WEST DERBY VILLAGE
WEST DERBY VILLAGE
West Derby Village is one of Britain’s most picturesque city villages. It was an established community long before Liverpool existed. Only a manor farm called Esmedune stood near where the city centre is today. West Derby grew in stature when William of Normandy conquered England in 1066. His trusted knight William de Moulins – listed number 18 in the Battle of Hastings Roll of Honour at Battle Abbey – was rewarded with land and power. The de Moulins family’s name became Molyneux, prominent landowners until the death of Hugh Molyneux 7th and last Earl of Sefton of Croxteth Hall in 1972. The character of the Village today owes much to the family.
4th Earl of Sefton
Wealthy merchants started building substantial houses around the Village after 1830 resulting in moves to replace unsightly buildings and build a new church. When William Philip Molyneux because 4th Earl of Sefton he largely rebuilt the Village after returning from Crimean War army service in 1856. With the towering newly-built St Mary’s Church as a focal point, William had the Village redesigned to enhance the main entrance to his estate, watched over by a lodge.
West Derby Village in 1884
Today’s Village is mostly a Victorian creation as can be seen from this 1884 view by Hugh Magenis. Can you identify some later additions not in the picture? At about this time horse-drawn trams were introduced, replacing omnibuses taking people to and from Liverpool. St Mary’s Church, as now, dominates the scene as a landmark visible for miles around. Trees on the right were in the grounds of West Derby Orphanage.
West Derby Village 1853
West Derby Village painted by renowned Liverpool artist William Gawin Herdman in 1853 shows its original layout. The centre is dominated by West Derby Chapel flanked by the whitewashed Yeoman’s House and sandstone Courthouse. Most of the other buildings were demolished including the Village School (left) with its wall-mounted bell operated by a rope. The Chapel could hold several hundred people but still required up to four Sunday morning services to accommodate worshippers.
Here are some of the highlights of West Derby Village:
Thought to date from late Tudor times this sandstone house has long been associated with West Derby yeomen, prominent farming officials who helped the Molyneux family run their estates. The house (pictured about 1900) has small leaded windows originally protected by shutters on the ground floor. The house once stood next to the Village school demolished in Victorian times.
The stocks, last used about 1860, punished minor offences usually dealt with at the Courthouse. Up to three offenders each spent a maximum of six hours unable to move their legs, with no shelter from the weather. Passers-by could ridicule and abuse them and also throw rotten fruit and horse dung. The stocks were placed in the Village pinfold (stray animals’ pen) to commemorate Queen Victoria’s reign and Edward VII’s coronation.
Featuring an ornate statue of enthroned Christ under a canopy, the monument marks the site of the old West Derby Chapel demolished about 1856. Wealthy banker’s wife Mrs Pemberton Heywood of Norris Green House paid for the structure designed by Eden Nesfield. It features the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Resurrection and the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
St Mary’s Church
Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, St Mary’s Anglican Church is built from local red sandstone with Yorkshire stone pillars. Opened in 1856, it replaced the old chapel in the centre of the Village. Banker Pemberton Heywood of Norris Green House paid for the massive 160 ft tower and the great west window commemorates Charles William Molyneux, 3rd Earl of Sefton (1796 – 1855) who laid the foundation stone.
Erected in 1894 by wealthy merchant and politician Richard Meade-King of nearby Sandfield Park, the fountain proclaims Water is Best. It was installed at the height of the temperance movement in Britain when people were urged to sign the pledge to abstain from alcohol. West Derby Village had up to 11 inns, taverns and alehouses and water fountains aimed at providing free refreshment before widespread availability of alternatives such as soft drinks.
Croxteth Park Gates
These date from the time William Philip Molyneux 4th Earl of Sefton (1835 -1897) redesigned West Derby Village to make a suitable grand entrance to his stately home Croxteth Hall. Two carved stone lions mounted on impressive pillars and carrying Molyneux Cross flags flank the gates. They proclaim the ancient power of the family to all who enter and leave the sweeping drive across rolling acres.
Built on the orders of Elizabeth I in 1586 when Liverpool had just seven streets, the manor court was used by the Molyneux family to administer their estates. Replacing a much older building and dealing with land and property issues plus minor offences it is Grade II*-listed. Last used in 1910, this is the only freestanding post-medieval UK courthouse and contains original Tudor benches, rare three-lock door and 17th century cupboards.