Family Lessons 100: West Derby Castle


I called at the village or township of West Derby last month. This is an attractive settlement not very far from Liverpool. It was the centre of the West Derby Hundred, one of the six administrative divisions which covered medieval Lancashire. To this end, it once had a castle, which my 24th great-grandfather, Henry de Walton, was tasked with extending and repairing along with one Henry Travers in 1202. They spent the sum of 6 pounds 9 shillings and 7 pence. Five years before that, 100 shillings had been spent repairing it, and it had housed a garrison of 140 foot soldiers, ten knights and certain crossbowmen. Within less than a century, however, the garrison was removed to the increasingly important town of Liverpool and by 1326 a document mentions the ‘site of a ruined castle in West Derby’. Now, it is a grassed area between the parish church and some inter-war semis, essentially a modest little park on which dogs empty their bowels. An impressive local history site shows what it likely looked like.

What my forbear Henry de Walton would have thought about the rather short-term investment in West Derby Castle I cannot say. Now, even Liverpool Castle is gone; it is covered by Derby Square and a giant statue of Queen Victoria. The hotel at which I lodged was located on Castle Street which connected the castle's site to the main street, and is full of cafes and bars.

That age of the castle did not last. Today, we are kept safe from internal and external threats not by forts and ramparts, but air bases and intelligence agencies. West Derby and Liverpool castles looked impregnable in their day, but now they are gone, only remembered in place names and street signs. One day, the battles of earth, the conflicts of the soul and the wrestling with doubt will be long gone, consigned to dim and distant memory. The wiles of the devil will be no more, his fiery darts forever extinguished. Until then, keep battling, but remember that the days of fighting and conflict are numbered; the battlefields will be grassed and pacified. 

There'll be crowns for the conquerors and white robes to wear,

There will be no more sorrow or pain.

And the battles of earth shall be lost in the sight

Of the glorious Lamb that was slain.


Come on heaven's children,

The city is in sight.

There will be no sadness

On the other side

-Graham Kendrick, Copyright © 1978 Thankyou Music