St Hilarys Parish
St Hillary's occupies a commanding position, and though considerably war-scarred, has come safely through the
appalling bombardment from the air to which Merseyside was repeatedly subjected.  Even though an large
incendiary bomb pierced the chancel roof, and landed just against the organ, the resulting fire was put out, and
except for a serious drenching of the console, no great damage was suffered.  

The present church building is believed to be the sixth church on the site.  The first church is thought to have been
built in Saxon times (410 - 1066ad) and was probably built out of timber.  Unfortunately there is no trace of this
ancient building.  Several stones have been found on the site which have been confirmed as being of a Norman
Origin just after the Saxon era.  It is thought that a new 2nd church was built between 1162 and 1182 by William
de Waley, making it of Norman origin.  This was rebuilt and a tower added during the reigns of Edward I and
Edward II making it the 3rd church on the site.  The next rebuilding was in the age of Henry VIII when the tower of
1530 was reconstructed.  In 1757, the church was described as ruinous and so was again rebuilt and remaining
the only church in Wallasey until the nineteenth century.  In addition the North side of the Tower was the first
school in Wallasey which eventually moved to Breck Road.  

This church structure was accidentally burnt down in 1857 by a
great fire which gutted the building.  The fire was
caused by the sexton stoking up the boiler too high after complaints from the parishioners that the church was too
cold.  The heat melted the fat on hams that were being "unofficially" smoked above the boiler and they caught fire
and within minutes the ham and flammable materials that were lying around were in flames.  It is recorded that
Wallasey smelt of bacon for days afterwards.  The fire destroyed the tower floors and the six bells crashed down
and were broken.  They were re-cast to form the bells used in the present St Hillary's.  In the aftermath of the fire
it was recorded that Reverend Haggit had saved the ancient parish registers, although in actual fact it was the
sexton John Coventry that had saved them.  Following the incident Mr Coventry's name was blackened and he was
dismissed from his position.  This is most likely the reason why he was not recorded as saving the parish registers.

A competition for the design of the new church was won by architects J W & J Hay of Liverpool, and using stone
donated by a local quarry, the new building was completed in 1859 in a style felt to be in keeping with the new
wealth and status of the rapidly expanding Liverpool and Merseyside port and economy

Todays church is built from solid stone and has a large slate roof.  Its plan consists of a nave with clerestory, north
and south aisles under lean-to roofs, a crossing tower with transepts, and a chancel with a north vestry and a
south chapel.  The old separate tower is also built from stone and it is believed that its lower parts date back to
the 13th century.  It is built in three stages with large diagonal buttresses.  On the north and east faces are
blocked arches.  The louvred bell openings have three lights and at the top is an embattled parapet with
gargoyles.  Inside, the roof is arch-braced and the chancel is a two bay organ loft to the north and a two-bay
chapel arcade to south.  The wooden reredos have rich carving and the stalls are dated 1897.  The stalls are
decorated with Arts and Crafts ornament and enamel plaques and the church also houses a ring is of six bells
which are dated 1859.  The church wardens' accounts begin in 1658 and the parish registers in 1574; luckily both
were saved in the fire of 1857.  The organ was built in 1861 by Henry Willis to the design of W.T. Best, who was
organist at that time, with two manuals.  Around 1903 the instrument was entirely reconstructed as a three
manual organ of 39 stops and 15 couplers, designed by Dr. James Lyon, who was organist at the time.  The work
was carried out by W. Johnson of Birkenhead.  In 1924 the organ was moved to the north choir aisle above the
vestry. The rebuilt organ was designed by George Dixon and built by Rushworth & Dreaper.  The church also
contains a fine sandstone memorial to those from the parish who lost their lives during WW1.  
To see the list please click
here.  

The story of the
Church Font is also worth mentioning and holds a small amount of historical significance.  It is one
of the oldest surviving relics of St Hillary's and is dated as 900 years old, making it of Norman origin.  The font is
said to have been damaged by
Oliver Cromwell's troops who took it from the church and used it as a trough to
supply there horses with cattle.  After examining the font, i can confirm that it does have a damaged section which
has been repaired and would add fuel to this argument.  The font is a fine looking and heavy stone set piece which
from what i remember was decorated with V shaped pattern, possibly a wedge.  After Cromwells men had left the
area, the font was taken back into the church once again.  Strangely after this records show that around 1760 the
font was placed back out into the garden of the church and then brought back into the church in 1834.  After the
great fire in the church the font was taken out permanently having only just survived and was it was decided that
it would take pride of place once again in the garden grounds of the rectory.  Around 1887 the rector of the church
decided that it would be once again better suited inside the church due to severe weathering from the
elements.The font was so old that it was decided that it would not be used and was left for cosmetic and historical
purposes.  The font remained in St Hillary's until St Lukes church opened around 30 years later where it still sits on
display today.  

The parish records contain much interesting and varied information about the history of the church, its benefactors
and its accounts.  In 1666 the sum of  "5s" was paid to several parishioners taken hostage by the Turks.  In 1667
a group were paid "7/9" for being taken prisoner by Pirates and in 1668 "2/6" was paid for captives being held in
Morocco.  

In addition to all of this there are string rumours of a
tunnel leading from below the tower floor to other parts of
Wallasey, which were used to hide the goods collected by ship wreckers.  However having spoke to the local rector
several years ago he has confirmed that they have never been found and nor has any evidence of these tunnels or
passages.  

Not too long ago, the Deputy Mayor of Trondheim,
Norway arrived with a delegation in Wirral to view its historical
past and closely linked Nordic roots.  Their first stop was Wirral's oldest church of  St Hillary's.  Once there, the
group met a distant cousin named Ken Joynson.  He is believed to be a descendant of one of two young girls who
were killed at the church in 1642 when a Viking coynne, (large rock), fell from a ledge and
crushed them.

Ken said:
"The Rector of St Hillary's discovered the story about the girl who died in an old parish log book.  One of the
girls had a Viking surname, Joynson, and he contacted me to see if I knew anything of the story.  But it's all a mystery,
I'm going to take a DNA test to find out if we are related.  I knew my family have been here for generations but I would
never would have thought I was a Viking."

Rector, Canon Paul Robinson, added: "We know St Hillary's is the oldest church in Wirral, but we were not sure
whether it was here before the Doomsday Book".


Out within the grave yard there are several graves of historical significance.  Wallasey's maritime significance is
highlighted with a short stroll around reading many of the inscriptions that are still visible.  Amongst these are the
graves of William Gouglas from Scotland and Lucas B Blydenburgh from New York and who both drowned and were
washed up at Leasowe after there steam packet ship, the Pennsylvania sank on the 8th January 1839.
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Additional Images
Date Stone
Wall Plaque
Tower Window
The Rectory
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Aerial View
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Rectory Door
Wall Anomaly
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