Douglas Horsfall and the Myers Connection

The land on which Saint Faith’s was built at the very end of the nineteenth century was given to Douglas Horsfall by his cousin. For many years, the true facts of this gift have been obscured by a romantic version of the actual events. Recent research into the history of the Myers family, prominent Crosby landowners, resulted in the publication in Saint Faith’s magazine ‘Newslink’ of the following article by one of the staff of  Crosby Central Library.

Squire Myers and the Founding of St. Faith's:  a Postscript  
Mark Sargant

When I researched the history of St. Faith‘s for the exhibition staged in Crosby Library in October 2000 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the church's consecration, I had no reason to doubt the received version of events relating to the foundation of the church.

Several printed sources, church guidebooks and retrospective accounts in the Crosby Herald, told the same story. This was that the founder Douglas Horsfall was a cousin of ‘Squire Myers’ of Great Crosby, and that Horsfall conceived the idea of building the church when visiting Myers at his residence, Crosby House. Subsequently it was reported that Squire Myers, from the vantage point of Crosby House, saw the building rising on the site and remarked ‘I gave you land for a church and you are building a cathedral’.  This charming story was so well-established that there was no reason to doubt it. In the nineteenth century the Myers family of Crosby House were certainly important landowners in the area. When I checked the Crosby Herald of 28th May 1898, reporting the foundation stone ceremony, I found ‘Mr. F. Myers’ described as ‘Mr. Horsfall's cousin ... having generously offered the site‘.

Then, earlier this summer Mrs Brenda Murray, a local lecturer, carried out some research in the Local History Unit which cast doubt on the accuracy of the above story. When we checked other sources, Liverpool directories and local newspapers, it emerged that the Myers family had not lived in Crosby House since the 1860s. It had then been let to tenants until about the early 1890s, after which it remained empty until sold to the Sisters of Nazareth in 1897. This meant that the Sisters were already in residence by the time that ‘Squire Myers’ was supposed to have been entertaining Douglas Horsfall in Crosby House!

This mystery intrigued both Mrs Murray and myself. Where had the Myers family moved to? Who was the Frederick Myers mentioned in the Crosby Herald report? What was his true connection with Douglas Horsfall? Mrs Murray managed to make contact with a member of the Horsfall family still living in Liverpool.  In a further twist to the story, it turned out that this lady, a Mrs Horsfall, had carried out some extensive family history research into her husband‘s family but had not come across any Myers connection!  I then remembered that since mounting the exhibition, the Local History Unit had been presented, by Mr Denis Griffths, with photocopies of two documents relating to the acquisition of the land for St. Faith‘s.

The conveyance of the land to the Church Commissioners on 29th December 1897 seemed the most promising. However, this hand-written document proved difficult to read, not only because of its legal nature, but more particularly because of the extremely unusual handwriting of the scribe.  However, Mrs Murray's perseverance paid off and we unearthed the information that the land was conveyed by ‘Frederick Jaques Myers of Charlton Lodge in the County of Northampton’.  From this, I located a village called Charlton near the Northants/Oxon. border and contacted my colleagues in Northamptonshire Libraries Local Studies Service. We were in luck, because there was a published history of the village with a whole chapter on Charlton Lodge. Northamptonshire loaned us a copy of this book and so we were able to find out more about the man who provided the land on which St. Faith‘s was to be built.

Frederick Jaques Myers was probably born in 1847 and is described as ‘the eldest son of Mr Jaques Myers of Crosby House, Lancashire’. This would, we think, make him the grandson of the well known John Myers of Crosby (Mrs Murray is still working on the Myers family). Frederick bought Charlton Lodge in 1881 and by all accounts was a very active philanthropist in the life of the village, being looked upon as the lord of the manor.  It would seem that he was indeed ‘Squire Myers’ as in the St. Faith‘s story, but Squire of Charlton, not Crosby! He appears to have been something of a social snob. When a certain Mr Smith, a lawyer, and his wife first moved into the village, Myers was said to be ‘very stand-offish’ towards these apparent nobodies. The lawyer was in fact F.E. Smith, who  subsequently became Lord Chancellor and was created 1st Earl of Birkenhead in 1922!  Myers had died in 1911, so did not live to see plain Mr & Mrs Smith‘s elevation. However, he must have thawed somewhat in his attitude to the Smiths, because the book contains a 1907 photograph of  him with Mrs Margaret Smith, future Countess of Birkenhead.

Myers, although living in Northamptonshire, still held the family land in Crosby until the late 1890s. For some reason he then decided to dispose of his holdings here, hence the sale of Crosby House to the Sisters of Nazareth and the offer of the site of St. Faith’s to Douglas Horsfall, although the precise relationship between these two men still remains unclear.

So where did the charming stories of ‘Squire Myers of Crosby House’ and St. Faith’s foundation originate? Frederick Myers certainly conveyed the land in 1897 and the Crosby Herald report of 28th May 1898 does refer to him as the donor, and as Douglas Horsfall’s cousin. The report relates that the idea for a church between Waterloo and Great Crosby was suggested by Bishop Ryle, who had been approached for his advice as to a possible locality for Horsfall’s next foundation. The implication is that only then did Myers offer the site. The anonymous ‘History of St. Faith’s 1900-1930’ published in 1930 tells the same story, but with no mention at all of Frederick Myers.

However by 1950, when ‘Fifty Years 1900-1950: A History of S. Faith’s Crosby’ (compiled by G.W. Houldin) was published, the Myers story was included in all its embroidered details and the bishop’s part was not mentioned. Could this work be the source of all later confusion? If so, where did the compiler obtain his version, complete with the verbatim remarks of ‘Squire Myers of Crosby House’?  Can anyone shed any light on this mystery?

The text of the 1930s brief history of our church is online HERE, and a fuller version of George Houldin's 1950 histories of the church is online HERE.
Chris Price’s 1975 history, which draws on these earlier sources and unknowingly perpetuates the inaccurate version of the land gift, may be read  HERE

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