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The Ghosts of Leasowe Castle

There is a room on the mezzanine level between first and second floors called the Boardroom, also known as the Oak Room, or the Ghost Room. Octagonal in shape, it is lit by two windows set in the thick walls and it is panelled from floor to ceiling, although originally the walls were rough-hewn stone. At some point in the building’s history, the owners became embroiled in a family feud with another noble line. They took prisoner the head of the rival family and his young son, who they shut up in the Oak Room. Fearing that their captors would torture them, the father smothered his son then killed himself by dashing out his brains against the wall. The building has been a hotel several times during its chequered history, and the room itself was at one point a bedroom. A visitor, who had heard nothing of the story related above, made “a terrible hullabaloo at midnight,” saying that he had seen a man and a boy standing in the moonlight between his bed and the windows.

Leasowe_Castle_Wallasey Leasowe Castle in 1882

LEASOWE CASTLE AND RACECOUESE.

The Sketch - Wednesday 02 October 1895

 

A conspicuous feature on the western coast-line of England is the tiny peninsula of Wirral, Cheshire, that divides the Mersey and the Dee. It has a historic past of unusual interest, is singularly varied in natural features, and contains within its boundaries such engineering triumphs as a portion of the Manchester Ship Canal and the great docks at Birkenhead. The end of the peninsula hears the full brunt of the Irish Sea, on its coast-line of some ten miles. The southern portion begins at the mouth of the Dee, where the little watering-place of West Kirby nestles under a rocky hill, while opposite lies Hilbre Island. From this point towards the Mersey is a flat country, stretching inland, protected from the sea by a low range of sand-hills. Then comes Hoylake, a fishing and residential village, well known to golfers, and presently, Nature's barrier of sand hills gives place to several miles of substantial stone embankment. Behind this sea-wall built in 1829 lie the ancient race-ground and Leasowe Castle. The centre portion of this building is an octagon tower, with four square turrets on each alternate face, which bear evidence of their three centuries' storms. It is a curious structure, and supposed to have been erected by Ferdinando, Earl of Derby then Lord of the Manor of the adjacent parishes of Wallasey and Bidston about 1593, as a sort of residential grand stand or watch-tower. Standing almost in the centre of a four-mile course, its numerous windows must have commanded a view on every side. This is probably the oldest race-ground in England. An interesting account of it was given by the late Sir Edward Cust in 1849, before the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, in describing a curious picture in his possession at Leasowe Castle. The scene is evidently a race before King James I., and though the surroundings are difficult to reconcile with Leasowe, yet the King's presence there is not impossible. In his reign the place belonged to the Earl of Derby, who took a leading part in the royal visit to Chester in August 1617. The King left there for Vale Royal, but it is not improbable he may have been persuaded to visit Leasowe and witness a race upon the course. However this may be, no similar doubt exists about a royal visit of later date, when James, Duke of Monmouth came to Lcasonc in August 1683, which is thus recorded On Thursday, the 25th of the same month, the Duke went to the horse races at Wallasey in Wirral, which served as a rendezvous for his friends in this part of the kingdom, a junto of whom sat in consultation in the eummer-liousc at Bidston where was concerted that insurrection which was afterwards attended with such fatal consequences. The Duke meanwhile won his race, presenting the stakes to the infant daughter of the Mayor of Chester, whose god-father he had become the previous day. Sir Edward Cust sums up his interesting paper with the remark that it is not known what other gentleman's racecourse existed before King James's reign, in whose time Newmarket first came into vogue," but alludes to races then held on the Roodeye (Chester) as mere sports of the vulgar, where horses without riders were impelled by clamour, missiles, &c., to contend for a bell, whence the expression 'to bear away the bell.' The principal race-meeting in Cheshire continued to be at Wallasey, or Leasowe, for another century. On Feb. 15, 1672, Charles, Earl of Derby, advertised the races, and in 1727 the following entry was published as mentioned in Weatherby's Calendar On the first Thursday in May, the "Wallasey Stakes," of 20 guineas each, for five-year-old horses, 10 st. each, 4 miles, 14 subscribers. Sir R. Grosvenor's Spot 1 Earl Derby's cli. h. 2 Five others started. The Wallasey Stakes," then the most considerable in the kingdom, was transferred to Newmarket in 1732, when the connection of Leasowe with the Turf seems to have ended. A ruin in Wallasey is still pointed out as the remnant of an old racing-stable. The tower erected by Lord Derby passed, a few years later, with other property at Wallasey and Bidston, to the Egertons of Oulton, and was sold, in 1802, to Mrs. W. L. Boode, through whom the family of Sir Edward Cust derive possession. It was originally called New Hall, and also for many years Mockbeggar Hall, being a sailor's name for a lonely house but with the additions of the present century, as now exist, its more important name of Leasowe Castle is certainly more appropriate. One apartment deserves especial notice from being fitted with the ancient mantelpiece and oak panelling of the infamous Star Chamber. This was acquired by Sir Edward Cust upon the demolition of the Exchequer Court in 1836, and now graces a stately dining-room. The Leasowes," save for the private castle grounds, are now a public common and golfing ground. Indubitable evidence exists that its original area has been greatly lessened by the ravages of the sea. Of the ancient submarine forest, and other antiquarian features, space will not permit allusion here, but one historic item deserves a passing notice. From Hoylake shore, three miles away, Marshal Schomberg embarked for Ireland with 10,000 horse and foot in 1689, and a few weeks later William III. set sail from a spot still known as the King's Gap, to conduct the campaign which ended in the Battle of the Boyne. The late Sir Edward Cust, an old Peninsular officer under Wellington, resided at Leasowe Castle for some sixty years, and the house presents many evidences of his military tastes, one of which is the record on the staircase railings of every great battle of the British Army from Blenheim to Sebastopol. Many a distinguished visitor has been to Leasowe Castle. King Leopold I. of the Belgians was frequently there, and is commemorated in the Leopold Keep, while, in later years, the Duke of Edinburgh has been a guest.' Ichabod This quaint corner of old English life is now to undergo another change, the castle having been disposed of by Sir Charles Cust, Bart., for the purposes of a hotel. Its contents (with certain exceptions, including the Star Chamber "fitments") have passed under the auctioneer's hammer, and Leasowe Castle will now enter upon a new career, in the service of the public. IV. J. RADFORD. THE MAIN ENTRANCE. THE COURTYARD AND THE ORIGINAL OCTAGON TOWER. ONE OF THE ROOMS.

 

Accessed 21st March 2018

Wallasey Leasowe Castle

Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 10 July 1918

 

LEASOWE CASTLE. COMMONS QUESTION ABOUT USE FOR GERMAN PRISONERS. Captain Barnett asked the Under-Secretary for War the House of Commons, whether "was aware that the Railwaymen's Convalescent Home. Leasowe Castle, Wallasey, which was commandeered early in the War for use British troops, was now occupied German prisoners of war; whether these prisoners were employed ill repairing the seawall, arid whether their employment in close proximity to the Irish Sea was necessary or desirable; and whether, view the strain which had been thrown railwaymen by the war he would take steps to secure.that this convalescent home would be restored at the earliest possible moment its proper use. Mr. Macpherson said this convalescent home was present occupied by prisoners of war. Some of the prisoners were engaged upon urgent repair work to the sea wall, which had been damaged by gales. This was being done -under the supervision of the Board of Agriculture, and would eventually benefit food production. Inquiries were being made as to ! whether it could be released when the present work was completed.

 

Accessed 21st March 2018

Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 06 April 1910

 

LEASOWE CASTLE ESTATE Be Convalescent Institution. The historic Leasowe Castle estate, near Birkenhead, comprising 30 acres, with sea frontage, has been sold for £12,000 to the Railwaymen's Convalescent Institution as a northern home. The Institution has set apart £6000 for the scheme, and the balance was raised by public subscription.

 

Accessed 21st March 2018