The Black Boy and Mortar – Opposite Liverpool’s Town Hall

Our previous post dealt with two discoveries of forgotten place-names and shop signs that further linked Liverpool to the slave trade. Here is another we have recently discovered, this time a chemist shop in 1760 called the Black Boy and Mortar. This was located in High Street, opposite the town hall.

Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser & Mercantile Chronicle, August 8th 1760. Liverpool Record Office

The Black Boy and Mortar

Like the Bite of Benin and the Black Moor’s Head, to our knowledge, the advertisement above has never been published or researched before. It was for a ‘Druggist and Colourman’ named Robert Chesshyre. It was placed in Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser & Mercantile Chronicle on August 8th 1760.

The illustration shows a Black boy dressed only in a loincloth, because of this we can be certain it depicts an enslaved African boy. He is mixing a compound with a mortar and pestle. Shops in this period had ornate signs outside their premises so it highly likely this is a reproduction of the actual sign that hung above the door.

The advertisement says the shop was on ‘High-street, opposite the Exchange’ (Town Hall). This street was once much longer but a small section of High Street still exists opposite the east side of the Town Hall.

Druggist and Colourman
Robert Chesshyre (usually spelt with one s, but also Cheshire) was an Apothecary (from the Greek apothḗkē; a repository, storehouse). This was an early form of chemist where the proprietor prepared the ‘freshest and choicest druggs’ on site and made ‘Chymical & Galenical Medicines’. The latter refers to ‘a medicine prepared by extracting one or more active constituents of a plant’.

1775 engraving by Bartholomew Hubner of a drawing by Gottfried Locher, entitled ‘La Pharmacie Rustique’, showing the famous medical practitioner Michel Schuppach, examining urine in his 18th-century pharmacy in Basel, Switzerland, while his noble clientele observe.
Image: Credit

Cheshyre is also listed as a ‘Colour Man’, this involved mixing paints and dyes for use in the textile trade and for artists and house decorators. Oil of turpentine, Rosin and the pigment Lamp-black are advertised. Spices, fine teas, Turkey Coffee, chocolate and snuff were also available.

This image below of a German apothecary shop in 1716 shows an almost identical figure of a young boy mixing a concoction with a mortar and pestle. The striking difference is of course that this child is white (and clothed) and therefore likely to have been a son or an indentured apprentice.

Apothecary shop, late 17th century.
Wolfgang Helmhard Hohberg’s Georgica Curiosa Aucta (1697) Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Other establishments by that name
There were at least four other establishments by that name in other locations. The closest, and in the same period, was at Upper Bridge Street in Chester, this was owned by Philip Egerton.

The Black Boy and Mortar, Upper Bridge Street, Chester. Chester Courant – Tuesday 1st July 1755. British Newspaper Archive.

An earlier example was in 1718-1719 in Cornhill, Boston, Massachusetts. This was owned by Scotland-born George Stuart (c. 1688-1741).

19th century establishments by that name were in Richmond, Virginia in the 1830s. The one below was ran by Musco L. Day. Another in 1847 on Main Street ran by Dove & Isaacs.

Richmond Whig and Commercial Journal, Volume 7, Number 139, 15 June 1832

Robert Cheshyre

The street directories for Liverpool only began in 1766 (six years after the advertisement was placed) so they offer no information to Cheshyre’s life prior, or at the time, of the advertisement. But we can glean more early information from the church records. Cheshyre is already listed as an Apothecary when he married Mary Hayes at St. George’s church in 1749. This stood on the site of the Victoria monument.

Image: Find my past

By 1755 Robert and Mary had moved to Fenwick Street where their son Robert was born. In 1756 they had moved to Cable Street when their daughter Elizabeth was born. Three years later in January 1759 twin sons John and Edmund were born.

Shortly after the birth of the twins, Robert had moved to High Street as shown in the advertisement and as can be seen his shop was located opposite the Exchange (Town Hall).

We now reach the period covered by the street directories. In 1766 and 1767 Cheshyre is still at High street and is listed as druggist and apothecary. Between 1767 and 1769 he had moved his business to Dale Street. Robert Cheshyre died in June 1771 and was buried at St Nicholas’ church on the 17th June. There is a possibility he may have committed suicide because he was made bankrupt just three weeks before before his death.

London Gazette.
Burial of Robert Cheshyre, 17th June 1771. Find my past

After his death his wife Mary took over, later Samuel Cheshyre joined her (probably a son but his birth record has not been found yet). By 1781 Samuel had taken over the business and was there until 1803, he retired before 1810.

Owner of Slave ships and Ship’s Surgeon on Privateers
Robert Cheshyre’s name appears as co-owner of the slave ship Mary* in 1754, alongside Robert Lawson (also the Captain) and Timothy Farrer. The Mary trafficked 123 enslaved African people from the Windward Coast to Kingston. 18 people died during the Middle Passage.
* Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Voyage ID: 90498

Surgeon on man-of-war ships
Cheshyre is also listed as Ship’s Surgeon on at least two Privateer ships; the Grand Buck in 1756 and the Beaver in 1759.

All gentlemen seamen, and able-bodied landmen that are willing” to fight the French and make their fortunes, may meet with suitable encouragement by entering on board the The Grand Buck Privateer, Captain John Coppell, Commander. A ship of 300 tons burthen, frigate built, 6 feet between decks fore and aft, mounting 20 carriage guns, twelve, nine and six-pounders, 20 swivels, and 200 men. N.B. The ship will be ready for sea in a fortnight, and now lies in the South Dock.
Apply to the Captain ; or to Messrs. Robert Clay & Compy., Merchants.

Newspaper advertisement, 5th November 1756. History of the Liverpool privateers and letters of marque with an account of the Liverpool slave trade. Gomer Williams, 1899.
Arm amputation from “A General System of Surgery” by Lorenz Heister, 1743. Image: Credit

High Street at the time of the Black Boy and Mortar

High Street today, although small, is actually much wider than it was when the Black Boy and Mortar existed. Also, in 1760 the street ran all the way from Castle Street to Tithebarn Street. In Cheshyre’s time, little had changed in the area for hundreds of years and most of the buildings were old and need of repair. It was cramped, dark and a foul smell emitted from with butchers’ market stalls known as the Shambles.

Plaque on High Street. Image: credit

The town hall (Exchange) we see today had only been open for 6 years when Cheshire placed his advertisement. It was not isolated as it is now, it actually had buildings adjoining it at the back and on the west side. In 1760 the parts of the Exchange shown green below did not exist, instead a group of old, untidy buildings clung to it. These improvements would be made in 1785 by James Wyatt.

The changes to the building have been coloured green on this old view from High Street.
The size of the original Exchange remains uncoloured.

Right behind the Exchange was the Shambles which would later become Exchange Flags where merchants would meet to do business. In Cheshyre’s time the merchants still assembled in street on the site of a previous Exchange in Castle Street (listed as Corn Market below). Note the funnel shape of Castle Street before it was widened as part of the Improvement Act of 1786 (See also Buildings demolished on High Street as part of town improvements).

George Perry’s plan of 1769. Map: British Library

Richard Robinson – Auction of three enslaved people on High Street

The exact same description for Cheshyre’s shop, ‘High-street, opposite the Exchange’, was also given to the office of a broker named Richard Robinson in this advertisement below.

Liverpool Chronicle 1767 – Thursday 25 February 1768. British Newspaper Archive.

On November of that same year, the following auction of two enslaved boys and one man was printed. The auction actually took place in High Street.

Liverpool General Advertiser, or the Commercial Register, 27 November 1767
To be Sold by Auction,
At Richard Robinson’s Office in High-street, near the Exchange, on Tuesday the 1st
of December next, at One o’Clock precisely,
One Negro Man, and Two Boys.
They will be brought up to the Place of Sale to be view’d.
For further particulars enquire of Richard Robinson, Broker.

Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser and Mercantile Chronicle, Friday, Nov 27, 1767. Liverpool Record Office microfilm

Robinson may have only leased a room at High Street to conduct his business.
In Gore’s street directory of 1766 Robinson was at Hackin’s Hey, he was also listed there in Gore’s directory of 1767 when the auction took place. The 1769 and 1772 directories also show him at Hackin’s Hey. By 1774 he had moved to Clayton’s Square and died that year.

The inclusion of ‘opposite’ for both Cheshyre and Robinson narrows the location down considerably as there were only three properties that fitted that description.

Location of the Black Boy and Mortar

To begin our search it is necessary to travel back a further two centuries before 1760. This is because we discovered this was not the first town hall associated with the building Cheshyre leased. The property was actually very old and the area has been the location for Liverpool’s town halls for over 500 years!

High Street began as Juggler Street named after the Jongleurs (itinerant minstrels) that used to perform there. This was one of the first seven streets of Liverpool that were laid out after King John granted the town its charter on 1207. The street linked two market crosses. At one end the White Cross marked the junction of what would become Old Hall Street, Chapel Street and Tithebarn Street. At the other end was the High Cross at the crossroad of Water Street, Dale Street, Castle Street and of course High Street.

The first Town Hall on High Street

Liverpool’s first town hall was not on the site it is today but on the other side of High Street – Cheshyre’s side of the street.

The first town hall – High Street before 1512
A town hall was located on Juggler/High Street near the corner of Dale Street before 1512. Even in the early 16th century this was already a very old building. It had originally been a Chantry house or religious hospice connected to Liverpool’s first chapel Saint Mary del Key (before 1257). The building on High Street was known as ‘Our Lady House’. It had two storeys, the ground floor was a open arcade of pillars, listed as a cellar in the original documents. Above were rooms that were reached by an external staircase.

The Corporation began to rent the premises from the church in the early 16th century, the rooms above the arcade were used as the town’s Common Hall. By 1548 the arcade was put to use as the town’s ‘Common Warehouse’ and soon after, the town’s first custom house. In this same year Liverpool was visited by the clerks of the recently deceased Henry VIII. All chantry lands in Britain were passed to the Crown under the Abolition of Chantries Acts of 1545 and 1547. After the Reformation the house became known as the secular ‘Lady Hall’ and even ‘Lady Mercer Hall’ (Mercer – dealer in textile fabrics and fine cloth).

This building appears on a plan called Leland’s Historical Map of Lerpole. This was said to have been in Leland’s possession in 1529. The towns defenses during the Civil War were added in 1644. This was then copied by J. Butler in 1862. If authentic, the plan gives us a rough idea what this building looked like – and its position. The two crosses can also be seen, located at either end of the street. (See Miscellaneous notes for a reconstruction of this building)

Section from Leland’s Historical Map of Lerpole.
Full plan can be seen on Martin Greaney’s Historic Liverpool website.

John Elton, in a 1902 paper for the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, suggests that another almost identical property was built on pillars on the same spot and this became the town’s second town hall. It is possible therefor that the second town hall was actually the same building, presumably modified. Because of this we cannot be certain if its replacement in 1673 was the second town hall, or the third.

The second (possibly third) town hall, 1673
By the 1570s the town’s mercantile needs had overgrown the premises in Juggler Street. This small building (or small site at least) was already centuries old at that point. As the town’s trade increased so did the need for a larger storeroom. In 1572 the chapel of Mary del Key was demoted to a mere warehouse and a few years later a new custom house had been erected near to the shore at the foot of Water Street;’ye greate barn near ye Tower.” You can read about Liverpool’s custom houses here.

In 1673 Richard Blome visited Liverpool and witnessed a new town hall being erected in the middle of Castle Street, at the junction of High Street, Water Street and Dale Street:-

Here is now erecting at the publick charge of the mayor, aldermen &c. a famous town-house, placed on pillars and arches of hewen stone; and underneath is the publick exchange for merchants.

Richard Blome’s description of the 1673 town hall being erected. Via The Stranger in Liverpool, 1823

Like many British towns, Liverpool built this town hall on the site of the market cross, in Liverpool’s case it was the High Cross. This Exchange was located where ‘Corn Market’ is shown below and we have added the footprint of it in green. (See also the diagram in the Opposite the Exchange section).

George Perry’s plan of 1769. The footprint of the 1673 – 1754 Exchange has been added in green. The site of the High Cross is shown with a crossed box. ©Bygone Liverpool. Map: British Library
Watercolour based on W.G. Herdman’s view of the old Exchange (erected circa 1673 and fortified with a guard house in 1679). This was in the middle of Castle street on the site of the White Cross. Additional notes by Liverpool Fragments,

Liverpool’s third (possibly fourth) Town Hall
Although altered and extended, this is the town hall we see today. The foundation stone was laid by mayor Joseph Clegg on 14th September 1749. John Wood (the Elder) of Bath was commissioned as the architect. His son John Wood (the younger) would complete the work. The building was opened in 1754. The original building, first known as the Exchange, was smaller and featured a wooden dome as can be seen below. This also lacked the portico that can be seen on the building today.

An engraving of the Exchange as it appeared when first opened in 1754. Drawn by Peter Perez Burdett and engraved vy Edward Rooker. Image: Liverpool Record Office.

As previously mentioned, the building was extended to the rear in 1785 by James Wyatt. Wyatt also separated the building from the adjoining properties on its south and west side. The portico on the front was also added at this time.

The diagram below shows the area around the Exchange in the period from circa 1754 to 1793. As can be seen, there are only three properties (shown blue) that could be described as being ‘Opposite the Exchange’ (shown red). One of these would have been the Black Boy and Mortar and Richard Robinson’s office (possibly separate but also could have been in the same building).

Cheshyre wasn’t the only Druggist on the High Street, Thomas Houlston was there from the 1740s to the 1770s (before, and after Cheshyre) so we know it was not the same premises under different management. The location of Houlston’s shop is known and it shown yellow below. Having two identical shops next to each other seems very unlikely. Also, the premises on the corner was a public house, this means the likeliest location for Cheshyre’s shop is the middle property shown darker blue. This building also best fits the description of being ‘opposite the Exchange’ – being directly opposite the central side door.

This building is the same as the one discussed earlier – the site of Liverpool’s town hall and custom house from the early 16th century until 1673.

Diagram based on a rare plan made in 1822 after the streets were widened. ©Bygone Liverpool

Confirmation that Cheshyre’s shop was on the site of the 16th century Town Hall

A rare plan held by the Liverpool Record Office was drawn in 1823 by Liverpool antiquarian Matthew Gregson (born in Liverpool in 1749). Gregson drew this just one year before he died. This is one of a few preliminary sketches he prepared to show how Liverpool looked in 1565. Onto this he added improvements up to the year 1823.

On the site of the 16th century town hall Gregson added this note:

Town Hall & Custom House
after abt 1768 Mr. Cheshire’s shop

Gregson would have been 20 years old when Cheshyre left High Street to move to Dale Street, and he lived and worked nearby. Because of this we can be certain that Gregson was correct.

Section of a plan named ‘Mappe of part of the Township of LEVERPOOLE In the parish of Walton on the Hill. From the best AUTHORITIES. Anno 1565. With the sites of improvements to 1823. Image: Liverpool Record Office

Demolished as part of town improvements

Instructions to widen the main streets such as High Street, Dale Street, Water Street and Castle Street came in 1787, but work was slow. This view below of High Street (with the original smaller exchange of the left) dates from 1793 and shows that the buildings immediately opposite the Exchange have been demolished and replaced with newer structures that are set much further back. Given the known location of Cheshyre’s shop we can be certain this was demolished at this point.

The buildings beyond remain unaltered by this point, but demonstrate how much wider the street became.

High Street in 1793. Liverpool Record Office
The same view today from Google Streetview,

A comparison between the plans of Perry in 1769 and Horwood in 1803, demonstrates how much the area around the Exchange had changed. Castle Street is wider and so is part of Dale Street. The Exchange is now isolated in its own space and has the Exchange Buildings at the rear, with the square in-between forming Exchange Flags. High Street no longer extends all the way to Tithebarn Street and is much wider. This represents the birth of the modern street plan of Liverpool.

Section of Horwood’s plan of Liverpool of 1803. British Library.

Shown below is a section of a drawing that shows the work to widen Castle Street that began in 1786. It appears that the works had not reached as far High Street at this time because the buildings still survive. Cheshyre’s shop has been indicated with an arrow.

Widening of Castle Street, after 1786. Drawing attributed to George Perry (incorrectly as he had died at least 15 years previously). Image: Liverpool Record Office

Modern location

Google Streetview

Cheshyre’s shop was directly opposite to the side entrance to the Town Hall. The Black Boy and Mortar may have been demolished over 230 years ago, but the Town Hall still features depictions of Africans on its decorative frieze that date from the same period.

Google Streetview
One of the stone figures on the Town Hall depicting the wealth from Africa. Image: septisphere.wordpress.com

Dale Street location

The authors first wondered if the later Dale Street address for Cheshyre could have been the same as that on High Street, this is because the latter actually has a corner on Dale Street. This is not the case because from 1774 the Dale Street address was number 162 – this was close to High Street but on the other side of the Dale Street. Street numbers in this period started on the north side of Dale street and ran consecutively all the way down to the bottom of the street and then back up on the south side. Number 162 was one of the very last numbers.

In 1774, number 159 was the Angel Inn and number 168 was one of Liverpool’s most famous establishments, the Golden Lion. Using this information and cross checking against other maps and archives we can locate Cheshyre’s second shop:-

The location of Cheshyre’s shop on Dale Street on an illustration made in 1804 based on an earlier view by George Perry.
©Bygone Liverpool.
Background image: 1804- General View from the Town Hall, showing the Golden Lion Inn, etc; from a watercolour by W Herdman (unsigned), after a drawing by G Perry. Liverpool Record Office.
A close up of the image above. The Black Boy and Mortars was the smallest of the two grey buildings in the middle.
On the right of the image is the Golden Lion.


Further reading:

The Chapel of St. Mary del Key, Liverpool, John Elton, 1902. Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Runaway Slaves in Britain. Data base of auctions of enslaved people and advertisements for the recapture of runaways. (search for Liverpool in both)

St, Nicholas church, Liverpool, Its Architectural History, Peet, 1913, HSLC

You are free to share the information but please credit the site and supply a link to the original post.

Copyright notice:
Copyright of original archive images belongs to those named below the images. All original research, photographs taken by ourselves, illustrations, artists impressions, and archive images and maps that have notes added are all ©Bygone Liverpool. Permission to share is only granted if the site is credited and a link provided.

Miscellaneous notes:

If you found this research interesting, you can find additional information about some of the subjects covered below:

A sign of the times – could Cheshyre have had an enslaved person at his shop?

It is possible that this was no mere sign. Although there is no evidence to prove it, it could be that Cheshyre had an enslaved boy living and working at his premises on High Street.

Just one example of an enslaved person working in a Liverpool shop comes from 1765, when a woolen draper in Castle Street named Thomas Gorstidge, had decided to give up the trade and sell off his stock – this included an enslaved man.

Alongside his stock he also had on sale a ship called the Sally and Betty. Gorstidge had been part-owner of the slave ship Boscawen in 1761 that trafficked 193 souls from Calabar to Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe and Montserrat. 28 people died during the Middle Passage.

Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser and Mercantile Register, 11 January 1765.
This is to acquaint the Publick,
THAT Thomas Gorstidge, Woollen-Draper, in Castle-Street,
having engaged himself in a different Branch of Business, is
declining the Woollen Branch.
Is now Selling off all his STOCK in TRADE,
Consisting of
Woollen Drapery and Mercery Goods, at Prime Cost. The sale to continue
till all are sold: Who has to dispose of, the SALLY and BETTY
Brig, burthen about 80 Tons.
Likewise a Quantity of FUSTICK and a BLACK NEGRO MAN.

Runaway slaves in Britain

Dale Street in the process of being widened

The 1804 view of Dale Street shows it in the process of being widened, a semi-demolished white building can be seen halfway down on the left. This marks the extent of the improvements to the road. A comparison with Horwood’s plan (below) just one year earlier in 1803 show the very same building opposite John Street. This is a perfect demonstration of how much the street was widened in the late 18th and early 18th centuries. The improvements to High Street and Exchange Street West (not named) are also evident around the Exchange, now called the Town Hall.

image: 1804- General View from the Town Hall, showing the Golden Lion Inn, etc; from a watercolour by W Herdman (unsigned), after a drawing by G Perry. Liverpool Record Office.
Part of Horwood’s plan of 1803. British Library.

Reconstruction of the first Town Hall

The building shown on Leland’s plan has a bell tower on top of a gable roof. The windows are on the first floor and it has a central doorway. It is possible the the entrance was on the first floor with steps leading to it. The drawing is too small and crude to make out the arcade but this may be represented by the darker tones at each side. Alternatively, the arcade may have been at the sides.

Section from Leland’s Historical Map of Lerpole.
Full plan can be seen on Martin Greaney’s Historic Liverpool website.

A very similar building (albeit much larger) survives in Gloucestershire. Tetbury Market House, built circa 1655, features a bell tower, central doorway and most importantly the arcade below. It is fascinating to think a building like this once stood on High Street!

©Bygone Liverpool
©Bygone Liverpool
©Bygone Liverpool

Based on Leland’s plan we can re-imagine what the Liverpool building looked like. We have combined the front and side elevations of Tetbury Market House to have the bell tower visible, the clock has been removed and so have the two doors on the ground floor:-

A reconstruction of Liverpool’s first town hall using contemporary descriptions and Tetbury Market House as a basis. ©Bygone Liverpool

Saint Mary del Key

Existing before 1257, Mary del Key predated St. Nicholas’ church by over a century and it was this earlier church that that gave its name to Chapel Street. Saint Mary del Key was so called because it was situated next to the Mersey, close to the towns first quay, hence the archaic spelling of the name. The later parish church of St. Nicholas would be erected next to it (circa 1361). Named after the Virgin Mary, the connection to this 13th century chapel lives on under the full title of the parish church Our Lady and Saint Nicholas.

Even after the new church was built, Mary del Key still remained the High Altar of the parish for two centuries. Besides St. Nicholas, the other altars were of St. John and St. Katherine.

Mary del Key eventually became a school but by 1721 there were plans to demolish it. This did not happen, instead the Corporation converted into a dwelling house. By 1766 it had become the Ince Boat House ran by Thomas Gammon. In 1783 a victualler named John Hinde leased it and it became Hinde’s Tavern. This appears on the drawing below, between the church and the sails of the ship. It was demolished in 1814 to make way for a new tower of St. Nicholas. This was after the tower had collapsed in 1810 and resulted in the deaths of 25 people assembling for morning prayer. 17 of the victims were children from the Moorfields Charity School.

Church of St.Nicholas in 1797″ (the port, Liverpool) tinted stone lithograph by W.G.Herdman, published in Pictorial Relics of Ancient Liverpool, 1843.
AncestryImages.com

A section of sandstone wall survives on Chapel Street in the right location. This may date back to Mary del Key, note the difference in colour and age to the rest of the wall. A plaque marks the approximate location.

©Bygone Liverpool
©Bygone Liverpool

Also of interest on those photographs above is the different style of railings on top of the boundary walls. The railings on on the right are late 19th century. But those on top of the older wall are much older – likely 18th century. These older railings with the circular top can still be found on all sides of the churchyard apart from the front. This is because the ground in front of St. Nicholas’ church (the Old Churchyard) was once considerably larger, this was shortened as part of a Town Improvement Act of 1882. The bodies were were removed to Everton Cemetery in Fazakerley. You can read more about this, including the discovery of a grave belonging to a slave-ship captain here.

Section of a lithograph by Lithograph by J. A. Isaacs, 1845. This is the entrance that now leads to Ma Boyle’s in Tower Gardens.
A section still survives.

The white statue of the Virgin Mary at Saint Mary del Key

In 1515 Rector John Crosse of London (a heir of the Liverpool Crosse family) left property on High Street in his will for the benefit of “the priest who sings before Our Lady of the Chapel of the Key”.

Item. – I will y’ the maior and his brethren w’ the burgesses of ye towne of Lyv’pull shall have ye new [so] called Our Ladye Howse to keep their Courts : and ye seller under to
helpe ye preste y’ synges afore Our Lady of ye Chappelle of yc Key.
And he shall pray for ye soules of John Crosse, Avice Crosse, John Crosse and Hugh Botill, and all theire frendes
soules. Ye saide pr’st shall giff yerelye vs to ye prest y’ synges afore Saint Katerine: and all ye avauntage over shall be to ye use of the preste y’ synges afore our Lady of ye Key.

The Chapel of St. Mary del Key, Liverpool. John Elton, 1920. Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

‘Our Lady of the Chapel’ was actually a white statue of the Virgin Mary, made of alabaster. It is mentioned in a HSLC paper as probably being made in Nottingham:

The image of Our Lady is called “white,” having been made of English alabaster of that colour from Nottingham, which specialised in images of the Blessed Virgin.

A legacy to S. Mary del Key, 1509, Beazley, 1930, HSLC

It is mentioned in a will dating from 1515:

my coler of Esses to the use of thymage (the image) of our Lady in the chappel of or Lady Key in Lyrepole co. Lancr.

Will of Thomas Barrowe, 29 August 1509 (i Henry VIII).

How the statue may have looked
The statue of Our Lady of Westminster in the Lady Chapel in Westminster Cathedral was likely to have been made in Nottingham circa 1450. This was found and purchased in Paris in 1954. This gives us some idea of what the Mary del Key statue may have looked like because the Nottingham artisans produced several to the same model:-

the statue was a standard model repeated several times by the workshop and probably produced for stock rather than upon receipt of a particular commission

Our Lady of Westminster, Wikipedia

An earlier example, circa 1350-75, is held at the British Museum.

It’s likely the Liverpool statue was either destroyed, defaced or hidden during the Reformation. In 1863 almost identical statue to the Our Lady of Westminster was found buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Broughton-in Craven. The head had been removed.

Our Lady of Westminster, Westminster Cathedral. Image: Saracen via Wikipedia

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