The History of Wallasey : Part 2

The Enclosure Acts

The Enclosures of 1809 and 1841

Early in the 19th Century the remaining commons and waste lands in the Parish of Wallasey were enclosed following upon the Acts of 1809 and 1814. The 1809 Act, entitled "An Act for enclosing the Waste Lands in the Township of Liscard", in the Parish of Wallasey, resulted in the enclosure of approximately 408 acres, nearly half the entire area of the Township, made up of the open and uncultivated patches of land called Liscard Moor and Liscard Common. The promoters of the Act were the owners or proprietors of lands and tenements in the Township and as such entitled to rights on the commons and waste lands. Prominent among these land-holders were John Penkett, Esq, Rev. Sir Henry Poole, Bart., John Deane, Thomas Molyneux, Gerald Stanley, and several others including the Rev. George Briggs (Rector of Wallasey, 1768-1814), and the Corporation of Liverpool in respect to their holdings in the Magazines. It was claimed that "the said commons and waste lands in their present state are of little value; but if the same were divided and allotted into specific shares unto and amongst the proprietors thereof and persons interested therein, and such allotments inclosed, they would be considerably improved". Accordingly, the Act makes provision for the fencing of the allotments, for defraying the expenses incident to the carrying out of the Act, and for the laying out of roads .Section 26 reads as follows :-

"And whereas the said commons adjoin chiefly on the coast or shore of the River Mersey, and there is not, nor ever can be, much passing over the public roads to be made in, over, upon or across the commons; be it further enacted that the said Commissioner (James Boydell, of Rossett) shall have, and hereby hath, full power given to him to set out all and every or any the public highways and roads, in, over, or across the said commons, of less width than forty feet, so as none of such public roads shall be set out less than thirty feet".

We are going to focus on Liscard Common in particular because later this is where the main early growth of New Brighton as a sea-side resort together with the development of roads such as Rowson Street, Victoria Road and Warren Drive. This is in marked contrast to the prophecy contained in the above quotation.

The Commissioner's Award in 1812, after fixing the boundaries of the Township, sets out the position, length and boundaries of the public and private roads. The six public roads were the present Liscard Road, Martins Lane, part of Mill Lane, part of Wallasey Road, Magazine Lane and Mount Pleasant Road. and a short road of some eighty-six yards joining "the ancient road (Rake Lane) leading past William From's house to Liscard Common", with Magazine Lane. In addition, eleven private roads were built, including two main roads, Mount Road and part of Rowson Street.

Allocation was next made of the sites to be left open for the purpose of getting stone or marl for the use of the lord and land-holders in the Township namely :-

Little Brighton Quarry (2 acres) - now the present Quarry Recreation Ground at the junction of Rowson Street and Magazine Lane
Liscard Common Quarry (1 acre) - formerly the Quarry Gardens at the south-east corner of Tower Grounds
Liscard Common, Marl Pit (1 acre) - now called the Captain's Pit, situated in Hose Side Road.

Land was then allotted to be sold to defray the expenses of the Act, made up of the following areas :-

Lands comprising 44 acres of Liscard Moor, situated between Serpentine Road and Central Park Avenue on which Central Park and the ambulance station now stand, sold to Sir John Tobin.
Lands comprising 25 acres of Liscard Common, now Vale Park, sold to John Penkett, Esquire, 'and by him sold to Thomas Twemlow and Samuel McDowall'
A small area of land approximately 2 roods and 2 perches in Liscard Common and partially enclosed by land recently purchased by John Penkett, sold to Samuel McDowall.
Six acres of land of the north west part of Liscard Common, formerly Stonebark (Warren Drive), sold to Sir John Tobin.

All the remaining common and waste lands in its two areas, Liscard Moor and Liscard Common, were then allocated to the various tenants pf the Township, in right of their ancient enclosed lands.

Names well-known in the history of Wallasey and Liverpool appear including John Penkett, Sir John Tobin, James Mainwaring, Rev. Sir Henry Poole, John Deane, Thomas Molyneux, Sir John Grey Egerton, Robert Vyner, Sir. T. Stanely-Massey-Stanley and many others. Outstanding among these people in respect to the size of their allotments and purchases were the following :-

John Penkett, Esquire, Lord of the Manor who obtained a very large part of Liscard Common totaling some 187 acres of which 25 acres were sold to Thomas Twemlow and Samuel McDowall;

Sir John Tobin, whose holdings included a large part of Liscard Moor, approximately 50 acres together with some 24 acres in the north west corner of Liscard Common;

James Mainwaring, who was allotted 14 acres of Liscard Common and about 3 acres in Liscard Moor;

Samuel McDowall, who lands totalled some 35 acres of Liscard Common adjoining Magazine Lane. Apart from 2 roods 2 perches bordering his home which was allotted to him by the Commissioner, all his lands were purchased from the original holders namely. Thomas Deane, the Corporation of Liverpool, and John Penkett, Esquire;

Gerard Stanely, some 14 acres of Liscard Common;

Rev. Sir Henry Poole, some 13 acres of Liscard Common;

Sarah Strong, who obtained an area of approximately 12 acres of Liscard Common and a small holding of 1 rood 29 perches in Liscard Moor;

Members of the Deane Family:
John Deane, Senior (Deceased), approximately 5 acres of Liscard Common and 3 nearly 3 acres of Liscard Moor;
John Deane (Junior), some 6½ acres of Liscard Common and 1 acre in Liscard Moor;
Daniel Deane (Deceased), some 2 acres of Liscard Common and 1½ acres of Liscard Moor;

Sir John Grey Egerton, Bart, some 6 acres of Liscard Common;

Thomas Molyneux, some 4½ acres of Liscard Moor;

The Reverend George Briggs, Rector of Wallasey, was allotted a small holding of 1 rood 23 perches in Liscard Common and in connection with the Liscard Enclosures the following deed was drawn up in September, 1812:-

Our Rector, the Rev. Geo. Briggs, being of opinion that he is entitled to immediate title of the late Liscard Inclosure and we the undersigned freeholders and tenants being of a contrary opinion do hereby agree (in order to maintain that good fellowship that has invariably existed amongst us) to allow our worthy Rector by way of compromise for the first six years commencing with the present crop and to be paid on or before the 1st day of December each year at and after the rate of seven shillings per year for every Cheshire acre we each of us shall plough or break up and continue the same even though any part that is once ploughed up should be converted to pasture.

"And it is further agreed that should any new incumbent take possession of the living previous to the expiration of the said six years that we shall continue to pay him the above rate, but it is not to his wishes. Taking also into consideration the infirm state of health in which Mr Briggs is, we agree to appoint with his approbation Mr John Penkett and Sir John Tobin to collect the fore-mentioned rates and for them to pay over the same together with their own proportions to the Rector without giving him any trouble".

Thomas Twemlow
John Penkett
Sam Dow
Liscard, 1st Sept. 1812
- - - -

The 1814 Act, entitled "An Act for Enclosing Lands in the Parishes of Wallasey and West Kirby, in the County of Chester", was much more comprehensive than that of 1809. The preamble was of the same legal terminology the substance being that there were in the Parishes of Wallasey commons and waste lands containing 640 acres in the Wallasey Leasowe and Wallasey Brake or Breck, exclusive of certain land covered with sand-hills on the North and North West side of the Wallasey Leasowe, and that there was also a certain tract or parcel of open land in the said township of Wallasey called Wallasey Pasture, containing about 220 acres, and in the township of Poulton-cum-Seacombe, Seacombe Dale, Hooks Common, and Poulton Common. As in the 1809 Act, James Boydell of Rossett, was appointed Commissioner, with "power" to set out and make such roads, ditches, drains, watercourses, bridges, walls, banks, tunnels, gates, stiles and other works she shall think proper and convenient, useful, or necessary for the improvement of the Enclosed lands. Section 23 of the Act is worthy of special notice in view of the controversy following upon the action of the Corporation of Wallasey in railing-off the sand-hills in post-War years. It reads as follows :-

"And be it further enacted, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorise the said Commissioner to divide, set out, or allot any of the land covered with sand hills, on the north-west side of the said commons or waste lands, in the township of Wallasey aforesaid, beyond such line or extent of land as the Commissioner may think for cultivation, but that the said sand hills shall remain uninclosed and open, for the better security and preservation of the land to the eastward and southward of the same, from the incroachments of the sea , and for which purpose such land covered with sand hills is hereby appropriated".

Under the Wallasey Improvement Act, 1845, the sand hills were placed under the control of the Wallasey Commissioners "but for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever" than most that mentioned in the 1814 Act. This Act however, goes on to say "it shall be lawful for the said Commissioners to plant star grass, and to prevent trespass and damage thereon, and to take such other ways and means as in their judgement may be proper and necessary for the protection, care, and due preservation of the same."

The 1814 Act concludes by stating that nothing in the Act is in any way to "prejudice the right, title, or interest of the Lord or Lords of the said manors of Wallasey, and Poulton-cum-Seacombe, or of the said Richard Smith in respect of his ancient ferry of Seacombe."

The first section of the Commissioner's Award in reference to Wallasey, Leasowe, Wallasey Pasture, and Wallasey Brake deals with the setting out of the public and private roads. The roads that were fixed under the Act were Wallasey Village, Grove Road, Leasowe Road extending from Wallasey Village to Reeds Lane (the stone for building Leasowe Road came from Wallasey Breck), Breck Road, part of Claremount Road, Hose Side Road, Church Hill, Sandy Lane, Green Lane, Seaview Road and Sea Road. Worthy of note is the road from St. Hilary Brow to the Breck was cut through the rock by the contractor.

The Award then deals with the drainage of Wallasey Pasture, a low-lying and irregularly drained area adjoining the River Fender which flowed into the Wallasey Pool. Four public drains were fixed in connection with which a rate was drawn up apportioning the shares of the expenses of cleaning and maintaining the drains to the proprietors of Wallasey Pasture. The largest of these drains ran in an 'easterly direction along the north side of the Ancient fence dividing... the Wallasey Pasture from the Wallasey Leasowe." The remaining three ran southwards (from the first drain) and ultimately drained into the Fender running from Newton Carr to Wallasey Pool.

Provision, as in the 1809 Act, was made for the obtaining of marl and stone for the use of the lords and landowners but, in addition, the watering places were allotted for "the use and enjoyment of the inhabitants of the township of Wallasey", namely :-

1a Marl Pit (approx. 2 acres) - on the south side of Grove Road, opposite Sandcliffe Road;
2a The Brake or Breck Quarry (2 acres) - on the east side of Breck Road but a road was to be left to Wallasey School;
Watering Pit (2 roods) at Springvale (Harrison Drive);
Watering Pit in the Little Wallacres, in 'the gather' (School Lane), a substitution for a public pit used by the inhabitants of Wallasey on Wallasey Breck enclosed in an allotment to Sir John Tobin.

Tithe Map of 1841 showing landowners of Wallasey Village. Click on the map to enlarge.

Before proceeding to the general allotment of lands according to the rights of the land-holders the following areas were sold to defray the costs of the passing of the Act and its execution :-

Lands comprising approximately 16½ acres of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to the Rev. James Smedley;
Lands comprising some 47 acres of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to John Davies;
1 acre of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to William Peer;
20 perches of lands of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to Elizabeth Ashbrook;
Lands approximately 6 acres of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to Leigh Blundell, Esquire;
Lands approximately some 23 acres of Wallasey Leasowe bordering Leasowe Castle, sold to Mrs Boode, owner of the Castle;
About ½ acre of Wallasey Breck, sold to Henry Johnston;
A very large area, nearly some 260 acres, of Wallasey Leasowe bordered on the north by the land covered by with sand hills left unenclosed by the Award, sold to the Rev. Augustus Cambell, Rector of Wallasey;
1½ acres of Wallasey Leasowe, sold to George Peers;
Containing 3 acres of Wallasey Pasture, sold to Thomas Sparks.

The remaining lands of Wallasey Leasowe, Wallasey Breck, and Wallasey Pasture, were then allotted to the land-holders of the township according to their rights of commons and "cowgaits" (or "Pasture Gate" which was a right to turn out to the common, a certain number of horses, cows, sheep or goats) in respect of their ancient enclosed lands. The chief recipients of land, either by allotment or purchase, in the township enclosures were the following :-

Robert Vyner, Esquire - one of the Lords of the Manor, who obtained a large share of the western part of Wallasey Leasowe, together with certain areas in the Wallasey Pasture and Wallasey Breck; the whole totalling some 63 acres of Wallasey Leasowe, 34 acres of Wallasey Pasture and 13 perches in Wallasey Brake.

Sir John Grey Egerton, Bart. - the other Lord of the Manor, who likewise was allotted lands in each of the areas made up as follows. 34½ acres of Wallasey Leasowe, 20½ acres of Wallasey Pasture, and approximately 2 acres of Wallasey Breck.

Sir John Tobin, Knight - whose holdings included about 44 acres of Wallasey Leasowe, 43½ acres of Wallasey Pasture, together with 6½ acres of Wallasey Breck.

Mr John Davies - who at the time of the Award, obtained some 37 acres of Wallasey Leasowe, and 4½ acres of Wallasey Pasture. In addition, it is very probable that Mr John Davies acquired the very large holding of about 260 acres in Wallasey Leasowe, sold by the Commissioner to the Rev. Augustus Campbell. There is no indication of this in the Award but in the 1846 Map of Wallasey made from surveys for the commutation of the Tithes in 1841, this area is shown as having been purchased by the Rev. Augustus Campbell on behalf of John Davies, Esquire.

John Leigh, Esquire - who share of Wallasey Leasowe was 23½ acres.

Mrs. Margaret Boode - owner of Leasowe Castle, who purchased approximately 23 acres of Wallasey Leasowe adjoining the Castle.

The Rev. Augustus Campbell - Rector of Wallasey (1814-1825), succeeding the late Rev. George Briggs in 1814, who in addition to the purchase of land on behalf of John Davies also obtained, as Rector of Wallasey Church, the Glebe Lands, which comprised of some 7 acres of Wallasey Leasowe and 34 perches of Wallasey Breck;

Robert Harrison - whose acquisitions of land comprised some 11 acres of the extreme westerly part of Wallasey Leasowe;

Rev James Smedley - who, by purchase, obtained about 16½ acres of Wallasey Leasowe;

Joseph Green - whose holdings included 14 acres of Wallasey Leasowe together with 12 acres of Wallasey Pasture;

Richard Smith, Esquire, Lord of the Manor of Poulton-cum-Seacombe - who obtained small areas in each of the open lands, namely, 3½ acres of Wallasey Leasowe, 4 acres of Wallasey Pasture and 1 acre of Wallasey Breck.

In addition to the foregoing people, many others received smaller holdings among whom were George and William Peers, members of the Deane family descendants of whom remained prominent market-gardeners for many years, the trustees of Matthew Taylor, Thomas Molyneux, Peter Ledsham, heirs if Elizabeth Bird, Sir T. Massey-Stanley-Massey Bart., the devisees in trust of the Rev. George Briggs, the late Rector of Wallasey), and Thomas Sparks.

Tithe Map of 1841 showing landowners of Poulton-cum-Seacombe. Click on the map to enlarge.

The Award then proceeds to deal with with the allocation of the 91 acres of common and waste lands in the Township of Poulton-cum-Seacombe Dale, Hooks Common and Poulton Common. Four public roads were fixed now represented by the important highways of Borough Road, starting at the Old Seacombe Ferry House, the northern end of Whiteling's Lane (known today as Wheatland Lane), Poulton Bridge Road, and part of Breck Road.

Some of the several private roads set out have become of any importance. After selling a few small areas of land (lands which formed the eastern part if Seacombe Common, bordering the River Mersey), the main allocations of territory were established the greater part of which went to the following people :-

Richard Smith, Esquire, Lord of the Manor whose lands comprised about 12 acres of Seacombe Common, some 2 acres of Seacombe Dale, and about 18½ acres Hook's Common, together with two very small allocations in Mill Lane approximating to about ½ acre;

James Mainwaring, Esquire, who obtained 7½ acres of Seacombe Common, 8 acres of Hook's Common, and like Richard Smith, two very small holdings in Mill Lane;

Robert Vyner, Esquire, Lord of the Manor of Wallasey, who obtained about half the total area of Poulton Common (some 2 acres) and about 3 acres of Hook's Common;

Sir John Tobin whose allocations were limited to three small areas, one of about ½ acre in Seacombe Common, another 1½ acres of Hook's Common, and the third of only 8 perches in Mill Lane.

The Trustees of Wallasey School, who were allotted 1 acre of Seacombe Common, 1½ acres of Hook's Common, and a very small holding of only 15 perches in Mill Lane.

Other small allotments went to Samuel Smith, Thomas Molyneux, William Pendleton, Leigh Blundell Esq., Thomas Lowry and William Bird (of Bird House, Poulton).

The Wallasey Ship Canal

Although the Act for enclosing the waste lands and commons in the townships of Wallasey and Poulton-cum-Seacombe was passed in 1814, the actual Award of the Commissioner only took place in May 1823. Meanwhile, the interest if Sir John Tobin, one of the chief landholders in Wallasey, had been awakened to the possibilities of a ship canal through Wallasey Pool and across the marshlands of North Wirral to the mouth of the River Dee and he in conjunction with William Laird (the pioneer of shipbuilding on Merseyside) and others, obtained expert advice from the engineers Thomas Telford, Robert Stevenson, and Alexander Nimmo. A comprehensive and ambitious report was given by these in `828, with details regarding the deepening and widening of Wallasey Pool and the construction of docks and tidal basins with warehouse accommodation; these docks were to be linked with further dock facilities at Hilbre Island by a "canal proceeding at first in the direction of Leasowe Lighthouse, and approaching within half-a-mile of the shore, and about the same distance north of the village of Moreton, and then turning to the westwards, keeping half-a-mile inland from the villages of Great and Little Meols through Newton Carr where it turns off Hilbre Island. The estimated cost of all these works was given at £1,400,948 for which "a floating harbour will be obtained of seven miles in length, capable of indefinite enlargement, with extensive warehouse accommodation, and with a seaport at either end on the two separate estuaries". The advantage to be obtained from this scheme was :-

1. Additional dock areas with land available for warehouses and industrial activities, the Liverpool docks being inadequate to the growing needs of Merseyside;
2. Vessels entering the canal at or near Dawpool would pay dues to the Port of Chester and thus escape the heavier dock and town dues of Liverpool;
3. Avoidance of the difficult Mersey Channels especially the Rock Channels, at that time the main passage to and from the harbour of Liverpool.

These works, if they had been carried out, would very probably have modified the history of Wallasey during the nineteenth century and given its growth a more-marked industrial character. When, however, time came to apply for parliamentary sanction it was revealed that a large part of the land adjoining Wallasey Pool had been purchased privately by the Corporation of Liverpool. Accordingly, the undertaking was abandoned and North Wirral was allowed to retain its rural character.