The distinctively shaped, angular chunk of land across the River Mersey from Liverpool is an area within Merseyside known as The Wirral, and Birkenhead is on its eastern flank, facing Liverpool. The "Ferry Cross The Mersey" made famous in the song by Gerry and the Pacemakers (see previous post) can be traced back to monks from an ancient priory. In the 12th century the monks of Birkenhead Priory established a ferry to Liverpool as part of their duty of care towards travellers. In the early 1800s a steam ferry took over the crossing and merchants from Liverpool developed shipyards and docks in the area. Shipping activity has largely moved to Seaforth, but one reminder of those days remains in the form of the Shore Road Pumping Station, where a large steam engine called the Giant Grasshopper was built by the inventive Victorians to prevent the flooding of the Mersey rail tunnel. The 1887 Old Town Hall on an elegant Georgian square in Birkenhead houses The Wirral Museum with a carefully restored Victorian interior. Meanwhile back at the Priory, which adjoins the towering cranes of the Cammell Laird Shipyeard, the tower is open to visitors who can enjoy amazing views over the Mersey and The Wirral from the top. The tower is dedicated to the 99 men who died in a disaster aboard the Laird-built HMS Thetis submarine in 1939. Other museums include the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum and the Wirral Transport Museum.
A short distance to the south of Birkenhead is Port Sunlight, a striking example of 19th century town planning. The village was created by the soap magnate William Hesketh Lever as housing for his workforce, and it is now a conservation area charmingly termed a Garden Village. The village makes for a pleasant day out, with a museum bringing to life what it was like to live here during Edwardian and Victorian times, and refreshment facilities including a hotel with fine dining. There is a walking trail available from the museum for those who want to explore the village on foot.
Map of the area.
|Port Sunlight. Photo by Gary Beale, via Wikimedia Commons.|