The origin of Wirral pub names
PUBLISHED: 10:36 17 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:30 19 January 2016
What do Julie Walters, Goering and a Devon longhouse all have in common? Answer: each has a fascinating link to Wirral pub history Words by Heidi Nagaitis Photography by John Cocks
Listed in the Domesday Book as ‘two arrow falls from Chester City Walls’, the Wirral Peninsula was originally part of the county of Cheshire. However the region, known for its breathtaking views and welcoming people, has a distinct identity.
The area offers visitors and Wirralians alike a variety of places to visit, none more interesting than the area’s selection of pubs, each with many a tale to tell.
The oldest of these watering holes is the Wheatsheaf Inn which, originally built in 1611, has served locals in the pretty hamlet of Raby for generations.
However, as landlord Phil Davies affirms, the pub may have resided in Raby for even longer: ‘According to my research, the original hostelry burnt down in a fire,’ said Phil. ‘The Wheatsheaf Inn was built in its place.’
The pub’s original coal fire is a talking point, especially after Julie Walters sat beside it while filming the most recent ‘Visit Britain’ Campaign, giving the Wheatsheaf and its regulars a taste of fame.
Another interesting ‘feature’ is Charlotte, the Wheatsheaf’s own ghostly resident.
‘According to legend, Charlotte burnt to death in the fire which destroyed the former pub in the 1600s,’ said Phil ‘and apparently now haunts the Wheatsheaf. I myself have not seen Charlotte, but in a pub as old as this anything is possible.’
The Wirral is also known for its beautiful scenery and one place where a magnificent view is guaranteed is the Boathouse, Parkgate.
Perched on the edge of the well-known Parkgate RSPB reserve, the pub has panoramic views of the Dee Estuary and is a must for bird lovers, who can sit out on the terrace and watch the birds while being served.
A number of interesting bird species live in this area, and the Boathouse is lucky to call two members of the owl family regulars at the pub.
General manager, Rachel Stubbs said: ‘Here at the Boathouse, customers love to see the pair of Short-Eared Owls, who nest close by, out hunting in the evening. Although the owls migrate, they always return to this area, which means that both staff and customers can enjoy their acrobatic displays!’
The pub’s enviable location also means that staff at the Boathouse have to deal with the dramatic weather patterns.
‘The Boathouse is so close to the sea that twice a year, during high tide, the water is known to reach the building itself. It’s quite a spectacle for customers,’ said Rachel.
Another hostelry in a desirable location is the Chimneys in Hooton, one so precious in fact that the pub gained attention from the German High Command during World War Two.
The Chimneys, formerly known as St. Martins, was originally built as a family home by prominent architect George Walker in 1857. The house was erected at the exact half way point between North Wales and Liverpool, two profitable areas of business for George. This location also proved useful to the British forces in 1939.
Paul Brady, landlord at the Chimneys said: ‘The house was appropriated by the Royal Air Force and became home to 23 pilots, who worked in conjunction with another RAF base nearby to protect the docks at Eastham from German U-boats.
‘This had a negative effect on the success of the Germans, and the German High Commander, Goering, actually wrote a note to his officers to target the Chimneys in bombing campaigns. The note still survives and can be seen in London’s Imperial War Museum. Without this building and the men who worked here, it could be argued that we’d have lost the war.’
The final stop off on our tour of Wirral’s most unusual drinking holes is the Devon Doorway, Heswall. The pub, built in the style of the famous Devon Longhouses, has a beautiful story behind its quirky appearance.
Jonny Allen, the manager, said:’The pub was built in the 1900’s by a local man as a labour of love for his wife.
The couple would holiday in Devon regularly and the lady would beg her husband to leave the Wirral and move to Devon to live in a traditional longhouse. Unfortunately, the husband was tied to his job in the North, so instead built the Devon Doorway for his wife as a surprise.’
The pub has a number of traditional features, including a beautiful thatched roof and serves a mixture of dishes, from traditional favourites to gastronomic delights, catering for locals and visitors alike.
Jonny said: ‘Here at the Devon Doorway it’s all about community. From live music events to cocktail classes, we love to involve people in what we’re doing,
‘We’re simply aiming to recreate that traditional role of the pub as the heart of the community, which has been lost in so many other places; we’re definitely trying to break the mould.’