The Wirral: an architectural hotspot

While much is made of Merseyside’s architectural offerings, conversations tend to focus on the examples found east of the River. Liverpool is one of the UK’s most important cities in terms of culture and, in turn, tourism, but there’s a lot to be said for its slightly quieter westerly neighbour, the Wirral.

The peninsula, which is roughly rectangular, is around seven miles wide and 15 miles long. It comprises a number of small towns, which together are home to more than 300,000 people. While it may have a slightly calmer demeanour than the cities nearby, the Wirral is popular with tourists, many of whom come to look at the collection of stunning and intriguing buildings dotted across the borough. In terms of style, these structures vary greatly, with all kinds of architectural influences apparent. With this in mind, here are some of the most interesting examples:

Hamilton Square

Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square is known for its Georgian terraces and was built in 1826 based on the designs of James Gillespie Graham, a notable Scottish architect. After London’s Trafalgar Square, it has the most Grade I listed structures in one place in the whole of England.

After purchasing the land in 1824, Scottish shipbuilder William Laird commissioned Gillespie Graham to work on an area with the idea that it would resemble Edinburgh’s New Town. It then got its name from the family of Laird’s wife.

One of Hamilton Square’s most prominent buildings is Birkenhead Town Hall. While the space was made available during the initial planning stages, work didn’t commence until 1883; it then opened in 1887. It was built using locally-sourced sandstone and Scottish granite.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery

Set in the picturesque village of Port Sunlight, the Lady Lever Art Gallery was established by William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme, in 1922. The village itself was also founded by Lord Lever, who was head of the nearby Sunlight Soap manufacturing firm.

The Grade II listed building houses an extensive collection of paintings from the 18th and 19th Centuries, and draws people from far and wide every year.

Lord Lever is thought to have been influenced heavily by art buildings in the U.S. when he worked on the classical design of his gallery. Working closely with Warrington architects William and Segar Owen, he officially started the project in 1913.

Leasowe Lighthouse

Those who venture a little further north can get a closer look at one of the region’s most historically significant structures. Leasowe Lighthouse is officially the oldest brick-built lighthouse in the whole of Britain. Operational until 1908, it was one of four light points on the North Wirral foreshore. The building’s significance was also boosted by the fact that its keeper, Mrs. Williams, was the UK’s only known female lighthouse operator.

While the lighthouse was used as a tea room for a very short period, it was then left unused until 1989, when it became the North Wirral Coastal Park’s ranger base. As well as housing a visitor centre, it is now sometimes open for public viewings.

The Wirral has a number of significant buildings, and these are just a few examples. Anyone adventuring across the peninsula is sure to find plenty of other impressive structures.

Posted by Matt Hughes
December 18, 2013

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