Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human have just been for a walk around another part of Runcorn that used to be a stand-alone village. Weston Point consisted of a few farms and cottages in the early 1800’s and was about 1.5 miles from Runcorn town. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that the village started to expand. Sandstone was quarried in Runcorn Hills and then transported by wagon down the ‘Drum Road’ to the Weaver Navigation to be shipped around the country and even to New York. New York docks and the Statue of Liberty have Runcorn Red Sandstone foundations. The chemical industry also started to grow in the area, with ICI being the largest in size and the main employer in the region. A series of canals ran through the village creating a sophisticated transport network. In its heyday the village was a thriving community with food shops, banks, hairdressers, a sweet shop, a cobblers, a post office and a bakery. The village had its own school, a large church and a few pubs. Unfortunately, most of the shops have gone. The pubs are closed, and the church is derelict. The school has been demolished with a replacement built in the 1960’s.
We started our walk outside of the boundary of Weston Point at the War Memorial. After a quick pee stop, my human started to take photographs of the area. Firstly, he took a snap of Brookfield Farm in Weston Road. Built in 1691, the Grade II Listed farm is a small, family run garden centre.
A few doors away is another listed building, The Elms, a Georgian style mid-18th century townhouse. Across from this is Rockfield, another listed late-18th century house. Yet another listed building from 1779, stands around the corner in Holloway. Another nice sandstone building, dated 1733, is also close by at the top of Westfield Road. There are quite a few buildings that are worth admiring in this small area. The big fellers head seemed to rotate like an owl as he couldn’t decide which to look at next. On the other hand, all I wanted to do was to have a run around and a good sniff.
At the top of Holloway, we passed the Victoria Memorial Hospital, or Cottage Hospital, as it was known locally. It was built in 1905 and for many years, it was the main hospital in Runcorn but, it is now a residential development. Further along Weston Road, at Minster Court, is the site of the former Runcorn Isolation Hospital. This hospital has been demolished but, was built in 1883 and known locally as the ‘fever hospital’.
As we entered Weston Road we overlooked the allotments. We had a short walk through Beaconsfield Wood, on the right of Weston Road, through the gates of the site of the large Beaconsfield House. This was originally called Prospect Villa with a lodge in the grounds. The house was the home of Thomas Hazlehurst, the founder of Hazlehurst and Sons, soap and alkali manufacturer. He paid for twelve Methodist chapels and three schools to be built in the area.
Walking through the wood was a good excuse for me to have a run around off-lead. Unfortunately, for me, my freedom was short lived. The wooded area was relatively small so, we soon left it to join the footpath that dropped away from Weston Road and then rejoined the road further along. We had walked into Weston Point as we started to descend along Sandy Lane.
On the right we came to the Pavilions, once known as the ICI Rec, which was, in its heyday, a popular social club and music venue. My dad said that he had seen Nazareth perform there some years ago, whoever they were! The playing fields are overgrown and the building is now derelict. Plans were drawn up in recent times for a housing development on the land. Runcorn Town’s football ground is at the rear of the area. Across the playing fields is Europe’s largest waste incinerator which now dominates the skyline.
We plodded on down Sandy Lane, crossing the hump in the road where the ICI railway line once crossed the road. We passed the hairdressers shop that was once a bank and on past the old bank on the opposite side of the road. Castner Avenue was on our left, which along with many houses in the area, was built for ICI workers. An aerial view of the area would show that Castner Avenue is an ‘I’, Roscoe Crescent is a ‘C’, and Mather Avenue is another ‘I’, spelling ‘ICI’.
At the bottom of the road stands the once busy Weaver Hotel, a large pub that underwent a considerable refurbishment but, is sadly closed. It is a real shame as it looked impressive after its external clean up.
We had a short walk along South Road toward the INEOS Salt Works, passing another closed down pub, the Dockside Inn. This was once a popular pub hosting mini-festivals and regular entertainment. On the left and over a high fence my human stretched to take photographs of the disused Runcorn and Weston Canal. A one and a half mile stretch of canal built in 1860, that was once vital in the complex canal network in the area. At the end of the short road is the Ineos Salt Works. The Cheshire area has a long history of salt production with the Salt Union being formed in 1888. The site was later taken over by ICI, the chemical manufacturing giant. We headed back along South Road and turned right before the Weaver Hotel toward the docks. We managed to look through the railings at the bridge over the old canal before we had to stop at the gates to the docks.
The docks used to be a thriving area with houses, a church and a lighthouse. The canal system linked the area with the Weaver Navigation in the transportation of salt, flint and china clay. The church remains on an island in the dock area but, sadly is derelict and inaccessible to the public. It was recently ransacked and anything of value, stolen. Christ Church was built in 1841 and is a listed building. Being surrounded by water, it is said to be the only church in Britain on an uninhabited island!
We obviously had to turn around at the dock gates so, we retraced our steps to the Weaver pub and then turned right along South Parade. The right-hand side of the road is dominated by the Inovyn (old ICI) manufacturing site and offices. During the Second World War a shot-down German plane had a target plan for the Weston Point area. ICI was deemed to not be a target as the intention was for the German development of the site after a successful invasion of the country. However, the dockland area was a planned target.
On we plodded past the old offices and laboratories, passing the building site of the new office block. We were leaving Weston Point and heading toward Weston Village. We climbed up Cheshyres Lane until we turned left at the top of the hill onto Weston Road. There are two stone plaques embedded into the wall that lines this road on the western side. In 1889 a Catholic Church was constructed on this site, which was later bought by Sir John Brunner, a local industrialist, and given to the community to be used as a village hall. Unfortunately, recently gas was discovered leaking into local buildings from the infill of the old quarry in the area. This building and many of the houses were demolished with the foundation stone and the plaque from the side of the building being the only remains.
On the opposite side of the road the views over the River Mersey and surrounding areas are vast and impressive. We were visited by the horses that graze in this field. I had a cautious sniff of one of them while they did the same. We agreed to leave it as that! Much of the foreground is dominated by the sprawling old ICI complex but the distant views are of the Welsh hills, Liverpool and Frodsham hill. The longer you stand and look across the vast expanse, the more you can see. Moel Famau, Hale Lighthouse, John Lennon Airport, Liverpool Cathedral and more grab your attention. It is worthwhile spending ten minutes or so just peering into the distance.
We moved on eventually, passing Runcorn Hills on our right before we joined Weston Road at the top of Sandy Lane where we had dropped into Weston Point earlier. Five minutes later we were back at the car. My human said that he had enjoyed our bimble around Weston Point, as he loves to discover things about the town that he had walked or driven past but never really seen. I just enjoyed being outside and peeing on stuff! Till next time.