Wallasey Village is the oldest inhabited part of the three townships - Wallasey, Poulton-cum-Seacombe and Liscard - which were amalgamated in 1910 to form the Borough (later County Borough) of Wallasey. In 1898 the Village consisted of a long straggling main street with cottages and small farmsteads, stretching from the parish church to the corner of the present Grove Road, with small crofts and closes on either side of the street. Apart from various brick fields and quarries Wallasey Village was mainly agricultural.
The ancient breck or brake common consisting of natural scrub and fern once covered a large area. This ridge started near Poulton and stretched northwards towards the sandhills and the sea and is about eighty-eight feet above sea level. It formed the backbone of ancient Wallasey. The slope on the eastern side of the ridge is gentle but the western side rises steeply from what was once marshland, making Wallasey almost an island, hence it's name given by Saxon invaders waelas-eig meaning either "Welshmen's' or 'strangers' island'.
The Breck was formed from a sandstone ridge and it was was bought by Sir John Tobin of Liscard Hall in 1845 and worked as a quarry. Stone from here was used in the building of many of the local cottages as well as to make Leasowe Road. It bore little resemblance to the present road as it was a long winding muddy lane. There was a stone-built windmill on the Breck, which was erected in 1765 and known as 'Breck Mill'. It replaced an earlier wooden mill which was shown on a map dated 1665. The villagers would buy their flour direct from the miller. The building became unsafe and was demolished in 1887. Mr George Peers, one time Chairman of the Wallasey Local Board, built a house called Millthwaite on the site. The house was subsequently replaced by Millthwaite Court Flats in Millthwaite Close.
The Breck Footpath, behind the elevated houses on Breck Road next to the Ship Inn, was one of the main access routes to the Breck and Wallasey Mill. The Breck was once very extensive but by 1814 it was enclosed due to the encroachment of houses and the open land. As mentioned, stone from here built Leasowe Road. The contractor cut the road through the rock from St. Hilary Brow to gain access as this was the nearest quarry.
The last little farm in Wallasey Village was Spragg's Farm. It was white-washed and stood right on the pavement of Breck Road with fields behind. This was a diary farm for the locals. Tom and John Spragg ran the farm, with the help of their sister, Alice. Not having any cows of their own, save a few calves which they reared for sale, they got their milk from Sam Thomas's farm father down the road. They delivered milk by horse and cart, serving it from the churn using a long dipper. Should the customer be out when they called, they would leave the milk in a small lidded can on the doorstep. Hens were also kept at the farm and Jim Spragg in later year became a market gardener. The farm was demolished in the 1960's.
The church of St. Hilary's Parish Church stands on one of the highest points of the parish. A church has stood here for centuries though the date of the earliest building is uncertain. The church is one of only eight in Britain to bear the name 'St. Hilary'. The Tudor tower was built in 1530 and was left standing when the church was rebuilt in 1760. Early on the Sunday morning February 1st 1857, the church was destroyed by fire. It was said that the fire was caused by the Sexton, who was so tired of people complaining about the cold that he stoked the boilers too high. A tale frequently repeated at the time was that, as the church burned, there was a glorious smell of frying bacon. Apparently the church had been used as a store for smuggled bacon. Again the old tower survived and still stands today in the church grounds near the present church, which was rebuilt after the fire in 1859.
Between the coast and Leasowe Road was the most fertile stretch in the parish occupied by market gardens noted for their quality and the earliness of their produce. The first Market Gardener to grow cucumbers in the area was William Webster, who lived at 'The Mains' (where Northcote Road is now). Along Leasowe Road were a row of cottages called 'Wallasey Terrace' and were occupied by Irish workers who came over to work in the market gardens.
Wallasey had at one time a well known race course and was probably established in the 1500s. It ran from Wallasey Village out towards Leasowe Castle and back again, finishing near Wallasey (Grove Road) Station. In 1682 the Duke of Monmouth won the main race of the meeting and gave his prize money to his god-daughter, Henrietta. About 1732 the more important events were discontinued though racing still took place for many years. The racing stables stood in Wallasey Village in Sandiways Road. The stables have long since gone and even Jockey Lane has been renamed Sandcliffe Road.
Another reminder of Wallasey's racing past is the Black Horse Inn which could be seen occupying a prominent position in Wallasey Village. The date stone over the door bore the inscription 'D.W.M. 1772' It is believed that the Black Horse Inn took its name from a horse entered in a race at Leasowe Racecourse in the 1700s by Lord Molyneux. The Inn had cobbled paving along the frontage, with a mounting block at one corner. A small building, used as a mortuary, stood at one side, so sometimes the landlord was woken up at night to admit a body. The sixpenny beers sold at the Inn came from Richard Spragg's Wallasey Vale Brewery, which stood at the top of Leasowe Road. It dated back to the 1850s. In front stood the whitewashed house belonging to it; today the shops numbered 37 and 39 Leasowe Road occupy the site. The old Black Horse Inn was demolished in 1931 when the present ornate building was erected.
The old Lighthouse Inn in the village was built between 1827/1830. Originally the inn was two cottages dating back to the 18th Century and was first licensed in c1860. The inn, which was later knocked into one building, together with three adjoining cottages and one acre of land to the rear was purchased by Birkenhead Brewery in 1900, for £3,340. The old building was replaced with a modern public house, being built in 1966.
The Traveller's Rest was made of sandstone and had two small rooms; the bar parlour and the news room. This was one of the properties that had been earmarked in the widening and straightening scheme, prepared by the Corporation as far back as 1906. The Traveller's Rest had closed down by the outbreak of war in 1939, by which time half the property had been acquired by the Corporation. The go-ahead for demolition of the war-damaged or derelict property was given in 1946. The site is now occupied by St. Mary's College, which opened in 1973.
A little further up the village towards St. Hilary Brow, at the bottom of Church Hill, is another public house called 'Cheshire Cheese'. The original Inn was a thatched building running north and south along the village and it had tiny windows , worn steps and an old sign attached to the chimney. It had a later addition facing up Church Hill, which gave it an L-shape. The old building was demolished in 1885 and the present one built in its place. According to tradition, King William III is said to have visited the Cheshire Cheese while his army was encamped on the Leasowe's waiting for a fair wind to take them to Ireland. How much is true and how much is legend is uncertain, though the King and his army did cross to Ireland from Kings Gap, Hoylake, a few miles along the coast.
At the bottom of St. Hilary Brow (then known as Carron Hill) stood the 'Sebastopol Inn', getting it's name from the Crimean War. The pub was closed in the 1890s's and demolished in the 1930's to make way for road widening.
Claremount Road was originally called Top Lane. It took its name from the Rev William Green's School which he named after his old cottage at Cambridge. The school stood near to Sandy Lane. At one time the road ran from here to Wallasey Road where the name-plate read 'Claremont Road'. Later, when the road was extended to Grove Road, the nameplate read 'Claremount Road' - the form now used. Standing on Claremount Road stood the fine house of 'The Laund'. Its name came from the townfields which were divided into long narrow strips sometimes known as 'lands' - hence the name 'The Laund'. It was built by the Harrison family who were Liverpool shipowners. They were also responsible for the building of St. Nicholas's Church in 1910. The family lived in the house from 1857 to 1879. Wallasey Cottage Hospital, also in Claremount Road, was originally founded in Back Lane (now St. Georges Road) in a building called 'Byron Lodge' in 1868, and opened with three beds. It moved to the new site in 1885. An extension in May 1911 added a further nine beds, operating theatre, outpatients department and electric lift, at a total cost of £1,500. The hospital was further improved in 1920 and again in 1931, but, despite much local opposition, was closed on 8 August 1980 and the site sold for housing development.
The foundation stones to Claremount Methodist Church was laid 19th May 1909. Under one of the stones laid were placed newspapers, the Circuit magazine and Plan. The new red sandstone church was opened by Mrs J.D Williams on 25th May 1910. The Service of Dedication was conducted by the President of the Conference, the Rev. William Perkins. The cost of the church and site was £10,000.
The tower was not completed until 1935. A new organ was installed in 1931 and further work was carried out in the interior including decoration. Like other churches in the town, Claremount suffered war damage and services had to be suspended and when the schoolroom was repaired the congregation were once again able to meet. On 31st July 1944 the church re-opened with a Service of Thanksgiving which was attended by the Mayor and members of the Council, The new hall was opened in 16th May 1961.
The fine rose-type window above the chancel depicts the story of Bunyan's "Pilgrims, Progress" which serves as a memorial to the men of the church who had fallen in the two world wars.
The old Nelson Hotel in Grove Road was a small two storey building. It was demolished and a new large pseudo-tudor-looking hotel was built in its place and opened in February 1935, costing £25,000. The present hotel has an inn sign of Lord Nelson while, inside there is the Trafalgar Room. In actual fact, the licensed premises are named after a family bearing the name of Nelson.
The old inn was built as a house by Thomas Peers, Nelson being his wife's maiden name. His son, Alfred held the licence, whilst being licensee of the Old Black Horse, who put Joseph Belce in charge of the Nelson.
The Grove Hotel once stood on the corner of Grove Road and Wallasey Village and was built in c1908. The first Local Directory entry for the hotel appeared in 1909 when the manageress was given to Miss Emmaline Landless. The hotel advertised "Billiards and High-Class Catering". The trade increased dramatically when the last section of Wallasey's tram system, which connected Wallasey Village with the other areas of Wallasey, was opened on 7 February 1911. It continued as a Hotel until the 1920's when it became known as 'Grove's Cafe'. It was then owned by S. Reece and Son's. The front of the building was Reece's Confectioner's shop - noted for its cream cakes. The Reeces were a well known local family. At one time they lived at 'Highfield', a large house in Mill Lane. In the 1950's the upstairs at the hotel became the Melody Inn Club and in the 1960's the hotel was badly damaged by fire and lay empty for many years before being demolished. The site of the hotel is now an open space.
Captain F.W Flynn lived in Grove Road in a house called 'Greenheys' which was situated not too far where the Nelson Hotel is today. The land he owned on the corner of Claremount Road and Grove Road was given to the people of Wallasey by the Flynn family and given the name "Flynn Piece". The land was originally used as a marl pit. Marl is a sort of clay/lime and was used by gardeners who mixed it with the sandy soil to improve growing properties. The place is also known as 'Flynn's Patch' and is now used as a children's play area.
In 1891 the Wallasey Golf Links opened. The clubhouse is situated near where Bayswater Road now runs. The Wallasey Links suffered greatly in the winter gales which deposited blown sand into the sea-side holes. In order to keep the course up to championship standard hundreds of tons of sand were removed and in 1938 12,000 tons of soil were laid over the sandhills. Further west, in Grove Road, Wallasey Grange was built by Major W. Chambres who lived there until his death in 1893. The house and grounds were purchased in 1923 by Wallasey Council for £7000 and in 1924 it became the clubhouse for the Warren Golf Club. Near to it was the large house 'Rolleston' which gave its name to the present day Rolleston Drive.
A little further on is Hoeside Farm and Hoseside Road. Hoseside is the modern version of 'Hoose' a corruption of 'hoes' meaning sandhill - at one time the lane lay alongside sandhills. The Captain's Pit can be seen off Hoseside Road and was once a quarry owned by Alderman James Smith. According to legend it is so named because a sea captain took his bride to live in nearby Liscard Castle. After hearing that he had been drowned whilst at sea, she ran out of out the house and headed to the pond where she threw herself in and was drowned. At the Seaview end of Hoseside Road there use to be gates which were often closed, as it was a private road.
The old sandstone school-house in Breck Road was built by subscription in 1799, replacing the original church school, which was added to the side of the church tower in 1656/57 by a gift from Henry Meols.The school started with a small group of children gathering around the font for instruction in about 1560, but it is quite likely that Thomas Tassie could have taught the children as early as 1547. However, Randuphe Gesste, was probably the first official Headmaster of the school in the early 1590's. Several members of the Meols family made the gifts to the school. One of the most popular masters was Henry Robinson (born 1640 in Wallasey). While this little school-house was being built, the children had classes in the old windmill. The door to the school was originally at the end of the building but has since been bricked up and a new one made in place of one of the windows.
Edward Newton was master between 1781 and 1843. He became curate at Wallasey from 1784 to 1828. The school was at first for both girls and boys, but later a school was built in Nelson's Gutter (later School Lane) for the younger children. The boys, on reaching a certain age, went up to the Breck Road School-house, but the girls remained. From Breck Road the school moved to St. George's Road (then Back Lane) in 1864 then on to Withens Lane and built on what was known as the 'Flag Field', so called on account of the flagstones which went along the Withens Lane. It opened in 1876 and cost £13,595, including the grounds. In 1911 a new large school replaced the older building, where the school remained until moving to Birkett Avenue, Leasowe in 1967. As Comprehensive schools had just started the new school took the name 'Henry Meoloes Senior Comprehensive School' in 1968. In September 1988 the school merged with Oxley Girls' School in Oxley Avenue to form the new 'Wallasey School' with Peter Johnson being the first Headmaster.
Clare Mount was built in 1836 and stood opposite Sandy Lane on Claremount Road. Though built by William Dean, the estate was sold to John Astley Marsden of Liscard Castle.
In 1853 the property was sold to the Reverend William Clayton Green who established a boarding school. In later years it cost boarders under twelve £60 per annum, above twelve but under fifteen £65, over fifteen £70 and for those boys over seventeen it cost 100 guineas. Scholars also came to the school on a daily basis, which cost £26.
Later the house was purchased by the Corporation at a cost of £8,500 who erected a Special School. The school then became St. Georges Upper Site.
St. Nicholas Church, standing just back from Bayswater Road, was built by two Harrison brothers, Frederick James and Sir Heath, in memory of their well-known parents, James and Jane Harrison, hence the church is also known as the Harrison Memorial Church (as well as the Golfers Church). The foundations stone was laid by the Harrison's on 26 April 1910. Built of Storeton stone by J. Thomas of Oxton at a cost of £15,000, it seats up to 700. It was dedicated on 29 November 1911 by the Bishop of Chester and the first incumbent the Rev. A.S Roscamp M.A. The Harrison Memorial Hall, the foundation stone for which was laid on 21 May 1932 on a site next to the present Windsors' showroom in Harrison Drive, boasted a stage and seating for 500.
Harrison Park was presented to the town in 1896 by the Harrison family, in memory of their parents. Cricket, Bowls and Tennis were frequently played in the summer season and it is a popular place for families. Harrison Drive was opened on 24th June 1901 which cost the Council £7,580 to build and takes its name from the family. Blown sand would often cover the road, indeed sometimes it was so bad that only the upper portion of the lamp-posts could be seen. The surrounding area, down to the promenade, is always referred to as 'Harrison Drive'.
On Whit Sunday, 12th May 1913, saw the opening of the 700 seat cinema 'Cosmo' in Wallasey Village. The frontage of the cinema included four shops and was surmounted by a central glass dome with a spiral staircase behind leading to the projection room. Entrance to the single storey auditorium was through an elegant red-carpeted octagonal foyer decorated with potted palms. In June 1924 the building was refurbished and reopened as the 'Coliseum Theatre' with nightly performances (twice on Saturday night). The theatre came under the control of Fred Ross of New Brighton's 'Tivoli' fame.
It seems that stage performances were not a success and in Easter 1925 there was a reverse to films. In March 1930 the Coliseum became Wallasey's latest Talking Theatre with the opening attraction of the all-talking, singing, all dancing sensation, 'Broadway Melody' featuring Bessie Love and Anita Page.
During the 1930s the Coliseum introduced Saturday matinees for children costing 2d. This was the last change at the Coliseum before the war in 1939 when, which was common with all places of entertainment, the cinema closed on its outbreak but opened 2 weeks later. With falling attendances because of the war the cinema closed and in March 1941 a direct hit by a German bomb caused extensive damage that led to the demolition of the Coliseum soon afterwards.
In June 1951 a new cinema. the 'Phoenix' was opened on the former site of the 'Coliseum'. The 'Phoenix' cost £40,000 to build and could seat 930. The opening film was 'Rio Grande' staring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
The design of the building, though one of simplicity, was not without striking features. These included a pink neon Phoenix on the otherwise plain slate and rustic brick front exterior. Inside, at the extremities of the 40ft wide foyer, were the manager's office and a small buffet. All the doors were in mahogany and the woodwork in the buffet was in bird's eye maple. The auditorium, devoid of the elaborate carvings, plaster work and decoration associated with the picture palaces of a by-gone age, was nevertheless memorable for several reasons. The expanse of side walls was broken by a series of plain pilasters, whilst across the ceiling were six fibrous plaster trough sound-breakers stepped down towards the proscenium to conceal the main house lighting which was supplemented by ceiling-mounted glass fittings adjacent to the small stage, itself equipped with two colour floodlights. The seating capacity of the single storey auditorium was 930, the extra capacity having been achieved by utilisation of the stage area of the former theatre. The auditorium was tastefully decorated in pale pink to harmonise with the soft furnishings chosen personally by the proprietor's wife; the seating being in blue crushed velvet whilst the stage curtains were in dark blue with silver relief.
In July 1953, The Phoenix became the first picture house in Wallasey to be fitted with a wide screen, said to be "twice bigger than normal wide screen". The Phoenix became one of Wallasey's most popular cinemas of the time and despite the introduction of television, it continued to enjoy relatively good business during a period when box-office takings at many other picture houses in the region were depressed and many cinemas were being forced to close down. However, by the 1970's, The Phoenix auditorium was sub-divided into two small 250 seater cinemas and provided a new entrance to the front section for bingo patrons. Bingo however, was not a success but films continued for awhile to be profitable until 1983 when, with audience figures dwindled, the cinema closed in the July. The cinema was demolished in 1988.
The first cinema in Wallasey Village was a short-lived venture called 'Wallasey Picturedome'. Initially the building was the 200 seat Wesleyan Chapel which opened in 1885 and was vacated in 1910 when the congregation moved to alternative premises in Claremount Road. The building was converted into the Wallasey Picturedome and began advertising films on the 6th March 1911. After a number of different managers the cinema closed in early 1912 and the building, which was converted into shops, still stands as 131 to 137 Wallasey Village.
Lawton's Farm once stood on the southern corner of Leasowe Road. The house was built of stone with a thatched roof. The garden was noted for its lilac trees. The barn belonging to the farm stood on the opposite corner of Leasowe Road and it has been suggested that it may have been the Tithe Barn (meaning to pay one-tenth as tax). By the 1920s the farm buildings were all demolished when the road was widened. Shops now occupy the sites.