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Liverpool is steeped in history, but West Derby was once bigger news than the entire city put together! While King John was busy installing ferries and drawing crests, West Derby was…well, read on to discover this suburb’s exciting former life and find out why it is thriving today with new eateries, stores and independents.
West Derby was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, with a name derived from the Old Norse park or enclosed space ‘by’ which contained ‘deorby’ or wild deer, which was established by Saxon King, Edward the Confessor in the 11th century.
Now a northern suburb of Liverpool, the area was prominent during the Norman Conquests known as The West Derby Hundred which included the City of Liverpool and surrounding towns in southwest Lancashire, including the boroughs of Wigan, Warrington, Halton and Liverpool. A recorded population of 128 households placed the area among the largest settlements recorded in the Domesday Book.
In 1066 William Molyneux acquired various estates including Croxteth Hall after the Duke of Normandy placed him in charge of the area with annual profits regularly exceeding £2,000 courtesy of the Liverpool ferry trade, coal mines and mills. Liverpool itself was only founded at the beginning of the 13th century from within the West Derby Hundred, with areas absorbed into the city by 1895, but locations outside the city boundaries still belonging to West Derby in 1907. As you can imagine, King John was not all that popular.
West Derby village was redesigned by 4th Earl of Sefton, William Philip Molyneux (1835 -1897), including a grand entrance to his stately residence with the Molyneux Cross flags either side of Croxteth Hall gates.
As well as home to the Molyneux family, West Derby had a Tudor courthouse where you could be put in stocks for offences including drunkenness or not attending church. The stocks are now next to The Yeoman’s House, another historical feature still standing in the village. Built in 1586 under the order of Elizabeth I for £40, the Grade II listed building was restored in 2005 as the only free-standing post-medieval courthouse in Britain.
West Derby Chapel was also situated here, where a monument now stands depicting The Fall of Adam & Eve, The Resurrection and The Four Evangelists, designed by Eden Nesfield and commissioned by Norris Green House along with the village fountain, built during the Temperance movement and inscribed with the age-old hangover lament: Water is Best. St Mary’s Church replaced the old chapel in 1856, designed by George Gilbert Scott, also responsible for Liverpool Cathedral and Britain’s iconic red telephone box!
Grade II listed Croxteth Hall was built in 1575. The Molyneux family, who held the Earl of Sefton title, occupied the estate from the 16th century until the line ended with the death of Hugh Molyneux in April 1972 and the hall and part of the grounds were gifted to the city.
The 500-acre country park is popular for family days out, including a nature reserve, Croxteth Park Farm, a Victorian Walled Garden, Croxteth Park Riding Centre and the Jungle Parc oppose the hall with a café and forest adventures for young children, along with a tree top explorer course for adults.
As well as West Derby’s historic stately past, the suburb has deep-set roots within the history of not one but both of Liverpool’s football clubs.
Bellefield was the generational home of shipping merchants, the Bates, who encouraged their White Star employees to use the grounds for company sports events during the 1920s-30s, with a cricket pavilion, bowling green and tennis courts. In 1946, after being sold and leased by the Co-op, Everton FC were offered use of the facilities after Goodison was badly damaged during WWII, and so began 20 years of twice-weekly training, with EFC moving the first squad to Bellefield permanently in 1964.
Sir John Moores, paid £25,000 for the land to create a world-class training facility and attract the best players in the country. In July 1966, Everton were FA Cup holders when Bellefield was officially opened by the president of the Football League with such impressive facilities, the Brazilian football team used it for training in the 1966 World Cup.
In October 2007, over 60 years later, the first team trained at Bellefield for the last time before moving to Finch Farm in Halewood.
The playing fields which would become home to LFC training at Melwood originally belonged to St Francis Xavier School, where Father Melling and Father Woodlock, who Melwood was later named after, coached football.
In the 50s, LFC moved training from Anfield to protect the pitch, but it wasn’t until 1959, with Bill Shanklym whose house overlooked Bellefield, was nonplussed by the condition of the grounds, that the site became a top class training facility with a pavilion, changing facilities and sauna. In 2001, Gérard Houllier also invested in Melwood helping to design Millennium Pavilion with a sheltered area for spectators, along with early morning and evening training sessions.
In 1998, both youth and development teams had moved from West Derby to a new 56-acre training facility at The Academy in Kirkby, and in 2017 LFC revealed plans to redevelop the Kirkby location at a cost of £50 million. This moved LFC team training from Melwood.
In August 2019, LFC confirmed the sale of the historic site, which is set to become a not-for-profit housing redevelopment, creating 1,600 homes. Meanwhile, the first team will start the 2020/21 LFC season from their new home in Kirkby.
Opening a local food and drink place was always a dream for local West Derby lad Michael so it was deemed fate when the opportunity to make the dream a reality presented itself. The Ladle is open Wednesday – Sunday serving up a varied hot drinks, brunch & lunch menu before the evening & bar menu kicks in. There’s incredible live music every Friday and Saturday and the menu includes a wide range of food including street food and small plates and you can keep the pooch happy too with dog treats and water bowls. You can find the Ladle on Almonds Green.
Award-winning Almond Bar & Eatery offers delicious dining from breakfast options including American pancakes and the unique Almond Hash of crispy pancetta, potato, sautéed onions and leeks, topped with fried egg & parmesan crumb, while evenings are perfect for cosy catch-ups or delicious family feasts in this popular, bistro-style eaterie.
Liverpool Gift Gallery is well worth a mooch for locally-themed artwork, eye-catching homeware and unique greeting card and gift ideas, from hand-painted silk scarves to favourite football club collectables designed by over 40 Liverpool-based artists, so you’ll be doing your bit to support our vibrant Creative community too. One of the products (the West Derby Village tile) is pictured at the top of this article.
The Book an absolute gem of a bar with live music and great atmosphere guaranteed and menus starting from the Breakfast Sandwich on ciabatta or toasted sourdough bread, to fresh and tasty brunch ideas and an impressive evening menu ranging from traditional Italian to homemade Scouse with pickled red cabbage, beetroot and warm crusty bread .
The Bar, Kitchen and Garden at 51 Mill Lane serves sensational small plates of international options ideal for sharing, including cute pizzettes, along with Thai, Jamaican, Italian and Gulten-free dishes to keep everyone happy, along with cocktails good enough to pass as dessert, including The Bounty Hunter with Malibu, Kahlua, Mozart dark chocolate and cream.
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