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Issue No. 2 September 2011 £1.50 free to members

OXTONHISTORY Compiled by the Local History Group of the Oxton Society

Wellington Road in Edwardian days The designations of most of Oxton’s oldest roads and byways are probably easy to explain. Typically, they record either their general and ancient use – as in Village Road (ever, perhaps, the well trodden path leading to Oxton’s original village centre). The ownership of the land across which Oxton’s new roads were laid down in the 19th century often resulted in their naming. Fairclough Lane and Bennetts Hill are good examples of this process – Messrs Fairclough and Bennett were Oxton land-owners in the mid 19th century. Other roads were given more descriptive names as Oxton was developed into a residential area for the wealthy families that came here to live from Birkenhead and Liverpool. Fairview Road and Rich View both say something about the place as it was then seen to be. Perhaps the name Rose Mount might always be enigmatic, however. Wellington Road was surely named after the great man himself – the Duke of Wellington - but given that it was known by that name before his death in 1852, it must be

concluded that it was named in his honour rather than in his memory. At the time of the 1851 Census, however, there were only two houses recorded there. One was the home of Richard Scolefield (a Wool Broker) and his family, and the other of the family of William Tyson (described as a Share holder in joint stock). Not much had changed 10 years later (still just two houses, but with different owners), but by 1871 the two houses were named as Apsley Villa, and Field House. It is not surprising that on a road named Wellington there should be a house named Apsley: Apsley House was the London home of the Duke of Wellington (and its postal address was often then referred to as “No. 1, London”). Apsley Villa is still standing (at the junction of Wellington Road and Gerald Road – but now numbered 10 Gerald Road), but Field House, which stood near to the junction with Silverdale Road, was destroyed by the WW2 bombing raid (March 1941) that also destroyed the old Caernarvon Castle and damaged St Saviour’s church.


OXTON HISTORY Sept 2011

There was little else along Wellington Road in those times other than Mr. Caton’s rope-walk (a long stretch of land where fibres were twisted to make great lengths of rope). In a work by F. R. Beazley, he refers to a memoir of an Oxton man who knew it then, and who described Wellington Road as being “dirtier than the fields”, but from the 1870’s onwards, that whole area began to be developed, and appropriate houses were built there for people of a certain middle class standing. One of the residents of Wellington Road’s new houses was Rev. Percival Carteret Robin. He was the vicar of St Saviour’s from 1884 to 1897, so he had the privilege of serving the congregations early map of wellington road

of both the first and the new church (consecrated in 1891). The Robin family (and the King family before them, and into which the Robin family married) had for generations held the advowson of Woodchurch – and, therefore of Oxton. There also grew up a small but convenient row of shops in Wellington Road to provide for its residents’ immediate needs A Post Office of course, and at various times a grocer, a chemist, a draper, a confectioner (described in 1899 as a high class confectioner, of course), a dairy, a butcher and a stationer & tobacconist. There is a very interesting entry on the Census returns for 1911. At No. 48 Wellington Road, Laura and Jane Willmer are given as its residents (with two female servants).They were the daughters of Charles Willmer, whose family printing business was a feature of down town Birkenhead until

well into the 20th century. The family were staunchly Liberal, and it was one of Charles’ sons, Frederick, who came up with the idea of publishing a Liberal newspaper – to be called The Birkenhead News – to counter the perceived Tory voice of Birkenhead’s first newspaper, The Birkenhead Advertiser. Laura and Jane (Jeanie as she was known) were truly remarkable women. Following the death of their father and three of their five brothers they decided, in 1903, to manage and edit the newspaper themselves – quite a thing for them to do given the male dominated business world of those times, and probably unequalled through the land! But they also had quite deeply felt political views. Especially, they were dedicated to the cause of women’s suffrage. On their 1911 Census Return, Laura gave as her occupation “Editor & Managing Director”, and Jeanie gave hers as “Editor & Secretary”. There is an additional written note on this return which reads “All constitutional Suffragettes. Census paper filled in under protest as disfranchised citizens”. Jeanie died in 1933, and Laura in 1936 thus bringing to an end a truly remarkable story. Suggested further reading: Family Business: Wrayford Willmer, 1961: In the 1846 Tithe Map apportionments for Oxton, the building which is today the Shrewsbury Arms was recorded as being a house and garden, with its tenant / occupier being John Atkinson. It was possibly originally built as a farm house, but Atkinson was not a farmer. He did, though, have just about 3 acres of land - in 3 pieces - elsewhere in Oxton, and he owned a second house in Fairview Road. Tithe Map apportionments often simply described a building as a house or cottage, - and not always the use to which that building had been put - but what is certain is that this building was already the Shrewsbury Arms at that time as an advertisement in a local directory of 1845 (on page 3) shows: Osborne’s 1851 Directory of Birkenhead does, however, list the Shrewsbury Arms, and what is certain is that at about that time the building was divided into two. - the part of it on its Victoria Mount side (left of the above picture) becoming a dwelling house, and the part of it on its Claughton Firs side continuing as the Shrewsbury Arms. The Atkinson family can be found at the time of the 1861 Census living in their second house in Fairview Road – and probably as the result. You will not, however, find the Shrewsbury Arms in Claughton


The Shrew 2011 Firs in the 1851 Census returns – this road was then named Shrewsbury Road. Both names, of course, remember the fact that Oxton, in its entirety, was then owned (as it had long been) by the Earls of Shrewsbury. The licensee in 1851 was Alice Vallet (whose husband, Thomas was an auctioneer). There followed a number of licensees until, in 1874, Edward Millington is listed. He was later succeeded by his nephew Henry Millington. The Millington family had a particularly special connection with the Shrewsbury Arms. Annie Price was born in Liverpool in 1860. At the time of the 1871 Census, she was an inmate of the Liverpool Industrial Ragged School – a charity providing free education, food, clothing and lodging to poor and orphaned children (presumably, her parents were both dead by that time). But it was fortunate for Annie that she had family in Oxton – Edward Millington was her uncle! He was originally from Staffordshire, but came to Oxton via Liverpool (as so many others did). He was already a licensed victualler from his Liverpool days, and he secured the position of landlord at the Shrewsbury Arms. Annie moved to live with her uncle Edward, first at 12 Claughton Firs. At the 1881 Census, she is described as being a barmaid. Edward Millington died in

1888, but by 1891, the Millington family had moved to live at the Shrewsbury Arms (Perhaps at the house next door) and Annie’s cousin Henry was by then its licensee. Annie’s occupation (by now she was 31 years old) was given as “serving drinks, cleaning and tidying”. The building continued to be in two parts – one a private house, the other a public house – until 1974.


OXTON HISTORY Sept 2011

Oxton Folk: This photograph was taken in late 1915 in the back yard of 19 Hughes Lane. It shows John Henry & Sarah Johnson with their 11th (and last) child, Dennis Harvey. At the time that Dennis was born, five of his brothers were serving with the Armed Forces during The Great War. One of them, Harry, his eldest brother (born in 1890), did not come home, however. Harry served with the Cheshire Regiment – as did some of his brothers. His body was never found, but his

they lived first in Newburns Lane and then Storeton Road before finally setting up home in Hughes Lane in one of the new terraced cottages built where previously had stood Hall’s Yard. Dennis Harvey was born at 19 Hughes Lane in September 1915, and died there in 1997.

Notice Board: Correction: We have been advised by one of our readers that the bombing raid that destroyed the Caernarvon Castle took place on 12th March, 1941 and not on August 12th as given in Issue No. 1. It’s good to know that our first Periodical was read with such interest and scrutiny, and the History Group will always welcome comments, corrections and additional information. Please keep your comments coming in! Oxton History Archive: Plans are now progressing to create a freely available archive in the basement of Village Books in Christchurch Road. The intention is that anybody who wishes to research Oxton’s history or their own Oxton family history, will have access to the substantial material that the History Group currently holds. Do you think this is a good idea? An Open History Group Meeting Meeting: It is hoped that the History Group will soon be able to organise an open meeting at which anybody with an interest in Oxton’s history can attend. And if you are interested in joining our present History Group - we meet 4-6 weekly – do get in touch.

name is inscribed on the War Memorial at the British War Graves cemetery at Lake Doiran in Macedonia. Perhaps Harry would have called himself a Bromborough lad, – he was born there before his parents moved to Oxton. Sarah was born in Shropshire in 1871, but her family moved to Bromborough when her father was engaged as the gardener at a house there called Roslyn. John Henry was of more local stock – Storeton and Bebington in the main. When they moved to Oxton,

Contact For further information about the Contact: History Group – or anything else you are interested in or would like to know more about, contact Bob Knowles at: info@oxtonsociety.com

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