EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA
The local area was once home to adjacent private estates surrounding two houses – Alder Hey to the north and Springfield to the south.
Alder Hey was guarded by a Swiss-style lodge which is still standing in Alder Road next to the gates which originally led to the mansion. The main job of the lodge keeper was to open the gates for carriages as well as postman and visiting tradesmen.
Springfield stood on what is now the children’s playground. The house was reached along a curving drive reached through a gate alongside a lodge on Prescot Road.
The Alder Hey and Springfield estates were divided by boundary walls and fences. Several ponds dotted the area – Springfield gets its name from the pools formed by water bubbling up from below ground.
In 1806 to commemorate the death of Lord Nelson a Mr Downward, a wealthy sugar refiner, who by this time owned Springfield House, commissioned a sandstone obelisk in honour of Lord Nelson who was killed on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in1805. He offered this memorial to the city for the town centre but it was rejected as being “too small and unworthy” with one member of the Common Council describing it as “a half-Nelson”.
Mr Downward then had it erected in the grounds of his house and it has stood there since. (The column was recently moved to a different location in the park to make way for the new hospital. A ceremony was held involving local schools and the community)
The Alder Hey estate (28 acres) was bought by the Poor Law Guardians of West Derby Union in 1906 for the new children’s hospital.
The following year 1907 Springfield (22 acres) was bought by Liverpool City Council for £14,000 and opened as a public park.
Until the 1930s the hospital was largely surrounded by open country. Both Alder Road and Eaton Road had few houses. Exclusive Sandfield Park housed wealthy people in large detached houses set in leafy grounds.
Fir Grove House stood at the junction of Alder Road and Black Horse Lane (now Queens Drive). A mansion called Oakville stood on what is now the Alder sports field.
Eaton Cottage was, despite its name, a large house at the top of Honeys Green Lane overlooked by what was then the hospital entrance.
Further down Eaton Road Springfield Cottage (on the site of the vet’s) was an atmospheric Georgian house pulled down in 1964.
Knotty Ash was a bustling community with a famous brewery, several pubs and terraced cottages quaintly called Little Bongs. (Bongs, in Lancashire dialect, means banks and refers to little hillocks that once filled the area).
As Liverpool expanded, Prescot Road was made into a dual carriageway – the new section was cut between Knotty Ash Village Hall and Garden Cottages.
Since Springfield Park was purchased by Liverpool City Council in 1907 it has remained a neighbourhood park; a much loved and cherished green-space in the centre of Knotty Ash. Springfield Park has provided football pitches, children’s playground, multi use games area and bowling greens, a place for a quiet stroll, walk the dog or take the kids to have a picnic and is intrinsically linked to the world famous Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
The annual summer fetes for Alder Hey Hospital attract thousands of visitors every year, today the park remains a much used green-space for local residents and provides an unique opportunity for enhancement for the benefit of the whole community as both the hospital and the park develop to meet the aspirations of local residents.