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Otterspool and the River Mersey 1847

Otterspool and the River Mersey 1847

Crowds at the official opening of Otterspool promenade. 7 July 1950

Crowds at the official opening of Otterspool promenade. 7 July 1950

Historical background
‘Otterspool’ is derived from the Old English name Otirpul or Oterpol. Otir was the Old English for otter and the location was so named because of the otters which inhabited the tidal creek and freshwater pools formed where a stream joined the River Mersey. The stream feeding Otterspool was known as Osklesbrok but was later renamed the River Jordan by a community of puritans who leased smallholdings around the stream. In 1743, 44 varieties of fish were noted in the river, including sturgeon, and it was reputed to have been the best salmon fishery in the area.

The stream and pool were fed by two brooks known as the Upper Brook and the Lower Brook. The Lower Brook rose near Edge Lane and flowed through Toxteth Park Cemetery before meeting the Upper Brook in Sefton Park. The Upper Brook rose near Sandown in Wavertree and flowed into Greenbank Park and then into Sefton Park where it was channelled into the boating lake to meet the Lower Brook. From Sefton Park the stream was culverted until it re-emerged on the left of Otterspool Park gates. Before modifications were made to the flow of the stream, ‘Osklesbrok’ was a vigorous watercourse with good quality fishing and contained a number of cascades along its course as it flowed through woodland before joining the Mersey.

Until the mid-19th century, fishermen’s nets and cottages were a common sight along the river bank at Otterspool and the Mersey fishery was known for its abundance of fish, which included salmon, codling, whiting, fluke, sole and shrimps. The last remaining river bank cottage, occupied by the Kennerley family, was located close to the end of Jericho Lane. This building became a local landmark but was demolished in 1933 and with its demise went the last relic feature of the Mersey fisheries.

In 1779 a Snuff Mill was erected at Otterspool along with workmen’s cottages and by 1812 Otterspool House had been constructed by John Moss, who turned the snuff mill into an oil mill and built embankments along the river edge to allow barges direct access to the factory. Otterspool House was demolished in 1931, and all that remains today is the balustrade which used to fringe the terrace. The site of the house is now occupied by the former park café.

The construction of the present day promenade began in earnest in 1929 with the river wall being completed in 1932. The space behind the wall, which was on average 180 metres from the original foreshore, was filled with material excavated from the soon to be constructed Mersey Tunnel. In addition to this fill material approximately 2 million tons of clean domestic refuse was also used. This resulted in a cost saving to Liverpool Corporation when compared with alternative methods of disposal which more than offset the cost of the creation of the promenade and parkland. The site served as the city’s main landfill up until 1949. Otterspool Riverside Promenade was opened on 7th July 1950 by Alderman the Rev. H. D. Longbottom, Lord Mayor, and Alderman W. T. Roberts J. P., Chairman Highway and Planning Committee.

The park today
Recently improved through the ‘Pride in Our Proms’ project, Otterspool now features an attractive children’s play area and trim trail, with the dramatic coastal backdrop of views to the Clwydian Hills of north Wales.