Halewood Local History Pages

The Buildings of Halewood

The History of Halewood Farm
(Halewood Green, North End)

Robert Neilson, magistrate, agriculturalist, son of a slave trader and plantation owner

Halewood Farm Site - Early History

Halewood Farm is one with a most unusual history, from its post-medieval origins to its development on the back of wealth amassed through significant participation in the slave trade, then through to modern times, where it has a link to that famous day at a Woolton village fete, where two aspiring musicians met for the first time.

In the eighteenth century, Halewood Farm site was a small farm, a Georgian brick-built design similar to other farms in the surrounding area. In medieval times it is likely to have been part of the heavily wooded area favoured by the Earls of Derby for their hunting exploits, before its clearance and enclosure for farming purposes. The Estate Map of the Earl of Derby surveyed in 1783 (produced as part of the land and farming improvements being introduced during the Agricultural Revolution) shows a couple of small buildings, although it is difficult to judge the size from the map.

However, the main development of the farm, which saw some of its practices being lauded in national publications, with a reputation spreading far and wide, was undoubtedly tainted with its advancement coming on the back of profits made from the slave trade and colonial plantations. For more insight into this we must look to William Neilson and also his son Robert, who came to the farm in the mid-eighteenth century.

Earl of Derby estate map (extract) 1783

Enclosure Map 1805

William Neilson

William Neilson, originally of Newbie in Dumfriesshire, owned plantation estates in Dominica and Demerara and operated as a slave trader out of Liverpool with his partner William Heathcote. Heathcote (1758-1811) was born in Blackwell, Derbyshire, purchasing Stancliffe Hall in Derbyshire for £10,500 in 1799. At some point he also acquired property in Demerara, where he died in 1811 after many years living in seclusion on his sugar plantation Perseverance.

Thomas Staunton St Clair described in detail a visit to the plantation in 1806, in his A Residence in the West Indies.

His obituary, published in the Demerara & Essequebo Gazette, reads:

Died on Sunday evening at his house in Town, aged 52, WILLIAM HEATHCOTE, Esq.
A gentleman adorned with many amiable qualities, which made his company sought after by most of the respectable persons in the colony, and very deservedly; - as he was conspicuous for a goodness of heart, a benevolence and uprightness of character, that almost always lastingly attached to him those who had once been so fortunate as to become of his acquaintance! - He was foremost on all occasions of doing good! - Was a parent to the orphan; - and many will lament his loss with sincere sorrow !! In the cause of a friend he shewed a zeal so ardent, no difficulties could abate it, and was constantly observed to be infinitely more attentive to the interests and welfare of others than to his own. 'Tis said of him that he was never known to have paid a shilling to a lawyer to prosecute a suit for him, tho' very few persons in the colony have had more extensive concerns than he had, or been more artfully dealt with than he has been in his progress through life! On the other hand - the slightest intimation to him of a case of distress made a claim on his immediate protection. He continued for many years past with an inflexible constancy, in avoiding all occasions of attracting public notice - tho' his great abilities would well have merited popularity. Living very retired on his estate Perseverance, respected and loved by his neighbours, to whom, as well as to a large circle of acquaintances and friends, he had greatly endeared himself by his very communicative kind disposition, blended with such urbanity and sweetness of manner as were almost irresistible.(1)

In his will he left money to Joanna Hopkinson, 'a free coloured woman', and provided manumission for a number of his enslaved workers.

Manumission, Vermont 1777
(Click for the reality of manumission)

Colonial Map of Guyana 1 October 1798, showing plantation estates

East side of Mahaica
Estates 5 & 6 - Neilson & Heathcote
Colonial Map of Guyana 1 October 1798, showing plantation estates

Colonial Map of Guyana 1840

In 1798, William Neilson married Fanny Backhouse at the parish church of Walton on the Hill. This was a prosperous match for William as her father, Daniel Backhouse, was of the slave trading and plantation owning family of Liverpool. Daniel was the son of an innkeeper, born in Ulverston in Lancashire, and like William had settled in Liverpool taking advantage of the opportunities there, despite coming from relatively humble beginnings. Between 1773 and 1799, Backhouse was responsible for 100 slave voyages and by the time of his death in 1811, he had amassed a personal estate valued at £70,000: an enormous sum (worth round £7.25 million today) far exceeding the income of most of his merchant peers.(2) (3)

Their home was Aigburth Old Hall (on Aigburth Road, almost opposite Lark Lane)

Aigburth Old Hall, St Michael's 1885
(H.Magenis, William Herdman Collection, Liverpool Record Office)

Aigburth Old Hall, St Michael's - shown on the Tithe Award Map of 1845
(Liverpool Record Office)

Thanks to Glen Huntly and Darren White of BygoneLiverpool.wordpress.com for the two images above.

An excellent discussion of the Old Hall and its owners can be found here;

Huntly, Glen, Robert Griffiths’ Toxteth Park: The mystery of the Old Hall and the slave owners of Aigburth Road, The Priory and the Cast Iron Shore (History blog pages)

Neilson Road, St Michael's, named after the occupants of Aigburth Hall, most likely William Neilson
Neilson Road and Tramway Road, St Michael's

Christening of Fanny Backhouse,
born 26 November 1766, baptised St George, Liverpool
Robert son of William Neilson and Fanny Backhouse
9 April 1801

William Neilson, bankrupt
Stamford Mercury, 6 December 1816

William Neilson
Law Chronicle, Commercial and Bankruptcy Register, 16 January 1817

The death of William Neilson announced in the Lancaster Gazette, 3 January 1818
(Se'nnight is the space of seven nights and days: a week).

William Neilson, burial, St Michael's in the Hamlet 1817

By 1800, William had purchased Newbie Tower near Annan (Dumfriesshire) from James, 3rd Earl of Hopetoun, and possibly the acompanying estate, however, investment in plantations was no guarantee of continued success, as by his death in 1819 William Neilson left an estate of only £100 in his will, proved at Chester on 12 January 1819, while his trustees were charged to sell the property in 1820 to settle with his creditors. (4)

Robert Neilson

Robert, born on 9 April 1801, was the son of William Neilson and Fanny Backhouse. In his early twenties, he was despatched to Demerara, where he was an aide-de-camp to the governor, with the rank of colonel. There can be little doubt he also managed the affairs and investments of his deceased father. Dividends were still being paid out in Liverpool on profits from the Demerara estate into the 1840s.

He also worked for Ewart, Myers & Company, a Liverpool-based bank, which handled imports and sales of good such as cotton, wood, hides, ginger, and indigo from the West Indies and South America. William Myres lived in Aigburth and was no doubt acquainted with William Neilson, while William Ewart was a close friend of John Gladstone, who also had extensive slave plantations in Demerara. He later asked Ewart to be godfather to his son William Ewart Gladstone, the future Prime Minister. As moves towards emancipation grew in the 1830s, William Gladstone defended his father’s use of slaves on their plantations in his maiden speech to Parliament.

There is no question therefore, that Robert Neilson was immersed in the trade and operation of plantations in Demerara, and most significantly benefitted both socially and economically from the proceeds.

There are further links and evidence of Neilson's dealings in Demerara. Robert Neilson's eldest son, Robert Aston d'Urban Neilson born in 1855, was possibly named after Sir Benjamin D'Urban the first Governor of British Guiana 1831-33 whom he would have been acquainted with and probably worked under. 'Robert Neilson of Liverpool' was also identified as one of the executors of John Croal of British Guiana in 1853. (5)

The London Gazette, 12 Aug 1853, Page 2236

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73) was an Act of Parliament which provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in most parts of the British Empire. Compensation was to be paid out to plantation owners for emancipated slaves, and lists were drawn up to prepare claims.

The claim for Robert Neilson stated,

In 1829, Haags Bosch estate had 240 enslaved persons and the Perseverance estate had 147 enslaved persons, giving a total for Robert Neilson of 415 enslaved persons. Subsequent sales of 245 enslaved persons and deaths of 24 enslaved persons gives a new total of 146 listed in the claims.
146 enslaved persons were registered by Robert Neilson. = £7,609 9s 10d (6)

When Robert Neilson returned to Liverpool in the 1830s and decided to put his estate farming knowledge to practice in Halewood, he was doing so with the wealth generated from his slave plantations in Demerara. Furthermore, he continued to maintain his investments there while living in Halewood.

The Development of Halewood Farm

The precise movements of Robert Neilson during this early phase in his life are vague, but by the end of the 1830s, he had taken a lease on Halewood Farm facing Halewood Green (on Gerrard’s Lane at the junction of Church Road). The farm, and land amounting to 60 acres, were rented from the Earl of Derby, his friend and colleague from the local judiciary, where both served on the bench as Justices of the Peace.

Into the 1840s, Neilson intensified the development of his farm holding. Timber was cleared from a number of small fields, fences were taken down to convert three fields into ten, drainage was improved, wastes were cleared and taken into cultivation, and the workforce increased to the largest in the area. He took out further leases to extend his landholding, while also ensuring they were connected in block holdings, rather than being dispersed over a wide area. On 17 February 1841, he was elected as a member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, which would raise his growing profile still further.

Tithe Apportionment (extract) 1840
Showing the plots under lease from the Earl of Derby and shown withing the red border above

Halewood Tithe map (extract) 1840
Showing the original land holding of 60 acres.
This would be increased to 300 acres taking in adjoining fields by 1851
Plot 37 shows the original farmhouse shown on the map of 1783 and 1805 above

1841 census
Robert on his own in the house without family
but with several servants, domestic and agricultural

1846 O.S. Map of Halewood Farm

Such was Neilson's social standing and experience, the local rate-payers were keen to see their new neighbour take up a position the bench and offered him the position of Justice of the Peace in January 1845. His appointment became official on 12 January 1846. His public office didn’t end there however, as he frequently acted as chairman of the licencing bench and occasionally presided at the quarter sessions. In addition to sitting in the County Courthouse at Liverpool, he performed similar duty at Woolton and St Helens. He was later the first chairman of the Liverpool United Tramways and Omnibus Company and developed the system in face of great opposition.

By 1845, Neilson's new methods at Halewood Farm had come to the notice of the Liverpool Agricultural Society, where he regularly exhibited his machinery and methods at their shows. He was awarded the Silver Prize Medal for 'exhibiting Croskill's Clod Crusher and other implements.'
Liverpool Agricultural Society
Silver Prize Medal 1845
'Presented to Robert Neilson for exhibiting
Croskill's Clod Crusher and other implements'

William Crosskill's improved patent self-cleaning clod-crusher and roller (1840-41).

Halewood Farm - A Public Nusiance

However, in his eagerness to increase production, he found the farm was unable to produce enough of its own manure to return adequate nutrients to the land. Consequently, he imported waste products from the markets of Liverpool, including carrion, fish, offal, and other products, which stood putrefying in heaps on his land, the largest near the junction of Lydiate Lane and the 'New Road to Mr Wright's farm' [this was Macket's Lane, the ancient 'Portal' pathway which passed Wright's fields of New Hutte Farm on its route to the Mersey shore].

The smell was horrendous according to his neighbours, and also attracted flies which plagued the locality.

Despite complaints, Neilson simply moved the heaps to the centre of his fields and carried on with his methods regardless. By February 1848 his neighbours 'of this most respectable locality' had had enough, and he was in court defending his actions, with the case being reported nationally.

London Express, 7 February 1848
Click for full report

So, Neilson escaped on a technicality, but one can't help wondering how his standing as an influential wealthy magistrate, who was usually on the bench instead of defending a suit, had some bearing on the outcome.

Two years later, Neilson's farm was in the press again, but for more positive reasons. In fact, the research material suggests it originated during the collection of evidence for the hearings of 1848. The detail is thorough and gives a great insight into the workings of his farm and the forward thinking, that within just a few short years was seeing his methods increasingly discussed in broad circles.

Liverpool Albion, 5 January 1852

1850 - marriage - Robert Neilson and Mary Elizabeth Moss

On 24 September 1850, Robert married Mary Elizabeth Moss at St Anne's Church in Aigburth. Mary was the daughter of Henry Moss of the well-known Liverpool family of bankers and plantation slave owners. His half-brother was James Moss of Otterspool House, pioneering chairman of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, who also built St Anne's, the church where his neice Mary was married.

1851 census
Showing Mary's brothers visiting at the time the survey was taken

Neilson's life on the bench was put on hold in 1852 and his farm left in the hands of his farm manager, when he found it necessary to return to Demerara. More significantly, his wife was seven months pregnant with their first child, Fanny Charlotte Neilson (born 11 March 1852). The reason for his journey are unknown, but it certainly confirms that Neilson still had ownership or investments in estate in the plantations.

The Moss Family Tree (brief extract)
Robert and Mary Elizabeth Neilson are shown on the bottom row

Robert's father-in-law Henry Moss, who had died in 1848 just before his daughter's marriage had joined the banking firm of Moss, Dale, Rogers & Moss in September 1811. With his brothers John and James he had inherited Anna Regina plantation from his uncle James Moss, who was in the process of moving 1000 slaves from his plantation on Crooked Island in the Bahamas when he died in October 1820. John and Henry Moss bought Anna Regina for £710,000 (and the Lancaster cotton estate) in cash and a balance of £740,000 to be paid in crops to utilise the enslaved as a condition of the license to move them from the Bahamas.(7)(8)

Moss held extensive plantation estates in British Guiana (mainly in Demerara) with his brother John Moss, and they were compensated by the British Government on 18 Jan 1836 to the tune of £740,353 18s 3d to emancipate their 805 slaves.(9)

In his will, which had been drawn up in the mid-1830s, he instructed that his 'share and proportion of the plantation[s?] in British Guiana, held jointly with my brothers and in the services of the apprenticed negroes thereon or which [sic] belonged to us,' be placed in trust to his wife Hannah, brother John Moss, and son Peter Cottingham Moss.(10)

Peter had also died in 1848. Neilson may have been heading to Demarara to not just deal with his own investments, but to administer the affairs of his in-laws.

Whatever the reason for his trip, it would prove to be the most traumatic experience of his life.

Despite the trading interests that Liverpool had in the West Indies and South America, Neilson found himself having to travel to the port of Southampton to join the RMS Amazon, commanded by a Captain Symonds, on her maiden voyage to the West Indies on 2 January 1852. RMS Amazon was a wooden three-masted paddle steamer and Royal Mail Ship. She was the first of five sister ships (Demerara, Magdalena, Orinoco & Paraná) commissioned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company to serve RMSP's routes between Southampton and the Caribbean.

The Amazon - a voyage never to be forgotten

Within hours of his departure, the Liverpool press began to receive news of a disaster concerning the Amazon. They were then in receipt of a communication from Robert Neilson who confirmed the dreadful news:—

I have to report the total loss of the West Indian Mail steam packet Amazon on Saturday night, the 3rd inst., off the Bay of Biscay. At 12.40 the fire broke out. In less than 10 minutes it was bursting up the fore and main hatchways. Out of 156 people on board only 21 are, I believe, saved, for I was on the last boat that left the ship, and one of the two last men who got in after lowering her, by springing from the ship's side and sliding down the tackle fall. The fire caught the other and burnt the hair off his face before he sprang off. We were picked up the next day by the brig Marsden, Captain Evans, who treated us with the greatest kindness and attention, and landed us about 1am this morning. We were received at the Globe by Mr Padmore with the greatest kindness.

As further details began to emerge, the national press soon reported at much greater length on the destruction of what was fleetingly the biggest steamship of her day, plus the tragic loss of life.

The new West India Steamship Amazon was Destroyed by Fire, on Sunday Morning the 4th inst., with a dreadful sacrifice of human life. She sailed on her first voyage from Southampton on Friday the 2nd. At a quarter before one on Sunday morning, when the ship was about 110 miles W.S.W. of Scilly, a fire broke out suddenly, forward on the starboard side, between the steam chest and the under part of the galley, and shortly after the flames rushed up the gangway which is in front of the foremost funnel. The alarm bell was rung, and Captain Symons rushed on deck in his shirt and trousers. Wet swabs and other loose things were placed on the gratings of the spar-deck hatch, and a hose was brought to play on the main deck, but quickly abandoned in consequence of the excessive heat. The deck pump was also kept at work until the men were forced to retire. The wind was blowing half a gale from south-west, and the vessel was going 8½ knots, which was her average rate from the time of departure.

Capt. Symons ordered some hay, between the engine- room crank gratings, to be thrown overboard; two trusses were hove over the ship's side, but the fire soon igniting the main body, the hencoops on each side, and the paddle-boxes, the men were obliged to abandon the deck, and those who could leave were all finally driven from the ship. Many were burnt in their berths, others suffocated, and a great number were drowned in the lowering of the boats.

The following narrative has been given by Mr. Vincent, midshipman of the Amazon:—

"About 20 minutes to 1 o'clock on Sunday morning, fire was observed bursting through the hatchway-foreside of the fore-funnel. Every possible exertion was made to put out the fire, but all was ineffectual. The mail- boat was lowered, with twenty or twenty-five persons in it; but was immediately swamped, and went astern, the people clinging to one another. They were all lost. The pinnace was next lowered but she hung by the fore tackle; and being swamped the people ware all washed out of her. In lowering the second cutter, the sea raised her and unhooked the fore- tackle, so that she fell down perpendicularly; and all but two of the persons in her were washed out.

Captain Symons was all this time using his utmost exertions to save his passengers and crew. Sixteen men, including two passengers, succeeded in lowering the life-boat; and about the same time I, (Mr. Vincent,) with two men, the steward and a passenger, got into and lowered the dingy. In about half an hour the life-boat took the dingy's people into her, and bore down for the ship with the dingy in tow; but the sea increasing, and being nearly swamped, they were obliged to cast the dingy off and bring the boat-head to sea. The masts went—first the foremast, and then the mizenmast. About this time a bark passed astern of the life-boat: we hailed her with our united twenty-one voices, and thought she answered us; but she wore and stood under the stern of the burning vessel, and immediately hauled her wind and stood away again. The gig, with five hands, was at this time some little way from us; but the sea was running so high we could render her no assistance, and shortly afterwards lost sight of her.

About 4 a.m. (Sunday) it was raining heavily, and the wind shifted to the northward; sea confused, but decreasing; put the boat before the sea. At 5 o'clock the ship's magazine exploded, and about half an hour afterwards the funnels went over the sides, and she sunk. At noon we were picked up by the Marsden, of London, Captain Evans; by whom we were treated in the kindest manner possible."

The conduct of Mr. Vincent, a very young man, has been highly praised. Mr. Neilson of Liverpool, one of the passengers saved in the life-boat, says in a narrative published in the newspapers:

"I cannot close my narrative of this event without adverting in the strongest terms of praise and admiration to the conduct of young Vincent. Throughout the whole of the dreadful scenes through which we passed, he never showed the slightest symptom of fear or hesitation, or uttered a single murmur or complaint. His whole care seemed for the men, of whom he took the command with the calmness of an old officer, and having on him, as one of the officers of the watch when he escaped, the full complement of clothes, he gave his pea-jacket to one of the men who had only a shirt on, a flannel shirt to another, and his handkerchief to a third. I have been in scenes which have tried the nerves of hardened men, but never in any more calculated to try them than those through which this young officer passed unruffled. I must speak also in the highest terms of the steadiness, firmness, and unwearied exertions of our boat's crew, who, notwithstanding the heavy sea and the crowded state of the boat, with 21 in her, were most eager to brave every danger for the chance of offering still further aid to their drowning comrades, while the possibility of a chance still remained."

The number of the ship's officers was ten, that of her engineers six, and that of her seamen ninety-six; the passengers were forty-nine. Of these, it was at first supposed that only the twenty-one persons who escaped with Mr. Vincent in the life-boat were saved; but a Dutch vessel afterwards landed at Brest six passengers and nineteen of the crew, whom she had picked up at sea; and another boat, with four passengers and nineteen of the crew, was picked up in the Bay of Biscay by a Dutch vessel and landed at Plymouth. The following are some of the details which have been given of this deplorable event. The boats of the Amazon were fitted with iron cranes or crutches on which their keels rested; these fittings obstructed their clearance from the ship, and but for this fatal arrangement the serious loss of life would have been lessened.

Captain Symonds ordered that no one should get into the boats. This order was obeyed until the people saw the flames overpowering the ship. He was last seen with the man at the wheel, ordering the helm to be put up, so as to keep the ship before the wind. His last words were, "It is all over with her."

The officer of the watch, Mr. Treweeke (second officer), was walking the bridge when the accident was discovered. Mr. Henry Roberts, chief officer, in his shirt only, was actively assisting the captain; he was last seen going through the companion down to the main deck, and is supposed to have perished there. Mr. Lewis (third officer), Mr. Goodridge (fourth officer), and the two midshipmen, some of whose berths were forward on the port side of the main deck, were probably suffocated, as were also the chief engineer, Mr. George Angus, and Mr. Allen, the superintending engineer, on behalf of the constructor of the engines, as they were seen in the engine-room ten minutes before the fire broke out, going forward, there being no possibility of their return through the flames.

The second engineer, Mr. William Angus, was on the spar deck, between the funnel and the crank gratings, pulling oars, and throwing them out of the way of the fire on the deck, near the boats. The two best boats were stowed on the top of the sponsons, where the flames prevented approach.

After the Amazon was put about, she went at the rate of twelve or thirteen knots, dead before the wind. One boat on the starboard-side, the second cutter, was full of people, when the wash of the sea unhooked the foremost tackle; she held on by the stern-tackle, and her stern falling into the sea, all except two were drowned, in consequence of the ship's speed. The pinnace was observed on the port-side, towing by the fore-tackle, behind the burning ship; and as no one cut the tow-rope, the miserable passengers, who were all huddled together, were one after the other washed into the sea. The mail-boat, which was also full of people, having shipped a quantity of water, went down alongside.

When the flames had approached the after companion, two male passengers came up from the saloon, all in flames, and running aft, fell on the deck. A tall lady entreated some one to take care of her child; but she would not enter either of the boats. Dineford, the quartermaster, placed one lady passenger in a boat; but she, being extremely agitated, got out again, and although Henry Williams and another used some force and begged her to go in, she persisted in remaining on board. The stewardess, Mrs. Scott, with her bonnet and shawl on, and something in her hand, first asked Steer to put her in the dingy, and then left for a larger boat.

At the time of leaving, some of those who yet lived were kneeling on the deck praying to God for mercy; while others, almost in a state of nudity, were running about screaming with horror. The greatest part of the survivors escaped in the after-starboard second life-boat, in which was Mr. Neilson. One of her occupants (Maylin), in leaving, pressed his foot through the burning deck and injured it; two others (Williams and Passmore) had to climb the starboard paddle-box through the flames and smoke. They succeeded after three attempts, and then slid down hands and face over the paddle-box into the boat; several went down by the tackles. Two of the watch below (Williams and Foster) had their hair burnt while coming on deck.

When the life-boat left there were sixteen on board; they heard some one shouting in the water, and threw over a keg and some oars. They endeavoured to approach, but a sea carried the boat off. They then took Mr. Vincent, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Sisley, and two sailors, from the dingy, and making her fast to the stern, towed after the burning wreck, thinking to save more lives; but the dingy having filled, they were obliged to cut her adrift, and, fearing that they themselves should be swamped, their boat's head was put to face the sea. Twelve oars were at work, the wind was increasing, and heavy squalls coming on. They saw the ship's gig full of people, shouting as if for assistance, and at the same time descried a sail standing apparently to the southward. The vessel appeared to pass between the two boats, and after this the gig was not seen; whether she was swamped or was taken up by the stranger is unknown.

The strange vessel came pretty close under the life-boat's stern, when all shouted together, and thought they were answered on board: she was a barque, under close-reefed topsails, foresail, and fore-topmast staysail; her spanker was hanging in the brails as if she was in the act of wearing. Soon after her helm was put up, and she bore right down towards the wreck, behind which she disappeared.

The masts of the steamer went over before four o'clock in the morning, the foremast on the port and the mainmast on the starboard side. One poor fellow appeared at the jib-boom end; the jib was cut loose, and was blowing away. Her mizenmast was still standing while she was in flames from stem to stern. About five o'clock, when the lifeboat was passing the ship in a leewardly direction, the gunpowder in her two magazines aft exploded; and in about twenty minutes, the mizen having gone by the board, she made a heavy lurch and went down, her funnels being red hot and still standing.

The lost passengers are;
Messieurs De Pass and Delgado, Mr. Fellows, and Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Wiiiton, Jamaica; Mr. Best and servant, Messieurs Callender and Stirling, and Mr. Alleyne, Barbadoes; Mr. Johnston, Mr. Burnett, and Mr. and Mrs. Scotland, Trinidad; Mr. Hick and Mr. and Mrs. M'Clinnow, Demerara; Mr. Eliot Warburton (the author of "The Crescent and the Cross"); Mr. Geraud, M. and Madame Lacombe and child; M. Kersaboe, and Mr. Dellemare, Chagres; Mr. M. Del Rio, Margaret Fitzgerald, and M. Fevrier, Vera Cruz; Mr. Joel, Jamaica; Mr. Cuming, St. Thomas; Mr. Cardennas, Santa Martha; Mr. Anthony, and Mr. Hamilton, Jamaica; Mr. Ferrear, Grace Hoare, and Mr. Granier, Vera Cruz; Mr. Crevecowst, St. Thomas; Mr. Le Fave, Guadaloupe.

The superior officers of the ship who perished are;
William Symonds, commander; Henry Roberts, chief officer; Charles H. Treweeke, second officer; John Lewis, third officer; George D. Goodridge, fourth officer; James W. Fullerton, surgeon; M. H. Strutt, purser; Francis Stainforth, midshipman; William K. Stuart, midshipman; Thomas Walter Shapcott, purser's assistant.
The petty officers are George Angus, chief engineer; Debray Theophile, French cook; and three other cooks; and Joseph Kirby, the baker.

The rest of those lost were seamen and firemen. The crew were picked men, and Captain Symonds was distinguished for his skill and cool intrepidity. The value of the Amazon when ready for sea was about £100,000. The loss of that sum falls entirely upon the insurance- fund of the company,—a fund exclusively devoted from annual grants derived from the profits of the Company towards such casualties. The value of the specie, quick- silver, cargo, &c., when added to the value of the ship, will give a total loss of property of little less than £200,000 sterling.

The passengers rescued in the lifeboat are Mr. Hawes, Vera Cruz; Mr. Neilson of Liverpool, bound for Demerara; Mr. T. Sisley, bound for Chagres. The officers of the crew saved are Mr. Vincent, jun., midshipman; and Mr. James Williamson, the chief steward. The rest of the people saved are Mr. Dunsford, quarter-master, and fifteen seamen and firemen. The persons saved and landed at Brest are Mrs. Anna Maria Smith, Mrs. Eleanor Roper M'Clennan, and her infant, Mr. Bernardo Barricorn, Mr. Frederick Glennie, Mr. John Stryburn, and Mr. William Evans. Among members of the crew now saved are Mr. William Stone, engineer; Mr. Jacob Allen (Messrs. Seaward and Capel's foreman,) George Deal and Alexander Laing, quartermasters, and Michael Gould, second steward.

(right:) SS Amazon on Fire in the Bay of Biscay by Philip John Ouless (1852)

The circumstances connected with Mrs. M'Clennan's escape are most interesting. Upon the alarm being given she wrapped her infant in a shawl, and rushed upon deck; she was put into a boat without any garments but her night clothes. Into this boat fifteen or twenty persons placed themselves, but being unable to free the stern tackle, the bow went almost perpendicularly down; some fell into the sea, others scrambled up into the ship again. Mrs. M'Clennan was partly thrown into the sea, but her strong maternal feelings enabled her to save both herself and the child. She clung with her arm to one of the seats of the boat that was fast, and holding the child with the other, remained in a nearly vertical position for half an hour. Just when she became aware that she could not hold on much longer, the two engineers and others—the last to leave the ship—rushed to the boat, freed it from the tackle, and jumped into the boat before it could get away. Mrs. M'Clennan was very much bruised, and in this trying situation remained seventeen hours, almost the whole time up to her waist in water, from the sea breaking over the boat, without food and without clothes. Even the infant's shawl they were obliged to make a sail of, in order to keep the boat before the wind. Seventeen hours after she escaped from her berth, she was lifted, almost insensible, but still clinging to her child, on board the vessel that rescued the party.

Among the persons saved in the last boat were the Rev. Mr. Blood, Mr. Kilkelley, Lieutenant Grylls, R.N., and Senor Juan de Cima, passengers; and Mr. William Angus, the second engineer.

The directors of the Royal Mail Steam-packet Company commenced at Southampton, on the 8th, an investigation into the circumstances of the disaster. Mr. T. Baring, M.P., Chairmain of the Company, presided; and Captain Corry, of the Royal Navy, attended from the Admiralty. All the surviving passengers and crew were examined at great length on several successive days.

By some, the fire was ascribed to the friction of the "bearings" of the engines, which were new and did not yet work smoothly: but this supposition was contradicted by the evidence of Mr. William Angus, the second engineer. The fire, in his opinion, originated between the starboard fore boiler and the bulkhead. Judging from the glare of the flame when he first saw it, it commenced below, and caught the store-room as it rose. He could only conjecture that it must have been caused by spontaneous combustion. The painters and other mechanics at work, before starting, might have dropped down their shavings, chips, dabs of paint, and other rubbish. He was quite certain that the fire commenced below the store-room; some sacks, which were placed outside of it by his order, helped the flame. When he saw the gleam of the fire first it was low down, and the store- room was not then on fire. He was quite certain of that, from his position. The turpentine was kept quite away from that part of the ship, and he had never seen any leakage of oil from the tanks. The "bearings" were not more heated than those of new engines usually were, and he was quite confident that it was from nothing of that kind that the fire originated.

Unsuccessful searches have been made for the boats not accounted for, which appear to have left the burning vessel. On the 17th, the Rev. Mr. Warburton, brother of Mr. Eliot Warburton, arrived at Plymouth from London, bringing despatches from the Lords of the Admiralty to the Commander in Chief at that port, Admiral Sir J. Ommanney, upon the receipt of which the Admiral issued orders for two steam vessels — the Sprightly, and the Avon, to proceed with all possible despatch to join the Hecate, in searching for any of the survivors of the Amazon. On the 21st the Sprightly and Avon returned to Devonport, having experienced much foul weather, but not succeeding in gaining any further information as to the Amazon, or of the survivors of her destruction.

The Hecate, steam sloop, which was despatched to Brest by order of the Admiralty, also returned without bringing any intelligence respecting the missing passengers and crew. Portions of wreck, supposed to have belonged to the Amazon, have come ashore at Swanpool, near Falmouth, at Bridport, and other places. A new inquiry into the loss of the Amazon, under the powers given to the Board of Trade by the navigation act of last session, has been commenced. The subscriptions for the benefit of the survivors exceed £6000, and it is expected that the whole sum wanted, £10,000 will speedily be obtained.

ed. Charles Dickens, Household Words, A Weekly Journal conducted by Charles Dickens Vol III (1852), page 10.
Fatalities that night which have varied between 105 and 115, included the popular travel writer and novelist Elliot Warburton, and the French novelist Gabriel Ferry. A national appeal, which was given great support by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, raised money for widows, orphans and survivors.

However, the enquiry into the ship's loss failed to establish a cause of the fire. It was suggested that the fire started in the engine room as the engine bearings were repeatedly overheating. However, such overheating might also be expected to cause the engines to seize, whereas they continued to run as the fire spread.(11) Whatever the cause of the fire, the Admiralty reconsidered its insistence on wooden hulls for mail ships. The next ship that RMSP ordered, RMS Atrato, was built with an iron hull.(11)

The mystery vessel which failed to assist the stricken Amazon for whatever reason, was later identified as the barque Deodata of Drammen, Norway. Dogged by criticism (the kind of which would be witnessed on a much greater scale towards the Californian in relation to the Titanic), prompted the captain to respond;

from The Lost Steamer: A History of the Amazon, Partridge and Oakey, 1852
and The Illustrated London News, 20 March 1852 p.235

The Narrative of Mr Neilson
Preston Chronicle 17 January 1852
The Dreadful Burning of the Amazon
A pamphlet produced for two surviving sailors, March 1852
Sorrow on the Sea
Possibly the first book (pub 1852) about the disaster (in which Neilson's accounts are featured).

Robert Neilson's return to the trading floor in Liverpool caused quite a stir,

The authenticity of the news of the Amazon was doubted by many. It soon became known on the ‘Change that Mr Robert Neilson was one of the passengers on board the ill-fated steamer, and on that gentleman appearing in the Newsroom, crowds of our merchants thronged around him, and congratulated him on his escape. After some degree of order had been restored, Mr Neilson proceeded to narrate the particulars of the disaster of which he had been so recently an eyewitness. The recital caused a most profound sensation, and business for the time was suspended.
Liverpool Albion, 12 January 1852

A disaster of such a scale would today see extensive 24-hour news and social media coverage, with every last aspect of the tragic events given forensic analysis. In 1852, to have a survivor (who was one of their own) walk among them and take time to describe what happened, must have been mind-blowing. Is it any wonder trading was suspended? (Which would certainly have cost significant sums).

Whether or not Neilson attempted to travel again to Demerara is unknown, or if he despatched a factor to handle his business dealings on his behalf, but his pressing concern now was the birth of his daughter. Fanny was baptised in St Nicholas Church on 23 Apr 1852, a short walk from their Halewood home, and over the next decade she was joined by siblings Robert Aston (1854), Henry Cottenham (1855), William Frederick (1857), Henriana Minna (1858), Sybil Harriett (1859), Arthur Trevelyan (1861) and Rodolph Blackburne (1862).

Robert's wife Mary died just seven years after the birth of Rodolph on 7 September 1869 at 5 Grosvenor Terrace, Toxteth aged only forty-three.

1861 census

1871 census

Brief Neilson Family Tree

The development of the farm continued at a pace. Neilson was keen to set aside traditional methods if machinery and new ideas could improve production and efficiency, and he soon earned a high reputation as an agriculturalist. His method for drying corn, for example, caused great interest, and journalists frequently visited his farm to observe new practices for themselves.

Neilson began a series of experiments in 1856 and persevered for twenty-five years perfecting the system – ‘at great expense’. Of course, he had a significant advantage over his Halewood farming neighbours in this regard having large resources to draw from, given the source of some of his wealth.

Not that his ideas created jobs on his own estate. His introduction of machinery was clearly a method to reduce his workforce, especially as there had been a significant increase in wages from 1860. The farm may have increased to 300 acres in size, employing thirty-five men in 1851, yet within ten years the same acreage was being farmed by twenty-seven men, and by 1871 it was just nineteen. Household servants were also reduced from six living in the house in 1851, to zero by 1871. (12)

A study by Alistair Mutch gives further insight,

At Speke, wages paid to casual labourers in 1891 amounted to £85 16s ld (£53 3s 4d for the harvest, £30 12s 9d for potatoes dug by piece work) or 15 per cent of the total wages bill. Considerable savings were offered by the self-binder which 'enables the farmer to get through his work with less work than heretofore, and with comparative independence'.

In addition to these incentives to adopt the self-binder and potato digger, Lancashire farmers were feeling threatened by agricultural depression. In the eary 1890s the price of one of their staple products, hay, was reduced by an influx of imports from America. They had also seen the effects of depression in the rest of England. Their papers contained letters from Lancashire farmers who had seized the chance of cheap rents to move to Essex. All these factors encouraged the adoption of machinery in the 20 years following 1890.

The self-binder had, of course, been available much earlier. The first major trial of self-binding machines in England took place at Aigburth near Liverpool in 1877 in connection with the show of the Royal Agricultural Society. The first farmer to have been found to adopt the machine in southwest Lancashire was Robert Neilson of Halewood. In 1882, he cut all his oats with a Woods self-binder using wire: 'Mr Neilson does not object to that, only he uses a superior kind of wire, furnished by Rylands of Warrington.'

Neilson was possibly the best known farmer in Lancashire, having used steam for ploughing since 1867 and making his own gas to power a threshing mill and bone mill. He was a JP and was on the committee of the Liverpool Farmers Club. The first exhibition of a self-binder at the Ormskirk show was in 1884, when a machine newly purchased by Edward Threlfall of Halsall was displayed. In 1888 Henry Whitehead, who farmed 400 acres at Hesketh.

Mutch, Alistair, The Mechanization of the Harvest in South-West Lancashire, 1850-1914, The Agricultural History Review, Volume 29 (part I) (1981),pp.

Self-binding harvester

A contemporary view came from the pen of writer Samuel Sidney, in compiling his volume Rides on Railways (1851), which also includes a hint of the nineteenth century origins of Knowsley Safari Park,

While on the subject of agricultural improvements, we may mention that Mr. Robert Neilson, another mercantile notability, holds a farm, under Lord Stanley, at a short railroad ride from Liverpool, which we have not yet had an opportunity of examining, but understand that it is a very remarkable instance of good farming, and consequently heavy crops, in a county (Lancashire) where slovenly farming is quite the rule, and well worth a visit from competent judges, whom as we are also informed Mr. Neilson is happy to receive.

If, as seems not improbable, it should become the fashion among our merchant princes to seek health and relaxation by applying capital and commercial principles to land, good farming will spread, by force of vaccination, over the country, and plain tenant-farmers will apply, cheaply and economically, the fruits of experience, purchased dearly, although not too dearly, by merchant farmers. A successful man may as well—nay, much better—sink money for a small return in such a wholesome and useful pursuit as agriculture, than in emulating the landed aristocracy, who laugh quietly at such efforts, or hoarding and speculating to add to what is already more than enough.

If a visit be paid to Mr. Neilson’s farm, it would be very desirable to obtain, if possible, permission to view the Earl of Derby’s collection of rare birds and animals, one of the finest in the world. But permission is rarely granted to strangers who have not some scientific claim to the favour. Lord Derby has agents collecting for him in every part of the world, and has been very successful in rearing many birds from tropical and semi-tropical countries in confinement, which have baffled the efforts of zoological societies. The aviaries are arranged on a large scale, with shrubs growing in and water flowing through them. In fine weather some beautiful parrots, macaws, and other birds of a tame kind, are permitted to fly about the grounds. There is something very novel and striking in beholding brilliant macaws and cockatoos swinging on a lofty green-leaved bough, and then, at the call of the keeper, darting down to be fed where stately Indian and African cranes and clumsy emus are stalking about.

The late Earl was celebrated as a cockfighter, and the possessor of one of the finest breeds of game fowls in the kingdom. A few only are now kept up at Knowsley, as presents to the noble owner’s friends. Knowsley lies near Prescott, about seven miles from Liverpool. The family are descended from the Lord Stanley who was created Earl of Derby by the Earl of Lancaster and Derby, afterwards Henry IV., for services rendered at the battle of Bosworth Field. An ancestress, Charlotte de la Tremouille, Countess of Derby, is celebrated for her defence of Latham House against the Parliamentary forces in the Great Civil War, and is one of the heroines of Sir Walter Scott’s novel of Peveril of the Peak. The Earl of Derby has died while these sheets were passing through the press.

Samuel Sidney, Rides on Railways (1851) (13)

Neilson's System of Drying Corn, The Engineer, 30 June 1882, p.468

Such was the interest in Neilson's system of drying corn, that it was featured in the pages of The Engineer, with Neilson's own description of how it operated after his trial and error to perfect the method,

The Neilson system of drying corn stacks is to be tested at Reading, and the accompanying engraving shows how it has been worked out by Messrs. Thwaites Bros., Vulcan Works, Bradford.

In 1856 Mr. Neilson, of Halewood, near Liverpool, began a series of experiments - which have been perseveringly carried on at great expense for a period of over twenty years - and after having brought the process into practical working order, he makes known the results of his labours and freely places the experience obtained, so that all who wish can adopt his process at a comparatively small first expense.

The system is very simple, and is thus described by Mr. Neilson :
“Before building my stacks, I placed on the ground a 9in. square wooden pipe, to reach from the outside to within a foot from the centre of the position of the stack, where I placed on end a 4-bushel sack tightly filled with chaff or cut straw, and build up the stack round it, gradually drawing up the sack until it attained about one-third of the intended height of the stack. During the process I placed a light sheet-iron tube, 2in. in diameter, horizontally at about 6ft. or 7ft. from the ground, which would sink to about 4ft. or 5ft. so as to admit of the insertion of a common thermometer at the end of a stick, reaching from the outside of the stack to within 1ft. of the sack, so as to ascertain the heat of the interior; the stack was then built up to its intended height. To the outside opening of the 9in. wooden pipe I then connected, by air-tight arrangement, the mouth of a common winnowing fan (left), and commenced driving in air. While in operation during the day, I noticed no difference in the heat of the stack; but the following morning, after a night’s rest, it had risen to between 80 and 90 deg. As, for the sake of experiment, I had taken the hay from the field in a partially uncured condition, I was greatly gratified to find, after about an hour’s vigorous application of the fan, that the heat, as tested by the thermometer, showed a gradual and slow decline.”

“Previous to the next harvest – 1863 - I was discussing the system with a highly intelligent brother magistrate, Mr. Gossage, of Widnes, who suggested the introduction of warm air instead of cold air, by means of a stove, which he ingeniously constructed to avoid the chance of fire, and kindly lent me for the purpose. (right) The weather at that harvest being mild and free from wind, the success was highly satisfactory, and I flattered myself I had passed the Rubicon, as I cured stacks of hay, beans, and oats. Again, however, I was disappointed, and reappearance of mould in different places, in subsequent years, convinced me it was owing to some cause I had not discovered, independent of the operations in the field, and attributable to some failure in the working of the fan. After much reflection on the state of the weather during the previous harvests, and the prevalence of the westerly winds, and the appearance of the mould chiefly on the west side of the stacks, I was induced to think that the action of the wind had checked the outward effect of the fan, and, by causing the stagnation of the fermentation of the sap, had thus produced the mould. In order to test this, I constructed a light movable screen of canvas and timber, reaching as high as the eaves of the stack; this I placed in the eye of the wind, thus protecting the stack from its direct influence, and shifting it accordingly. The result of the stack thus protected, as compared with those unprotected, satisfactorily convinced me of the soundness of the conclusions at which I had thus arrived, that the curing of the hay depended on the regular permeation of the atmospheric air."

"There was, however, one great objection to this system—the necessity of watching any change of wind during the night, and the necessity of also shifting the screen accordingly, and the impossibility of adapting it, under those circumstances, to any number of stacks. I, therefore, determined to try the inversion of the system; and, instead of driving air into the chimney, and so through the stack outwardly, to draw it from the chimney inwardly through the bulk of the stack, by an exhaust instead, of a blowing fan. The result answered my most sanguine expectations, and my former antagonist - the wind - became my greatest ally, and amply repaid me for the disappointment and expense I had hitherto experienced. Satisfied with the success thus attained, I determined to adopt the system on a comprehensive scale; and, as the success would materially depend on the power of the exhaust, combined with the proper attention and judgment with which the operations in the field were conducted, I determined to work the exhaust fan by steam power from a thrashing machine, connecting it by a 9in. diameter glazed earthenware pipe, jointed with Roman cement so as to be airtight and to operate on every stack in the yard, of which there are three rows. Each row of pipes is intersected by a chamber 12in. square, which is covered with a cast iron plate, with an airtight valve operated on by a ½ in. iron rod, extending outside the stack so as to open or close the sliding lid of the valve. These chambers are situated 25ft. from each other, which will allow a full-size stack and plenty of room between it and the next.”

In the main engraving above it will be seen that a wire cage is put into the stack, and so makes a chamber to be partially exhausted by the fan.

The Engineer, 30 June 1882, page 468

1897 O.S. Map of Halewood Farm

1904 O.S. Map of Halewood Farm

Death of Robert Neilson

After a period of declining health, Robert Neilson J.P. died on 28 May 1887 at the age of eighty-six. His obituary appeared in number of newspapers, but the Liverpool Weekly Courier, 4 June 1887 is printed here;


A well-known county magistrate, a gentleman for a long period associated with commercial matters in Liverpool, and one of the pioneers of the tramway system, died on Saturday. The deceased Mr Robert Neilson, whose age was eighty-six years, had for some time been in failing health, but within a few weeks of his death he attended with that clearness of intellect which distinguished him, to the performance of some of his public duties. The generation of men with whom Neilson was connected in public and private affairs has almost died out; yet at one time few were more active in county matters, or better known on the Liverpool Exchange than the deceased. Among his associates on the county bench were the present Early of Derby, Viscount Cross, late Serjeant Wheeler, the late Mr Robertson Gladstone, Mr Higgins Q.C., and other gentlemen, who have taken a prominent part in the management of the affairs of the county of Lancaster. Mr Neilson’s father was a West Indian merchant, and in early life he himself resided at Demerara, filling the appointment of aide-de-camp to the governor, with the rank of colonel. He married one of the daughters of Mr Henry Moss of Wavertree, uncle of Sir Thomas Edwards Moss, Bart., but his wife died some years back.

Deceased had narrow escape about twenty-five years ago, when in sailing from this country for the West Indies the ship he was in, the Amazon, took fire, and he was only rescued with difficulty out of the water, and brought with the rest of the survivors back to port. His late residence and land at Halewood, which belong to the Earl of Derby, underwent a complete transformation during his tenancy. Upon entering into possession many years ago the estate consisted of small fields covered with a great deal of timber. Mr Neilson changed the ace of the land altogether by removing the trees and connecting the fields, and otherwise carrying out several improvements. In doing this he spared neither labour nor expense.

He was made Deputy Lieutenant on 19th January 1882 and was appointed to the county bench as far back as January 1846, his oldest magisterial colleagues being Mr Edward Gibbon, Mr J. G. Livingston and Colonel Ireland-Blackburne. Deceased was the senior member of the Visiting Committee of the County Lunatic Asylum, Rainhill, upon which he has served for considerably over thirty years; he was a member of the Finance Committee of the county, as well as of the Constabulary Committee, and he served as chairman of the Kirkdale Vising Committee. As a county justice he frequently acted as chairman of the Licensing bench, and in the absence of the chairman and deputy-chairman, presided at the quarter sessions, a position for which his keenness of intellect, insight of character, and judicial faculty of mind eminently fitted him. As a magistrate he was ever regular in his attendance as long as his health would permit, and in addition to sitting in the County Courthouse, Liverpool, he performed similar duty at Woolton, and at one time at St Helens. He was in favour of what is known as the free-trade system public-house.

When the tramway system was first established here Mr Neilson was the first chairman of the company, and no doubt to his energy and organising capacity the development of the system in the face of great opposition was mainly due. He was also eminent as an agriculturalist, and used to have large heads of stock on his farm, consisting mainly of mulch cows, which he invariably kept indoors all the year round in preference to letting them graze in the open air. As a breeder of horses and cattle, and also by his display of agricultural implements of the most improved pattern, he took a number of prizes at local shows. He was well known among farmers for his method of drying hay, which was called the Neilson system. His experience on drainage ad sewage was so varied and extensive that his services were at times frequently called into requisition by the Government in different parts of the county. He was amongst the first to introduce into this part of the country the utilisation of sewage by means of sewage farms.

Deceased was of a wonderfully inventive turn of mind, and was at home upon nearly all social and scientific questions. Moreover, he was an able speaker, possessed many brilliant qualities, and was a warm and genial companion and friend. He began life, we understand, with the then well-known firm of Messrs. Ewart, Myres and Co., and was at one point agent for Willis’s collieries. Farming, however, was his principal occupation for many years before his death. Deceased was a Whig, but never took any active part in political matters. He leaves four sons and three daughters, and was father-in-law to Mr W.S. Graves and Mr Herbert Graves.

The remains of the late Mr Robert Neilson J.P., were interred at Halewood Parish Church, on Wednesday, in the presence of a large gathering of deceased’s brother magistrates, residents of Halewood and district, and private friends. The pulpit, reading desk, and communion table of the sacred edifice, of which the late Mr Neilson was a churchwarden, were draped in black, and a muffled peal was rung. The funeral arrangements were exceedingly unostentatious. The coffin covered with wreaths of flowers brought by friends who were present, was borne up the churchyard by four of the oldest servants and employees of the deceased. I was of polished oak enclosing a metal shell, was finished with elaborate silver mountings, and bore the inscription ‘Robert Neilson, born April 9th 1801, died May 28th 1887’. The Rev. T. Chambers, rector of Halewood, read the funeral service. Deceased was interred in a family vault in which a wife and a son were already buried.

Liverpool Weekly Courier, 4 June 1887

Robert Neilson - burial, St Nicholas' churchyard
'48 years warden of Halewood'

The Neilson Family

Fanny Charlotte Neilson (1853-1938)

Robert Neilson's eldest daughter, Fanny Charlotte Neilson, married William Samuel Graves (the ship-owning son of Liverpool Mayor (in 1860) and Conservative M.P. Samuel Graves) at St Nicholas, Halewood on 8 September 1883. William Graves was a widower, having married Alice Bibby of the Liverpool shipping family on 30 April 1873. Alice was born on 28 Feb 1845 in Everton, the daughter of John Bibby and Fanny (Hartley) Bibby (the daughter of Jesse Hartley)). Their daughter, Alice Norah, was born in 1875, but Alice Bibby Graves passed away on 2 November 1879 at the age of thirty-four.

William, at that time, was living in the Graves' family home, The Grange, on Prince Alfred Road fronting Wavertree Park, which was about to be sold off and the surrounding land given to the people of Liverpool (as it remains today, known as the Wavertree Mystery).

William Graves and his new wife Fanny, together with eight-year-old Alice Norah, made their home at Dowsefield in Allerton, where a second daughter, Fanny Majorie Graves was born on 17 September 1884.

In 1899, Alice Norah Graves married Robert Durning Holt, the son of Robert Durning Holt senior, the well-known cotton-broker, local politician and first Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

Her step-sister Fanny Marjorie Graves, meanwhile, was destined to make her mark as a writer and politician. Marjorie had a private education, later schooling being carried out at Château de Dieudonne, Bornel, France. Her researches in the Bibliothèque Nationale and Archives Nationales in Paris led to her publications of three works, the most well-known being Memoirs of the Private Life of Marie Antoinette (1917).

The Graves family subsequently moved to 'Newells', Horsham, Sussex, where William became a Justice of the Peace, while they also maintained a house in Brompton Square, London. William passed away in Horsham in 1930, and his wife Fanny on January 1938 in her London townhouse at 18 Brompton Square.

On the outbreak of war in 1914, daughter Marjorie (taking her middle name and pictured right) took up employment in the Foreign Office. She attended the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference, before transferring to the Intelligence Department of the Home Office. She was politically a Conservative, and was a member of Holborn Borough Council from 1928 to 1934. She became the first female chairman of the Metropolitan Area of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in 1936. In 1931 she was chosen as Conservative candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Hackney South, held by Labour cabinet minister Herbert Morrison. She succeeded in unseating Morrison to become the area's Member of Parliament. At the next general election in 1935 she was hopeful of retaining the seat, with her campaign centring on opposition to the use of Hackney Marshes for the building of council houses. She was, however, badly beaten, with Morrison returning to parliament with a large majority.

In 1936 she formed part of the British Government delegation to the League of Nations. The following year, she was adopted as prospective candidate for Barnstaple, Devon, but the next general election was delayed until 1945 by the Second World War, and she did not contest the seat.

Marjorie Graves retired to Wareham, Dorset, where she became a member of the county council. She remained unmarried, and died in Wareham in November 1961.

Their Liverpool home at Dowsefield, is long gone, demolished for modern housing, although the lodge (facing Calderstones Park), and former private drive (now Dowsefield Lane), remain.

Robert Aston Neilson (1854-1878)

Robert Neilson's eldest son, Robert junior, worked with his father on their Halewood estate, but he died at the young age of twenty-four in 1878.

Henry Cottingham Neilson (1855-1924)

Henry, the second son of Robert and Mary, was born on 1 November 1855 and baptised at St Nicholas, Halewood. He moved into business as a stockbroker, running his own office in Queens Insurance Building, Liverpool. Following his father's death, he continued to live at the farm, until 3 January 1894, when he married Dorothy Wrigley, at St Peter's Formby, the daughter of cotton broker John Wrigley of Brockholme, Formby. Their first child Mary, was born in 1896, before they moved to Aston Hall in Hawarden, where their son Robert was born on 12 January 1905. By 1911 they had relocated to Plover's Moss in Sandiway near Northwich. Henry died there on 3 April 1924.

William Frederick Neilson (1857-1931)

Born on 5 June 1857, William was baptised the following month at St Nicholas, Halewood on 26 July. William also chose a career in finance and went into banking, which became his lifelong career.
He continued to live with his unmarried brothers Arthur and Rodolph, but after the Neilsons gave up Halewood Farm, William moved to Bedford Street in the Georgian Quarter in Liverpool. William married late in life, at the age of fifty-eight, to Dora Maud Lucas, a thirty-eight-year-old spinster, the daughter of a gentleman, William Lucas of Albert Drive, Aintree, the wedding taking place on 2 November 1915 at St Nicholas, Liverpool (Chapel Street). When retirement beckoned, William and Dora moved to Bentfield, Park West, Heswall. However, in 1930, William became ill and was admitted to the Northern Hospital in Liverpool where he passed away on 1 January 1931. William was interred on 22 January 1931 in St Nicholas, Halewood.

Henriana Minna Neilson (1858-1943)

Of Robert's three daughters, the first to leave and marry was Henriana Minna Neilson, who married Herbert Antony Graves, the merchant brother of William Graves who married Henriana's sister Fanny Neilson. The wedding took place at St Nicholas, Halewood on 19 July 1882.

Such was the importance of the occasion to the local community, an account was made of the day and later featured in the church history,
To celebrate the occasion, the 230 children who attended the Halewood day and Sunday schools were treated to a tea. They had games from 2pm in the adjoining field and prizes to any amount and of all description were provided by Mrs Graves. At 4pm they were served with a sumptuous tea in the school room, consisting of bun loaf of excellent quality, bread and butter of the best kind, scones, and cakes in interminable quantities. Sports were resumed until 8pm, when each child was sent off home with a bun and a small bunch of grapes. Immediately afterwards, Mr Chambers presented to the bride a very handsome dining-room clock, and the inscription on which indicated that it was given ‘as a token of affection and esteem, by a few of the inhabitants of Halewood, to whom she (the bride) and her family have endeared themselves by their unvarying courtesy and kindness, shown to all classes during many years.’
James Eccles, Centenary of Halewood Parish Church, (1939) p.33

The newlyweds moved into Summerhill on Woolton Park, the hillside estate being the exclusive habitat of local merchants, shipowners, and the like, while Herbert moved in to working as an agent and broker in stock and shares.

The following year their daughter Mary Elizabeth Graves was born on 2 July 1883 and baptised in St Nicholas on 3 August. Their second child, Reginal Anthony, born on 13 September 1886, sadly died in infancy on 30 April 1888, however Mary was followed by her brothers Frederic Neilson Graves on 3 July 1892 and William Herbert Graves on 18 Mar 1895. In 1895, the family moved to 4 Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, where William was born and baptised on 23 April at St Philemon's, Toxteth.

Their stay at Gambier Terrace was short however as by 1901 the family had relocated to Grove House, Great Sutton, near Capenhurst in South Wirral [now demolished and the Old Wirral Hundred public house stands on the site. Coincidentally, this author lived in the adjoining road in the 1990s.]

By 1911, the family were living at Bryn Polyn in St Asaph, where Herbert Graves died on 31 May 1918. In 1921, Henriana was living alone in Bryn Polyn, but by 1939 her spinster daughter Mary (who never married) had returned to live with her, and were now at Bryn Derwyn in the centre of St Asaph, possibly to care for her in her final years. She was well enough to return to Halewood in 1939 however, where she had been invited to take part in an important anniversary,
'The Centenary celebrations of St Nicholas Church, Halewood, took place in June 1939. The Garden Fete was opened by Mrs Graves. Her descent from the Neilson family made this a very appropriate choice. Robert Neilson had been Churchwarden for 44 years in the nineteenth century, later two of his sons, Mr Cottingham Neilson and Mr R.B. Neilson were also Churchwardens. She had been Minna Neilson before her marriage to Herbert Graves in 1882. Over the years she had maintained an interest in Halewood School, particularly in the girl’s needlework, and for many years she presented a fitted workbox each year to the girl who showed the greatest improvement in her sewing.'
Reverend Owen Eva, ‘Riding the Changes’ (1989), p.7, (A History of the Church in Halewood 1939-1989 – written in celebration of the 150th anniversary of St Nicholas Church)
Henriana Minna passed away at Bryn Derwyn on 25 July 1943. The family brought her home to Halewood once again, where she was laid to rest with other family members in St Nicholas Churchyard.

Mary continued living at Bryn Derwyn, until moving into Plas Coch Nursing Home in St Asaph, where she died on 23 May 1957 aged seventy-three. A few days later, on 28 May, Mary was also interred in St Nicholas.

At eighteen, Frederic entered the Merchant Navy as an apprentice (then called the Mercantile Marine), but by 1912 he was registered as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Mersey Division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. After service in the First World War, he emigrated to Australia, married, and settled in Perth. He served again in WWII, signing on for the Australian forces at Claremont, then worked as a clerk in Perth on his discharge. He died on 30 Sep 1980 aged eighty-eight, and was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery, Karrakatta, Nedlands City, Western Australia.

His younger brother, William Herbert Graves, also had a career at sea, commencing as a fifteen-year-old cadet in 1910. During service in the First World War, he was appointed Lieutenant on 15 April 1916, then post-war was stationed at the Royal Navy torpedo training establishment Actaeon on Sheerness. Lieutenant Graves married Margaret Lavinia Packman in 1930, their daughter Mary being born in 1935 in Portsmouth. By the time of his retirement on 18 March 1940, he had reached the rank of Commander, but his working life hadn't yet ended, as he trained in the ministry and was publicly ordained in Exeter Cathedral by the Bishop of Exeter on 1 June 1947 as a reverend and licenced as a deacon to the curacy of St Budeaux, Plymouth. He also spent some of his ministerial life living at The Old Rectory, Bratton Clovelly, in Okehampton, West Devon.

Commander Reverend Graves passed away at 6 Thicket House, Elm Grove, Southsea on 1 July 1984. His ashes were scattered in Portsmouth Cathedral Churchyard.

Sybil Harriet Neilson (1859-1953)

Sybil was born on 20 November 1859 in Halewood and baptised on 11 Mar 1860 at St Nicholas. On 5 January 1888 at St Nicholas, she married William Lee Pilkington, (known as Colonel Lee Pilkington) the eldest son of William Pilkington D.L., J.P., of Roby Hall, the well-known glass manufacturer of St Helens. William junior would later become senior partner in the company.

(Right: Colonel Lee Pilkington obituary, Liverpool Daily Post, 9 December 1919)

The newlyweds moved into a large property in Blacklow Brow in Roby village, Huyton, before moving to a more substantial property nearby at Edenhurst, Roby in the 1890s (next door to High Carrs - the home of Joseph Royden of Thomas Royden & Sons, Liverpool shipbuiders, and a relative of this author).

By 1911, Lee and Sybil (they had no children) had relocated to the more rural setting of Delamere, where they moved into Norley Bank. Their time was cut short there however, when Colonel Pilkington passed away on 6 December 1919, at the age of sixty-two. They had been married for thirty-one years. Sometime before 1939, Sybil moved to Foley Lodge (with her household staff of six) in Newbury, Berkshire. Sybil died there on 7 March 1953 at the age of ninety-three.

Arthur Trevelyan Neilson (1860-1921)

Arthur was born on 18 December 1860 and baptised on 24 February 1861 in St Nicholas. As well as helping his father with the farm as a young man, he became a cotton merchant with Molyneux, Taylor & Co with an office in 3 Sun Insurance Buildings, in Chapel Street, Liverpool, eventually becoming a senior partner. Arthur was also a director of the Bank of Liverpool and Martins Ltd.

He was also committed to military service and signed on part-time as a volunteer for the Yeomanry Cavalry in the Lancashire Hussars. He was later promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 24 January 1900.

After their siblings moved away from Halewood Farm, just brothers Rodolph, William and Arthur were left to run the farm. However, by the turn of the century this was becoming more difficult, especially for Rodolph, as both Arthur and William had their business commitments. Consequently, by 1907 the tenancy was let go, William moved to the flat in Bedford Street, and Rodolph and Arthur moved to Holmwood, in the quiet Cheshire village of Sandiway near Northwich, taking their long serving housekeeper Elizabeth Fowler with them. It was also close to their sister Sybil in nearby Norley and brother Henry in Plover's Moss.

During the First World War, despite aged fifty-three, Arthur volunteered in 1914 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant with the Cheshire Yeomanry, and from 2 March 1916 saw active service in Egypt and the Senussi Campaign in North Africa. He was then posted to Palestine and was attached to the staff at the Battle of Gaza.

On his return home, Arthur never fully recovered from his wartime experiences, and his health gradually deteriorated. Arthur passed away peacefully on 29 October 1921 at Holmwood in Sandiway and was interred in the family plot in St Nicholas Churchyard.

In his will he left £23,400, worth almost £1.5 million today.

Rodolph Blackburne Neilson (1862-1936)

Rodolph was born on 19 August 1862 and baptised on 5 October 1862 in St Nicholas. On the death of Robert Neilson's eldest son Robert, Rodolph's older brother, and the fact that his siblings either married and moved away, or had business interests of their own, the way was clear for Rodolph to carry on with the farm where his father left off. By the time of Rodolph's passing, he too had made his mark in agriculture and had earned a high reputation far and wide.

He became a member of the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Society at a very young age and was elected vice-president in 1882, vice-chairman of the Council in 1922 and Chairman in 1928. In 1925 he had conferred upon him the highest honour the Society could bestow - the honorary Life Vice-President Membership.

He was by then an authority on agriculture and his services were valued throughout the country.

On his move to Sandiway with Arthur, he worked as a Land Agent and was appointed a Justice of the Peace. Despite giving up Halewood Farm, he continued to be very active in agricultural spheres, sitting on committees, organising shows and judging exhibitions.

For his distinguished services for over fifty years, at the annual meeting of the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Society in Preston in December 1935 he was presented with a miniature grandfather clock and an engrossed copy, illuminated and contained in a silver frame, of the resolution of the Council expressing deep appreciation of his unique services and outstanding devotion to the Society

Rodolph Neilson's obituary - Liverpool Daily Post, 14 April 1936

Rodolph passed away aged seventy-three on 16 April 1936 at Holmfield, Sandiway. Like his brother Arthur, his funeral was at St Nicholas where he was interred in the family plot.

Even after he had moved away to Sandiway, he maintained his contact and roles within the village, as the church history reveals,

'In April 1936, the church and parish suffered a severe blow in the passing of Mr Rodolph Blackburne Neilson, whose warm interest had been proved by his generosity. His father was churchwarden for 44 years, being followed by a son, My Cottingham Neilson, and then himself until he gave up Halewood Farm. He remained a School Manager until his death' [Halewood C of E School, adjacent to St Nicholas].
James Eccles, Centenary of Halewood Parish Church, (1939) p.69

With no direct heirs to pass Holmfield on to, by the terms of Rodolph's will it was auctioned off on 25 June 1936

It should not be forgotten that the development of Halewood Farm in the nineteenth century was only possible due to the revenue created not only by investment in the African Trade, but also ownership of plantations and a captive workforce to farm them. This was not simply down to 'sins of the fathers' regarding William Neilson's role, but was one continued and maintained by Robert Neilson of Halewood, who was still committed to travelling to Demerara in the 1850s when the vessel carrying him sank. This wealth made it possible for Neilson to take risks on his farm, regarding the investment in machinery and innovative ideas, bringing him national acclaim. The social standing and opportunity it brought for his children in marriage and career was also clearly evident. A fact that grates somewhat when attending St Nicholas Church even today where there are prominent memorials and stained glass windows to the Neilson family.

Neilson Memorials

Despite the Neilson's gradually moving away from the village, either due to marriage or retirement from Halewood Farm, their ties remained, and they frequently returned to present prizes to school children, or attend special church services. On their passing, they were laid to rest in family plots in St Nicholas Churchyard, and memorials were installed within the church.

Two of the windows situated in the apse are part of the William Morris windows in St Nicholas and part funded by the Neilson family. The inscriptions on the various windows are as follows:-
“...the centre window is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Thomas Chambers, M.A., formerly rector of this parish, by his friends and parishioners” – “In memory of Robert Neilson, Churchwarden for 44 years, born April 9th, 1801, died May 28th, 1887, dedicated by his family.” …. In the south wall of the apse contains the inscription:- “Sanctus Lucas: in memory of Robert Aston D’Urban Neilson, who died 23rd June, 1878, aged 24” – “Dum lucem habetis credite in luce mut filii lucis sitis. (While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. St John 12:36).
James Eccles, Centenary of Halewood Parish Church, (1939) p.34
Mary Elizabeth Neilson
Wife of Robert Neilson
Dedicated window
Dedication (this window is in the nave)

Rev Thomas Chambers / Robert Neilson window
(The Neilson window is on the right)
Robert Aston Neilson window
Windown dedication

The Neilson family plot of Robert Neilson JP DL
9 Apr 1801-28 May 1887
in St Nicholas Churchyard, Halewood

The panel faces are shown below

Rodolph Blackburne Neilson
18 Aug 1862-13 Apr 1936
Mary Elizabeth Neilson
Robert D'Urban Neilson
Arthur Trevelyn Neilson
William Frederick Neilson

The family plot of Henriana Neilson Graves
(Daughter of Robert Neilson snr)
in St Nicholas Churchyard, Halewood

St Nicholas was also the church attended by the family of John Backhouse Neilson, a share broker and the brother of Robert Neilson, although he did not live in Halewood, having lived in Great Crosby until his death. Following his passing the family relocated to Fulwood Park which was their home into the 20th century. John Backhouse Neilson have a family plot in St Nicholas, close to his brother Robert, where several members were laid to rest.

John Backhouse Neilson
(brother of Robert Neilson)
died 1864
Mary Elizabeth Neilson his wife d.1892
Mary Elizabeth Charlotte Neilson
Ralph Langton Neilson

The History of Halewood Farm - Part II

Halewood Farm in the 20th Century

The Mercer Family

By 1907, James and John Mercer had taken over the lease of Halewood Farm. James had first moved to Higher Road, Halebank, from Upholland in the 1870s, where he had taken over the running of Linner Farm, while his brother Richard farmed Brook House Farm nearby on Lower Road. They were well aware of the success the Neilson's had in the development of Halewood Farm, as they had frequently competed with them for recognition by Agricultural Society of Lancashire. This continued into the new century, when in 1902 James won 2nd prize for Linner Farm, while Rodolph Neilson was 'Highly Commended' for Halewood Farm.

Nevertheless, the Neilson brothers, still single and living at the farm (Rodolph, William, and Arthur) had decided to move on by 1907. John Mercer, now working as an electrical engineer and in his early twenties, was no doubt eager to take over one of the most successful farms in the county.

Death of James Mercer
Runcorn Weekly News, 26 August 1921

(click for full obituary)

James Mercer's Estate
Runcorn Weekly News, 4 November 1921

1939 census

In 1939 Halewood Farm was still under lease by John Mercer and his wife Rose. Also living at Halewood Farm was Francis Milbourn, Rose's sister. Francis was born in 1865 and grew up with Rose working on their father's farm in Altcar. By the 1920s, she was retired and living with Rose in Vernon Lodge in Halewood Road, Little Woolton (Gateacre), before moving to the farm after Rose and John married in 1929. In 1941, Francis had been taken into care into Landsdown Nursing Home, Blundellsands, possibly nearer to family. She died on 26 December 1941 and was buried in St Chad's Kirby.

John Mercer died in March 1948, and was buried in Halewood Churchyard.

On his death John left over £30,000 to Rose, a considerable sum, worth around £1¼ million today.

Halewood Farm - barn fire
Daily Post, 6 March 1939

Halewood Farm - barn fire
Daily Post, 6 March 1939
Halewood Farm - barn fire
Daily Post, 10 March 1939

Death of Rose Mercer, Liverpool Echo, 28 August 1971

After her husband John passed in 1948, Rose moved to Churston Road, Childwall,
where she died on 28 August 1971 aged eighty-three.
Rose was laid to rest in St Nicholas Churchyard, Halewood

Rose Mercer, Liverpool Echo, 30 December 1971

Race horses at Halewood Farm, Runcorn Weekly News, 8 August 1947

"...to have a string of around 15 racehorses was the ambition of former jockey and racehorse trainer Mr L. Greatorex, and to put Halewood on the map with a willing band of Halewood Farm helpers..."

How successful this venture was is unknown, and further research has failed to produce further information.

The Chadwicks - Mariners and Hauliers

The next occupiers of Halewood Farm were the Chadwick family, who have used the site since 1954 as a base for operating their haulage business. Gilbert Chadwick, the original proprietor, was born on 12 February 1908 in Garston, the son of Captain Thomas Chadwick, a mariner in the Merchant Navy, and his wife Harriet Elizabeth Jeffries. Captain Chadwick was born on 12 March 1867 in Bootle, and while living with his father in Halegate, Halewood, he married Harriet in 1896, who came from The Bank, Odd Rode (near Kidsgrove), where they initially settled before moving to 54 Argyle Road, Garston in 1900, to be close to the home port of his employers, which included Cunard Line and Leyland Line, as well as living next door-but-one to his brother William. By 1911, they had moved just across the railway to a larger property at 8 Cardwell Road, Garston.

Thomas' father, John Chadwick, was also a ship's captain, born in Cartmel, Grange. After a long career at sea John retired to Halewood, to the Halegate Road cottage.

Meanwhile, as his son Thomas' family expanded, they once more sought out a larger property, and moved to a new Edwardian house at The Laurels, 21 Higher Road, in Halewood in 1922.

John Chadwick - Master's Certificate 1868
Thomas Chadwick/Harriet Jeffries marriage entry 1896

Captain Thomas Chadwick & his Officers

Possibly on the Leyland Line vessel Indian
(All four family photos - 'Chaddy' (Ancestry.co.uk)

A news article in the Pensacola Journal covering Captain Chadwick and the visit of his Leyland Line vessel Indian;

Pensacola Journal, 20 March 1920

Chadwick Census 1921
8 Cardwell Street, Garston
Chadwick Census 1939
Harriet and her sister in 'The Nook' and
Gilbert, Marjorie and infant Doug at 'Windyridge'

Four generations of Chadwicks

Photographed in the back garden at 21 Higher Road, Hunts Cross, Liverpool
(L to R: Thomas Bertram Chadwick with his son Thomas Geoffrey on his knee,
Captain John Chadwick, and Captain Thomas Chadwick).

(Coincidentally, the sister of the author has lived next door with her family since the mid-1980s)

By the late 1920s, Thomas' father John had moved in to The Laurels, before passing away on 17 April 1933 in the Sir Alfred Jones Memorial Hospital, Garston.

Following Captain John Chadwick's passing, the family went through more changes when Gilbert married Marjorie Turner in 1936, Captain Thomas Chadwick passed shortly afterwards on 30 April 1937, also at the Sir Alfred Jones Memorial Hospital, Garston, and Douglas Chadwick was born in April 1939.

Consequently, The Laurels was sold, the widowed Harriet (pictured left) moved with her sister a few hundred yards along Higher Road to 'The Nook' in New Hutt Lane, while Gilbert and Marjorie moved to 'Windyridge' a few doors away in the same lane with their newly born son Douglas.

(left) Harriet Chadwick and (right)A youthful Gilbert Arthur Chadwick

A few years later, Harriet moved nearby to 3 Wood Road (off Higher Road), where she passed away on 11 March 1949.

By 1954, the Chadwicks had moved to Halewood Farm in North End, where they operated three vehicles for road haulage, becoming G.A Chadwick & Son Ltd when Douglas was of age.

It was in 1957 that a teenage Douglas Chadwick drove one of their lorries into everlasting fame. The family attended St Peter's Church in Woolton, and on the occasion of the annual fete and Rose Queen, Chadwicks as usual provided a lorry to be used in the float procession around Woolton Village. On 6 July 1957 however, the occasion would prove to be such a memorable occasion, that those events achieved world fame and a memory which has lasted to the present day.

One of the local bands playing that day was a group of teenagers known as 'The Quarrymen', largely as they consisted of school friends from the nearby Calderstones high school, Quarry Bank.

The poster for the 1957 village fete

Doug recalled some of the events of that day,

'While I was at Halewood, all my friends were in the Woolton area. Woolton was such a different place in 1957. You used to meet up with people from one road or a couple of roads. You were all on your bikes. I was probably the only one that had a vehicle to travel around in - I was obsessed with Land Rovers. In 1957 I was a trainee commercial vehicle fitter at W Watson and Co. We got to know the vicar at St Peter's and they were looking for vehicle transport for the Rose Queen procession. My father operated three local vehicles for road haulage, but I was the one who did things.

I don't actually remember an awful lot about the day. I had the vehicle and went to the church and The Quarrymen got on the back! I do remember John Lennon playing his guitar, and the skiffle gig later on the church fields. The Quarrymen were rocking around on the back of the lorry. Even though the lorry that was used was very docile, I've done many processions and it doesn't take much to tip over the occupants on the back. And of course in 1957 there was no health and safety! It was downhill, and a devil of a hard job to keep a band playing on the back while trying to do a smooth journey. Because of the suspension, the vehicle was undulating to the beat of their feet. It was good fun.

I didn't know John Lennon before driving him because I didn't go to Quarry Bank. I'd gone to a private college in West Derby. But I do vividly remember seeing him later that day in the old walled garden by the cuckoo clock in Woolton Woods. I think it was between the afternoon gig on the playing fields and the later one in the evening. My friends and I crept up on him in a seated enclosure where he was with a girl he'd obviously chatted up in the afternoon. The three of us quietly got on the quarter hour, half hour and three quarter hour, and when the clock chimed we echoed it all round. He jumped up in a fiendish mood and went off!' (14)

The band went on stage at about 4.15 p.m. and played for around thirty minutes. A report in the Liverpool Weekly News said the songs were Cumberland Gap, Maggie May and Railroad Bill, and later information has added Rock Island Line, Lost John, Puttin' On The Style and Bring A Little Water, Sylvie. (15)

Doug's father Gilbert kept the original Quarrymen sign from the stage, which had been left on the back of the vehicle, but only as it might come in useful as a sign for his lorries. On the reverse he wrote 'vehicle on tow' to use as a plate when a vehicle broke down. Now of course its value is immeasurable and would be well sought after by Beatles memorabilia collectors should it ever come on the market. However, it is now in the USA, but not with with an anonymous collector - it is still in the family. Doug's son, who lives in Peoria south of Chicago, now has it and it's part of his collection of Quarrymen and Beatle memorabilia at his home. It won't be leaving the family.

The events of that day in 1957 have been retold over and over in countless books and articles about The Beatles and their origins, many with variations on what took place, but there can be no doubting the role seventeen year old Doug played that day and the fact that Chadwicks of Halewood have a small part in the history of the most famous band in the world.

The Quarrymen playing on the back of Chadwick's lorry driven by Doug Chadwick along King's Drive, Woolton, during the Rose Queen procession (photo: James Davis (Rod Davis' father)

The Quarrymen playing on the back of Chadwick's lorry driven by Doug Chadwick along King's Drive, Woolton, during the Rose Queen procession (photo: James Davis (Rod Davis' father)

'The entertainment began at two p.m. with the opening procession, which entailed one or two wonderfully festooned lorries crawling at a snail’s pace through the village on their ceremonious way to the Church field. The first lorry carried the Rose Queen, seated on her throne, surrounded by her retinue, all dressed in pink and white satin, sporting long ribbons and hand-made roses in their hair. These girls had been chosen from the Sunday school groups, on the basis of age and good behaviour.

The following lorry carried various entertainers, including the Quarry Men. The boys were up there on the back of the moving lorry trying to stay upright and play their instruments at the same time. John gave up battling with balance and sat with his legs hanging over the edge, playing his guitar and singing. He continued all through the slow, slow journey as the lorry puttered its way along. Jackie and I leaped alongside the lorry, with our mother laughing and waving at John, making him laugh. He seemed to be the only one who was really trying to play and we were really trying to put him off!'

Julia Baird, Imagine This: Growing Up with my Brother John Lennon, (2007)
(Julia and Jackie are the half-sisters of John Lennon, they share the same mother)

The Quarrymen playing on the stage in St Peter's church field after the procession
(photo: Geoff Rhind)

Paul McCartney has retold the story of that day more than anybody, but here is his most recent version from 2021;

St. Peter’s Church also plays quite a big part in how I come to be talking about many of these memories today. Back in the summer of 1957, Ivan Vaughan (a friend from school) and I went to the Woolton Village Fête at the church together, and he introduced me to his friend John, who was playing there with his band, the Quarry Men.

I’d just turned fifteen at this point and John was sixteen, and Ivan knew we were both obsessed with rock and roll, so he took me over to introduce us. One thing led to another—typical teen-age boys posturing and the like—and I ended up showing off a little by playing Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” on the guitar. I think I played Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and a few Little Richard songs, too.

A week or so later, I was out on my bike and bumped into Pete Shotton, who was the Quarry Men’s washboard player—a very important instrument in a skiffle band. He and I got talking, and he told me that John thought I should join them. That was a very John thing to do—have someone else ask me so he wouldn’t lose face if I said no. John often had his guard up, but that was one of the great balances between us. He could be quite caustic and witty, but once you got to know him he had this lovely warm character. I was more the opposite: pretty easygoing and friendly, but I could be tough when needed.

I said I would think about it, and a week later said yes. And after that John and I started hanging out quite a bit. I was on school holidays and John was about to start art college, usefully next door to my school. I showed him how to tune his guitar; he was using banjo tuning—I think his neighbor had done that for him before—and we taught ourselves how to play songs by people like Chuck Berry. I would have played him “I Lost My Little Girl” a while later, when I’d got my courage up to share it, and he started showing me his songs. And that’s where it all began. […]

To this very day, it still is a complete mystery to me that it happened at all. Would John and I have met some other way, if Ivan and I hadn’t gone to that fête? I’d actually gone along to try and pick up a girl. I’d seen John around—in the chip shop, on the bus, that sort of thing—and thought he looked quite cool, but would we have ever talked? I don’t know. As it happened, though, I had a school friend who knew John. And then I also happened to share a bus journey with George to school. All these small coincidences had to happen to make the Beatles happen, and it does feel like some kind of magic. It’s one of the wonderful lessons about saying yes when life presents these opportunities to you. You never know where they might lead.

And, as if all these coincidences weren’t enough, it turns out that someone else who was at the fête had a portable tape machine—one of those old Grundigs. So there’s this recording (admittedly of pretty bad quality) of the Quarry Men’s performance that day. You can listen to it online. And there are also a few photos around of the band on the back of a truck. So this day that proved to be pretty pivotal in my life still has this presence and exists in these ghosts of the past.

Paul McCartney on writing Eleanor Rigby, in Paul McCartney, The Lyrics, (The New Yorker 2021)

This wasn't the end of the story for Doug and The Quarrymen however, as they reprised the event on the 40th anniversary and again twenty years later in 2017 when the three remaining Quarrymen were able to take part with Doug once more driving the vehicle! (16)

60th anniversary programme

(photo: www.cavernclub.com)
Doug Chadwick at the anniversary

The Quarrymen getting ready to recreate their 1957 performance on the back of Doug Chadwick's lorry
(photo: www.cavernclub.com)

Halewood Farm by the mid 1960s

Halewood Farm by the mid 1960s

Halewood Farm (centre left)
The haulage park replaced the demolished farm buildings.
(photo taken by Mike Royden c.1990)
Halewood Farm and North End (centre)
(photo taken by Mike Royden c.1990)
Halewood Green (Farm top right)
Showing some of the land farmed by Robert Neilson
(photo taken by Mike Royden c.1990)
The Okill Drive estate on the original 1840 plot farmed by Robert Neilson
Halewood Farm is top right (modern satellite image)

Halewood Farm - overlay of map of 1905 over a modern aerial view

Halewood Farm site today

Halewood Farm today
- the old farm site cleared several years ago which will potentially be sold for housing.


1.  Alston, David, Slaves & Highlanders; Highland Scots in Huyana Before Emancipation https://www.spanglefish.com/slavesandhighlanders/index.asp?pageid=360373, (accessed January 2023)
2.  Webster, Jane, ‘Success to the Dobson’: commemorative artefacts depicting 18th-century British slave ships, Post-Medieval Archaeology 49/1 (2015), pp.72–98 and
Pope, David, 'The wealth and social aspirations of Liverpool's slave merchants of the second half of the Eighteenth century', in ed. David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery,(Liverpool University Press, 2007), p.168.
3.  'Daniel Backhouse', Legacies of British Slavery database, wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146648383 [accessed 22nd March 2023].
4.  William Neilson', Legacies of British Slavery database,wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146652411 [accessed 22nd March 2023].
5.  'Robert Neilson', Legacies of British Slavery database,wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/9474[accessed 22nd March 2023].
6.  British Guiana 633 (Plantn Haag's Bosch), Legacies of British Slavery database, wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/9420 [accessed 22nd March 2023].
7.   Trust, Graham, John Moss of Otterspool (1782-1858) Railway Pioneer - Slave Owner - Banker (Milton Keynes, AuthorHouse, 2010) p. 85; pp. 11-15.
8.   'British Guiana 2455 (Anna Regina)', Legacies of British Slavery database, wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/7589 [accessed 23rd March 2023].
9.   'Henry Moss of Liverpool', Legacies of British Slavery database, www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/41621 [accessed 23rd March 2023].
10.   Liverpool Wills, Probate PROB 11/2076/375.
11.   Nicol, Stuart MacQueen's Legacy; Ships of the Royal Mail Line. Vol. Two. Tempus (2001). pp. 53, 55, 85
12.   Census returns for Halewood 1841/1851/1861/1871/1881/1891
13.   This note from the foreword of Rides on Railways gives the context behind the aim of the work and area covered, giving insight into how far Neilson's reputation had travelled by the mid-nineteenth century;

'The following pages are an attempt to supply something amusing, instructive, and suggestive to travellers who, not caring particularly where they go, or how long they stay at any particular place, may wish to know something of the towns and districts through which they pass, on their way to Wales, the Lakes of Cumberland, or the Highlands of Scotland; or to those who, having a brief vacation, may wish to employ it among pleasant rural scenes, and in investigating the manufactures, the mines, and other sources of the commerce and influence of this small island and great country.
In performing this task, I have relied partly on personal observation, partly on notes and the memory of former journeys; and where needful have used the historical information to be found in cyclopædias, and local guide-books.
This must account for, if it does not excuse, the unequal space devoted to districts with equal claims to attention. But it would take years, if not a lifetime, to render the manuscript of so discursive a work complete and correct.
I feel that I have been guilty of many faults of commission and omission; but if the friends of those localities to which I have not done justice will take the trouble to forward to me any facts or figures of public general interest, they shall be carefully embodied in any future edition, should the book, as I hope it will, arrive at such an honour and profit.'
S. S., London, August, 1851.
14.   Interview with Doug Chadwick, Mirror Group Newspapers (precise publication and date unknown - will add if supplied) (July 2017)
15.  Lewisohn, Mark, All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In (2013) Ch.6, p.126-132
and When Paul McCartney met John Lennon www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
16.  John and Paul… “It Was Fete” www.cavernclub.com (Thursday, 13 July 2017)

Further Reading

ed. Charles Dickens, Household Words, A Weekly Journal conducted by Charles Dickens Vol III (1852)

Pope, David, 'The wealth and social aspirations of Liverpool's slave merchants of the second half of the Eighteenth century', in ed. David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery,(Liverpool University Press, 2007), ch. 7.

Sekers, David, ed, The Diary of Hannah Lightbody 1786/1770

Brown, R. Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean, (2017)

Bryant, Joshua, Account of an insurrection of the negro slaves in the colony of Demerara, which broke out on the 18th of August 1823 , (1824).

Abstract of the Report of the Lords Committee on the Condition and Treatment of the Colonial Slaves (1833)

Carletta, D. M., 'Demerara revolt', In J. Rodriguez, Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the transatlantic world, Routledge (2007).

Costa, Emilia Viotti da, Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823, (1994)

The Lost Steamer: A History of the 'Amazon'. London: Partridge and Oakey., (1852).

Sorrow on the Sea: An Account of the Loss of the Steam-ship 'Amazon' by Fire, London: J Mason (1852).

The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History and Politics of the Year 1852, London: JG & F Rivington (1853). pp. 462–469.

Nicol, Stuart, MacQueen's Legacy; A History of the Royal Mail Line., Vol. One. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC. Tempus (2001). pp. 45, 66, 67, 73, 76, 189.

Nicol, Stuart, MacQueen's Legacy; Ships of the Royal Mail Line., Vol. Two. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC: Tempus (2001). pp. 53, 55, 85.

Checkland, S.G., The Gladstones: A Family Biography, 1764–1851, Cambridge University Press (1971).

Trust, Graham, John Moss of Otterspool (1782-1858) Railway Pioneer - Slave Owner - Banker (Milton Keynes, AuthorHouse, 2010)

Lewisohn, Mark, All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In (2013)


Professor Imogen Tyler, Black Lives Matter and Legacies of Slave Ownership in Lancaster: the Bond’s and the Booker Brothers in Guyana , (August 14, 2020) stigmamachine.com

'Destruction of the Steam Ship Amazon by Fire - Great Loss of Life', The Times. No. 21005, London. (7 January 1852) column F, p.5.

'The Loss of the Amazon', The Times No. 21010, London. (10 January 1852), column B, p.5.

University College London Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery - www.ucl.ac.uk

Brown, M. Enslaved Africans and an Uprising in Demerara, Guyana, 18-20 August 1823, (blog post),(2017)

Atlas of Mutual Heritage Plantations around Berbice-Demerara-Essequibo rivers www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl

Liverpool as a Trading Port www.liverpoolmaritime.org

Checkland, S. G. 'John Gladstone as Trader and Planter', The Economic History Review, Volume 7, Issue 2: pp.216–229 (1954). ehs.org.uk

Munro, S. Alasdair, 'Tramway Companies in Liverpool 1859-1897', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume 119 (1967), pp.181-212 www.hslc.org.uk

The Paul McCartney Project, www.the-paulmccartney-project.com

Mutch, Alistair, ‘The Mechanization of the Harvest in South-West Lancashire, 1850-1914’, The Agricultural History Review,, Vol 29 Part II (1981)

Huntly, Glen, Robert Griffiths’ Toxteth Park: The mystery of the Old Hall and the slave owners of Aigburth Road, The Priory and the Cast Iron Shore (History blog pages)

James Eccles, Centenary of Halewood Parish Church, (1939) www.halewood.org.uk

Royden, M.W., Halewood by the Nineteenth Century: The Effects of Enclosure on Nineteenth Century Halewood (1989) www.halewood.org.uk

Researched and written by

Mike Royden

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