Mill Cottages and the old Quarries

Walk along the narrow public footpath sandwiched between the modern houses and the older (1930s) houses in Beverley Road. This is a very ancient right of way. In 1867 Col. Bourne (whose wealth was derived from coal mines in the St Helens area) wrote to the Local Board, asking for the finger-posts indicating this path to be removed, claiming that "it is simply the resort of idle boys and men, anxious to avoid observation, more especially on Sundays". His request was agreed to, but "without prejudice to the footpath being the property of the Township"; and the path survives to this day. At the other end the path opens out into what was once the main approach to the mill from Woolton Road. On the right is a pair of semi-detached cottages, still called Mill Cottages. Either side of the mill access road are small estates of typical 1930s semis - Tor View Road to the left and Mendip Road to the right - which mark the sites of two large quarries. Sandstone was taken from here from the late eighteenth century onwards - the Enclosure Map includes the words 'left for stone' to the east of the mill - leaving the windmill standing on a narrow isthmus of rock.

The quarry on the site of the present Mendip Road was the Township Quarry for Wavertree. This is where the yellowish stone probably came from for the construction of Holy Trinity Church and the Lock-up, as well as field-boundary walls. Later on - when it became exhausted - the quarry was used as a pound for keeping stray cattle and other animals. Eventually it became a tip for household refuse. Older residents of the area still remember the site of Tor View Road - across the way from Mill Cottages - as the 'Bin Field', which is a reminder that the second quarry was also filled-in in this way, starting late in the nineteenth century. Domestic waste in those days - before the age of plastic wrappers and gas central heating - consisted largely of ashes, so by the 1930s both former quarries were considered suitable for house-building.

The windmill itself is said to have ceased regular operation in 1873, but seems to have worked intermittently until 1890, when the final lease from the Marquess of Salisbury expired. Severe gales in 1895 wrecked the sails and damaged the structure beyond repair, but it was 1916 before the decaying skeleton was finally pulled down. After that, the area became the site of lock-up garages; laid out in a crescent (backing on to the old public footpath) so as to leave the mill's foundations exposed. After nearly seventy more years as a local talking-point, regularly visited by groups of schoolchildren studying local history, the site was finally obliterated in 1986.

During the Victorian era, Wavertree Mill was widely regarded as being jinxed. In July 1866, ten-year-old Richard Matthews died after being struck by the sails of the windmill. His father (also called Richard) was Col. Bourne's coachman. Some years later, the sails caught the hair of Charles Taylor's eldest daughter. The local historian James Hoult tells us that "she was scalped and was rendered insensible for twelve hours, but happily she recovered". Rumour spread that the old quarry was inhabited by an evil spirit. Eventually, it is said, the miller took the advice he was given, and set the sails in such a way as their shadow formed a cross touching all four corners of the quarry. No more accidents are recorded after that!

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

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Page created by MRC 26 February 2000.