Historical Background to Ivy Cottage

Taken from the Archaeological Survey done on the cottage in the '90's


A settlement at Saughall Massie probably existed as early as 1207, when four bovates of land were confirmed by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, to William, son of Gerard, described than as "Sahum in Wirhallia" (Woods & Brown 1960 - The Rise and Progress of Wallasey). However, the earliest evidence for a building on the Ivy Cottage site can be seen on the survey of the Manor of Bidston made by Lord Kingston in 1665. A dwelling house is shown adjacent to the village green, of several bays' length, with two chimney stacks and a wing to the north-west. A doorway appears to be at the west end of the south elevation.This dwelling, and 53 acres, were held by Edward Wainewright, who was Lord Kingston's tenant of "the house stead, barne, garden, orchard & croft". The names of "Arthur Godwin, John Godwin" were added later.

Arthur Godwin of Saughall Massie, Yeoman, made his will on 18 April, 1697 and was buried at Bidston on 22 April. He left half an interest in his messuage to his wife Ellen, while his tenement was left to his eldest son, John, when he attained 21 years of age. John was in possession in 1719. The datestone, dated 1690, in the west gable of Ivy Cottage is no doubt related to Arthur and Ellen Godwin.

Moving further on in the Survey, the Godwins and their descendants are recorded until 1811 when John and his brother Henry Godwin were still tenants (although Saughall was called Sougan in the 1799 will of John Godwin). However, by 1826 William Wilkinson had become tenant of the property and by 1832, the tenancy was held by Ellin Wilkinson, the Vyner family being the estate owners.

The building itself consisted of an E-W two-bay stone built core with a brick built wing at right angles. The core was sandstone with a single, "poorly constructed" cruck-frame dividing the building unequally. The larger bay to the E being the housebody, containing an inglenook fireplace, while the smaller bay to the W represented the service end. Within the thatched roof were two large rooms, divided by the cruck-frame, with no communication between them.

Summary of the Survey


"Ivy Cottage is a building of character and is quite unlike any other in the locality and possibly in the Wirral and beyond. It is the second earliest domestic building surviving in Saughall Massie but the least altered from the seventeenth century.

The earliest reference to the cottage is in 1663 when it was assessed for Hearth Tax for one hearth. It was then tenanted by Edward Wendright (Wainwright hereafter) who was listed as a tenant in the 1665 Survey of the Manor of Bidston for the Lord of the Manor, Lord Kingston, who had purchased the manor in 1662. Later names added to the Survey include Arthur and John Godwin. In 1680 the Manor was bought by Sir Robert Vyner and a London Banker and is still held by that family.

Sometime before 1690 Arthur Godwin became tenant. He had married as his second wife Ellen Harrison on the 26 July 1672 at St Oswalds Church, Bidston. It is their initials that appear on the west gable of Ivy Cottage and also on the inglenook bressumer. Arthur Godwin lived in an era of agricultural prosperity. The Wirral was never as prosperous as the Cheshire Plain owing to the relatively poor soil, but through improved farming practices it began to support pastoral farming, the rearing of cattle and dairy produce, especially cheese. The close proximity to the Irish Sea and the Mersey helped the local economy providing the means of export by sea and river and a growing market for their produce in Liverpool. It was during this period, which lasted to the 1690's, that Arthur Godwin rebuilt his house around the earlier cruck truss and timber framed building. To build in stone can be expensive especially if it has to be brought some distance overland. This may partly explain the unusually thin walls built of parpoints with the cruck trusses remaining in situ to assist in maintaining the buildings stability in the western bay and part of the housebody. The new inglenook no doubt replaced a former cruck truss.

Locally other farms were being improved and built taking advantage of a more stable economic market. In the immediate area of Ivy Cottage is "The Elms", dated 1672, a building now heavily rendered which almost obscures the decorative dentiled string course at first floor level and in the apex of the gable. This appears to be made by projecting brick headers but it cannot be certain until some of the external rendering is removed. Other houses are later and clearly of brick with some stone dressings. Poplar Farm is dated 1714 and was built by John and Jane Peacock. To the east is another .......

Arthur Godwin died in 1607 leaving his son John to inherit when he reached the age of 21 and he was in possession in 1719 as lessee under the Vyner Estate. A John Godwin "the younger" was granted a lease in 1774 which mentions "homestead", Barn", etc. It is very likely that it is this John Godwin who improved Ivy Cottage by reinforcing the West gable and inserting the brick fireplace etc.

Between 1811 and 1826 the lease was held by William Wilkinson and in the Tithe Award Schedule (1838) the tenant was Eleanor Wilkinson (William's widow?) holding "a house, buildings, garden watering place (well?). No mention of a barn so the conversion to a one unit up-and-down cottage may have happened at this time. Since then small brick bay was added to the east end of the cottage, c1870, suggesting that the "buildings" - the possible laithehouse, had been demolished. Since then no other changes have been made.

It is not often that the architectural history of a small cottage can be related in some detail to ownership/tenancy by named individuals and it is this that gives Ivy Cottage such a distinctive position in the architectural heritage of the Wirral.