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Tam O'Shanter's Cottage, which was probably built about 300 years ago by a heath squatter, it is
situated at the edge of Bidston Hill near to the rear entrance to Flaybrick Cemetery.   As far as we know
it had no particular claim to fame until 1837 when Richard Lea the occupier at that time embellished the
building with a carved stone slab depicting Burns poem "Tam O'Shanter" in which Tam pursued by  Tam
indeed escaped but his mare poor Maggie lost her tail.

In Auld Lang Syne, by Harry B. Neilson, printed in 1935, mention is made that the date 1837 can be
seen on a stone garden wall of the cottage.  It is stated that Richard Leay cut the date on the wall and
carved the Tam O'Shanter stone and also the weather vane with its animals heads, lion, dog etc.  It is
said he made them in his spare time to decorate his cottage.  Part of the cottage will be seen in the
foreground to be roofed with thick, stone, flags, which in past times was a common method of covering
buildings in Bidston, where stone was plentiful.

The list of farms which were on the Bidston Hill heathland in the year 1840 includes the Tam 0'Shanter
farm and tells us that the size of the farm was 6 acres.

We know that in 1841 Richard Lea was a master stonemason. At that time, there was a great deal of
building going on in Birkenhead.  Hamilton Square, the Town Hall, Cammell Lairds, Bidston Observatory,
Bidston Lighthouse and many churches were being built in the 19th century and there would have been
plenty of work for Richard Lea in Birkenhead.  So we might imagine Richard Lea shaping stone for these
buildings, as well as working on the Tam O'Shanter farm, looking after hens, pigs, cows and growing
crops.

Thus the cottage became known as Tam O'Shanter Cottage and became a favourite subject for artists
and visitors alike.

In 1950 the then Minister of Town & Country Planning graded the building as one of special interest,
which warranted every effort being made to preserve it.

Sadly most of the building was destroyed by fire in 1954. The Council considered demolishing it, but it
was saved by public protest.  In 'Wirral Peninsular' by Norman Ellison printed in 1955, he states that
Tam O'Shanter cottage was being re-thatched after a recent fire.  The carved stone set in the gable of
an outhouse had not been damaged.  In 1965 the corporation re-thatched the roof at a cost of £600,
as it had been attacked by vermin, and the damp was also feared to be endangering it.

In December, 1970 the property was advertised for sale and considerable interest was shown.

It was again destroyed by fire in 1975, and was subsequently vandalised.  The council then decided to
demolish the building completely.  The Birkenhead History Society stepped in to try and save the
building, because it represented a period before the area became industrialised.  In June 1975 they
were given 30 days to submit their suggestions.

In August 1975, the Birkenhead History Society won permission from Wirral Borough Council for the
cottage to be rebuilt and restored to its former glory.  Rather than return the cottage to residential use
the Society felt that the townspeople would be better served by having a field study centre which could
be used by local school children.  A Charitable Trust was formed in conjunction with Wirral District
Council and a grant was obtained.

In December, 1976 a historic package containing a copy of "News", "Times" and some coins, a history of
Birkenhead and in particular the restoration project was laid behind stones at the Cottage by the Mayor
of Wirral, Councillor John Evans and his wife the Mayoress.

The cottage was open for schools from May 1977.

In 1986 a voluntary organisation called the Wirral Urban Farm Association together with the Tam
O'Shanter Cottage Trust began to develop the 4 acres around the cottage as a city farm.

The construction of farm buildings, paths and fencing was soon followed by a collection of farm animals.

The aim of the new trust was to make this varied collection of farm animals accessible to many people,
especially children. By fundraising, grants, donations, support from the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral
and sales through the small shop the farm is able to maintain itself without an admission charge while
being open every day (9.30am - 4.30pm).

There are toilet facilities, a picnic area, a small amount of play equipment and direct access onto Bidston
Hill. Refreshments are available in the cafe, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm each day.

For more information, contact the Ranger on 0151 653 9332.
or visit the farm's own web site at
www.tamoshanterfarm.org.uk
The Old Cottage
The Inscriptions in stone
Tam O Shanters Today
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