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Greasby showing signs of old age

The origins of a Wirral village have been found to be around 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

A series of new boundary signs are to be unveiled next week that proclaim that the township of Greasby contains the earliest dated settlement in Western Britain - and one of the oldest in the country.

Acknowledging the historical significance of Greasby with these signs has long since been an aspiration of former Liverpool City Centre planning team leader, Rod Hutchinson.

His ambition has been made possible now thanks to community funding through the Western Link project, the £1 billion venture between National Grid and Scottish Power Transmission that will being renewable energy from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales and which runs through parts of Wirral.

Rod said: “After 12 years of endeavour, I’m delighted that these place-name signs have at last been realised. Greasby’s amazing history is worth celebrating both locally and nationally.”

The new signs have been designed by Rod and have been manufactured by the leading sign makers, Leander Architectural of Buxton. Their installation was supervised by Wirral Council’s Senior Assistant Engineer, Ian White.

The work that led to the latest ‘dating’ of Greasby began with excavations near Greasby Copse between 1987 and 1990 by archaeologists from Liverpool Museum. They uncovered a substantial settlement with stone floor, pits, large working hollows and a fireplace together with over 12,000 early stone tools. At that time, the site was dated at 7000 BC or earlier and ascribed to the Mesolithic period.

However, as a result of the proposals for the signs to celebrate Greasby’s significant historical status, Ron Cowell, Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool, raised further funds for carbon dating of hazelnut shells found in the stone hearth. Astonishingly, this revealed that the remains were even earlier than previously estimated and dated from around 8,500BC.

This adds weight to James Dyer’s belief, as stated in his book 'Ancient Britain' that the structure discovered at Greasby "seems almost certainly to be the earliest dwelling found in Britain".

Regarding the origins of the name Greasby, the Survey of English Place Names concludes that "no certainty of the meaning of the name is possible".

Over the centuries it has been written Greavesberi, Grausberi, Grauesbyri, Grausby, Grauesbi, Greseby, Greisbie and Gresbie.

However it seems the name is of Anglo-Saxon origin as it occurs in the Domesday Book as Gravesberie, possibly deriving from the Old English, Graefes-burh – ‘the Castle of Graef’ or “stronghold at a wood or grove”.

Greasby was on the postulated important Roman road from Chester to Meols, where Roman remains such as coins, jewellery and weapons, have been found. Excavations in Greasby village in 1965 established that Barker Lane was of Roman origin although official confirmation of that was not possible until around 1980.

In addition to Western Link’s support for the signs, £750 was donated from the Wirral West Community Fund and £750 from Greasby Community Association to cover the costs of installation.

Chair of the Wirral West Constituency Committee, Cllr Jeff Green, said:

“We are proud to have one of the oldest confirmed settlements in the country on our doorstep and delighted to have been able to support the signage project with funding. Now everyone who visits or passes through Greasby will know the significance of the village.”

The unveiling of one of the five signs will be at 11am on Thursday 28th September 2017, outside the Premier Inn on Greasby Road, Greasby, Wirral CH49 2PP.

Rod added: "This early settlement in Greasby was established perhaps only 500 years after the melting of the immense glaciers that had covered most of Britain and is a tribute to the courage and determination of these early hunter-gatherers who were our distant ancestors.

“I’m grateful for all the advice and support I’ve received from the local community and in particular from Mr Ron Cowell of Liverpool Museum. Nevertheless the project could not have been achieved without the generous and much appreciated support of Western Link.

“I hope that more work to establish the route of the Roman road from Willaston to the ancient port at Dove Point in Meols will be undertaken in the future. I also believe that the Battle of Brunanburh of 937 AD should be given greater recognition. This was one of the most significant and far-reaching conflicts in British history and is part of the unsung history of Wirral; Bromborough is thought most likely to have been the site of this massive conflict between the Anglo Saxons coming from the South and Midlands and a combined army of Viking raiders from Dublin and their Scottish allies mainly from Strathclyde.”