The name Wavertree, derives from the Old English words wæfre and treow, meaning “wavering tree”, possibly in reference to aspen trees common locally. It has also been variously described as “a clearing in a wood” or “the place by the common pond”. In the past, the name has been spelt Watry, Wartre, Waurtree, Wavertre and Wavertree. The earliest settlement of Wavertree is attested to by the discovery of Bronze Age burial urns in Victoria Park in the mid-1860s, while digging the footings for houses, two of which were built for Patrick O Connor, patentee, ironmonger, merchant and chair to the Wavertree Local Board of Health.
Wavertree also boasts a village lock-up, commonly known as The Roundhouse, despite being octagonal in shape. Built in 1796, and later modified by prominent local resident and architect Sir James Picton, it was once used to detain local drunks. The lock-up was made a listed building in 1952. A similar structure, Everton Lock-Up sometimes called Prince Rupert’s Tower, survives in Everton. The village green, on which Wavertree’s lock-up was built, is officially the only surviving piece of common land in Liverpool.
In 1895, the village of Wavertree was incorporated into the city of Liverpool. Buildings of interest include Holy Trinity Church, Liverpool Reform Synagogue, the Blue Coat School, and the Royal School for the Blind, all of which are situated on the same road. Wavertree Town Hall was built in 1872 as the headquarters of the Wavertree Local Board of Health. Rescued from demolition in 1979, the town hall is now a restaurant.
Wavertree is one of the areas in south Liverpool populated by students of Liverpool’s three universities, especially the Smithdown Road area. Wavertree is also home to the annual Smithdown Road Festival, with local bars and cafes hosting almost 200 bands every year. The community is ethnically diverse, with significant South Asian and black populations.
Wavertree ‘Mystery Playground’
Wavertree Playground, known locally as The Mystery, was one of the first purpose-built public playgrounds in the UK. Opened in 1895, it is based on land donated to Liverpool Corporation by an anonymous donor (hence its nickname) to be a venue for organised sports, and a place for children from the city’s schools to run about in, not a park for “promenading” in the Victorian tradition. The donor expressed the hope that the City Council “might approve of giving it a fair trial for this purpose … before appropriating it for any other use”.
The land is currently home to Wavertree Athletics Centre, which boasts many sports facilities including tennis courts, an all-weather pitch, a bowling green, and an athletic track with grandstand. It also houses Liverpool Aquatics Centre, with two swimming pools, a sports hall, and a lifestyles fitness centre. The athletics centre has produced Olympic athletes such as Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who trains with the Liverpool Harriers team that has made its headquarters at the centre since 1990.
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