IN SEARCH OF THE DIDDYMEN
A review of our July event by Mike Chitty
At 7.30 p.m. on 9th July our intrepid group of explorers met Blue Badge Guide Pam Krueger in Brookside Avenue, just off East Prescot Road in Knotty Ash. Pam set the scene by talking about the big old houses such as Ackers Hall and Dovecot House which today are only commemorated by street names. Then we walked towards the Village Hall, passing the Knotty Ash Hotel whose hanging sign depicts the ash tree which gave the area its name. Pam explained that there were three inns here, alongside the turnpike road, and in 1830 the Turk's Head became the terminal for horse-drawn omnibuses into the town of Liverpool.
We continued walking past quaint cottages (ideal for diddymen!) now mostly converted into shops and other business premises. Then we stopped outside another pub, still retaining its etched-glass windows advertising Joseph Jones' Knotty Ash Ales. Ahead of us was the former brewery building, and yet another pub: the 'Lord Nelson'. Pam told us the story of Mr Downward, a sugar refiner living at Springfield nearby, who paid for an obelisk in honour of the great naval hero and offered it to Liverpool town council for erection near the Town Hall. But the council didn't think it grand enough, so Mr Downward put it in his own garden instead. Today that garden is Springfield Park, and we could see the obelisk from where we were standing in East Prescot Road.
We re-traced our steps and - with some difficulty! - found Little Bongs: a picturesque group of cottages and gardens, reached through an archway and along a cobbled passageway. Then it was on to Old Thomas Lane, past the old National School and round the churchyard of St John: said to be 'home' to more Mayors of Liverpool than any other graveyard or cemetery in the city.
Finally we reached our journey's end: the lifelong home of Ken Dodd who put Knotty Ash well and truly 'on the map'. As we stood outside the Georgian house, Pam regaled us with stories of the family, including Ken's diminutive great-uncle Jack who was the original 'diddy man'. She talked of jam butties and treacle mines - the latter, it seems, not being confined to Knotty Ash but being the stuff of folklore in Norfolk and elsewhere. By now it was almost 9.30 - and time to go back home to Gateacre at the end of a pleasant evening.