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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 27 August 2007

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LIVERPOOL'S oldest family FOUND

A MISSING chapter in the history of one of Britain’s finest Tudor mansions has emerged - thanks to a competition to find Liverpool’s Oldest Family.  When Anthony George, a retired joiner from Rainhill, near St Helens, submitted his family tree with proof of scouse lineage going back to the reign of Henry VIII to 1543, it raised eyebrows as a possible winning claim.  But the documents he provided have stunned archivists as it shows his ancestors the Graces renting Speke Hall, circa 1740s to 1790s, one of the few families to ever do so and who until now have been listed as unknown farmers.

The Grade I listed mansion fell into disrepair in that period and was eventually bought in 1795 for £73,500 by Liverpool merchant Richard Watt. The Grace family also had a wood named after them, which is now where Liverpool John Lennon airport stands. 

Mr George’s roots have indeed proved to be the longest in Liverpool - being the only family who entered the competition with proof of their roots going back to the 16th century. The grandfather-of-6 can actually boast 15 generations of Liverpudlians in his family.  He can officially trace his family back on his mother’s side to 1569 at All Saints Church in Childwall with the baptism of Katherine Wodley on February 21. However, parish records only began in 1565 and Thomas, her father, is listed in his marriage of that year as being born in 1543.  Thomas Wodley is the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great-great-grandfather of Anthony George. Sadly Anthony knows little of his mother’s life as her mother died in a workhouse in the 1913 when she was 3.

On winning the claim to be Liverpool’s Oldest Family, Mr George, said:- ‘’We knew we could go back a bit but we thought lots of people could go that far. I’m stunned, it’s a huge honour to be invited to be part of Liverpool’s 800th celebrations. We love Liverpool, it’s such a special place and to be connected to Speke Hall is particularly thrilling – even though my ancestors let the place go a bit!  ’We’ve had so much fun looking into the family’s past. Your family history is so important in giving you a sense of who you are. It’s made me realise I should have asked my mother more questions but it has brought me closer to my children.’’

The Liverpool-born 68 year old, who with his cousin Primrose Agbamu has been researching his family for 3 years, will represent the people of Liverpool on the city’s 800th anniversary celebrations on Tuesday, August 28.  Mr George, his wife Pauline, and cousin Primrose and her husband will accompany Liverpool’s Lord Mayor in his carriage to lead a civic procession through the city centre.  The family will also have the best seats to watch the mammoth birthday pageant, will be VIP guests at a celebratory dinner in Liverpool Town Hall - along with Liverpool legends such as Ken Dodd - and ride on the Mersey Ferry to watch a spectacular fireworks finale at 10pm.

By earning the title of 'Liverpool's Oldest Family', the George family also win a fantastic heritage weekend in the city this Autumn, which includes:-

* 2 nights at Hard Days Night Hotel. The world’s first Beatle’s concept hotel

* VIP tour of the prestigious Turner Prize at Tate Liverpool. Opens 19 October 2007 to 13 Jan 2008

* Free annual family membership to the National Trust

* VIP tour of National Trust-owned attractions - including Speke Hall (!)

* VIP tour of St George’s Hall - which re-opened on April 23 2007 after a £23m restoration

A total of 44 families from across Merseyside entered the oldest family competition, run by the Liverpool Culture Company to mark the 800th anniversary of the King John charter of 1207.  Century by century, the breakdown of claims are: 16th Century - 1; 17th Century - 4; 18th Century - 23; 19th Century - 15; 20th Century - 1. All entrants will receive a gift, with the top 8 receiving special Liverpool 800 commemorative prizes.

The next 7 oldest families were:
Mrs Helen Taylor of Heswall, Wirral. Her oldest Liverpool-born ancestor was William Gardner. Born in 1617 he was son of Hugo Gardner, Burgess of Liverpool. The Gardner family went on to establish Britain’s 1st timber firm in 1748 – which was destroyed in the 1941 Blitz and ran until 1989. Mrs Taylor’s Great-Grandfather Joseph Gardner III was instrumental in the creation of Hall Road station and the Key Park in Blundellsands and built the Serpentine water fountain on the Crosby shore for cocklers.

John MacKenzie, of Maghull, can trace his mother’s side to 1664 at the baptism of Robert Robinson at St Nicholas Parish Church, who became a Cooper. The main family name was Eaton, with later generations working at Hartley’s jam factory in Aintree.

Mrs Elizabeth Culshaw, of Mossley Hill, can trace her Liverpool roots to July 1684 at the birth of Robert Ashcroft, at St Mary’s Parish Church at Walton-on-the-Hill. The family lineage includes Sumner’s and Meakin’s. They were predominantly farmers and fruit and veg stall holders until the beginning of the 20th century.

Brian Tyrer, 67, of Huyton, only began researching his family 2 months ago and surprisingly, quickly discovered his roots in the city go back to 1687 with the baptism of Thomas – the 1st of 12 generations of Tyrer’s. Family legend records that his Great-Grandfather Richard, a plasterer, worked on the interior design of the Liverpool Empire Theatre. The last 3 generations have all been joiners.

Frankie Huskisson, 40, of Everton, can find his family roots going back to 1707 with the baptism of John Hoskisson. A family of brick makers it’s believed the U was introduced in the 1830s to cash in on the fame of the ill-fated Liverpool MP William Huskisson! A member of the Liverpool Everyman Youth Theatre, Frankie once had TV star Ricky Tomlinson as his agent. His father worked at the world famous Meccano factory in Aintree and his grandfather lost an eye in WWII and then re-enlisted!

Susan Brugnoli, of Fazakerley, can trace her back to 1718 Mrs Pamela Rotheroe, of Childwall, has links in Liverpool going back to 1718 via her father’s family – the Hay’s. The 1st-born is John Hay, baptised at the now demolished St Peter’s Church on Church Street, who was involved in ship-building. The maritime connection continued with her great, great-grandfather listed as a mariner, while her father was in the Merchant Navy. Interestingly, Pamela is now researching connections to the Scottish Earls of Kinnoll, who have held that title in Perth since 1170! The Hay clan, who also have the hereditary title as Chief Constables of Scotland - lived at Balhousey Castle until the war, which is now the museum for the Blackwatch regiment.

Other notable families who entered include the Rushworth’s who owned a music store in the city centre where John Lennon and George Harrison bought their guitars in 1962. The family’s Liverpool roots begin in 1790 and until recently were also famous for making organs for churches and cathedrals.

Joyce Culling, Secretary of Liverpool Family History Society, judged the competition – and runs a weekly Help Desk at Liverpool Record Office in the city’s Central Library.   Joyce said:- ‘’The response to this competition has been unbelievable. It’s attracted a huge number of new faces to the record office and given countless families a lot of joy discovering about their ancestors.  ’I’m amazed how far some of them can go back – in Liverpool its rare to find a family tree that does not involve ancestors from oversees arriving via the port.’’

Councillor Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool City Council and Deputy-Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company, said:- ‘’This competition has really caught the imagination and put the people of Liverpool at the heart of our 800th celebrations.  The response has been fantastic and our libraries have proved a great asset. What is most pleasing are the fascinating stories to have emerged. They have all deeply enriched our understanding of how Liverpool grew and who helped shape it.’’

Councillor Paul Clark, Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, said:- ‘’To know so many members of the founding families of Liverpool are still living on Merseyside underlines the loyalty and pride people have in this city. 

I’m honoured that on our 800th birthday we will be celebrating with a family whose history has been intertwined with this city for 6 centuries of Liverpool life.’’

Drivers choose ‘sign-tology’ to decipher highway code

DESPITE hours spent swotting up on the UK’s road signs and markings ahead of the dreaded driving test, new research from Autoglass® reveals very few motorists remember this information once let loose on the roads. Instead, they are relying on sign-tology– the process of the human brain weighing up the possibilities of what a sign or marking could mean, and then opting for the most feasible and common sense explanation – rather than picking up a copy of the Highway Code to refresh their memory.  The Autoglass® survey tested drivers’ understanding of a selection of 20 commonly used UK road signs and markings, including warning signs, signs giving orders, direction signs and road markings. Less than one in 10 drivers were able to identify the correct meaning of all 20 signs and markings.

However drivers defended their lack of knowledge by saying that when out and about on the road they rely on guesswork to cover up any shortfalls in their knowledge. More than 7 out of 10 said when they don’t understand a road sign or marking they rely on their ability to come up with the answer through a combination of logic and common sense, using the information available to them at the time. These motorists trust the powers ofsign-tology so much, less than 1 out of 10 will double check in the Highway Code when they get home that they actually came up with the right answer.  2 out of 10 drivers confess to simply ignoring signs they don’t understand, with women being more likely than men to take no notice of them.

According to the driver survey, signs giving orders posed the most problems for drivers. Although most drivers recognised the national speed limit sign, less than half were able to translate this into the speed limits for built up areas, single and dual carriageways. A quarter of those who guessed incorrectly believed it to be 70mph regardless of the location and road type. Confusion also arose between signs giving positive and negative instructions, with minimum speed limit signs, and signs prohibiting certain vehicles, causing particular uncertainty.

The top 5 misunderstood signs, with up to 3 quarters of drivers getting their meaning wrong, were:-


Road markings presented a whole host of problems for drivers with less than a quarter able to distinguish the difference in meaning between the various white lines, for example the difference between the centre line:-

(1) The hazard warning line.
(2). The meaning of diagonal hatching.
(3) Bypassed over half of motorists.

According to Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass®, drivers can make the roads a safer place for everyone by spending a bit of time refreshing their memory of the Highway Code. “Signs and markings are there to help drivers stay safe on the roads, so it is important they are understood.  Our research has uncovered some serious gaps in driver knowledge, which is not surprising when you consider there are an estimated 3.5million road signs, signals and markings on UK roads today. Combine this with the fact that for many drivers, their copy of the Highway Code is languishing at the back of a drawer or at the bottom of a bookcase, and has not been looked at since they were swotting up for their driving test, the scale of the problem becomes clear.  Although a large number of drivers say they rely on ‘sign-tology’ to make up for their lack of accurate understanding, we are urging all drivers to refresh their memories by taking a look at the Highway Code and checking up on the meaning of any signs and markings they are unsure of.”

Don’t miss out on funded training

FUNDED training is now available for small and medium-sized land-based enterprises (SMEs) in the Greater Merseyside area. 

Research shows that of the 23 million working adults in England, approximately 3 million have poor levels of literacy and 9 million have poor levels of numeracy. In Greater Merseyside, the problem is particularly acute, with over 22% of all adults of working age having gained no qualifications at all. This is likely to mean for the average Merseyside business that 1 in 7 of its employees have no qualifications.

The national Skills for Life programme has been developed to ensure that literacy, language and numeracy skills are sufficiently developed to enable all employees to get the job done, improve performance and increase profitability.

SkillWorks is part of the Skills for Life project, which is funded by the Learning and Skills Council and European Social Fund. The SkillWorks programme is offering each business up to £60,000 to put towards any kind of training until July 2008. This funding can help businesses in the region to make basic skills training an integral part of the job. From identifying where basic skills are lacking in your workforce, to preparing the courses themselves and helping staff thrive in their new training culture - Skills for Life can give businesses a whole new perspective on training.

SkillWorks looks at finding training providers who can help businesses identify individual needs and find specialised solutions. There is a clear need for flexible delivery. Often people who have gaps in their skills can attend short booster courses and, in many cases, essential skills can be built into other training programmes - for example, health and safety, quality control, presentation skills and telephone skills.

Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector, is supporting the Skills for Life initiative as it endorses the actions from the recent Sector Skills Agreement (SSA), which was brokered by Lantra to address the crucial skills challenges faced by the environmental and land-based industries in the North West.

Lantra’s North West Regional Partnership Manager, Suzanne Everitt, said:- “The research uncovered some astonishing figures, and if there is money out there to fund training and improve the skills levels of people with the environmental and land-based industry, then it should be encouraged.  SkillWorks fits in nicely with our SSA within the North West because it is all about upskilling people within the country. This is what the Agreement is trying to tackle, so we get the right skills, at the right time, in the right place.”

Lantra Awards Training Provider, Morgan Training Services, is working with SkillWorks to provide some of the training available to land-based SMEs in Merseyside. As a SkillWorks Training Provider, Morgan Training will be providing effective programmes to ensure environmental and land-based businesses receive the right training to suit their business and employees.

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