Newton Hollows

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This ia an updated article on Newton Hollows adding some more of the history of what can be seen along the extensions to the Hollows to the north and south. It now covers the length of what was once a Roman road from Hoole Bridge, through the hamlet of Flookersbrook up to and along the Hollows. First, it is useful to clear something up about Flookersbrook, the actual stream, after which the hamlet is named. This is not the stream which flows through the hamlet from the direction of Newton Hollows. Flookersbrook flows from Boughton to Bache in an east to west direction and is nowadays entirely in a culvert. For a minor stream it is of some hisorical importance as it formed, along much of its length, the northern boundary of the City of Chester. It is also mentioned in several historical works due to a great confusion over its course, and that of the River Gowy. George Ormerod cites a very peculiar version of the course of the Gowy, with it actually dividing the Wirral from the rest of Cheshire by flowing into both the Dee (as Flookersbrook) and the Mersey:

  • "That, therefore, which they call the Gowy, hath his head not far from Bunbury, and runneth north-west by Beeston Castle, to Teerton and Huxley, where it divideth itself into two parts ; one goeth west to Tattenhall, Gosburn, Lea Hall, and at Aldford falleth into the Dee. The other part goeth northwards to Stapleford, Hocknel-plat, and Barrow (where it taketh in a brook that Cometh from Tarporley and Tarvin), and so passeth to Plemstow-bridge, Trafford, Picton, and Thornton, where it divideth itself again into two parts; one of which keepeth its course north-west to Stanley, Stanney, and Poole, and afterwards falleth into the Marsey. The other part goeth south-west to Stoke, Croughton, Chorlton, the Baits, and so falleth into the Dee, hard by Chester, being there called Flooker's-brook, and divideth Wirral from the rest of Cheshire; and therefore some imagine that it is called Wirral."

Why Ormerod should get it so wrong is a mystery, as he lived at nearby Chorlton Hall in Backford while writing his "History of Cheshire" (1811-23) and should have been familar with the local hydrology. It is possible that he did not wish to visit the area where the river supposedly split as he wrote of the inhabitants thereabouts as "barbarians". Daniel Lysons in his "Magna Brittanica" (1810) gets it right and notes:

  • "Flookersbrook rises near Chester and running to Bach there joins a stream which in its course from Coughall by Moston and Mollington divides the hundred of Broxton from that of Wirral and falls into the Dee a little below Chester"

The topography of the area where Flookersbrook falls into the Dee has been much changed by land reclamation. As late as 1643-5 Roger Hurle(s)ton late of the city of Chester held several fisheries in the River Dee with:

  • "Flookenetts, draught netts, stall netts, &c."

Fluke is Old English ‘flocere’, Medieval English ‘flokere’ and also, perhaps for reasons which will become clear, Old Norse ‘flokari’. "Flookers" were fishermen.

Newton Hollows is shown in this 1831 map by Bryant. This shows Flookersbrook marked as a separate hamlet from Hoole. The bounary between the City (yellow) and the County (green) runs along the actual Flookersbrook stream.

The Hollows

Newton Hollows in Hoole is an ancient route into Chester and a superb example of a Medieval hollow way. Originally a Roman road, it was later used as a main route for people, cattle and herds of sheep. This constant traffic over 1,000 years has worn the ground into the Hollows. In part it may have been formed by a branch of Flookersbrook, which flows underground, roughly along the course of the track and only surfaces briefly between Ashby Place and Halkyn Road (early maps differ as to the course of the stream). It is part of a network of old tracks in the area which are surprisingly extensive and possibly formed part of the medieval infrastructure which allowed for the movement of salt, other goods and troops.

Roman Road

There can be little doubt a road from Chester to Wilderspool near Warrington would have been a necessity for the Romans. It would have been the best way to the north via the north west coast, and would also lead to the Roman station at Lancaster. However, evidence is very limited. This is no doubt due to it being mostly overlaid by modern roads mainly the A56 and several Chester/old Chester roads. Probably the strongest evidence is that the alignment of Mannings Lane/The Street is the optimum to reach the best crossing point of the Gowy. The road was not a military road and so did not run as straight as those did.

This particular Roman road appears to have been mentioned in the post-Roman "Chorography of Ravennas", but this is an incredibly difficult document to understand, but mentions "Deua uictris" (Deva Victrix) on the road to "Veratino" which may or may not be Warrington.

There is some debate whether the Roman road from Chester left by the Northgate or the Eastgate. William Thompson Watkin in his Roman Chester (see pages 55ff) favoured the northern gate but his evidence is hardly the strongest. He quotes thee local amateur G. W. Shrubsole (a Chemist with a shop opposite the Town Hall) as finding a road aligned with the north gate but the direction was to the north (and the Wirral) not towards Wilderspool. There can be no doubt there would have been a Roman road from the north gate but it cannot realistically be regarded as proof it was heading for Wilderspool. The only evidence Watkin provides for a right turn towards Hoole is a tradition for an old road going via Dickson Nurseries which were in Upton: that is it - no concrete evidence. If such a road did exist it could also have followed the line of St Anne Street and possibly crossed Flookersbrook at the same point as the road from Eastgate.

In Roman Chester the Northgate would have been a place of ill-omen. This was the "Porta Decumana", which derives from it being close to the billets of the tenth wing of the Legion. It was from this gate that soldiers convicted of serious crimes, such as desertion, were led out from the camp to be executed, likely by being stoned to death or beaten to death with clubs. No Roman Legion would willingly march off to war through the North gate. However supplies were supposed to come in through it and so it was also called, descriptively, the "Porta Quaestoria" (Quartermaster's gate). As the road led to the Roman "factory" site at Warrington there may well have been a route both to the Eastgate and the Northgate. There would also have been Roman roadside graveyards along the way, especially close to Chester. It would have been from these that gravestones (many of which are in the Grosvenor Museum) were used to repair the City Walls during the later part of the Roman occupation.

It seems too big a coincidence for Newton Hollows not to represent the line of the Roman road. It continues the alignment from The Street and Mannings Lane right back into Chester. Alongside "The Street" are field boundaries which define a tract of land some 56-60 feet wide. Mickle Trafford and Bridge Trafford on the Gowy are probably derived from a corruption of Stratford or Street Ford. In Roman times no doubt there would have been a bridge. Even a quick glance at the Lidar image is sufficient to see the structure of the original track and why the Roman's had to cross the River Gowy and its marshes at this point. It is by far the best point utilising approaches on dry land.

Hoole seen from above in the late 1940's before much modern development. The green dots follow the line of the Roman route to Wilderspool through Newton Hollows, while the yellow dots mark the township boundary (see: Parishes). The Hollows were then in Newton rather than Hoole. LIDAR provides another useful indicator of the topgraphical features along the boundary, with many surviving ditches being visible.

Watkin identifies a "Gibbet Piece" in Hoole, which was probably not a place of execution, but a location where the bodies of executed criminals were put on display in medieval and post-medieval times. He writes:

  • "The road, which is perfectly straight, is only shewn for about half a mile on the Ordnance Map, which makes its direct line terminate soon after "Salter's Lane" is passed, but we found its course plainly traceable across the fields into Tyre's (or Tyrer's) Lane (which leads down to some low meadows) and into the "Gibbet Piece" where executions (and I believe interments) took place in the last and beginning of the present century, a clump of trees marking the spot."

One notable gibbeting nearby was that at "Trafford Green" in 1796 of James Price and Thomas Brown for the robbery of a mail boy.

The last remnant of Hoole Heath. The original highway through the Hollows runs from center top to center left.

The Roman settlement at Warrington/Wilderspool seems to have been quite extensive from Stockton Heath in the south to under Warrington town centre itself. It appears to have been an important road junction with not just King Street but a probable road to Chester and perhaps one to Manchester as well. There also appears to have been two river crossings. Presumably a bridge at Wilderspool on the direct road north to Wigan and a second, probably a ford, at Howley. No fort has been found (yet) so it is classed as an industrial site and port with a primary purpose of supplying the military in the north-west.


The earliest known owner of land at Flookersbrook was Arni of Neston (see: "Open Doomesday") - and his lands passed to William son of Nigel, or fitz Nigel. Arni is possibly a Viking name, and it has been suggested, in "Viking Wirral" that his burial place is at "Arnehow" at Oxton - now a park known as "The Arno". William FitzNigel is probaly the same who succeeded his father Nigel as baron of Halton and Constable of Chester. His gift to St Werburgh’s of "Neutona" (Newton by Chester, a manor of 1 hide) with the service of Hugh fitz Udard, was included in the almost certainly forged confirmation of Earl Richard of Avranches dated 1119 (Barraclough, Charters of the Earls of Chester, 14–16, no. 8) RSLC vol CXXVI

  • "Willelmus constabularius dedit Neutonam simul cum servicio Hugonis filii Udardi de quatuor bovatis, et cum servicio Wiceberni de duabus bovatis."

"Udard" or "Odard" is often said to be the ancestor of the Duttons, but there is considerable doubt about much of the ancestry of Cheshire gentry. The arguments that this is a forgery hinge on the fact that there seems little reason for a young earl of 25, who in 1119 could not have known he was to drown the following year in the wreck of the "White Ship", to draw up such a convenient list of donations to the church made "in meo tempore ecclesie sancte Werburge Cestrie" ("in my time to the church of St Werburgh of Chester"). Also, Richard was in Normandy from October 1118 and for most of 1119 and into 1120. Richard did spend some time in England, but monks are sometimes notorious for faking grants of land. A (possibly also) forged confirmation in the name of Earl Ranulf II adds the information that his deed was witnessed by Ralph the steward, who was in the habit of donating his master's property to the church while Ranulf was held by enemies.

The transfer of Newton (including Flookersbrook) from someone of possible Viking ancestry to the Normans (by conquest), and then to the Church (under dubious circumstances), was the start of a recorded series of disputes over the ownership and access to the Flookersbrook corner of Hoole (or as some might see it, Newton) which continued for centuries.

John Ogilby’s route map, 1685, makes clear the highway to Chester was still the old highway through the Hollows, not Hoole Rake (forerunner of Hoole Road).


In the earlier Medieval period much of the land along the ridge running from Beeston down the spine of the Wirral would have been heathland and farming would have been concentrated near villages and hamlets. There was possibly an ancient trackway running along the crest of the ridge, which could be used without having to ford rivers and streams. The Hollows may have originally formed a route down from this ridge to the site of Chester. Some of the heathland would have been used as common pasture for cattle and running alongside the Hollows would have later been a Drover's route for the movement of cattle. As land became enclosed progressively up to the ridge the droving route between Chester and the surviving heath would become extended. The ends of these drovers routes, opening onto the heath, appear to have been funnel-shaped making it easier to gather-up cattle and begin to herd them onto the Drover's way. The last maps of Hoole Heath from the time of its final enclosure show these funnel-like boundaries of the heath and earlier boundaries in the form of field outlines.

Newton Hollows possibly remained the main route into Chester from the north until it was abandoned in the 18th century as a turnpike road was constructed (now Hoole Road). It has been suggested that it possibly gave "Hoole" (Hole) its name, although the name may also be derived from "hovels".

In the mid 12th century, it was known (according to Lucian the Monk) as "The Valley of the Demons", perhaps with reference to various robbers and thieves lying in wait for travellers. Lucien wrote:

  • "The native of Chester remembers how three roads branch off outside Eastgate and how beautiful and pleasing are the names of the places to which they lead. The road straight in front straight in front leads to Christ's Town (Christleton), that on the right to the Old Ford (Aldford) but if it turns to the left it comes to a place which they rightly call the Valley of Demons (Hoole) with reference to the hiding places of those who lie in wait... the wanderer... is despoiled by thieves and robbers".

The tendency of "thieves and robbers" to lie in wait hereabouts may be due to the fact that the Norman Earl Hugh of Avranches established three "asyla" in Cheshire. These were at Hoole Heath near Chester, Overmarsh near Farndon and Rud Heath near Middlewich. These were places to which a felon from any place in England (or Wales) could flee to the Palatinate and seek the protection of the Earl. The sanctuary at Hoole Heath may therefore be the reason for the bad reputation of Newton Hollows attributed to Lucian the Monk. Hemingway describes the asyla as follows:

  • ancient times ordained for strangers of what country soever, and assigned to such as came to the peace of the Earl of Chester, or to his aid; resorting there to form dwellings, but without building any fixed houses, by the means of nails or pins, save only booths and tents to live in. These sanctuaries were the source of much emolument to the earls, who received fines from all such persons when they came to reside under their protection, a heriot at their death and in case of their dying without issue claimed their goods and chattels.

Thus we see that the tale of criminals being free if they escaped the "hue and cry" in England and reached Cheshire is only partly true. Much later, in the times of Edward II, they were described as follows:

  • By an inquisition taken before Hugh de Audelith Justice of Chester on Sunday after the feast of St Peter ad Vincula it was found That a certain large piece of Waste called Overmarsh was in ancient times ordained for strangers of what country soever and assigned to such as came to the peace of the Earl of Chester or to his aid resorting there to form dwellings but without building any fixed houses by the means of nails or pins save only booths and tents to live in.

In in the reign of Edward III the same arrangement were mentioned again:

  • The jury declare upon their oaths that the Moor which is called Rudheath was formerly a waste place very anciently assigned and set apart by some of the old Earls of Chester for the reception not of their own subjects but of all fugitive strangers coming to the aid of the Earl's peace either from England or from any other countries And there is an inquisition of the same tenor relative to the other of Hoole Heath.

The original, historical Hoole (now known as "Hoole Village") was located much further along the line of the Roman road. It does not appear in the Domesday survey and it is possible that it was first founded when the "asylum" was established. This would explain the name "Hoole" as being derived from "hut" or "hovel". The same is true of the village of Much Hoole in Lancashire, of which is stated "Hoole derives from the Old English hulu, a shed or hovel". The Ancrene Wisse "Guide for Anchoresses", a prose masterpiece of an unknown thirteenth-century friar from Herefordshire or Shropshire, cited the scriptural direction to one who is “fairest among women” to feed her “kids beside the shepherds’ tents” (Song of Solomon 1:7). The last phrase he rendered into Old English as "bi heordmonne hulen of ris & of leaues" ("by herdsmens huts of boughs and leaves"). The sense of hulen is "shelters", made of whatever came to hand.

The provision for Hoole Heath was also that:

  • "that in time of war in Wales, all lawful men of the earl of Chester.. ..were wont to have refuge and receipt on Hoole Heath with their goods, necessaries, and beasts, for a year and a day"

Thus Hoole may take its name from the "huts" of fugitives, herdsmen or refugees, the Hollows, or even an early Welsh word for a "paved" road.

Legend has it that the Hollows was also haunted by a 'Hound of Hell' with reported sightings of a huge, black dog with "great white teeth like knives". Despite the doubtful veracity of a huge, black slavering dog which haunted Flookersbrook and its vicinity, the church thought travellers through the Hollows needed some spiritual “protection”. The fraternity of St. Anne’s, based at St Johns, set up a ‘cross’ at the head of St. Anne’s lakes where the modern day Ermine public house stands. It was here that travellers stopped to pray for protection on their perilous journey, either from the supposedly spurious hound of hell or the very real bandits and thieves. St. Anne’s “Cross” was apparently not a true cross but actually part of an ancient statue which had “offended” (it was probably a nude Roman or Greek piece of art). The St Anne's Lakes were three bodies of water which occupied the site of what is now the Flookersbrook Plantation, and the fraternity owned land nearby. It was established to say masses for the dead based on financial contributions made during life. The land under their control is described as:

  • "Possessions of the Fraternity of Saint Anne in the City of Chester." (First Account.) "Rents and farms in the City " Saynt Anne's House with houses, gardens, ftc., demised 12 Feb. 1 Edw. iv. for the term of 100 years. Foregate Strete. Cowlane. Seynt Johns Lane. Estgate Strete. Castell Lane. Iremonger Rowe. Northgate Strete. Parsons Lane. Watergate Streete." The messuages and tenements here mentioned are entered as leased to divers persons for terms of years, at various dates from the reign of Edw. iv." - "Rentes and farms in divers towns called Felde Renttes " Newton. Hole near Chester. Annes Heye near Seynt Annes Crosse" ("Hole" is "Hoole")

The fraternity was disbanded at the Reformation.

A plan of the Civil War defences of Chester as given Ormerod but based on the work of William Cowper. This shows the fortifications including Flookersbrook Hall.

Hellhounds occur in myths throughout the world with the best known examples being Cerberus from Greek mythology, Garmr from Norse mythology, and the Black Dogs of English folklore. There is a spurious one associated with the death of Charles Moston whose inquest was held at the Black Dog in Waverton.

The general line of what is now Hoole Road once acted as a "rake", a drove path for cattle, and the original parish boundary followed it as it served both Hoole and Newton sections of Hoole Heath (the common land for cattle pasturage). Even at the time of the pioneering "route map" of John Ogilby, in 1685, the "highway" into Chester comes down the Hollows from Hoole ("Howl") Heath to Cosbrook ("Flookersbrook") Hall.

Civil War Hoole

With the growing prospect of a Civil War and an invasion by the Scots, measures were taken to improve the city's defences as early as 1640. On 18th September 1640 the corporation ordered repairs to the Eastgate, Newgate, and Bridgegate, as well as a few weeks later seeing to the provision of arms, and in 1641 it allocated all customs duties on wine imports (prisage) to the renovation of the walls.

In February 1643 work had begun on protecting some of the suburbs of Chester by banking-up an earth rampart to adsorb artillery fire. At this time the seige was not particularly close as the Parlimentary forces were insufficiently strong to hold off a relieving army or enforce a total blockade. The besieged at times grazed their cattle in Hoole, and at least one ship landed stores of powder and match. A major salient was planned to enclose Flookersbrook Hall which made little sense in military terms and was simply an attempt to protect what someone of influence considered valuable property. Just who was involved in this decision is not known. The land at Flookersbrook was held by the Massey family of Kelsall prior to 1450 and later passed to the Bruens of Tarvin, to Thomas Barrowe, and through daughter and heiress to the Sneyds before being bought by Sir Lawrence Smith (or Smythe) of Hough, 1516–82 (1st MP for Chester 1545). According to some sources he built the first Flookersbrook Hall, slightly to the north of the present Hall, which land remained in that family until just after the Civil War, but was at lease at the time of the fortification (to "Shingleton", according to Rupert Morris). Other sources, in particular the Cheshire Sheaf, state that property at Flookersbrook was left by "Roger (Barow) of Flookersbrook" to his daughter Jane who married William Sneyd. The relations of the Smiths and the gentry of Cheshire show the usual complexity.

This mysterious "boundary stone" at Hoole is passed by thousands every day but seldom noticed.

The extent to which these works were completed is unknown but by late 1643 the Royalists were under increasingly heavy pressure and the extensive outworks could no longer be defended. The "Great Siege of Chester" (John Barratt) states that on 16th November Sir Abraham Shipman the deputy governor of Chester decided the present outworks could not be defended. The reasons for this are quite understandable: on Sunday 12 November 1643, Royalists sallied out of Chester towards Tarvin — which was garrisoned by Parliament under the command of Captain Gerard — but the Royalists were intercepted at Stamford Bridge on the River Gowy and prevented from crossing it. The two sides skirmished all the afternoon but then Parliamentary reinforcements from Cholmondeley arrived to assist Gerard and they drove the Royalists back, following them to Boughton and into Gorse Stacks, where the Parliamentarians killed some of the Royalists right under the city walls. The Parliamentarians' only casualty was one man wounded. Shipman therefore gave orders to a tough, non-local veteran of the Irish Wars (1642-3), Colonel John Marrow, who commanded a Regiment of Horse (previously Lord Cholmondeley’s Regiment of Horse, later Colonel Robert Werden’s Regiment of Horse), to burn "unknown to the Mayor", the suburb of Handbridge. The next day Bache and Flookersbrook Halls were both burnt, as part of a "scorched-earth" policy by the defenders of Chester as the Royalists retreated from Hoole to a defensive line now followed (roughly) by the canal.

Part of the "Battle of Hoole Heath" may have taken place in the area. This was the later stage of the Battle of Rowton Heath which occurred as a series of clashes over a wide area.


The route was realigned when it was turnpiked as far as the existing turnpike at Warrington in 1786. The relevant legislation was:

  • "An Act for mending, widening and keeping in repair the road from Flookersbrook Bridge within the Township of Newton near Chester to the south end of Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington and from the market town of Frodsham to Ashton Lane End in the Township of Ashton in the County of Chester".

The roads referred to were said in the preamble to the Act to be:

  • "in many places out of repair, and there are several deep hollow ways which are narrow and incommodious, and in other places very hilly, inconvenient and dangerous to travellers, and cannot be effectually mended, widened or kept in repair by the ordinary course of law".

On 1st June 1786, William Cawley of Mickle Trafford was appointed Surveyor of the Flookersbrook-Frodsham section. He was an engineer who also worked on canals. There is a marker stone at the Ermine end of Hoole Bridge relating to the Frodsham Turnpike. The Chester and Frodsham Turnpike Trust merged with the Chester and Tarvin Trust and the Ashton and Frodsham Trust in 1868, but the route was disturnpiked in two parts in 1870 and 1883. The next public house along the turnpike was "The Old Royal Oak", which was located at Oak Bank just beyond the M53. There was no "toll-booth" at the Ermine, the first being some way up the turnpike near the Traffords. Regular travellers on these roads, which have now become 'Turnpikes' did not take kindly to having to pay for the privilege of using them. Some even took violent exception:—

The Hollows features in this postcard as the "Lover's Walk".
  • Trustees' Meeting, 23rd November, 1786 — The Inner Pentiee, Chester: 'Ordered — That notices shall be given by a fixed number of hand-bills offering a reward of ten guineas to be paid on the conviction of any person or persons who have set fire to and destroyed several Turnpike Gates which have been erected in the Township of Manley on the road from Manley Lane End to Frodsham, and the said gates to replaced.'

The "paving" of the turnpike seems to consist of sand and gravel, and where a road is being diverted to a new line it was the policy to dig this out and re-use it. There is at least one reference to the old high-road as the "Sandy Road". The turnpike was not "Macadamised" until the late 1820's. Digging out the old road would save both cost of the material and transport — labour was cheaper. It also made the original route less usable and provided an incentive for use of the turnpike rather than any older and cost-free route. The question of milestones was also considered:—

  • 'Orders — That ten milestones be erected on the road from Chester to Frodsham with cast-iron directions according to the one now produced and that the first milestone shall be fixed at the distance of one mile from Cow Lane Bridge and that the tenth milestone be fixed at or near the Market House in Frodsham'.

Hemingway writing in 1831 describes this part of Hoole as follows (listing a lot of people he probably knew and hoped would buy his book!):

  • ..the lovely hamlet of Flookersbrook abounding with neatly built modern dwellings to which if the epithet of splendid be inappropriate the claim of elegance and comfort is justly due to each of which is appended richly cultivated garden ground. Here are the comfortable residences of Major Cotton the Rev John Thorpe, Mr John Williamson, Mr Cross, Mr Lightfoot, Mr T Walker, Alderman Broster, Mr Humble &c &c. It is hardly possible to pass this approach to the city without being reminded of the villas in the neighbourhood of the metropolis - the width of the road the respectable and good looking tavern called the Ermine - the pool of water in front of an excellent footpath on the north side of the road over hung with willow trees and the clean and rural appearance of the neighbouring cottages all all have ever contributed to fix an impression upon my mind such as I have just stated.

Even at this time the city of Chester was still keen to expand its boundary across Flookers Brook. Parliamentary papers from 1832 (Vol 38, Part 1, pg 59) contain a report which concludes that:

  • "Flookersbrook , however , does not contain above six Houses of 10l . annual value , and as it is not so connected with the Town of Chester as actually to form a continuation of it , ( as is the case with the Houses in Great Boughton) we do not consider it desirable to alter the ancient Boundaries of the City for the purpose of including any portion of the Townships of Hoole and Newton."

Thomas Walker (1782-1857) was the owner of a significant part of what is now Flookersbrook, with the tithe map showing his holdings included a tan-yard, a maltsters, a brick bank and at least 6 houses and cottages.

Exploring the History

Walking from nearer Chester having traversed Brook Street, it is possible to follow the original route of the track. Although the first part is on pavement, the second half of the walk is unlit and can be muddy (but see below). Start at the north end of Hoole Bridge, by the hardly noticed "boundary stone", just at the end of the railings. Overall, the walk illustrates many elements of local history. In terms of architecture and the context of townscape development it is worth a look at the Characterisation Study for Hoole Road which picks up on some details.

Flookersbrook and the split of the Roman (left) and Turnpike/Drovers (right) routes.

The Ermine

The public house here was once "The Ermine" and has a fascinating history. In a 1670 document there was a John Anderson as inn-holder in what was then a part of Newton (presumably at the Ermine). It is known that lands in Flookersbrook belonged to John Anderson from as early as 1654 when there was contention about his pew in St Oswald’s Church, and in 1665 when there was a problem about him extracting clay. Hanshall’s History of Chester 1817 explains how the lands came into his possession:

  • "FLOOKERSBROOK is a Hamlet of Newton forming partially a suburb of Chester and was at an early period in the family of the Masseys of Kelsall In the 37th Henry VI John Massey sold it to the Bruens and temp Hen VII Richard Bruen of Tarvin sold it to Thos Barrow of Chester from whom it passed by marriage of a daughter to the Sneyds The Smiths of Hough afterwards bought it and Sir Thomas Smith conveyed it to John Anderson Esq of Chester. Since the commencement of the last century it has been divided into several small estates."

The site was a good place for an inn, being situated just outside the City/County boundary as marked by the stream known as Flookersbrook. Because of this location the Ermine was the site of a frequent cattle market which avoided the tolls involved with taking stock into the city.

The name of the pub is taken from the arms of the Hurleston family which featured four Ermine tails. Their family tomb can be seen at St Peter, Plemstall, a historic location associated with Plegmund. Newton had stayed with the church until the Reformation, which meant that it stayed as a single block of ownership. It was then “obtained” by “extortion” from the dean of the Cathedral by Sir Richard Cotton (1497-1556). At the time Cotton also gained Combermere. Cotton sold Newton to the Hurlestons of Picton. The Hurlestons came from Lancashire. Their coat of arms was already in use in Lancashire c 1460 according to Foster’s Feudal Coats of Arms, William Hurleton bore "four ermine spots in cross" Thomas Hurleston appears to have moved to Cheshire by about 1529, but sources disagree as to the exact details, with some sources suggesting a connection with Lancashire was maintained until the 1770's. The coat of arms is also known from the Heraldic Visitations of Chester 1580. Hurlstone or Harleton Hall in Lancashire was demolished last century and is now a golf-club.

The coat of arms by the Hurleston family tomb at Plemstall features four ermine tails arranged in a cross. The full inscription of the plaque behind is given from Ormerod, (see: History of Cheshire p 438), 1819, the exfoliated parts in brackets: "(In this vault lies the body of Elizabeth, wife of Charles Hurleston, of Newton esq., youngest daughter and coheir of Thomas Lander, of Newhall, in the County of Lancaster, esq., by Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Downes, of Shrigley, in the county of Chester. esq.) (She was beautiful) in her Person, Distinct in her Behaviour, Dutiful Daughter in her Observance, And had the (.........) long night, A Happy Mother She dyed the 19th of November 17(27), aged 32."

1732 saw a certain amount of unrest in Chester centered around the Mayoral elections - sporadic disorders culminated in a clash in Bridge Street in early October between a Whig mob (allegedly reinforced with disguised soldiers, revenue officers, and Liverpool sailors) and Tory supporters who included Welsh miners. The latter came off worse, and the Whigs, suspecting that Tory aldermen were admitting more freemen after dark to provide them with votes, broke into and wrecked the Pentice. The mayor called for dragoons from Warrington to help restore order and appointed c. 270 special constables. Fifty dragoons arrived on foot and according to "a letter from a freeman of the city of Chester to his friend in London" (text here) were loadged in Hoole, with 25 of them quartered at the Ermine (then in the hands of a John Artingstall) and the remainder at a neighbouring house in Flookersbrook.

Dragoons in Hoole.

In 1734 the last of the male line of the Hurleston's died and his property went to three nieces as co-heirs. Anne was a widow but was quickly re-married to the 10th Viscount Kilmorey, whose son Francis Needham became Earl Kilmorey. As a result, Kilmorey gained the ownweship of Newton. Kilmorey entered the British Army in 1762 and served in the American War of Independence, where he was taken prisoner at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. He also fought in the French Revolutionary Wars but is best remembered for his role during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. He was in overall command at the Battle of Arklow and commanded one of the five columns at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. In 1804, he was appointed Colonel of the 5th Royal Veteran Battalion. He was promoted to colonel for life of the 86th Foot in 1810 and to general in 1812.

In 1745, with the country much troubled by a rising of the Scots and a large number of prisoners brought from Carlisle to the Castle at Chester, Dr Cowper informs us that:

  • "Shortly after the surrender of Carlisle a number of were brought prisoners in sixteen carts to Chester and lodged in the castle which they completely filled. In consequence of this the Spring Assize was held at Flookersbrook but no sort of business was brought before the Grand Jury." - as quoted in Hanshall

In 1780 one Mary Artingstall published the following notice:

  • MARY ARTINGSTALL, of FLOOKERSBROOK, near this City, Begs leave to inform the Friends of her late Husband, John Artingstall, deceased, THAT she intends to continue the PUBLIC BUSINESS, as usual, at the Sign of the Ermine, in Flookersbrook aforesaid; and also to carry on the MAKING of MALT, under the Management of the Person employed by her late Husband, to whose Friends she returns her sincere Thanks; and assures them and the Public in general, that those who will please to favour her with their Commands, shall be served with the above Article upon the best and most reasonable Terms, By their oblig’d and faithful Servant, MARY ARTINGSTALL

Brook Lodge

Opposite the Ermine is Brook Lodge, a group of buildings which were once home to the local historian Broster and later the home of Robert Lewis Jones, manager of Chester Station and an early pioneer of electrical assistance in time-keeping (see: Time). Broster mentions the building in his 1828 Chester Guidebook as:

  • “Brook Lodge in the village of Flookersbrook is an object well worthy of notice for the quantity of ancient carved work it contains. The portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh and his Lady with the family arms are inserted in the front door.”
Brook Lodge is just opposite the "FT" marker stone.

Jones started as an “industrial” chemist, inheriting the works his father owned at what is still known as “Chemistry Lock” (see: Canalside). He made chemicals for the tanning industry and for use in inks and paints. When the railways arrived in Chester he changed jobs and eventually became the Station Manager at what is now Chester General. As Station Manger he lived at Brook Lodge, on Hoole Road just to the north of Hoole Bridge – today it would be 1 Hoole Road. These were the years of “Railway Mania” when new lines were being established and competition was so cut-throat that Lewis Carroll parodied it in the “Hunting of the Snark” with: “you may threaten his life with a railway share...”. The line from Chester towards Warrington opened in late 1850 and one of the first money-making opportunities was Chester Cup Day in 1851. “Specials” would be run “as soon as filled up” and a flyer including those words was just about the only instruction Jones was given as to how he should organise things at Chester. Following the races, with the weather turning poor, the scene at Chester Station quickly became chaotic. Jones himself had to get passengers off the roofs of carriages as trains became completely overcrowded with race-goers trying to get home. One train was so overloaded that it needed a “boost” from an extra engine as far as Mickle Trafford. Some attempt was made to space following trains apart. However, the railway company did not provide their staff with watches and the only time available to them was the station clock – not visible from the platforms. As one packed train approached Sutton Tunnel it could barely maintain traction as sleet fell: and there was no sand for the rails. Eventually it stalled at the tunnel entrance. The driver of second train following behind offered a helpful shove and the two trains struggled into the darkness of the smoke-filled tunnel. No-one thought to post a man at the entrance to warn following trains. Then along came a third train, making better speed. The driver confessed he could only see a few feet but nevertheless he plunged into the tunnel peering through his glass. There was an inevitable collision, but no fire, which would have turned the tunnel into a blast-furnace. Of the 1600 passengers trapped in wooden wreckage some died and many were injured, but it could have been far, far worse. The inquest and inquiry, see: Accident Report decided that there were several causes, among which was the time-keeping at Chester.

In the aftermath of what could have been an infamous disaster Station Manager Jones decided he would do something about time-keeping and investigated the electrical synchronisation of clocks. He used the well-known clock on the frontage of Chester Station for his experiments. An electrical system for connecting clocks was already known but had certain disadvantages – it relied on a single wire and a continuous electrical connection. Jones invented an improvement, where the clocks would continue to run if the connection was poor or broken. Jones patented his system and it was adopted widely, including to operate the “Docker's Clock” in Liverpool from the observatory at Bidston where astronomers determined the time. Other observatories also adopted the same method, including Dunsink in Ireland - and Jones' "time brought by wire" is even mentioned by James Joyce in "Ulysses". Conveniently, Jones system avoided the patent on the earlier synchronisation method, and was bought up by the “Magnetic Telegraph Company” who needed to avoid the rights controlled by their rival, the “Electric Telegraph Company”. Magnetic were deeply engaged in what was the Internet of the day, being involved both with Liverpool's telegraph connection to Holyhead and the undersea cable to Ireland.

Thomas Baldwin's aerial view of Chester which can be seen, together with the River Dee (and Hoole) in the corner of this engraving based on his sketch. This is believed to be the first ever actual view of the earth from above. Baldwin made is flight in 1785, the year before the Turnpike Act, but the strip of cleared land including the Hollows and the crossings of the Gowy and the Weaver can be seen extending north-east from Chester.

Curiously, a near neighbour of Jones was also involved with long distance communication, although it is unknown whether Jones played a part in his interests. Just over the road from Jones home at Flookersbrook lived the Pickerings, the Walkers and the Lightfoots, who were engaged in the traditional Chester “biotech” industries of tanning, malting and brewing. One Pickering started in a brewing partnership with a Walker, but left to become a banker in Liverpool. He was approached by a certain Cyrus West Field who was seeking investment for the then outrageous idea of laying a telegraph cable across the Atlantic. Pickering thought the idea worth trying and became a director of Field's company. When the cable was completed in 1858 the first message was to be from Queen Victoria to the American President, but according to accounts, Pickering himself tapped the operator on the shoulder and handed him an alternative first message which ended “...on earth peace, goodwill towards men”.

The Pickerings, Walkers and Lightfoots are remembered in the street-names of Hoole. Jones clock system is mentioned by James Joyce where Leopold Bloom ponders on the "clock worked by electric wire from from Dunsink", but Robert Lewis Jones himself is largely forgotten. An apparently unrelated Pickering also lived for a while at Brook Lodge. This was the artist George Pickering (1794-1857) a landscape painter and illustrator, born in Yorkshire, active in Chester, died in Birkenhead. He drew many of the fine landscapes that are engraved in Ormerod's "History of Cheshire" and in Baines's "History of the County Palatine of Lancaster". While in Chester he was a drawing master and held his classes at Brook Lodge. Several of his works illustrate Chester and it's environs as it was in his time. Many of his works became the basis for engravings and prints.

From the Ermine, head towards the end of Halkyn Road (by the vet) and enter Flookersbrook by the gate. The stream now named "Flookersbrook" itself runs in a stone-lined culvert to the east, disappearing beneath the ground to surface again at Bache - although, as noted above, this stream is not truly Flookersbrook.

There is one last bit of rather grim local history associated with the corner on which the vets stands. On 10th February 1906, Bertha Mabel Farmerey, the wife of the landlord at the Beehive Hotel, died. On the 23rd of January 1906, Bertha visited local Dr Butt and complained of a "skin irritation", and there were further consultations on the 31st. Dr Butt prescribed medicine which appears to have been innocuous. She summoned him back to the Beehive on the 2nd Feb, after which a different medicine was prescribed, this time containing Strychnine. Repeat doses were issued on the 6th and on the evening before she died, all on a single prescription. The prescriptions were obtained from Thomas Carter's branch dispensary (and Post Office) at Flookersbrook. This building is now occupied by the Veterinary practice. Reports of the following inquest conclude:

  • "The jury, having considered their verdict in private, came unanimously to the conclusion that death was caused by strychnine poisoning, but that there was no evidence to shew how the poisoning was contracted."

There is one possible explanation. In Agatha Christie's first novel, the The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), a clever plot point is that the addition of a dose of "bromide" to a medicine containing strychnine causes the poisonous components to precipitate out and be concentrated in the last dose taken from the bottle. Remarkably, the novel appears to be based on a very similar actual event. This was a tragic misadventure in which a young lady died because the common sleep aid potassium bromide had been added to her tonic, containing the easily soluble strychnine sulfate. The case was reported in Joseph Price Remington's "The practice of pharmacy" (1886) and became known to Christie who had worked in a dispensary during the Great War. Could it be that Mabel Farmerey died the same way, with the strychnine having precipitated into the final dose?


The large mock-Tudor house by the gate (Spring Lodge) was built by William Williams, the builder of the 1890s Ruabon brick housing in Halkyn Road. Curiously, the then-owner of Flookersbrook Hall required that no windows overlook his land, and so the double-fronted houses on the north side of Halkyn Road were built without rear windows - some have now been added. To the east, the wooded area was enclosed by a special act of Parliament. Prior to its enclosure the woodland was the site of the abovementioned St. Anne's lakes.

Saint Annes lakes were a watering place for cattle and horses, but dissappeared rather quickly at the end of the 19th Century and were replaced by a single drinking trough, of which nothing remains. The condition of this trough was the subject of much debate. As discussed in local council meetings and reported in the Chester Courant (see: Courant, 12th January 1898).

  • The second resolution alluded to section 28 of the Flookersbrook Improvement Act, 1876. This section said that such power (meaning the power invested in the trustees) should be exercised subject to the condition that ample provision should always be made and maintained by the Trustees for watering horses and cattle at the large pit next to the Ermine Inn by means of the streams and waters running into and supplying the said pit. In the plans deposited at the time of the Act the superficial area of the pit was 22,100 feet. This had been reduced to 3,600 feet, and now it had come down to the very modest area of 11 feet. The Act said that ample provision should be made and maintained by the Trustees, and if they considered that the reduction he had mentioned was in accordance with the Act- well he did not. He had seen forty head of cattle drinking out of the pit when it was there, but ever since the present trough had been placed in its position, he could honestly say he had never seen a cow or a horse drinking from it. He had only seen one animal touch it, and that was a dog, who had got into it bodily. (Laughter).. ..Mr. BRADLEY, in seconding, said he thought the matter deserved their serious consideration. He had seen Mr. Brown's man emptying the trough, and the man had almost seemed to collapse during the process. The offal and the refuse he had seen taken out had disgusted him. It would knock a man down at a hundred yards. (Laughter). The supply was useless, and people dare not let their horses and cattle drink at it. It was the talk of the county, and the next thing they would be having would be an epidemic of typhoid.

In 1867, as a part of a search for arms thought to have been secreted there by the "Fenians" (Irish Republicans), "Flookersbrook Pits" (as St Anne's Lakes had become) were dredged and 150 rounds of ammunition found. 1200 'strangers' believed to be Fenian revolutionaries came to Chester from Ireland and the North-west of England and were expected to attack Chester Castle to obtain arms (see: Fenian Plots).

Flookersbrook Hall is the next mock-Tudor building. The original hall was demolished in 1644 when the Flookersbrook salient collapsed during the siege of Chester. Flookersbrook Hall was obviously rebuilt, but has now been divided into two dwellings. At the end of the woods, "Flookersbrook" emerges from its underground tunnel - you won't see it again.

Flookersbrook in 2015. It retains the "gas" style streetlamps (long since converted to electricity). This kind of lamp adorned many of the streets in the surrounding area until the early 1990'a when they were removed and replaced by taller steel and concrete lamps. The white building to the right - now called "The Gables" - was originally a farmhouse and dates from 1760 according to a datestone.

Mary Artingstall (of the Ermine) married anew to John Lightfoot and their daughter Catherine married Thomas Walker. They had various interests in brewing, tanning and malting and a daughter married a Pickering another malting and brewing family from Frodsham (co-incidentally on the site of the old Cheese dock at Frodsham).

"THOMAS WALKER AT FLOOKERSBROOK, CHESTER". The view is from near "Folly House" looking down Flookersbrook and the middle building in the background is possibly the Ermine. The other buildings can be conjectured to be: (right to left) the former farmhouse at Flookersbrook, now two cottages; Flookersbrook Hall or Poplar House, and (leftmost) possibly Flookersbrook House and Brook Lodge (replaced by "The Grange"). In the center can be seen a small bridge which is now the location of the culvert between the upper and lower parts of the Flookersbrook plantation. Only a monochrome image was available so this coloured version is computer enhanced.

This Thomas Walker is the one shown in a painting by Daniel Clowes (1774-1829) described as "THOMAS WALKER AT FLOOKERSBROOK, CHESTER signed, oil on canvas, 62.5 x 84.5cm". Possibly dating from c. 1805, after Walker's marriage to Catherine Lightfoot, this handsome picture depicts Walker on a horse which he was reputed to have bought from the Shah of Persia. Walker was also a tanner; his yards can be seen in the background. The painting was exhibited in Chester at the Grosvenor Museum, in 1985 as part of "The Clowes Family of Chester Sporting Artists." Illustrated and discussed in the catalogue, this is designated as D.47 in the catalogue raisonné. In was auctioned on May 25, 2000, UK. According to Blouin Art Sales Index, the painting was Lot 507, Lawrences Auctioneers Ltd., Crewkerne. The painting was being sold for $18,415 USD.

Folly House

Folly House dominated the north side of Hoole Road in Flookersbrook for 250 years. In the Hoole Urban District Council Handbook produced in 1947 it is suggested that the house was originally built as a windmill. Its footprint on early Ordnance Survey Maps show that it had an octagonal shape which of course would have been appropriate to house the sail of a windmill. John Ogilby’s road map of 1675 shows that there was a Mill at that site very near to Cosbrook (Flookersbrook) Hall. The house was often referred to as Anderson’s Folly, as if the windmill had failed in some way.

Flookersbrook as it once was (1870's). St Anne's lakes are in the center of the map, and Folly House is a part-octagonal building further along the diagonal.

Charles Brown, of department store fame, lived at Folly House (despite local estate agents claiming he lived at "Spring Lodge" and "Poplar House" when trying to sell them). Brown is quite an interesting character: a Liberal Party member and banned from politics for bribery. His political sanction came from the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883. At the time elections in Chester were a little different than today – instead of making promises which they might not keep in return for votes, the electorate quite reasonably preferred candidates who would hand over money, beer and other favours (such as an outing to Rhyl) before the vote was taken. For some reason Brown's conviction was hardly mentioned in the Chester press, but everyone knew about it and for a while Chester was actually denied the right to have an MP.

Brown tried to establish his fiefdom in Hoole by claiming the title of "Lord of the Manor of Hoole" The Lord of the manor was once the Earl of Shrewsbury and apparently it stayed with him until 1990 when it was sold it to a Mr Hoole from Bedfordshire who bought it to match his name. It was last auctioned in 2007 with a reserve price of £5000. The outcome is unknown.

Charles Brown was very much involved with the discussions as to whether Flookersbrook should move from Newton to Hoole as the border between the two was shifted to the Cheshire Lines railway (now the Millennium Greenway). He was a principal opponent of the scheme, together with the Earl of Kilmorey, the Dixon's (who had major agricultural interests in the area) and William Williams the builder (who was then in the process of developing Halkyn Road). They organised a meeting at the "Ermine": the traditional meeting place of Newton Parish Council. The argument, and that as to whether both Hoole and Newton should become part of the City, rumbled on for years, with the arguments about whether the Ermine cattle market should be closed frequently being mentioned. The "Newton Party" were ultimately unsuccessful - the Civil Parish of Newton was finally abolished in 1936.

DEFRA's "MAGIC" map reveals that the upper end of the Hollows is part of the Priority Habitat Inventory (dark green).This is a spatial dataset that describes the geographic extent and location of Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) Section 41 habitats of principal importance.

Kilmorey Park

Kilmorey Park contains some large Victorian villas, but the cellars are prone to flooding due to the underground stream. The name is obviously derived from the inhertitance of the land by the Kilmoreys.

The next Earl, another Francis Needham, when aged almost 60 ran off with his ward (aged 20) in 1843. He set up his mistress in an adjoining house with a tunnel between the two. Priscilla Anne Hoste died of heart disease on 21 October 1854. She was laid to rest in the Kilmorey Mausoleum, in an ancient Egyptian design, cost £30,000 to build and was moved several times between Lord Kilmorey's homes. He died in 1880. Kilmorey was succeeded in his titles by his grandson Francis, his eldest son Francis Needham, Viscount Newry, having predeceased him.

Francis Needham, 3rd Earl of Kilmorey was involved in a royal scandal when his wife had an affair with Francis of Teck. This involved the Cambridge emeralds which were originally acquired by Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, the Duchess of Cambridge (Queen Mary’s grandmother) in 1818 at a charity lottery in Frankfurt, Germany. The box that was the prize is said to have contained somewhere between 30 to 40 cabochon emeralds. The emeralds were almost lost to the royal family when they were passed onto Prince Francis of Teck (Queen Mary’s brother) and when he died suddenly in 1910 the emeralds fell into the possession of his mistress, Ellen ("Nellie ") Constance Baldock (Kilmorey's wife). Luckily, Princess Mary of Teck (later to become Queen Mary) retrieved the emeralds under questionable circumstances.

The third Earl built Ermine Road. The 4th Earl (yet another Francis Needham) was fairly ordinary, but leased and later sold off his land in Newton. In June 1880 Kilmorey Park, comprising "upwards of 50 acres of valuable building land" was advertised for sale as was The Newton Building Estate, being 18 acres around Brook Lane. Editorial comment at the time on the change to the then rural landscape suggested that Newton Hollows and the well-known Folly Field were included in the sale. In 1916 he was appointed as an Irish representative peer, to sit in the House of Lords for life representing Ireland. No more such peers were appointed after the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, and when Kilmorey died in 1961 he was the last such surviving peer.

At the upper end of Kilmorey Park, cross Newton Lane and enter the Hollows proper.

The Hollows

The entrance to the Hollows is marked by posts featuring models of the shoulder-guards of the form of Roman military armour known as "Lorica segmentata". This name was not given to the armor by the Romans: instead, it was given by scholars in the 16th century. It is not known whether it would have had everyday use, or was only worn on "special occasions".

From here on, the path used to be muddy but the surface was improved in 2007. The Hollows passes behind the gardens of the adjoining houses and ends by the bridge at Fairfield Road. One of those houses (19 Shavington Avenue} was the home of Fred Crossley a noted writer on church history and the designer of the refectory roof in the Cathedral.

Eventually the path reaches what is now the upper end of the Hollows. It is possible to gain access to the cyclepath and return to the city by a roundabout route (via Liverpool Road) or to walk back down Hoole Road (or catch the bus).

There is some Roman-themed sculpture at the top of Newton Hollows which links in to other aspects of the more general history of Chester. These depict a lode of (lead) ore (see: Leadworks), a pillar topped with a capital, fire and war, an amphora of oil or wine, a legionary horn (see: Legio XX), a millstone and sacks of flour (see: Dee Mills), a Roman leatherworkers tool (see: Tanning) and a wide-brimmed gladiatorial helmet (see: Amphitheatre}.

The upper part of the Hollows in 1738. This is the estate map of Newton and shows that the Hollows was then entirely within that now extinct civil parish. The Hollows is marked as "Chanel Lane" and the course of the original highway runs diagonally accross the map from bottom left to upper right. The Folly is marked at the lower left as a circle, and what is now Kilmorey Park continues to a truncated Newton Lane. The Hollows is the next section and becomes progressively wider until it reaches what is now the location of Manning's Lane East, which provides a way onto the Turnpike road thus avoiding the wettest part of the Hollows. The fields to the east of the hollows include a large "Intack": an area of enclosed heath. Those to the west include several "riddings". Prior to these enclosures Hoole Common and Newton Common would have formed a continuous area of heathland.

Beyond The Hollows

Early photographs show that there was a way on from the modern termination of the Hollows via a small foot-tunnel. This continued a short distance until blocked by the railway (now a cyclepath). The original travel route would have continued on to Mannings lane and the path of the Roman road still known as "The Street". In doing so it would have crossed Hoole Heath.


This article was originally started in 2004, and has been edited since then.

2007 update

A recent visit to the Hollows was a little disappointing. The path had been "improved" by putting down a lot of shingle. While this avoids the mud, the new path seems far too wide and as many trees have been cut down, the short sight-lines which meant that new views were constantly appearing have gone. You can now see almost the entire length of the hollows from any viewpoint and have to dodge bikes. Cutting back so much of the growth also seems to have disturbed the ancient eco-system - there are few birds in sight or earshot and most of the wildflowers have been dug in. The majority of the plants growing seem to be stinging nettles and they are choking-out everything else.

Roman-themed sculpture at the top of Newton Hollows depicts a lode of (lead) ore, a pillar topped with a capital, fire and war, an amphora of oil or wine, a legionary horn, a millstone and sacks of flour, a Roman leatherworkers tool and a wide-brimmed gladiatorial helmet.

The 'new look' Hollows has, sadly, already been made subject to the attentions of vandals as a large number of the newly-planted young trees have already been destroyed. Many piles of logs remain from the draconian mass felling as part of the 'improvements'- no doubt for the benefit of wildlife- but they nontheless serve to make the place look half-finished and neglected and the long tradition by householders backing onto the Hollows of using it as a convenient place to dump their garden and other waste continues unchecked...

I do hope it recovers, but for me the ambience that the Hollows had as a "shaded and secret way" is gone.

2015 update

The Hollows is still, sadly, a shadow of its former self. Biodiversity among vegetation is low and dog-walkers seem unable/uninterested to clean-up after their pets. Some "Roman" additions do help, but it seems that the "magic has gone away".

2022/3 update

Perhaps things are looking up: as the Friends of Newton Hollows have set up a new site. Unfortunately there is also a planning application to build on the last undisturbed part of the Hollows at the northern end.

sources and links

The foot-tunnel at the head of the Hollows was blocked in the 1980's. This postcard photograph shows it around 1905.

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