could be a ghosthunters venue, what happened to the house ?
This residence, which stood in what is now Seaview Road, approaching Hoseside, in grounds of approximately five acres, has been widely published, and as a result many people are familiar with its History
. When, by whom and for whom it was originally built appears to have become lost in the mists of time, but as far back 1819 it was advertised as being to let in the 'Liverpool Mercury', being then known as 'Marina Villa'. At that stage a it was described as "commanding delightful and extensive marine and land prospects, including St. George's Channel, Bootle Bay, the River Mersey, Bidston Lighthouse. the Welsh Hills, the Town of Liverpool" and so on. It had not yet officially emerged who took up the residency of the house in those early days, but in 1836 the estate was purchased by a man who was to leave his mark on both the religious life and the development of Wallasey. He was John Ashley Marsden, a Brush Manufacturer in a substantial way of business in Liverpool, and a great friend of Dr. Raffles, the famous divine, who himself lived in Wellington Road, New Brighton, for many years.
In view of Marsden subsequent connection with Wallasey it is worth giving some details of his background. Born on 30th January 1793, to parents who were members of the old Newington Chapel in Liverpool, he entered the family brush-making business, and on 19th October 1814 married Ann Maria Singleton at St. Michael's Parish Church, Coventry, later to become Coventry Cathedral. His wife was slightly the elder of the two, having been born on 15th October 1790. The union produced ten children, but as was only too common in those days, not all of them reached maturity. The eldest, a daughter named Hannah, born in 1815, lived only six years, being buried in Newington Chapel Yard. The next arrival, another daughter Sarah Ann, made her bow in 1817, and in 1844 married John Fitzhugh, an Accountant. She died in 1871, at the age of 53 when living in New Brighton, and was buried in St. Hilary's Churchyard, but her husband, later living in West Kirby, lived to be 81, and finally also found a resting place at St. Hilary's in 1902. The third child, also a girl Helen, arrived in 1819, and was married to a Liverpool Merchant and Shipowner, Edward Oliver, in 1843. After the weeding they took residence in Church Street, Wallasey, and stayed there for four years. In 1846 they were to be found at Upton, but four years later they had crossed the Mersey to Lark Lane, Sefton. However, Wallasey must still have had its attractions for them, as in 1855 they came to live at 'Clifton Hall', presumably as tenants, and remained there until 1857, when Edward, who had owned his first ship at the age of 18, was involved in a slump which occurred about that time, and was obliged to assign his assets to Trustees, although he predicted that this action would result in the failure of the Liverpool Borough Bank and Barned's, which in fact it did. He was adjudged bankrupt, and the family moved to Ivy Street, Birkenhead, but after 1860 all mention of them ceased in the local directory, and it transpired that they had emigrated to Australia.
The story now moves on over thirty years to 1893, when Oliver wrote from Freemantle to the 'Daily News
' in London, supporting efforts to revive one or two Banks then in difficulties. He quoted his own case, when out of the blue had come the News
that a London company which had been in existence for over 100 years had owned him £100,000, had suspended payments. At that time, Oliver stated, he was the owner of 142 ships all registered in his own name and free of mortgage, and valued by Rankin Gilmour & Co. of Liverpool at well over £1,000,000. In addition he owned two collieries at Rainford, together with railway sidings, horses, carts and so on, all fully occupied in delivering coal to Liverpool, unencumbered house property in Liverpool, and a palm-oil plant at Benin in West Africa, not to mention £75,000 in cash and bills in his safe. According to him these assets were disposed of at what he described as slaughtered prices, and finally realised only £600,000, which apparently was not enough to clear his debts. Shortly after writing this letter Oliver died at Perth, Western Australia.
The next child, a boy, was born in 1821 and christened John Astley after his father, but survived only six weeks. The next arrival, Louise Rich Singleton, born in 1823, was more fortunate, and at the age of 20 married William Gardner, described as a Shipowner, Merchant, Corn and Provision Broker. Yet another daughter, Maria, was born in 1825, followed in 1827 by a son, John Rich, who subsequently married and probably continued to live at the family home. However, the Marsden's troubles were not yet over as the next two children, both boys, Francis and George, lived for six days and 2½ years respectively, but finally another boy, William Frederick, born in 1832, grew up to qualify as a doctor, and moved to Birmingham.
When John Astley Marsden acquired 'Marina Villa' he re-named it 'Liscard Castle'. although the nature of his business occupation led to it becoming known as 'Brush Castle' and even 'Marsden Folly'. In those days the road affording access to the property was a private one known, appropriately, as Marsden's Lane, with locked gates at the Hoseside end. It's appearance then was vastly different, compared with today. There is rather conflicting evidence as to which house John did originally occupy, in as much as the1841 Tithe Map indicates that there were two houses adjacent to one another, 'Marina Villa', as already mentioned, and 'Sea View', which stood between it and Hoseside, and the street directories do, in fact, give John as living at 'Sea View' in 1841 and 1843. Two years later he is shown as being at 'Liscard Castle', and it would seem that he lived there until his death in 1853, although it is possible that he let the Castle to a Mr & Mrs Green, the last mentioned conducting a Ladies' Seminar there. John's business at the time was known as Marsden & Sons, and was situated in South John Street, Liverpool.
It is known that 'Liscard Castle' was ultimately converted into three separate residences, known respectively as 'The Castle', 'The Turrets' and 'The Towers', but this must have taken place in John's lifetime, as the 1851 Census Returns indicate that he was living at 'Liscard Castle', while his son-in-law, William Gardner and his family, consisting of his wife and at least four children, were in residence at 'The Turrets'. At the same time 'Marina Villa' was stated to be occupied by Elizabeth Watts, a teacher who conducted a good-class school there, attended by the teenage daughters of well-to-do local residents, but whether or not this name had been resurrected and applied to one of the sections of 'Liscard Castle' it is not possible to say at this late date.
'Marina Villa' cum 'Liscard Castle' was designed in a Gothic style with octagonal turrets, towers, embattled parapets, pointed arches, finials, buttresses and pinnacles. So when the name was changed to 'Liscard Castle' it was an apt description for it did resemble a domestic castle. The general finish was in stucco, (which is hard plaster) and painted, possibly a grey colour. When Mr. Marsden bought the place it extended right up to the road and it may well have been when the house was converted to three dwellings (and it was big enough for that) that this was demolished, and a raised bank formed sloping up to the front of the building. At this time a new gateway was formed from Seaview Road with a gate and drive leading to a new side entrance having a flight of stone steps and pierced stone balustrades guarded by two lions 'couchant'. The original gate and drive was retained for the two rear dwellings. A beautiful Gothic style conservatory, in keeping with the style of the property was built at the front adjacent the new entrance and one can imagine that it was this front part which Mr. Marsden retained for himself. The front elevation was dominated by a large single storey bay window set off also with an embattled parapet to match the roofline and above this window high up on the main roof another lion was to be seen standing guard. This lion was also repeated over the new entrance. What happened to those lions when the whole property was demolished? Were they used in any other project? The building was certainly irregular and sprawling which may have prompted the ultimate division but nevertheless its appearance always looked romantic and fascinating. Indeed there is a ghostly tale concerning a sea captain who in the very early days of the History
of the house took his bride to live there. The News
of his drowning at sea caused such sorrow to his wife that, as the tale goes, she drowned herself in a nearby small lake which eventually became known as the 'Captain's Pit'. After this tragedy her spirit was said to haunt 'Marina Villa' and during alterations when bricking up basement passages a workman heard unexplained knocks and banging leading him to believe the lady's spirit was with him, this reduced him to terror and he fled.
John Astley Marsden appears to have indulged in property speculations as a sideline, as in addition to owing both 'Liscard Castle' and 'Sea View', he also acquired. presumably with mortgage assistance, several large mansions in Wallasey, notably 'Clare Mount' (originally 'Brighton House'), 'Breck Hey', 'Elleray Park' (formerly 'Seafield House'), and 'Earlston House', now part of the Central Library. All these houses were surrounded by several acres of land, and all were let to tenants, as it was not until after John's death that any sales took place. He also owned a considerable amount of land elsewhere in the area, and on a portion of it, in Rake Lane, the first Congregational Church in Wallasey was built in 1842., John contributing £1,200 towards the cost of £2,000, the balance being found by the Trustees. He and his wife were buried in the churchyard, as were many other well known Wallasey figures, but the Church ultimately bowed to the passage of time and was demolished in 1974. The churchyard was unfortunately "bulldozed" at the same time, so that the graves disappeared, though a record of them has been kept by the church officials. The site is now occupied by a block of old people's flats, appropriately named 'Marsden Court'.
To return to 'Liscard Castle', after the conversion into three residences a variety of occupants was to be found there, including a preparatory school for fifty boys by the Rev. G.F Grundy, M.A and embracing such pupils as Fred Tobin, Lincoln Beaufort, William Statter and D.Q and A.G Steel, who presumably were later the famous cricketers who rendered such good service to Lancashire County. The three houses appear to have been fairly well occupied until 1900, but the old age was attacking the fabric, and the inevitable demolition took place two years later. The site is now marked by Castle Road and Turret Road.