January 14, 1955
While there is no district of Liverpool actually known as St. Domingo, there is a “Grove and Vale” of that name running downhill from Breckfield Road North to Oakfield Road, and a St. Domingo Road forming the continuation of Heyworth Street. How comes it, then, that the name of a West Indian island should be perpetuated in such a thickly-populated suburb as Everton?
For the answer it is necessary to go back almost 200 years. In the year 1757, a Mr. George Campbell, West India merchant and sugar refiner, bought large piece of land near St. George’s Church, Everton, from the families of the original lessee H. Hassall, and J. Seacome, and on the triangular corner between Beacon Lane and St. Domingo Road he built a moderate sized house. The outbuildings were arranged in a semi-circular sweep and there was a grassy lawn in front, separated from the road by posts and chains.
One of Mr. Campbell’s ships had some time previously captured a rich French prize ship off the island of St. Domingo, and to commemorate this he called his new estate after the name of the island. Mr. Campbell became Mayor of Liverpool in 1763 and died in 1770. After his death the estate consisting of 53 acres, together with the house and out-buildings was sold to Mr. John Crosbie for £3,300 this comprised all the land contained in the triangle between Beacon Lane, St. Domingo Lane, (Later Road) and Walton Breck Road, and the smaller triangle between Mere Lane, Breckfield Road, and Beacon Lane.
Mr. Crosbie had also been Mayor in 1765 but because of a set-back in his business as a merchant he was unable to complete the purchase of the St. Domingo estate and the contract was transferred to messes Gregson, Bridge and Parke, these gentlemen in turn transferred their interest to Mr. John Sparling for £3,476 in 1773.
It was Mr. Sparling who had the old house demolished in 1793 and who caused to he built a very palatial-looking structure still bearing the name of St. Domingo House. He also improved the estate by plasting and in other ways. Having spent so much money on improvements he formed a great attachment to the property and bound his heirs by clauses in his will, never to part with the estate.
On his death in 1800 the property passed to his son, William, who lived in the mansion. William a Lieutenant in the 10th Regiment of Dragoons, engaged in a duel with Mr. Edward Grayson, a ship-builder in which he killed his antagonist in the quiet valley of the Dingle on Sunday, February 25, 1804. Although acquitted at the subsequent trial, Mr. William Sparling shook the dust of Liverpool from his feet and never again resided at St. Domingo.
After Mr. Sparling’s with-drawal from Liverpool the house was let to the Government and used as headquarters for Prince William of Glouster at that time the C-in-C of the district. He took up his residence at St. Domingo and remained in the district for several years. Naturally enough he was for a long time, the cynosure of the neighborhood; a live lord and a prince of the blood-Royal at that.
After Mr. Sparling’s death the restrictions on the disposal of his property not sulting the purpose of his heirs, they applied to Parliament and obtained an Act in 1810 enabling them to dispose of the estate which they did in the same year to a Mr. William Ewart for £20,295. In the following year the government required a site for a barracks and entered into negotiations with Mr. Ewart for the sale of the estate.
Some Evertonians afraid of possible disturbances held an indignation meeting at the Cottage House on November 27, 1811. But many more Evertonians and strangely enough, the vast majority of the weaker sex,” were all in favour of the soldiers making a permanent habitation of St. Domingo. Perhaps the ladies point of view is best expressed in these few lines taken from a poem on the subject ascribed to the pen of Mr. Sylvester Richmond, a Customs searcher, and a great wit of these days.
The ladies plea prevailed moreover, and the estate was brought by the government and the barracks established but after a short trial the scheme was abandoned, and the property put up for sale in lots. About 1854 an extensive storehouse and barracks for the military were exacted near the middle of the estate. The mansion was occupied from 1817 to 1831 a ladies school by the Misses Corrie and for the next seven years by Mr. Charles Voelker, a Swiss who had a high reputation as a pupil at Pestalozzi and at this school were educated William Rathbone one of Liverpool’s most notable sons, Sir Heywood, the Right Hon J. Stansfield, M.P and others.
About 1850 it was purchased by the Roman Catholic and flourished as St. Edward’s College. The estate triangle of the estate with which the mere is connected was sold by Mr. Sparling’s trustees to Mr. J.G. Geller merchant who erected a stately mansion on the site and laid out the grounds in tasteful manner. The seclusion of this site, embowered in thick woods with its spacious lawn sloping to the margin of the lake gave a rural aspect to the property. This continued after the surroundings were covered with buildings and “St. Domingo Pit” about an acre in extent remained for many years afterwards.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: January 14, 1955)
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