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Hoylake of Yesteryear

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Hoylake Promenade

Hoylake History
Modern Hoylake was once the two ancient villages of Little Meols and Roose, which until 1833 were in the parish of West Kirby. The coast of Little Meols stretched from Riverside Road in West Kirby to the bottom of Alderley Road where Hoose began. The present name of Hoylake is derived from the "High Lake" or "Heye-pol", which once extended several miles along the coast from Hilbre to Dove Point at Meols.
At low tide it had a depth of up to 20 feet of water and was protected by a wide sandbank,known as Hoyle Bank, providing a safe anchorage for ships that were too large to sail up the Dee to Chester.
In the 17th Century Hoylake was one of the main embarkation points for troops sailing to Ireland. Thousands of soldiers, civilians, infantry and cavalry sailed from Hoylake, including in 1690, King William III and his 10,000 strong army. The soldiers "would often sally forth bent on wine, and were proficient in robbing a henroost or rounding up a few ducks".
During the 1700s the River Dee became more difficult to navigate. Docks were built at Liverpool, and inbound ships waited at Hoylake for the tide and a suitable wind to sail up the Mersey. At the time, smuggling was prevalent in the Dee and Irish Sea. Several local men worked as "customs
officers", aboard special yachts stopping and searching vessels. A more dangerous occupation was as a guide to incoming vessels through the sandbanks of Liverpool Bay. In 1770 three pilot boats were wrecked and 28 people drowned. To assist shipping into the Hoylake anchorage, two
lighthouses were built around 1760. A lower lighthouse in Alderley Road, and an upper lighthouse, which is the octagonal brick tower now part of a residence in Valentia Road.
Both lighthouses were rebuilt in the 1860s. They both used coal fires for illumination and the upper lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the world to be fitted with special mirrors. Its light last shone in 1886. The lifeboat installed by the Liverpool Dock Board in 1803, was one of the first in the country.
By the 1830's the silting of the lake could not be curbed and the cutting of a new channel to Liverpool, marked the end of Hoylake's shipping heyday.
Fishing now became the main trade for the local community and the clear waters of the Dee were teeming with fish. In the 1850s five fishing boats could catch 17 tons of fish in one night, but domestic conditions could be harsh. Cottages in Seaview and Lake Place were home to fishing families. Many had up to 10 children, living without modern conveniences such as sewers, drains, gas or electricity.

In contrast to the poor fisher folk, affluent people visited Hoylake. They were attracted to its splendid beaches and enjoyed the new "craze" of sea-bathing.
Hoylake developed as a holiday resort when Lord Stanley had The Royal Hotel built and the place became noted for the high social standing of it'svisitors. "Almost all of them are of the nobility and gentry", a contemporarycorrespondent reported, and for the genteel young Victorian lady seeking apastime to fill the hours between breakfast and lunch, Hoylake provided a fascinating variety of sea shells and seaweed. The shells were made intosouvenirs by being attached to pin cushions and engraved 'A Present From Hoylake' whilst the seaweed, or flowers of the sea as they were called, would be mounted in albums, a hobby favoured by Queen Victoria
.
It was a welcome change for this part of The Wirral to be favoured by respectable people, as for many years it had an unsavoury reputation as being the haunt of smugglers and wreckers, with the inhabitants of the Public House on nearby Hilbre Island, alleged to add to their income by robbing the dead bodies of unfortunates who drowned and were washed ashore by the tide onto the Island.
In 1796 an advertisement for the Royal Hotel, in Stanley Road read. "A terrace has lately been added to the hotel, from which there is a fine view of the lake, the sea, the Lancashire hills and Welsh mountains, and of every ship which goes to and comes from Parkgate and Liverpool".
From 1840, Hoylake had the added attraction of a racecourse which was laid out on a rabbit warren facing the Royal Hotel. The turf was reputed to be the finest in the world.
Although it ceased to be used in 1876, the western turning is still visible, and two of the old railing posts still stand.
Golf firmly established the name of Hoylake nationally and internationally. The present
Royal Liverpool Golf Club was originally a nine-hole course founded by local enthusiasts in 1869. Hoylake's sands of time shifted yet again with the coming of the railway in 1866. It transformed the sand-buried, shrimp-smelling village into a major seaside resort and commuter town.

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Hoylake Fire Brigade circa 1890

The picture of Hoylake fire brigade (left) was taken sometime in the 1890's and was made available to Andy Sutton by Aaron Reid and in turn our thanks go to them both.
The driver of the vehicle was Jesse Bird (b.1846) and his brother, Richard Bird (b.1850) is pictured bottom left.

 

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A Bus Trip From Hoylake 1920

Bus Trip From Hoylake (right) This is a group of Hoylake people who were out for the day on a bus trip.
The only people that can be identified are the HOUSLEY sisters, Amy HOUSLEY 1906-1971 and Elizabeth Margaret HOUSLEY (known as Peggy) 1900-1977. Possibly the photo was taken prior to 1920. Elizabeth Housley was Andy Sutton's Maternal Grandmother who is shown in the front row, 1st from the right, seated on the ground
Amy Housley is also in the front row, 3rd from the left. Possibly the photo was taken prior to 1920.
Some Hoylake descendents may recognise a relative.if so please let us know.
Thanks to Anne Nazari for making this picture available.

The population of Hoylake increased from 924 in 1861 to 6,352 by 1901. Prosperous Liverpool and Birkenhead businessmen built houses for their families to use during the summer while holidaymakers flocked to enjoy the beaches and bracing air. Pleasure and leisure were the bywords of the day and new facilities were installed, including the swimming baths, cinema, tennis courts, putting green, promenade gardens and a bandstand in the seafront gardens. It had roller skating on Saturday afternoons and dancing Saturday nights.
In the 1960s the new craze of continental "package tours" ended the holiday boom-town era in Hoylake's history Now a dormitory town with some of the best residential addresses in Wirral, its fresh air and sandy beaches continue to attract daytrippers. Take a stroll along Market Street with its Victorian shop verandahs or meander down to the shore, while savouring the same sea-air that braced the mariners and holidaymakers of Hoylake in times gone by.

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Hoylake Lifeboat circa 1894

Hoylake lifeboat
The picture was given to Andy Sutton  by
 Syd Bird who is a descendant of Jesse Bird. (Same source for the Hoylake Fire Brigade photo also published.) the guess is that it's from the same time period and the horses were understood to have belonged to Jesse Bird.

A Snippet from a book called "Hoylake and Meols Past"
'The RNLI took over the lifeboat station in 1894 and rebuilt the shed in 1897. Between 1894 and 1931, at least 69 people and 46 vessels were saved by the
Hoylake men. When the tide was out, the Hilbre boat was launched; otherwise the lake boat was towed to the waterline by a team of horses belonging to Jesse Bird of Market Street.'

It Was Said That!!

Eric Morcambe
of Morcambe and Wise fame Was Here! In early 1939 Sadie took Eric to the Kingsway Cinema in Hoylake near Birkenhead for the Lancashire & Cheshire area heat of a national search for talent competition, organised by 'The Melody Maker' ... again Eric won ... here's a press revue of his performance :"There are a hundred competitors in the area & the ten finalists appeared at the Kingsway Cinema, Hoylake, a week ago. Eric Bartholomew put over a brilliant comedy act which caused the audience to roar with laughter. In an interview, he said, 'My ambition is to become a comedian. My hero is George Formby'.
Eric's prize was an audition with Bandleader & Showman Jack Hylton, in Manchester. A young man called Ernie Wise was in the audience ( acting as Jack's advisor ), it was Eric & Ernie's first meeting, they didn't speak. Both Jack Hylton & Ernie were impressed with Eric.About three months later Jack Hylton offered Eric a part in the show ' Youths Takes a Bow', Eric accepted & started immediately . Two months later Ernie joined the cast ... For full Double Act Biog see Eric 'n' Ernie Biog in Main Menu.Eric married Joan Barlett on 11th December 1952, they enjoyed a very happy life together & had 2 children .. Gary & Gail ... Eric always loved Joan, proving it in many ways. On the day after Gary was born, Eric went outside & mixed some concrete, he then proceeded to write JOAN, THANK YOU & I LOVE YOU, apparently this was only one of many romantic acts ... how lucky they both where !!. Ernie was best man at the wedding.
On 28th May 1984 just after coming off stage of a charity show at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury U.K. Eric collapsed with a huge heart attack, he was rushed to hospital. Laying in bed unconscious , the nurse advised Joan that trying to wake him may help, she shouted loudly at him, though he didn't open his eyes, he squeezed her hand, then became still ... at just before 4:00 A.M. .... the Sunshine had gone. I like to think that the squeezing of her hand was Eric saying to Joan 'It's all right & I Love You .....Eric's 3 year old grandson (Gails Son), Adam was quoted as saying
"Does that mean there wont be anymore magic".
Ernie on Eric's Death :"It's the saddest day of my life .. I feel like I've lost a limb, I have been robbed of a partner & brother, there is a cold draught down one side of me where Eric should be".


The Old Kingsway Cinema, Market Street, Hoylake

The Hoylake swimming baths were opened in Jun 1913. Towards the end of the 1920's it was decided to rebuild the baths at a cost of 25,000 UK Pounds. The new baths were opened in 1931. In 1976, the Hoylake Pool and Community Trust took over the running of the baths after Wirral Council had closed them down. Unfortunately, the venture failed and the buildings have since been pulled down. All that is left is a grassed over area, where it has been proposed to build a new lifeboat station.