‘Melling through the Ages’ book review

I was delighted to see that Melling resident Carol Fitzgerald has written a comprehensive book on the history of Melling so purchased a copy direct from her. I was not to be disappointed, this book is an excellent read.

My connections with Melling are that I have lived in neighbouring Maghull and now Lydiate for 52 years, I represented Melling Civil Parish as a Sefton Borough Councillor from 1999 to 2011, my Dad was once given a cabbage (I kid you not) for playing the organ at the church of St. Thomas’ on Melling Rock by local farmer Mrs Roby and I regularly cycle the country lanes through the rural parts of it.

My first thoughts on starting to read the book were – it does not have an ISBN number or a date of publication. I’d not seen that before with such a significant publication but then it dawned on me that it’s a self-publication*. I think it was published in 2020 but stand to be corrected.

What I like about reading through a local history book is that you get to know the meaning of words you know well but have never actually known the meaning of. A case in point is ‘Cunscough’ as in Cunscough Lane, Melling. I now know it comes from Old Norse and means ‘Kings Wood’. And what about the ‘Woodend’ area of Maghull? Well it seems that it was quite literally the end of a forest that stretched from Waddicar to Wood End Maghull as detailed in the Doomsday Book.

Considering the modern-day flooding issues which the East Parishes area of Sefton Borough suffers from the historic references to the draining of the waters of Hengarther Lake and the ditches dug to drain the area into what was then the tidal River Alt (at the direction of the monks of Cockersands) some 800 years ago are interesting. Clearly, the rich arable farmland for which our parts of both Sefton and West Lancashire are famous hark back to such works but it also shows how such interventions (and the more modern works) have not really solved the flooding which was once a natural occurrence.

Melling Rock is the highest natural point in Sefton Borough and that fits uncomfortably well with the previous references to flooding.

There’s an interesting reference to the Tatlock Charity dating back many years to a John Tatlock born in 1653 and which still pays out today. Then there’s the Formby charitable work associated with the Industrial Revolution and the destitution it caused in Melling leading to Poor Relief administered by the Church. The Rev. Miles Formby being the Vicar 1829-1849.

Melling Tithebarn known these days for being a social, artistic and meeting venue was originally built to house the ‘tithe’ which was due to the Rector of Halsall who also collected such tithes from Lydiate, Halsall, Downholland etc.

There’s quite a bit about the development of farming across Melling and a connected modern day project to find evidence for occupation of a possible medieval moated site on the land around Wood Hall Farm which dates from around 1642. I recall having the opportunity to visit that farm, run by Christine and Henry Glover, during my time as a Sefton Cllr for Melling. Great buildings and lovely folk I might add.

I could go on but I hope you get my drift; this is a very significant piece of historical work which covers all aspects of Melling over hundreds of years. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in this historic community.

If you want to obtain a copy (£10) you can e-mail Carol Fitxgerald – cf83230@gmail.com

*Note: This is a self-published book which is printed in batches of 20’s or more, so Carol asks people to pre pay.

Lydiate and Maghull Green Belt – Local historian Pam Russell writes

Pam penned the article below for the Maghull & Lydiate Action Group, an independent environmental campaign team who are fighting for the area’s Green Belt and high grade agricultural land. I asked Pam whether I could publish her thoughts. She agreed and I hope this short but succinct and powerful piece is of value to all those who want to preserve all that is good in the Maghull & Lydiate community.


Pam is second from the left in this photo of Lydiate campaigners and councillors fighting for their Green Belt

Pam is second from the left in this photo of Lydiate campaigners and councillors fighting for their Green Belt

Lydiate and Maghull both appear in the Domesday Book of 1086 and their history goes back even further. Both were settled by the Anglo-Saxons, with some evidence in Maghull of even earlier Celtic field names. Maghull has evidence of the early three-field system of farming and Lydiate of the strip system of the medieval period. The ancient roads in both Maghull and Lydiate prove that Anglo-Saxon farmers were at work here because they follow the pattern of the reversed S-bend, which typifies lanes bordering fields where the plough was the heavy mould-board type drawn by oxen. This type of plough was too heavy and unwieldy to turn corners and the roads followed the field boundaries created by its curves. Examples of such lanes include Deyes Lane and Damfield Lane in Maghull and Lambshear Lane and Moss Lane in Lydiate, as well as Liverpool Road and Southport Road. Under snow, aerial photography shows evidence of early farm buildings.

The reason that both these places have been valued as agricultural communities for over a thousand years is because of the soil type, which is the extremely fertile alluvial Shirdley Hill sand. This has been recognised as the most valuable Grade A agricultural soil in this country. The Anglo-Saxons recognised its worth and settled on it in the inland parishes, leaving the blown sand of the coastal areas e.g. Ainsdale, and the boulder clay of the eastern parishes e.g. Kirkby to the later arrivals, the Norwegian Vikings.

From a historian’s point of view, later history, for instance, during the Second World War, shows the folly of allowing this country to reach a situation where we cannot feed ourselves. Modern concerns about the carbon footprint reinforce the view that as much produce should be produced at home, and even, locally, as possible. Building on traditionally recognised good farmland and disregarding centuries of wisdom and experience is not the way forward.

Pamela Russell M. Phil..
Senior Lecturer, Edge Hill University (retd.)
President, Maghull and Lydiate Local History Society.

And Pam is a published author too – have a look at this link:-