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Liverpool's lost football stadium that disappeared off the map

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The mystery of Liverpool's lost football stadium is a puzzle historians have been trying to solve for years.

Back in the Victorian era, Liverpool Caledonians FC, was one of the leading clubs in the city.



Despite the part they played in Liverpool's sporting heritage, relatively little is known about the club and where they played.



While records show that Woodcroft Park, a 30,000- capacity stadium in Wavertree, was the home of Liverpool Caledonians FC, the exact location of the stadium remains a mystery.



In a bid to get to the bottom of it, historians from the Wavertree Society set out to find where the stadium was based in 2015.

After launching an appeal in the ECHO and BBC News at the time, the society received an influx of information from people making suggestions about where the stadium once was.

To find out about any new developments in the quest to find Woodcroft Park and what parts of the mystery still remain, we spoke to Local History Secretary Mike Chitty from the Wavertree Society, about his findings.

The start of Liverpool Caledonians FC

Liverpool Caledonians formed in 1891 and were one of the four leading football clubs in the city at the time, along with Liverpool, Everton and Bootle. As their name suggests, their players were mainly Scottish.

During their research into Liverpool Caledonians FC, the Wavertree Society found a number of different documents and contemporary newspaper articles, including ones from the Liverpool Mercury.

Historians from the Wavertree Society have been trying to find the location of Woodcroft Park for years

On 28 Sep 1891 the Liverpool Mercury reported: “The Liverpool Caledonians enter upon their career this evening, when they meet Everton on the Woodcroft Park Ground, Wavertree, the kick-off being announced for five o'clock.

"The Everton Executive and many well-known local football celebrities have signified their intention of patronising the opening proceedings …”.

According to local historian Mike Chitty the club gained admission to the Lancashire League in 1892.

Mr Chitty said: "It would appear that the club had, in fact, been formed with the ambition of gaining Football League status.

"They applied to join the First Division in 1892, a full year before Liverpool FC attempted, but sadly they were unsuccessful.

"Later in 1892 they got as far as the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup – one round further than Liverpool FC – before losing to Northwich Victoria."

The mystery of Woodcroft Park

A report from the Liverpool Mercury in September 1891 gives some clues about the size and location of Woodcroft Park.

It said: “The Woodcroft Park ground is easy of access, being only one minute walk from Wavertree Station”.

Mr Chitty said: "Two days earlier the same paper had described it as “the new ground off Wavertree-road known as Woodcroft Park.”


Meanwhile, another article dated 10 June 1892 said: “The grounds ... while suitable for football and cricket, the fast cinder track of a quarter of a mile fits them for cycling and athletic purposes.

"The covered grand stand holds 1,000 persons, and the uncovered grand stand 2,000, while altogether 30,000 spectators can be accommodated.”

According to another Liverpool Mercury story, the Liverpool Old Boys club took over the ground from the Caledonians in 1893.

When looking at a series of other newspaper reports from that time, Mr Chitty said a match between the Old Boys and Manchester Free Wanderers was still playing at Woodcroft Park in December 1897.

However, by the 1898/99 season they are believed to have moved to Edge Lane.

Later reports make reference to matches still taking place at Woodcroft Park, including one dated 10 Nov 1900 between Albion and Liverpool Central.

Three possible sites of Woodcroft Park

During their search for the location of the stadium, the Wavertree Society managed to narrow down their search to three possible places.

They are located between Picton Road and Smithdown Road, west of the main Liverpool-Runcorn railway line.

The site of Woodcroft Park is believed to have been "a minute's walk from Wavertree Station, and within easy distance of Sefton Park, Wavertree, and Fairfield", according to reports at the time.

Site 1 - West of Bagot Street

The first site is based west of Bagot Street, on the north side of Smithdown Road.

Mr Chitty said: "This area, now occupied by Woodcroft Road, Portman Road and Egerton Road, was immediately adjacent to the old house known as ‘Woodcroft’ – sometimes referred to as Woodcroft Cottage – off Smithdown Road."

The size of this field as referenced in a map called "Wavertree Tithe Map" from 1846, appear to be consistent with the measurements of the land where Woodcroft Stadium was based. These measurements were laid out in a lease from 1981.

However, Mr Chitty said: "The difficulty with this option is that, according to the evidence of street directories, much of the land was developed for housing during the 1890s, which would appear to be inconsistent with the continued use of Woodcroft Park by the Old Boys and others."

Site 2 - Land east of Bagot Street, on the north side of Lawrence Road

The second site is based to the south of Grosvenor Road and is now occupied by Bartlett Street, Banner Street and Bligh Street.

Mr Chitty said: "It was the north-east corner of the Woodcroft Estate – and the only part that could justifiably claim to be within a minutes walk of the former Wavertree Station in Wellington Road."

However, problems were also found with this theory when looking at an ordnance survey from 1890.

The survey showed houses had already been built along the north side of Lawrence Road, with provisions made for three side roads.

Mr Chitty said as in the case of site one, there are also problems with suggestions that site two was home to Woodcroft Park, as "almost all of the houses in Bligh Street, Banner Street, etc. were already occupied by the time of the 1901 .

"So it cannot have been the Woodcroft Park mentioned in the Liverpool Mercury for 10 Nov 1900."

Site 3 - Land east of Bishopgate Street, on the south side of Picton Road

The third possible site narrowed down by the Wavertree Society is based to the north of Grosvenor Road and was only developed for housing after 1901.

Mr Chitty said: "However, it was never part of the Woodcroft Estate and was not in the ownership of Serjeantson, Tayleur, etc.

"It therefore seems unlikely – despite the Scottish sound of the new street names – that it was the land leased by them to the Caledonians in 1891/2."

The ongoing mystery of Woodcroft Park

Looking back at his findings over the years, Mr Chitty said from its name, The Woodcroft Estate, would appear to be the obvious site of Woodcroft Park.

But "Without further evidence, it isn't possible to say with certainty where Woodcroft Park was situated."

The difficulty in the search for Woodcroft Park lies with newspaper reports from the time, which suggest that it was located a minutes walk away from Wavertree Station.

The presence of housing in the area also poses problems for where the stadium could realistically have been located.

Mr Chitty said: "The wording of the lease points to the site between Bagot Street and what became Egerton Road – an area of land that today includes Woodcroft Road.

"But why would this have been described as a minute's walk from Wavertree Station? And how could football or other sporting fixtures have taken place on it in the late 1890s, given that by this time it was entirely covered by terraced housing?"

Anyone with information or ideas is asked to contact Mike Chitty from the Wavertree Society - mike@wavertreesociety.org


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