Meandering & Mysteries | Widnes & Victoria Park walk

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How many can you identify? VICTORIA PARK, Widnes opened to the public in 1900, commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897. It was described as having fine views of Childwall Valley, Mersey Estuary and the Welsh Hills. Three pillared entrance, the original design (inset) had four

GETTING THERE: Car Park opposite Village Social Club, Widnes, WA8 6EQ | The partnership will continue to strengthen its practice of working together to develop a heritage vision and focus for Halton Borough through new projects and public events. This walk route and map has been researched and designed by Project Artist Jeni McConnell using images and information from our partner organisations. It was tested with some lovely people who walked the route for ‘A Walk in the Park’, commissioned by Halton CCG. In 2014 we were awarded HLF funding to develop our newly formed partnership with an exciting project: WORKING LIVES | WORKING TOGETHER The website launched in 2016. HALTON HERITAGE PARTNERSHIP is a collaboration between public and community history and heritage organisations in the Borough of Halton.


Meandering & Mysteries As the open fields became marked, quarrying beautiful red sandstone, a cluster of workers drew wire and made tools, watch makers mingled with laundresses, washerwomen, chemical workers, gas fitters and domestic servants; this was a place for hard work. The HEYES family were wire manufacturers for many years, Francis (sepia image, 3rd from left) ran the wire works through the late 1800s, he died in 1902 and his wife took over the business.

These are some of the key dates:

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1893 - Land north of Appleton House mostly fields Deacon family installed new greenhouses 1897 - Park established and dated gates erected 1902 - Gladstone memorial fountain installed 1904 - Northern area lost to Lockett Road & housing 1906 - Appleton House demolished 1911 - Bowling greens added on Eastern extension 1913 - King George V & Queen Mary visit 1921 - War Memorial erected 1930s - Lake & paddling pool added 1991 - Gladstone memorial moved to Town Centre 2000s - £2m restoration including landscaping, cafe, ice-cream parlour & climbing boulder

RESEARCH & DESIGN: Jeni McConnell | As the swings and turns of demand and supply shift our human need, places change in time. Appleton Village and Victoria Park have certainly had their share of dramatic upheaval; lanes and by-ways, tiny cottages, yards, terraces and grand houses have all made way for progress. As you walk through the area now it is a challenge to see how it was before. In 2016 new homes are being built on the old wire works site, bringing new people to the area. We hope this entices many people to be curious about Halton’s past.

TREE SURVEY, 2008 Then, the park had around 850 trees with 71% over 40 years old, 18% 25-39, 11% up to 24 years, more younger, indicating recent planting. Sycamore dominate at 76% - that’s a lot of ‘helicopter’ seeds. The others are a mix of elm, cherry, lime, poplar, whitebeam, london plane & norway maple with a final few rowan, ash, laburnum, thorn, horse chestnut, willow, birch, oak, beech, alder and holly - and there’s one ginko biloba.


This 1897 drawing below, shows bowling greens and other ideas for park land to the East. It is hard to imagine climbing the huge steep sided mound to stand atop, but what a long distance view it would have provided. In 1912 the area experienced more upheaval; the road and land levels around the old quarry were altered dramatically, raising the height by over two metres. It is a real challenge now to visually see the reason the village road was previously called Hollow Lane.

Fairfield Road marks the eastern park boundary, perhaps it was the place where fairs took place? The streets beyond have names reflecting the green space they connect to; sycamore, elm, lilac, chestnut, cedar, cypress, laurel, birch, alder, acacia - could these have been the types of trees in the park when it first opened?

Frederick GUY, a house builder worked with James Randle at SAYCE & RANDLE, Appleton Quarry and hung his sign in the window of what is now the Village Surgery. He lived in Fairfield House in 1901. Neighbours, the DEACON family had left Appleton House by then and Harry CURTIS (aged 33), Corporation Gardener was registered there. Perhaps he is on this 1930 image of the park staff at a presentation outside the greenhouses, below.

Father James, and sons Joseph and Johnny BRIGGS were sportsmen of repute. In the late c18th James ran the Cross Keys Inn, and all 3 were professional cricketers; Johnny was the first bowler ever to take 100 wickets.

Our actions and interactions with a place all contribute to this rich story, some remain in its history too.

Many surnames repeat through the years; Davenport, Dennett, Heyes, Howard, Mercer, Moss, Tarbuck - could these be names of some of the people below?

Meandering & Mysteries | a Widnes walk This is a just over a one mile circular walk on designated footpaths starting at the Car Park in Appleton Village road, but you can start where you prefer. The height climb is moderate and the route crosses roads; take extra care when crossing. Not all roads are marked on this map, but we think there’s enough to help you keep on track. The map gives you snippets of information with hints and ideas about how things might have been, which we hope will entice you to be even more curious about Halton’s heritage. We hope you have a great walk PARK EXPLORATIONS - There is so much to see in the park, this is just the southern half - maybe you’d like to go off track up here and see what else is waiting for you to discover . . .

16. WOODLAND WALK This is a very different area in the park which seems wrapped in a magical cloak of denser trees & shrubs. Hidden from view, it is accessed from the west pathways. You’ll spot all sorts of woodland creatures out exploring - what things will you find?

Appleton House




4. TITHEBARN ST There were quite a few houses here, where the playground is now. Do you think the broom was used to clean up for the photo?




1. APPLETON LODGE 1 John Hutchinson’s home c1850-65. He opened his alkali works at 25, in 1847

18. JAMES RANDLE & FREDERICK GUY, BUILDERS This 1912 image shows what is currently Appleton Surgery, then Frederick Guy’s office and a shop. He built many local houses, particularly along Appleton Rd. He lived in Fairfield House after James Randle (1891/1901) who was also a builder and managed the Quarry under the name of Sayce & Randle. The quarry wall is to the right of the image and the property is on the far right of the top two images, below

2. APPLETON QUARRY Images (right, top 2) look up Appleton Village road from Deacon Road. The high wall on the left has St Bede’s cemetery behind it. The church was built in 1847 using sandstone from here. On early maps an old quarry is also shown south of Deacon Rd. In 1914 the hollow space was filled in and the road level raised by over 2m


Leigh Avenue PUBLIC BUSES Public buses arrived in 1909. This bus stopped at Appleton Village on its way to Rainhill. The red ticket is for two days of free trips celebrating 65 years of public transport when in 1974 control moved to Halton District Council from Widnes Corporation

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to everyone who has contributed images and supporting research.


START HERE Car Park Appleton Village Widnes, WA8 6EQ

Hutchinson’s West Bank Works, c1895

Kingsway, named in 1913 to commemorate the royal visit

1897 drawing looking East - numbers relate to stop point locations

c1910 Appleton Village looking West

17. ANGEL & ELEPHANT Gerrards Ct was behind

Appleton Village


Appleton Road


Appleton Village

arn St Titheb




Wire Work s

Front & rear views of Tithebarn St, early 1900s

Appleton Hall from NW, or SW?


3. FRANCIS HEYES WIRE WORKS Many villagers in the c19th worked as wire drawers & watch and tool makers


What do you think, we hope it intrigues you to find out more...

12. Site of APPLETON HOUSE (image, 1960) When Henry Deacon died in 1876, his 2nd wife Caroline continued living here with her children & step-son Henry Wade Deacon. By the 1901 census Henry & Caroline were recorded as staying at a hotel in Colwyn Bay, with Holbrook Gaskell and his daughter Eliza

Fairfield House

5. THE MYSTERY OF APPLETON HALL Built c16th for the Appleton family, its location seems to be a mystery. Suggested as sited at the Birchfield Rd & Appleton Village junction, or the Wire Works site. Do these images & the 1875 Roper map give a few more clues to help you decide? Maybe we need to dig more, here’s a few questions to ponder:

Alderman Edwin Wood, Mayor of Widnes (1919-21) was presented with this silver statuette for his service to the inauguration and promotion of the Widnes War Memorial


St Bede’s Church, built 1847





Appleton Hall?

- Can we assume the 1897 drawing is ‘building’ accurate? - if so, what is the building directly behind Pineapple Terrace? - What is the gable end (back right) on the c1910 image? - If the image below is the Hall, its footprint would relate to the Roper map if the photo was taken from the NW, was it? - Was the Hall completely demolished in 1873?






R Fairfield




6. PINEAPPLE TERRACE This fruit was a curiousity when first introduced into Britain. Many wealthy people were keen to grow them. It is said that Appleton Hall had pineapple stoves, which which may have been very near here. Could it be the building where the terrace now stands?


13. GINKO BILOBA Silver Apricot tree, Native to China, found in fossils dating back 270m years. They are tenacious trees; six were found to have survived the Hiroshima bombings



e, 18 Pineapple Terrac

7. PARK GATES This well loved image from after 1902 shows the ornate iron work park gates which were donated by Widnes Foundry and behind is the Gladstone Fountain in its original position


10. BOMB DAMAGED MILEPOST (*MP) In 1918 on the night the milepost was damaged, 21-yr old Harry Antrobus was on duty at Randall’s Sluices on the Manchester Ship Canal, outside Moore. He felt the hair prickle on the back of his neck as the Zeppelin flew overhead. He was armed with just a broomstick



Foden’s steam wagon, 1902


9. BUTTERFLY HOUSE Delicate creatures flutter-by, their magical velvet cloaks gently stroke the air as you walk through (May-Sep)

8. GLADSTONE FOUNTAIN Now opposite the Butterfly House. How many fish can you see swimming around it?


15. BANDSTAND Fodens band played in the 1920s & 30s earning £35-40 each time they played here

Walk Woodland

Road Birchfield

ROWAN TREES Rowan is said to protect dwellings where it grows. The bark has been used in tanning, berries made into spirits, wine & ales and twigs for divining. The poem; Rowan tree and red thread make the witches tine - means to make the witches lose their speed


14. PARK CHANGES The park changed shape in the early years, removing the section above Lockett Rd and adding the eastern section here for four bowling greens. In later years changes occured for the war effort, removing the band stand and railings. Now we focus on environmental aspects; seeing a wider range of tree types and the cafe has a living sedum roof

Fair field R

B5419 LIME TREE Just 2% of the trees in the park are limes, can you find them? They say that lime blossom was used to make a tea during war time. Lime trees are associated with fertility and are a symbol of liberty

KEY Walk stopping places (numbered) Bus stops* i Information/things to see here Buildings on Ropers 1875 map NOT TO SCALE (but it’s pretty close)

Deaco n Ro a

d, B51 7


RAISING DEACON ROAD Two drain structures rise up from the existing road level (above) showing how much it was raised by; compared to the height of the people nearby

* Bus Stop markers are an indication only, please check for up to date information.

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