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New Brighton – The Rise from the Ashes
Written by Tony Franks-Buckley
Wallasey Historian & Author
There is once again a feel good factor about our beloved seaside resort New Brighton, something that has been missing since the day it turned into a ghost town virtually overnight in 1969. A new facelift with healthy investment has seen the phoenix rise from the ashes once more. Whilst it still holds many of the values and ideas of a Victorian Seaside Resort, it has also been given a 21stCentury facelift, ensuring that once again New Brighton is a popular seaside resort.
Before the days of James Atherton and other Victorian entrepreneurs’ New Brighton was an area that was frequented by the Pirates & Smugglers linked with the old white-washed, short; stumpy looking building known as Mother Redcaps Inn which was built by the Mainwaring family in 1595. As the saying said outside of the building “All ye that are weary come in an take rest, Our eggs and our ham they are of the best, Our ale and our porter are likewise the same, Step in if you please and give 'em a name. - Mother Redcap But it was in the 19th Century that New Brighton was born. On the 24th January in 1832, William Rowson advanced a deposit of £200 to John Penkett on account of the purchase of the "New Brighton Estate". The sum represented £100 each for both himself and the visionary James Atherton. Sadly, James Atherton died in 1838 and was unable to see the completion of his vision, which grew rapidly throughout the 19th Century.
During the latter half of the 19th century, New Brighton developed as a very popular seaside resort serving Liverpool and the Lancastrian industrial towns, even areas of North Wales. Many of the large houses were converted to inexpensive hotels. A pier was opened in the 1860s, and the promenade stretching from Seacombe to New Brighton was built by the 1890s. This served both as a recreational amenity in its own right, and to link up the developments along the estuary, and was later extended westwards towards Leasowe. Expansion continued into the 20th Century with the building of the New Brighton Tower, the tallest in the country. The tower was opened in 1900 but closed in 1919, largely due to lack of maintenance during World War I. Dismantling of the tower was completed by 1921.
Following the removal of the New Brighton Tower, the Fairground remained with the Ballroom and other surrounding features until its final fate during the fire of 1969. The Old English Fairground was on a higher level, which, in later years, became the motor coach park. The Himalayan Switchback Railway was a great favourite, as was the water chute, with the boats travelling down at speed into the lake. By 1961, the New Brighton Fairground had changed significantly, with several new rides and sideshows. The Beatles also around this time played the Tower Ballroom; this was proof of how popular New Brighton was at the time. The Beatles final appearance at the Tower Ballroom took place on Friday 14 June 1963 on a special NEMS Enterprises presentation of their 'Mersey Beat Showcase' series. Gerry & the Pacemakers and five other groups supported the Beatles.
The Fire in 1969 was not the only tragedy to hit the Wallasey coast, the storms of February 1990 seen the end to what was considered the final nail in the coffin of the British Seaside Resort of New Brighton. The coastal area was battered with hurricane force winds of almost 100 mph. The storms caused very severe damage to the New Brighton Outdoor Bathing Pool when seas forced a hole into the foundations of the Northwest corner of the complex causing the upper structure to cave in. With the cost of about £4 million to repair the damage it was decided by the authorities to demolish the building. The Merseyside Development Corporation bulldozers levelled the site in the summer of 1990.
And so came the dark era in Wallasey’s history, What had begun in 1969 looked to be set in stone for the foreseeable future, but thankfully new talks began about regeneration began and up stepped Neptune Developments in 2007 to begin the cleansing operation at New Brighton. What was once the working class playground for the North-West of England is starting to attract back the crowds that had disappeared in 1969, New Brighton is a giant that has lay dormant for far to long. But thanks to Neptune Developments, the giant has been awakened. Following its transformation from a leisure resort to a nightclub zone, New Brighton has been returned to its natural environment of family friendly and an entertainment zone. The former Chelsea Reach (Originally “The Ferry Hotel”) dance club has been converted into luxury apartments. The Golden Guinea later to be known simply as RJ’S nightclub has been transformed into the J.D Wetherspoon’s venue The Master Mariner and has been a popular venue for visiting families.
The Floral Pavilion, the surviving member of the many theatres that was once situated in Wallasey, was given a major redevelopment process and now hosts many artists, shows and also houses a conference centre. The building of a new multi-room state of the art cinema (The Light) has added a much needed outlet for locals and visitors wishing to view cinematic films in the highest quality, embracing the new age of 3 dimensional films. The entertainment does not stop there, many sports are available to enjoy, such as the ten pin-bowling complex, that has also been redeveloped. This also houses a Laser quest, in which children of all ages can compete in a computerised combat zone. A State of the art Crazy Golf course, which is modelled on the supposed 18 greatest golf holes in the world, is now open to the public and is attracting customers from all over. This complex also offers a Pitch & Putt course and Crown Green Bowling. The model boating lake is also a popular attraction, which during the winter months is invaded by Swans.
The New Brighton Palace owned by the Wilkie’s family, has seen many changes occur throughout its existence. One thing for certain is that Wilkie’s have moved in line with the redevelopment of the resort and the return of the fairground rides to the Palace complex is a sign of more things to come. As well as the indoor arcade that the Palace also holds, there is Adventureland an indoor activity centre for children. Further down the promenade is the new state of the art “Bubbles” children’s indoor play centre, which is so popular that advanced bookings over the phone are needed. The Fort Perch Rock which houses a museum, is also a great form of activity for both adults and children. Since it opened its doors in 1833 as a coastal defence for Liverpool, the Fort has become a popular tourist attraction for many seeking to view the interior of the complex, which also holds entertainment events and historical talks.
The New Brighton resort has returned to its roots of the 19th Century in a 21st Century outlook, giving families the opportunity to spend time together in a friendly environment, along with many activities and entertainment, a different variety of cuisine outlets are now available, with restaurants such as La Tasca (Spanish), Chimichangas (Mexican), Prezzo (Italian), Hungry Sea Horse and the Marino Lounge which offers a range of different cuisines to the public, making each visit a different experience. There is also a new Ice Cream parlour (Café Crème), which offers a variety of award winning home made ice creams, which became an instant success with those taking walks along the beaches and promenade. The Wallasey coastline is part of one of the longest coastal walks in Europe. Starting from Seacombe ferry terminal, it is possible to walk as far as the other side of the Wirral peninsula to areas as far as West Kirby, Hoylake and Meols.
In days gone by, commuters & tourists had several options of reaching the Wallasey coast from Liverpool across the River Mersey. The most popular has always been via “Ferry Across the Mersey” in which boat rides could reach destinations such as Seacombe, Egremont and New Brighton. This journey was made famous by Merseybeat group Gerry & The Pacemakers. Who sang about it in the 1960s a time of popularity of the voyage from Liverpool to New Brighton, for many pleasure seekers. (Song was also released in 1989) Following the destruction of the Egremont & New Brighton Piers, it is now only possible to access Wallasey via the Seacombe Terminal from Liverpool Pier head and vice-versa offering a coastal walk along the promenade towards the New Brighton Resort. This remains popular with tourists who can enjoy a 30-minute historical river cruise along the River Mersey. Other transport is also available to reach the resort. The Wirral Railway line connects with the Merseyrail network with changes at Hamilton Square needed if travelling from other parts of the Wirral. The New Brighton line stops in Wallasey Village and Wallasey Grove road before arriving in New Brighton, allowing tourists to view other historical areas of Wallasey. Bus routes can also be obtained from Liverpool, Birkenhead and even Chester. Travel Via Car can be made through the Kingsway Mersey Tunnel or Via the M53 Motorway.
The New Brighton Resort is a place for people of all ages, whether you are travelling alone or in a large family. It will once again have you singing “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside” on what is sure to be a welcomed visit or stay for anybody looking for fresh air and entertainment.
During the Victorian era, the British Seaside became a popular destination for the working class citizens of Britain. At over 300 pages of information and pictures, this book captures just how popular, the area of New Brighton became during Victorian times. Not only was New Brighton popular during the 19th century, but also it was formerly a haunt for Pirates & Smugglers, most famously with Mother Redcaps Inn. Lost treasure still remains underneath New Brighton, in smugglers tunnels that run to all corners of Wallasey. New Brighton was a front-runner in many departments, it once housed the biggest tower in Britain, it still has the longest promenade in Britain and even had a football team playing in the top flight of football. The book introduces the reader to the creation of a Seaside resort, from start to finish. Following the devastating fire in 1969, New Brighton which was the most popular Seaside resort in the North West, slowly disappeared into a ghost town during the latter half of the 20th Century. However new investment in the 21st Century has encouraged visitors to return again to a once popular Victorian Seaside Resort.
The book is now available to purchase via Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Brighton-Victorian-Seaside-Resort/dp/1481054007/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377454673&sr=1-5