Category Archives: News

Along The Mersey: Book review

Along the MerseyBook publishers, The History Press, kindly sent me a copy of the book Along The Mersey by author Jan Dobrzynski to read and review here on the site.

The 128-page book, one of a series for various locations across the country, features historical photographs of not just the river but also of local towns, along with Liverpool.  that have a strong association with The Mersey. Starting at the source of The Mersey at Stockport in Greater Manchester the book follows the route of the river to the mouth of the estuary at New Brighton, Wirral.

Broken in five sections:

  1. From source to the Runcorn Gap
  2. The Manchester Ship Canal
  3. Ellesmere Port to Birkenhead
  4. Liverpool and Merseyside
  5. Egremont to New Brighton

the author discusses the impact the Mersey has had on various towns and villages whose development has to some extent been driven by the river. Each chapter is generously supported with some great old photographs – for instance there are some great old photos of the long-gone New Brighton Tower.

Along with the photos on every page the author discusses the history behind the old images. At first glance you might think that some of the images aren’t related to the river. For instance, photos of train stations at Birkenhead are included because the electrified train line goes through a tunnel under the river, connecting city-centre Liverpool with Wirral.

Several pages feature the village of Port Sunlight which was created by William Lever to accommodate workers at his soap works factory. Whilst the history of Port Sunlight is fascinating and the village is beautiful the author perhaps could have done a little more to tie-in the village with the river.

The book features some excellent historical photographs of the Runcorn-Widnes bridge, which I feel is a highlight of the book. The Runcorn-Widnes bridge is a significant landmark and as is quite rightly featured. It is not the only road bridge that crosses the river …the Thelwall Viaduct on the M6 also allows cars cross.

As might be expected, the quality of some of the old images isn’t quite as sharp as you’d like, but I know from experience that you can’t expect too much from images that can be over 100 years old.

The book is an enjoyable, easy read. You can order a copy of Along The Mersey directly from The History Press.

Who Owns The River Mersey?

It may on the face of it seem to be a strange question but who owns the River Mersey?

A short while ago I found myself on the Crown Estate website and I learnt that The Crown Estate owns and manages extensive marine assets throughout the UK, including 55% of the foreshore and all the seabed out to the 12 nautical miles limit. So that naturally got me thinking about who owned the Mersey!

I contacted the site and a few days later received a reply:

Generally speaking The Crown Estate owns the foreshore and bed on the south west (Birkenhead) side of the tidal sections of the River Mersey, to the centre point of the river.  Much of the north east (Liverpool) side of the tidal section of the river is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.  There are a few exceptions to the above and one or two sales of foreshore, or admitted claims from within these areas.

The Duchy of Lancaster detail what part of the coastline is owned by them on this page, which details:

Part of the ancient inheritance of the Duchy was ownership of all foreshores in the County Palatine. Extensive interests were sold during the nineteenth century, such as the Mersey Docks and Blackpool promenade. The Duchy remains the major owner of foreshore between the centre point of the River Mersey and Barrow-in-Furness. The area extends over 50,000 hectares. Historically, foreshores have not been a great provider of revenue. The coastlines, river beds and estuaries now have greater potential value in association with energy, conservation, transport and leisure uses.

So now you know who owns the River Mersey!

U-Boat Surfaces At Woodchurch Ferry

An historic German U-Boat (submarine) is now the centre-piece of a new exhibition at Woodside Ferry Terminal on The Wirral side of the River Mersey.

The U-Boat, number U-534 is only one of four remaining in the world and is now available for viewing at an exhibition at Woodside. A specially built viewing platform along with inserted glass panels and interior illumination allow for a thorough viewing of the vessel. Also on display is one of three T11 Zaukonig advanced homing torpedoes that were found inside the U-Boat.

Also included in the exhibition is an enigma coding machine which was used by the German military to encrypt their wartime messages.

Birds On Runcorn Widnes Bridge

The main traffic carrying bridge over the River Mersey is the instantly recognisable Runcorn – Widnes bridge. The bridge is actually called the Silver Jubilee bridge and it was opened in 1961 and widened in 1975-77. The bridge is a grade II listed building.

Anyways, I’ll publish more information about the bridge at a later date …the point of this post is to mention the birds. At this time of the year the bridge can resemble a scene from Hitchock’s The Birds due to the huge numbers of birds that descend upon the bridge. Starlings can be seen at dusk in thousands flying around the bridge and around the mouth of the Mersey. It’s a striking sight provided by Mother Nature and you can enjoy more of it !

On 25th January from 3.30pm there’s a Birds and Bridge talk and walk tour from Pickerings Pasture Nature Reserve. Places are limited so you’d be advised to book – call Rob on (0151) 425 4706 and mention that you read about it her at RiverMersey.org.uk

Flat Camera Batteries Spoil Mersey Visit

I was in Liverpool yesterday to meet up for a coffee with some friends, followed by a spot of shopping (groan).

Before I headed for home on the Wirral Line, I walked down James Street to the Pier Head with the planned intention of taking some photos of the Mersey and the Pier Head. Unfortunately for me, the batteries on my camera were flat and I was unable to take a single photo!

There’s a lot of construction work still going on of course, including:

  • the Mann Island development
  • the new ferry terminal
  • the new Museum of Liverpool 
The new canal paving work looked pretty much completed where I was standing. There’s quite a few good photos starting on this page.
Oh well, I’ll just have to visit again soon …with my batteries recharged of course!

Liverpool Waterfront: World Heritage Site

You may not realise that the Liverpool waterfront is in fact a World Heritage site?

Such is the historical importance of the port of Liverpool that it is listed here on the UNESCO site.

The reasons cited for the inclusion of Liverpool the Mercantile City include:

  • one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Liverpool played an important role in the growth of the British Empire
  • major port for the mass movement of people, e.g. slaves and emigrants from northern Europe to America
  • a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management
Much has been spoken about the Port of Liverpools central involvement in the slave trade – and this is rightly referenced in the listing. The UNESCO listing goes on to say:
Liverpool is an outstanding example of a world mercantile port city, which represents the early development of global trading and cultural connections throughout the British Empire

Note that the magnificent St George’s Plateau is part of Liverpool’s World Heritage sites entry. You’ll find some photos of the Liverpool sites here.

Cruise Lines Unhappy With Berthing

The LDP Newsletter reports that a second cruise line is set to ditch Liverpool due to poor berthing facilities.

Apparently, the cruise line firm Fred Olsen is ready to pull out because it is unable to base a ship at the Cruise Liner Terminal, at the Pier Head, and is currently forced to use the less than glamorous Langton Dock at Bootle. Not surprisingly, the company says it can no longer expect passengers to start a dream holiday in a dismal industrial area.

I know something about this too as earlier this year my wife Sarah helped out a friend on a meet and greet team for a SAGA cruise. Sarah wasn’t particularly impressed with the surrounding dockland area and wondered if the paying passengers would be disappointed embarking on their holidays from somewhere other than the Pier Head.

The LDP Newsletter goes on to report…

that only a few weeks ago, Thomson Cruise pulled the plug on a 30- voyage programme after trialling the unsightly berth at Langton Dock. Both lines claim they thought the terminal at the city’s waterfront would be available to use, but it has neither the necessary Customs or baggage handling facilities. At the moment, it can only be used as a port of call.

Fred Olsen marketing director Nigel Lingard said they decided to operate a ship out of Liverpool a couple of years ago on the clear understanding that new facilities would be made available.

“We made it clear to everyone that long-term success would require improved passenger and ship operating facilities.

“Our success in building up a local market is not something we wish to sacrifice lightly, but it’s not satisfactory to start anyone’s dream holiday with a scrapyard for scenery and abysmal passenger facilities.

“We find it virtually impossible to explain to potential customers why Liverpool has a much-heralded new cruise berth while we are berthed in a dismal industrial area.”

Following the Thomson decision, talks were held involving Peel Holdings, owners of the Port of Liverpool, and the city council ,with the Northwest Development Agency backing an upgrade of the facilities at the Cruise Terminal to provide Customs facilities.

A Peel Holdings (Port of Liverpool owners) spokesman yesterday declined to comment on the situation.

Cammell Laird To Relaunch

One of the most famous names in world ship building – Cammell Laird – is to be relaunched. 

John  Syvret, a former apprentice at the yard, is the managing director of Northwestern Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders (website) and he is restoring the Cammell Laird name.

The Birkenhead based ship yard has seen many a ship launched in to the River Mersey since it’s humble beginnings as an iron works way back in 1824. Highlights include the launching of the Mauritania transatlantic liner in 1938. For a more complete history of the yard visit this page.

One of the first new ships the yard is to undertake is the construction of two supply tankers for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Obviously the company is hoping to win additional contracts to ensure the longterm futures of the yard and it’s skilled workforce.

We wish them every success!