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Liverpool Road

Article by Geoff Howard reproduced from the Advertiser 1998

Half the size but as great as ever

LITTLE MEG'S toffee shop, the most immaculate church graveyard in West Lancashire, and Herr Pareezer's Prussian choir. All part and parcel of the scene past and present in Liverpool Road, Skelmersdale, a "satellite street" still tuned into the past. Where the Catholic, and those of other faiths, now rest almost side by side for eternity, even if that is by pure coincidence. A link between former world champion boxer Jack Dempsey and a one time supremo of the Italian FA? It's to be found in Liverpool Road. Read on...

The warmth of welcome I received for a conducted tour of St Richards RC is matched only by a churchyard and surrounds approved by all who pass. It's thanks to the voluntary efforts of Brian Grady and John Cookson, with help from Winnie Walsh who grows their bedding plants. Brian pulls out all the stops too as church organist. The original 100-year old instrument is still in place but he now has a modern Yamaha positioned near the altar.
Named after St Richard of Chichester, the church was built in 1865 then restored at a cost of 70,000 in 1985, mainly new roof and foundation work. The "overspill" cemetary for Skelmersdale was recently opened just a few yards away, catering for all religions, largely because St Paul's Parish Church graveyard is approaching capacity.

On a brighter theme, Liverpool Road's Market Hall, which in 1919 become the Skelmersdale Shoe Co, doubled as a centre of entertainment in its day. Walter Oakley's billboard from 1896 reveals the arrival of Herr Pareezer's "magnificent dioramas and highly accomplished Prussian choir". It was a travelling band and sketch party which apart from tableaux, ventriloquism and violin and flute solos, brought a pictorial programme, including Paris and its exhibition, to Skelmersdale.


The Skem people could live it up with the best at that time. New Year's Ball at the Market Hall started at 9pm and went on until 6am the following day! Ellen Shufflebotham has lived in the same house in Liverpool Road all of her 94 years. She's one of a small Liverpool Road pocket of old Skemmers including her sister Ivy, Betty Turton, Nellie Glover and Marian Berry. They look across to satellite row, nine of them in the space of 60 yards, surely the densest assembly of TV "dishes" in West Lancashire. Ellen is one of those who still refer to "the brow" after which one of Liverpool Road's two public houses the Knowl Brow is named. Indeed the incline in the road at that point is pronounced, enough to make approaching vehicles visible only in the last few moments. It was in Mrs Edwards' garden opposite to the Knowl Brow that rehersals for the Carnival Queen processions were staged in years gone by.

At one time Liverpool Road streched all the way through from the top of Sandy Lane to Bickerstaffe. But alterations with the advent of the new town reduced it to half its former status as the section from the Horseshoe to Four Lane Ends was renamed Skelmersdale Road. In fact Liverpool Road has had a chequered life, one time spanning the long closed railway line, now divided by a narrow footbridge over Railway Road.
Gige Peronace, the great supremo of the Italian FA and the man who lured John Charles and Dennis Law for the Lire spent a night in Liverpool Road he'll never forget. It took place in the Engine Hotel after Skem United faced Montebelluna, Milan, in the European Amateur Final back in 1971. In Italy, a magnificent banquet under chandeliers, no expense spared, but I will never forget Peronace looking aghast at what confronted him in the Skelmersdale leg of the final.


Pork pies on the top of the Engine pool table and no room to swing a cat. United certainly knew how to push the boat out! The Engine with its photograph signed for landlord Vince Matthews "from your great pal Jack Dempsey" the world heavyweight champion boxer, is no longer a public house as such. It is now headquarters of Skelmersdale British Legion ... gone too the Crown Inn with its quaint sign "licensed to sell ale, porter and tobacco".

A definite 'Darling'!

One of Liverpool Road's great characters of yesteryear was James Aspinwall who ran a grocery shop at the Liverpool Road junction with Market Street. He is remembered as a chain smoker always with an ample length of ash, and as the piano player for silent pictures at the Empire Cinema. Mr Bottomley was manager of the Social Security Office, more commonly known as The Relief. And adjoining, Mrs Gee's with the sweet shop on the ground floor and billiards in the cellar at twopence a game.


There was Sarah Lowe the milliner, and furniture maker William Shaw of Empire Cinema fame. His premises later became Tootle's garage from where coaches took Skem's colliers to St Helens after local mining declined.
Ashcroft's cart And who can recall the days of the Darling washer (superseeding the dolly tub) made at Edward Ashcroft's on the corner of Moss Street?
Or signalman Mr Sephton from Whitemoss Road who supervised the railway bridge signal box. Grocer John Lathom, paraffin retailer George Holland, yet another grocery Rushton's which was part of the chain of stores, and the chip shop adjoining the Horseshoe Hotel. And on the facing side of the road, Davies' chip shop, black pudding maker Jim Tootle, Webster the shop repairer, Ben Thompson the farmer, and Edward Dunn parrafin and ironmongery.

Yes, Liverpool Road in its heyday had a profusion of businesses, but with apologies to local historian Walter Oakley who has listed them all in detail, too many to mention in total. Agnes Latham the hairdresser, Yates' grocery shop, Eddie Berry the master baker, milliner Miss Loughran, Green the dressmaker, Little Meg's sweets and home-made ice cream, grocer Appleton and John Phillipson the poultry farmer. And of course the Wesleyan Church and School with whom there was such keen rivalry on the Bromilow Paths football field with St Richard's. Liverpool Road, complex in character and still one of the most important arteries of old Skelmersdale.