Our next little road trip was around the district of Sefton in Merseyside, named after the village of the same name. There are a number of interesting places in the area, and we covered a few villages that day, starting with Sefton itself…
Status: Sefton District, Merseyside (historically Lancashire), Village, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Sefton Parish Church, St Helens Well, Sefton Conservation Area, Sefton War Memorial etc
We parked up next to the stunning St Helens Church, located in the centre of the village. This whole area is part of the Sefton Village Conservation Area, which recognises the cultural and historic value of the Church and its surrounding buildings.
The Church is the only Grade I listed building in the entire district, and dates back to around 1320, when the Church was built to replace the previous Norman Church of 1291. Most of the main structure of the building, minus the tower, was replaced in the 16th century around the 1530’s and the Reformation. This has resulted in a jumble of 14th and 16th century areas of the building, showing how it as evolved over the centuries.
The name of the Church refers to Saint Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta (250 – 330, Roman Consort), who also lent her name to the local, much larger town of St Helens, which in turn gave it’s name to the district of St Helens which encompasses it, and lies alongside the districts of Sefton, Knowsley and Liverpool.
Across the road you will find the Sefton War Memorial, erected around 1920, a few years after the end of World War I, as a permanent tribute to the fallen soldiers from the area. A series of plaques line the base of the memorial, and an extra one was added in 2012, to mark 60 years of Elizabeth II’s reign as Queen of the United Kingdom, as a special memory for the fallen.
Just to the West of St Helens Church lies the “Punch Bowl Hotel”, an old public house completed in the early 19th century, around 1826. There is evidence that it was built by a M. Bowker, as his name appears on the East side of the building, along with the date of 1826.
If you look closely at the bottom right hand window, there is a small blue plaque just to the right of the window. It states that that this is:
“Sefton Village. Conservation Area. This Conservation Area includes the site of the mediaeval township of Sefton together with The Parish Church of St. Helen and later 18th Century buildings in the vicinity.”
This area is widely recognised as one of the best historical villages in this area of historic Lancashire, and we could see why. It’s a charming place with no sign of modern buildings, bringing with it a refreshing sense of rustic England.
Outside the Punch Bowl we spotted a sign, which pointed towards the medieval St Helens Well, just West of the Hotel. We explored a bit up the road and quickly found what it was referring to.
Although the original Well is no longer accessible, a large stone marks it’s location, surrounded by iron railings that identify it. It is thought that the Well was a spring discovered in the Middle Ages and used as a pilgrimage site for travellers passing through. It most likely predates the Church, which was probably built close by due to the presence of the Well.
It was still accessible as recently as 1891 when the 4th Earl of Sefton (1835 – 1897), William Molyneux, created a pleasant pump house around it. At some point since it has been closed off, but it is still used as a focal point by the local Church community on the feast of St Helens, which falls on the 18th August.
Looking back from the Well, we got a great view of the Punch Bowl and St Helens Church, which form a stunning area of ancient buildings. Sefton is one of the smallest villages we have visited so far, however it packs more into this small area than some towns do.
Arriving back at the car, we spotted the “Mill Houses” located to the rear (East) of St Helens Church. The listing for the buildings states that it was originally 1 large building constructed in 1753, which has since been split into 2 separate residences. Its a shame there is a slightly more modern house sat behind the Mill Houses, but they are still a welcome addition to this lovely village scene.
Sefton historically did have a Mill, which an old painting by Andrew Hunt shows was sat behind the Church around the same place as the Mill Houses.
Sefton is a stunning little village, just a few miles outside of Maghull, which lies on the Merseyrail Network on the Northern Line between Ormskirk and Liverpool Central, giving relatively easy access to Liverpool, Ormskirk, and from there on to Preston and other regional towns/cities. It was time to move on, and we made the short 5.6 mile journey down the road to Hightown, and the adjacent village of Little Crosby…