Horse Drawn Days of Carts and Carnival

In the days when horse power meant horses, Wallasey was full of them. They pulled its jogging tramcars and they carried its goods. They plodded its hills, its rough roads, and its cobbled streets. They took it on its picnics and outings. Great horses decorated with bright wipes of ribbon and shining brass. They served it long and they served it well. They were with it in its village days. They were with it when it cantered to importance as a borough.

There were smithies in all parts of the town in the old days, noisy with the ring of anvils. Blacksmiths with spark-pitted arms.

There was a smithy in Smithy Lane, Seacombe. There was a large one in Liscard, where the Postal Delivery office stands today. There was Ledsham’s forge in Wallasey Village.

All the tramcars were horse-drawn up to 1902 – and privately owned. Axles creaked. Hooves struck bright sparks from the road.

It was in 1901 that the Urban District Council compulsory purchased the tramways. They paid just over £22,000 for the lot – seven cars (each with accommodation for 34 passengers) and 78 horses.

The horse-drawn ‘joggers’ were not very comfortable, but you could travel a long way for a penny.

Their horses, beautifully kept, had stables in Field Road, Upper Brighton.

Horses pulled the trams at a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour. The cars rattled and lurched behind them.

Two-horse brakes took residents on summer day outings, rumbling down lanes towards fields and high teas.

On carnival days tradesmen decorated their carts. There was great rivalry, and cups and cash for prizes.

In its fetes and procession, Wallasey was a town that believed in really going to town. Hardly a summer week passed without some ‘do’.

And there in the forefront were the horses, the horses that on workdays pulled coal carts, greengrocers’ carts, milk floats and trams.

There were parades for royal jubilees, for wartime victories, for local anniversaries, and for anything else that provided an excuse for the town to go on fete.

The horses were in the Wallasey Village Festival, with its silver bands marching between the rows of cottages.

They were in the Wallasey Gala when it was a huge occasion, and at all the ‘treats’ and outings.

Massive cart horses, and perky, pretty ponies. Each with a name and personality.

A pub, long since disappeared, recorded the work of the horses. The Long Pull, in Tobin Street, Egremont, got its name from the steep incline from the shore, an incline on which many heavily-laden carts encountered difficulty.

An old resident living in Wallasey at the time recorded ‘Some of the horses were overworked and underfed, and it was sad to see them. But most owners cared for them like children.

“Many of the animals were most beautifully groomed – even those pulling heavy and dirty coal wagons.

“Team owners took a great pride in their horses. They vied with one another to turn out the best-looking.

“Many a driver would have gone without a meal himself rather than let his horse go hungry in hard times – and there were plenty of hard times.

In front of the old white washed premises of R.Edwards, decorator, Liscard Village, stands a horse-drawn coal cart. The picture dates back to the days of World War One.

“All the horses had names. Betsy, Peggy and Bess were among the most popular here. At least those are some I remember.

“Their nose-bags were slung at the rear of the cart. In winter most horses had a thick blanket slung over their backs.”

In the long summers the tram and trade horses shone with sweat. Housewives would go out to them with pails of water.

Water carts toured the town on hot days. Refuse carts were all horse-drawn.

Beer deliveries to the pubs were made by drays pulled by magnificent shire horses.

One old horse who made weekly visits to the old Boot Inn, Liscard, acquired quite a reputation. He had a fancy for the brews he pulled behind him, and was regularly supplied with a pint of mild beer served from a bucket.

There was grazing land everywhere. Fields stretched along Poulton, Liscard and Wallasey Village.

Troughs were placed at convenient points along almost every road. One near the old Pool Inn, Poulton, bang on the junction of two steep hills, was particularly well used.

Horses were followed by lads armed with buckets and shovels, and with a keen eye to making a few coppers.

They did a brisk business in selling to the owners of gardens – and there were lots of them many years ago – the stuff that horses left behind.

Up to World War One there was a line of cabs at Seacombe Ferry. A shilling fare took a passenger almost anywhere in town.

Visiting royalty and V.I.P.s were conveyed from point to point by open carriage, invariably drawn by a pair of spanking greys and driven by a top-hatted gentleman.

The ladies of the rich had their smart gigs and pony traps. There was horse-riding across the sandhills.

The horses lingered on into the age of wide roads, buses, the car invasion, and the building of large estates, but each year but in the 1920s and 1930s reduced their number.

The rumbling cart wheels were stilled many years ago. The hoof beats are heard no more. The clip-clop has gone. Gone, like so many of the other sights and sounds of the old town.