An exploration of the early history of this street which "dog-legs" from Faulkner Street to Lightfoot Street.
Tithe maps in the Cheshire Record Office show that a Thomas Walker (1782-1857) owned properties in Newton Township in the area we now know as Flookersbrook. These included a tan-yard, a brewery, a brick bank and at least 6 houses and cottages. On the south side of Hoole Road, in Hoole Township, he owned plots of land and a number of dwellings including Ashtree House (recent research show that the rightful owners were the Trustees of the Estate of John Lightfoot, his father-in-law).
Thomas Walker’s father, George, was a brewer and liquor merchant but Thomas became a tanner and he married Katherine Lightfoot. When the lands in question were finally sold the part south of Hoole Road was acquired by Brabner & Court, Solicitors from Liverpool, who developed the properties we see today between Faulkner Street and Lightfoot Street.
Walker Street was built in 1881 from an opening in Lightfoot Street. Initially it only went as far as Pickering Street, the dogleg, its link to Faulkner Street, known as New Walker Street, not being built until 1887 when All Saints School was erected. It was necessary to demolish houses in Faulkner Street by the Bromfield Arms to create the opening for Walker Street.
Unlike Faulkner Street and Charles Street where houses were turned into shops, Walker Street had shops on every corner. The range of shop provided all that one could need; grocers, bakers, butchers, newsagent, smallwares, boots and shoes, as well as a bicycle dealer. They changed hands and their type of trade frequently. Old “Hooligans” fondly recall Lowndes' fish & chip shop being there.
A special feature of these corner shops was the entrance actually built into the corner. The photographs show where the current owners at the junction with Phillip Street still have their front door actually on the corner while others have shifted the doors around the corner.
The arrival of the Co-op in 1906 which included a grocer, a butcher, and a shoe and clothing store on the upper floor, was a major event. Many will remember getting their ‘divi’ and buying milk tokens there as well as the cash pulley system. The car park was called Hoole Bank and bonfires were lit there on 5th November but, miraculously, the Co-op wasn't burnt down.
The Co-op in Walker Street closed in July 2017 (the Faulkner Street shop had already closed) in order to concentrate business on The Elms site on Hoole Road. This brought to an end 110 years of the Co-op on its Walker Street site.
In the 1950s, football fans could catch a double decker bus from behind the Bromfield Arms to take them to Chester Stadium in Sealand Road. It’s unlikely that the bus would get through today.
A Cinema in Hoole
It is not widely known that in 1913 an application was made to build a picture house opposite the Co-operative Store which opened in 1906 in Walker Street. The proposal by William Williams, Hoole’s well known builder, would have seated 450/500 people. The architect was R. Cecil Davies recognised for founding Hoole's Volunteer Fire Brigade and who became Mayor of Chester. A major concern was protection in case of fire, and exits and equipment came under scrutiny. Mr. Williams said that, if a license was granted, he would allow firemen to be on duty there, as they did in cinematograph halls in Chester.
The plans were not proceeded with and today's terrace of houses with then a shop at either end was eventually built on the site. Hoole residents had to go to the pictures in Chester and a montage of the cinemas there is shown.
The area between Pickering Street and School Street
The area of land between Pickering Street and School Street has over the years seen some interesting activities. The Hoole Millennium Book incorrectly attributes the street’s name to George Pickering, an artist who lived at Brook Lodge and whose work included paintings of the gardens in Hoole House. Pickering Street was actually named after Thomas Walker's daughter, Elizabeth Pickering, who had married Charles William Harrison Pickering a merchant banker from Liverpool, who helped finance the second transatlantic cable.
The area once contained two chapels - a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel opposite All Saints School built in 1889 and closed in 1895, and the Tin (Congregational) Chapel on Walker Street. This was erected in 1894 following a dispute between Nonconformists, who had run a successful Sunday School at Westminster Road Schools, and the Church of England to whom the Duke of Westminster eventually gifted the Schools. More details of these chapels can be found in the article on Religion in Hoole & Newton.
At the end of School Street, Weaver Bros. who advertised themselves as “Removers, Packers & Storers of Furniture” ran their business from the turn of the century to 1914 when they sold off their carts and equipment and advertised the premises as “a large yard with stabling for 5 horses, loose box and coach house etc. to be let".
During this time Thomas Mangel set up his carriage hire business with landau and hansom cabs being available. His business continued throughout the First World War and despite the development of motor transport was still running in 1923.
A photograph taken in School Street in the 1930s shows Jack Smith and 3 colleagues on motorbikes and it seems that they were garaged there. Jack Smith, well known for his Pioneer Shoe Shop in Faulkner Street, was a motorcycle enthusiast and a prominent member of Chester Motor Club becoming its chairman. In 1933 he was captain of the Hoole side in a motorcycle football match against Chester. He was responsible for bringing motorcycle grass track racing to Hoole Playing Field and his son, Bill, became a prominent TT rider.
In 1931 the end property was sold, and it became the base for Crimes Removals, their vans becoming a regular sight in the area. George Arthur Crimes lived at No.2 School Street and after war service he became the first Treasurer of Hoole & Newton British Legion and of their Poppy Day Appeal. Following his death in 1968, Lewis’s Ice Cream acquired the premises using it to garage their own vehicles and sub-letting it to the Schools Meals Service and for car repair work. Unfortunately, in 1979 John Lewis, a partner in the firm was found hanged there.
From 1963 School Street Garage advertised its business and occasional car sales. Tom Parry and Chris Vollands became the owners. Tom still works there today using the name ‘The Black Taxi Garage’.
School Street was originally a cul-de-sac and the entrance to the Urban District Council’s Depot. It was opened up to provide access to the misnamed Ashtree Court which was built on the site behind the Council’s offices at The Elms. Ashtree House was a large west facing mansion some 300 yds further down Hoole Road next to the 'Beehive' pub, at the end of what is now Phillip Street.A number of images relating to the Walker Street area follows.
Site plan for the Co-Op in Walker Street
The Co-Op circa 1912
Co-Op staff moved for a close up
The Co-Op before its funeral department moved in (note the doorway to the corner shop opposite)
No. 5 Walker Street on corner of Phillip Street
No. 6 Walker Street on opposite corner. T. Weedon was a tailor in the 1950s
No. 20 Walker Street on corner of Tomkinson Street
- Article by Ralph Earlam, some parts of which were initially published in ‘Hoole Roundabout’ in February 2016 - http://www.hooleroundabout.com