Floods, Mud and Camps at Moreton

Moreton, the place they once called names, was the municipal Cinderella that became a garden suburb. The poor relation that blossomed out. Shanty Town and Shacksville were among the insults it bore. But it was more years ago than floods and mud and do-it-yourself little bungalows and caravans. It stood, too, for camps and long summers, for fresh air and freedom, for a sense of space and the smell of the country. It was scoffed at, but spirited, it was frowned on, but fun.

There are thousands of houses there now. Vast estates and miles of roads. There is a population almost one third of that for the whole Wallasey borough.

It has skyscraper flats. It has a range of shops. It has grown up, and in the process altered beyond recognition.

Before World War One the village – and it was just a village – had a population of 900. There were cottages and farms, fields all round.

A few years later there was a mushroom growth of asbestos bungalows and caravans. Squatters went, and stayed.

Much of the land was wet and low-lying. There were knee-deep floods every winter.

Water was carried in buckets from stand-pipes. There was no electricity supply.

There was no buses running to Wallasey. There was only one train an hour to Birkenhead.

The nearest doctor was at Hoylake. The nearest dentist was in Birkenhead.

Residents made their own roads from cinders. They would light their way across the fields with a candle in a bottle.

Flood water lapped the bungalows and caravans. Often families were marooned in their homes.

Shopping by boat was common. Postmen would punt their way to front doors.

A familiar sight on Moreton. A couple go out on a boat to go shopping, This picture was taken in the Pasture Road area in the 1920s.

Damageable belongings were kept wrapped up ready to move. You never knew the moment in old Moreton.

The Farmer’s Arms had a thatched roof. There was Mary Anne’s Cottage in Maryland Lane.

A row of pretty little cottages – Herring Row – stretched from Pasture Avenue to the Cross.

Mr. Jack Cole, ran the village’s first bus, a small vehicle nicknamed the “Dinkle”. An open horse carriage, the “Cuckoo”, was operated by Mr. Mason.

Police Constable Groome was the sole representative of law and order. He lived in a small house in Digg Lane.

Mud was the big problem. It was everywhere. There were vast areas of it after every rainfall.

This was the Coach and Horses Inn at Moreton Cross, before the present hotel took its place. A small white-washed country pub, with a little bank next door.

Flooded-out but still smiling. A trent and a bungalow behind them, the group posed for the cameraman at the time of World War One.

Housewives out shopping took a towel in their baskets. They would wade through pools of water, shoes and stockings tied round their necks, dry their feet, and put their footwear on again.

Tough and amenity-starved – that was Moreton in winters of many years ago.  Camps were the thing there. Moreton had community fun and holidays for all.

Kerr’s Field, Meadowbrook Field and Fellowship Field – so well named – were the sites of summer gatherings of a kind the place will never know again.

Fellowship Stores, run by a Mr. and Mrs. Miles, was a wooden general store that sold everything from bread to bed-spreads, from paraffin to buckets and spades.

There were fancy dress parades and concerts. There were open-air dances, lit by oil lamps, in the cool of summer evenings.

Sports days were held on the Common every August Bank Holiday. They hired a brass band for the occasion.

Pasture Road at the weekends became Wirral’s Petticoat Lane. There were stalls and gypsies.

A hump-backed bridge crossed the River Birket. A shop (haircuts on Sundays, fish and chips the rest of the week) stood on the site of the old Moreton Cinema.

There was Armchair Farm, in Hoylake Road, a half-timbered little place, and Oakenholt Road had the village pump.

A smell of hay. Cattle grazing. The hum of bees in clover fields along Upton Road.

And those small towns of tents on the Common and the fields leading up to it. Big tents, small tents, white and coloured.

This was a typical scene, A photograph taken in the heavily flooded - and mudded - area that was to become Bermuda Road.

In days when money was short – and it was short indeed in the 1920’s – families spent long weeks in them.  Unemployed men made them their homes for weeks on end.

For the youngsters, it was all adventure and room to race. Thick woods towards Upton. Apple orchards next to farms.

A clean Mersey to splash in. Miles of sand and right along the coastline.

With a penny packet of broken biscuits and a bottle of water (lemonade if they were rich), boys and girls picnicked on the sand dunes and in thick-grassed meadows.

Then a long walk home in the evening. Tired out, and blackberry-stained.

Their Moreton was no Shanty Town or Shacksville. It was freedom and fun.

A place to be happy in. A place which disappeared under asphalt and concrete and housing estates.