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The boundaries of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth were set close on 800 years ago. It is hardly surprising therefore that some are imprecise, whilst parts are the subject of misinterpretation. They have, for all of this time included the manor of Smeedon (Smithdown) and as the two have been the same for 800 years I have treated them as one here, following earlier workers.

The idea that Liverpool 8 = Toxteth is a nonsense. The two overlap in places but they are not the same area at all. Liverpool 8 is, like all postcodes, a modern invention. L8, L1, L3 and L17 mean little in relation to boundary that was there 800 years before the postcode came along.  Toxteth proper includes areas with postal districts 1, 8,15 and 17 and only a part of Toxteth falls within the postal district of Liverpool 8.  Most of the Royal Park of Toxteth is not within the postal district of Liverpool 8 and a goodly part of Liverpool 8 is not within Toxteth (As an example, one complete side of Upper Parliament Street, classic Liverpool 8, is not within Toxteth and for 800 years it never has been. )

I have placed my boundary using the 1765 map of the Early of Sefton. This is the first really accurate map available and the survey is so good that you could use much of it today. This has been matched up a sequence of other old maps as well as newer ones.  The incorporation of old parliamentary boundaries has helped since as recently as 1900 these still largely followed the lines of 1765 (or earlier). The conclusions lead me to disagree with some other interpretations of the boundaries, especially around Smithdown Road, Greenbank Road and Penny Lane. Many areas which are not thought of as Toxteth, clearly belong within the old Royal Park. Thus Sefton Park, Shorefields, Dingle and St Michael's are most certainly within the ancient Royal Park of Toxteth. One complete side (and more) of Smithdown Road is within Toxteth, and it was once the boundary of the Park. Like it or not Greenbank Road and Park and one side of Penny Lane, some of Aigburth Vale and Mossley Hill all clearly fall with the Toxteth boundary and as recently as 100 years or so ago Trade directories, registration districts for births, deaths and marriages as well as Parliamnetary boundaries all confirm this to be correct.

The riots for which the name is infamous should probably be called the Canning riots, as that is where most seem to have taken place - outside Toxteth!
The present PC trend to 'sanitise' toxteth by calling it  'docklands', 'Dingle', 'Aigburth' or other such misnomers looks even more silly in the light of the historical boundaries.

I for one only found out only recently that Sefton General Hospital, where I was born, is actually within Toxteth and not Sefton Park at all.

This document is on-going and subject to frequent tweaks. If you find any errors then please let me know. If you disagree with the content then please tell me why you think I am wrong.




Where is Toxteth, in modern day terms ?

A very quick but slightly inaccurate summary of the boundary is a line from the Mersey at Queens Dock along the full length of Parliament and Upper Parliament Street to the Smithdown Road junction, along Smithdown Road to Penny Lane, along Penny Lane to Queens Drive, down Aigburth Vale to Otterspool and the Mersey. The more accurate version is a touch more extensive than this.

When in 1207 Liverpool received its charter from King John, the Manor of Toxteth together with Smeedon (Smithdown) had already been laid waste by John and in its place the Royal Park of Toxteth set up, with a keeper to protect what had now become the King's deer, although it is doubtful that the royal park ever received any Royal use.

The very early boundaries are clear in some parts but hazy in places. A great deal of information can be gleaned from a 1765 map in the possession of the Earl of Sefton, whom at that time, was Lord of the Manor of Toxteth.  This is not the inadequate map of Yates and Perry but another, remarkably accurate, map which I hope to present here in time. The date of this map is significant, as it is within the period of the main Parliamentary Enclosure Acts and it was probably an attempt to both define, and lay claim to, the holdings at that time.  The surveying is remarkable - field boundaries were set and often marked out with hedges or walls.  Roads were widened and straightened. I have tried to translate the boundaries, roads, rivers and fields into modern settings by reference to maps both old and new as well as other works. It is notable however that so many of the present roads and streets within toxteth, follow ancient field boundaries.

The boundary of the Royal Park starts at the Mersey, at about the site of the Queens Dock where Parliament Street meets the river banks.  It runs along Parliament Street, past the historically important junction with St James Place, where there was once an entrance to the park, and up the full length of one side of Upper Parliament Street.

The boundary reaches almost to the Lodge Lane and Smithdown Lane junction but does not actually reach the junction as, for some reason unknown, it diverts (at what is now Lorton Street) behind the site of the buildings at the junction and behind the site now occupied by 'The Boundary' public house. It then rejoins Smithdown Road (the Old Smithdown Lane) through the property next door to The Boundary. This is all evident on map 0f.

Lodge Lane is also significant in history, as it leads to one of the original lodges of King John - the Upper or Higher Lodge. The "Upper Lodge" at the end of Lodge Lane (that portion later renamed Sefton Park Road) was one of two hunting lodges which existed in the Royal Park.  

This Upper Lodge apparently still stands in a modified form contained within a house called Park Lodge at the junction of Sefton Park Road and Ullet Road (formerly Ullet Lane).  Though externally much altered some of the interiors betray its great age. Research on this continues the house is also known as Higher Lodge. (1891 census).

There was also a Lower Lodge which survived as traces of ruins until the early 20th century.  It was found near Jericho Farm in Jericho Lane, Otterspool.  Three versions of its demolition exist, one says that it was destroyed when the railway was built in 1865 and second version has it standing to about 1915 whilst the least likely third alternative has it in occupation until the mid 1950's, when it was destroyed. I can find no evidence for the third version at all, other than the original statement which I believe is an error. Research continues here.

From this junction  the Toxteth Park boundary turns to run, not along Lodge Lane, as might be expected perhaps, but along one side of Smithdown Road the ancient Park boundary, earlier called Smithdown Lane. It changes sides and close to  Toxteth Cemetery, it passes over the course of an old stream, the Lower Brook. This occurs between Webster Road and Cranborne Road (and not at Mulliner Street as has been suggested by Robert Griffiths (1902)).

more details of the Lower Brook here

This 'stream crossing' is where another Parliamentary boundary joins the Toxteth boundary, (this other one followed the line of the Lower Brook itself, which ran along the present route of Spofforth and Webster Roads) before diverting along  Smithdown Road for a short distance. The course of the Lower Brook runs on through (or rather under) the Cemetery but the Toxteth boundary carries on along the line of Smithdown Road, although it is at this point that the close relationship between Smithdown Road and the boundary, begins to loosen. Map 1g.

The boundary wanders now and takes a line through the properties which face Smithdown Road, so that, for example, the Royal Hotel at the end of Langton Road (Map 1g ) has its front within Toxteth but the rear rooms outside of the Park. As Smithdown Road veers slightly to the south, then the line of the old Park does not and the boundary runs through the alley at the end of Portman Road (cutting off the properties at right angles to Portman Road, facing Smithdown Road, which fall within the Park). Map 1h 

The 1765 map shows the boundary suddenly turning to the north at Well Croft, which is on the city side of the present Gainsborough Road junction, around  Woodcroft Road.  The shape of the 'diversion' is characteristic, and matches remarkably well with the Parliamentary boundary recorded in 1908. If not this exactly, then it is so close as to be indistinguishable.  The boundary  goes right through a property at the end of Woodcroft Road. There is yet another short ancient stream here, probably a tributary of the Lower Brook, but this remains to be accurately placed.

The boundary now makes a right angle and runs north up the alley between Woodcroft Road and Bagot Street for the distance of several properties, continuing through an alley which links Bagot Street with Thorneycroft Road.  (This alley may have been blocked off by buildings, this remains to be verified) and through a similar alley to Wellington Avenue. This clearly brings the lower part of Wellington Avenue and Wellington Field within Toxteth Park.  The line now follows Borland Bank (an extension of Garmoyle Road on the 1905 OS Map). This 'diversion' corresponds to a property and enclosure called either "Well Croft" on the 1765 map.  It would be nice if it was called Wood Croft, given the road here of this name, but I cannot visualise the tiny print as Wood Croft!). There is evidence around this area of settlements or farms which predate the Victorian development of the area.

The boundary now continues along the present Garmoyle Road.   One side is toxteth, one side is not. The census entries for 1901 for includes all odd numbers for Garmoyle Road within Wavertree. It does not include even numbers. Airdale and Foxdale Road are both within Wavertree. This accords with the boundary as suggested. The Garmoyle Road section seems accurate and the road follows the original park boundary which runs much of its length until Lidderdale Road when it picks up the line of yet another ancient stream, the Upper Brook.  This brook provides the boundary line down to Smithdown Road. The area between Garmoyle Road and Smithdown Road contains the site of both The Old Brook House (built by Lord Sefton  in 1754) and the present Brook House pub both of which fall totally within Toxteth.  The line of the ancient stream continues on through Greenbank Park but the Toxteth Park boundary does not follow this stream line or the adjacent road, ( I have seen this quoted as the toxteth boundary - this is not correct) .

more details of the Upper Brook here

The Toxteth Park boundary in fact turns and runs along Smithdown Road until just before the Garmoyle Road junction, when it suddenly veers, first north to a boundary stone (probably now lost), then east, crossing the line of what is now the railway. This excludes the site of what was Penketh Hall from Toxteth and places this within Wavertree. This is in accordance with the 1901 census.

There is another boundary stone marked on the 1905 map and this is illustrated in the book 'Wavertree' by Mike Chitty and David Farmer, published 2004.  These highly significant boundary stones apparently existed here until at least 1969, when the photograph was taken. I am very grateful for permission to use their picture here. See also 

 Today there is still a railway company boundary stone (left) which looks to be quite recent (as does the fence - which was made of upstanding railway sleepers when I was a child). A recent search of the area turned up a weathered square stone (right) which may or may not be significant.  It has crossed my mind that it may even be the stump of the stone shown in the 1969 picture. What is significant here however is that the entire entrance to Wavertree Playground at Smithdown Road, is most clearly within the Ancient Park of Toxteth.

The boundary now carries on in a line which approximates to the present Grant Avenue, but which appears (in 1765) to contain four fields which would be on the far side of Grant Avenue and thus within the present Wavertree playground.  It may be noted here that the old Parliamentary boundary follows this line and runs along what was described as a "five foot thick hedge" in 1905. It would be easy to imagine that this could be an old hedgerow delimiting fields near the boundary or even the ancient Park boundary.  

The boundary now heads back towards Smithdown Road, not following any lines evident within the present street pattern.  It runs behind (and thus encloses) the old Refuse Destructor site and bisects the site of the old Tram Car Sheds on Smithdown Road before, with one final right-angled turn, it rejoins Smithdown Road.  The boundary now follows the line of Smithdown Road to what is now called Smithdown Place (the old tram and bus terminus) which was called Wavertree Nook in 1765.  This is the junction with Church Road and Penny Lane, (shown right).

It is the course of present Penny Lane which the boundary now follows, placing one side within Toxteth, and this association continues past the Dovedale Road junction to just beyond where Alverstone Road joins Penny Lane (outside of the Park boundary). The boundary  veers at right angles and cuts in half Fallowdale, Grovedale and Olivedale Road - one half of each of which thus falls within Toxteth whilst half remains outside. Past Olivedale Road and before Barndale Road the boundary makes another right hand turn, to pick up a trace of an old stream valley which is visible on the 1905 map. It is now running parallel to Penny Lane and knowing this, the  line can be traced on the 1765 map - there was indeed a small stream feeding from one or two ponds.  The boundary follows the line of this stream-bed, parallel to the lower portion of Penny Lane, across the cricket field.  It crosses Mossley Hill Road/Greenbank Road where a marker stone, shown on the 1905 map and earlier, still exists (left). The boundary here runs close to the present line of Queens Drive in Mossley Hill and parallel to Ibbotson's Lane.  The depression in the fields can still be seen as, for a while, the boundary is following part of the Brook system again. There is even a trace of the stream still visible above ground here especially in wet weather.

Eventually the boundary leaves the brook (or the present course of the brook here, through Sefton Park) and makes on final turn towards the south, following Aigburth Vale, close to the line of the present Victoria Road and Ashfield Road until the present Aigburth Road (originally Park Road) is reached.

The boundary and the brook rejoin here and the brook passes under Aigburth Road in a culvert before  re-emerging (right) within the present Otterspool Park.

The boundary then runs along the line of the old stream fancifully called the River Jordan by the puritan settlers of the 17th Century. This line approximates to
Otterspool Road although the boundary is a little to the east of this. The waterfalls, Waterlily dam and the Otters Pool itself are no longer, but the boundary is still there and goes more or less straight down until it again reaches the Mersey. In these latter reaches, contours reflect the historical course of the stream, which in turn defined the original Park boundary.

Here Toxteth finally finishes and Aigburth, which is a part of Garston begins,  although the old Parliamentary boundary returns back to Parliament Street, within the Mersey itself.  (no doubt to capture floating voters. (well you can get too serious sometimes)).

Today, the combined water of the Lower and Upper Brooks leave Sefton Park boating lake via a culvert which takes the stream under Aigburth Road.  In former times the waters descended Bunnell's Brow and ran on through the low lying garden of Brooklands.  (Housing has recently been erected here but as a child I remember this as a rough, but open, area where chasing butterflies was an innocent pastime well worth the four mile round trip! ).

The stream emerges on the left of Otterspool Park gates.  Within recent historical times, the stream ran into the large 'Otter's Pool' shortly after entering the present Otterspool Park, it then ran into a second pool, which was possibly tidal in parts as it gradually widened into the creek visible on most maps of the era. Before the water was checked upstream, and then further slowed by the creation of the Upper Pool, this was a lively brook with well-known cascades.

In 1207, the stream formed the southern boundary of King John's hunting estate of Toxteth Park.

The area enclosed by the entire toxteth boundary is substantial and takes in not only the area once thought of as Toxteth but also Sefton Park, Princes Park, parts of Wavertree, Mossley Hill and the whole of Dingle and St Michael.

It leaves out large parts of Liverpool 8 as well as all properties on the far side of Parliament, and Upper Parliament, Streets which fall into different areas, largely Canning and partly Edge Hill.

Although Toxteth appears, at first sight, to take in part of Aigburth, this is not the case.  Toxteth includes the whole of St Michaels, which is not, and never has been, in Aigburth - it is totally contained within Toxteth.  The district of Aigburth proper actually begins where Toxteth stops, at the Osklesbrok.  Only at present-day Otterspool does Aigburth start and it is completely contained within Garston.

Despite attempts to airbrush away the name of Toxteth, all of the new waterfront developments which run from Queens Dock through Shorefields to Dingle and on to Otterspool are contained with the boundaries of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth.