The history of Rock Ferry is somewhat of a strange one, having gone from rags to riches to rags. The
oldest manor house that has been recorded is that of Derby House. It was the seat of the Minshull
family and set back in its own grounds in Manor Park dating to the 17th century. There are no exact
plans of which area this covered however it is believed to have extended from the banks of the River
Mersey upto Old Chester Road today. These grounds held by the lord of the manor are believed to
have covered most of what we call Rock Ferry today. These grounds formed part of the manor of
Higher Bebington and appears to have covered most of modern Rock Ferry.
The maritime history of Rock Ferry goes back many centuries as there are records of a ferry service
from Rock Ferry pier to Liverpool from 1709. The village has been heavily associated with the River
Mersey ever since having founded the Royal Mersey Yacht Club in 1844 having with Queen Victoria as
its first patron. Rock Ferry was also home to the Enterprise Small Craft Company, which built a number
of notable boats in the 1920's and 1930's, among these were 11 Seabird Half Rater one design sailing
yachts in 1924 and Robinetta in 1937.
The boom for Rock Ferry came in the early 19th century with the rise of the ferry and the
establishment of the Royal Rock Hotel and bath house in 1836. Between 1836 and 1870 notable
local merchants began building large plush houses and villas along the area of Old Chester Road. The
fine villas were built with locally quarried sandstone from Storeton quarry many of which still remain
today. This area became known as Rock Park and was designed by Johnathon Bennison. The area
was renowned throughout the Wirral for men of the gentry and many of the buildings today are
designated as Grade II listed. The lodge and nine other houses were demolished in the 1970s to
make way for the New Ferry By Pass or A41 as it is known. You can clearly see on any map how the
road cuts the area in two and has left large and grand gate posts set into the ground with their
former houses having been demolished. These buildings sadly lost included Hawthorne House, the
former house of Nathaniel Hawthorne consul to Liverpool in the 1850s. The property was
subsequently owned by astronomer Isaac Roberts, who installed a seven-inch refractor in a revolving
dome on the top floor. A single gate post of his house has been left in position with the words
Hawthorne House still inscribed.
The latter part of the 19th century again saw an increase in population for Rock Ferry as the area
began to take in an influx of workers from the local ship builder’s yard of Cammell Lairds. For these
people many smaller terraced houses were created which began to bring down the popularity of the
area with the more affluent families.
In 1910, the Olympian Pleasure Gardens were opened sited directly adjacent to the Royal Rock Hotel.
These gardens were considered premiere for the time drawing in visitors from not only Liverpool but
also further afield. The gardens hosted classical piano concerts and also slapstick comedy shows,
with performers including Arthur Askey and Tommy Handley. At times the gardens held a prestige
similar to the more famous Vauxhall Gardens in London. Shows were held in a large tent set amongst
the trees and shrubs of land owned by Charles Boult. The gardens closed in the late 1920s after Mr
Another historical area of architectural interest is Egerton Park, an oasis of late nineteenth century
villas in a leafy setting, and the Byrne Avenue Baths, a 1930s swimming pool with plenty of Art Deco
features. The row of semi-detached houses on Rockville Street, built in 1837, is one of the earliest
rows of private houses in Britain to use Gothic detailing on their exteriors, while St Anne's Catholic
Church on Highfield Road was designed by E. W. Pugin. F. E. Smith, later Earl of Birkenhead, also
briefly lived in a house on Green Lawn.
A further interesting fact to note is that Rock Ferry has been the final resting place for many famous
vessels washed up on its beach. These include the Lottie Sleigh, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's SS
Great Eastern which was beached and broken up in 1889 taking eighteen months to complete.