green field overlooking the river is another jewel in New Ferry’s crown,
and is a large flat green open space on the western bank of the River
Mersey giving spectacular views over the estuary towards Liverpool on
the opposite shore.
As rich merchants settled along the edge of the river Mersey at Rock
Ferry and the Rock Park area, what had originally been flat farmland
overlooking the river at Shorefields started to become the edge of ever
1860s, a large private house had been built at "Merseybank". It
had two long entrance drives: one which connected with New Ferry Road to
the north (along the course of today's Merseybank Road), with another
road connecting with New Chester Road to the south west (following the
course of what is today Mayfields North). The house was surrounded
by a number of ponds that had originally been shallow pits dug to
extract clay for making bricks; the house owner is believed to have kept
a stock of ornamental fish in the pond closest to his home.
to the south east of Merseybank House, the isolation hospital was built
to treat merchant sailors who returned to Merseyside from working abroad
but returned with various diseases such as smallpox. Previously,
patients had been confined to surplus sailing ships permanently moored
in the centre of the river opposite New Ferry, but the sanitary
conditions on these ships had been appalling. Patients were
brought to the hospital on the shore by small rowing boat to a wooden
jetty, then came up the cliffs via a wooden staircase. This meant
that patients with suspected potentially lethal diseases could be
delivered direct to the hospital without having to come into contact
with anyone in the town of New Ferry itself.
south from the hospital, clay extraction was carried out on an
industrial scale, with a brick works being built next to the river in
the early 20th century, along with a jetty where small barges could moor
whilst being loaded with bricks destined for the growing townships of
Liverpool and Birkenhead further downriver (see
After a pier
was built in 1865, bringing eager day-trippers over to New Ferry from
Liverpool's Harrington Dock, New Ferry became a popular place to visit
to take in the fresh air in what then seemed like a welcoming piece of
green countryside by the side of the river. The Great Eastern
Picnic Hotel was built next to a bend in New Ferry Road, and this soon
had its own bowling greens built to the rear.
the Shorefields area was improved - with an athletics ground being laid
out in the area between what is today Merseybank Road and Shorefields
(including Field Close and Pollitt Square). This is shown on later maps
as being a "football ground". Although not on the same scale as Eastham Country Park
with its bear pits and ornamental gardens, the Shorefields area offered
a flat area overlooking the river, with its ponds in the old clay pits
and several trees planted for people to sit in the shade to take in the
views across the river.
cliffs being as high as they are, Victorian children played with their
buckets and spades in the sand nearer to the pier. The shoreline
off Shorefields was used for many years for breaking up old ships (such
as the famous SS Great Eastern in 1888/9), but by the early part of the
20th century the beach was being used by the military as a rifle range
for shooting practice, particularly as local troops were readied for war
between 1914 and 1918.
accident when the pier was destroyed after a drunken Dutch captain drove
his ship into it in 1922 saw an end to New Ferry's time as a tourist
resort. The day-trippers stopped coming and the Shorefields
pleasure park was no longer needed. Part of the area (the football
pitch and an adjacent field) disappeared in the early 1930s under bricks
and concrete as the Council built a new housing estate (Merseybank Road,
Shorefields, Field Close and Pollitt Square), whilst the then abandoned
site of Merseybank House was redeveloped as a large open air swimming pool – called
New Ferry baths. At a cost of £12,000 to build, it opened in July 1932
and was described as the most up-to-date open-air swimming pool in the
country. It was 330 feet long, by 90 feet wide with a depth varying from
three to sixteen feet. High diving boards were located at the deep end,
nearest the river. The 1 million gallons of water needed to fill it were
pumped up from the River Mersey and filtered and cleaned, chemically
treated and aerated before being delivered to the shallow end.
closed in 1981 and remained derelict until 1986 when Wimpey
bought the site and built a housing estate on it.
Of all of this “pleasure area”, the main part which survives is the
green field overlooking the river. However, the field was not always
clear of buildings as it is now. During World War Two, an
anti-aircraft gun position was constructed here and manned throughout the
early years of the war by Polish soldiers who lived in concrete barracks
which were hastily constructed to house them. When the Luftwaffe
attacks finished after 1943, the gun was taken away and the barracks
were used to house Italian and subsequently German prisoners of war.
There was no fence around the site, and the POWs were allowed out during
the day to work in local farms and businesses; some of them even dated
local New Ferry girls! After the war ended,
the barracks were converted to temporary homes for people who had lost
their own homes in bombing raids. Concrete pre-fab homes were also
added, and stayed here until the early 1970s when they and the barracks
were all finally demolished.
Until the late 1970’s, an old boat near the junction of Shorefields and
Shore Bank was used as an informal play area by local children.
Wimpey made an application to build more houses on the field, but the
application was turned down and the field is now regarded as “protected
coastal land”, which means it can never be built on.
At the foot of the cliffs are the mudflats – a nationally important
feeding site for wading birds. In 2002, the beach was designated as a
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), giving it protected status.
It is also part of the Mersey Estuary Special Protection Area for birds
(a European designation showing international value). Throughout the
winter, the New Ferry shore supports numerous waders and wildfowl,
feeding at low tide on the many invertebrates in the mud. There are
nationally important numbers of pintail (a type of duck) and
black-tailed godwits (waders) as well as many redshank, shelduck, ringed
plover, knot, dunlin and turnstone. Obviously, the site is very popular
At low tide in winter, please do not disturb the feeding birds by going
down onto the beach or letting a dog run there. If disturbed, the birds
will fly up, losing valuable energy and feeding time. Watching the birds
quietly from the cliff-top does not disturb them: Shorefields is the
best place along the south shore of the Mersey to see waders and
wildfowl at relatively close quarters.
and 2009, a series of clean-ups were organised at Shorefields by New
Ferry Regeneration Action Group. Local residents Julie Fitzgerald,
her husband Kevin and June Hancox secured over £25,000 of funding from
various sources for a tidy up of the beach, the cliffs, and for the
footpath around the woods to be improved. Vegetation was also
cleared to make the paths wider and safer. Local residents, the
local fire service and many others helped with the tidy-up, which was
featured on local radio and television as part of the BBC's "Breathing Places" campaign.
Map of the Shorefields
area in the late 1890s. Double click on the map above to see a
larger image. The brickworks were built later, to the bottom
right, next to the river.
The isolation hospital
as it appeared in 1899.
The original wooden
steps down the cliffs from the isolation hospital. Today, all that
remains is the brick pier shown in the top left of the photo.
New Ferry Swimming Baths
circa 1935. If only the Oval pool in Bebington was this big!
Black tailed godwit.
New Ferry resident Julie
Fitzgerald being interviewed for local television news whilst volunteers
carry out work behind her during the summer of 2008.
New Ferry children who
took part in the "Do One Thing for Nature" project at Shorefields during
the summer of 2009. The ‘Do One Thing For Nature’ was a great
success, with the weather being extra kind to the volunteers who worked
so hard to make the woodland area look so nice. NFRAG would like to
thank Thomas Neill who was the first to plant a flower followed by
Eibhlin Lacey, Abigail Anne Hughes, Charlotte and Marianna
Christodoulou, Jasmine Salisbury, Jordan Davies, Siobhan and Warren
Ward, Sam and Bethany Hulse-Jones, Matthew Oakes, Nikos Petrou and also
the parents who got their hands dirty for this worthy cause.