History Of Hoylake


wht 1910


Hoylake in 1910



A project to collect more information on the history of Hoylake is ongoing- see History Project for details about them.




A brief History of the Wirral area


  • Stone-age and bronze-age artefacts have been found on the Hilbre Islands in the Dee estuary.
  • The establishment of a legionary fortress at Chester by the Romans around 76 AD.
  • A large quantity of fibulae and other Roman artefacts have been found on Great Meols beach (suggesting a Romano-British settlement lost about a mile offshore).
  • The settlement of Norwegian Vikings from Dublin under Sigamund in 902 AD, with the agreement of the Aethelfleada, the lady Mercian ruler. (A few years later, the Vikings repaid the favour by (unsuccessfully) attacking Chester.) The remains of a ship, possible Viking, were found underneath a public house in Great Meols in 1938 when the pub was rebuilt and await archaeological excavation.
  • The possible site of the Battle of Brunanburh near present day Bromborough. The Mercian ruler Athelstan defeated a combined army of Vikings and Picts in 937 AD in one of the bloodiest battles of English history.
  • Liverpool castle built in the 1230s (later demolished in the early 1700s). Liverpool grew from a small port to the second most important port of England from the middle of the 17th century. The Atlantic Slave Trade contributed greatly to its prosperity.
  • A railway tunnel was built under the Mersey to connect Birkenhead with Liverpool in 1886. In 1934, a road tunnel was built between Birkenhead and Liverpool. In 1971, a second road tunnel was built, this time between Wallasey and Liverpool.




The Setting and a short History of the town


Written with the help of the Hoylake & District Civic Society with additional material supplied by Heather Chapman and Al Green.


Hoylake is situated on the north-west coast of the Wirral peninsula, facing Liverpool Bay. So it is wide open to the force of the Irish Sea whose winds and waves have shaped the coastal landscape of the area. Its location and the maritime environment has coloured its history. On shore, the movement of sand has led to the formation of a line of sand dunes, stretching from West Kirby to New Brighton. It was probably these sand hills and the hollows between them that were the origin of the name Hoose. Medieval documents refer to Holes, le Holes and Hose.


Strong waves and tidal currents have caused the formation of offshore sandbanks. These are covered by the sea at high tide but dry out as the tide ebbs, creating areas of sheltered water in their lee. One such sheltered roadstead developed behind the Hoyle Bank, acquiring the name Hyle or Hoyle Lake. Though the ‘lake’ has now silted up, it was originally an important anchorage and its name has persisted in the place name, Hoylake.


The present settlement of Hoylake once formed part of the ancient parish of West Kirby, which comprised the eight townships of Caldy, Frankby, Grange, Great Meols, Hoose, Little Meols, Newton cum Larton and West Kirby, and part of the township of Greasby. Hoylake grew out of Hoose but has extended to include parts of both Great Meols and Little Meols on each side.


Hoylake started as a fishing and farming community but inevitably time has wrought change. As transport links improved from the Victorian period onwards, it became quite popular as a holiday-making destination. It is now mainly a commuter settlement.


Tithe Map of Hoose c.1844

Tithe Map of Hoose c.1844. The township occupies a narrow strip of land running between the Birket and the shore




A Timeline


1086 – Little and Great Meols are both mentioned in Domesday Book.


For years, Hoose received little mention in official records. Members of the local community earned their living from farming and fishing or on board ship. They built their dwellings from local materials and with the exception of a few mariners, never ventured far from home. Then in the late 17th century, the Highlake hit the national headlines-


1689 –  James II landed in Ireland. In response, a large army was assembled under the Duke of Schomberg. It camped at Neston before embarking from ‘Highlake’ in about 100 vessels and landing in Ireland on August 13th.


1690 –  Reinforcements assembled. The army camped on the Wallasey Leasowes. Officers were billeted locally. William III stayed at Gayton Hall before embarking for Ireland where he defeated the former James II at the Boyne.


1699 – Liverpool became an independent customs authority, separate from Chester. Shortly after this Customs Officers were stationed at Hoylake.


1721 – The Liverpool Quarantine Lazarette hulk moved from the Sloyne to the Hoyle Lake.


1724 – Highlake described by Daniel Defoe:


Going down from Chester, by the Rhoodee, … and coasting the river after it is grown broader than the marshes; the first place of any note which we come to is Nesson, a long nase or ness of land, which running out into the sea, makes a kind of a key. This is the place where in the late war in Ireland, most of the troops embark'd, when that grand expedition begun; after which, the vessels go away to Highlake, in which as the winds may happen they ride safe in their way …  till the wind presents for their respective voyages.


(Daniel Defoe: Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, 1724 – 1727)


1762 – Liverpool Town Council agreed to build a pair of Lighthouses at Hoylake. An Act to erect lighthouses and other lights at the mouth of the harbour was enacted in August 10th 1762.


1764 – Two Lighthouses standing in Hoylake.


1765 – The Lower Lighthouse at Hoylake burnt, July 15th.


1766 – The Liverpool Pilotage Act established the Liverpool Pilot Service with some of the pilots being based at Hoylake.


Sea Bathing becomes popular from the end of the 18th century.


1792 – The Royal Hotel was built by Sir John Stanley of Alderley.


1794 – The Gentleman’s Magazine describes the Hoyle Lake as ‘A safe road for vessels of any size … during the highest tides and most boisterous gales.’

Paragraph as it appeared in its original typeface in the Gentleman's Magazine




1801 Census – Population of Hoose – 60. The 19th century sees the area grow.


1803 – Hoylake Lifeboat Station founded by Mersey Dock Board.


1810 – Lifeboat Disaster, 22nd December. The lifeboat, manned by local men, responded to a ship called The Traveller, which had been driven on shore in the Mersey. While going to its rescue the lifeboat was overwhelmed by the sea and 8 of the 10  crew were drowned.


1812 – The manor, and the greater part of the township of Hoose bought by John Timothy Swainson, (1756 – 1824) formerly collector of the Customs of Liverpool. The Swainsons’ house was known by them as The Vale House but later called The Dale.


1812 – Hoose Manor Court met 29 Oct.


1813 – Map of ‘Highlake’ (Little Meols) produced showing hotel, lighthouse & buildings.


1826 – Turnpike Act enabled road to Hoose to be improved.


Advertisement from the North Wales Chronicle of September 30, 1830 showing Steam Packet Boats were calling at Hoylake

Advertisement from the North Wales Chronicle of September 30, 1830 showing Steam Packet Boats were calling at Hoylake



Notice mentioning Hoylake Races from The York Herald & General Advertiser, November 6, 1830

Notice mentioning Hoylake Races from The York Herald & General Advertiser, November 6, 1830



1831 Census : 196 in Hoose, 198 in Great Meols, 126 in Little Meols.


         Hoose in 1830s

Hoose in 1830s



1833 – Holy Trinity Church built on land adjacent to Trinity Road and donated by Mrs. Betty Swainson, was consecrated on November 1st. A Parsonage House was also built.


1836 – Hoose School opened on land formerly part of Parsonage Croft.


1847 – Horse racing starts on the beach.


1865 – Hoylake Lighthouses (Upper and Lower) rebuilt.


1865 – Stanley Hotel opened.




1865 – Railway from Wallasey docks reached Hoylake; opened for traffic – June 18th.


1869 – Formation of Liverpool Golf Club. Club room at the Royal hotel.


1870 – Railway line seized by bailiffs and closed – July 8th.


1872 – Hoylake Railway reopened to Docks Station (Birkenhead North) August 1st.


1874 – The first Congregational congregation met using a rented chapel.


1877 – The Hoylake and West Kirby Gas and Water Company Ltd formed and acquired site for gasworks and gasometers in Carr Lane.


1878 – Railway extended beyond Hoylake to West Kirby.


1884 – First Congregational Church opened, 30th October.


1884–85  Hoylake Volunteer Fire Brigade purchased a Merryweather London Brigade Manual Fire Engine.


1888 – Railway extended from the Docks Station to Birkenhead Park (where the change could be made to the Mersey Railway for Liverpool).


1891 – Hoylake School founded in Market Street.


1894 – West Kirby and Hoylake Urban District Council established (1897 renamed Hoylake and West Kirby District Council).


1895 – Royal Liverpool Golf Club clubhouse opened on Meols Drive.


1897 – Lifeboat Station rebuilt by RNLI.


1897-99  Promenade built.


1898 – New Methodist Church opened on corner of Alderley Road.


1898 – New Town Hall and District Council Offices opened in Market Street.


Hoylake Town Hall in 1900

Hoylake Town Hall in 1900



1899 – Hoylake Promenade opened.


1899 – St. Hildeburgh’s Church begun.


St. Hildeburgh’s Church in construction

St. Hildeburgh’s Church in construction



1904 – Kingsmead School founded.


1905 – No. 86 Church Road, (Trinity Road) leased for use as a 'Fishermans Bethel or Mission House'.


1906 – New Congregational Church opened 18th May.


1909 – Meols Parade Gardens opened.


1909 – Hoylake Parade School for Higher Primary pupils opened for enrolments.


1910 – Queen Victoria Memorial Cottage Hospital building opened. (Later taken over by the NHS then saved from closure and named the Hoylake Cottage Hospital. Now simply The Cottage.)


1911 – Lighthouse Pavilion Picture House opened. (Later renamed The Winter Gardens.)


1913 – Hoylake Open Air Baths opened.


1914-18  World War I.


1915 – The Chalet, St Margaret’s Road, opened as an auxiliary hospital to care for military personnel.


1915 – The Kingsway Picture House opened on July 10th. Munition Factory set up in an existing garage near to Hoylake Station in October.


1921 – The YMCA took over Hoylake Institute.


1922 – Lower Lighthouse demolished. Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial unveiled.


1928 – The foundation stone for St. Catherine and Martina RC Church opened.


1931 – Opening of the newly refurbished Hoylake Open-Air Baths.


1933 – Hoylake’s first Public Library opened in Hoylake Town Hall in February.


1937 – The first Deaf/Blind School in England opened at Fellowship House (the crenelated building on the corner of Trinity Road with the promenade).


1938 – Railway electrified and Hoylake station rebuilt- now direct trains to Liverpool. New Police Station in Queen’s Road opened.


1939-45  World War II.


1940 – Congregational church hit by incendiary bomb and damaged by fire.


1958 – The Royal Hotel demolished.


1959 – Melrose Hall opened.


1960 – The Kingsway Cinema closed.


1972 – Hoylake Congregational Church became a United Reformed Church with the union of Congregational and Presbyterian churches.


1974 – Abolition of Hoylake Urban District Council with its functions incorporated within the newly-formed Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.


1976 – Hoylake Baths closed by the Council but reopened by the Hoylake Pool and Community Trust for a further six years.


1978 – New building for Holy Trinity CE School opened on a new site.


1979 – West Kirby Grammar School for Girls temporarily uses the empty building of the Holy Trinity CE School for its first year pupils (until 1986).


1979 – Wirral Horn Arcade created within The Kingsway Garage building.


1984 – Hoylake Baths demolished.


1986 – Hoylake YMCA demolished.


1987 – Hoylake URC Church congregation joined with St. Andrews Church in Meols. Hoylake URC Church taken over by The Chapel congregation.


1989 – Hoylake Parade School building threatened with demolition. School saved by the local community petitioning the Council.


1991 – Joint Management Committee formed to run a Hoylake Community Centre in the old building of the Hoylake Parade School.


2008 – New Lifeboat Station built on a new site.


2013 – Council hands over the running of the Hoylake Community Centre to a trust.




History Project


HOYLAKE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT: Can you remember what Hoylake used to be like, its lost buildings, its characters and what changes have happened to it since? Helen Penny would like to record people telling her their memories.  These audio recordings will build up into a descriptive archive of Hoylake. If you can spare some time, to share your history & connections with Hoylake, please contact Helen on 07914444610.





[Page last updated/checked 31/10/15




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