The History of Wallasey : Part 4

Wallasey From
1851 to 1914

The Second half of the 19th Century and the first few years of the 20th Century was a period that saw a truly remarkable growth of population and urbanistaion in Wallasey; a period also of consolidation when the fundamental role of Wallasey with its three-fold importance as a residential area, a sea-side resort, and an industrial town, became fully established. As the factors influencing this three-fold development in its incipient stages in the first half of the century has been covered in Wallasey 1831 to 1851 it is therefore the section is best dealt with as brief as possible.

Growth of Population
1851 - 1911

From the graph of population above it will be seen that the population of Wallasey increased with great rapidity from 8,329 in 1851 to 78,504 in 1911. This large growth was typical of the north-east corner of the Wirral owing mainly to its proximity to Liverpool.

In 1851, as throughout the century, the greater part of the Wirral retained its rural, agricultural character but in the north-eastern area, comprising Wallasey and Birkenhead, the population density was growing rapidly and the townships concerned were steadily being urbanised. The densities were as follows in 1851 and 1871 :-

  1851 1871
person per 100 acres
Liscard 456 897
Poulton-cum-Seacombe 376 607
Birkenhead 2693 3280
Tranmere 609 1510
Lower Bebington 142 359
Higher Bebington 157 346
Oxton 248 322
Claughton 166 569
Wallasey 75 122

The last five townships lying further to the south and west of the main area affected did not show such a marked increase. Quite clearly then the concentration of population was in the area nearest to Liverpool. In Liverpool itself, growth was proceeding rapidly following upon its development as a port and industrial

In Wallasey, the population grew as show below:-

Wallasey Township
Poulton-Seacombe Township
Parish of Wallasey
Rate of Increase

From the figures for the Parish, or Borough of Wallasey as it became later, it will be appreciated that between the years 1851 and 1901, the population began to increase rapidly not only absolutely but in the percentage rate of increase. The rate of increase in these five decades was 27%, 39%, 42%, 57% and 61% respectively and few urban areas throughout the country showed higher rates. In the Townships the increase of population naturally was greatest in the two nearest the ferries and Liscard Township, with its two ferries at Egremont and New Brighton and also with a larger area, had a greater population than the Township of Poulton-cum-Seacombe. In Liscard Township moreover the population increased fairly steadily but in Poulton-cum-Seacombe the rate of increase between 1851 and 1881 was so great, possibly owing to the effect on population of the closing down of a number of the industrial works on the margins of Wallasey Pool and the Docks. After this date, however, there was a marked revival of industry involving the establishment of the great flour-milling industry, and the subsequent affect was a great increase in the population of Poulton-cum-Seacombe. In the Township of Wallasey during this period there was a decided lag in growth of population which continued into the early years of the 20th Century. This persisted, owing to the distance from any of the ferries and the inadequate transport facilities until the extension of the Tramway Services to Wallasey Village in 1911.

The Development of

The remarkable growth of population outlined above was in very large measure the result of the provision of increased and better facilities for traveling to and from Liverpool. Outstanding in this respect was the improvement in the ferry services, but, in addition, there were notable development in railway and road transport facilities.

a) Ferries

The early growth of the ferries at Seacombe, Egremont and New Brighton has already been traced but in the years 1861-1863 an important change took place in respect of the ownership of the ferries. Prior to this date the three ferries had been run by private enterprise but following upon the Wallasey Improvement Act, the ferries at New Brighton and Egremont were purchased by the Wallasey Local Board from Mr. Edward W. Coulbourn at a cost of £60,000 with an additional £9,000 for boats and stores in 1862. During the following year Seacombe Ferry was bought for £30,000 from the Trustees of Admiral Richard Smith. Henceforward, the three ferries were administered by the local authority. From that time at various intervals, improvements and additions were made to each of the ferries. The fleet of steamers, likewise had steadily grown both in regard to the number of boats and in the provision of facilities for carrying a large number of passengers in greater safety and comfort. The chief improvements are indicated under the headings of each ferry.

Seacombe Ferry

Here the first notable improvement was made 1876-1880. In 1876, the old ferry with its "run-out gangway" was closed and for three and half years work proceeded on a complete re-construction of Seacombe Ferry and Approach, on which some £147,000 was spent. This work included the reclaimation of land between Seacombe Point and the Old North Reserve Wall (built in connection with the Dock system at an earlier date) on which the now demolished Ferry Hotel and Ferry Approach stand. The re-construction also included the provision of the first floating stage with its gangways and to this was added the hydraulic lift in connection with the luggage-boat service, which remained in use until the floating roadway was opened in 1926. The Clock Tower and associated buildings that remained until re-constructions of 1930-1933 were also built at this time. During this period (1876-1880) a temporary stage was erected against the old North Reserve Wall to function whilst the re-building preceded. In 1903 and again in 1905 further minor improvements were made at a cost of £11,000 and £5,000 respectively.

Seacombe Ferry, c1876

Egremont Ferry

At Egremont between the years 1874 and 1876 a new iron pier was built to replace the older wooden structure. This new pier "terminated in a pair of tripods, connected by an arch, which collectively formed a feature familiar on Merseyside for 35 years. On a stone slip. still existing, a run out stage doubled the extensive length of low water landing worked as was the older one, from the whitewashed engine house south of the pay gays, where also was the 'gridiron' on which boats were repaired".

In this condition the ferry remained until 1909 when a sum of £10,000 was spent on the provision of a new floating stage between dolphins which existed until a further reconstruction in 1929-1930.

Egremont Ferry, c1895

New Brighton Ferry

At New Brighton, the primitive wooden pier erected by James Atherton remained in use until about 1867 when an iron pier and the first floating stage was constructed. With minor alterations in 1901 at an expense of £3,500, this stage and its bridges functioned until structural replacements were made in 1921 and 1928.

Meanwhile, and supplementary to these great improvements in the ferry stages and piers, a gradual evolution towards the capacious and luxurious ferry-boats of today was taking place. Reference has already been in an early part to the primitive wooden, single-mast sailing boats that played early in the century. By the year 1856, the fleet consisted of the 'Tiger', 'Elizabeth', 'Wallasey', and the 'Queen of Beauty' all of which were small paddle boats probably ranging up to some 150 tons. The 'Elizabeth' and the 'Wallasey' were constructed of wood and were the last wooden boats to be used on the passenger service. All four had open decks with the main covered accommodation in the form of cabins below the decks. Their engine-power was very limited and breakdowns were all too frequent.

Additional hindrances to the regularly of service were caused through the use if the ferry boats fir towing purpose. Even so, conditions were considerably improved on those prevailing during the earlier years of the century. The “Gem” which appeared on the service in 1859-1860 showed but little improvement on the existing boats and is mostly noteworthy in connection with the only disaster of importance into the history of the ferries. This occurred on the morning of 26th November, 1878, when the “Gem” in a dense fog, fouled the selling “Bowfell” at anchor in mid-river, with the result that the funnel fell among the 250 passengers causing a panic. Many people were pushed overboard and fifteen lives were lost, even though the vessel was not damaged below the water line, and was in no danger of sinking. The beginnings of saloon accommodation were visible in the “Water Lily”, 1862; the “Heather Bell” 1865, was the first boat with two funnels and also had a double saloon. In 1884 and 1885 respectively the “Crocus” and the “Snowdrop”, the first twin-screw passenger steamers were placed on the service. Each of 300 tons, they had a capacity of 1303 passengers, and in addition to possessing side saloons on deck they had a large smoking cabin below. A few years later, with the arrival of the “Lily” and the “Rose” in 1900, the modern area of screw-built steamers can be said to have been established for, after that date, no more paddle steamers were built.

The natural outcome of all these improvements and in particular, the provision of bigger and faster ferry-boats was the speeding-up of the services and a reduction of the fares. Prior to about 1880, the boats ran from Seacombe every quarter-hour until 9pm when an half hour service was carried on until midnight. After that, late travelers had to cross to Birkenhead and from there either had to use a horse-cab or walk. After that year, however, it was decided to institute a 10 minutes service which in many cases meant that the people working in Liverpool could travel back to Wallasey during the lunch-hour.

The combined effect of all these improvements in the ferry services and the resulting development of Wallasey as a “bedroom” of Liverpool and as a sea-side resort, can be judged by the enormous number of passengers carried annually in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1902, the number totalled some 16½, million people end by 1914 this had increased to 24 million. The income derived from the ferry undertakings amounted to £83,400 in 1902 and had risen to £107,700 in 1914. Unfortunately however, in the latter years the increased expenditure on the provision of better facilities together with the increased costs of maintenance resulted in a debit of £4,470 to the Rates of Wallasey.

View of New Brighton Promenade from the pier, 1905

b). Wallasey Communication

The development of land communications and especially of railways in the Wallasey area was very slow. This can be accounted for partly by the natural isolation of Wallasey from the rest of the Wirral Peninsula and partly by the dependence of Wallasey’s inhabitants on the ferry services to Liverpool.  Between 1840 and 1866 several new lines of railway was constructed on the Wirral. In 1866 the Wirral Railway was built from Birkenhead Docks Station to Hoylake. Wallasey however, was ignored until 1886, when, following upon the opening of the Mersey Tunnel Railway with its attention to Birkenhead Park station, a branch line of the Wirral Railway was constructed to New Brighton via Wallasey Village. Shortly afterwards, an additional branch line was extended to Seacombe Ferry from which station a railway was constructed in the years 1888-1895 running through Bidston, Heswall, and across the centre of the Wirral via Heswall Hills, Neston,  Connah’s Quay and Shelton to North Wales. The importance of these railways to Wallasey has been limited except in so far as they provided an additional route to Liverpool via the Mersey Railway for the inhabitants of New Brighton and Wallasey Village.  In 1903, the Mersey Railway was electrified and this gave some stimulus to the passenger traffic from New Brighton and Wallasey Village but the necessary change at Birkenhead Park from steam to electric trains has always militated against the success of this line,

The existing railway facilities of Wallasey are of very little importance to providing access to other parts of the country outside the Wirral. The services are poor and frequently necessitate changes with considerable delays, accordingly, people travelling to and from Wallasey invariably utilise the main line facilities provided in Liverpool and Birkenhead by the London, Midland and Scottish, and the Great Eastern Railways respectively. There are, of course, exceptions when special day excursion trains are run to Wallasey in the summer season.

c).  Road Transport

More important in many respects than the provision of railway communications, was the internal development of road transport in Wallasey.  The present-day main roads were mostly in existence by the middle of the nineteenth century.  Since then, naturally many of them have widened and modernised to meet the requirements of present-day traffic, but the only new main roads of outstanding importance constructed since 1870 were the following:-

Birkenhead Road
and Dock Road, which with the Four Bridges and Duke Street Bridge, were constructed in connection with the building of the Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks. These bridges together with Poulton Bridge provided, for the first time, direct land communication to Birkenhead across Wallasey Pool. The value of these bridges, however, was reduced by the frequent delays by the passage of vessels to and from the Docks. Unfortunately the issue is less problematic with the Docks being less used. Poulton Bridge moreover, was a Toll Bridge but had road approaches on either side and consequently was very little used. It was not until the 1930s that the toll was abolished and the road on either side improved.

Seabank Road
was extended from Manor Lane across the fields and Magazine Lane to join Rowson Street, thus providing a through route from New Brighton via Egremont to Seacombe Ferry. Prior to this extension about 1860, the chief way from New Brighton to Seacombe was via Rowson Street, Rake Lane, Liscard Road, and Borough Road, an alternative route was from Montpelier Crescent along Mount Road, turning to the right down Mount Pleasant Road and along Seaview Road (then called Marsden’s Lane), provided the gates which stood at Hose Side Road end were open, it being a private road.

Belvidere Road, running parallel to, and west of Seaview Road, was constructed partly on an accommodated road leading to Littledale’s Model Farm in Mill Lane. From Belvidere Road cross-connections were made with Seaview Road and Claremount Road by Kingsway and Broadway Avenue (formerly Townfield Lane) respectively. These two roads together with Earlston Road provided an east-west route across Wallasey from Rake Lane to Wallasey Village.

Warren Drive
, second only in importance to the extension of Seabank Road, was extended in 1880. Until that date, Warren Drive only reached as far as the west end of ‘Stonebark’, but then it was extended to meet Grove Road, thus giving New Brighton quicker access to Wallasey Village and the Leasowe Road outlet to Moreton and north Wirral. Originally, it was intended to carry on the road in a direct line to Belvidere Road, which was to be continued across the farm fields to Mill Lane and then along to link up with Gorsey Lane (then also an accommodation road) and so via Duke Street Bridge and road to Charing Cross, Birkenhead. Unfortunately, this scheme for a through route to Birkenhead was prevented firstly by the opposition of a piece of land about Broadway Avenue, and secondly, through the building of houses in Grove Road, facing the present end of Warren Drive. Later, in the 1930’s, a through route was built on practically the site via Rolleston Drive, Belvidere Road, Torrington Road, Woodstock Road, Oxton Road and Gorsey Lane.

Hose Side Road was made to give access from Grove Road and Warren Drive to the reconstructed Seaview Road.

Harrison Drive opened on 24th June 1901 and provided an extension from the junction of Wallasey Village and Grove Road to the sea-shores.

View of Wallasey Village, c1910

The net result of these extensions and new road constructions, together with the innumerable small roads built in connection with housing estates, was that the roads and highways under the control of the local authority steadily increased in mileage.  This is shown in the following table:-


Closely related to these improvements and extensions of the roads of Wallasey was the development of the Tramway service. These services became more and more urgent as the need arose to provide transport between the ferries and the increasing and scattered settlements of Wallasey. Although the local authority had obtained power to institute Tramways under the Improvement Act of 1867, nothing apparently was done until 1901. Prior to that date certain services had seen undertaken by private enterprise. The proprietor of Seacombe Ferry Hotel ran semi-public vehicles as far as Leasowe Castle, but they would be intended for the use of visitors rather than residents. Later, in 1879, the Wallasey Tramways and Omnibus Co. laid a single track of approximately two and three-quarter miles running from Seacombe Ferry via Liscard Village to Field Road on the higher ground of New Brighton. This undertaking was purchased in 1901 by the Wallasey Urban District Council for £20,500 including the rolling stock of 7 cars, each capable of seating 34 passengers, seventy-eight horses, stables and tram lines. Until 17th March, 1902, this horse-car Tramway was successfully operated when ut was replaced by the first of the electric Tramways. In later years a number of routes were  to the public as follows:-

Rake Lane - March, 1902
Seabank Road - March, 1902
Warren Drive - May, 1902
Falkland Road - July, 1907
Poulton Road - July, 1910
Poulton Road to Wallasey Village - February, 1911

These tramway services effectively linked the various parts of Wallasey with one another and with the ferries; particularly important was the 1911 extension to Wallasey Village which paved the way for the subsequent opening up of that area in the post-war years of the Great War. Their success was assured from the outset and the number of passengers carried annually grew with great rapidity as indicated below:-

Passengers carried in
Mileage in
Credit to

The Four-Fold Character of Wallasey

During the years 1851 to 1914, Wallasey definitely established itself as a team with the four-fold character:-

1. A “bedroom” of Liverpool;

2. A Sea-side Resort;

3. An Industrial and Commercial Centre;

4. A Market-Gardening Region

The importance of each of these roles varies in relation to one another. Undoubtedly, the prize function of Wallasey is as a residential area and the other three functions, although important, are wholly subsidiary and must remain so by virtue Wallasey’s position in relation to Liverpool. Moreover, those other functions are very definitely localised in the northern, southern and western margins respectively of the older built-up eastern area. The market-gardening too, is almost certain to disappear with the westward expansion of urbanisation.

1). Wallasey, a “Bedroom” of Liverpool
The role of Wallasey as a dormitory of Liverpool had already been indicated in the sections of this part dealing with the growth of population and with the development of communication. Here, it is proposed to indicate briefly the effect of this function on the actual settlement in the area. A valuable indication is provided in the following figures of the growth of rateable value as settlement proceeded:-

Assessable Value

Especially noteworthy among those figures is the doubling of the assessable value in the decade 1891-1901, a period that saw a tremendous growth in the building of houses as is seen by comparing the maps showing the built-up areas. The following series of maps indicate generally the built-up areas at the following dates 1841, 1875, 1892, 1902 and 1915. They were constructed by shading in the built-up portions as indicated on old maps of Wallasey and the Ordnance Maps of Wallasey at the respective additions. It is not claimed that these generalised maps are strictly accurate but they are sufficiently correct to illustrate the main trends of building development. The line-shaded areas indicate public open-spaces.

A look at the maps shows quite clearly that the growth of Wallasey has not proceeded from a control nucleus, as had happened in the expansion of so many English towns and Villages. Rather has it been the establishment of a number of scattered settlements separated at first by open century one from another. The hamlets existed by the middle of the 19th Century have been described earlier and consisted of New Brighton, Little Brighton, Magazines, North Egremont, Egremont, Liscard, Seacombe, Somerville, Poulton and Wallasey Village. Gradually, with certain exceptions, these settlements expanded during the latter part of the nineteenth century, until most of the open country was filled in, and a more compact unit obtained with, however, an almost complete absence of the recognised centre with its administrative offices, business premises and important shops that is so characteristic of most English towns of any size. Particularly noticeable is the concentration of houses in the eastern part of the Borough, ie. In the districts in relatively close proximity to the river and sea front with their two-fold advantage of proximity to the water-front with the attractions and easy access to the all important ferries to Liverpool. Even as late as 1915 when the extension of the tramways to Wallasey Village had been accomplished, most of the housing estates lay to the east of a line running along Rolleston Drive, Belvidere Road, Torrington Road, Woodstock Road, Oxton Road, and from the top of Gorsey Lane in a south-easterly direction to the junction of Wheatland Lane and Birkenhead Road.  

A few instances of the development of housing estates are given in that they are characteristic of the building that was quickly filling up the eastern and elevated portion of Wallasey. In 1870, an open near the old nucleus of Liscard Village, and known as Liscard Park, was purchased and a large number of houses were built together with the laying out of the following roads, Westminster Road, Grosvenor Street, Easton Street, Wilton Street, and Belgrave Street. Then again a few years late, in 1874, following upon a crisis in the Liverpool cotton trade, Mr. Harold Littledale who farmed much of the land in Wallasey, decided to close his Model Farm and sell most of the land. 

“It so happened that the Ferry Committee had decided on giving a 10 minutes ferry service to Liverpool from Seacombe in place of the quarter-hourly service. An astute gentleman, Mr. David Benno Rappart, saw the opportunity of providing houses for people occupied in the city, and living in the suburbs of Liverpool who wished to come home for a mid-day meal and get back in the hour allowed. Liverpool was expanding north, east and south, and slow trams prevented this being done. At the same time the Ferries Committee decided to reduce the contract fares to a very cheap level. Mr. Rappart purchased the land between Brougham and Clarendon Road and in a few years the whole of the houses built thereon were let so speedily as they were erected”.
(Bertram Furniss, 'Memories of Wallasey', Wallasey News, 7th April, 1934)

During the decade 1891-1901, the promenades from Seacombe Ferry to New Brighton were constructed and immediately behind, the open fields were set out with roads and then quickly built up with houses. Here again, the same as Mr. Rappart took a large part in the building developments including property between Holland Road and Manor Road. Meanwhile, considerable land speculation with its subsequent building was going on in the Mainwaring Estate between Liscard Road and Poulton Road. Elsewhere, houses were being built all over the eastern area, at the rate of some six to seven hundred per year. During this increased period of increased housing construction there was a change in the type of brick used. From 1850 until about 1890, plain brick was chiefly used but from then the First World War it became the general practice to face the houses with that hard-pressed Ruabon brick which presents a good wearing surface but also one that remains harsh and glaring. During the First World War, which practically stopped all building, the cost of Ruabon brick became prohibitive and was no longer used. Another change to be noted in Wallasey during the present century was the almost disappearance terrace-built houses, these being replaced mainly with semi-detached houses.

2). Wallasey, a Sea-Side Resort
While the greater part of Wallasey was developing rapidly as a residential area the northern part, fronting Liverpool Bay, was acquiring somewhat doubtful fame as a sea-side resort. The origin of New Brighton and its development were discussed in Part 3. Between 1850 and about 1870 New Brighton became more and more popular being regarded as a delightful holiday resort by many of the wealthy people of Lancashire and Cheshire, as Southport, Llandudno and similar sea-side resorts of to-day had not then been developed. It was these gentry who conceived the idea of the promenade-pier and a Manchester syndicate erected it. At first the pier had only one approach by means of a number of steps from the middle of the ferry-pier. When the promenade pier was opened in 1867, it became a great attraction, and in the summer the elite of Liverpool together many of the 'quality' of Wallasey, Birkenhead and the Wirral promenaded every evening thereon. Regattas were held at which some of the finest yachts in the country competed, including many of the competitors at Cowes. Thus for a time, the New Brighton part of Wallasey was a very fashionable sea-side resort, but later in the century it deteriorated to a great degree and became essentially a second-rate resort mainly for 'day-trippers'.

Tea Pot Row, 1869

This, perhaps, was more or less inevitable with the growth of Merseyside population and the provision of better and cheaper ferry services, but the change was quickened by the construction of the notorious 'Ham and Eggs Parade' or 'Teapot Row' as it was frequently called. This short parade together with a number of huts to be used as tea shops was constructed just beyond New Brighton Pier, by a Manchester syndicate in 1871. Furthermore, a number of stalls were opened for the sale of fruit, oysters and mussels, ginger-beer, etc, and on the shore horses and donkeys were plyed for hire by people whose swindling propensities frequently led to trouble. On occasion, serious fights resulted as instanced in the following description by Mr. Bertram Furniss :-
"When the 'Wiganers' came it was certain to end in a free fight; and I have seen 200 or more men lying on the shore and Dr. Bell dealing with them, some insensible, and all bleeding freely from cuts in the head caused by the 'Aunt Sally' sticks which both sides resorted to".

Prize fighting also used to take place on the shore. generally between one or two of the gypsies and native bruisers. There were also on the shore 'round-abouts', swings and other amusements of the popular type. The 'trippers' spread all over the shore and sand-his and frequently, there was a great deal of drunkenness.

Three beach photographers trading on New Brighton beach, 1890

The natural result of all this was that New Brighton acquired a very unenviable reputation and its name spread all over the world carried by the sailors who visited it when their ships docked at Liverpool. Most of the well-to-do, who were the main-stay of the shop keepers during the winter, with their large families and large staffs of male and female servants, generally left the town.

Beginning of the 'Ham and Eggs Parade' sketch, 1870

Thus, by the end of the 19th Century, the character of New Brighton had changed completely and for the worse. Further attraction was provided in 1897 by the opening at Whitsundie, of the 'Tower' and 'Tower Grounds'.

Early in the twentieth century, the local authority began to take steps to remove the notorious Ham and Eggs Parade' in order to replace it with a more modern promenade in an endeavour to improve the status of New Brighton both as a sea-side resort and as a residential area. Already, between 1891 and 1901 promenades had been constructed from Seacombe Ferry to New Brighton Ferry. Prior to 1891, the river frontage mainly consisted, in the Seacombe and Egremont sections, of more or less eroded clay cliffs supported by the heavy retaining wall erected some years earlier. This wall terminated about 150 yards from Holland Road and from there to New Brighton the foreshore was contiguous to the boundaries of the various private enclosed properties. Thus, it was impossible to pass from Seacombe Ferry to New Brighton Ferry except via the shore when the tide receded. Consequently, and in view of the building that was quickly filling up the eastern part of Wallasey, the members of the Local Board decided, with commendable foresight, that the river frontage must be made available to the public and visitors, together with as much of the background as possible so as to give an effective setting in the form of plantations, open spaces, and recreation grounds to the proposed promenades. An Improvement Committee was set up and the Promenades were constructed under the Acts of 1896 and 1899. The necessary land and shore properties were obtained after treaty, arbitration and even litigation with the private owners and stage by stage the promenades were extended as follows:

1891 Egremont Ferry to Holland Road;
1897 Holland Road to New Brighton Pier;
1901 Egremont Ferry to Seacombe Ferry;
1906 New Brighton Ferry to Marine Park.

Ham and Eggs Parade, New Brighton

In connection with the last extension, the notorious 'Ham and Eggs Parade' was demolished together with certain property behind and in its place the Victoria Gardens were substituted, these Gardens being formerly opened by Lord Derby in 1913.

The promenades from Seacombe to New Brighton were constructed with a uniform width of 45 feet and were permanently closed to vehicular traffic whereas the section from New Brighton to Marine Park, a minimum width of 90 feet, was an open through fare. A strip of land behind the promenades was acquired in most parts and gradually the following plantations, open spaces, and recreation grounds were set out :-
North Seacombe Recreation Ground, Sandon Gardens, Guinea Gap Baths, Town Hall frontage, plantations north of Egremont Ferry, Mariners' Home Grounds, Vale Park with the adjoining plantations, the Tower Grounds, Victoria Gardens and Marine Park.

3). An Industrial and Commercial Centre
Prior to the conversion of Wallasey Pool into the Birkenhead and Wallasey Docks, a number of industries had come into existence in the part of southern Wallasey bordering the pool. These appear to have flourished for a while and then a period of depression followed in the wake of the Dock construction. Thus in the period 1860 - 1890, practically all the industries were closed include the following :-

1860 Sugar Refinery and Smalt Works;
1863 Bibby's Copper Works;
1872 Messrs. Bowdler and Chaffer's Ship Building Yards following upon a disastrous fire
1873 Seacombe Pottery; about the same time, Seacombe Foundry and Iron Works, the Cement Works, and the Starch and Vitriol Works, were closed.

Seacombe Pottery, 1841

The closure of these numerous works would undoubtedly affect the industrial population of south Wallasey but there would be some compensation in the absorption of much of this labour in the Dock constructions and extensions, and in the newly-opened industrial works on the Birkenhead side of the Dock Estate.

In 1857, the Dock Estate had been assigned to the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board and there followed the construction of the Great Float and the Wallasey Low Water Basin, open to the river. During the year 1866, the Alfred Dock was opened and a little later, re-construction converted the Great Float into the East and West Float, separated by Duke Street Bridge. By 1871 there was already a large number of sheds, warehouses and railway sidings in existence mainly on the Birkenhead side and a number of industries were firmly established. The most prominent were the Copper Ore Works, Canada Engine Works, Birkenhead Ore Works, Birkenhead Forge, Wirral Foundary, Britannia Engine Works and the Chain Cable and Anchor Testing Works.

As yet, however, the great flour-milling enterprises that were to play so important a part in the industrial life of modern Wallasey and Birkenhead, were undeveloped although there were grain houses built on the north quay of the East Float. Some years elapsed before the first flour mill, the 'Millennium' was opened by Vernon's in 1899. This inaugurated the Wirral branch of the Merseyside corn-milling industry which had grown steadily ever since with the establishment of more and more mills including Paul Brothers'. 'Home Pride' Mills, Buchanan's 'Silver Queen' Flour Mills, and the 'Wallasey Mills' of Uvecco Cereals.

Further industrial development followed with the opening of the English Process Steel Works about 1905, and the Gandy Belt Works, Wheatland Lane, about 1909. Meanwhile, from 1867 onwards, the local authority had been absorbing more and more labour in the Gas Works, Gorsey Lane, as the output increased in accordance with the demands of the ever expanding population of Wallasey.Thus, in the early years of the last century, a large number of people and more particularly those residing in Seacombe and Poulton, were engaged in the industrial and commercial activities of the Dock Estate and the boarding land. Outside this part of Wallasey, there were no industries of any size or importance with the possible exception of the Wallasey and Moreton Brick Works, in Leasowe Road and Pasture Road respectively.

4). A Market-Gardening Region
During the period under review, 1850-1914, part of the low lying land west of Wallasey Village became famous for its market-garden produce. The beginning of this can however, be traced back to the end of the eighteenth century for a certain Thomas Hedge, reporting in 1794 on agriculture in Cheshire refers to the success of market gardens at Wallasey even at that date, saying "the improved method, or what is yet called the secret, of raising early potatoes was first practised in this country by one Richard Evans, late of Wallasey in Wirral". Later, after describing the method of cultivation, he states "Early potatoes have been as plentiful in Liverpool market for some years past in the middle of May as they used to be in the middle of June".

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the demands of the increasing population of Merseyside together with the provision of a zone of market-gardeing by the pioneering efforts of members of the Deane family and many others. This zone occupied the most fertile area of land in the Borough namely, that part of Wallasey Village between Leasowe Road and Green Lane. Here, the land is low lying and protected from one encroachment of the sea by the sand-hill belt. It slopes very gently towards the Birket or Fender river and has an open, southern aspect. The soil, resulting from the mixture of the blown sand and the alluvial clay. was a light, sandy loam to which has been added repeated application of farmyard or stable manure until now it has the rich dark colour of fertile peat or "moss-land". The presence, in small quantity, of salt in the soil also favours the market-gardening activities.

Climatically, too, the region is favoured. The mild, equable conditions and the relative freedom from frost combine with a fairly even rainfall regime and a slightly salty atmosphere to produce a great variety of vegetables, including early potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, lettuce etc. Added to these natural advantages of soil and climate, is the protection afforded from the strong sea winds by the thorn or privet hedges that divide the land into small patches. These hedges have been considerably strengthened by the accumulation of hedge clippings and vegetable refuse reinforced where necessary by straw-plaiting to form an almost impenetrable bulwark.

In these market-gardens it was usual to obtain four or five and, on occasion, even six crops per year from the same patch of land. The produce was of high quality and readily finds a market in Liverpool, as it did likewise during the nineteenth century. A valuable market is also provided by the demands of liners and cargo boats sailing from Liverpool. Wallasey tomatoes and, to a lesser extent, potatoes also find numerous purchasers in the London market.

Progress In Local Government

The marked growth of population in Wallasey during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought with it a steady growth in the status of the district from the administrative point of view. The salient stages in the evolution of local government towards the constitution of Wallasey as a County Borough can be described briefly as follows:-

Local Commissioners were appointed to undertake the paving, lighting, watching. cleansing, and improvement of the Parish of Wallasey. Population 7,000; Assessable Value, £25,000.
Local Board of Health was created under the Public Health Act of 1848. Population, about 8,700; Assessable Value £35,000. 15 members appointed.
Extension of the jurisdiction of the Local Board for the purpose of the Public Health Act of 1875. Part of the Parish of Wallasey that previously had been included in the rural sanitary district of the Birkenhead Union was transferred to the Local Government district of Wallasey. Population, about 18,500; Assessable Value, £99,885.
Wallasey Urban District Council created under the Local Government Act, 1894. The District was divided into eight Wards, namely New Brighton, Upper Brighton, Liscard, Egremont, North Seacombe, South Seacombe, Poulton and Wallasey. Three representatives were elected from each Ward. Population about 40,000; Assessable Value, £188,550.
Unsuccessful application for Municipal Incorporation.
A Charter of Incorporation was granted by King George V creating Wallasey a Municipal Borough. The Wards were increased to ten and the first Council consisted of 10 alderman, and thirty councillors. Population about 76,000; Assessable Value, £416,515.
Unification, under a Government Order of the Urban Parishes of Townships of Liscard, Poulton-cum-Seacombe, and Wallasey to constitute the Borough of Wallasey.
Wallasey constituted a County Borough as from 1st April 1913. Later in the year, a petition of the Council asking for the grant of Borough Bench was acceded to. Population, about 81,000; Assessable Value, £499, 238.

Following upon the creation of the County Borough of Wallasey, steps were taken to provide a Town Hall and, after the usual battles of sites, the foundation stone was laid by King George V, on 25th March, 1914. Completion was delayed by the First World War and the formal opening only took place on 3rd November, 1920. Faced with Derbyshire stone from the quarries at Darley Dene, it commands a very fine site on the river frontage between Egremont and Seacombe with the main entrance in Brighton Street.

During this period of evolution of Local Government and Administration, much was done towards providing the Public and Private Services and Amenities that are so important in the life of a modern town.