The History of New Brighton
The history of New Brighton is the story of a rich mans dream. James Atherton was a Cheshire man born and bred. He
spent his childhood in Ditton near Widnes and eventually moved to Liverpool after marrying a local girl. Having spent
much of his early life as a grocer, his business dealings became more and more affluent and by 1807 James had
established himself as a merchant in the port of Liverpool and become one of the local gentry with vast amounts of
money to play with.
James spent much of his time working from his home on St Georges Hill (Everton) which looked across the Mersey to the
undeveloped corner of Wirral. There are notes from the time describing the river as teeming with sailing ships bringing
back sugar, spices, and cotton on a variety of vessels against a fine setting sun. The view obviously played a huge part
in James Atherton's heart because in 1832 Atherton purchased 170 acres of sand hills & Heathland from William Penkett,
who was the then; Lord of the manor in a bid to create a new beach resort and paradise. The idea being that the
Liverpool gentry could use the area as a place to relax during the summer months, a rich mans beach resort if you like.
After approaching a firm of architects in Dale Street Liverpool, a plan was drawn up for the formation of what was to be
know as "The New Brighton". In his perspective, James Atherton proclaimed that he was going to build a great watering
Spa, complete with ferry and pier, a local church for the resort, assembly rooms, market place, a hotel and free hold
villas which he was also going to build around the area. In his report Mr Atherton had budgeted around £12,00 for the
completion of the resort, a figure that many people sniggered and jeered at although it was raised rather easily by
allowing buyer to purchase shares at £100 each.
And so it began, the transformation of the area was
incredible and every minute detail was mapped out
and planned for development. During the creation of
New Brighton the Assembly Rooms played a huge
role in its development. Situated next to the old
Hotel Victoria, the assembly rooms acted as a would
be community centre if you like, for the gentry of New
It was a large well designed building with Grecian
styling, where the rich and famous could eat, drink
and converse with one another to catch up on the
local developments. Sadly just like Liscard Hall and
the Woodside hotel the council allowed the building
to fall into disrepair and gave permission for the
building and its history to be demolished. An act that
once again, the council should be ashamed of.
The shore entertainment consisted of
hawkers, minstrels, Constantina
players, Hymn singers, muscles
stores, photographers, paddling,
swimming. The beaches became jam
packed with tourists all of whom had
been lured by the adverts of "crisp
sands, fresh sea air, and views
across the Welsh border".
New Brighton had been marketed as
a beach paradise and it was
beginning to live upto its name.
Families would squeeze onto the
sands wearing their Sunday best.
The children with their shorts and
cap, and the woman with their long
flowing dresses and hats. It was not
an unfamiliar sight to see gentleman
on the beach wearing a shirt and full
The original promenade had a line of huts known as tea pot row where the gentry who were on their morning walk
could call in and by refreshments. In 1871 this was demolished to allow greater access to the large influx of crowds
coming on the ferry's for a day trip. A group of businessman get together and built a row of shops which housed tea
rooms, sweet ships, shooting gallery's and arcades. It was extremely popular and generated great revenue from the
tourists. Unfortunately the drainage system was extremely poor and they would back up and run directly into where
they were selling food such as the Ham and Egg stalls. There was also another serious problem which was kept out of
the lime light; in that the woman would frequently try and accost local young men in the back rooms or maze of stalls.
This area quickly gained notoriety and was nick named The Ham & Egg Parade. Eventually the Ham and Egg parade
was taken down at the request of the gentry who claimed that the passage was so thin that they could not walk more
than 100m without beings accosted. In 1907 after the demolition a new promenade was constructed, the foundation
stone was laid by William Hesketh in and still stands opposite the New Floral Pavilion. The promenade was your
typical Victorian styling with huge set arches and spindly iron patterns. The promenade was refurbished heavily again in
1931 was nick named the New Prom, however it was a disappointment to the locals and looked down upon as an
inferior design. Over the years the promenade has become a mishmash of heavy set, ugly municipal concrete but the
odd little gem can still be found. Some of the old iron railings and pagoda buildings are dotted around and look blissfully
out to sea unaware that there time is quickly running out.
Amongst the many variety's of
tourism were the donkey rides
across the sandy beach. It was a
great thrill for the children of the
time as many had not even seen
one of these strange looking
The ability to paddle and swim had
a huge affect on morale in the
resort, however it was initially
subjected to same sex only
bathing. This meant that the
resort was divided up into male
bathing stations and female
bathing stations. Folks who went
too close to the other sex were
fined on the spot for their actions,
this included boats who strayed
near their path. The idea of this
was that it was deemed carnal to
expose flesh in the eyes of
another sex and the council were
worried about the affect this may
have on their population.
|View from St Georges
|View from St Georges
Within 50 years the town of New Brighton was a bustling Victorian seaside resort packed with tourists and vendors.
The town was not quite the rich mans playground that Mr Atherton had in mind, but it certainly did become a fine town
and a credit to the history of the Wirral Peninsula. The irony is that James Atherton never did get to sea the results of
his hard work and fruition as he died in 1838 just 6 years into building.
In 1867 the New Brighton Promenade Pier was opened which drew huge crowds over from the Liverpool. These were
the first true tourists of New Brighton and with them came amount of revenue. The capacity of New Brighton changed
heavily during the 1870s when it was first subjected to large crowds of holidays go-ors from the Liverpool area who
would take the short ferry ride over the Mersey for what they classed as a day trip or holiday. Although this was the
start of tourism and revenue for the resort of New Brighton, the influx of day trippers did not sit well with the local
gentry and over the following years many of them decided to leave the area and head for new lands.