by J.B

Up to the end of the 1940s Neston was still largely a rural community—many small farms and clusters of cottages in nearby hamlets.  As part of a national policy to provide affordable homes for rent, Neston Urban District Council had embarked on a programme of housebuilding, beginning with the Rose Gardens Estate (see Rose Gardens), started in 1948.

Neston and Parkgate Housing Association had already, before the War, built small groups of houses in Cottage Close (off Burton Road), at the bottom of Bendee Road near Neston South Station, and at Mayfield Gardens on Liverpool Road.

Mr W. H. Benbow (senior), a native of Abermule in mid-Wales who had settled in this area, had started, in 1936,  to build private houses on the top of the field opposite Mellock Lane in. Starting with Bendee Avenue, running from Lees Lane opposite the Water Tower across the top of the field to the railway line.  His development of semi-detached houses and bungalows eventually stretched right down the hill to join up with the four blocks of Housing Association homes each side of Bendee Road at its junction with Mellock Lane.

By 1949, more houses were needed for the influx of workers to Neston caused by the building of the new Morgan Refractories sited on Liverpool Road near the railway bridge. There were also families who had been bombed out of Liverpool or Birkenhead who were looking for accommodation, and so a large parcel of farmland between the Wrexham to Bidston Railway (the Top Line) and Mellock Lane was designated as building land and became the Mellock Lane Estate.

During the early part of the 20th century Neston building tradesmen were noted for their skills and good standard of workmanship; the 1930s housebuilding boom had seen many large houses appearing in the area, in Burton, Willaston, Little Neston and Parkgate, to provide homes for the many Liverpool businessmen who could now travel into work every day on the efficient train service through Hooton to Birkenhead Woodside where the ferry speedily took them over to their offices in town.

At the end of WW2 many such tradesmen had returned home seeking work, so local building firms were invited by the Council to tender for the construction of several blocks of six three-bedroomed houses, with some semi-detached blocks in between them. The first block, Raeburn Avenue, ran down at right angles from Mellock Lane, alongside the Hooton to Parkgate Railway line. The builder was Edwin Oxton (Ted) who had already built a couple of houses on fields off the Burton Road at West Vale. It was felt that if different builders were allocated separate blocks of houses to build, better workmanship would result because of the element of competition involved. Gradually all the other blocks were constructed, on a grid pattern around a central square. All the roads were given names of English painters: Raeburn, Landseer, Morland, Romney.  The first block was ready for occupation by summer 1949, and the first tenants included some of the key workers’ families who had moved up to Neston from London with Morgans Refractories. Building went on for the next two years at Mellock Lane.

Across the road from the new estate was the big field used by the Neston Nomads Football club. For some years an Annual Friendly match was held there on Boxing Day, and attracted a large audience of men and boys, whatever the weather, (probably glad to get away from the family Christmas for a few hours.)

In the 1950s a new clinic was built on this site, to house the midwives (Nurse Margaret Walker and Nurse Price) and district nurse, and provide facilities for the School Dentist and for a new mother and baby service, giving out free Orange juice and powdered milk until this was phased out, and running ante-natal and new mothers’ groups during the daytimes.

During the 1950s and 60s new building seemed to be taking place all over Neston – it was one large building site.

See also The Ringway and Life on the Mellock Lane Estate in the 1950s and 1960s.