No.90 Roe Lane during the C19th & early C20th. The first 100 years?

No.90 Roe Lane is a prominent C19th cottage, which is unique in Northern Southport, situated on one of the oldest thoroughfares in the district. Roe Lane was of course at one point considered a hamlet in it’s own right within North Meols, recorded in Bishop Gastrell’s Notitia survey of c1720 as New Row. Bailey mentions a document of 1600 describing The Newe Rowe, undoubtedly the same place. The area is shown clearly on Yates’ 1786 map as Row Lane.

Image source: Southport Yesteryear, Facebook

90 Roe Lane. D.Walshe 2021

The North Meols tithe survey taken between 1839 & 1840, tells us that James Greenwood, gardener, was the occupier of the cottage, which was then owned by Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood, who in 1842 sold his whole North Meols estate for £148,000 to his brother, the North Meols Rector, Rev. Charles Hesketh. James Greenwood is also listed on the 1841 census with his wife Jane and seven children, with the following entry next to them being, Charles Hesketh at The Rectory.

Section of North Meols Tithe Map 1839: Courtesy of Dot Vickers NMFHS

Charles Hesketh, was born at Wennington Hall near Lancaster on March 15th 1804. He attended Trinity College, Oxford and was ordained in 1828, becoming vicar of Poulton-le-Fylde from July of that year until 1831, when he was then appointed curate of Bispham, residing at Bispham Lodge. He became the Rector for North Meols in 1835, famously fording the Ribble at Hesketh Bank to get to his new residence, with some carts full of livestock and furniture becoming stuck in the river bed, having to be pulled out to carry on the journey.

Charles became a prominent local figure, donating land for Hesketh Park following the Improvement Act of 1865. At his death in 1876 the Southport Visiter wrote, ‘Another of our notable men, and in many respects the most notable one, who has ever sojourned in the parish or district…has gone to rest’. Bland tells us that the whole parish went into mourning upon his death. Rev. William Bulpit eulogised him as, ‘one of the best men I ever met’. Given his local legacy, it is therefore no surprise to find the naming of roads in this area; Wennington, Poulton, Bispham.

Image of Charles Hesketh produced by Swan Electric Engraving Co.

James Greenwood, gives his birthplace on the 1851 census as Warbrick (sic), which I believe to be Warbreck, an area/district to the north of Blackpool. His wife Jane, (nee Gregson) was a bread baker from Poulton-le-Fylde. The pair married in Bispham in 1823. I believe Charles Hesketh knew the Greenwood’s from his appointments at both Poulton and Bispham, and that he brought them to live at the cottage and work at The Rectory following his move there in 1835. This is backed up by the fact that their son, Robert Greenwood, was baptised at St.Cuthbert’s, Churchtown on 20th November 1836. Their abode was recorded as Rowe Lane, and proves that they were at the cottage at least three years before the 1839 tithe survey. Ellen, one of their daughters, was born in Poulton in 1835 which further suggests they followed the Hesketh’s.

I actually believe the cottage could be older than this still, hence the question within the title of this blog. It bares strong similarities to the old Row Lane Academy, which was established by E.H. Walker, and can be traced back to at least 1823 thanks to an advert in the Lancaster Gazette. (I do actually think I have seen a reference to it in 1820 in the Liverpool Kaleidoscope however, I could not retrieve where I had seen this at time of writing). E. H. Walker and his pupils produced early maps of Southport, both in 1830 for Peter Whittle’s guide (published in 1831) and also in 1834, known as, Walkers 1834 Plan of Southport. The Rectory in Row Lane was eventually completed in 1826 for the North Meols Rector, Rev. Gilbert Ford, who lived out in Ormskirk due to the ancient Parsonage House in Crossens being, ‘entirely unfit for residence’, (understood to have been in the vicinity of present day Banks Road/Skipton Avenue junction, with the Tithebarn surviving as a farm building up to the mid C20th).

Rare north west view of the Row Lane Academy. Courtesy of Malcolm Bannister

Edwin Beattie painting of Row Lane Academy. Original held by Sefton Library Services.

Comparison: Courtesy of Geoff Wright

Later view of the former Academy with the rail bridge approach evident. Image courtesy of Geoff Wright

The Rectory, completed 1826, renamed The Rookery c1876/79, demolished May 1924. Image courtesy of Geoff Wright

Geoff Wright recalls an interesting account of Rev. Ford’s time at The Rectory as detailed Francis Bailey’s History, ‘On 26 September 1828, a ‘misadventure’ befell the 60-year old Rev. Ford when returning from a shooting expedition, accompanied by his keepers in his sporting carriage, On the road which passes over the Moss near Southport (Meols Cop/Ormskirk Road) he met a fellow clergyman; the latter’s umbrella startled the rector’s horse, which suddenly bolted, and the occupants of the carriage were hurled out. The keepers fell into the wayside ditch, and the good reverend driver was fortunate to be thrown over into a potato field, escaping without serious injury. He died seven years later in May 1835.

On G. Hennet’s detailed map of Lancashire for 1828, both Ormskirk Road (built around the same time as Row Lane Academy) and Long Lane can be seen meeting Row Lane. There are buildings on both sides of the road. The Academy is clearly shown on the corner and there are other buildings between this and Long Lane: Is one of these buildings what we know as No.90 today? A large building is just evident, set back on the opposite side, which is The Rectory completed in 1826.

Image credit

Back to the 1851 census return, and what is worth noting is that two of Charles Hesketh’s servants living within the Rectory hailed from a Derbyshire village called Pleasley, with one named Anne Dean, described as a ‘Ladies Maid’, (Anne is also listed there ten years previous in 1841). The Greenwood’s are still present at the cottage on the 1861 census (James’ birthplace is recorded this time as Bispham) however, living within the Rectory was a coachman named John Dean, also hailing from Pleasley, and who was more than likely related to Anne, and had come across at some point to work for the Rector. In March 1864 we find that Jane Greenwood had passed away, with her address given as Rowe Lane. Their son, Robert passed away a year later, also in Rowe Lane and by 1867, James, then in Liverpool, had also died.

Shortly after these sad events, we find in the 1868 Johnson & Green directory for Southport, that John Dean had moved out of the Rectory and was living across the road at Rectory Cottage (named as such at this time). His son, also John, was baptised by the Rector himself in August 1868. The family are present on the 1871 census with wife Sarah and two children. In 1881 they had six children living with them, and then in 1891 we find they’d had a seventh. The 1891 return is the first census record for it being named ‘Rookery Cottage’, although the ‘new’ Rectory was exchanged and built further north along Roe Lane by 1879, with the 1826 Rectory becoming known as The Rookery, renamed by Charles’ wife. The records also show us that John Dean was the family coachman long after Charles had died in 1876. He is named as ‘Coachman at the Rectory’ in an Ormskirk Advertiser article from June 1870, in relation to an incident when John Dean’s coat was stolen by labourer James Rimmer, who lived, ‘behind the Rectory’.

Anna Maria Alice Hesketh, the wife of Charles Hesketh wrote in her will, dated 17th August 1896 that three of her servants were to be granted annuities upon her death. This included £100 to Emma Ann Perret (Ladies maid), £30 to James Clayton Thexton, (Butler) and £30 to John Dean. However, John did not get to receive this amazing display of generosity and gratefulness, as he passed away in February 1897, twenty-one months before Anna Maria passed away herself. It is also worth noting that Thexton, the former Butler was listed in the 1896/97 directory as occupier of The Grove which was situated close to The Rookery and is still standing today on Grove Park.

Section of 1889 Town Plan Series, showing The Rookery and Rookery Cottage. Reproduced with kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1899 we find perhaps the first known Sandgrounder to be living at Rookery Cottage, namely Robert Threlfall. He was most definitely the shortest occupier in this period we are looking at, most likely moving in sometime after John Dean’s death in 1897. Unfortunately little is known about Robert Threlfall. He had left the property by the time the 1901 census was taken, as we find another family had taken up residence at the cottage. Listed again as Rookery Cottage, the Arnold family are living there. Louisa and her two baby daughters, both under two years of age, were recorded there on the night of the 1901 census. Thomas Arnold, a coachman & stud-groom hailing from Wargrave, Berkshire was listed as a visitor in Cheshire on the night of the 1901 return. In 1905 the electoral register shows Thomas Arnold on Roe Lane, listed as living in a dwelling house. The 1908/09 directory shows Thomas again, recorded as coachman.

Hesketh family coach outside The Rookery, Roe Lane c1907, with what could be coachman Thomas Arnold on the picture. Courtesy of Geoff Wright

Around the year 1910, another Sandgrounder had moved in, this being 41 year old John Rimmer, manager of the builders merchants at Hesketh Park Station. The building is still called Rookery Cottage, as is also the case on the 1911 census. New house numbers are starting to appear in the directories at this time, which halt at No.94 on the north side of the Wennington junction, and don’t appear again until The Grange (No.36), which was in the vicinity of Grange Avenue. This still the case in the 1914/15 Seeds directory. Ten years later John Rimmer is still there, with it now being numbered 90 as development continued. Next to the directory entry is: [FOOTPATH TO NORWOOD AVENUE], which of course was the ancient Churchgate (Kirkgate) trackway, believed to be one of the oldest in Lancashire and which, according to Walter Jesson, had a right of way through this land and Todd’s Farm that stood on the Wennington Road corner.

A John Rimmer is still listed there in 1927/28 and I’m aware that in the years following this period of research, there was a John Rimmer recorded there, listed as a commercial traveller.

In 2021 the building was put forward for listing, which wasn’t granted by Historic England. The opening synopsis in their report is as follows:

HISTORY and DESCRIPTION This building is present on the first edition 1:10,560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed between 1845 and 1846. The nature of its constructional materials suggest it dates from the 1840s and it is considered to have formed part of a smallholding.

The building was originally known as Rectory Cottage, and could well have been built at a similar time to both The Rectory and Row Lane Academy, constructed during the 1820s. We find the Greenwood Family had moved into the building by 1836, almost definitely enticed to North Meols by the Rev. Charles Hesketh. James was a gardener and Jane was a baker. Then later in the mid 1860s, we arrive at the time of the favoured family coachman John Dean, who raised his family there, was resident for c30 years, seeing the building change name to Rookery Cottage following the Rectory exchange in 1879. During the years 1835 and c1910, it was without doubt used to house servants and workers for the Hesketh Family. Later still, we find it numbered 90 in the Seeds Directory for 1924/25, which of course it still is today. However, in passing the building regularly, like many of you probably will, it is clear that parts of the external fabric are now beginning to look in a rather decaying state.

One of the unique chimney stacks, which somehow survived Storm Arwen. D.Walshe 2021

David Walshe (Secret Sand Land) Copyright 2021.

Article converted into document format by the author and added to the Historic Environment Record for this Non-designated Heritage Asset, by Dr. Ben Croxford, 2022.

(With Special thanks to Geoff Wright, Jane Lucas and Dot Vickers)

Sources used:

  • W. Farrer – A history of the Parish of North Meols
  • J. Liddell – Estate Management and land reform politics
  • F. Bailey – A History of Southport
  • R. Clare – A short history of North Meols
  • J. Cotterall – Churchtown
  • W. Jesson – Megasaga
  • Ancestry website
  • British Newspaper Archive website

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