Proposed Magazine Conservation Area

  1. Introduction
  2. Location and population
  3. Origins and development of the settlement
  4. River Mersey
  5. Landscape of the area & the contribution of green spaces.
  6. The archaeological significance and potential of the area.
  7. Building characteristics.
  8. Local details
  9. In summary
  10. Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

This document has been produced to assist in the designation of the "Magazines" locality as a Conservation Area. The award of Conservation Area status will strengthen the district identity and help to maintain and improve its unique qualities and assets for present and future generations.

Magazine Brow 1904

Magazine Brow 1904

Magazine Brow 1904

Magazine Brow 2002

2. Location and Population

The appraisal area, known locally as "The Magazines", is situated across the River Mersey from the City of Liverpool on the northern tip of the Wirral Peninsula which, itself, is bounded by the River Dee estuary to the west, the River Mersey to the east and the Irish Sea to the north. The site is founded on red sandstone with a well-dispersed sand fraction shoreline at the River Mersey estuary.

The site falls steeply west to east towards the River Mersey along the length of its north-south axis. At the northern extreme, the land rises towards the site of what were once the New Brighton Tower and its associated pleasure grounds.

There are approximately 300 households within the appraisal area, as defined.

3. Origins and development of the settlement

Map of conservation area Aerial View of New Brighton

Click on image for larger view.

In the late 1500's and early 1600's the area was associated mainly with fishing. Several of the buildings from this period have their origins as fishermen's cottages or have similar maritime associations. Further inland, the dominant activity at this time was that of agriculture. The Wirral peninsula was not well populated.

Archives suggest that, as the Port of Liverpool grew, the appraisal area had a dubious association with "wreckers". These were persons who, reputedly, lured ships onto rocks or sandbanks with false signals and when they were destroyed, stole the washed-up cargoes. Other sources suggest that this is incorrect, that the ships were simply the unfortunate victims of genuine accidents caused by treacherous rock outcrops and sandbanks and that the so-called "wreckers" were merely opportunists, beneficiaries of the sailor's misfortunes.

As the port continued to grow, links with the city were strengthened. In the mid 1700's pilot boats were known to be operating in the area. Smuggling was reported in the locality and the region was subjected to the attentions of Customs and Excise officers. It is said that the smugglers used tunnels and caves to store contraband and evade capture.

The area owes its present day name to its association with the servicing and storage of ship gunpowder for the Port of Liverpool. Although lying just beyond the bounds of the appraisal area as it is presently defined, the gunpowder magazine can be dated back to 1751. The original powder magazine, built in 1737 in the Brownlow Hill area of Liverpool, was relocated to Wirral in response to population safety concerns and development pressure in the city.

Map of Mersey, 1820

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The powder magazine was well used in the days when, in the interests of safety, the tall ships first had to deposit their gunpowder in the store before sailing on to berth. In 1851, amid growing concern over the quantities being stored, the magazines were emptied and the gunpowder was transported up river to floating hulks anchored in the Mersey between New Ferry and Eastham.

The magazine site is now occupied by residential properties in Lichfield Street and Aylesbury Road.

In 1858, the construction of the Liscard Battery saw the establishment of a small garrison colony, which was the 55th Royal Artillery. This was a relatively short-lived phase in the history of the settlement, which was ended, effectively, well before the Battery was deemed obsolete in 1912.

The continuing success of Liverpool as a centre of trade had led to the start of a phase of new house building around the 1840's and, along with the ascendancy of New Brighton as a visitor centre, the area was considered increasingly desirable by Liverpool's gentry. Merchants' houses in the grand style and the spacious terraced properties were built and attracted the monied classes. The surviving domestic residential building along with other key historic building represent the present day legacy of that era.

4. The River Mersey

The River Mersey is a mile wide and lies to the East of the proposed Conservation area. It has two tides per day, ranging from 21ft at neaps to 31ft at Springs, so anchorages with good holding ground are essential, to give shelter and protection from wind, weather and fast currents. The Magazines anchorage stretches from New Brighton to Egremont and is still used today for yachts and small vessels. Across the river from Wallasey are the Liverpool docklands. Every day a variety of vessels can be seen as they sail in and out of the port. The Mersey is a working river and with two tides, there is always something interesting to watch.

The Royal Seaforth docks are the modern part of the dock system and cover approximately 350 acres of land. They handle timber, grain, bulk and general cargo. Every day these huge roll on/roll-off container ships sail into the river and are then manoeuvred by tugs into and out of the locks. Some of the Mersey's most fascinating craft are its tugs. These powerful workhorses of the river are always on call - at all hours and in all weather conditions. They provide essential services for almost everything afloat.

There has been a ferry service in operation, across the Mersey, dating back to the 11th Century. In 1821, a small steamboat ferry operated from the Magazines to Liverpool. Today the Mersey ferries sail daily across to Liverpool. They are famous throughout the World and are immortalised in the song "Ferry 'cross the Mersey" recorded by Gerry and the Pacemakers. These small ferries still only carry passengers not vehicles and were the first to have radar installed, in 1947.

Two more ferry services operate out of the Mersey. Merchant ferries run a daily crossing to Ireland. These large ferries carry passengers, vehicles and cargo and sail from Langton Dock, shortly to be transferred to the Twelve Quays Wirral. There are also daily crossings to the Isle of Man from Liverpool Pier Head. The winter boats used for this service are smaller than the Irish ferries, so they can load passengers, cars and goods directly at the Pier Head. In the summer a faster Seacat service is used.

There are oil tankers sailing to Tranmere and ships bound for the Manchester Ship Canal. There are dredgers, barges, coasters and fishing boats. There are small fast Pilot Boats that meet the large ships, before they enter the Mersey. They embark a River Pilot who will navigate the course for the Captain of the ship, as the River Mersey and approaches have a reputation for being difficult to negotiate.

Naval vessels regularly visit the Mersey and during the annual Mersey River Festival Tall Ships can be seen on the river. The Mersey boasts the Mammoth floating crane, which is available for hire and provides heavy lifting services for the Shipping Companies. Occasionally a cruise ship will visit Liverpool and anchor mid river. The passengers are usually taken ashore by Mersey ferryboats.

In the summertime, there are leisure activities on the river, so yachts, jet skis, and speedboats are seen.

In 1827 Wallasey's first Lifeboat Station was founded by the Trustees of the Liverpool Docks. Local fishermen agreed to form a crew for the rescue service and this was a success, a boathouse was built in 1829. The Magazine station was moved in 1863 to New Brighton after having been taken over by the RNLI the previous year. An efficient service is run 365 days a year and many lives have been saved.

Liverpool's first radar station was located at Gladstone Dock in 1948; this was the first in the world.

Today, computerised equipment in the Port of Liverpool means that the river approaches to the Port are among the safest and most efficiently controlled shipping lanes in the world.

The Mersey could boast visits from some of the finest ships in the world, there are far too many to mention. Ships from the Cunard line, White Star line, Blue Funnel line, Harrison line, Anchor line and many more. There were boats that sailed to Llandudno and also to Anglesey, where many a family spent their summer holidays.

Some interesting history of the River Mersey

At the beginning of 1700, as many as 300 sailing ships were said to have left Mersey on a single tide, after sheltering from a storm. These ships had to negotiate the uncharted river under sail alone. In 1709, an Act of Parliament approved the building of the first Liverpool dock in order to give growing maritime trade greater safety and security for unloading cargo.

Most early sailing ships were armed for self-protection and carried guns, with gunpowder as an explosive. But gunpowder was dangerous and inclined to deteriorate, becoming unstable. So, by 1737 all ships entering the Mersey had to discharge their powder stores, for transfer to a safe storage depot outside Liverpool. By 1750 the population of Liverpool had grown with the town expanding and the people petitioned for the removal of the gunpowder, being aware of the danger of having the stores so near their properties. Eventually the Town Council purchased land in the Magazines area of Wallasey and resited the depot. This depot was in use for over 100 years and the stores held a great deal of gunpowder. These stores finally closed in 1851.

The Promenade

The promenade was constructed in the 1890's. It runs from Seacombe to New Brighton and is approximately 3 miles long. During high tides, especially when windy, the waves crash against the sea wall, spray is thrown into the air and the water washes over the promenade. This can be quite spectacular to watch. Recently, the sea wall has been re-enforced and raised 2ft, by the addition of a wave wall. This wave wall is concave on the riverside so it directs the water back into the river, and the base of the railings have been enveloped leaving only the top two horizontal bars showing. It is a favourite pastime, especially on a lovely day, to stroll along the promenade and watch life on the river.

Postcard of Magazine Promenade, 1910

Magazine Promenade 1910

5. Landscape of the area & the contribution of green spaces.

The topography of the appraisal area is such that the land rises sharply east to west from the river and promenade area through Magazine Lane and Vale Park. The rising land continues westward beyond the appraisal area towards Seabank Road. The elevated position above the river may have been one of the main grounds for siting the Liscard Battery in this locality.

Vale Park comprises the majority of the formal recreational open space provision. Many fine views and vistas can be obtained from within the park and from the promenade that passes to the east.

This promenade was constructed in the 1890's both as a recreational amenity in its own right and to act as a physical link with the tourist attractions of nearby New Brighton. The wide, even - grade, linear walkway forms part of the Wirral Coastal Route cycleway. To the north, the impressive Edwardian terraced houses at Oakland Vale can be seen. Prior to demolition in 1920, the 621ft steel lattice of New Brighton Tower, which was opened in 1900, would have dominated this view.

Gateways are created by the end of row properties in Oakland Vale at its junctions with Dalmlorton Road and Vaughan Road. The effect is achieved by the end properties having impressive slate roofed turrets that serve as "gateposts" on both sides of the street. Here, as with the majority of the spaces associated with the promenade and the River Mersey, there is a dominant impression of spaciousness. Elsewhere, for example around the cottages on Magazine Brow, the proportions of the buildings, streets and spaces are more compact and offer a more intimate feel.

Opened in 1899 by George J. Coombs, Chairman of the Parks Committee, Vale Park is without doubt the dominant open green space feature. Occupying an elevated position overlooking the River Mersey, it is a small attractive park in the formal Victorian pleasure garden style. It is bounded by Magazine Lane to the south, Woodland Drive to the west, Vaughan Road to the north and Magazines Promenade to the east.

Vale Park Gates Inscription on gates

Vale Park Gates

Despite its relatively small size, the park boasts a variety of unusual trees including the medlar, fig, mulberry and over nine varieties of conifers. Another feature was the "illuminated Tree Walk" which was introduced in 1954 and which, attracted over 170,000 visitors, raising £65,000 in its time. Vale Park is protected in the Wirral Borough Council UDP by policy GR2 - the protection of green space within the Urban Area

Other significant urban green space comprises the plots formerly known as the "Magazine Promenade Plantations". Part of this is located along the promenade to the north of Vale Park to the frontage of Oakland Vale. The continuation of this linear green space extends south of Vale Park as far as Marine Terrace. Presently the land is enclosed grass sward, with little planting remaining. The plots are protected by UPD policy GR2.

The bowling green to the rear of "The Magazines" public house represents a valuable piece of intensively managed recreational amenity green space. There is a small grassed plot opposite the Magazine Hotel, which affords a lovely view of the river.

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6. The archaeological significance and potential of the area.