Day Out On The Wirral: Pt 1 – New Brighton, Merseyside

Our latest local trip from where I live at Southport was onto the Wirral Peninsula, between the river Mersey (for Liverpool) and the river Dee which straddles the border with Wales and runs along to Chester. There are many towns on the Wirral, including Birkenhead which we have already visited. Our first stop for our new adventure was the town of New Brighton, at the tip of the peninsula…

New Brighton:

Status: Wirral District, Merseyside, Town, England

Date:  28/02/2014:

Travel: Merseyrail (Southport – New Brighton via Liverpool Central), Mersey Ferries (Seacombe – Liverpool Pierhead), Merseyrail (Liverpool – Hoylake/Leasowe), Merseyrail (Leasowe – Southport via Moorfields)

Eating & Sleeping: Hamilton Cafe Liverpool

Attractions: Lighthouse, Marine Lake, War Memorial, Promenade,

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New Brighton is a pleasant little town, similar to most in the area. It is the terminus of one of the four lines on the Wirral Line on Merseyrail, and the station is only 5-10 minutes away from the sea front. The town is well known for having the longest promenade in Britain, and at the start of this is the Marine Lake, shown above.

At the back you can see the Lighthouse and off to the right is Fort Perch Rock, which we explored later. The lake was very calm and we got an awesome view across it, reflecting the local landmarks.

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Moving around the lake, we came to the main entrance to the Fort. It was built in the 1820’s to defend the entrance to the Mersey, and the port of Liverpool which at the time was the most important port in England after London itself.

It would originally have been cut off during high tide but the land around it has been reclaimed so it is now joined to the mainland properly. The highest wall is a whopping 32 feet tall, with the 40 feet towers at either end. It was quite famous when it was constructed, and because of the original drawbridge and large garrison of weapons (at least 18 large guns), it was nicknamed the “Little Gibraltar of the Mersey”.

The fort has long since ceased it’s military significance but today it is open to the public as a museum, although it wasn’t open today. Find out more here.

The foundation stone reads: “This foundation stone of the Rock Perch Battery, projected by and under the direction of John Sikes Kitson, Esquire, Captain in the Royal Engineers, for the defence of the port was laid on 31st March 1826 by Peter Bourne, Esquire, Mayor of Liverpool in the 7th year of the reign of His Majesty George IV. His Grace, the Duke of Wellington , Master General of the Ordnance.”

Until we visited today I didn’t even know this was here, so its a great little find so close to where I have lived all my life. Merseyside is full of surprises, especially on the Wirral, and it would not be the last fortified structure we found during our day out…

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All around the fort is New Brighton beach, and linked to the beach by a causeway, directly behind the fort, is New Brighton Lighthouse. When the tide is in the causeway is covered, so we couldn’t walk across to it at the time.

Construction began in 1827, and served for 150 years as a guide for ships finding their way into the Mersey from the Irish Sea. In 1973 modern technology took over and the Lighthouse became disused, but it is still kept in good condition and is owned by the Kingham Family. It is one of at least three Lighthouses in Merseyside, with the others spread around the Wirral including one at Leasowe, which we tried to find later in the day, and one at Hoylake, which we found later.

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Overlooking the promenade are New Brightons two prominent churches, of St Peter, St Paul & Philomena, and St James’s.

The former is characterised by the beautiful copper dome, and is a Grade II listed building. The building has long held the nickname of the “Home Dome” as sailors returning up the Mersey by boat would see it and know they were home. It opened in 1935, by Father Tom Mullins from Ireland. After studying to become a priest in Portugal, he returned to New Brighton and constructed the church, which had been his dream. The church he originally served with was demolished, and once stood on Hope Street.

The second church, St James’s, dates from 1854. Construction was marred by a major storm that knocked some of the construction out of place but the church was completed in 1856.

Together they are a magnificent site, standing proud, high above the rest of the town.

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Around the far side of the lake, away from the promenade, are three small pavilion structures that I presume date from the Victorian Era. Along with these, are various old anchors and other components that would originally have been used around the docks.

It’s nice little touches like these that reinforce how important New Brighton is along the Mersey, and a thriving coastal town.

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Moving towards the promenade, we found the impressive Floral Pavilion building, and outside was the above statue, of a Guidedog. A plaque around the base commemorates the fact that the “Guide Dogs for the Blind Association” was founded here at The Cliff in 1931.

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Marking the entrance to the amazing promenade is the milestone, with the distances from here to the various locations along the promenade. The furthest away is Seacombe Ferry Port at 3.5 km, and believe or not we did the entire walk down there, past Wallasey Town Hall, to the Spaceport Exhibition Centre and then to the Ferry Port itself. It took a good hour to do the whole walk, with stops here and then to check out the interesting sights up and down the promenade.

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One of the odder things we found was this piece of artwork, modelled to look like the wreckage of a pirate ship. A wooden stick was stuck in the ground in front of it, and had a poem on it about the pirate ship. I quite like this picture, as it’s an odd sight, pirate ship ruins with Liverpool in the background and not something I had been expecting to find when I left the house a few hours ago.

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Further along is the War Memorial, not far from Vale Park, a large park with an entrance directly off the promenade.

The memorial commemorates the casualties of both World Wars, and the Wirral suffered heavily during the World War II. Due to it’s significance as an important port with Liverpool, and used a lot by the Americans bringing supplies and troops over to Britain, the area around Merseyside was targeted heavily in German Air Raids and was the most heavily bombed area in Britain outside of London.

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The views up and down the Mersey are spectacular from here, and aside from the great views of the impressive port of Liverpool with the Docks, we spotted the Victoria Tower in the Salisbury dock.

It was built in the 1840’s, and as an aid to ships coming in and out of the dock it had two important functions:

1) To tell them the time so they could set it accurately on their vessels before sailing out into the Irish Sea.

2) To warn of impending meteorological changes using the bell.

Since 1975 the docks are no longer used, and the clock has fallen into disrepair, but renovations have been announced very recently. It’s a great site, especially from this side of the Mersey where it’s full size compared to its surroundings can be appreciated. This area of the docks is a protected site and an important part of the historic dockyards.

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As we continued our long walk through to Wallasey, we got a beautiful view down the Mersey, with the impressive skyline of Liverpool City Centre on the right, and the looming tower of Wallasey Town Hall on the right, and the morning sun glinting on the water…

New Brighton is a great seaside town with amazing views and attractions that you can’t find everywhere, such as the lighthouse and the fort, and they help make it an historic town. With regular connections on the Merseyrail Network direct to Liverpool City Centre, it is easy to access and great for a day out.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting New Brighton, which certainly lives up to its namesake down in Sussex, the city of Brighton. Our next stop was Wallasey, which we could see in the distance, and the next stage of our adventurous day out would be just as amazing as the first…

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