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The Acquisition of Bidston Hill


Cheshire Observer - Saturday 23 December 1893


Mr. Rienzi Walton,  one of the Local Government Board Inspectors, on Thursday conducted an. inquiry at the Birkenhead Town Hall with regard to an application by the Town Council for powers to borrow £5.000 for the purchase of public walks and pleasure grounds at Bidston Hill; £4.000 for works of water supply ; and £3,313 for works of sewerage in Oxton. Mr. Alfred Gill, the town clerk, said the first loan he proposed te take waa the loan for the purchase of the piece of land on the top of Bidston Hill in that locality, and he would ask for the loan to be granted for the longest possible period allowed by the Local Government Board It was a property which in the course of time would become invaluable. The Inspector remarked that 50 years was tbe outside limit allowed for loans to run. If the town clerk liked to make an application for a 60 years' loan he would put it in his notes. The Town Cure said he would certainly ask for a fifty years' loan. Before going into detail he would like to Bay a little more about Bidston Hill ; first, to shew that what they proposed to borrow was for a really good purpose, and secondly, because be thought the public should also know what it was the Corporation, and those outside the Corporation, acting in the matter, were endeavouring to purchase at the present time. He might run shortly through a little history of the property, because really the history of Bidston was the history of Wirral, for Wirral lay practically at the foot of Bidston, and Bidston was the only hill of any importance in the Wirral peninsula, and was one which was unique in its position and views. 'The hundred of Wirral was a promontory stretching out into the Irish sea between the Mersey and the Dee, and even in the Roman period this part of the country was peopled by those early conquerors. They found coins and a variety of implements and instruments, shewing clearly that the Romans at some time resided in this locality. Even in Birkenhead boards of coins bad been found, and it was said that traces of a Roman bridge bad been discovered there. They could not. say very much more about this, except that as the 20th Legion was stationed at Chester the hundred of Wirral no doubt had afforded a good recreation or hunting ground for the Roman soldiers. After the Romans left the Anglo- Saxons seemed to have settled here in large numbers, and here again they had frequently found at the foot of this hill coins and weapons used by those early settlers, who had not only lived there for a long time, but had also left their names behind them. There were a large number of villages and townships bearing Anglo-Saxon names, such as Bebington, Mollington, Capenhurst, and others, signifying that these places were the residences of the clans or the bead people of those days. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle they had records that Alfred and his army were driven into Wirral by the East Anglians before the ninth century. Then about the ninth century Wirral was again invaded by the Danes. This part of the country which jutted out into the sea formed a particularly convenient place for them to Land upon. They had plenty of time to collect their forces, and from there they could march whichever way they liked. About the ninth century the Danes made a stockaded fortress at Meols, and then marched to Chester, which they took and occupied for two years or more. In 981 the place was again invaded by the Norsemen, and a good many settled here,' as was proved by the Danish coins and other things found. Many local names were of Danish extraction, as witness Irby, Frankby, Raby, Pensby, as well as Kirby, which was the Danish for village church. Thingwall, as the name employed, was a place where the Danes held their assemblies, and was no doubt the principal seat of government for the colony. It was a curious thing, as shewing how very much Danes resided in this part of Wirral, that they found comparatively few Anglo-Saxon names of places; they were here mostly Danish, while in the rest of Cheshire they were mostly Anglo-Saxon. In the Domes- day Survey there were upwards of forty places mentioned as being situated in Wirral, and among these in the immediate locality of the hill they found at the corner was Wallasey, which was derived from the Anglo-Saxon Wallas Ea, or Wealas Eye, that is island of the Welsh or foreigner. The name had stuck to the Britons, though they were not the foreigners. It was not so many years ago since Wallasey was practically an island. Beyond what was now the Great Float was a series of marshes, and two brooks, the Fender and the Birket. Fender was the old Anglo- Saxon name for running water. In these days it had been built up by docks, and was bridged over ; it was not an island, the sea having subsided to a certain extent. Next in the Domes- day survey were Meols, Chenotrie or Noctorum, Optone or Upton, and Turstantone or Thurs- taston. Many people who had studied the matter said Thurstaston was named after the great Thor, because there was a very large rock there upon which it was supposed sacrifices were made. Then there was Prestune or Prenton, Landischane or Landiscan, Ting wall or Turing wall, and Sundre- ford or Tranmere. Mr. William Fergusson Irvine, a gentleman resident in Claughton, who had given much time and much valuable work in the study of antiquarian matters, and to whom he was greatly indebted for what he had to say on the subject, reminded him that the total ..value of the manors in Wirral in King Edward the Confessor's time was £70 165., but in 1086 it had decreased to £50 12s. 7d. while the population was about 2.000 when the Domesday survey was made. Bidston was . not mentioned in the Domesday book, but its locality was clearly indicated as between Oxton and Wallasey, and it was described a being marshes and forests and waste lands. With regard to the derivation of the word Bidston, the remains of an ancient Saxon church had recently been removed from Overchurch, near Upton, and among these was a stone bearing a Runic inscrip- tion. The Rev. Father Dallow, a Roman Catholic clergyman, copied the inscription, and sent it to -authorities in Copenhagen and other places, who deciphered the names as follows— "Foloae areardon becun biddath for Athelmund," the translation being — People (bodyguard) reaerd a tomb. Bid ye (pray ye) for Athel- mund. It was supposed that this biddingstone was first erected on tbe bill on which it gave its name, and that afterwards as a sacred stone it was built into the Saxoa church at Overchurch. Athelmund was not a name common in Saxon history, bnt .Father Dallow pointed out that the name appeared in the Saxon Chronicle of the year 800. It is stated there that the Ealderman JSthelmund rode over from Worcestershire at Kempsford when the Ealderman Woohatan met him with his Wiltshire men, and there was a fierce fight, both Aldermen being slain. In tbe same chronicle of the year 897 King Alfred's great army included among its commanders another Alderman JSthelmund, who was killed fighting the East Anglians when the Saxon army retreated to Chester through a part of Wirral. Whoever the JEthelmund might have been, there is no doubt he was a Saxon warrior and it was not improbable that the stone may have been erected on the hill and afterwards removed to the church. In more recent times the manor of Bidston belonged to the Stanleys, aud then to the De Yyners, the present owner being Mr. R. C. de Grey Vyner. The Town Clerk having read an interesting description of the scenery as viewed from the summit of Bidston Hill, written by Mr. Edward Quayle. said the present inquiry was to acquire, on behalf of the Corporation, an area of 24 acres and 11 perches, for £5,800. Of this sum £5,000 would be. granted by the -Corporation, and the remaining £800 from a fund which was being raised by outside subscribers. The total area proposed to be acquired was about 46 acres, at a cost of £12,250. It was felt it would be a great pity if this chance of acquiring the hill were allowed to slip, and he would appeal to the public of Birkenhead and Liverpool to come forward and make up the fund required to complete the purchase. Mr.T. H. Thornley, hon. secretary of the Bidston Hill Purchase Fund, said the amount promised in subscriptions was £5,725 10a. This, with the £5,000 promised by the Birken- head Corporation, made a total of £10,725, leaving a balance, roughly speaking, of £1,500. The Inspector remarked that that ought not to be a difficult matter for Birkenhead and the neighbourhood. The Town Clerk added that the hill itself was not within the borough boundary, but was closely adjoining. It was situated about two miles from the Town Hall, and there were good roads to it. The Inspector stated that his report would be sent in to the Local Government Board within a week. He then took evidence with respect to tbe loans for sewerage and water- works,- and afterwards inspected the various sites of the inquiry.


Accessed 8th May 2018