Formby Asparagus

Reg Yorke 28 March 2003

A joint application by the Society and the National Trust to fund an Interpretive Trail at Freshfield is being put together. This project highlights an important aspect of the life of this community in the past; the exploitation and cultivation, by certain local families, of the barren and exposed dune landscape not previously cultivatable. It also illustrates the way that the need for sewage disposal in mid 19th century Liverpool was used in a manner beneficial to the adjacent rural community at a time before the development of the later methods of sewage disposal to the sea. Formby Asparagus became for a period national renowned and won prestigious trophies at such centres of excellence as the Vale of Evesham. Atlantic liners leaving Liverpool offered this regional delicacy to their passengers, during its 6 week season. There is a strong association between the NT Property and some of the well-known ‘asparagus families’, notably the Lowes, Aindows, Jennings and Brooks and the Trust have recorded some very interesting audio-tapes with members of these families describing their methods and traditions. Sadly, one of the senior member of the Brooks family, Mr John Brooks died only a few months ago

The Asparagus Trail will help ensure preservation of the surviving cultivation ridges and fields (known as ‘pieces’), not at present recognised as field-monuments. This project will also highlight the historic contribution of Thomas Fresh, who was central to the supply of ‘night-soil’ from Liverpool. Fresh was one of the three original pioneers of Sanitary reform in Liverpool following the Sanitary reform Act of 1849. The others, Dr. Duncan the first MOH and first City Engineer, James Newlands are better remembered but Thomas Fresh was the man, who promoting the establishment of Formby’s second railway station, gave his name to the new ‘Freshfield’ and as its ‘founder’ deserves to be commemorated here! 

The Trust is willing to maintain access routes and associated on-site interpretation and is also working to re-introduce an ‘Asparagus Enterprise’ as a demonstration project. This would be managed by a tenant. Visitors to the Victoria Road Property, currently number about 320,000 per year. Some asparagus still grows ‘wild’ on the sand-dunes and we have been successful in germinating seeds collected from these. A member of the Society and her friends are now growing these on their allotments. Would you like to join our “Asparagus Club”?

Update – the trail may be viewed on the National Trust’s website please click here (open in a new tab)