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History Group Report - July 2012

By Reg Yorke September 2012

 ‘Formby, Then and Now’. We are happy with progress and now checking the page-proofs for this which will be returned for printing before the end of this month. The History Press are making a very good job of design and layout. We are inserting a sentence at the beginning of the book to say that this publication represents this societies (somewhat late) contribution to Civic Day).

Ravenmeols Heritage Trails.

Since the beginning of this project I feel we have gone through several phases (not necessarily in the right order!):- Exploratory, both on the ground and background research.

Trying to understand what we have found on site, in historical photographs and in documentary sources. Relating this information to present day landscape using it to identify, record, understand and explain what is to be found on site today.

Mapping and testing physical routes (‘trails’) relating the more significant locations and features, past and present. This is ongoing. Location types in Ravenmeols, are mainly:- Natural landscape. (including Sefton Coast’s biggest ‘blow-out’ and a NNR at Cabin Hill), Cultural landscape. (Conifer plantations, former asparagus fields), Residential, present and past. (including a Grade 2 Listed building designed by McMurdo), Military. ( Lookouts, Rifle Range, Radar station site), Industrial. (Sand-winning), Maritime. Formby Lifeboat Station remains, Tidepoles, Navigation Mark.), Ecclesiastical. (St Luke’s Church and mediaeval chapel site). Other local history. (Like the hidden promenade). We now have to do decide what is special about Ravenmeols and the themes which will be most interesting to our visitors. We have not yet got a clear feeling of what we want people to take away from their visit and our interpretation.

We now have to clarify this together with a theme and then a detailed story. This needs to provide interest, excitement and amusement as well as factual information. Objectives should ideally be specific, measurable and achievable and If possible we need to stimulate the senses. What can our visitors see, hear, feel, smell and taste? At present it is not clear who our visitors will be, why will they come and in what numbers, where they are from

and what will interest them but based on previous studies on visitors to the coast it should be possible for Sefton Tourism to provide some predictions on this.

Future  public Events are being  arranged by Rachel Northover), including:-

Aug 1st - volunteer event, possibly putting in waymarkers, clearing litter etc.

August 4th or 5th - trying out self guided trail with families

Sep 9th  - Heritage Open Day - marquee, displays, (see below ).

Heritage Open Day. Sunday 9th September 2012

‘Formby-by-the-Sea, rediscovered’. A day to remember an ambitious Victorian attempt to create a new resort  “to rival Southport”,  to consider the reasons for its failure and the probable consequences if it had succeeded. The venue is the site of Valley House, Alexandra Road , Formby. The central feature of the day will be a photographic display illustrating the 19th century attempt to create an ambitious new seaside resort  and the subsequent history of the site. Although the company succeeded in creating a pleasant residential complex close to Formby Station on the Liverpool- Southport railway line; here on the coast overlooking Liverpool Bay, despite obtaining an Act of Parliament for a new railway loop-line, construction of a complete two-tier promenade,  the laying out of several roads and construction of resort-style properties,  with input by the already wealthy Vestey brothers,  the attempt failed.

Subsequently many of the roomy properties built were taken over by charitable institutions and used for the benefit of poor children from Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Bootle to provide seaside holidays during the period 1910-1940. During WW2 the area became important for the defence of Merseyside. Finally the area has become a secluded and almost forgotten part of the Sefton Natural Coast having also fought off an attempt to convert it to a Golf Course.

A photographic display will tell the story of the area, and its philanthropic and environmental  legacy. There will be several guided walks during the day. These will include (by kind permission of its owners), a look at a listed (Grade 2), late 19thC ‘Cottage’, a rare example of the work of Arthur Mackmurdo, a highly regarded member of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement. There will also be an archaeological dig to examine the still intact remains of the lower ‘deck’ of the promenade now completely buried by blown sand. This event is being organised in conjunction with Sefton Coast Partnership, and for the proposed archaeological excavation,  Mark Adams (Liverpool  Museum).


Following the recent hasty relocation of most of our physical archives from Swift’s shop, where conditions were frankly appalling, Colin Cooke has kindly responded to a request for help and has already commenced an on-going audit. This has started with the Sibley originals collection. Thanks to the previous work of Jim Hersey, Alan Burton and Tony Bonney, this has all been listed and indexed but I feel it prudent now to go through the originals, item by item to audit the collection and check the condition of individual items.

In parallel with this Tony Bonney has offered to photograph the water coloured sketches as the colour rendition achieved by the technology originally available does not do them justice.


We continued to receive interesting e-mail enquiries mainly from people who have had family connections here, and discovered our website. The importance of a good website has become very clear and I hope we can continue to develop the local history section.