Birkenhead Park History Day
Saturday 26th November.
We hosted a full day launch event at the iconic and historical Birkenhead Park. There were a number of activities throughout the day for people to drop in and get involved with. We had a map and card activity looking to draw out memories related to specific locations, a world cafe/mind mapping space to dig deeper into prompts such as family life, work life, leisure, nightlife etc and a space where Andy was conducting short interviews with attendants.
We also had local writer and researcher Kevin McCusker join us for the day who was talking to people about his book: Sectarian Birkenhead: Riots and religion in a Victorian town. The book uncovers the history of the reception received by Irish catholic immigrants upon landing, living and working in Birkenhead. The Book is available to purchase at Oxton book shop in the williamson art gallery.
This was the first public event/group for the Uncovering Birkenheads Working Class History project and it was great to have a good group of local residents come down and be so open to sharing stories and talking about recent working class history. It was fascinating to hear people’s memories and also begin to see the shared memories that the community have in common.
We ended up sitting in one by group towards the end of the day and having a big group conversation all about their history, whilst we tried our best to keep up with the chat and document as many of the stories as we could. So have a read of the stories and check out the map, some of the stories are in a shorthand format as we noted to keep up with the flow of the conversation.
If any of these stories or memories bring up anything for you please be in contact and share your histories with us. We also took some video interviews, which we are processing and will present later on!
Stories from the day:
Name: Martin Pin
Location of memory: Hamilton square
Date/era of memory: 1970s- spring
Memory: We used to go shopping in both Birkenhead and Liverpool. The first time i saw hamilton square station as a 5yr old was when my mother took us from New Brighton on the number 10 bus (then destination NEW FERRY). Back then it was no hassle to get both the bus and/or ferry or even train to liverpool thus using more than one mode of transport, as back then there were so many ferry services as well as bus routes (unlike now, sadly) and of course fares were literally only pennies cheap!!
This, though, was my first experience of the Merseyrail underground railway at hamilton square. At the time i did not even reconcile that this station, that was deep underground at hamilton square, was on the same route as the train to New Brighton, so this was completely new to me. I could never forget how dark + strange the station looked back then, with cream coloured tiles + loads of old advertising signs, plus the old maroon British Railways station name plates. It also had that really unmistakable smell of either dampness or disinfectant which you can still make out to this day if you’re standing on either hamilton square or james street in liverpool. The lifts were amazing as well hydraulically operated and with those distinctive lattice doors which were manually pulled aside by attendants. Its seems almost quaint to reflect back on what the station looked like in the early 1970s before the modernisation of the merseyside underground took place a few short year later between 1974 and 1977. All the stations were rebuilt as part of the upgraded Merseyside loop+link system.
Location of memory: North end of Birkenhead
date/era of memory: late 1950s
Story or history:
Late father, in the early 1950s when there was a coal shortage, used to travel to Penny bridge to try and get coal. Because of the living conditions and the coal shortage, parents would use the “Great coat” from the war as a blanket. Great coat was the family duvet until he left school.Ray remembers that “five of us lived in the upstairs bedroom. The room was only ever headed with coal when one of the kids were ill otherwise it was never lit”.
Location of memory: Birkenhead market
Date/era of memory: 1906
Story or history:
My great grandfather , who worked on the luggage ferry, was going through Birkenhead market with his wife and came across two men having an altercation as one of the men was trying to rob the other at knife point and said he’d “do him”. My Great Grandfather tried to stop this altercation, it ended up in court as he had his hand cut trying to stop the robbery. The man who caused the altercation apologized to everyone and said it was because he was drunk.
Location of memory: Birkenhead
Date/era of memory: 1950s
Story or history:
Buses and the introduction of the heated upstairs. My dad was a bus driver, used to drive the old double decker buses which were open at the back and very cold. They then introduced the heated upstairs on some of the newer buses so everyone used to sit up there but the inspectors wouldn’t allow kids upstairs.
Location of memory: Lairds Shipyard
Date/ Era: not given
Your story or history:
Grandad Alf worked as an unskilled worker on the of the boats cleaning. Him and others would then ‘acquire’ the lead paint and paint their own houses with it. Maries mum came home to find him passed out from painting the house with the paint as its poisonous.
The pub they also used to congregate in was the County Pub!