Mansions of Wallasey


Poulton Hall

The Poulton of the old days contained several houses worthy of attention, the principal being Poulton Hall, constructed between 1790 and 1800 on the site of a seventeenth-century farmhouse. It was situated at the corner of Mill Lane and Poulton Road, and at one time formed part of the Mainwaring Estates, being mentioned in a Deed of Settlement executed by James Mainwaring of 'Bromborow' in 1816. In 1839, when the property was owned by the Executors of Thomas Parry, late proprietor of the old Seacombe Hotel, William Smith, a Merchant, was living at the Hall, but a better-known resident was Daniel Buchanan, a Cotton Broker, who moved there from Toxteth Park in the 1840's. He had something of a reputation as a lampoonist, and was author of a somewhat scurrilous poem on the occasion when the local Volunteers, under Major Chambres, visited Leasowe Castle to be presented by Lady Cust with what was understood would be a silver bugle, and were so disgusted by their reception and the poor quality of the gift that they were promptly marched away again by their Commanding officer. On another occasion, when the Rector of St. Hilary's of those days, Revd. Frederick Haggit, returned to Church after a short absence sporting a moustache, the congregation thought he was developing High Church tendencies, so Mr Buchanan wrote offering him £150 for the Church Schools if, before the following Sunday, he would fulfill three conditions, namely:-

1. Shave off the moustache
2. Restore Tate & Brady's Hymns
3. No eastward position when celebrating the Communion

Although Mr Haggit was greatly incensed, after some thought he replied to Mr Buchanan saying that if he would come to Church on the following Sunday, he would see that the first condition had been observed, but the other two matters of principle and could not be altered. Mr Buchanan thereupon sent him a cheque for £50, and regretted that it could not be for the full amount of £150. Mr Buchanan remained in residence at 'Poulton Hall' until his death in 1884, at the age of 74, when he was succeeded by Mr A.C Hopps, an Oil Merchant and member of a well-known Wallasey family. As it turned out, he was the last occupant of the property, because the Hall was demolished in 1933, and dwelling-houses were built on the site. The name is commemorated by Poulton Hall Road.

Poulton Manor House

In Sherlock Lane, which runs between Poulton Road and Limekiln Lane, stood Poulton Manor House, which dated from the late eighteenth century and in its day was quite a stately edifice. In 1841 there appeared to be several people resident there, particularly one Henry Meadows, who farmed the adjacent Manor Farm. and they were followed in 1860 by Mr James Clerk Boyd, a Liverpool Merchant, formerly of 'Bird's House' and Chairman of the Wallasey Local Board for several years. He spent some ten years at the Manor House before giving way to a Mr F.B Salmon, an Iron Merchant, also a member of the Local Board. A later occupant was John Robinson, a Sand and Gravel Merchant, who had previously lived at the Manor Farm, but he died in 1900, and in 1904 the Manor House, which had become involved in a large sale of land in the area to the Progressive Land Company, was demolished to make way for the small houses which now stand on the site.

Somerville House

Some distance down Poulton Road, almost opposite to Halestead Road, was 'Somerville House'. Built by James Finlay, a Tea Merchant, prior to 1860, it was his residence until the early 1870's, although he had a sad life inasmuch as he lost an infant son in 1855, and five years later his wife, who died at Clifton, Bristol, at the early age of 35. His successor was Lawrence Keizer, founder of the well-known glass firm of L.Keizer & Co., which later became part of a large company. Mr Keizer's stay at 'Somerville House' lasted nearly thirty years, but after the Poulton-cum-Seacombe School Board erected what was then the Somerville Elementary School close by, in 1892, the character of the neighbourhood began to change, and although we find Mr William March in residence at 'Somerville House' as late as 1905, it was probably soon after this that the demolition squad moved in.

Hope House

Anybody making their way down Liscard Road towards Seacombe over 100 years ago, as they approached what is now Brougham Road would have seen, on the north-west corner, 'Brougham House', known to the locals as 'Frog Hall', possibly because of the nearby duck pond. For many years the house was the residence of Mr Thomas Parry, proprietor of the old Seacombe Ferry and the Seacombe Hotel, and it eventually passed, with other land in the area, to his daughter, Lady Crichton-Browne. A little further on they would have reached 'Winch House', built about 1840 and approached from Brougham Road along a noble avenue of trees. 'Winch House' occupied what is now the site of Edith Road and Florence Road, and it was demolished about 1894, when houses were built there. The builder and original occupant Mr Henry Winch, founder of Peek Bros. and Winch, a wholesale provision firm in a large way of business. A later resident was Captain Askew, a one-time harbour master of Liverpool, who had earlier built himself a house in Tobin Street which he called 'Egremont', after his birth place in Cumberland, with the result that the area became known by the same name.

Turning down what was then Victoria Road, known now as Borough Road, they would have reached this charming house, hardly a mansion perhaps, but representative of many similar houses existing in Wallasey at that time. Its name was 'Hope House', and as far back as the 1860's it was occupied by Mr Samuel Wright, Secretary and Manager of the West India & Pacific Steam Navigation Company. In 1867 or thereabouts the property was purchased, probably as an investment originally, by Mr George Hulse, a turtle merchant, with one of the largest businesses of that type in England. He had a shop in Dale Street, Liverpool, near Manchester Street, with a huge tank in which turtles could be seen swimming about, and he was able to meet the great demand for turtle soup, which in those days appeared on the menu at most restaurants and any public or private banquet worthy of the name. The turtles were apparently brought from their West Indies island homes on the decks of steamers, lying on their backs, and were regularly hosed down with sea-water by the sailors as they flushed the decks.

About the time he bought 'Hope House', George Hulse also purchased and occupied 'North Meade', a mansion in Brighton Street subsequently demolished to make way for the Town Hall. It cost him £4,000, but three years later he died and was buried at St. Hilary's Churchyard. There was an usual story attached to this, inasmuch as Mr Hulse had a great friend, William Manders, who was the proprietor of a travelling menagerie which pitched its tent in William Brown Street, on the site of the Walker Art Gallery. Apparently, in addition to turtles, Mr Hulse's importing activities also extended to young lions, which he sold to his friend and to various other menageries. When William Manders died in 1871, a grave was prepared for him in St. Hilary's Churchyard immediately in front of that of George Hulse, but it is said that Manders was actually buried in Hulse's grave, and his own grave lacks an occupant. Time has rendered the inscription on the Marsden illegible, and even the Hulse tombstone does not incorporate any reference to him.

George Hulse had a son, George Hulse Jnr, who followed in his father's footsteps as a turtle merchant, and continued to live at 'North Meade', after his father's death, in company with his mother and his brother Richard. George Jnr, was in some respects lucky to have reached manhood, as he once entered a den of lions when he was a boy, and was badly clawed but escaped with his life, although he bore claw marks until his dying day. The Hulse's ownership of 'North Meade' ceased in 1898, when the Trustees of the father's estate sold the property, consisting of two houses and over 9,000 square yards of land, to a Mr James Kiernan, a Councillor, for £5,000. Kiernan, who already owned two places of entertainment in Liverpool, the Palace of Varieties in Paddington and the Park Palace in Park Lane, had plans for demolishing 'North Meade' and building a theatre on the site, but the Corporation prevailed on him to sell to them at a premium, and so the land became available for the Town Hall.

In the meantime, Samuel Wright, the occupant of 'Hope House', had moved across the river to Erskine Street, Liverpool, and was succeeded by various tenants, among whom were a Mr John Begg in 1875 and a Mr Joseph Jones in 1880. However, it would appear that in 1885 or thereabouts Mrs Anne Hulse, George's widow, and another son, John Edwin Hulse, decided to return to 'Hope House', and the photograph illustrated in this paragraph was probably taken about that time. it shows Mrs Hulse, John Edwin Hulse, and a grand-daughter, who later married a Mr Edward Ward Williams and had herself become a grandmother in the 1930's.

The next development was in 1897, when James Kiernan, whose plans to build a theatre on the site of 'North Meade' had fallen through, bought 'Hope House', demolished it in 1899 and replaced it with a theatre which, in deference to his friend, Sir Henry Irving, who performed the opening ceremony, he named 'The Irving Theatre'. Much of the stone-work for the theatre came from St. George's Church, Lord Street, Liverpool, then in the process of demolition. Sir Henry made it a condition that the theatre should only bear his name as long as legitimate drama was performed there, but in the ensuing years that commodity must have run short, as in 1912 the theatre had been renamed 'The King's', and since then it has functioned under various names and in varying capacities.

Mrs Hulse died in 1897 at the age of 80, and was buried in a separate grave in St. Hilary's Churchyard. Her son, John Edwin, moved to 'Wallasey View', St. George's Road, a house was later incorporated in the English Martyr's complex, but his health deteriorated, and in 1900 he went to Canada to undergo an operation, which was not successful, as he died later the same year at the age of 50. His body was brought back to the country at a cost of £300, and was buried in St. Hilary's Churchyard, on the north side of the church. He was a quiet, unobtrusive man, well-known in Wallasey, and it caused considerable surprise among his many friends when it was announced that the value of the estate was £147,000. it appears that he had indulged, successfully it would seen, in a certain amount of property speculation, in fact it was said that one morning he bought a stationer's shop in Castle Street, Liverpool, for £45,000, and sold it back to a Bank for £52,000 the same afternoon.