From Anglo-Saxon times Wallasey was part of the Hundred of Wirral (also known as The Wapentake of Wirral) which was the ancient administrative area for the Wirral Peninsula. Its name is believed to have originated from the Hundred of Wilaveston, the historic name for Willaston, which was an important assembly point in the Wirral Hundred during the Middle Ages. The ton suffix in a place name normally indicates a previous use as a meeting location for officials. During its existence, the hundred was one of the Hundreds of Cheshire.
The term 'hundred' goes back to at least to the time of King Alfred. He divided the country into counties or shires and these in turn into hundreds, subdivided into tithings or towns. Historians have never agreed as to what is really meant by a 'hundred', but it seems likely that is has a military origin, i.e the district furnishing a hundred warriors. Alternatively it may signify the area occupied by a hundred families or be a unit of a hundred hides of land.
Order was maintained for the Wirral by the appointments of local palatine offices called 'Serjeants of the Peace' who were under the control of a 'Grand Serjeant'. The Hundred was 'perambulated' (inspected) by these serjeants who were assisted by staff known as 'bedells' who had knowledge of all offences against the peace. They had powers to arrest offenders, and in early days might instantly behead them, if caught in the act.
The earliest recorded history of court action was in 1309 when Thomas Ebba, of Poulton, attacked Matthew de Walley. Ebba was killed in the attack and de Walley was arrested and taken to Chester Castle. The Hundred Court found that de Walley had acted in self-defence and was released with a 40d fine.
Since 1100 the Wirral had been under Forest Laws as much of the region was forested. In 1347 many of the inhabitants were brought before the court for offences connected with the forest. Houses and mills built without licence were ordered to be pulled down, and enclosures made for agricultural purposes were thrown open.
One of the last Hundred Courts was on 3rd September, 1855, which were then held quarterly, and it sat at Tranmere Hotel. An action for damages for false imprisonment was brought by James McMahon of Liscard, a schoolmaster, against Elliot Hodson, a Birkenhead police detective.
With the increasing growth of population in Wallasey it was soon apparent that a change in the form of local government was required. On 8th May, 1845, the Wallasey Improvement Act was passed which authorised the appointment of twenty-one Commissioners, who were all local businessmen. The legislation included powers for "paving, lighting, watching, cleansing, and otherwise improving the Parish of Wallasey, in the County of Cheshire, and for establishing a Police, and also a Market, within the said Parish, and for other purposes". The Commissioners were elected for three years, one-third of their number retiring annually but being eligible for re-election. The Commissioners were empowered to construct common sewers and to drain the land for building purposes. Also powers were obtained to purchase the ferries. They met for the first time in a room above the stables of the Queens Arms Hotel, Liscard on 12th June, 1845.
The Commissioners apparently did not perform their obligations to the parish. The ferries were never purchased, no market was ever made and their provision for 'watching' consisted of only three police officers - a chief and two men. The most serious failure was the concern of neglect of public health within the parish. The whole country had already received a scare in the cholera epidemic of 1832-1833. Liverpool had suffered more then most but the cholera of 1832 had actually originated from Seacombe.
The main problem for the Commissioners was the 'Wallasey Pool', which was then a wide inlet open to the Mersey tidal estuary. At low water the smell of silt, mud and the inhabitants dumping refuse was quite revolting and nauseating. Matters were not improved with the development of Birkenhead Docks which necessitated the building of a wall across the mouth of the Pool and the damming up of the water behind it to make the Great Float. The situation was made even worse when the Dock Committee became bankrupt in 1847, leaving the area a marsh. With an increasing population and those left unemployed by the dock collapse it is not hard to understand the daunting task in public health for the Commissioners. In response to the situation the inhabitants of Seacombe sent a petition to the Board of Health in June, 1851.
An inquiry was held at Parry's Hotel, Seacombe on 31st July, 1851, by Mr Robert Rawlinson, Superintendent Inspector under the Public Health Act, 1848. The Inspector found that the problems of Seacombe was also found in the rest of Wallasey. The sewers were urgently needed but was resisted because under the Wallasey Improvement Act, 1845, it stated that the owners of the property had to pay for any sewering but under the Public Health Act the soon to be elected Local Board would have the power to levy a sewer rate on tenants. The owners reluctant's in constructing sewers was heard at the Inquiry.
Further reports was also heard at the Inquiry including a report that there was no public lighting in the Parish and only a small private gasworks which only supplied Egremont Ferry. Also urgently needing attention was the housing conditions in the district. The worst was the area known as Mersey Street, which adjoined Seacombe Ferry, and was quite abominable. In fact the mortality rate of Poulton-cum-Seacombe was far greater than even in the worst district of Liverpool
It was the Inspector's view that Wallasey was in a similar condition to that of Poulton-cum-Seacombe. The issue with Birkenhead Docks could not be solely held responsible for much of the trouble in public health. The Inspector went on to say that "if Wallasey Commissioners had put in force the powers of their Act as it now exists to their fullest extent, many nuisances complained of would have been abated. But apparently most of the clauses relating to sanitary were, have, up to this time, remained a dead letter".
The resulting Inquiry found the Commissioners being replaced under the Wallasey Order of 1852 by a Local Board of Health established under the Public Health Act, 1848.
On the 18th April, 1853 'The Public Health Act, 1853' ordered the Wallasey Local Board of fifteen persons should be elected to supersede the Commissioners. Six members were elected by Liscard, six by Poulton-cum-Seacombe and three to Wallasey. One of their first duties was to provide an adequate water supply for the district. Previously Poulton-cum-Seacombe was supplied with water from three wells. The first pump was situated at Somerville, second, a well by the road side at the junction of the Dock Road and Poulton Bridge Road and the third at Clough and Galan's Yard, on the north side and very near Wallasey Pool. Before the sinking of the wells by the Commissioners for the public water supply, the tenants were dependent on private wells, one to several houses. The landlord had to supply each house with two large wooden butts for rain water. The Local Board obtained powers to construct waterworks in 1858, which resulted in the construction of a well and pump in Poulton (later to become the Gas works which closed in 1962) and a elevated tank at Mill Lane which was completed in 1861 and formally opened by Mr Tollemache, M.P. In 1883 the Committee was advised to construct a reservoir at New Brighton and brought into use in 1887 on Gorsehill Road (the Water Tower being constructed in 1905).
The Local Board took steps to acquire most of the land along the river and, in 1860, took over the Mersey Ferries. [For further reading :- History of the Wallasey Ferries]. Other steps that the Board took was to purchase the Liscard Hall estates in 1890 at a cost of 1/10d per square yard for the 37 acre land and mansion. Later a further 20 adjoining acre was acquired and opened to the public as Central Park
The original offices of the Local Board were situated at the bottom of Church Street, Egremont, and these remained the headquarters after the Local Board was replaced by the Urban District Council in 1894 under the Local Government Act of that year. The district was divided into eight wards, New Brighton, Upper Brighton, Liscard, Egremont, North Seacombe, South Seacombe, Poulton and Wallasey. Three representatives were elected for each ward and the first chairman was Richard Steel of Zig Zag Hall.
In June, 1902 the Council seeked to increase its powers by securing authority to appoint a Mayor, Alderman and a Town Clerk as well as making by-laws and setting up a separate police force so an application was made for incorporation as a Borough. A petition was presented but was strongly opposed and incorporation was refused by the Privy Council. It was not until 1910 that Wallasey achieved Borough status, its charter being the first to be granted by King George V.
The wards were increased to ten, and the first meeting of the new Council met on 11th November, 1910 . The Council, with a Liberal majority, consisted of 10 Alderman and 30 Councillors who invited Mr James Thomas Chester, though not actually a Town Councillor, as the boroughs first Mayor. The Chains of Office of the Mayor's and Mayoress being raised by public subscription. The Arms of Wallasey, incorporated in the Mayor's Chain, were granted by the College of Arms on 8th September, 1910. It carries the Wirral Horn in the right of the shield, with three wheat sheaf's representing Cheshire on the opposite side. A fully-rigged galleon in full sail underneath, represented the town's maritime connections. The crest had a knight's helmet and trident dolphins. The motto and leaves completed the Coat of Arms. In heraldic language it reads :-
Or on the waves of the Sea a three-masted Ship in full sail proper,
on a chief Azure, to the dexter three Garbs, two and one of the
first, and to the sinister a Bugle-horn proper, stringed and
And for the crest, on a wreath of the colours, a Dolphin head
downwards proper, entwining a Trident erect or Manting Or
Motto : Audemus dum cavemus
Translated - "We are bold whilst we are cautious"
County Borough status was granted on 1st April, 1914. A decision was made that a new Town Hall should be built and the area chosen was in Brighton Street on the site of North Meade House. The foundation stone of the new Town Hall was laid by King George V on 25th March, 1914. The building was used during the First World War as a military hospital and was not opened for municipal purposes until 3rd November, 1920. In 1918 Wallasey, previously in the Wirral Parliamentary Division, became a Parliamentary Borough, and the first member to be elected was the Conservative Dr. Bouverie Macdonald, a local well-known practitioner.
A Local Act in 1920 saw the number of wards increase to 14 and the Council to 14 Alderman and 42 Councillors. The Act gave further powers concerning health and also town improvements which included the construction of libraries, schools but most importantly the building of houses and roads.
On 1st April, 1928, the Parish of Moreton and part of the Parish of Bidston, were added to the Borough. The number of wards was increased from 14 to 16, the two new wards, Leasowe and Moreton, being represented by five members, two Councillors each and one Alderman; later an additional Councillor for Moreton was added. When Saughall Massie was added to the Borough by the County of Chester Review Order, 1933, an additional ward was created represented by one Councillor and at the same time an additional Alderman was appointed. The total number of Councillors for the Borough now stood at 64. In 1950 Moreton and Saughall Massie were amalgamated and the new Moreton and Saughall Massie ward and the Leasowe ward were then represented by three Councillors each; the number of wards was reduced to 16 but the Council remained the same.
With war looming the Council in early 1939 had appointed an Emergency Committee of three members with full power to act on behalf of the Council in time of war in all matters of civil defence. This power was later extended to include air-raid precautions. Other important war-time controls was food and fuel rationing. In September 1939 a Food Control Committee, consisting of fifteen members was appointed. The Town Clerk was appointed Food Control Officer. The Food Control Committee had various sub-committees, one of which dealt with British Restaurants and communal feeding. Two Restaurants were established to provide cheap meals to the public. One was located in Borough Road, Seacombe, and the other in Wallasey Road, Liscard. The Committee was also responsible for the reissuing of ration cards.
After the war the Local Authority implemented new Acts of Parliament which included the gas and electricity being transferred to the National Board (1948), institutional care of patients in hospitals has become the responsibility of the Ministry of Health acting through Liverpool Regional Hospital Boards of the Ministry of Health (National Health Service Act, 1948). An Act of Parliament in 1949 saw Housing Improvement grants.
In the General Election of 1945 the Conservatives decided that the Candidate would be Captain Ernest Marples (9 December 1907 – 6 July 1978) , who stood against George Reakes and Labour's Tom Finlay. Marples was returned to Westminster with a majority 3,810. Marples went on undefeated to represent the Borough as its M.P. until 1974. He was also Minister of Transport (14 October 1959 – 16 October 1964) in Harold MacMillan's government and introduced yellow lines, seat belts and parking meters.
The County Borough of Wallasey ended on 1st April 1974 when the Town became part of the Wirral Metropolitan District.
The Rise & Progress of Wallasey - E.C Woods and P.C Brown
Almost An Island - Noel E Smith
Wallasey Now & Then - Irene Birch. Wendy S Bennett, Paul E Davies and Sheila Hamilton
A Perambulation of the Hundred of Wirral - Harold Edgar Young
The Wirral Peninsula - Norman Ellison