Birkenhead: Wikis


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Coordinates: 53°23′35″N 3°00′50″W / 53.393°N 3.014°W / 53.393; -3.014

Birkenhead Wirral Museum.jpg
The former Birkenhead Town Hall, now Wirral Museum, in Hamilton Square
Birkenhead is located in Merseyside

 Birkenhead shown within Merseyside
Population 83,729 
(2001 Census)[1]
OS grid reference SJ324890
Metropolitan borough Wirral
Metropolitan county Merseyside
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CH41,CH42,CH43,CH49
Dialling code 0151
Police Merseyside
Fire Merseyside
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament Birkenhead
List of places: UK • England • Merseyside

Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool. At the 2001 Census, the town had a population of 83,729.[1] Historically part of Cheshire, Birkenhead is perhaps best known as a centre for ship building, as a seaport and its related industries.



The Woodside terminal for the Mersey Ferry in Birkenhead

The name Birkenhead is possibly from the Old English bircen meaning birch tree, of which many once grew on the headland which jutted into the river at Woodside, however some believe the name to have grown from the River Birket which empties into the docklands.

The first Mersey ferry began operating from Birkenhead in 1150 when Benedictine monks under the leadership of Hamon de Mascy built a priory there.[2][3] Distanced from the Industrial Revolution in Liverpool by the physical barrier of the River Mersey, Birkenhead retained its agricultural status until the advent of the steam ferry service in 1820.

Shipbuilding started in 1829.[4] An iron works was initially established by William Laird in 1824 and was joined by his son John Laird in 1828. The business eventually became Cammell Laird. Notable vessels built at Birkenhead include HMS Achilles, HMS Affray, CSS Alabama, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Birkenhead, HMS Caroline, Huáscar, RMS Mauretania, the pioneer submarine Resurgam, HMS Thetis which sank on trials in Liverpool Bay, HMS Conqueror and HMS Prince of Wales.

In September 1932 thousands of unemployed people protested in a series of demonstrations organised by the local branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement. After three days of rioting, police were brought in from elsewhere to help quell the rioters.[5]

In addition to the ferries, the Mersey Railway tunnel in 1886 and the Queensway road tunnel in 1934 gave rapid access to Liverpool, so opened up the Wirral Peninsula for development, and prompted further growth of Birkenhead as an industrial centre. The town's population grew from 110 in 1801 to 110,912 one hundred years later and stood at 142,501 by 1951.[6 ]


Formerly a township in Bidston Parish of the Wirral Hundred, Birkenhead was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1877, and became a county borough with the passing of the Local Government Act 1888. The borough included the parish of Birkenhead St. Mary and the townships of Bidston, Claughton with Grange, Oxton, Tranmere and part of Bebington, later known as Rock Ferry.[6 ] The townships of Landican, Prenton and Thingwall were added in 1928, followed by Noctorum, Upton and Woodchurch in 1933.[7]

Prior to 1 April 1974, Birkenhead and the rest of the Wirral Peninsula, was part of the county of Cheshire. The implementation of the Local Government Act 1972 caused Birkenhead to lose its county borough status. The town has since been administered as part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in the metropolitan county of Merseyside. The current Member of Parliament is Frank Field.


The Birkenhead Urban Area, as defined by the Office for National Statistics,[8] includes Birkenhead, Wallasey, Bebington, Ellesmere Port, and the contiguous built-up areas which link those towns along the eastern side of the Wirral. In the 2001 Census, the area so defined had a total population of 319,675, making it the 18th largest conurbation in England and 22nd in the UK.


Birkenhead Market was first established on what is now the site of Birkenhead Town Hall, between Chester Street and Hamilton Street, on 10 July 1835.[9][10 ] An increase in the town's population by 1841 led to the opening on 11 July 1845[10 ] of a much expanded market on a larger site nearby. Michael Marks, of Marks & Spencer, opened one of his first seven 'Penny Bazaar' stalls here during the 1880s.[11]

During the 1970s, the commercial centre of the town was redeveloped around the principal shopping area of Grange Road. Following two fires at the expanded Birkenhead Market in 1969 and 1974, it was later moved to new premises adjoining the Grange Shopping Precinct development. Commercial expansion continued in the early 1990s when the Pyramids Shopping Centre was opened.

Shipbuilding and ship repair still features prominently in the local economy. Cammell Laird entered receivership in 2001. The shipyard was sold and became 'Northwestern Ship repair & Shipbuilders', which grew into a successful business specialising in ship repair and conversion, including maintenance contracts for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. In September 2007 NS&S acquired the rights to use the Cammell Laird name. The company was renamed 'Cammell Laird Ship repair & Shipbuilders' on 17 November 2008,[12] seeing the famous name return to Birkenhead after a seven-year hiatus.

Today the town has a very high unemployment rate.


Birkenhead Park
Edward VII Memorial Clock Tower, designed by Edmund Kirby.

Birkenhead Park is acknowledged to be the first publicly funded park in Britain.[13] The park was the forerunner of the Parks Movement and its influence was far reaching both in Britain and abroad – most notably on Olmsted's design for Central Park, New York.[14] Designed by Joseph Paxton (later Sir Joseph Paxton) in 1843 and officially opened in 1847, it was an immediate social success. The park's main entrance, modelled on the Temple of Illysus in Athens, and its 'Roman Boathouse' are notable features. There are sandstone lodges at the three entrances, each with a different style of architecture, Gothic, Norman and Italianate. There are also two lakes and an ornate 'Swiss Bridge'.

William Laird, a Scot, and his son John, were influential in the design of the town. Parts were laid out in a grid-iron pattern like Edinburgh New Town with similar architecture. The chief architect was James Gillespie Graham from Edinburgh. This grid pattern was centred around Hamilton Square which was started in 1826 and, apart from Trafalgar Square in London, contains the most Grade I listed buildings in one place in England.[15] including Birkenhead Town Hall. A short distance from Hamilton Square are two other notable landmarks: the Queensway Tunnel Main Entrance and the Woodside Ferry Terminal. The film Chariots of Fire had scenes shot at Woodside. These scenes were as a representation of Dover in the 1920s.[16]

Religious landmarks include Birkenhead Priory & St. Mary's Tower, St. James' Church and St. Werburgh's Roman Catholic Church. Other notable landmarks include Bidston Windmill on a ridge behind the town, Flaybrick Watertower and Flaybrick Memorial Gardens.




Birkenhead had the first street tramway in Europe. Opened on 29 August 1860 the first line ran from Woodside (adjoining the terminal of the Mersey Ferry) to Birkenhead Park. This early system was horse-drawn and was the brainchild of flamboyant American, George Francis Train.[17 ][18] A preserved tram was on display in the Woodside ferry terminal booking hall.

Two replica trams, imported from Hong Kong, have been brought into service as part of a heritage tramway between Woodside and Wirral Transport Museum.


Horse-drawn buses began operating in Birkenhead in 1848, to be replaced with motor vehicles after the First World War.[19]

Present-day services are run by operators including Arriva, First Bus, A1A Travel and Avon Coaches, and coordinated by Merseytravel. Birkenhead bus station opened in 1996.

National Express provides long-distance coach services to other UK cities, with direct routes including London, Glasgow, Bangor and Newcastle.[20]


In 1886 Birkenhead and Liverpool were linked by an underground railway system, which today is part of the Merseyrail network.

The major underground station in Birkenhead is Hamilton Square, the nearest station to the ferry terminal. Hamilton Square station is linked to the "Liverpool Loop" of the Wirral Line, which includes James Street, Moorfields, Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool Central stations, all of which are underground. Other stations located in Birkenhead include Birkenhead Central, Green Lane, Rock Ferry, Conway Park, Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead North and Bidston.

The Wirral Line from Birkenhead travels south to Chester and Ellesmere Port, north to New Brighton and westwards, across the Wirral Peninsula, to West Kirby. The Borderlands Line leaves Bidston station, in the north of Birkenhead and travels through the rural centre of Wirral, ultimately leaving England near Shotton and terminating in Wrexham, Wales.
View Merseyrail Network Map

From 1878, until its closure in 1967, Birkenhead Woodside railway station was the town's mainline railway terminus. Originally located close to Woodside Ferry Terminal, the site has been redeveloped into flats, a bus depot and offices for HM Land Registry.


Junctions 1 and 3 of the M53 motorway allow access to the national motorway network. The A41 trunk road connects Woodside with Marble Arch in London. Two road tunnels, the Queensway road tunnel from Birkenhead, and the Kingsway road tunnel from Wallasey, run underneath the River Mersey and connect the town to Liverpool.


Birkenhead's dock system is part of the Port of Liverpool, operated by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. The Twelve Quays ferry terminal allows a direct freight and passenger service to Dublin, Republic of Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Mersey Ferry at Woodside runs a passenger service to Liverpool, as well as chartered cruising.

During winter months, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company operates a service from Birkenhead to Douglas using the MS Ben-my-Chree. Due to weather conditions, this service temporarily replaces the route that normally operates from the Liverpool landing stage using fast craft.


The nearest airport is Liverpool John Lennon Airport (formerly known as Speke Airport) located about 8 miles (13 km) from Birkenhead.



Birkenhead has two independent schools. The oldest is Birkenhead School[21]. It was exclusively a boys' school from its founding in 1860 until 2000, when its sixth form became co-educational. It became fully co-educational for pupils aged 3–18 in 2008[22]. "Old Birkonians" (as former pupils are known) include the lawyer F. E. Smith (Lord Birkenhead), Andreas Whittam Smith (chairman of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and founder of The Independent newspaper), Andrew Irvine (mountaineer), and Philip Toosey, hero at the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Birkenhead High School is an independent school for girls, founded in 1885 and catering for girls aged 2½–18. It is a member of the Girls' Day School Trust. Its alumnae include the actress Patricia Routledge. Birkenhead High School decided to become a state-funded Academy school in 2009, increasing the availability of its education [23]. Like the change to co-education at Birkenhead School, this decision was largely driven by falling pupil numbers.


Birkenhead's technical college in Woodside (previously in Borough Road), now called Wirral Metropolitan College, had a theatre named after one of its most famous former students and Birkonian (born 1936), Glenda Jackson, the Oscar-winning actress and Member of Parliament. The Borough Road campus and the Glenda Jackson Theatre were demolished in late 2005, to make way for flats, although Wirral Metropolitan College flourishes on other sites across the Wirral. The theatre secretly housed an emergency command centre for the region in its basement, accessible via the college. Politicians and officials would have retreated to this secure bunker in the event of nuclear war to coordinate the recovery effort. By the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, the bunker had been decommissioned and the surrounding complex of rooms was used by the college as a rehearsal space and recording studio.

Other colleges include the Birkenhead Sixth Form College, located in the Claughton area of Birkenhead.


Birkenhead has one of the lowest life expectancies in the UK[24]. Birkenhead is served by Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (through its Arrowe Park Hospital, St. Catherine's Hospital and Clatterbridge Hospital sites) and Wirral Primary Care Trust. Formerly, Birkenhead was served by Birkenhead General Hospital on Conway Street and St. James' Hospital in Claughton.

Arts and leisure


The Laird School of Art was the first public school of art outside London and was given to the town by John Laird. It opened on 27 September 1871. The Williamson Art Gallery was opened in 1928 and houses a fine collection of paintings, porcelain and pottery.

In 1856, Birkenhead Library was opened as the country's first public library in an unincorporated borough.[25] The library was situated in Hamilton Street until 1909, when it moved to a new building in Albion Street, near Birkenhead Market. In the 1930s, this building (along with much of the surrounding area) was demolished to make way for the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel. The present library, Birkenhead Central Library, is situated on Borough Road and was opened by King George V in 1934.

Despite being in England, Birkenhead (known as Penbedw, in the Welsh language[26]) hosted Wales' National Eisteddfod in 1917 [27] as well as an unofficial National Eisteddfod event in 1879. As in Liverpool,[28] migrants from Wales, especially north Wales, contributed greatly to the growth of the town and its cultural development in the 19th century. The first local Birkenhead Eisteddfod, a precursor of the national events, took place in 1864.[29] The 1917 National Eisteddfod was notable for the award of the chair to the poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, known as Hedd Wyn. The winner was announced, and the crowd waited for the winner to accept congratulations before the chairing ceremony, but no winner appeared. It was then announced that Hedd Wyn had been killed the previous month on the battlefield in Belgium, and the bardic chair was draped in black. These events were portrayed in the Academy Award nominated film Hedd Wyn, and were apparently intended as a protest against the war policies of Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who was present. There is a commemorative stone for the event in Birkenhead Park.[30] The first meeting of the international Celtic Congress also took place at the Birkenhead Eisteddfod.[31]

The Argyle Theatre was a major theatre and music hall which opened in 1868 and became notable for the calibre of artistes who appeared there. Later in its life, it was also used as a cinema. The theatre was destroyed by bombing in 1940.[32] The Little Theatre was established in 1958 from a converted former Presbyterian church, whilst more recently, the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Woodside opened in 1999.


Birkenhead is served by local daily newspapers the Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post. The free local weekly newspapers are the Wirral Globe and the Birkenhead News (part of the Wirral News group).

The local radio station Heart Wirral is based in offices at the Pacific Road Arts Centre. In addition, there are five other local radio stations that transmit to Birkenhead: BBC Radio Merseyside, Radio City 96.7, Magic 1548, Juice 107.6 and CityTalk.

Birkenhead is situated within the television regions of BBC North West and ITV's Granada Television.

Sport and leisure

As well as Birkenhead Park, other recreational open spaces in Birkenhead include Mersey Park and Victoria Park. Arrowe Park is a large area of parkland at the western edge of the town. In 1929, the 3rd World Scout Jamboree was held there.

Birkenhead is the home of Tranmere Rovers F.C., a professional football team who play at Prenton Park near the Tranmere area of the town. They are in Football League One. Cammell Laird F.C. is the town's semi professional football club who play at Kirklands in Rock Ferry. They are in Northern Premier League Division One South. The town is also the home of several successful amateur football leagues, both 11-a side and six-a side.

The Birkenhead Park Football Club was founded in 1871, the same year as the Rugby Football Union. The club originally played in the Lower Park but moved to their current home in the Upper Park in 1885.[33]

Located in the town are the Birkenhead North End & Victoria Cycling Clubs. Olympic riders from the clubs include Chris Boardman, Steve Cummings and Rachel Heal.[34][35]

The first two Boy Scout groups in the world were founded as the 1st and 2nd Birkenhead groups at the YMCA on the same night in 1908. The 2nd Birkenhead Scout Group is still operating and therefore is the longest running scout group in the world.

Cultural references

Birkenhead is mentioned in the song "What She Said" on the album Meat Is Murder by The Smiths: What she read/All heady books/She'd sit and prophesise/(It took a tattooed boy from Birkenhead/To really really open her eyes).

The town is also referred to in the song "Everything Is Sorrow" on the Boo Radleys' C'mon Kids album: I worked in Birkenhead for you/It brings me tears even now.

A fairly detailed description of the town is given in Paul O'Grady's memoirs, At My Mother's Knee ... and Other Low Joints: The Autobiography.

Notable people

In the arts, Birkenhead has produced several actors and performers including Glenda Jackson, Lewis Collins, Megs Jenkins, Patricia Routledge, Paul O'Grady (also known as Lily Savage), actress and comedienne Pauline Daniels and soprano Valerie Masterson. It has also produced poets and authors such as Adrian Henri and Michael Z. Williamson. The World War I poet Wilfred Owen, though born in Oswestry, lived in Birkenhead from the age of 4 and was educated at the Birkenhead Institute High School, originally situated at Whetstone Lane. The school later relocated to Tollemache Road until its closure and redevelopment into a private housing estate, where the main entrance is named after Wilfred Owen.

The town has produced some notable artists such as Philip Wilson Steer, Bessie Bamber, the workers at the Della Robbia Pottery and two cartoonists: Norman Thelwell and Bill Tidy. In music, Indie band Half Man Half Biscuit hail from Birkenhead, as did boogie-rock band Engine, Paul Heaton, lead singer of the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, singer/songwriter Charlie Landsborough and Desmond Briscoe co-founder and original manager of the pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Birkenhead has also produced notable sportsmen such as Matt Dawson, the rugby union player; 'Dixie' Dean (Everton FC), record-breaking footballer, who was born at 313 Laird Street; and several other footballers including Jason McAteer and David Thompson. In the field of science and engineering Birkenhead claims Sir Thomas Brassey, Victorian civil engineer and Professor Sir John Eric Richardson, electrical engineer, academic and champion of the polytechnic sector.

There are several musicians linked to the area. Elvis Costello moved to Birkenhead in 1971 with his mother who was from Liverpool. Although Elvis' father was himself from Birkenhead. Elvis lived there briefly and formed his first band, a folk duo named Rusty. Tony Friel (bassist from The Fall and The Passage) and synthpop musician David Hughes (of Dalek I Love You, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Godot) were born there. David Balfe (music manager, and member of Dalek I Love You, Big In Japan, The Teardrop Explodes) attended primary and secondary school there.

Dave Nicholas the UK's last resident cinema organist and the longest serving organist at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall was born and spent his early years living in Birkenhead

Andreas Whittam Smith, founder editor of The Independent, grew up in Birkenhead, where his father was an Anglican clergyman.[36]

Daniel Poole, a recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Medal during World War I.[37]

Twin towns

Birkenhead is twinned, as a part of Wirral, with Gennevilliers and Lorient in France and Latina in Italy. Birkenhead also has a Sister City Agreement with Midland, Texas USA.[38]


The major redevelopment project under consideration is Peel Holdings' 'Wirral Waters'. This would allow for a £4.5 billion of investment in the regeneration of the dockland area. This equates with an investment of over £14,000 for each of the 320,000 residents of the Wirral. At the East Float and Vittoria Dock, the development would include several 50-storey skyscrapers, 5,000,000 square feet (465,000 m2) of new office space and 11,000,000 square feet (1,000,000 m2) for new residential flats. A retail and leisure quarter at the former Bidston Dock site would encompass another 571,000 square feet (53,000 m2) of space. The whole project would create more than 27,000 permanent new jobs, aside from the employment required for construction and other peripheral employment. The development would be expected to take up to thirty years.[39]


  1. ^ a b 2001 Census: Birkenhead, Office for National Statistics,, retrieved 17 April 2007  
  2. ^ Brocklebank, Ralph T (2003), Birkenhead - An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, p. 14–15, ISBN 1-85983-350-0  
  3. ^ Birkenhead Priory, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  4. ^ Birkenhead-Built: An Unrivaled Historical Legacy, Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University,  
  5. ^ Kelly, S.F. (January 1988), Idle Hands Clenched Fists, Spokesman Books, ISBN 0851244467  
  6. ^ a b Cheshire Towns & Parishes: Birkenhead, GENUKI UK & Ireland Genealogy,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  7. ^ Brocklebank, Ralph T (2003), Birkenhead - An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, p. 110, ISBN 1-85983-350-0  
  8. ^ Focus on People & Migration: The UK’s major urban areas, Office for National Statistics, 2005,  
  9. ^ Boumphrey, Ian & Marilyn (1981), Yesterday's Wirral, ISBN 0-9507255-1-X  
  10. ^ a b Birkenhead Market: A Brief History,, retrieved 15 September 2007  
  11. ^ Michael Marks,, retrieved 2 July 2006  
  12. ^ Neil Hodgson (17 November 2008), Cammell Laird name returns on River Mersey, Liverpool Echo,, retrieved 19 December 2008  
  13. ^ Brocklebank, Ralph T (2003), Birkenhead - An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, p. 33, ISBN 1-85983-350-0  
  14. ^ Birkenhead Park, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  15. ^ Architecture: Hamilton Square, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  16. ^ Chariots of Fire, Where Did They Film That?,, retrieved 18 February 2007  
  17. ^ Brocklebank, Ralph T (2003), Birkenhead - An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, ISBN 1-85983-350-0  
  18. ^ Birkenhead Tramway & Wirral Transport Museum, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  19. ^ Birkenhead Corporation Transport: 1901-1969,,, retrieved 26 May 2009  
  20. ^ Listing of Transport Services from Birkenhead, Travel Search,, retrieved 26 May 2009  
  21. ^ Birkenhead School,, retrieved 2 February 2007  
  22. ^ School prepares to make historic move, Wirral Globe, 8 November 2007,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  23. ^ Wirral's Birkenhead High School Academy told to cater for the poorest,, retrieved 4 December 2009  
  24. ^ {{citation|url=|title=Bootle pensioners have shortest life expectancy in UK with Birkenhead OAPs also in bottom ten|publisher=Wirral News|accessdate=4 December 2009
  25. ^ Birkenhead Central Library,,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  26. ^ Welsh Exonyms,, retrieved 27 August 2009  
  27. ^ Title page of the 1917 Welsh National Eisteddfod programme held at Birkenhead, Archives Hub,, retrieved 18 February 2008  
  28. ^ The Liverpool Welsh, BBC Wales, 7 January 2008,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  29. ^ John Belchem, ed. (2006), Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, ISBN 1-84361-035-0  
  30. ^ Roberts, Stephen J. (2002), A History of Wirral, ISBN 978-1-86077-512-3  
  31. ^ History of the Celtic Congress,, retrieved 3 October 2008  
  32. ^ Birkenhead, Wirral, Theatres and Halls,,, retrieved 16 July 2007  
  33. ^ Birkenhead Park Rugby Club,  
  34. ^ Birkenhead North End Cycling Club Olympians,, retrieved 18 February 2007  
  35. ^ Birkenhead Victoria Cycling Club history,, retrieved 18 February 2007  
  36. ^ Why I am Still an Anglican, Continuum, 2006, p. 67  
  37. ^ Foldi, N.S. (1978). Poole, Daniel (1882 – 1959)'. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, p. 255. Retrieved on 9 August 2009.
  38. ^ Town Twinning, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral,, retrieved 14 January 2008  
  39. ^ Peel unveil plans for £4.5 billion "Wirral Waters" scheme, Peel Holdings, 5 September 2006,, retrieved 14 January 2008  

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Birkenhead is a town on Merseyside, England, situated on the Wirral peninsula in the historic county boundaries of Cheshire, just across the River Mersey from Liverpool. It is not a tourist destination in its own right but can make for a rewarding afternoon trip from Liverpool, and is well worth a couple of hours of anybody's time.

Get in

Trains arrive from Liverpool's main stations every few minutes on the subterranean Merseyrail network, taking no more than 5 minutes. There are 5 stations, Hamilton Square being the best for the riverside, square and museum, Conway Park the best for the shopping district and Birkenhead Park the best for the famous park. Birkenhead can also be reached by the Mersey tunnels from Liverpool (toll payable) or the M53 from Chester. Alternatively, the famous Ferry cross the Mersey deposits you in the riverside area of the town.

Get around

Frequent and reliable Merseyrail services operate between the town's stations. There is also an extensive bus network. A Saveaway ticket is valid on all public transport in Birkenhead.

  • Tranmere Rovers Football Club (Prenton Park), Prenton Park, Prenton Rd West, Birkenhead, CH42 9PY (about 40 minutes walk from Rock Ferry station). Although this club has always lived in the shadow of Liverpool it has a long tradition and a great family atmosphere - well worth a visit  edit
  • Hamilton Square, a beautiful Georgian Square with gardens in the middle designed by James Gillespie Graham.
  • Birkenhead Park (Visitors Centre), Park Drive, Birkenhead, CH41 4HY (5 minutes walk from Birkenhead Park Station), +44 151 652 5197. designed by Joseph Paxton and opened on 5 April 1847. It is generally acknowledged as the first publicly-funded civic park in Britain. American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted incorporated many of the features he observed into his design for New York's Central Park. free.  edit
  • Wirral Transport Museum, 1 Taylor Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside, CH41 1BG, +44 151 647 2128. free.  edit
  • Shore Road Pumping Station, 1 Pacific Rd, Birkenhead, CH41 6DN, +44 151 650 1182. Open weekend afternoons, closed weekdays except by appointment and during school holidays when open Wed to Sun afternoons. free.  edit
  • Birkenhead Priory (St Mary's Tower), 4 Priory Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside, CH41 5JH, +44 151 666 1249. Wed to Sun afternoons. free.  edit
  • The riverside by the Mersey affords an excellent panorama of Liverpool city centre including all of its iconic buildings. There is also a wealth of interesting industrial buildings in this area, reflecting the town's shipbuilding heritage.
  • Pacific Road Arts Centre, Pacific Road Birkenhead Wirral CH41 1LJ, +44 151 666 0000, [1].  edit
  • Woodside Ferry Terminal (U-Boat Story), Mersey Ferries, Woodside, Birkenhead, Merseyside CH41 6DU, +44 151 330 1000, [2].  edit


Explore Birkenhead park. The first public park and the inspiration for Central Park, New York. It is larger than most parks and has some beautiful wooded areas and duck ponds. Especially popular in the summer months.

The Ferry cross the Mersey, immortalised in the Gerry and the Pacemakers song, is considered by many to be essential on any trip to Liverpool, and by definition involves a trip to Birkenhead.

  • The Pyramids Shopping centre. Shopping centre that has all commodities and has some great deals  edit


Birkenhead has the usual unexciting array of British high-street chain stores for your everyday requirements. Those seeking specialist shops or anything a cut above the norm should head across the water to Liverpool.

  • Williamson Art Gallery. Near to Birkenhead park on Slatey Road, has some great artwork  edit
  • Birkenhead Central Library. Birkenhead Central Library, which was opened in 1934 by George V was the country's first public library in an unincorporated borough  edit
  • The Brass Balance (JD Wetherspoons), 39-45 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, CH41 6AB, +44 151 650 8950.  edit
  • Buffet 88, 46 Conway Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside CH41 6JD, +44 151 649 9888.  edit


Birkenhead has one must-visit pub for the pub architecture/real ale fan, The Stork Hotel. The Edwardian tiling, mosaic floor and etched windows make for a sumptuous drinking experience. There is always a selection of real ale and cheap hearty food is served at lunchtimes. 200yds from Hamilton Square.

  • The Sleep Station, 24 - 28 Hamilton Street, Birkenhead, CH41 1AL (1 minute walk from Hamilton Square Station), +44 151 647 1047‎, [3].  edit
  • Yew Tree Hotel (Kellson), 56 Rock Lane West, Birkenhead, CH42 4PA, +44 151 645 4112‎‎. £49.50.  edit

Get out

Port Sunlight, William Lever's model village, is a few minutes away and is easily accessed by rail or road. The Wirral Coast has some excellent walking opportunities, including the Wirral Way. The ancient walled city of Chester is 30 minutes away by road or rail.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BIRKENHEAD, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough, and seaport of Cheshire, England, on the river Mersey, 1 9 5 m. N.W. of London. Pop. (1901) 110,915. It lies opposite Liverpool, on the east shore of the peninsula of Wirral, and is served by the Birkenhead (London & North-Western and Great Western joint) and the Wirral railways. It is wholly of modern growth, although the name of Byrkhed is traced to the forest which is believed to have extended between the mouths of the Dee and the Ribble in Lancashire. A Benedictine monastery was founded (c. 1 i 50) by Hamon de Mascy, third baron of Dunham Massey, and dedicated to St Mary and St James. It drew its main revenues from tolls levied at the Mersey ferry; and its prior sat in the parliament of the earls of Chester, enjoying all the dignities and privileges of a Palatinate baron. A fine crypt, along with remains of the prior's lodging, refectory and chapel, may still be viewed, as the priory was purchased by private subscription and handed over to the municipality in 1896.

The rise of Birkenhead, from a hamlet of some 50 inhabitants in 1818 to its present importance, was due in the first place to the foresight and enterprise of William Laird, who purchased in 1824 a few acres of land on the banks of a marshy stream, known as Wallasey Pool, which flowed into the Mersey about 2 m. west of the village. Among other engineers, Telford and Stephenson favoured the project of converting Wallasey Pool into a great basin for shipping; but, largely owing to the fears of Liverpool lest a formidable rival should thus be created, it was not until 1843 that parliamentary powers were obtained, and the work entrusted to James Rendel, who finished it in less than five years. The docks, which covered an area of 7 acres, were opened in 1847, and after thrice changing hands were made over in 1858 to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, a body created by act of 1857, to control the harbourage on both sides of the river.

Meanwhile, the town itself grew rapidly. In 1833 an act was passed for paving, watching, cleansing and improving the streets; as well as for the regulation of police, and the establishment of a market. The Improvement Commissioners constituted by this act included the mayor, bailiffs and four aldermen of Liverpool, under whose care the main streets were laid out on a regular plan, intersecting one another at right angles; and the first iron tramway in England was laid down. Electricity was subsequently applied to the tramway system. Noteworthy public buildings are St Aidan's College, a large brick building in Tudor style, for the use of Anglican students in theology; the market hall (1845); town hall, a free library with branches, borough hospital, built at the cost of Sir John Laird; and many schools both public and private, including the industrial schools built as a memorial to Albert, prince consort, at the cost of Sir W. Jackson, and the school of art, given by Sir John Laird. There are many handsome modern churches, all built since 1821. Roman Catholics are especially numerous, owing to the presence of a large Irish population. The town is well furnished with open spaces. Birkenhead Park was opened in 1847, Mersey Park in 1885; while a tract of moorland 6 m. distant in the township of Thurstaston, was allotted to the borough of Birkenhead in 1887; and Meols Common, comprising over 50 acres of pastureland on the shores of Liverpool Bay, was made over to the corporation in 1900.

The increase of railway accommodation has been swift. In 1878 the old Monks Ferry station on the Great Western system was superseded by the opening of the Woodside passenger station, and a few years later the Birkenhead town station was opened. In 1886 the Mersey tunnel, connecting Birkenhead with Liverpool, was opened by the prince of Wales. The system extends from Rock Ferry and Park stations on the Cheshire side to the low-level at Central Station in Liverpool, and has connexions on the Cheshire side with the Great Western, NorthWestern, Wirral and various local lines. The Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay railway, which was taken over by the Great Central company in 1905, helped to bring the mineral wealth of Flint and North Wales generally into the Birkenhead docks.

Woodside Ferry may still be regarded as the principal entrance to Birkenhead and the Wirral from Liverpool. The exclusive right of ferryage was granted to the priory in 1332. In 1842 the Birkenhead Commissioners purchased it, under an act of parliament, from the lord of the manor, Mr F. R. Price. In 1897 the corporation further acquired the rights over the Rock Ferry and the New Ferry at the southern end of the town. Despite competition from the Mersey tunnel, these ferries continue to transport millions of passengers annually, and have a considerable share in the heavy goods traffic.

Though at the outset a mere commercial offshoot of Liverpool, Birkenhead has acquired a large export trade in coal and manufactured articles, importing guano, grain and cattle in return. Iron foundries, breweries, oil-cake and seed mills also exist side by side with such immense engineering and shipbuilding works as the Britannia Works, Canada Works, and, above all, Laird's shipbuilding works, where several early iron vessels were built, and many cruisers and battleships have been launched. Huge warehouses and sheds have been erected along the quays for the storage of freight. In 1847 the Birkenhead Dock Warehousing Company opened its first warehouse, capable of holding 80,000 tons of goods. A line called the Dock Extension railway was carried round the whole, and the company erected, for their workmen, the Dock Cottages. This entire property is now under the authority of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. The pile of buildings known as the corn warehouses are traversed by a canal which gives access to its several departments, and are provided with mechanical grain-elevators. There are also extensive lairages for live-stock, and cold storage for dead meat. On the north and north-east, and partly on the east, Birkenhead is bounded by its docks, which extend, for a distance exceeding 2 m., from the landing-stage at Woodside Ferry to the Wallasey Bridge. Of these the principal are the Egerton, Morpeth, Morpeth Branch and Wallasey Docks; while the Alfred Dock, with its three entrances, nineteen pairs of lock-gates, 8 acres. of water, and 460 lin. yds. of quay-space, fulfils the part of an entrance-lock to the whole system. The great Float, now occupying the site of Wallasey Pool, separates Birkenhead from Poulton-cum-Seacombe in the parish of Wallasey. It forms an immense dock of 120 acres, with a quay-space of about 5 m.; and communicates on the E. with a low-water basin of about 14 acres and with the Alfred Dock; on the S.E. with the Morpeth, Morpeth Branch and Egerton Docks. The Morpeth Dock (about II acres, quay-space 1299 lin. yds.) is in communication with the Morpeth Branch Dock (about 31 acres, quay-space boo lin. yds.); both being set apart for the use of steamers. The total. water-space of these docks amounts to 165 acres, and the lineal quay-space is about 9 1 m. The entrances to the Birkenhead Docks are capable of docking the largest class of steamers afloat. The massive iron bridges across the dock entrances are opened and closed by hydraulic power, which is likewise applied to the cranes, coal-hoists, warehouse-lifts and other machinery about. the docks. At the extreme western end of the West Float are three large graving docks, two about 750 ft. in length, and 130 and 80 ft. respectively in width; while the largest measures about 900 ft. in length and 130 ft. in width.

In 1861 Birkenhead was created a parliamentary borough, returning one member. In 1877 it received a municipal charter, the boundaries of the borough including the suburban townships of Tranmere, Claughton, Oxton and part of Higher Bebington. The borough is under a mayor, 14 aldermen and 42 councillors.. Area, 3848 acres.

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From the name of a town in Merseyside, England.

Proper noun

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  1. An English topographic surname
  2. Either of F. E. Smith, Frederick Smith or Frederick Smith the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Earls of Birkenhead


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