EVER heard of Cat's Tail Hall, the Blind Ass pub or an area of open land known as Last Shift?

These and a host of other intriguing names tumble out from a large, century-old map kindly forwarded for my inspection by Les Bromilow, talented local angler, darts chucker and plasterer. This 1894 'first edition' takes in Les's own Moss Bank locality as well as Haresfinch, Laffak, Blackbrook and the tip of Billinge.

What becomes immediately apparent was that much of the area was once either farmland or thickly wooded tracts. The original Clinkham Wood is shown as a sprawling tree-packed area with Cat's Tail Hall clearly marked just within its boundaries. The story goes that a bounty was placed on the big population of feral cats that threatened to swamp the woods, creating havoc among game birds raised for shooting parties.

Cat hunters were required to bring back tails as evidence of their kills, for which they gained cash reward. These grisly 'trophies' were hung up close to the site of the hall, thus giving rise to the dwelling's curious name.

It might come as a surprise to local elbow-benders that there were once three pubs along Moss Bank Road (originally Pike's Brow). For in addition to the Railway Hotel - unimaginatively re-titled the Moss Bank in recent times - and the Black Horse, there was another pub located midway between the pair. Its name was Gerards Arms.

That particular stretch of road also boasted a Manor House, and a railway station serving the now non-existent St Helens-to-Southport line. Haresfinch House, where the public park now lies, is shown during its early splendour, complete with lodge gates, and at the top of Back Lane, later to become Woodlands Road, was the rather unromantically named Blind Ass pub.

A deer park existed at the edge of Carr Mill Dam, heading towards Garswood, while Caleb's Gate is shown as punctuating the countryside stretch of Carr Mill Road, leading to Billinge. Laffak was virtually unpopulated way back then, with the Glass House Close Wood dominating its rural scene; Blackbrook had its own branch railway line, off-shooting from the L & NWR Lancashire Union route; and small farms were clustered all over the landscape.

Within a radius of about half-a-mile, we see four of these - the Folds, Pyes, Green Leach and Carr Mill farmsteads, while in Moss Bank, the Fenny Bank, Birch Tree and Cherry Tree farms are shown within shouting distance of each other.

And a gentle stroll away, past the old cottages in Wash (later Washway) Lane was located that most intriguing of place-name titles, Last Shift.

n WONDER how it came by its industrial-sounding name in a district so obviously dependent on farming and country pursuits? Anyone provide a clue?