Back in the 18th century, when the canal was first cut, Bootle was a bucolic bathing resort surrounded by dairy farming land. Linacre, the area where the gas works stands now, was a separate village, known for its healthy spring waters, which flowed into Rimrose Brook, which emptied into the Mersey estuary where Gladstone Dock is now.
There was a mill with a dam and reservoir just about where the Little Merton pub is now. According to the Liverpool Advertiser (August 1793), Rimrose Brook was capable of supplying "3 cubic feet of water every second for 12 hours out of 24, even in the driest season".
The canal brought prosperity to the area. This 1833 map of NW Liverpool shows a spur of land just North (Left is North on this map) of the Clarence Dock. That spur directed the flow of muddy silt away from the shore at Bootle, so when the gentlefolk of Liverpool wanted a day at the beach they would catch the packet boat, and head out to Bootle for a nice day on the golden sands. During winter, people came to skate on the mill pond, which was where SAFE productions is now.
Soon, Bootle boasted a promenade called "Strand Promenade", which led up from the beach to Coffee House Lane, which in turn connected to Coffee House Bridge on Irlam Road. A "pinfold" stood next to the bridge, to hold cattle before shipping off for slaughter because Linacre was still primarily a farming community.
The narrow strip between the canal and the river estuary was filled with rows of mansions and villas, and exquisite formal public gardens. The Bootle bathing industry centred on [William] Miller's Castle, with a bridge over the canal leading up to Linacre, where a fresh water spring was a tourist attraction. William Miler was a Liverpool solicitor.
Life was good, but things were about to change…
The canal had connected the port of Liverpool to a lot of villages, towns and cities along its length. Trade was booming, and Liverpool was booming too. It needed more docks! The actions of the Liverpool Water Company heralded the winds of change. When the canal was cut, it brought fresh water to Liverpool, but decades of carrying coal into Liverpool and Night Soil out to West Lancashire had polluted it. The company bought the spring that fed Rimrose Brook, and diverted it into Liverpool! This was not a problem for the mill because, as part of the deal, the canal company agreed to supply the mill with water, but Liverpool needed water because it was growing, and soon it would reach Bootle. The events between 1830 -
1. The Railways. The first regular passenger rail service left Edge Hill in Liverpool on 15th September 1830 carrying the rich and famous, including the prime minister, Lord Wolsley (Duke of Wellington), and William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool. Huskinson was the driving force behind the railway venture, and he was cock-
2. The Irish Potato Famine (1845-
3. The March of Jesse Hartley's Docks.
Most of Liverpool's "North Dock System" was designed by Jesse Hartley and built between 1848 and 1892. The first part of the new dock system opened in 1848 and included the Nelson, Wellington, Collingwood, and Stanley docks along with the lock flight connecting to the Leeds and Liverpool canal. The lock flight was very important because it meant barges could load coal for fuel directly onto ocean going ships at the same time as off-
Bootle’s beautiful bathing beach was gone, so Bootle turned to industry. It was ideally placed for that because it had coal from Wigan and leather hide from Sefton (both arriving via the Leeds and Liverpool canal), and all sorts of imports and exports through Liverpool and Bootle docks. This led to lots of very different factories along the canal.
Click on the map on the left to see a larger version. I’ve removed roads and buildings from the map to show just the variety of industry bordering the canal in 1908. I've chosen 1908 because the peak of this industry was sometime in the early 20th century, and the most complete record from that period is 1908.
18th & 19th Century Bootle