Friday, May 01, 2009

Who Do You Think You Are In The Rain?

Went to Liverpool yesterday on a whim and a Trans-Pennine Express. Isobel was going to a conference on some dreadful disease and I decided to travel over with her and have a wander around. If it had been a plan rather than a whim I would have carefully re-read the family history file before departing and made a list of places to visit. But it was a whim and therefore all I had with my was my MP3 player and a bag of crisps. Such is the start of all great adventures.
I caught a bus to Crosby which is about six miles north of the city and the place where Isobel's Great Grandfather, William Henry Usher, was born. It was grey and cold and I cursed my lack of preparation as I tramped around the graveyard of St Luke's Church looking for any friendly Ushers. Eventually I decided to abandon the exercise and head for the nearest pub, but on the way I found a small bookshop which was advertising a slim volume on the history of Great Crosby, entitled "Mills, Mollies and Marl Pits : The Story Of The Township Of Great Crosby" by John Cochrane. By now it was raining heavily and therefore clutching a slightly damp copy of the book, I headed for the pub on the corner. And there I found the following passage on page 63.
"In 1912 Cooks Lane, which now started from Victoria Road, was renamed Manor Road with great plans for the extension of the Crosby housing stock over the fields to the right and left. At this time the only building to the north of the brick works was White Cottage owned by the local farming family the Somervilles. It is often called Somerville Cottage. In 1866 Henry Usher and his family moved their rope making business from Liverpool to Crosby. They settled at No. 13 Alma Vale and established the business in Cooks Lane roughly between where Manor Drive and St Michaels Road now run. It consisted of a long barn-like structure where the long lengths of twine could be stretched and plaited to form the necessary thickness of rope. This type of building was known as a rope walk. In 1871 Henry moved over Liverpool Road to York Road and in the early 1880s he was joined by Levi, who moved into No. 3 Lune Street, and Thomas who lived at No. 13 Hornby Street. Henry left the firm in 1890 and it was then run as Levi and Thomas Usher with an office at 89 Victoria Road until 1894 when it was taken over by the rope makers Radcliffe and Brown. This became S.J Radcliffe and Company in 1898 and had one of the earliest telephone numbers, Waterloo 231. By 1904 the rope walk was no more."
Now all this, I am sure you will agree, is very fascinating, but it raises more questions than it answers. Henry Usher can't "have left the firm in 1890" as he had died two years before. It must have been his son William Henry (brother of Levi and Thomas) who left the firm and this was Isobel's Great Grandfather. And where exactly was the ropeworks? According to family sources it was in Coronation Road, but according to the book it was much further north on Manor Road. Any attempt to conduct further research was curtailed by the fact that it was pouring it down so I found a bus and headed back to the city centre with the determination to return when the sun was shining and my notebooks were with me.
I know that this might not sound like an adventure to you, but when you are getting on in life and walking the dog is the high spot of the day, it was an exciting day out to me. What else is there to do but to stay at home waiting for Swine Flu?

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