Leasowe Castle

Leasowe Castle


Leasowe Castle

Liverpool Mercury, May 30th 1828

Leasowe Castle

This most romantic edifice has been converted into an hotel, for which it is most admirably adapted, as it is not distance more than 5 miles from Liverpool, kept by Mr BUSSARD the landlord. It is impossible to conceive a more complete retirement than Leasowe Castle, and the contrast between the noisy and busy town, and the silence and tranquillity of this singular spot. Machines are provided for bathing, and the Castle itself has ample accommodation for families. We think the Landlord would consult his own interest if he would convert part of his levels into a bowing-green, and a ground for quoits playing or archery.

We venture to predict that Leasowe Castle will at no distant period, become a favourite resort for bathers and jaunting parties. The dinner on Tuesday, which was considered a house-warming, was served up in the grand dining room, commanding a view of the sea. Several rich Chinese cabinets still ornament this apartment, as in n the time of its late lamented owner, Mrs BOODY. After dinner, and a rich and profuse dessert, several toasts were given, amongst which one was to the memory of Mrs BOODY, who, by her humane attention to the poor mariners wrecked on the coast, has immortalised her name. There happened to be present two gentlemen who had, had personal experience of this excellent lady's humanity and hospitality, of which they spoke in so feeling a manner as to moisten more than one eye in the company. It seems that this practical Christian used to have articles of wearing apparel always in readiness for the use of such as were wrecked on that part of the coast. Every attention by which it was possible to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate objects of her care, was bestowed upon them, they were fed, clothed, and pursed by her, with the anxiety of a mother. In one of the bedrooms of the castle there is a very spirited engraving of an enormous dog, once in the possession of Mrs BOODY, with the following note :-

"An Alpine mastiff, the largest dog in England, brought from Mount St Bernard, is now at Leasowe Castle. The dog was about a year old when he was received at Leasowe Castle, in May 1815, his length was then six feet, four inches, and his height, in the middle of his back, two feet, seven inches, but he is now larger and is still growing. He saved a lady from drowning since ha has been in England. Dogs of this kind are kept at the convent of Mount St Bernard, for the purpose of discovering and assisting those travellers, who, in crossing the mountain, may have lost their way, or who have been unfortunately overwhelmed and buried in the drifting snow. They are sent forth in pairs, and when they discover a sufferer, one of them returns to the convent for further assistance, while the other remains doing his utmost to extricate the sufferer. These dogs are also used as animals of burden, and will carry a cwt of provisions from Bauche to the Hospice, a distance of eighteen miles."

The dog here mentioned has been dead several years, but, there is now at the castle a much larger animal of the same breed, which actually measures 8 feet from the nose to the tip of the tail.

Leasowe Castle from Ormerod's Cheshire

"New Hall, afterwards Mockbeggar, and now Leasowe Castle was occasionally the residence of its proprietors, the Egerton's of Oulton. After an intermediate alienation, it is now by purchase, the property of the widow Lewis BOODY Esq. It consists of a tall octagonal tower, to four of the faces of which square turrets are attached, terminating in gables, which rise above the central building. The gardens are surrounded by a large fosse, our mound, and disposed in terraces and alcoves. It is situated towards the middle of a large level plain, called the Leasowe, which stretches along the end of the Wirral, and is protected partially from the inroads of the sea by a range of sand-hills, but does not vote a single shrub to break the monotony of the prospect. This plain, containing about 220 acres, is now about to be enclosed, and is the place mentioned by an occasional race-course in Webb's Itinerary. In this act the sand-hills are directed to be preserved, as a security from the inroads of the Irish Sea.

Close up of Leasowe Castle
Liverpool Courier, September 4th 1851

Leasowe Castle

Leasowe Castle may fairly be deemed a portion of the most ancient history of the port of Liverpool, since even the nickname it obtained from having been for a long period an unhabited building, has stamped the shore as Mockbeggar-wharf, and the sands as the Beggar's Patch. Situated as Leasowe Castle is, on the margin of the rock channel and within a dozen of miles of the port of Liverpool, it connects itself with many interesting topics. Nor is it out of place to refer to the much vexed question of the ancient course of the tidal waters of the Mersey, for this subject interwoven with the study of Leasowe Castle to a great extent than would be imagined by those who have not considered the association.

The subject of which we now speak is in the main but out of speculation, but it is not on that account the less important. We know that great changes have taken place in the waters of the Mersey and the Dee within the last few hundred years from what may be designated local causes arising from the shifting of the sand-banks. Within the time named a line-of-battle ship might have anchored off Parkgate, but now a fishing-boat would scarcely find water for that purpose The river Dee, which laves the western shore of the peninsula of Wirral, has declined in depth, whilst the Mersey, on the eastern bank, has improved in navigable qualities. Much of this arises from natural causes attributable to the form of the rivers. The river Dee at its mouth is nearly seven miles wide, and hence it silts up, the force of the tide being so much weakened by the expanse of the waters make at their junction with the sea as to permit the sands to deposit in the bed of the river, and thus to make it shallow. The Mersey on the other hand is shaped like the neck of a bottle at its mouth, its width being more inland, and from this cause a powerful and direct tide is kept running, which tends to remove the banks and deepen the channel. The ordinary agencies of the wind and tide are sufficient upon a sandy beach to effect every change that has occurred on this sandy shore, we need not seek for agencies not known to our ordinary experience. The most curious speculation would be whether the Mersey, which is noticed in the "Iter Antoninum," did not formerly flow into the Dee before it reached the ocean, leaving the sea as far off from hence as the Northwest Lightship, and whether the channel it made for itself by the destruction of the intervening barrier has not wholly altered its character, and given a scouring power through the narrow passage of the accumulated waters between Hale and Hooton, which has made the port of the Mersey so excellent a roadstead.

This is historical evidence that a forest existed on the confines of the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire, and the remains of the oak trees of a large size, dug out of the sands on each side of the Mersey, as well as the bones of animals thus discovered, prove that the two counties were much nearer to each other than they now are, if they were not united. The Leasowe valleys now lie below the level of the spring tides, and, were it not for an embankment erected at the joint expense of the corporation of Liverpool and the landowners of Wallasey, thousands of acres of land, now under cultivation, would be flooded and rendered perfectly useless. The embankment which commences at Leasowe Castle, extends to the westward in a semi-circular form for a distance of nearly 2 miles. It was designed and constructed under the superintendence of Francis GILES Esq, C.E, at the expense of £20,000. the act was obtained in 1829, and, opposite Leasowe Castle the date, 1844, is inserted in the embankment in Roman numerals which may be taken as the date of completion. In reference to the encroachment of the sea at this place, it may be observed, that Leasowe Light-house, which stands near the castle and on the margins of the sea, is not the original light-house, a light-house having existed nearer than the present one to the sea by the distance of about half a mile, though its site is now covered with waters.

Leasowe Light-house
Leasowe Castle was originally the property of the Stanley family, having been built by Ferdinando, 5th Earl of Derby, in 1593. This earl it was who died in the flower of his youth, as is supposed by Camden, by poison, administered by the master of his horse, who fled on the earl's best horse as soon as his master took to his bed. It is more likely that the Jesuits were the instigators of this act, Ferdinando had prosecuted to conviction one Hesket, a Jesuitical agent, because he had urged him to assume the regal title in consequence of his descent through his grandmother.

Ferdinando would have been the next in direct descent to Elizabeth, and Mary, Queen Dowager of France, the youngest sister of Henry V111, and it is stated that there had been a conspiracy against the Queen that had been confided to the Earl of Derby, the object of which was to raise him to the throne, but as he would not enter into it, it was necessary that the depository of the secret should be destroyed.

By this earl, Leasowe Castle was erected for the purpose of a general sporting residence for hounds and hawks, and especially racing. The original structure was an octagonal tower, having square turrets in its alternate faces and there were windows pierced in every face of this complicated figure. The castle has, however, been enlarged by successive occupiers until it attained its modern proportions. The reason for building the castle as a sporting residence, for it was nothing more in its first estate, would be most likely to encourage the Wallasey races, held upon the sands, which are of a smooth and firm surface, and well adapted for the running of horses. For a long period Wallasey races were the most eminent in the country, but they were subsequently transferred to Newmarket, where a prize called the Wallasey Stakes was run for many years. Large sums of money were subscribed for these races, and larger sums still were hazarded in their chances. There are other records of the connection of the Stanleys with Leasowe Castle in existence which might be named, but we must not omit to state that one of the stones of the basement chambers is carved with the date of the erection, 1593, and the three legs, the symbol of the Stanley connection to the Isle of Man.

From the Stanleys, Leasowe Castle was parted, and it next fell to the Egertons of Oulton, by whom it was retained until 1784. It was afterwards sold to Mrs BOODE, the mother of Lady CUST, the wife of the Hon Colonel Sir Edward CUST. K.C.H, the present occupier. Mrs BOODE resided in the castle until the time of her demise, which was the result of an accident near Poulton, and which the passer by will find recorded on the entablatures of a Gothic cross erected to her memory by her only child Lady CUST.

Inscription on the gate post of Leasowe Castle
For some years Sir Edward and his family resided in London, and on the east coast of England and during that period the castle was held on lease by Mr BUZZARD, who had been gardener, and married the nurse of Sir Edward's family, and who converted it into an inn, which became a source of considerable profit to the lessee, and a kind of "local lion" as will be known to many who read this paper, from the beauty of the grounds, and also because it contained the fittings of the celebrated "Star Chamber"

With the last six or seven years however the lease expired, and the owner of the castle took possession of it for a private residence. The castle has been much altered and improved since then, and it has now become a residence every way suited to the social position of its occupier, and one of the best houses in Cheshire.

The gardens are kept well, are not of great extent but possess much beauty, with many rare flowers. Upon entering the hall doors, which are of folding glass, we stand at the foot of the principal staircase, which is irregular, and which extends to the entire height of the building. This is ornamented with many interesting articles. The stairs ascend from a pillar in Bath stone, a copy of one that formerly stood in Westminster Hall, leading to the old Treasury. A large handsome silk banner is suspended from the top of the staircase. This belonged to Prince Leopold and upon a scroll on a shield it is thus accounted for :- "This knightly trophy distinguished the scroll of Leopold Prince of Saxe Coburg, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle." The flag is emblazoned with the armorial bearings of the Knights of the Garter, of which the King of the Belgians is a member, but when he ascended the Belgian Throne it became necessary for him to have a king's instead of a prince's flag, which was accordingly substituted, and the prince's flag was presented by him to Sir Edward CUST, and this is the flag which now adorns the vestibule of Leasowe Castle.

Then, again, we find a number of articles which may be described as social remembrances, being a collection of curiosities brought from the West Indies by Sir Edward and Lady CUST, who made a voyage to that part of the world. We may state that not only has Lady CUST procured a collection of those curiosities that are the result of the skill and ingenuity of other people, but she has superadded a valuable collection of drawings of the scenery and especially of the plants of the West Indies, which may be of much use to aid researches of such as may hereafter be deputed to gather information as to the floral and horticultural produce of the West India Islands. But none alone to what is of foreign clime has she directed attention, for we find that the eyry of British birds has received particular regard, and she has been enabled to form a collection of eggs of British birds which may be described as next to perfect, and which is said by good judges to be superior to that in the British Museum. The eggs have been classified with the assistance of Mr William YARRELL, F.L.S, the eminent ornithologist, and Lady CUST, it may be further stated, has been aided in her collection by the late Earl of Derby, with whom she made frequent exchanges.

In Lady CUST'S rooms many rare and curious articles are to be found, which want of space forbids us to dwell upon, but there are one or two things we are unwilling to leave without notice. Amongst these is a bridle used by the late Princess Charlotte in state, and which is curious as being profusely decorated with shells, and a series of seven prints so placed together as to give a view of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the whole of the procession being depictured, and the names and styles of every individual being engraved over the heads of each of them. The engraving is a copy of a drawing supposed to be by the hand of William CAMDEN, then Clarencieux king-at-arms. It is very curious - doubtless it is a faithful portraiture of the funeral of the Virgin Queen, and it is one of those historical records which might be commended as a fitting subject for reproduction in such vehicles as have the means of doing so, namely, the illustrated publications of the day.

To return to the subject, namely, the decorations of the staircase, we shall further find a collection of antlers, stag's heads, bogwood, and other remains together with a carving in marble illustrative of the forest scenery and forest work, with this inscription :-

"These remains of forest life were found under the peat soil upon this shore, and seems to verify the local adage -

'From Birkenhead unto Hilbree

A squirrel might leape from tree to tree.'"

There are many other interesting decorations on the staircase, but we have reserved space for only one, the best, this is the flag taken from Paris by the Duke of Wellington, and his grace presented it to Sir Edward CUST. The flag is a French tricolour, and bears the inscription, "L'Emperor Napoleon - au departement de la Mayenne." The flag is gorgeously embroidered with silver, and is further ornamented with silver fringe and tassels. The embroidery consists of eagles, the letter N in floral wreathes, and the imperial crown, and it is profusely covered with bees, which it was the custom of the Emperor to use as symbolical decorations of his banners. Now, we think that there is not a more interesting relic in Leasowe Castle than this flag. It is something to possess, a national trophy such as this flag undoubtedly is. For in this light it is an ever-recurring remembrance of British valour, and a national record of the bravery of the English army when matched against the skill of the great general of his day, and against the unquestionable gallantry of his devoted soldiers. But circumstances enhance the value of a thing even when it possesses an intrinsic worth of its own. Who would not feel it an honour to receive a gift from the Duke of Wellington ? Any presentation from his hand would be deemed valuable. The offering were a record of the Duke's personal career as a soldier it would be more highly esteemed still. And if this be so, how much does the value of a gift increase when that gift is one of his own brightest trophies and the recorder of the most enduring triumph! The present owner of the flag seems to participate in these feelings, and he has recorded the high sense he entertains of the honour done to him by commemorating the act on a tablet attached to the banner in these words :-"Captured at Paris 1815, and given by the Duke of Wellington, the unconquered conqueror and great captain of an age of heroes, but far more illustrious from the example he has given to the world that the first soldier can be the first citizen, and that the higher glory upon earth is to be the most honest man. 1844."

We are now at the top of the staircase and it will convenient to say that though the whole of the sleeping apartments leading from it are of such a nature as to be entitled to consideration, from the rare specimens of cabinets, wardrobes, and the general furniture contained in them, on the present occasion we pas by all but one, called the Oak Chamber, which is entirely fitted with carved oak of an ancient date. An oak box in this chamber bears the date of 1682, inlaid with ivory. The mantelpiece, wardrobe, and tables, as well as the bedstead, are made of oak, curiously carved, and the latter has not only the carved pillars and feet and head-boards common to such articles of furniture, but it also has the entire canopy carved in the same solid material, and with as elaborate patterns as the other portions of it. It might be mentioned that the coverlet of this bed is a rare piece of India needlework, representing griffins and other birds and beasts of every impossible form. A slight ascent from the sleeping apartments brings us to the warder's walk of the castle keep, which is flat, protected by battlements and convenient and agreeable for prospects. The view from hence extends uninterruptedly in every direction, presenting some fine prospects. To the westward, the swelling pout lines of the Welsh mountains, including Snowdon itself, are to be seen in their quiet grandeur. Carrying the eye to the southward a fine line of cultivated country presents itself. A little further, the eye ranges over the rich pastures of the Wallasey Leasowes, backed by Bidston Hill, with its deep green timber. Then a break intervenes, and through the opening a view of Liverpool, with its lofty chimneys and steeples, and a dense cloud of smoke resting over it. Travelling eastward, the eye takes in the village of Wallasey, reposing in the side of a hill, which rises somewhat in the amphitheatrical form. And going still further northward, New Brighton, bounds the land view, followed by a prospect of the sea due north, including in clear weather the Black Comb and the Cumberland mountains. Nothing can exceed the sea view from the north, for it commands a sight such as no other place in the world can equal, the approaches to Liverpool with their thousands of ships and steamers, under the flags of all nations, and from every part of the world.

Descend we, however, through the library to the drawing-room, and in passing through the former apartment we shall find that the bookcases, as well as the folding doors, are made of oak dug from the submerged forest, which takes a beautiful polish, and the dark variegated grain of which contrasts strongly with an imitation piece in the immediate locality. There is also some stained glass worth notice in the windows, one of which contains the arms of the Stanleys, Custs and Egertons, in this material, in juxtaposition. There are many matters of interest in the library on a small scale, which we pas over, just noticing one or two drawings by the Queen, which appear to be preserved with great care.

The taste which planned and fitted the drawing-room is excellent. The room has unusual advantages as to light from the place it occupies in the castle, and the whole of its natural capabilities have been kept in sight in the decoration. There are many portraits here, amongst which are those of Lord and Lady Brownlow, Sir Edward's father and mother, a portrait of Lady Cust, and also portraits of her children and the Honourable Sir Edwards Cust and his sister Lady Middleton, painted by the Honourable Elizabeth Cust, in the character of cottage children. Amongst the pictures the room further contains portraits of George the Third and Queen Charlotte, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, after the original by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and presented to Sir Edward by his late Majesty King William 1V. There is also a picture of Wallasey races in the days of James 1, which has been much admired, as containing portraits of that monarch and his sons sharing in sport, and also a lady in a carriage, driven by servants in the royal livery. A picture of historical interest is to be found in a portrait of William 111, on horseback, reviewing his troops, as the title of the painting states :- "King William the Third encamped his army on these Leasowes, and, embarked on the expedition which led to the battle of the Boyne."

There are two other things in the drawing-room which must be noticed, and which, though they be unpretending, possess deep interest. One of these is a China vase presented to Sir Edward Cust by King Leopold, and the other a bouquet of artificial white roses, such as worn at that period, placed by the vase under a glass shade, and bearing the simple account :- "These flowers were worn by Princess Charlotte when she was a bride."

There will be those who will perceive the fitness of coupling these things together, for though the Princess Charlotte, judging by human reason, the people looked for an heir to the throne of Great Britain.

From the drawing-room we descend to the ground floor, where there is one more room to attract attention, the celebrated, "Star Chamber" now used as a dining-room. It is pretty well known that when the Court of Exchequer of Westminster was demolished in 1836, Sir Edward Cuts purchased the fittings of the notorious Star Chamber, which he carried to Leas owe Castle, where he fitted a room with them as nearly like the original as possible. The floor of the room is of polished oak, and the ceiling is starred with gold stars on a pale blue ground. The ceiling contains the rose, the portcullis, and the fleur de lis in its panels. The walls are panelled as in the original Star Chamber, and to keep the idea perfect here the compartments between the oak panels are painted on white kid, to imitate those used in the original cover. The fire-place is just as it stood in its primitive state, with all its elaborate carvings. The back of the thrown still remains, the other portions of it being lost. It is surmounted by the motto, "Dieu et mon droit," which is a modern addition, but it contains the original carving lower down - "The throne of the kynges of Englande."

The chairs and other appurtenances, though not belonging to the old Star Chamber, are made to suite it, some old carved oak frames having been procured, and these were filled up the backs with needlework depicting the rose and the fleur de lis. The pictures in the rooms are two, the first a fine portrait of Thomas Earl of Stafford, and the others bear this label, "James Duke of Monmouth, K.G, himself rode a race on these Leasowes and won it, Thursday, August 25, 1683." I t is probable however, that this race was a mere covert on his part for certain other political races he was then engaged in.

We now go to the exterior of the castle which is surrounded by walls and towers, characteristic of its architecture, and one of those towers called the Rocket Tower, a rocket apparatus is kept to afford relief to any vessels which may be driven on shore in bad weather, and near to the same place stands what is called Canute's Chair, which is on the extreme verge of Leasowe embankment, and below which the breakers of the sea fall and roar. It bears the inscription said to have been addressed by that king to his courtiers - "Sea come hither, nor wet the sole of my foot." A portion of the shore is known by the name of "The Golden Sands" from the circumstances that about the year 1830, when the embankment was in progress, the workmen, for upwards of a week together discovered golden guineas scattered about, and laying exposed to ordinary observers on the sand. They were of the date of Charles 11, nearly the first guineas coined in England. It is impossible to know how many were found, but there is a box in Sir E. Cust's possession, containing two of them, picked up by himself, as well as silver and copper coin, and a gold bodkin or packing needle, all found at the same time. It is supposed that they had been contained in the strong box of some argosie, wrecked at the period, but which has only yielded to decay after having laid a century and a half in the ocean.



Mrs BROODE, married Lewis William BOODE

Nee Margaret DANNETT, daughter of the Rev Thomas DANNETT, Rector of Liverpool

Liverpool Mercury, Oct 14th 1825

To the editors of the Liverpool Mercury

Gentlemen - The columns of your valuable paper having, of late, too frequently teemed with the disasters of shipwreck and its consequent horrors, we who experienced the severe gale of the wind on Friday last, with feelings of gratitude "to Him who sits upon the whirlwind and rides upon the storm," [as the first cause of our preservation] have to acknowledge the kindness, humanity and hospitality of a female good Samaritan, who not only bound up our wounds, but administered to our necessities every comfort that possibly lay in the power of a benevolent individual.

After this preface, we conceive we should not do our duty, did we not detail, through the medium of the public press, the situation we were in, and the kindness we received at the hands of Mrs BOODIE, of Leasowe Castle, her sister, and domestics. It will be remember by the public that on that day, a sudden and severe squall came on in the morning, which drove our vessel [a small fishing-smack] upon the Cheshire coast, where we all must have inevitably perished, but for the interposition of Providence. We were no sooner thrown by the immense breakers on the beach [two of us apparently lifeless] but Mrs BROODIE, with her accustomed philanthropy, sent her domestics to our assistance, and conveyed us to her house, where the hospitality and attention we received will never be effaced from our memories. We, therefore, through the medium of your paper, most respectfully beg leave to present to Mrs BROODIE, her sister and household, our most grateful acknowledgements for the kind and humane treatment we received from them on that disastrous day, and we fully trust they will receive their just reward on a day to come - With every sentiment of gratitude, we are,

The crew and passengers of the THOMAS AND HELEN

Liverpool, October 8th, 1825.


April 29th, 1826

Dreadful accident

On Friday afternoon the 21st inst, as Mrs BOODIE of Mockbeggar Hall, Wirral, was on her way from Seacombe Ferry to her residence, accompanied by her grandchild, the horse in her chaise took fright, owing to a dog having attempted to seize it by the nose, the vehicle upset, and we are truly concerned to state, that this highly respected lady was killed on the spot.


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