is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of
It is on
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.Historically part of Cheshire, Birkenhead
is perhaps best known as a centre for ship
building, as a seaport and its related
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.
ferry began operating from Birkenhead in 1150 when
Benedictine monks under the leadership
of Hamon de Mascy built a priory
Distanced from the Industrial Revolution
in Liverpool by
the physical barrier of the River Mersey, Birkenhead retained its
status until the advent of
the steam ferry service in 1820.
Shipbuilding started in 1829. An iron works was initially
established by William Laird
and was joined by his son John Laird
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
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
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.
population grew from 110 in 1801 to 110,912 one hundred years later
and stood at 142,501 by 1951.
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.The townships of Landican, Prenton and Thingwall were added in 1928, followed by Noctorum, Upton and Woodchurch in 1933.
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
caused Birkenhead to lose its county borough status. The
town has since been administered as part of the Metropolitan Borough of
, in the metropolitan
of Merseyside. The current Member of Parliament
is Frank Field
Urban Area, as defined by the Office for National
Statistics, includes Birkenhead, Wallasey, Bebington, Ellesmere Port, and the contiguous
built-up areas which link those towns along the eastern side of the
In the 2001
, 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
An increase in the town's population by 1841 led
to the opening on 11 July 1845 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.
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 shiprepair still features prominently in the local
economy. Cammell Laird
in 2001. The shipyard was
sold and became 'Northwestern Shiprepair & Shipbuilders', which
grew into a successful business specialising in shiprepair 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 Shiprepair &
Shipbuilders' on 17 November 2008, seeing the famous name return to
Birkenhead after a seven-year hiatus.
Today the town has a very high unemployment rate.
Park is acknowledged to be the first publicly funded
park in Britain.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.
Designed by Joseph
(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
. 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
New Town with similar architecture.
architect was James Gillespie
from Edinburgh. This grid pattern was centred around
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. 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.
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
Birkenhead had the first street tramway
Europe. Opened on 29 August 1860 the first line ran
from Woodside (adjoining the terminal of the Mersey Ferry) to
This early system was horse-drawn and was
the brainchild of flamboyant American, George Francis Train
.A preserved tram
was on display in the Woodside ferry terminal booking hall.
replica trams, imported from Hong Kong, have been brought into
service as part of a heritage tramway between Woodside and Wirral
began operating in Birkenhead
in 1848, to be replaced with motor vehicles after the First World War
Present-day services are run by operators including Arriva
, First Bus
, A1A Travel and
Avon Coaches, and coordinated by Merseytravel
National Express provides long-distance
coach services to other UK cities, with direct routes including
London, Glasgow, Bangor and
Birkenhead and Liverpool were linked by an underground railway system, which today
is part of the Merseyrail
underground station in Birkenhead is Hamilton
Square, the nearest station to the ferry terminal.
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.
stations located in Birkenhead include Birkenhead
Central, Green Lane, Rock Ferry, Conway Park, Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead North and Bidston.
Wirral Line from Birkenhead travels south to Chester and Ellesmere Port, north to New Brighton and westwards, across the Wirral Peninsula, to
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
View Merseyrail Network Map
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
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
operates a service from Birkenhead to Douglas
using the MS
. Due to weather conditions, this service
temporarily replaces the route that normally operates from the
Liverpool landing stage using fast craft.
nearest airport is Liverpool John Lennon Airport (formerly known as Speke Airport) located about 8
miles (13 km) from Birkenhead.
Among the town's schools are two independent schools. Birkenhead's oldest
independent school is Birkenhead School.
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. "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 , and Philip Toosey, hero at the Bridge on
the River Kwai.
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
alumnae include the actress Patricia
. Birkenhead High School decided to become a
the change to co-education at Birkenhead School, this decision was
driven by falling numbers of pupils.
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.
Borough Road campus and the Glenda Jackson Theatre
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 is served by Wirral
University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
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.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
situated on Borough Road and was opened by King George V
Despite being in England, Birkenhead (known as Penbedw
the Welsh language) hosted Wales' National Eisteddfod
in 1917 as well as
an unofficial National Eisteddfod event in 1879. As in Liverpool,
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. 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.
The first meeting of the international Celtic Congress
also took place at the
Theatre was a major theatre and music hall which opened in
1868 and became notable for the calibre of artistes who appeared
Later in its life, it was also used as a cinema
. The theatre was destroyed by bombing
in 1940.The Little Theatre was established in 1958 from a converted
church, whilst more
recently, the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Woodside opened in
Birkenhead is served by local daily newspapers the Liverpool Echo
and Liverpool Daily Post
. The free
local weekly newspapers are the Wirral
and the Birkenhead
(part of the Wirral News group).
The local radio station Heart Wirral
based in offices at the Pacific Road Arts Centre. In addition,
there are five other local radio stations that transmit to
Birkenhead: BBC Radio
, Radio City 96.7
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
In 1929, the 3rd World Scout Jamboree
Birkenhead is the home of Tranmere Rovers F.C., a professional
football team who play at
Park near the Tranmere area of the town.
in Football League One
. Cammell Laird F.C.
is the town's semi
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
The Birkenhead Park
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.
Located in the town are the Birkenhead North End & Victoria
Cycling Clubs. Olympic
riders from the
clubs include Chris Boardman
and Rachel Heal
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.
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
In the arts, Birkenhead has produced several actors and performers
including Glenda Jackson
, Lewis Collins
, Patricia Routledge
(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
The town has produced some notable artists such as Philip Wilson Steer
, Bessie Bamber
, the workers at the Della Robbia Pottery
cartoonists: Norman Thelwell
. In music, Indie band Half Man Half Biscuit
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
Birkenhead has also produced notable sportsmen such as Matt Dawson
, the rugby
player; 'Dixie' Dean
), 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
, electrical engineer, academic
and champion of the polytechnic
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
(bassist from The Fall
) and synthpop
musician David Hughes
Dalek I Love You
, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the
) were born there.
(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
Andreas Whittam Smith
editor of The Independent
, grew up
in Birkenhead, where his father was an Anglican
, a recipient of the
during World War I
Birkenhead is twinned, as a part of Wirral, with Gennevilliers and Lorient in France and
Italy. Birkenhead also has a Sister City Agreement with Midland, Texas USA.
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, of new
office space and for new residential flats. A retail and leisure
quarter at the former Bidston Dock site would encompass another of space.
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.
- Foldi, N.S. (1978). Poole, Daniel (1882 – 1959)'. Australian Dictionary of
Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, p. 255.
Retrieved on 9 August 2009.