THE GORSEY COP, GATEACRE
Our November 2015 talk - reviewed by Mike Chitty
David Wilson worked at the Crying Tree - the most recent trading name of the Gorsey Cop - prior to its closure. He took an interest in the building's history, and on 29th November came to talk to us with his findings.
Built around 1870 - and named after the much older farm behind - it was one of three large houses built at the north end of Grange Lane. The original entrance was by the stone gate-pier that still survives on the corner of Gateacre Park Drive. The first known occupant was Betsey Cunningham, a Manchester cotton broker's widow, who had moved her family back to Liverpool in the 1850s. She lived at Oakfield in Cuckoo Lane before moving to Gorsey Cop and dying there in 1872. Betsey's sons, Walter and Harold, took over their father's cotton broking business. They also loved horses, which they grazed locally.
The next owners of Gorsey Cop were the McKechnies. Alexander McKechnie lived there for about 30 years. His father was a copper smelter who had moved from Scotland to Widnes. McKechnie Brothers went worldwide, making copper-related products. The family at Gorsey Cop won awards at Crufts for their terriers. After WW2 Gorsey Cop was bought by BICC. It still had grape vines and tennis courts, and was used as a club for managers. It also had a staff welfare function; if an employee at the Prescot factory had a problem, they were told to 'go to Gorsey Cop'. David showed us photographs from the BICC era, which he had been sent (from America) by a descendant of the last manager.
In the late 1950s the building became a 'closed door casino'. Part of the curtilage became the site of Acresgate Court flats. In the 1970s the (by then legitimate) casino was acquired by Philippe Overd, the Algerian head chef at Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel. Gorsey Cop became Chez Philippe, his 'dream' French restaurant. David showed us a photograph of Prime Minister Harold Wilson speaking at a function there. It was a popular venue - but in business terms not a success. One night, fire broke out in the basement. Although the fire brigade managed to save the building, the insurance company refused to pay out, and Philippe was ruined.
In the 1980s the name changed again, this time to Grange Manor. New owner George Downey installed artworks and stained glass, and turned the stables into the American-themed Penrods bar. More changes followed - Elaine Wilson seeking planning permission for a hotel before going bankrupt, and 'two gentlemen from Blackpool' renaming it Harry's Bar - as successive owners struggled to run the premises at a profit. Eventually Enterprise Inns - a subsidiary of Bass Taverns - took over and it became the Crying Tree.
David finished his talk with 'a bit of fun'. Lots of people, he said, believe that Gorsey Cop is home to ghosts. A lady in Edwardian dress walks on the ground floor and in the garden, a man in Victorian costume walks on the upper floors, and children say they've seen a 'woman who looks like a witch' in a corner of the former stables. David and his colleagues had 'felt something brushing past' at the top of the stairs, and 'seen a shadow walking across the bar'.
A new phase in the life of the building is about to begin, because in September 2015 it was sold yet again. David's talk was a reminder that history does not stand still. We have him to thank for bringing together information about the Gorsey Cop that might otherwise have been lost.