Liverpool: two parks & a flat-pack church

5672 G-map route  Picasa 

Distance 11km
Walk type Moderate
Region Northwest England
Time 210mins
Height 100m
Maps Explorer-275, Landranger-108
Contributor Andy Hibbert
Additional photos

general photo
Short Description:
Starting close to the river, in St Michael's-in-the-Hamlet, we visit a church exported (yes, the building, not the religion) around the world, and explore the birth of urban park creation that inspired, ultimately, New York's Central Park.

Long Description:
Starting at a point about halfway along WW2063, the walk explores the five original houses and cast-iron framed church of St Michael-in-the-Hamlet created by John Cragg around 1813. From there we progress along Lark Lane, the heart of a cosmopolitan area with a strong sense of community, and then into Sefton Park with the famous Palm House. The original idea, as with neighbouring Princes Park (also part of this walk), was to sell plots around the edge of the park to help fund the landscaping. This was only partly successful and so, along with many fine houses there are areas now given over to allotments, where no wealthy Victorian could be persuaded to buy land.

Walk Access:
The walk starts from St Michael's station, part of Merseyrail's Northern line two stops south of Liverpool Central. There are numerous buses running along Aigburth Road from Liverpool One bus station, where you get off at Sefton Park Library - WP11. St Michael's Road is almost opposite Sefton Park Library & the walk effectively starts (WP3) at Cloisters, the house on the southern corner of St Michael's & St Michael's Church roads.

Additional Info:
St Michael's is a small entirely residential area but, after crossing Aigburth Road, Lark Lane offers food & drink aplenty, from continental-style cafés & bars to traditional tea-rooms and at least one excellent pub. The Aviary café in Sefton Park will be refurbished by (it is alleged) Summer 2010.
At the time of writing (early summer 2010) there are ice-cream vans & builders trucks. Currently the only toilets in the park are at the south end of the lake, not in the Palm House as might be expected. From there to the end of the walk you're on your own! Once out of Princes Park there are many buses back into the city along the entirely residential Princes Road. 'Princes Road' is the northbound, & 'Princes Avenue' the southbound, carriageway of the same road. A broad leafy central reservation runs almost the entire length with a paved path snaking through the trees: this is the way to travel the road. The walk ends at Upper Parliament Street close to the Anglican cathedral, coinciding with parts of Walk 5562.

Birds - Butterflies - Café - Church - Industrial Archaeology - Mostly Flat - Museum - Pub - Public Transport - Restaurant - River - Tea Shop

St Michael's church:
Despite its Grade I listing, the fabric of the church is deteriorating and the grounds are now usually closed during the week. Some Saturdays volunteers gather to work and both grounds and church are then open, so best to check first...
St Michael's info:'s_Church,_Aigburth

Lark Lane:
Palm House:
Local history:

St Clare, Arundel Ave:
St Agnes, Ullet Rd:
Unitarian Church, Ullet Rd:


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Longitude: -2.8802311420440674
Cross the road from St Michael's station

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and pass through a gap in the sandstone wall opposite & walk to St Michael's Road where you turn left.

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The first house you come to on the right, Cloisters, is one of the original five villas built by John Cragg at the start of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately the elevation presented to the road here is not its best.

Latitude: 53.37672057256182 Longitude: -2.9504379630088806
Continue, passing two attractive white houses on your left, and...

Latitude: 53.37644215868809 Longitude: -2.9501643776893615
... on the corner with St Michael's Church Road on your right, stands Carfax (The Nunnery) - the second of Cragg's houses.
Turn right and walk along to gain this view. Continue past the church to see, facing each other, two more Cragg houses.

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On your right, The Hermitage, with an appropriately large padlock usually on the gates.

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Opposite, immediately south of the church, is Glebelands.
The houses built by Cragg are all stuccoed, in a semi-Tudor style, with windows, door frames, fireplaces, and other internal features of cast iron.

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Return now to the church. Because there is a danger of material falling off the external walls the grounds are usually locked. It is in use on Sundays, obviously, and some Saturdays volunteers will be present in the grounds, and the church itself is unlocked too.
Some of the gravestones behind the church commemorate the craftsmen of Cragg's Mersey Foundry, and the chief mould maker - the most highly skilled of all - is buried separately, a short distance away.

Latitude: 53.37683577777029 Longitude: -2.949732542037964
The fifth and final John Cragg house, Hollybank, is around the corner to the right, but this view of a small circular summerhouse in the garden behind will only be clearly visible if you can access the grounds.

Latitude: 53.37718459164004 Longitude: -2.949753999710083
Hollybank was John Cragg's own house and the adjoining stables, under the circular light at the far end, have been remodelled, with the doors lost.
Continue east now along St Michael's Road towards Aigburth Road noting, just before the end, a small hall dated 1897.

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Cross Aigburth Road and turn left, in front of the small Sefton Park Library.

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Pass a clinic and then turn right along Lark Lane.

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Very soon this turns into a colourful collection of shops and restaurants on both sides of the road, and attractive well looked after terraces on the right - this one is Lucerne Street.

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Further along Lark Lane itself is the former Christ Church Institute, half-timbered upper floors projecting over the pavement.

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Opposite here, a short distance down Hesketh Street, is the quiet 'unadopted' Leda Grove.

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Back to Lark Lane and right into Hadassah Grove, another quiet cul-de-sac meriting an entry in Pevsner.

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Back to Lark Lane once again and right to, or past, the Albert Hotel. Not only does it sell cask ales, it has its' own Facebook page...
Built by the brewer Robert Cain in 1873, it hints at his future gothic fantasies such as the Vines Hotel and indeed the Philharmonic - a pub featured in WalkingWorld walk 5562

Latitude: 53.38212528124947 Longitude: -2.944555878639221
Further on, the last gothic building on the right, just past the 1885 red brick former Police Station, is on the far corner of Sefton Grove.

Latitude: 53.38298280370354 Longitude: -2.9435259103775024
Sefton Park is ahead, so walk past the large gothic gate piers and cross Aigburth Drive into the park through a more restrained pair (pictured here) of gate piers.

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Take the path diagonally right between tennis courts and a play area towards the Shaftesbury Memorial and Eros Fountain.
Here the café is being restored underneath a shiny new aluminium Eros - the original now being in the Conservation Museum in the city centre.

Latitude: 53.383126788989394 Longitude: -2.9382848739624023
Continue past the lake on your right, towards the Palm House. Glance back through the trees to one of several fountains in the lake.

Latitude: 53.38263723703092 Longitude: -2.936541438102722
On the far side of the lake, a brass band may well be playing on summer weekends in the bandstand. Allegedly this was the inspiration for Sgt Pepper's band, but that may simply be an urban myth now perpetuated by (the not always blameless) Wikipedia. However, it's a happy conceit.

Latitude: 53.381030955125624 Longitude: -2.9352110624313354
As you clear the trees turn right to reach the Palm House, free to enter except when there is a concert. Opened in 1896, it has been recently restored.

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The interior must have seemed impossibly exotic to many Victorians, and though many people now regularly holiday in the tropics it is still pleasant to wander, however briefly, under luxuriantly opulent foliage by our temperate latitude's standards.

Latitude: 53.3815205255524 Longitude: -2.935393452644348
In spring the grounds are alive with colour, so walk around the outside too, where eight statues mark the corners of the building. Natural Selection was still a controversial subject and so Darwin is here, alongside figures such as Linnaeus & James Cook. Peter Pan is here too: in 1928 J M Barrie sent a telegram addressed 'Peter Pan, Sefton Park, Liverpool', that said:
"Behave to-day, if for the only time.
Take care the Lord Mayor does not find you out.
For heaven's sake don't grow when they remove your swathing sheet."

Latitude: 53.38128054075242 Longitude: -2.9316598176956176
From the Palm House continue to where the path meets Mossley Hill Drive, at a parking area. There is a cast-iron bridge ahead (1873), now closed to vehicles, from which you can view the 'Fairy Glen'. This is a landscaped area around one of the streams feeding Sefton Park Lake.

Latitude: 53.38405468248494 Longitude: -2.9325449466705322
Turn back from the bridge & continue along Mossley Hill Drive, with a series of late 19th c. homes on your right. The last, Gledhill - on the corner of Greenbank Lane - is perhaps the most 'over the top' - a Victorian Donald Trump vision of priapic chimneys, gables, wings and angles enough to excite Pythagoras.
Here, you have a choice. The walk takes the second right (Greenbank Drive, NOT Greenbank Lane) to visit an Art Deco building and the remnants of a church tower close to Smithdown Road. You could continue gently curving around to the left along Mossley Hill Drive, to the restored Grotto (aka Old Nick's Caves), at WPjjjjjjj

Latitude: 53.38921852028198 Longitude: -2.9297876358032226
Take the second right (see above) and continue along Greenbank Drive with allotments to both sides. As you approach the end of the park you see the synagogue (1936)...

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... followed by a picturesque lodge and the tower of St Columba's Church, now part of Shalom Lodge, sheltered accomodation for the elderly.

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Turn back south, cross the road & fork left. Ignore Lathbury Lane & continue the short distance to Croxteth Drive before turning right. Continue until you reach Sefton Cricket Club car park on the left. Just beyond is a small woodland path marked by two large sections of fallen beech. Take this through to Mossley Hilll Drive, turning right once again. Halfway along that path is a magnificent copper beech.

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Shortly a small stream flows under the road from 'The Grotto'. There are benches along its length & it could make a pleasant picnic stop. In summer there is a busy flight corridor immediately above the water's surface, literally teeming with insects.

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Carry on along Croxteth Drive to Croxteth Gate. Follow around to the right onto the very busy Ullet Road.

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On the left is the red brick church of St Agnes (1883). To Pevsner this was "by far the most beautiful Victorian church of Liverpool". Behind it, on Buckingham Road, is the vicarage & parish hall.

Latitude: 53.389512846566475 Longitude: -2.93809711933136
Next, spanning the block between Cheltenham & York Roads, is the 1896 Grade I listed Ullet Road Unitarian Church. As with all these churches, they are best viewed inside as well but most are unfortunately locked during the week.

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Turn left up York Road past neat, modestly sized houses until, just as you approach yet another large copper beech, an enourmous church appears towering over the street. St Clare, in Arundel Avenue.

Latitude: 53.38944246437922 Longitude: -2.938418984413147
Return to Ullet Road, crossing over to the right. Take the footpath past a children's play area back to the relative quiet of Croxteth Drive. Turn right, retracing the short distance to Croxteth Gate.

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This time go straight across the roundabout, staying on Croxteth Drive.

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Between here & Aigburth Drive, the next entrance to the park, sits a row of ornate villas on your right. They are mostly hidden, almost fortified, behind dense foliage. To the left of the road is a broad grassy 'ride'.

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Continue around Aigburth Drive, past the impressive gates & lodge (we will catch them later), and past a handful of villas again on your right. The last, before a modern low rise development, sports an unmistakeable pair of gothic gate posts.

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Cross to the right here and walk through the next entrance right, flanked by two enormous trees.

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On the other side, emarge into Linnet Lane & turn right.

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Halfway up on the left is the Grade II* Listed Christ Church of 1867.
The curious might wish to explore some idiosyncratic houses in the little area around East, West & South Albert Roads, to be found on the far side of Christ Church grounds.

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Either way, proceed the short distance NW to Ullet Road & turn right.

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At Aigburth Drive, pause to admire the 1875 Sefton Park Gates & Lodge.

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Turn left here along the quiet Windermere Terrace.

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Turn left again, still on Windermere Terrace, past a series of well-kept buildings all belonging to the same college.

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At the end, enter Princes Park.

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Walk ahead, heading slightly right around the edge of the lake, to the remains of a building over the water inlet.

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Continue round the lake for a fine view of Windermere Terrace, overlooking the park.

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Retrace back SW to join the main path running arrow-straight through the park, past a childrens play area to the Devonshire Road gates.

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Turn right here in front of an impressive 18-bay terrace with cast iron balconies.

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Further along, on the right, are a series of houses facing Princes Park, and some smaller properties on the left. The road curves left into Princes Gate West and...

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... on your right are the gates into Princes Park - 1960s replicas.

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With your back to the park, head NW along Princes Road/Avenue by taking the path up the central reservation.

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There are fine buildings here on both sides, from the 1840s to the 1870s, now largely given over to apartments.

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On the left is the now derelict Welsh Presbyterian church, also known as the "Toxteth Cathedral". Carry on along Princes Road/Avenue.

Latitude: 53.39467602232887 Longitude: -2.964688539505005
There is a cluster of church buildings as the dual carriageway (Princes Avenue) ends. First, on a triangular plot between Princes Avenue & Park Way,is the octagonal former Adult Deaf & Dumb Institute of red brick. Then (pictured) is the 1874 synagogue. After this, still on the right, is Streatlam Tower & St Margaret with it's vicarage.

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Turn left opposite, down Upper Stanhope Street & immediately right into Berkley Street for the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, copied from a similar design in Constantinople. Its four domes can be clearly seen from the ferry, as an exotic interloper on the Liverpool skyline.

Latitude: 53.39560046538275 Longitude: -2.967011332511902
The final building on the east side of Princes Road, visible after you turn right again around the drive-in NatWest bank, is the Queen Victoria nurses home. A memorial to Florence Nightingale is built into the corner wall.

Latitude: 53.39591393978311 Longitude: -2.9677891731262207
You are now at the intersection of Upper Parliament & Catharine Streets - the end of the walk. A short distance left is the Anglican cathedral, while frequent buses run ahead, along Catharine St into the town centre.