Saturday, 23 June 2007

Harbreck House and the Myers Family - Liverpool Merchants

Harbreck House

Harbreck House stood in grounds off Higher Lane, Fazakerley. The house was situated in Bluebell Woods, just north of Fazakerley Brook. Harbreck Estate was bought by Liverpool Council in 1898 and this was the beginning of the development which has resulted in University Hospital Aintree, a large general hospital that provides health care to a population of 330,000.

The house itself was used as an administration block and staff quarters for the Annexe section - a supposedly temporary set up which lasted until the 1950's. The development of the hospital is an long and interesting story which will be described in a later post.

The house however, has a history of its own. Sadly, it has disappeared for good but a walk in what is left of the intriguing Bluebell Woods will reveal paths and evidence of a demolished building which is now overgrown with ivy. A close look at the trees shows that some of them were deliberately planted such as the giant monkey puzzle tree in the middle of the wood, indicating planned gardens.

The Monkey Puzzle Tree

It is unclear at this stage who built the house and who sold it to the council but between the years 1851 - 1855 and possibly longer, it was the home of a rich and influential cotton merchant and his family.

Gores Directory for 1853, records that Jaques Myers lived in Harbreck House and also had a business "Myers and Co" at 2 Exchange Alley. Jaques was a cotton and colonial produce broker. In 1845, he is recorded in Gores as a broker at Ewart & Co. This appears to be a shortened version of the company name, which was Ewart, Myers & Co. Papers in the Rothchild Archive state that this was a Liverpool based bank, which handled imports and sales of cotton. They had dealings with the West Indies and South America according to price lists included in this archive.

Ewart and Myers were not only partners in the firm but were connected by marriage. William Myers, Jaques' father was married to Ann Jaques. Her sister Margaret was married to the William Myers partner William Ewart. It is not surprising the Jaques was given his mothers surname as his christian name as this was a common practice at the time. Useful clues for genealogists to make connections.

Jaques had taken over a thriving business from his father and uncle. It was well established by 1820 as can be seen by a letter from Richardson & Bolton of Liverpool to B (Benjamin) Gott & Sons dated 25th April 1820. The letter accompanies instructions over the payment of $16,800 to Gott & Sons on bills of exchange in Philadelphia.

James Stonehouse in his book "The Streets of Liverpool" published in 1869 and recently republished by Liverpool Libraries and Information Service mentions the Ewarts on a number of occasions, particularly when he describes Sir George Dunbar a leading colonial broker and mayor of Liverpool (1796-97) residing in Rodney St. Stonehouse says that Dunbar had an "immense business" and “brought up” Messrs. Rutson and Ewart in his business. When Rutson and Ewart asked to join the partnership he declined so they started on their own account drawing away nearly all of their late employers business. The firm of Ewart, Myers & Co sprang from this with all the principles acquiring large fortunes.

The Gott Papers also contain a letter from William Myers to William Ewart the younger dated 16th September 1830 which describes the death of William Huskisson in the first railway accident. This William Myers was Jaques father. The Ewarts, Myers and Gotts appear to have complex, close business and family connections and strong friendships. Liverpools Walker Art Gallery contains a sculpture of William Ewart by Joseph Gott. It is kept in The Oratory near Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral

William Ewart

Interestingly, another letter in the Gott collection dated 1821 is from (Sir) John Gladstone to William Ewart the elder, William Myers partner. Sir John Gladstone must have been fond of his partner and friend as he asked him to be Godfather to one of his sons William Ewart Gladstone who went on to become Prime Minister. Roger Pincham writes that Sir John Gladstone was a successful merchant trading in corn with the United States, cotton with Brazil and owning extensive plantations in the West Indies which were operated by slaves although he was not actually a slave trader himself. Gladstones maiden speech as Prime Minister defended his father's use of slaves on their West Indies Plantation.

There is no evidence that Ewart, Rutson & Co were involved in the slave trade themselves, however, it is highly unlikely that any business which grew in Liverpool around the turn of the century didn’t have some indirect link. Liverpools last slave ship, the
Kitty’s Amelia, was carrying 72 hhds of sugar for Ewart, Rutson and Co in 1805, while still involved in the slave trade.

1841 Census showing Jaques at Mere House, Everton with his father William

Stonehouse's “Streets of Liverpool" puts Rutson, Ewart and Myers in the Everton area; Mr Rutson in St Annes Street, Mr Ewart in a large mansion at the corner of Netherfield Rd and Georges Hill and Mr Myers in a handsome mansion in grounds which had its entrance at the corner of Mere Lane opposite the church. Fullerton’s Plan of Liverpool and Birkenhead (1862) clearly shows the extent of the property. It stretches in a triangular shape from Mere Lane to Beacon Lane. The back of the property would have been where Breckfield Road would have continued to Beacon Lane. The entrance to the grounds would have been where the Mere Bank Public House is today.

Mere Bank Public House

Stonehouse described the property as having “a beautiful row of trees down Mere-lane” which were “the admiration and delight of all residents in the neighbourhood. Into the grounds extended a canal, crossed by two ornamented bridges, from the pool in Breckfield-road North which at one time was called hangfield-lane” Everton was the place to live for rich merchants, who were known as “Everton Nobles"

The side of the property in Mere Lane as it is today

Before the plot of land was bought by William Myers it was part of the St Domingo estate belonging to Mr George Campbell, Sugar Refiner, West India Merchant, Privateer and Mayor of Liverpool (1763-64). It was sold to another Mayor of Liverpool, John Crosbie and then a Mr Sparling and subsequently, his son William, who was aquitted of the murder of Mr Edward Grayson in Liverpool's penultimate duel. J.G. Geller bought and laid out the mansion and grounds before it was bought by William Myers. William was the son of wealthy John Myers of Crosby. Their line goes further back with influential ancestors in Preston and elsewhere.

A famous neighbour of William Myers and his son Jaques was James Atherton, founder of New Brighton, Wirral. The graves of James Atherton and other famous merchants and mayors of Liverpool can still be seen in St Georges Churchyard opposite to the site of Mere House. More about them in a later post. William and his wife Ann are buried here also but their gravestone has long gone.

Back to the story of Jaques, he was the 3rd of 4 brothers including John, William and Henry. They had 4 sisters, Fanny, Mary Ann, Emily and Frances. John will be discussed later, William died young, Emily went onto marry stockbroker Robert Elcum Horsfall, from an influential Liverpool family. Jaques however, married Helen Esther Tobin in 1844. Helen Esther Tobin was the daughter of Thomas Tobin, a wealthy Liverpool Merchant and slave trader. Jaques and Helen had moved into a town house at 33 Canning St by 1845.

33 Canning Street, Liverpool 2007

Two of their four children were born here, Anna in 1845 and Edith in 1846. They were both christened in St Peters Church.

The family moved to 15 Bedford St South in 1847. Bedford St South led onto Abercromby Square. Many of the houses and the beautiful park in the middle of the Square still exist as part of Liverpool University but sadly there is no sign of number 15. Jaques and family continued to live here for a further four years. The family grew with the birth of Florence in 1847 and Frederick Jaques in 1849. There is a mention of a further son John on the 1861 census but no further records of him have yet been found.

They moved to Harbreck House sometime between 1849 and 1851. Jaques was successful, he became President of the Cotton Brokers Association in 1852. This was a powerful body, who in 1863, formulated rules for the buying and selling of cotton. 60% of the worlds cotton today is still traded under "Liverpool Rules" The association still exists under the name of the International Cotton Association.

According to census records, Jaques and family were still living in Harbreck House in 1851. Ten years later, the 1861 census shows them in Tormoham, Torquay. It is not known if they lived here or were staying temporarily but they had moved out of Harbreck. Meanwhile, Jaques' older brother John was had become head of the family, living at the family seat Crosby House, north of Liverpool, with his wife Sarah Birkett and stepchildren Martha, James, John Lord, William and Thomas Henry until his death in 1865.

John had been part of the family business but retired in 1848, the year he married Sarah. He remained a Director of the Royal Bank of Liverpool. This bank collapsed twice in 1847 and again in 1867. He may have been involved in the first collapse although it doesn't appear to have affected him personally. He died 2 years before the second collapse. Interestingly, one of the casualties of the 2nd collapse was the White Star Line which was then bought by Thomas Ismay for £1000 and went onto become one of Liverpool's most famous and successful companies.

John died in 1865, he had rented a house in Leamington Spa to join the hunt but had a fatal accident. His body was brought home and buried in the grounds of St Lukes church. He is commemorated in one of the stained glass windows depicting The Good Samaritan. John and Sarah are buried in the graveyard of St Luke's church, their names are hard to distinguish unless as in the photograph below, the light catches the stone at a certain angle. It was only that the names of Sarah's son (John's stepson) was clear that I was able to find the grave.

Jaques appears to have inherited the family fortune when John died. Crosby House is recorded as his "seat" in "UK County Families", however it remains unclear whether if he ever actually lived there. He died in 1868 and the house was then inherited by his son Frederick. The family must have allowed Sarah to continue living there until she died in 1871.

In the following years the house was inhabited by a shipowner named John Hay and his family, and an East India Merchant named Joseph Paterson in 1881 and 1891 respectively. It may have been rented to them but by 1901, it was definitely no longer belonging to the Myers family and had become part of Nazareth House.

Frederick is reported as staying there around the time of the building of St Faiths church. The church was built 1898 - 1900 by Frederick's cousin Howard Douglas Horsfall on land donated by Frederick.

By the 1870's, the family had settled in the south. Frederick was now head of the family at Linford Hall, Little Linford. He married Florence Wrey Coker, the 3rd daughter of Major Coker of Bicester House Oxfordshire. Florence's early life was touched by tragedy, at the age of 5 her father died in a drowning accident as he and a servant tried to clear a pond at Prideaux in Cornwall. It must have been a difficult time for Florence's mother Caroline who had lost her 3 year old daughter in the previous month and her 1 year old son 10 days after the death of her husband.

Frederick became a JP for Northamptonshire and settled at his main residence, Charlton Lodge near Banbury. Frederick and Florence appear to have a number of addresses; They are living or staying at Bicester in 1881 while Helen, Frederick's mother was staying at the Royal Hotel in Torquay with her ladiesmaid. Frederick's sisters Emily and Florence married wealthy landowners, it is not certain what happened to eldest sister Anna and younger brother John.

Jaques' widow, Helen, continued to live in Torquay area, her last address being "The Firs" in Tormoham in 1881 where she lived with the help of 10 servants. She died in 1891. The Firs is a beautiful house which coincidentally overlooks Harbreck Rock in the Torbay.

16 Brunswick Square Hove, 2007

On the night of the 1891 census, Frederick, Florence and their 3 daughters Helen Florence, Lily Agnes and Edith Wrey were staying at 16 Brunwick Square in Hove. On the 1901 census he was staying at a London address: 25 Charles St in Mayfair. It is difficult to know if these properties belonged to him, however he still lived at Charlton Lodge at the time of the 1911 census. He died within a few months of the census from heart failure following surgery. Florence continued to live at Charlton Lodge until her death 13 years later. Their first daughter Helen had died at the age of 21 in 1895. Frederick and Florence erected two beautiful stained glass windows in the church of St James in Newbottle in her memory.

Two other daughters were Lily Agnes, born 1875, and Edith Wrey, born 1881. Edith married William Whitmore Otter-Barry and had at least two children Francis and Helen. Lily Agnes married Alfred Harvey in 1912.

The history of the family came to light while reseaching into the history of Harbreck House, part of the original Fazakerley Hospital. I hope, in time, to be able to add more information which it has not been possible to publish so far.

If you would like to read more about the history of the hospital click on this link

If you have any information which would help in the research into the Myers family or the history of Fazakerley Hospital or you would like further information to help in your own research please email me at


vinny said...

hi barbara, i found your blog on harbreck house very interesting.I grew up as child in the 70s and we spent a lot of time playing in 'bluey woods' and i remember the imposing building being there till about 78 or 79 but the other buildings nearby including a barn and a walled garden, were there till about 81.The walled garden was almost identical to the one at croxteth hall and when i payed a recent visit after reading your blog, was pleasantly surprised to find the apple and pear trees still there.I was saddened to see the site of the house totally overgrown and seeing the huge prison by the bridge blocking the view over to higher lane didnt help matters. There was a beautiful lawn to the rear of the house which led to a small bridge over the brook, which in turn led to a wonderful tree lined path up to the annexe wards. On my visit i found about 7 monkey puzzle trees scattered through the woods and i didnt realise as a child how mature the woodland was, A visit in jan or feb,it really puts the bluebells in bluebell woods.Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You make a tantalising reference to wealthy John Myers of Crosby as the father of William who married Ann Jaques and then go on to say "Their line goes further back with influential ancestors in Preston and elsewhere" - are you able to point me in a direction to research that genealogy, please?

Many thanks,

Barbara said...


I would be happy to help - please email me at
so I can reply to you


Anonymous said...

I have a document which shows that my house, situated not far from St Faith's Church is built on land that was owned by Frederick Jaques Myers which was sold on to Reginald Fadcliffe 3 May 1893. It was really interesting to read about Frederick and the history behind his family. Thanks