Ever wondered who ‘Louie Horrocks’ was?

 Over the years I’ve had a sort of hit and miss association with a small park in South Shore.  50 years ago, it was a venue for a walk and play with my kids. A place for them to play on the grass and a welcome change from being fastened into their prams. The Myna Birds providing an added distraction. Some years later, it was where my son hung out with his friends, with his bike, no doubt terrorising the park users with wheelies, and launching off a roof of a building in the park – I never asked!

Later, it was a place to take my Grandkids, by then a nice little park with a play area to match the needs of their ages. More recently, passing by on my Covid compliant exercise, on my bike or walking by.

The park, ‘Louie Horrocks Park’, on Lytham Road, South Shore. It’s a charming oasis off the main road, close to a built-up, busy shopping area, Primary Care Centre and a main road to the Beach from Marton Moss.

IMG_20210217_110342241_HDRaUntil recently, the name of the park never registered, other than when my lad told us where he was going. So, what or who was ‘Louie Horrocks’?

An information board in the park tells us that the Park ‘… resulted from a £10.000 bequest by one-time Bolton mill owner Mr James Walsh Horrocks, who retired to Blackpool and bequeathed the money for the development of a memorial to his daughter Louie, who died of Tuberculosis, as a child.’ 

The board goes on  ‘…On July 11th 1951 Louie Horrocks Recreation Ground was opened by the then Mayor, Councillor Joseph Hill  … the memorial would enable others to enjoy some of the healthy outdoor recreations that Louie Horrocks had not been able to enjoy.’ An account of her funeral, records that ‘for many years she was an invalid’.

James Walsh Horrocks had a story to his name. He was born in December 1862 in Bolton, Lancashire, to Elizabeth Walsh and Henry Horrocks. Census entries show an illustrious career for James, from Apprentice in a ‘Heald & Reed Manufacturer’, through ‘Travelling’ for the same business, to finally owning a business in Bolton, ‘J.W. Horrocks Ltd’. (Healds and Reeds are components of textile mill weaving machinery.)

James married Ada Louise Shepherd on 2 October 1890, at Park Street Methodist Church in Bolton. James was living in Blackburn Road, Bolton.

‘Louie’ was born in July 1893 in Bolton and at the time of her Christening, she and her parents were living in Pilkington Street. There are newspaper reports of her talent as a ‘Soloist’, probably a singer and dancer. When she was 5 she was praised for a performance at the Unity School Christmas Fair and Fundraiser. Again, at 13, she’s delighting crowds, dancing in a Dutch costume at a Victoria Hospital Fundraising event at the Winter Gardens.

The 1911 Census entry shows he and his wife, Ada Louisa and ‘Louie’ are living in Shaw Road, South Shore. ‘Louie’ is actually Alice Louisa Horrocks (17).  By 1939 James and Ada have moved to Broadway, South Shore.

In 1933, Louie married George Paton, a Journalist in Aberdeen. The wedding was reported to be a grand affair with many guests. She divorced him just a few years later.

Louie died in Aberdeen 1940, age 46, of Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Cardiac Failure. Her death and funeral were reported widely. The funeral was held at St Cuthbert’s in Lytham.

Ada Louisa died 26 August 1943, James on 30 July 1945, according to Probate Records, they were still living in Broadway. As well as bequests for the park, there were others to establish nine beds at Victoria Hospital, donations to Bolton Infirmary, the church where he was married, and St Cuthbert’s, Lytham.

James’ benevolence was challenged a few years after his death. He had included a bequest to all his employees with 10 years continuous service with J.W. Horrocks Ltd. However, in 1948 seven of those employees were denied the payment because their service had been interrupted by their war service. The issue was widely reported.

IMG_20210222_114156320_HDRThe name of Louie lives on with the Park. The family share an impressive family grave on the western edge of the St Cuthbert’s Burial Ground, in Lytham. Her father’s extended family are commemorated in Tonge Cemetery in Bolton.

Mike Coyle
Feb 2021


Images property of the author.  Newspaper reports via ‘British Newspaper Archive’ in absence of access to local Press, during lockdown.

Louie’s performances:
Bolton Evening News, 31/10/1898 &
Fleetwood Gazette, 12/04/1907

Louie’s Marriage:
Aberdeen Press & Journal, 25/04/1933, p4

Louie’s death and funeral:
Aberdeeen Press & Journal, 24/05/1940, p3

James’ Will details:
Liverpool Echo, 19/12/1945, p4 &
Belfast Telegraph, 04/11/1946, p3

Denial of payment to seven workers:
Manchester Evening News, 01/11/1948, p4  &
Liverpool Echo, 01/11/1948, p4

Census, Births, Marriages & Deaths via publicly accessible records online: FamilySearch; FreeBMD; LancsOPC; Ancestry; FindMyPast; ScotlandsPeople; 1939 Register via Ancestry; Assistance from Olive Thexton, Fylde Branch, Lancs Family History & Heraldry Society