Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a short local walk. It was a blustery Sunday afternoon in June, and we had already been caught out by a downpour in the morning, so my human suddenly said ‘shall we go for a walk, Monkey’. I wish that he wouldn’t call me that because monkeys are dumb. It is said that if an infinite number of monkeys were given an infinite number of typewriters, one of them will write a Shakespeare play. Well, I am one Cocker Spaniel and I write a blog on my own! Who is the clever one now! Sorry, I digress, I actually jumped at the word ‘walk’, so off we went.
My dad had spotted a short walk on-line, produced by the Halton Heritage Partnership, called ‘Meandering and Mysteries – A Runcorn Walk’. The route passes close to our house and starts at the gates of the Town Hall. We have walked the area many times before but, we had not followed this particular route. So, we had a purpose to our little jaunt. I could wander around the streets and have a good sniff and he could follow the map and take some photographs. We were both happy.
After a few minutes of leaving the house we were at the Town Hall gates, the entrance to The Grange. Originally, there was a small Italian style lodge at the gates but, this is long gone. My dad said that he seems to recall there being public toilets, by the gates, when he was a sprog. As we entered the grounds, my dad let me off my lead, so that I could have a run around. We have written a few lines about the history of the Grange in a previous blog about the town so, we won’t repeat ourselves too much. The house was built for Thomas Johnson, a soap manufacturer in 1856 as a private home and later passed to Charles Hazlehurst, also a soap manufacturer, and later still to Francis Boston, a local tannery owner. In 1932 the local council bought it to be used as the Town Hall.
The grounds are popular with dog walkers and the large play area attracts local children. The grounds are always well kept as is the fenced pond that houses ducks and moorhens. Clare and Ryder purchased a large area of the estate in the 1930’s to build houses. Some of the roads were named after family members such as Latham Avenue, Claremont Road and Duncan Avenue. We walked through the park until we met Boston Avenue, where my dad took a photograph of ‘The Addy’, The Red Admiral pub, that is currently closed due to the pandemic.
We returned to the park so that I could stay off-lead for a short time longer. Along this stretch of Boston Avenue there used to be three large boulders, that were possibly laid down during the last ice age but, they have mysteriously disappeared. After a couple of hundred yards we left the Town Hall grounds to take a short detour to take a photo of my human’s favourite ‘chippy’. ‘Fezzy Way Chippy’, or Festival Way Fish Bar as it is really called, was my dad’s favourite chip shop when he was a nipper.
We went back to the route that we were supposed to be following. This took us over the Spur Road, which was built in 1962 to serve the ‘new’ Silver Jubilee Bridge. My dad told me that, when the Queen was due to visit the town in the early 1960’s, that the houses backing on to the Spur Road were all told to tidy their gardens for the visit. It might just be that his memory has invented that snippet but, he says that he thinks that was the case.
We continued to walk down ‘Bozzy Avvy’, Boston Avenue, passing Morval Crescent on our right. ‘Todger’ Jones, whose memorial is near to the Cenotaph in Runcorn, was awarded the Victoria Cross after fighting in the Battle of Morval, in the First World War. We turned left at the site of Castle View, which is a care home nowadays, along a path leading to the Grange School. It was time for another off-lead run for me while we crossed the playing fields to the site of the old Stenhill/Stonehills Sandstone Quarry. The area has been reclaimed and very little evidence of the quarrying or the landfill is visible. One pink sandstone outcrop can still be seen on the ‘hills’.
As we left the footpath, we passed the large sandstone Stonehills Farm house. The house was built in 1842 for Father Edmund Carter, Runcorn’s first Catholic Priest. We continued along Saxon Road until we turned left up Picton Avenue. Edward Kortens lived at 79 Picton Avenue which has been a barber shop for a number of years. Edward died at Gallipoli in the First World war.
We turned into Union Street and then into Sewell street which lead us to Rock Park. The park, with its bowling green, tennis court and hard football court, was the site of the Grindrod’s Mill Brow Quarry in the 18th century that closed in 1894. We passed a curious rounded wall in the park where I decided to pee, much to the big feller’s disgust. The purpose of the wall appears to be a mystery.
As we left the park we stopped for a second to photograph ‘The Vaults’ or Union Tavern, as it has been renamed. This Victorian traditional pub was closed as we passed it due to the pandemic. We crossed Heath Road to enter into the short section of ‘Vicky’, Victoria Road that remains on the northern side of the A533 expressway. As we turned the bend in the road, we came to Mill Brow School. This building has had many uses over the years since it was constructed as a Ragged School. It became a board school and later a pentecostal church.
Behind this building a large windmill used to dominate the skyline. A few yards from the building is a slipway that used to drop down to Sprinch Dockyard on the Bridgewater Canal. Now the area houses Bridgewater Motor Boat Club in Victoria Dockyard. In the early 20th century this was a busy canal side area with huge brick warehouses.
As we walked back into Heath Road, we passed Big Pool, which isn’t so big nowadays. This pond was originally a lot bigger before the expressway was built. Today it is natural pond with waterfowl, dragonflies and lots and lots of horrible bitey midges. Heading along Heath Road we came to Pool House, just under the Spur Road bridge. This was the home in 1845, of Francis Salkeld, a large landowner in the area. He owned a wharf and warehouse at Sprinch Dockyard. His family once owned the land that The Grange was built on.
This point was where our short walk around part of Runcorn ended. We had been drizzled on but, we had avoided the worst of the weather so, it was only a couple of minutes until we were home. My dad was happy because he had learned a few things about our neighborhood and I was happy because I had peed about fifty times, marking my territory. I can now announce that I own this area of Runcorn. Official!