Victoria Park

On the left-hand corner of North Drive is one of the most unusual buildings in Sandown Lane, a pair of stuccoed semi-detached houses with Gothic archways and other details, including tiny heads carved in stone. The roof is of particular interest, being clad in purple and grey bands of 'fish scale' shaped slates. These houses - now numbered 1 and 3 North Drive, Victoria Park - were built in about 1840. They are shown on the Tithe Map of 1846, together with two large detached villas opposite and one further along North Drive. In fact this was the start of a speculative estate called 'Olive Park', but the original scheme does not seem to have got very far.

It was the 1860s before Olive Park became Victoria Park and house-building began in earnest. The minute books of the Wavertree Local Board of Health record a steady stream of plans being submitted for approval from 1862 onwards, when Mr William Webb's plan for the roads which became North and South Drives was given the go-ahead. As with Sandown Park, the idea was that individuals could purchase building plots on which to erect either detached or semi-detached dwellings of suitably grand dimensions. There were to be plenty of trees, but no lodges and no gates.

The residents of Victoria Park were drawn from a slightly 'lower rung' on the social ladder than those in Sandown Park. They were not the brokers, the 'merchant princes' and the shipowners, but instead a range of business and professional men, many of them earning their living locally within the village rather than in Liverpool. Gore's Directory for 1898 lists thirty different occupations here, ranging from an Artist to an Umbrella Manufacturer. A walk through Victoria Park gives you a good idea of the varying architectural tastes of the middle classes in Victorian Wavertree.

Walk along North Drive, and stop opposite the present-day parish church of St Mary. Impressive buildings like this, complete with masonry spire, were a feature of the enclosed residential estates of this period; no doubt the promoters took special steps to encourage them as a sort of status symbol amid the greenery. In fact the original St Mary's Church was in Sandown Park - on a site later occupied by Mabel Fletcher College - but it was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. This church in Victoria Park belonged to the Wesleyan Methodists, who built it in 1872 to replace their much smaller chapel in Sandown Lane.

Having passed the church, look along South Drive which branches off to the right at this point. On the left, set back behind some trees, is the present St Mary's Rectory, converted from an old coach house and stables in 1982. These buildings were another common feature of such Victorian estates, for many of the residents employed coachmen and grooms as well as indoor servants. Nos 10 and 12 North Drive - the semi-detached pair alongside the outbuildings - are typical of the early housing built in Victoria Park.

The above is an extract from 'DISCOVERING HISTORIC WAVERTREE',
. © Mike Chitty 1999.
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Page created by MRC 26 February 2000.