Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Croxteth Park

Or Croxteth Hall and Country Park as it is actually called.

I used to love Croxteth Park as a kid. I grew up a 10 minute drive away, went to school nearby and had friends and relatives that lived nearby. I spent a lot of time there as a kid, playing and walking the dog, and loved the history behind it. I didn't know much of the history behind it but I could see there was history there and was fascinated by the idea of it. 

I remember writing a letter to a Russian penpal for school and going on and on about Croxteth Park and how interesting it was (along with how I loved James Bond films and Bryan Adams...nope, I don't know what I was thinking either). This letter was then read out to the class as an example of how a letter should be...much sniggering ensued. It says something that I remember being laughed at for liking Bryan Adams and James Bond more than I remember actually liking Bryan Adams and James Bond. 

We didn't have any money and the park was a free place to go. (Sometimes they would have events on that they charged admission for and we couldn't gain access to the park without paying. On those occasions we were encouraged by my dad to go through the bushes and climb over the fence, though I don't remember ever actually doing it.)

One of the reasons for my amazement with the place may be that it is completely at odds with what's going on in the streets just outside its gates (which sometimes also crosses over into the park too). Y'know gangs, drugs, guns...(Rhys Jones was shot on the estate that used to be part of the park's grounds) and of course normal families just going about their day to day business.

As I've grown up and learned more about the world beyond that which my family introduced me to (which was not much as it turns out), and thanks to the internet, I've learnt more about the history of the park, the hall and its residents. I don't remember the details clearly enough and I'm sure someone will come along and tell me off for getting it wrong so I'll refer you elsewhere for the historical info.

What I do remember was that the Hall was the home of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton. I was thinking there must be a story behind their name, as it doesn't sound English. I found out by accident they are actually Norman French. The last Earl was married to an American lady but when he died, there were no heirs so, despite the American lady hanging on a while, the hall and the grounds were passed to Liverpool City Council (or the Corpy as they were known then) in the 1970s, which actually seems quite recent for an aristocratic home. I wonder what happened to the nice American lady...

Anyway, on Boxing Day I revisited the park for the first time in years and years for a run interspersed with a lot of walking around the park with my mum and dad's dog while I was home for Christmas.

Bess, the German Shepherd who won't sit still for a photo and is quite a handful when trying to run with her on the lead.

Here it is, Croxteth Hall. Look at the grandeur of it.

The Hall, as I understand it, is partly derelict. I look through the windows and try to see what's going in those rooms. Some windows have shutters on the inside. Through some you can see bare brickwork inside, through some you can see bits of discarded office furniture etc, some are totally blocked off. You can look around the non derelict parts of the hall and I believe it looks very nice - though I have never been in! I presume we never went in as kids as you had to pay for it but as an adult, the £3.50 entrance fee seems extremely reasonable so I will save that for a treat one day.

This picture is someone else's (Liverpool Picture Book). But look at all those people. That is the Hall in its heyday, 1919. Not that long ago really. I got lost in a vortex of Liverpool history when looking for this photo.

This neglected door is below that grand staircase seen above. When I was a kid, this was the entrance to the toilets which were in the rooms with the round windows in the above photos. As it is now, I found myself examining the floor for discarded needles and other unsavoury things as I approached this neglected corner. 

I think this is the service entrance, it leads to a courtyard. I think this is one of the later added wings. As a kid, I used to imagine this was the servants entrance. I suppose it must have been.

Writing this blog I am getting quite annoyed with myself for how little I actually know about this place that I 'love' and am 'fascinated by'.

West/East/South/North wing...another side of this great building. I didn't have a compass on me.

Each side of this building has extremely nice doors.

This helpful plaque is at the West Derby Village entrance to the park. West Derby Village has its own interesting history that I only know bits about. Just round the corner there are stocks, as noted on here!

I should add that Croxteth Park isn't just about the Hall. I've spent a lot of time talking about somewhere I haven't actually been inside. I have, however, spent lots of time in the park itself which is full of history. The hall is surrounded by neat grassed areas, duck ponds, a meandering river, woods, farmland with horses and cattle, a working farm, a walled garden and likely more I haven't discovered. The woods have outbuildings that likely have their own stories, used for cold food stores, hunting, gardening etc.

It's such a great place that I need to spend more time exploring through an adult's eyes.

P.S. If you're reading around Christmas 2016, look out for Croxteth Hall interiors and exteriors on telly in The Witness for the Prosecution!