Ten reasons to love Churchtown, Southport
PUBLISHED: 20:53 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 20:52 21 October 2015
While its big neighbour Southport grabs the headlines, this historic suburb should definitely be on your 'must visit' list.
Famous for its glorious Botanic Gardens, this conservation area has many fine buildings and a core of interesting, independent retailers.
The village grew up around St Cuthbert’s Church, which received an award recently from Visit Britain. In those early days, many villagers eked out a living by fishing for shrimps, cockles and mussels while others relied on agriculture in the rich local fields. Today it is quite gentrified but people are friendly and there’s a great sense of community.
Look closely and you’ll see the odd coat of arms set into some of the paving, hinting at its historic past. Some of the area’s older properties are made from the timbers of wrecked ships.
The fact it found itself overtaken by the new town of Southport when sea bathing became popular, has probably helped preserve unique qualities of Churchtown.
1 Charming village: It’s packed with history. The original market cross was erected on the village green – its base survives at Meols Hall – and the present obelisk was moved here from Lathom Hall near Burscough in the 1950s. What is now the Conservative Club was built in 1729 for grammar School pupils. Other fine buildings range from half timbered, white-washed cottages with traditional thatch to large gothic-style, red brick semis, with sloping roofs and coats of arms.
2 Shopping: However much you like and admire Southport with its famed Lord Street, Churchtown will capture your heart when it comes to small independent shops. There’s a mixture of elegant and chic shops.
3 Meols Hall: This 12th Century manor house is set in 100 acres of private parkland and is one of the oldest settlements on the Lancashire coast. It was on this site from the reign of King John, with the present hall being built during Elizabethan times. The house is open to visits on selected days.
4 Botanic Gardens: These were originally opened in 1874 and for 4d visitors could enjoy all the attractions – sumptuous planting, the Fernery, lake and conservatory. In 1932 Southport Corporation saved the site which was in danger of being sold for housing.
5 Eating out: There’s a fantastic choice in a very small area. The Hesketh Arms, which was originally three fishermen’s cottages serves hearty pub food, there’s also the Bold Arms – where horses for the first trams were housed - and Claude’s bakery and restaurant, the Botanic Bistro and Chaplins tea rooms.
6 Golf: With Hesketh to the North and Southport on the other side, Churchtown is blessed with good golfing. Hesketh, used as a qualifying course when the Open is at Birkdale, is possibly the more famous, but the links/parkland course at Southport sets its own challenges.
7 Historic church: St Cuthbert’s is believed to have been built on a religious site dating from pre-Conquest times. Named after the saint whose bones were rested on their wanderings around Lancashire in the ninth century, the church was built in stone in 1571 and rebuilt in 1730-39 although very little of this now remains. The tower and spire were rebuilt in 1850.
8 The Civic Garden: Originally the site of an ancient orchard, it was opened in 1992 as the North Meols Civic Society’s contribution to the Southport’s Bicentenary celebrations. Part of the site is now a wildlife sanctuary and the rest of is laid out as a formal garden.
9 Fresh vegetables: After the Norman invasion, the land around North Meols was divided into narrow strips of cultivated land and meadows. The draining of Martin Mere resulted in rich agricultural land and that fertile plain today produces high-quality crops on sale in the local shops and used by local restaurants and cafes.
10 Bird spotting: The RSPB reserve at Marshside, forms part of the internationally important Ribble Estuary, which has some of the best lowland wet grassland in the north-west of England and is an important refuge in winter for pink-footed geese, widgeons, black-tailed godwits and golden plovers. In spring it attracts nesting lapwings.