One of Wirral’s most imposing landmarks reaches a significant milestone this week as Wallasey Town Hall turns 100 years old.
Plans for a grand town hall had been mooted for many years as the once relatively quiet part of the peninsula grew in size and importance – Wallasey was taking itself seriously and wanted a town hall to reflect its ambitions.
Sites in Liscard, Rake Lane and on the promenade at New Brighton were considered before a two-acre plateau 36 ft above the promenade at Seacombe was chosen.
In 1904 an open competition was held with more than 100 architects submitting designs. The winning entry, costing £155,000 to build and faced in beautiful white Stancliffe stone from Derbyshire, was submitted by Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thorley of Liverpool. The construction contract was let to Moss & Sons of Loughborough in May 1913.
The foundation stone, which in normal times, can still be seen just inside the main entrance, was laid by HM King George V on 25th March 1914, although work soon slowed down due to the outbreak of the first World War.
At the end of 1915 it was proposed to halt construction until hostilities ceased, however, the War Department stepped in and the building was converted into a 350 bed hospital for sick and wounded soldiers, being regarded as a ward of the 1st Western General Hospital (Fazakerley).
At the end of the war it returned to the Council and officially opened as the Town Hall for the County Borough of Wallasey on 3rd November 1920 – exactly one hundred years ago today – a role it fulfilled until 1st April 1974, when the former County Boroughs of Birkenhead and Wallasey, the Borough of Bebington and Urban Districts of Hoylake and Wirral merged to become the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral.
Wirral Council has met in Wallasey Town Hall’s impressive Council Chamber ever since then.
The building has been in the spotlight many times over the years, featuring in a music video by the Mighty Wah (for Heart as big as Liverpool) and starring in a number of TV shows, including Flog It!, Question Time and Cilla, where it doubled as Marylebone registry office.
It has also welcomed some of the world’s most famous people, including HM The Queen, Paul McCartney (to attended a family member’s wedding) and last year hosted Sir David Attenborough and the Poet Laureate for a spectacular gala dinner to mark the launch of the Cammell Laird-built RRS Sir David Attenborough.
In September 2017 the town hall hosted Wirral’s biggest ever civic occasion when Freedom of the Borough was granted to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster and its riverside gardens where dedicated to the memory of the 96.
Although much has changed over the past century, Wallasey Town Hall with its monumental 180ft high tower, continues to be a key feature on the banks of the River Mersey.