Everton Park view

On the trail of Everton’s heritage

An historic strip of land in North Liverpool will this weekend conjure up unexpected links between the English Civil War and the birth of big time football in our city when the new Everton Park Heritage Trail is formally opened.

The special ceremony, hosted by the Friends of Everton Park takes place at St. George’s Church (10.30am) with free entrance.

This will be followed by a guided tour within the park at 11.45am when a horse and carriage will transport one of the area’s most senior residents, 91 years old Bob Draper along with other VIP’s from the gates at the back of the church to the first information board within the park. Visitors will be invited to walk the trail at their leisure.

The circular route, just over a mile long, features 13 boards that provide a fascinating insight into the ancient, social and football history of the district as well as encompassing the most spectacular view in Liverpool from the summit of Everton ridge.

Of course, the district is synonymous with football and trail walkers will discover the site of the Queen’s Head pub where, in 1879, the fledgling St. Domingo’s church football team took the landmark decision to change its name to Everton Football Club. Thirteen years later, Everton Football Club would leave its nearby Anfield Stadium home to build the new Goodison Park, leading to the formation of Liverpool FC and the start of one of the greatest club rivalries in world football. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nearby, at the bottom of Village Street, visitors can find out about the Lock-Up Tower, known to many locals as Prince Rupert’s Castle, which is featured on Everton FC’s crest. The story of Molly Bushell and her world famous Everton Toffee Shop will continue the football theme on the trail, but the sporting links are only a part of this comprehensive local history exercise.

John Hutchison, who has been leading an enthusiastic local team towards Saturday’s launch day, explained: “This project has taken us just over a year to complete after we successfully secured a £39,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We believe the Everton Park Heritage Trail will not just become a favourite local attraction, but a facility that visitors from all over the city as well as incoming tourists will want to enjoy.

Jim Fearns , another member of the Friends ‘ working group added “Just to take in the uninterrupted view from up there of the city below, the River Mersey, the Wirral Peninsula and Welsh Hills beyond is a wonderful thing. Of course, this unique view of the city is the very reason why Prince Rupert of the Rhine brought thousands of Royalist soldiers to Everton in 1642, the perfect vantage point to plan his attack on the town of Liverpool where the Parliamentarian defenders faced a devastating outcome.

“This story is naturally featured in detail on one of our boards and the military theme continues with an insight into four men with powerful Everton connections whose valour in battle secured each of them a Victoria Cross salute.”

Of course, the modern Everton Park is just as famous for its former steep terraced streets where up to 200,000 people lived in back to back terraced houses in one of the most densely populated areas of the country at that time. These residents were swept to all corners of the city during the controversial 1960s slum clearance programme. They have recently found a voice through the ‘Lost Tribe of Everton & Scottie Road’ project, inspired by the books of journalist and author Ken Rogers. Trail visitors can view a map of the old streets and remember grandparents, parents, relatives and neighbours at a ‘Lost Tribe’ heritage board.

Ken will be at St. George’s to help provide an insight into the new Everton Park trail and will give more detailed visual presentation should it be wet on the day.

John Hutchison concluded: “The aim is to encourage people to walk the trail themselves because this really is a special strip of land with such as amazing history. We want people to discover or remember with pride what it is that lies under their feet as they walk this space. It is an open event on Saturday and everyone is welcome, both in the church and out in the park. We have been training local guides who will soon be available to take official groups or interested individuals around the trail.

“We have also been working on a comprehensive educational pack for local schoolchildren to give them a real pride in their famous district.”

The city’s Heritage Champion, Councillor Maria McEvoy, said: “Everton Park is one of Liverpool’s cultural and heritage gems, a fascinating area which is steeped in history. It also offers some of the most stunning views available in the city.

“This new Heritage Trail will open a window into the park’s past, revealing inspirational characters and key events and telling the story of the area as never before. It’s a wonderful story, which deserves to be experienced by everyone.

“I’m delighted that this fantastic project has now been completed and I’m looking forward to it being enjoyed by local people and visitors for many years to come.”

Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Vision, Liverpool Primary Care Trust, Liverpool Biennial, the Friends of Everton Park and other community groups are working together to transform Everton Park and its surrounding neighbourhoods into a great place to live, work and visit.

It is part of a comprehensive regeneration programme for North Liverpool, which includes the £150m Project Jennifer scheme around Great Homer Street with developer St Modwen, which will create 1,000 jobs, new homes and community, leisure and retail facilities; and the new Notre Dame Catholic College which will house the Liverpool Music Service and space for an indoor market.