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St Mary's Tower on the grounds of Birkenhead Priory

Birkenhead Priory is in Priory Street, Birkenheadmarker, Merseyside, Englandmarker. It is the oldest standing building on Merseyside. The remains of the priory are a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was founded about 1150 by Hamon de Masci, 3rd Baron of Dunham Massey for the Benedictine Order.

The Priory was visited twice by Edward I due to its strategic importance being close to the borders of Wales, and also the Irish Sea.

In 1318 the monks from Birkenhead Priory were granted ferry rights by Edward II. This allowed them to build a house in what is now Water Street to store their corn. The house was also used by travellers for shelter if the weather was too bad for the ferry to cross the River Merseymarker.

The priory's chapter house is consecrated as an Anglican church, and is still used for services. There is a chapel dedicated to the training ship HMS Conwaymarker. There is also a museum detailing the history of the site. The chapter house is a Grade II* listed building and contains items of Norman architecture. In 2005 the chapter house was restored.

St Mary's Tower was originally part of Birkenhead's first parish church, opened in 1821 in the grounds of the priory. It is a Grade II listed building.

Redevelopment of the area from 1925 resulted in a large amount of residential housing within the parish being cleared to make way for the construction of the first Mersey Tunnelmarker. An expansion of the Number 5 dry dock at the adjacent Cammell Laird shipyard in the 1960s resulted in the church losing a significant portion of its graveyard. Subsequent redevelopment of the approach roads to the Mersey Tunnel effectively cut off the church from most of what remained of its parish, further dwindling the congregation. St. Mary's Church closed in 1974 and was partly demolished a year later, for reasons of safety. Only the former church tower and parts of the outer walls were retained in situ. The tower has since been refurbished and is dedicated to those who died on HMS Thetis.

The churchyard contains the burial vault of the Laird family, which includes John Laird (1805–74), Birkenhead's first Member of Parliament and co-founder of the adjacent Cammell Laird shipbuilding company.


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