SevenStreets has been rumbled. Caught in the act, tripod fully extended, a man approaches us.

“What are you doing lad?”

“Just taking some pictures,” we explain.

A thin rain has begun to fall on the two of us, as we hover at the edge of our personal zones. He: tightly clutched Tescos bag, muddy Parka, 60ish. Us: keeping a firm grip on our Panasonic Lumix.

“There’s nothing here. What you photographing? A brick wall? ” our passing inquisitor remarks.

It’s true. We are. We’re standing on a crumbling kerb leading to twenty metre-long road so seemingly insignificant even Google Maps have got it wrong. For most of its virtual route, the Google site has it incorrectly attributed, adding a full two-thirds to its length.

Back in the real world, the road is no more than a tarmac comma, biting into a fly-tipped verge. And look at us, snapping away as if we’d cornered Amanda Harrington in a Lanvin kagool.

“There used to be something here,” we say.

“Ah well, there’s not now.” he says, unarguably and finally. Then – seemingly struck by a more pressing concern – he shuffles off in the direction of the city.

Shame. He should have stayed to hear our story. He could have learned how this neglected corner of town has a past as incident-packed and colourful as any of our more celebrated corners. And, should he have hung around, he’d could have discovered our story ends with a big song.

But he didn’t. So we’re rather hoping you do – because, by now, it’s lashing down. And we don’t get soaked for just anyone.

We’re at Bevington Bush – not, alas, a private detective under the employ of Bertie Wooster, but one of the most curious corners of our city’s map.

Before the history lesson, a little geography. Bevington Bush curls in the crook between Scotland Road and Leeds Street. Just to the north, the Kingsway approach dives under the industrial hinterlands that scour the fields urban planners call brown, to the north of the city centre.

Bevington Bush 1780In the middle of the 18th century, however, the fields around here were gold and green. Bevington Bush was a hamlet hunkered within a thickly wooded hill. The ‘bush’, was a patch of elevated land on which a profitable crop of corn grew. In ‘A History of Corn Milling’ (illustration right – you can borrow our copy, but we want it back), Bevington Bush is listed as having four windmills in 1768. We’re guessing it looked like Fiddler’s Ferry, but without the plumes of steam. The tower of the most northerly mill was demolished in the 1960s. Our inquisitive friend probably remembers it, surrounded by the tightly packed streets off Scotland Road.

Two centuries ago Bevington Bush was a pastoral idyll. City merchants used to enjoy nothing better, on a Sunday afternoon, than to stroll from the industry of town to the open fields of Bevington Bush – the first village on the road to Preston.

They chose their route well. For Bevington Bush was home to a popular inn, perfectly placed for that reviving Sunday afternoon session. We’re guessing they didn’t have a carvery and ball pond for the kiddies.

In his book Liverpool: Our City – Our Heritage, (pub: Bluecoat Press) historian Freddie O’Connor reveals that “…In 1760, half a mile from St Patrick’s Cross (in what’s now Great Crosshall Street) along Bevington Bush Road was an inn called simply The Bush, which became a favourite haunt for folk to travel out into the country, to the Bevy Inn, as it became fondly known.”

And before you say anything – no, that’s not why we say we’re going for a bevvy. Obviously. Although ‘The Bevvy’ does get a mention in another book: Recollections of Old Liverpool (pub: Echo Press, Middlesex), “The sailors were very fond of going to the Bevington Bush Inn, or The Bevvy, with their sweethearts, and many a boisterous scene have I witnessed there. The view was really beautiful from the gardens…. Along the Scotland Road were cornfields, meadows and gardens…”

The gardens didn’t last long. With the opening of Scotland Road the ancient hamlet of Bevington Bush soon became surrounded by our ever-growing city. But the inn remained – even adding its own brewery, Hallsal Seager and Co, in 1834.

In time, Scotland Road’s manor houses and market gardens made way for a mass of cramped houses, most of them back-to-back. Many of Liverpool’s notorious tiny courts were to be found here, with families living close to the “thick smoke and foul vapours. Houses and courts squeezed in amongst industrial premises” (www.scottiepress.org).

The answer? Liverpool Corporation built St Martin’s Cottages in 1869, the first council houses in England, at Bevington Bush. And the impressive Bevington Bush Baths were the largest municipal swimming baths in the city.

Enlightened family housing wasn’t the answer for the transient population of labourers and dockers, who also needed a safe place to lay their head. By the end of the 19th century, up to 14,000 workers needed lodgings – many of whom saw sanctuary in the Bevington Bush Hotel, opened in 1900, offering 500 rooms for a penny a night. So long as you were sober.

The hotel became Arden House, and, eventually the city’s first Salvation Army refuge. It was demolished in 1986.

Since then, Bevington Bush has been pruned, pinched and penned into its present state – a slither of a street, crowded with cars parked by owners who’d prefer to stroll the short distance into town than pay the modern day highwaymen of NCP.

And the big song?

In the 1960’s, Liverpool songwriter, Glyn Hughes, immortalised the tale of a chap called Seth Davey, who ‘sat on the corner of Bevington Bush’, at the inn, in at the fag end of the 19th century.

Asked about the story behind the song, Gerry Jones, one of many local acts who recorded it (including The Spinners) said: “Seth Davy was a real person, and he died a couple of years into the 20th century. There was a street and a pub, both called Bevington Bush just north of Liverpool City Centre, and Seth Davy did do a busking act outside.”

Need another clue? Shall we sing you the chorus?

“Come day, go day. Wishing me heart for Sunday.
Drinking buttermilk all the week; whisky on a Sunday.”

So, a corn field, a country village, an inn, a brewery, an experimental social housing scheme, rambling hotel and inspiration behind one of the city’s finest folk songs.

Now, call us sentimental, but that’s got to be worth hanging around in the drizzle to take a snap or two, hasn’t it?

All together now: “Come day, go day…”

  • Sally

    Thank you Seven Streets. I park my car near here when I go to the JMU – and I’ve always thought that was a strange name for such a tiny street! Thanks to your site, my curiosity bubble has burst!! I’ve always wondered what the building was on the opposite side of the road to it (Gardners Row?) that looks impressive, but is getting demolished. Maybe an old theatre? Anyone know??

  • Mike

    Good work Sevenstreets; another fascinating read, providing us with insidere knowledge of our recent past that few of us know.

  • Neil Howlett

    Thanks for such a rich micro-history. You probably know that the song migrated to Dublin where Bevington Bush became Beggars Bush (my research interest) (or possibly that name came to Liverpool. For more about Seth Dav(e)y (possibly Davies, from the post on the Mudcat thread for which there is a link) see
    http://chrisbrady.itgo.com/jigdolls/jigdolls.htm

  • Neil Howlett

    You can also find photographs of the Bevington House Hotel/Hostel, but sadly not the one of Seth Davy with his jugdolls, at
    http://inacityliving.piczo.com/?g=51055098&cr=7

  • David

    Excellent stuff, cheers for that. Yeah, my hunch is that the song migrated from here to the Dubliners. I hear, too, there’s a youtube vid of Rolf Harris singing it, but i’m buggered if I can find it…

  • Ann Ahlgren

    Thanks for writing about Bevington Bush. My great great grandfather lived there and I didn’t know where it was. Are there any pictures of the village? THis is great for me to know!
    Ann

  • david

    thanks for getting in touch, I doubt there’s any pictures of the village itself, as that would have been prior to the age of mass photography – circa the middle of the 19th century. By the time photographers were documenting Liverpool, Bevington Bush was already a suburb of the city.

  • http://google Terry Keenan

    Thanks for your intresting insight about Bevington Bush i was born in Ennerdale Street as was my mother my grandfather told me lots of tales about the area he being born in 1883 wonderfull times and memories Thank you again

  • barryirish

    First heard the song many years ago. A folk singer called Danny Doyle made it popular here in Ireland, also sang by the great Luke Kelly and the Dubliners. Never knew the full story behind the song…………. thanks for the information

  • SoLaidBack

    Hi David. I stopped at Arden House briefly in the late 70s and was just researching it for my autobiography when stumbling across your page. As someone who thrives on local history I found this very informative. In exchange I checked out your comment re Rolf Harris on YouTube and found him singing the aforementioned song here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7euPLsj7SA it;s featured in the film Little Convict. he sings the song one minute 40 seconds into the clip. Regards

  • Honora

    My great grand parents had the boot makers on the corner of Bevington Bush. Their name was Jenkins and they came from Leish in Ireland. One of their daughters married Louis Edwards, butcher and former chairman of Man United.

  • vicky

    i don’t know why but this part really tickles me “cars parked by owners who’d prefer to stroll the short distance into town than pay the modern day highwaymen of NCP.”
    it’s quite a poetic description of modern carparks

  • timcroft@islandseafare.co.uk

    my middle name is Bevington as is all the boys for past generations, my grandma always said never drop the name as the council stole Bevington bush from our family and one day we will get it back . This had been passed to her from generations before. Who knows ???? i`ll not hold my breath

  • Geoff Carr

    My maternal grandparents lived in a flat above the piano shop on the corner of Bevington Bush and Scotland Road. Next door was a fruit and veg shop operated by a woman named Kitty. On the way upstairs to my Grandparents flat she would sometimes give us a free apple or orange. I can clearly remember Arden House further up Bevington Bush and was very interested to hear of its history. I remember Juvenal Street further up the road. My Paternal Grandfather was the tenant of the Brewers Arms pub in Comus Street opposite. Number 33 if my fading memory serves me right. On the way up there across Scotland Road there was an old men’s outside lavatory at the bottom of Comus Street on the right hand side and another pub directly adjacent now all sadly demolished.

  • http://nil david butler

    During the 1950s when I lived and worked in Kirkdale the old guys used to refer to a beer as a”bevy”

  • http://nil david butler

    During the 1950s when I lived and worked in Kirkdale, the old guys used to refer to a beer as a “Bevy”

  • maria orourke

    I well remember in 1974 going with my mother in law to Arden House when it was a Sally Army to the household auctions they held. It was a free for all really. The ‘major’ would point an item out, say a wardrobe, and say, who will give me 5 Bob for this and the housewives would put their hands up and shout ‘Eeeyar Major me, me, me’ it seemed to me the one that waved their hand about most maniacally would be awarded said wardrobe for 5 Bob! Needless to say the MIL got the double bed frame she wanted by waving her 2 arms about and jumping up and down on the spot, screaming “Eeyar Major Sir…We’re overcrowded I’ve got 9 kids and need more beds, please Major, please” I was mortified! Well it did the trick —she got the bed and looked like the cat who got the cream!

  • Tony chambers

    I lived in grosvenor street, just round the corner from comus street from 1949 till 1968, when i got married .iuse to drink in the brewers arms with my parents, and i remember the pub with the outside toilet.

  • Freddie Headey

    Beautifully written thanks.
    I see Alan Moores did a second version of the song which, imho, is even better https://youtu.be/TKgJQsOqUi0