Mansions of Wallasey

Mansions of Rowson Street

Fern Hill

New Brighton, which, with its St. Georges Mount and Wellington Road, to name but two roads, had, and still has, many fine houses, but there were several others which have now disappeared entirely. Rowson Street alone boasted three of them, all standing in quite extensive grounds. One such house was 'Fern Hill', which during its entire existence provided a home for the Holt family. Its origins dated from August, 1868, when Mr George Edward Holt, a Chartered Accountant whose firm, bearing his name, is still in practice in Liverpool today, purchased 7,862 square yards of land from William and George Towndrow Atherton, sons of the late James Atherton, the co-founder of New Brighton. The house itself was evidently built within the next two years or so, as Mr Holt is shown as having moved there in 1871 from his previous residence, 'Hope Villa', which stood next to St James Vicarage in Victoria Road, New Brighton.

In addition to his own business, Mr Holt for some years filled the position of Chairman of the Birkenhead Brewery Company, prominent in local business circles, he became a member of the Lyceum as far back as 1848, and had completed no less than 64 years in that capacity when death overtook him in 1912 at the fine old age of 90, his wife having died some twelve years previously. It was at 'Fern Hill' that the inaugural meeting of New Brighton Rugby Club took place in 1875, and it is said that the photograph of New Brighton Tower, with the 'Lusitania' inward bound, was taken from the roof of the house, presumably shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

Mr Holt's daughter, Mary, and until his death in 1915 her brother Edward, continued in residence at 'Fern Hill', another brother, Frank, having married and moved away, and a further brother, George, having died in 1870 at the age of 11. Among her many activities, Mary, who never married, found time to take a Sunday School class at St. James Church, New Brighton, where the family worshipped, and was a familiar figure in her pony and trap in earlier days. Tragedy was to strike her in 1936, when at the age of 80 she lost her life in a fire accident at the house. 'Fern Hill' was offered at auction the following year and purchased by Mr Walter Fisher, a well known local builder, who demolished the property and replaced it with the cul-de-sac bearing the same name. The original stables are still in existence, and have been converted into an attractive private residence.

Dalmorton House

Standing in Rowson Street adjoining 'Fern Hill' residence and opposite to what is now Kenna and Turner Funeral Directors, was 'Dalmorton House'. In those days there was hardly any development surrounding the property and the house, already on an elevated site, had unrestricted views right down to the promenade and the River Mersey and westwards as far as Wallasey Village. However this pleasant aspect of green fields and trees has now all been replaced by the development of Seabank Road and adjoining streets.

As far back as 1841 'Dalmorton House' was the home of James Logan, a Liverpool merchant who lived there until his death in 1879. Perhaps he built the house.

The next, and better known, occupant was Alderman James Smith, Cotton Broker, Justice of the Peace, and brother of Samuel Smith, M.P, at one time of 'Clifton Hall', in Withens Lane, and of Anthony Gordon Smith, of 'Earlston House', now incorporated in the Central Library. Alderman Smith had various claims to fame, in as much as he was a Local Director of Lloyds Bank and the London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Company, and following on his one time captaincy of New Brighton Cricket club, donated £1,000 towards the purchase of the present ground in Rake Lane. He was well blessed with this world's goods, and his gifts to the public of Wallasey included the quarry at the top of Mount Pleasant Road, at a cost of £400, the Captain's Pit, which cost him £250, and a portion of Central Park. He owned an estate in Dumfreishire, where he was also a Justice of the Peace, and one of his sons, a Scottish rugby international subsequently became Headmaster of Loretto, the famous public school. In 1906, Alderman Smith, who, incidentally, was the first President of the Y.M.C.A in Wallasey, gave the land and £2,000 towards the cost of the new Egremont Presbyterian church at the bottom of Manor Road, and subsequently performed the opening ceremony.

Early in 1909 he moved from 'Dalmorton House' to 'Merle Dene', Bidston, but in October of that year, when returning by train from London, he was taken ill and died within a few days of reaching home, at the age of 68. He was survived by his widow, formerly Miss Oliphant of Edinburgh, five sons and one daughter. The funeral at Rake Lane Cemetery was preceded by a service at Egremont Presbyterian Church, which was attended by a great number of prominent local people. The directories do not indicate any further occupants of 'Dalmorton House' after Alderman Smith's departure, and it was presumably demolished shortly after his death.

When development did take place the actual house fronting onto Rowson Street became numbers 28-44 Rowson Street including 24 Ormiston Road, and the rear gardens became Curzon Avenue including 10,12 and 14 Ormiston Road. The kitchen gardens, an orchard and outhouses became a row of garages which have since been developed into a row of small modern dwellings.

In the early days the grounds of 'Dalmorton House', 23 acres in extent, stretched down to the Mersey. At the foot of the estate a large house known as 'Kirkdale Cottage', stood for many years occupied, at one time, by a Mr Vaughan after whom the road bearing that name was presumably called.


The third large house in Rowson Street was known as 'Olinda', and was also dated approximately 1840, when its owner was Samuel Johnston, Merchant and Shipowner, who had previously lived in Hope Street, Liverpool. According to his tombstone in St. Hilary's Churchyard, he died in 1856 at the age of 64, and by 1872 his widow and two sons had followed him. A third son, Carruthers Charles Johnston, was a party to a local romance, in as much as in 1850 he married the girl next door, 17 year old Jessie Clelland Logan, daughter of James Logan of 'Dalmorton House'

Mr Johnston Senior was followed at 'Olinda' by a Mr T.K Shaw, a Merchant, but he died in 1884 and by 1893 the house had become Miss Allison's School for Young Ladies. After one further private occupant, Mr Joseph Loughran, previously of 'Sand Rock', the early years of the present century saw the conversion of the property into the 'Olinda' Workingmen's Social Institute, which also for a time provided a home for the Sunday School class taught by Miss Emmy Mahler, of 'Sudworth House'. 'Olinda' faded out of the directory at the same time as its neighbour, 'Dalmorton House'.


Rowson Street, Upper Brighton was the site of three adjacent houses, 'Fern Hill', 'Dalmorton House' and 'Olinda'. There was, as it happens, a fourth house on the same side of the road, at the corner of Magazine Lane, and although it did not approach the others in size, it is worth recording if only by virtue of the fact that it had been in existence for over a hundred years. Since 1870, at least, the house had been known as 'Greenbank'.

In spite of the fact that the building looks like three separate small dwellings in a cottage style character it had only ever been one property. When 'Greenbank' was first built it was for very many years, apart from one other dwelling, the only house on the north side of Magazine Lane for its full length from Rowson Street down to the promenade.

The earliest traceable resident was John Charles Pooley, son of Henry Pooley, of 'Home Croft' (later the Y.M.C.A), and a partner in the family firm of weighing-manufacturers, Henry Pooley & Sons. He was to be found at 'Greenbank' in 1870, having been married some years previously to a Miss Beatty, but ten years later he had given way to Mr John Gunning, a partner in the firm of Goodlass, Wall & Co., the paint manufacturers, who in turn was succeeded by a Mr. Currie, a Manufacturers' Agent. From then onwards there was a variety of occupants, principally a Mr J.H Simms, a team owner, who spent over ten years there, followed by Mr Adolph Gottschalk, a steam-tug owner, for a similar period.

By 1934, however, the property appears to have fallen vacant but eventually it became a well-known Dance Studio known as 'Greenbank" and many local people learnt Ballroom Dancing here before daring to try the magnificent sprung floor in the New Brighton Tower Ballroom.

In 2008 'Greenbank' was demolished to make way for plans of erecting four storey block flats.