Aberconwy Historical Society
Hoylake Promenade between the Wars
At the end of the line
At the north west point of the Wirral Peninsular are the towns of Hoylake and West Kirby. The towns are divided by the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and at its point is the sandstone outcrop called Red Rocks looking out to Hilbre Island and the north Wales coast in the distance.
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club was designed and built in 1869 and is the second oldest golf club in England. The club has hosted the “Open” on several occasions. In 1967 the likes of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope visited the event. Three members of the golf club visited north Wales in 1875 and saw the potential for a golf course at Morfa in Conwy. They arranged for their professional to design and build the course we now know as Conwy Golf Club.
Meols Drive connects Hoylake and West Kiby and was home to Vernon Sangster the owner of Vernon Pools and his son Robert the race horse owner. It was also where the Leas boarding school was situated. One of its former pupils was Mike Rutherford who went on to form the world famous band Genesis whilst a pupil at Charterhouse public school.
The name Hoylake was derived from Hoyle Lake a channel of water between Hilbre Island and Dove Point protected by a wide sandbank known as Hoyle Bank with water depth of about 20 feet. It provided a safe anchorage for ships too large to sail up the Dee. However, half a mile off shore you could stand on the sand bank up to your waist in water. A strange experience so far from land and one I have experienced.
In 1690, William 111 set sail from Hoylake with a 10,000 strong army for Ireland to take part in the Battle of the Boyne. The road down from Market Street to the beach is still known as Kings Gap.
Where Market Street and Kings Gap meet was a furniture shop named Clarendon Furnishing. This was part of a furniture company in north east Liverpool, Epstein & Sons. From their Liverpool branch they also sold musical instruments and on one occasion sold a piano to Paul McCartney's father. In the 50's the owner Harry sent his eldest son Brian to run the new shop in Hoylake. Brian travelled over from Liverpool every day, however, his main interest was music and he eventually moved to there newly opened music store, North East Music Stores (NEMS) in Liverpool city centre.
There have been many personalities who have lived in Hoylake over the years, two doors from where I lived was the home of Selwyn Lloyd, the former Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House in the 50's and 60's. In the next road was Glenda Jackson the actor and labour politician and several roads further on lived an art student Cynthia Powell who married a young Liverpool guitarist, named John Lennon. I used to see his black Rolls Royce outside the house on many occasions. Some 30 years later a young man grew up in Hoylake and went on to become James Bond. Daniel Craig's mother still lives in the town.
There was a theatre in Market Street called the Kingsway Cinema now a supermarket. In 1940 a young man named John Eric Bartholomew won a talent contest there and the prize was an audition with Jack Hilton in Manchester. Hilton teamed him up with a fellow comic Ernest Wiseman and the rest is history.
West Kirby is the end of the line for both the modern day railway line from Liverpool and the line from Hooton that ran through Neston and Heswall and was closed in 1960. Now a country park.
The name West Kirby comes from the fact that there was a church or kirk on the eastern side of the Wirral. When a new church was built in the west it was the “West kirk and “by” means village or settlement in Norse, hence, West kirk by.
At 38 Banks Road is a restaurant with a hairdressers
above but in the 60's it was the Thistle Cafe with a
dance hall rehearsal rooms over the top.
On Thursday 1st February 1962 the Beatles made their first performance outside Liverpool after Brian Epstein took over their management. It was the intention that the group would perform regularly there and call it the Beatles Club, but in the end this was their only appearance in the town. Epstein took 10 o/o of the £18 that they were paid. I was there on that night and had been praising the group in the town prior to the event.
However, on the evening it didn't go well. Maybe because of the acoustics but whatever it was I came in for a lot of criticism from the locals.
The Wirral has seen many personalities over the years who have been either born or lived in the area. Harold Wilson went to Wirral Grammar when his father worked in Brombough, Fiona Bruce lived in Heswall when her father worked for Lever Brothers, Ian Botham the cricketer was born in Heswall, Roger Moore had a house in Gayton (that makes two James Bonds plus Timothy Dalton who was born in Colwyn Bay.)
Paul McCartney bought a house named Rembrandt for his father Jim in Heswall, he paid £8790. Ringo Starr had a spell in the Children's Convalescent Hospital in Heswall with pleurisy when he was young. There have also been a number of premier league footballers that have lived in the area over the years from both Liverpool and Everton clubs. Rafa Benitez the former Liverpool manager still has a house high up in Caldy worth in the region of £6m.
The Wirral Peninsular is a diverse and interesting area, from the industrial towns of Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port to the villages of Caldy and Burton that are constantly mentioned in the list of the richest villages in Britain. The area has a long history and I have only scratched to surface of the many facts and also the personalities that have lived there over the years.
So this concludes my four stories about the Wirral.
“Across the River Dee,” “The Rise and fall of Birkenhead,”
“Land of the Welshman,”
and this last one about the area that I grow up in.
My thanks to all the historical articles and memories that have given me the information about this fascinating area of the country.