Knotty Ash, Old Swan and West Derby by G. Radley A& R Publications Liverpool ISBN 0950219711

1850’s Old Swan was very rural, with a few industries springing up e.g. glass making, rope making, quarrying.

An improved Glass Industry was started by Frenchmen who knew how to make glass flat and clear. There was a factory at the corner of Mill Lane and Edge Lane Drive. The cottages which still stand are called Gascoine Cottages in memory of the French. The ‘Glass House’ public house opposite, also commemorates this industry. The glass in the Customs House and the Royal Insurance Building, Liverpool, came from Old Swan.

Rope making, for the Port of Liverpool, had two sites at St Oswald’s Street and Pighue Lane.

Early 19th Century, Richard and Paul Barker of Huyton owned a few quarries in the district. They were brickmakers, builders, owners of a large underground icehouse, had a Copperas work and also owned the water tower, all in Old Swan on the land between Prescot Road and Rock Mount. Among the places built with stone evacuated from their quarries were the tower of Childwall Church, Knotty Ash Church in 1834, West Derby Parish Church in 1850, Old Swan Police Station, Derby Lane, in 1850 and Sandstone Road, Stoneycroft.


The Icehouse was made out of an old quarry. Large enough to store 100 tons of ice. In winter, when the local ponds were frozen over, the harvest of ice was gathered and stored in the Icehouse. Ice sold at 2/6 (12˝p) per cart load.

Towards the end of the 19th Century the Icehouse quarry was bricked over. In 1930, when HOULT’s corner was demolished and foundations were laid for present shops, in St Oswald’s Street, part of the cellar was unearthed again.

Many quarries were filled in and sheep and cattle grazed on the grassed over quarries between Booth Street and Day Street.

Late 19th Century, some shops in Prescot Road and Swan Row. Opposite were fields where horses, used for horse-drawn buses and trams were put to graze.

Old Swan took its name from the inn at the corner of Broadgreen Road and
St Oswald’s Street. It was the custom for inn proprietors to take coat-of-arms or the crest of a local aristocratic family for their inn sign. Early 18th Century, Walton Family of Walton Hall were landowners of neighbourhood of Old Swan. The coat-of-arm of the Waltons had on it three white swans on a blue shield. On a very old map of the district, on the site of the present hotel, is an inn marked as The THREE SWANS.

Two more inns were built due to an increase in traffic on the turnpike road and each claimed that name. In mid 1800’s their names were Old Swan, Middle Swan and Lower Swan. Middle Swan was an old coaching inn, now known as First Avenue (or by locals as the Red House). The Three Swans was renamed Old Swan and hence the birth of the name for the district. The Old Swan Inn housed the first Post Office, appropriate because it was the main stopping place from coaches travelling Liverpool to Warrington.

1850’s Derby Lane was a tree lined cart track, only wide enough for one cart at a time. Today’s Old Swan is a thriving thoroughfare and shopping centre.

May Place, Broadgreen Road, built before 1768. Large red brick house.
(St Vincent’s Hospice). Turn of 20th Century was a Catholic Reformatory for Girls run by Sisters of Charity. Prior to that, a Liverpool ship owner, Rev. Wilson, Chaplain to Lord Derby, held a school there until the drowning of a boy in a nearby pond brought about its later closure.

Evidence of Old Swan area in 1768 shows it is a place of lanes, farms and pack horse tracks. Swan Hill Farm was owned by farmer John Etches, a cattle dealer. He imported cattle from Spain and exported cattle to America. He was also the owner of the Liverpool Abattoir and a shareholder in Stanley Cattle Market opened in 1830. Followed by George Ruddick, also a cattle dealer, who was interested in Education and became Governor of Old Swan Charity School.

At the end of the 18th Century it was proposed that a charity school should be built at Old Swan to ‘promote decency of behaviour, taught to read, principles of religion and a proper sense of moral duty’. This was supported by four Liverpool Merchants and in 1792, Old Swan Charity School was built.

1842, Roman Catholic Church of St Oswald’s (St Oswald’s Street) was opened. Land was brought from Lord Salisbury by Mr E Chaloner and he donated it to the Benedictines. Later, the new church was built around the old building.

1831, St Anne’s Church, Stanley, built on former site of an iron foundry. Church was rebuilt in 1890.

1845, Wesley Chapel for Methodists. Building still stands on Mill Lane side of
St Oswald’s Church.

1875, All Saints Church, Broadgreen Road, built.

Fairfield Hall (demolished 1913) known as ‘Tea Caddy Hall’.

St Oswald’s School, site of a mysterious burial ground.

1973, on digging foundations, one builder hit a wooden box  a coffin. Digging continued and 1000 of coffins were discovered! Who were the 3,561 dead?
A mystery. No evidence exists why the bodies were buried at Old Swan.
The Plague? A cholera epidemic?
None of the coffins had any identification.
Bodies were exhumed and cremated at Anfield.