Labour MP Bill Esterson gets sneak peek of Maghull’s ‘secret garden'

Bill Esterson and Rhonda Latham

 

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson was this week given a sneak peek of Maghull's very own secret garden - and heard about plans to open it up to the public.

Bill was invited to view the grounds at the old Moss Side Hospital site, off Park Lane, by Ashworth Hospital head of facilities, Rhonda Latham.

The MP joined by HMP Kennet's Chris Barker and Andrew Brocklehurst, and Ashworth Hospital's site manager Chris Marshall and staff nurse and Ashworth Cricket Club chairman Richie Hooton on the tour.

What they found was what Bill called a "hidden oasis".

Hidden amongst the trees and overgrowth are the historic grounds of the former hospital, which includes a natural habitat with acres of woodland and even a fully stocked lake.

Park Lane resident, Rhonda, said the whole site had a wealth of wildlife and local history.

She said: "This is the historic site of the old Moss Side hospital. Although it has been derelict for years, some of the grounds of the old hospital remain.

"The history of the old Moss Side Hospital is largely forgotten now, but because of the hospital, Maghull became one of the places where shellshock treatment was pioneered.

"Shellshock victims from the First World War came here when it was called Maghull Military Hospital, run by Red Cross for treatment. It was here that shellshock was first recognised as a medical condition.

"In fact, it is believed that the great poet Wilfred Owen came here for treatment when he was suffering from shellshock.

"Patients would walk in the grounds of the hospital and sit around the lake as part of their convalescence.

"Before that, the Moss Side Hospital site was the original home of the famous Harrison family who were connected as Merchants to the White Star Line, which was the company that built the Titanic.

"So much history, all right here in the heart of Maghull which I am sure most people just aren't aware of."

Rhonda is now planning to not only unearth the full history of the site, but also open the area up to local residents.

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Ashworth Hospital head of facilities Rhonda Latham, HMP Kennet's Chris Barker and Andrew Brocklehurst, Ashworth Hospital's site manager Chris Marshall and staff nurse and Ashworth Cricket Club chairman Richie Hooton.She told Bill Esterson: "The plan is to set up a governance board, which will be made up of representatives of Mersey Care NHS Trust, HMP Kennet, the Ministry of Justice, Maghull Town Council and Sefton, to set about opening the site up to permit holders.

"We haven't worked out the finer details yet, but we hope to have this as a gated area with keys being issued to local families, community groups and organisations. We've already had applications from local anglers and angling clubs for permits.

"We also hope to invite local schools to come in here and see for themselves the wealth of wildlife that we have right here on our doorstep.

"Through this project, we hope to reclaim an area of outstanding natural beauty and interest for the local community, while celebrating Maghull's fantastic history."

Kennet's Chris Barker said the project would allow the prison to add to its ongoing contributions to Maghull.

Chris said: "Kennet Prison is already very active in the community, through supporting local community events and organisations, including Maghull in Bloom.

"We are very keen to be involved in this project because we want to give something back to the community of Maghull. We want to build on the work that we already want to do in the community.

"One of the reasons we are keen to support this particular project is because it provides a new facility and new opportunities for the area's young people."

Bill Esterson said he was delighted to give his backing to the project.

Bill said: "I live in Maghull. I have visited Ashworth Cricket Club on a number of occasions. Even though the club neighbours this site, I would never have known that this was here.

"It really is Maghull's secret garden. But hopefully, not for much longer. If Rhonda and the soon-to-be established governance board is successful in opening this up to the community, then this will be a real community facility.

"There are endless possibilities to promote Maghull's rich history, including the connections with the town pioneering treatment for shellshock, the Titanic links and also the possibility that Wilfred Owen was treated here.

"I am particularly excited by Rhonda's plans to encourage local schools to come in and do field studies and to see the wealth of wildlife right here in Maghull.

"This is Maghull's very own hidden oasis, and I for one hope other people in Maghull get the chance to see it for themselves."

There will be a display of old photographs to view on in the cricket pavilion.

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Ashworth Hospital head of facilities Rhonda Latham, HMP Kennet's Chris Barker and Andrew Brocklehurst, Ashworth Hospital's site manager Chris Marshall and staff nurse and Ashworth Cricket Club chairman Richie Hooton.