History of Wallasey Ferries

Ferries on Strike and New Management

Wallasey received its Charter of Incorporation as a municipal borough in July 1910, followed in 1913 by county borough status whereby the town took control of its own police force, fire, ambulance and education services. The years just before the 1914-1918 war saw much industrial unrest though there was no disruption of the ferries due to the working conditions being improved for crews which had come into effect on 25th April 1911. However, strikes in the coal mines led to coal shortage. From 17th to 20th August 1911 the New Brighton service was reduced from 15- to a 20- minute frequency to conserve stocks and, as stocks were down to 10 days' supply, 1,000 tons were stockpiled in the works yard at Seacombe. Though this was a short strike, there were further trials to come.

On 6th February, 1912, a more serious strike started which coincided with heavy snowfalls resulting in a disruption of supplies by rail. The boats were coaled from flats alongside Seacombe stage but by 4th March reserves in the yard had fallen to 770 tons. An emergency timetable was introduced which effected mainly the northern ferries. These boats ran at 8.00 am and every 20 minutes to 10.00 am then every hour to 4.00 pm then every 30 minutes to 7.00 pm and hourly to 10.00 pm. Seacombe sailings were reduced to every 15 minutes after 8.00 pm. On 7th March the New Brighton service was suspended altogether, with Egremont running every 30 minutes from 7.30 am to 10.00 am and 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm; Seacombe was reduced to 15 minutes at all non-peak times and on Sundays only the Seacombe boats ran with a 15 minute service from 2.15 pm. Some crewmen were laid off and others told to take their annual holidays.

The situation began to improve gradually and by 1st April, New Brighton reopened and operated throughout Easter. There were frequent last minute cancellations and on 9th April several trips were lost when engineers failed to raise reasonable heads of steam because of inferior coal. Paddlers were used during the emergency because of their low coal consumption but there were just a few in number.

The effect of the coal shortage on the railways became so serious that, on 26th March, the Wirral Railway warned the Ferries department that it might be necessary to close the Seacombe branch temporarily; a request for a refund for passengers holding through rail and ferry contracts was refused by the department but, in the event, closure was avoided.

The increased traffic led the Corporation to change the services on the northern passages in order to encourage their use by regular passengers. Seacombe, with its 10-minute service throughout the day, tapering off to an hourly frequency throughout the night was able to absorb many additional passengers and, in fact, after a >>

complaint of overcrowding was investigated, it was found that no boat was ever more than sixty per cent full. For the winter of 1912 a 20-minute morning peak service from New Brighton via Egremont was followed by a 15-minute service to Egremont with every other boat going on to New Brighton until 8.00 pm when a 30-minute service was run at Seacombe between 11.20 pm and 1.00 am when the hourly service commenced. For the exceptionally busy month of July 1913, during which there was a Royal Visit to Liverpool for the opening of Gladstone Dock, a 15-minute service ran to and from New Brighton until 11.00 pm on weekdays with a 20-minute Sunday service until 10.00 pm.

The all day 15-minute Egremont service was not repeated in the winter of 1913-1914. A 15-minute service from New Brighton via Egremont was given between 8.00 am and 10.00 am followed by a 30-minute service, augmented to double the service to Egremont between 12.00 noon and 2.00 pm and between 5.00 pm and 7.00 pm, requiring three boats with a fourth in reserve.

Encouraged by a record summer in 1913, from 1st May 1914, the northern boats were run every 15-minutes throughout the day until 10.00 pm. From 1st June two late boats up to 10.35 pm from New Brighton were added and an ambitious morning peak service was started with a direct boat from Egremont every 15 minutes and a direct boat from New Brighton every 20 minutes. This proved to be excessive and was replaced from 12th August by a combined 20-minute service between 6.30 am and 11.00 pm, using three boats. On Sundays a 15-minute service ran between 10.00 am and 10.35 pm.


On 26th July 1913 after 17 years’ service the ferries manager. H.E. Martin, retired. He was replaced by Lt. Cdr. William Henry Fry, RNR. Following service with the Houston and Cunard Lines, he had been employed for the previous seven years as Engineer and Superintendent of Works for the Vacuum Oil Co. Fry’s first duties was in 1914 which was to prepare for the visit of King George V on 25th March in recognition of the town’s elevation to County Borough status. The King and Queen crossed the river to Seacombe in Daffodil and laid the foundation stone of the new town hall. The whole ferry fleet was dressed overall and the streets of Wallasey were decorated with flags and other decorations.