A Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis FrithA Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis Frith

The Bike Shop The Sweet Shop Leighton Court And The Last Neston Family To Catch Shrimps

A Memory of Neston.

On The High Street, Neston as you look towards Liverpool Road with The Cross just behind you you may still be able to see two alleyways. One used to end in a shed where a man had a bike shop. It was an Aladdin's Cave stacked with spare parts. My Dad bought me bikes. We had the lawnmower fixed there too.
The second alleyway had the doorway to a house halfway down it. The house was occupied by the Armitage family. The father had been Captain John Armitage. He died and his wife remarried. She died and he remarried. The result was many children and almost none full brothers and sisters as they all had different sets of parents. Two boys I remember were Andrew and Jamie. Andrew ran away with the fair one year. The door was a stable door. They would have the top half open so that you could peep in and see them all sitting on the floor 'shulling'. This was taking the shell off the shrimps so they were ready for sale. At the end of the alleyway was a massive pile of broken white shells. This was where they put the boat when they brought it home. That position is now next to the end of Churchill Way, a modern Road with council and ex-council houses and flats on it. The road was built before 1971 because I had a school friend who lived there then. We were at the primary school called Liverpool Road C of E Primary School. We entered the school via a very narrow lane called Poplar Weint. This is still there but the school, although still standing is now private housing and the playground is the car park. the school and playground were on one side of Poplar Weint and on the other side was the canteen. This was a single story building on a lawn covered in daisies which ran round all four sides. It was, in my hazy memory, a sort of prefab building, probably corrugated iron roof.  At lunchtime we would leave the school by the little gate in the wall, holding hands in two we walked down Poplar Weint, round the corner and a wire mesh tall gate was open into the canteen garden which backed onto the rear of The Malt Shovel pub. In the playground of the school there was a classroom in a portakabin. The classes were called Oak, Ash, Elm and Fir. I had Mrs Connor and Mrs Williams as teachers. I was at the school from 1971 to 1973. In about 1974-ish the school acquired the piece of land between the playground and Cross Street. We had a big fete on it. That land now has houses on it and Cross Street is blocked off to through traffic. Going back to Neston Cross there was a fantastic sweet shop on Parkgate Road opposite and a bit down from the Greenland Fisheries public house. I think it is a health food shop now. It was run by a Mr Winterbotham and had shelves up to the ceiling with big jars of sweets and he weighed out quarters into bags for us. If we wanted penny chews we went to another shop that is now a private house on Park Street opposite Cross Street. There used to be a launderette in that row of shops halfway between the sweet shop on one end and the Brewer's Arms at the other. Following Park Street towards Leighton Road you will see Buggen Lane on the left. At the top are the gates to Townfield House. This house was owned by a very influential family who were in with political leaders and the peers of the realm. Now they are trying to build houses in the grounds and chop the garden up but because it is in a conservation area the council have refused it. Townfield has a small gate in the high sandstone walls that surround the gardens on the Buggen Lane side. Buggen is an old name for ghost. This gate was never opened. The story is that at midnight the gate opens and a ghost of a young woman comes running out in a white dress stained with blood and is chased all the way to Parkgate by her father's dogs. He sets them on her because she was going to marry an unsuitable man I think. I used to walk home past it at midnight when I was a young adult and in those days there were no street lights on Buggen Lane. Opposite was a large house with gardens called Leighton Court. It was a great house and gradually sold off land and became a country club, then night club, then empty with just a caretaker to keep an eye on it. The trees had preservation orders but builders knocked them down anyway. They have crammed 'luxury executive housing' on there now. The only thing left to see is to be viewed from a cul-de-sac of 1968 houses called The Leightons (2nd on the right off Buggen Lane.) The first house on the right, number 11, has a balcony/summerhouse just behind its garage roof. It is actually in the garden of the newer house behind. When Leighton Court was in more glorious days there would be weddings there and the bride and groom would come to the balcony for the photographer to take pictures. Leighton Court was red brick with black and white. There was a wonderful staircase and stained glass windows. It was a complicated building with bits of outhouses and odd bits round the back. The garden by the 1980s was mostly made over to car park. Behind was a large house called Woodlands. This had a huge garden which we played in. There was a swimming pool which nature had turned into a murky pond, brambles and an orchard. It is now Leighton Park, a modern cul-de-sac, where John Barnes footballer used to live in 1987.

With thanks to C Evans for this memory of Neston

Added 18 April 2007


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