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The Wirral is a peninsula in North West England bounded by the River Dee to the west and the River Mersey to the east. The northern part constitutes the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, and the southern part the borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston in Cheshire. Previously it was entirely in Cheshire as a hundred.
When referring to the Wirral peninsula the name is shortened to the Wirral. Something is usually said to be on the Wirral, although Google reveals many occurrences of in the Wirral.
Wirral was once an independent Viking mini-state with its parliament at Thingwall. Ancient Irish annals record the population of Wirral by Norsemen led by Ingimund expelled from Ireland and getting agreement from Aethelflaed or "Ethelfleda", Queen of the Mercian English to settle there peacefully. This can still be seen from place name evidence - such as the common '-by' (meaning 'town' in Danish) suffixes and names such as Tranmere, which comes from trani melr ("cranebird sandbank"). Similarly, archaeological finds (such as two hogback tombstones) corroborate this.
At the end of the twelfth century, Birchen Head Priory stood on a lonely headland of birch trees, facing open countryside and surrounded by the Mersey. It was from here, Merseyside's oldest building, that Benedictine monks operated the first Mersey ferry in 1330, having been granted a passage to Liverpool by a charter from Edward III.
The original ferry service, now famous throughout the world, put Wirral on the map as part of the King's highway, yet for centuries the peninsula remained a cluster of small holdings and hamlets. It wasn't until the 1820s that steam-powered boats improved communication and opened up Wirral's Mersey coast for industrialisation.
Wirral's first railway was built in 1840 planned by George Stephenson and connected Birkenhead with Chester. This encouraged the growth of Wirral; Birkenhead and Wallasey grew into large towns. In 1847, Birkenhead's first docks and its municipal park, the first in Britain and the inspiration for New York's Central Park, were opened.
Wirral's dockland areas of Wallasey and Birkenhead continued to develop and prosper. A host of other port-related industries then came into existence, such as flour milling, tanning, edible oil refining and the manufacture of paint and rubber-based products. A large chemical and oil refining complex is still in Ellesmere Port.
Another important development was the building in 1888 of the now famous industrial village of Port Sunlight, designed to house employees at the original firm of Lever Brothers, now part of the Unilever group. The village, which turned Lord Leverhulme's philanthropic dream into reality provided workers with a benign environment.
The Wirral can be defined as both a geographical peninsula and socio-cultural area. However, it has been noted that 'it is difficult to find any work in which there is a written description of the exact area defining The Wirral Peninsula.' . The current Metropolitan Borough of Wirral has a population of 312,293 people (according to the 2001 census) , and covers an area of 60.35 square miles, bounded by the Cheshire Plain, the River Dee and the River Mersey. The Irish Sea lies to its north west side. . Its major urban centres are to its east; these include Birkenhead and Wallasey. To its west, the Wirral is more rural.
Places on the WirralEdit
Towns and villages on the Wirral include:
- Burton (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Capenhurst (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Childer Thornton
- Ellesmere Port (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Great Sutton
- Lower Heswall
- Meols (pronounced "Mells")
- Neston (not part of Wirral Borough)
- New Brighton
- New Ferry
- Ness (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Parkgate (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Port Sunlight
- Saughall Massie
- Shotwick (not part of Wirral Borough)
- Thornton Hough
- Two Mills
- West Kirby
- Willaston (not part of Wirral Borough)
Despite containing urban and industrial areas, the Wirral still has picturesque villages, sandy beaches, large areas of land owned by the National Trust and views across the two estuaries and out into the Irish Sea. Many villages of the Wirral are well preserved with their characteristic red sandstone buildings and walls. Sights or places of interest include:
- Bidston Hill
- Caldy Hill
- Hilbre Island
- Leasowe Lighthouse
- Thurstaston Common and Thor's Stone
- "The Thing" - site of Wirral's Viking parliament
- Mersey Ferry
- Ness Gardens
- Port Sunlight
- Lady Lever Art Gallery
- Williamson Art Gallery
Wirral in literatureEdit
- Sir Gawain spent Christmas on Wirral before his confrontation with the Green Knight.
- The wilderness of Wirral:
- few lived there
- Who loved with a good heart
- either God or man
- Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest poets of the First World War, grew up in Tranmere.
- Olaf Stapledon, a writer, spent much of his life in West Kirby and Caldy, and many landscapes mentioned in his works can be identified.
- Roger Lancelyn Green, the children's writer, lived at Poulton Hall in Poulton Lancelyn, Bebington.
- Chris Boardman (cyclist)
- Ian Botham (cricketer)
- Pete Burns (singer/songwriter)
- Matt Dawson (rugby player and TV personality)
- Dixie Dean (footballer)
- Lottie Dod (Wimbledon tennis champion, "most versatile female athlete of all time")
- Austin Healey (rugby player)
- Andrew Irvine (Everest climber)
- Glenda Jackson (actress and politician)
- Phil Liggett (cycling commentator)
- Andy McCluskey (musician)
- Paul O'Grady (comedian and TV personality)
- John Peel (disc jockey and radio presenter)
- Patricia Routledge (actress)
- FE Smith (Lord Chancellor)
- Philip Wilson Steer (impressionist painter)
- Ray Stubbs (sports commentator)
- Philip Toosey (Hero of the Bridge on the River Kwai)
- Half Man Half Biscuit
- The Boo Radleys
- Carcass (band)
- The Coral
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
- The Rascals
- The Little Flames
- The Last Shadow Puppets (Well, 1 half of them)
- The 1980s sitcom Watching was set and partly filmed at various locations on the Wirral.
The M53 runs along the length of the Wirral from near Chester. At the north eastern end, the Wirral is joined to Liverpool by three tunnels under the River Mersey: two road tunnels Mersey Tunnels, one from Wallasey (Kingsway) and one from Birkenhead (Queensway) and the Mersey Railway tunnel. The Wirral Line of Merseyrail links many parts of the Wirral to Lime Street station in Liverpool and many other suburbs. The Mersey Ferry also regularly crosses to Liverpool. The nearest airports are Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Manchester International Airport.
- Hoylake, in north west Wirral is one of the premier European Land Sailing or Sand Yachting sites, and is host to the week-long European Championships in September 2007.
- Tranmere Rovers The local football team, based in Prenton Park