures and handicrafts and 9 others, as the document relates.

Before long Maghull was to have two stations. In 1881 the Cheshire lines proposed an extension to Southport and the authorization was given in August. The line was to run from Aintree Junction to Birkdale and £493,000 was provided. for this purpose. The life of the venture was to be short, for in 1917 the passenger traffic stopped, just 33 years after its ,opening in 1884. Part of the line between Altcar and Southport was eventually closed to all traffic in 1938.

By the end of the nineteenth century Maghull had number of craftsmen working in various trades, most had their establishments set alongside the toll road (Liverpool Road). A gathering of local craftsmen developed around the blacksmiths shop, near the Coach and Horses', nearest to the smith was the wheelwright who needed the blacksmiths services in order to provide his wheels with a metal tyre. Opposite the blacksmiths, next to the old 'Coach and Horses', there was a saddler.

In 1901 the population stood at 1,505 and from this time was to increase at an ever more rapid rate. The turn of the century was a time when division between the rich and the poor was striking in every respect. In stark contrast with the residents of the large comfortable houses that had been established in Maghull, was the plight of the local farm labourer. Iri 1913 the abused men struck, however, the farmers still tried to get their produce to market.

In 1921 the population stood at 2,037 all of whom faced a rapidly changing world. The first tractor had appeared on Clent Farm during the First World War. During the 1920'9 vehicles in all forms began to become a familiar sight along the winding way of Liverpool Road. The considerable volume of traffic that developed making its way north from Liverpool necessitated the building of Northway (A59). At this time the population was increasing at a steady rate, however the parish still retained its rural aspect. In 1928 the electricity supply was installed, some years before gas. Various digging works related to the installation of electricity lines and sewage pipes weakened the canal bank causing a serious breach in 1927.>

In 1933 Northway was built as a three-lane highway, effectively cutting Maghull into two parts. This development encouraged considerable building in the south end of Maghull. At the fore of this development was the building of seven flat-roofed houses. The 1930's were a difficult time for builders and one speculator sought to alleviate his problems by building a series of modernistic houses. The quality of the building was dubious and the style did not attract buyers. A band was employed, to play on the roof of one house in a desperate attempt to sell the properties. Another property speculator who constructed the houses set to the east in a more traditional design acquired the ‘modernistic’ houses.

In 1936 the Baptist Chapel was established reflecting the increase in population that resulted from the new developments. By 1938 the increased population justified the creation of a playing field and in response Boyers field was turned into King George V playing field. The Meadows Hotel was established opposite the field by combining the licenses of the 'Horse and Jockey' and the Butchers Arms'"

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War an explosion destroyed Green lane swing bridge, scattering splintered timbers over the surrounding buildings. This portent of hostilities to come was undoubtedly the work of the I.R.A. Why they should choose Maghull is unclear as the reasons why the Countess of Southampton held table in Maghull so long ago. However, soon after the outbreak of war the canal was selected as a line of defence in the event of a German landing on the coast at Formby.

During the May Blitz of Liverpool in 1941 as many as 6,000 people were sheltered in the relative safety of Maghull each night. The refugees were in the habit of returning each morning to see what remained of their homes. However Maghull did not escape bombing entirely. On September 7th 1940 three bombs fell near the 'Meadows Hotel', one destroyed the recently laid bowling green at the Hotel. The Green has subsequently fallen victim to the demands of the motorcar and now serves as a car park. Some day's earlier nine small bombs had fallen in the same area and an unspecified number fell to the east of the railway at the Alt.The local Home Guard set up its Head Quarters at the large house at the corner of Dodds Lane and Liverpool Road, called High Pasture, apparently to the detriment of the interior woodwork.

After the war one of the camps was used to house displaced Polish soldier's families, giving them time to establish themselves in Britain.

By the late 1940's the population had risen to nearly 10,000 (The 1951 census records 10,8831. With such a population it was clear that provision had to be made for a proportionately larger number of children. In 1927 Maghull's major memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War was the building of the extension to Maghull's Church of England School, formally the National School. In 1939 Maghull's Deyes Lane secondary modern school was opened. The War ensured that the school would not only be used for its intended purpose but also to house refugees from Bootle during the blitz. Deyes Lane school was to become a grammar school and later still to revert again to a secondary modern school.

The developments begun prior to the War were continued and the ancient fields of Maghull began to yield a crop of semi-detached houses. In the south of Maghull the Altcar fields, Rushey Hey, Horse Pasture; the Moorland Road estate covered Broad Wood and Corner Wood. The houses of the Crescent at Woodend neatly covered the entire field of Big Wood Hey. The Chapel Field provided the site for the houses of Avondale and Brendale Avenues. Set between Liverpool Road and the old Cheshire Lines, Gainsborough, Rosslyn Avenue and Claremont Avenues submerged a number of fields. Further north along Liverpool Road ribbon development had masked the rural aspect of Maghull from the traveler. In a corner of the parish bounded by Dodds Lane and Liverpool Road the fields of Hoopers Croft, Tom Meadow and Brook Meadow had furnished land for Clent Avenue and Clent Road. In this case the name of one of Maghull's most ancient farms has been preserved, albeit in the form of two suburban roads.

This growth of population transformed Maghull from a village community into an agglomeration of dwellings on the scale of a fair sized town. Before the ultimate onslaught of the developer on the rural regions of Maghull two events stimulated a local atmosphere more in keeping with a small close community, the first being the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the second, the Coronation of 1953. Both were marked by community efforts centered on King George V playing field.

From the mid-fifties a catalogue of new housing estates, schools and the occasional playing field marks the story of Maghull. By 1961 the population had risen to 16,379 and continued developing throughout the decade until the population stood at 22,794 in 1971. By the late sixties it was the largest civil parish in terms of population in the country. Northway had been converted from a not unpleasant tree lined road to a dual carriageway.

In the year 2008 the population  exceeds 28,000.