Oxton Village ‘A Voyage of Discovery’
The guided walks around Oxton Village, devised by enthusiasts of and financed by the Oxton Society, offer a unique opportunity to experience the effect of the influences that have combined to create an authentic urban village.
Crucial to any understanding to Oxton Village is an appreciation of its history. In 1801, with a population of 137 it had 27 more inhabitants than Birkenhead. The declining importance of agriculture and the emerging dominance of industrialisation reversed the situation with Oxton’s eventual incorporation into the Borough of Birkenhead. Undeniable to its evolution, however, is the overwhelming importance of the Earls of Shrewsbury evident in the numerous family references throughout the area.
The most notable period of development during their tenure as Lords of the manor of Oxton, between 1521 and 1990, was in the 19th and 20th centuries. Recognising the attraction of Oxton as a desirable place to live, particularly to the Liverpool ship-owners and merchants, the development of Oxton was managed with the deliberate practice of granting restrictive building leases. This degree of foresight tempered with a dash of good fortune enabled Oxton to emerge as a distinct and self-contained manor within the conurbation of Birkenhead.
The overall impression is a pleasing effect of diversity within a unified setting. Not only is there a wide variety of architectural styles and features but also a range of size and grandeur that is not replicated in the modern planned residential areas. Some are remnants from the agricultural tradition whilst other reflects an arrangement to accommodate the mutual needs of both of those who require and those who provide services.
Oxton exhibits all the attributes of a typical English village. The pubs, churches, a full range of retail services complimented by a substantial degree of commercial enterprise ensure a vibrant village centre. Its urban location is sufficient to set it apart from the conventional vision of an English village, but the architectural diversity, an unusual abundance of trees and foliage, secret lanes and byways, and high sandstone walls that convey a sense of enclosure combine to produce an effect that is distinctive.
The foliage cascading over the sandstone walls quickly dispels any sense of being in a town setting. Passing along almost any street the informed observer will identify the numerous listed properties with features such as cast iron porches, original windows, and crenellated walls. Visitors are unfailingly amazed to stroll along one of the many unmade lanes with its borders of brambles, nettles, and assorted wild plants unable to resist their disbelief at standing in such close proximity to a town centre. On guided tours it is often a welcome surprise to accept an invitation from a resident to enjoy an explanation of a property’s history and explore the pleasure of a garden.
There are two exceptional and outstanding features, one of which is only possible on a guided walk. A private access paved with York stone opens out to the highest point on the Oxton ridge. In between two of the three very fine residences there is a view that is breathtaking. Exposed in an expanse of trees almost as far as the eye can see with the River Mersey in the distance completing a unique panorama. Although the second feature is accessible to the public it is doubtful that many are aware of its existence. Passing along a narrow alleyway neatly paved in York stone reveals two small cottages, porches surrounded by foliage that would not be out of place in a rural Cheshire village.
The guided tours of Oxton village are but one example of the latent civic spirit awakened by pride and awareness within the community demonstrating how the village has evolved and adapted to accommodate modern lifestyles without compromising the characteristics that constitute its appeal.