Dawpool was an ancient fishing hamlet sitting on the edge of the river Dee close to Thurstaston.
The earliest mention of the hamlet is in the early 1600s however it is believed to be far older. Over
the years the village was slowly incorporated into the parish of Thurstaston and now today has
ceased to exist completely. There are still many important buildings from Dawpool's golden age and
few people on the Wirral know that Dawpool was once an extremely busy and thriving hamlet on the
Gentleman's Magazine in 1822 states the following:
"The establishment of the port at Dawpool, near Chester is in progress and a speedy report is expected on
the subject from the intelligent engineer Mr Telford". Shortly after this magazine was printed the project
Dawpool Manor is part of the history of Thurstaston village, though sadly it no longer exists as it was
demolished in 1927. It was designed by Norman Shaw in 1884 and eventually became the home of
Thomas Henry Ismay (1837-1899) who retired to Thurstaston after 40 years of business life. During
this time Thomas Ismay founded the firm of "Ismay Imrie & Co" and became the chairman of the
White Star Shipping Line famous for the Titanic. When Thomas Ismay died, his estate was estimated
to be worth £1½ million, more than a fortune in those days.
Wealthy and influential, Thomas Ismay was able to move the main Heswall to West Kirby road, which
came too close to the doorstep of his mansion. His solution was to cut a path through Thurstaston
Hill, and given his money and influence, the idea was excepted and implemented. The White Star
Line owned the Titanic, a connection that brings many visitors to the area and the family tomb in
Thurstaston each year.
Although Ismays old manor house is now gone, still standing in the village is the original building of
Dawpool Primary School, now a private house. Also within the old village is the historical building of
Shore Cottage. The Old cottage is in a remarkable location on the shoreline at Thurstaston, just
above the waterline looking out across the Dee. Other buildings of interest within the village include
the Clock Tower built by Ismay and Dawpool house both of which are several hundred years old and
built from the same fine red sand stone of Thurstaston Hall. There also used to be an old sandstone
archway leading to the old quay at the waters edge. These features have been recorded by several
In 1924 F.C Beazley states:
"About half a mile North of Thurstaston train station a tiny stream has cut its way through the cliff. On
the shore at Dawpool is a massive rounded archway of the local red sandstone, some of the stones being
as much as six feet long. From this a jetty runs into the sea while the beach for some distance around is
strewn with a quantity of squared stones; it would appear as if some time there had been a quay or a
seawall to protect the bank against erosion, and that the archway was made to allow the stream (which
would be larger in winter) to egress to the sea. The bed of the stream for some distance from its mouth
contains squared stones".
Having spent many hours wandering around here I have confirmed that the archway has long been
demolished, at what date however, i cannot say. So too has the small stream which is referred to in
many books. The archway and features stood close to where the slipway for the sailing club is today.
There is little sign of the ancient hamlet of Dawpool today but it should be noted that it played a
small part in Wirrals history as a place of beauty and public interest.
Some houses last for hundreds of years before finally vanishing whilst others can be built and
vanish in a few decades. Dawpool was one man's pleasure and his passing also signalled the
beginning of the end of the house - it's demolition coming a mere 43 years after it was built.
Dawpool was the home of Thomas Henry Ismay, a shipowner, who, having bought the White Star
Line for £1,000 when he was 30, created a company large enough to conceive and build the Titanic.
Ismay bought the 390-acre estate in 1877 and demolished the existing house - itself only built in
1865 - and brought in Richard Norman Shaw to create a replacement. The house was designed to
be a pleasure building - not a working building at the heart of an estate. The wealthy Victorians
earned their money in the vast industrial works or in the shipyards and therefore did not need
extensive landholdings to provide an income. However the houses they built had to fulfil the
traditional role of the country house in demonstrating the power, prestige and wealth of the owner.
Shaw recognised this and produced a building described by Country Life magazine as 'a fine and
acknowledged masterpiece'. The foundation stone was laid in 1882 and took four years to build. It
was meant to last - construction was of the highest quality using local red sandstone and only the
best brass screws. The lodges and stable block were also built in the same style and quality and
today stand as a testament to high standards of the builder and client. The house was constructed
from fine red sandstone from the Heswall hills.
Despite the obvious quality of the house, less thought had been put into its setting. Looking out
over the Dee Estuary towards Wales the views were splendid but the lack of extensive grounds, or
flower gardens or parkland probably made the house seem somewhat over-bearing nestled in its
hollow, part way up a gently rising hill. There was also few trees and the exposed estuary position
meant that it was the hardier plants which thrived.
Thomas Henry Ismay wasn't to enjoy Dawpool for long, dying in 1899. His widow and son stayed in
the house until 1907 but neither felt any great affection for it - as long ago as 1897 Mrs Ismay had
told Shaw that the house had served it's purpose in keeping Thomas Ismay amused for fifteen
years. The house was sold to a Mr F.W.P. Rutter who loaned it for use as an officer's orthapaedic
hospital. The last function to be held there was a garden party in September 1926 in aid of the local
cottage hospital. By this time Dawpool had been sold to Sir Henry Roberts - though he never moved
Following a sale of interior and exterior fixtures and fittings the house was demolished in 1927.
Explosives had to be used such was its solid construction. One of the huge and ornate fireplaces
can still be seen in The Pantheon in Portmeirion. A new, smaller house was eventually built on the
footprint of Dawpool and apparently incorporates some of the extensive cellars.
The Pantheon, or Dome shown below stands
on a cliff top known as Pulpit Rock and
presently contains an art gallery. The white
front of the Pantheon, called the high cloister,
was originally the top part of a fireplace
designed by architect Norman Shaw in 1883
for a music room in Dawpool mansion. It was
re-erected on its present location in 1957.
This huge fireplace just goes to show how
grand the rest on the mansion must have
been and the interior even grander.
|The Fireplace at Portmeirion.
|The Fireplace at Portmeirion.
In 1889 Philip Sulley writes:
"The principal architectural features of this house are the picture room, a loft well lighted chamber, with
a handsome screen and balcony, carved from the sandstone of the district, and the dining room, which
is hung with fine Gobelin tapestry, and contains a massive recessed fire place of black and white
marbles, forming a ingle cosy nook. The decoration throughout the house is confined to oak and plaster
work, simple in character and uniform in tone. The furniture consists largely of early English work of
the best periods, the oak and inlaid cabinets including choice specimens. There are also many
interesting curiosities of Indian and Japanese work, collected during the Ismays frequent travels. The
grounds and garden are of considerable size extent and tastefully laid out with ranges of glasshouses.
A model farm, with good stone buildings is attached to the Dawpool estate; it consists of over 200