The first house in the Garden Suburb

Walk for about 100 yds from Nook Rise along the right-hand side of Wavertree Nook Road, until you are outside No.13. This was the very first house to be built in the Garden Suburb, and under the bay window you can see the foundation stone laid on 20th July 1910 by the Marchioness of Salisbury. The stone-laying ceremony was attended by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other prominent local personalities, who were treated to a programme of entertainment by the 'Victorian Court Band' and stirring speeches by Henry Vivian and others drawing attention to the wonderful Garden Suburb that was about to be created.

The Marchioness of Salisbury was, of course, the wife of Lord Salisbury, and he too spoke of his pride in being associated with the venture. It was the Marquess who had made the land available to Liverpool Garden Suburb Tenants on what were described as 'favourable terms'. In all, 180 acres - sufficient for over 1,800 houses - had been promised, which would make this Garden Suburb the largest in the country. Initially, though, it was just the 12 acres between Wavertree Nook Road and Southway which had been taken on a 999-year lease, and for which Raymond Unwin had planned the layout.

The stone-laying ceremony - on the edge of a field from which the hay had only just been cut - was followed by rapid progress. The present No.13 Wavertree Nook Road was completed and occupied in December 1910, and shortly afterwards the other houses nearby were also occupied. It is difficult to imagine the feelings of the first residents, moving to such an isolated place, and into houses quite different from any built in Liverpool before: with gardens front and back, yet available at rents (from just under six shillings a week) similar to those being charged by the landlords of conventional terraces.

Inevitably, the residents of Garden Suburb housing were not a typical cross-section of 'ordinary people'. In addition to the rent, payment toward the purchase of shares in the company had to be made, and a fairly hefty down-payment was required when the tenants first moved in. Garden suburbs were not the solution to the slum problem, but the argument was that they would release housing accommodation in the areas from which the tenants came.

According to Gore's Liverpool Directory for 1913, the first 118 houses in Wavertree Garden Suburb had attracted 16 clerks, 10 printing workers, 7 schoolteachers, 5 commercial travellers, 4 joiners, 4 managers and a wide variety of other occupations including an analytical chemist, a musician, a shipwright and a tram-driver. They included some interesting characters, pen-pictures of whom were published in the residents' fortnightly magazine 'The Thingwallian'. For example at No.15 Wavertree Nook Road - then named 'Paxhaven' - lived Mr Albert Mann, the local secretary of the National Anti-Gambling League, and a supporter of the Peace Society (though in everyday life a Post Office telegraphist). Clearly, some of the early tenants were attracted by the political ideals of the Suburb's founders, though others complained (again through the columns of 'The Thingwallian') about the 'compulsory Communism' which used part of their rent to pay for recreational and other social facilities.

The above is an extract from 'DISCOVERING HISTORIC WAVERTREE',
. © Mike Chitty 1999.

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Page created by MRC 26 February 2000.