The Village Green and Lock-up

Follow the railings round into Lake Road and - watching for traffic speeding towards you from the right - cross to the triangular green on the other side. In the middle of the green stands the old Lock-up, built in 1796 for the accommodation of drunks and other prisoners overnight. This small sandstone building - now regarded as a picturesque local landmark - was objected to, at the time, by Mr John Myers, the wealthy owner of Lake House, who felt that the scheme "showed a desire to annoy him". His complaints were, however, overruled by the other villagers, who were finding the payment of board-and-lodging expenses to the local Constable an expensive business. The Constable was apparently entitled to two shillings a night (10 pence in today's money, but worth a lot more then!) for accommodating prisoners in his own house. The original cost of the Lock-up is not recorded, but it was obviously considered a worthwhile investment.

When it was first built, the Lock-up (or 'Round House' as it was commonly known, in spite of its octagonal shape) had an almost-flat roof. It was not unknown for prisoners to escape, aided by friends who hid behind the parapet and knocked a hole in the roof after nightfall. The present pointed roof, complete with weather-vane, was added in 1869, when James Picton was commissioned by the Local Board to restore and 'beautify' the building.

The Lock-up had, in fact, become redundant for its original purpose as long ago as 1845, when the village's first Police Station was opened. It was occasionally used to isolate cholera victims from the rest of the community, and there are records of destitute Irish families having been temporarily housed in it while trekking inland from Liverpool during the famine years. Later it was used to store the village fire hose, but by the 1860s it had fallen into decay, and only Picton's interest as an architect and historian saved it from demolition.

The Lock-up was made a Listed Building in 1952. The only other surviving example of such a structure in the Liverpool area is on the old Everton village green: the 'stone jug' which is featured on the badge of Everton Football Club. The triangular green on which Wavertree's Lock-up stands is also the only surviving piece of common land in Liverpool. When the official register was compiled in 1983, all claims in respect of other areas within the City boundary were rejected by the Government inspector. This green is, in fact, the last vestige of the much larger Wavertree Green which was 'enclosed' (divided up into fields) by Act of Parliament in 1768.

The Wavertree Enclosure Act of 1768 was promoted by the leading local landowners and tenants: in particular by the Lord of the Manor, Mr Bamber Gascoyne. This man - a distant relative of the twentieth century TV quizmaster - had acquired Wavertree (along with Childwall, Everton, West Derby and other manors) through marrying Mary Greene, the heiress of Isaac Greene who had originally purchased the various titles and lands.

The above is an extract from 'DISCOVERING HISTORIC WAVERTREE',
. © Mike Chitty 1999.

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Page created by MRC 26 February 2000.