Friday, 17 August 2012


Bidston is a suburb of Birkenhead, on the Wirral Peninsula. In the 1920's, the area was vastly different to today's landscape of modern housing, retail and industrial parks and new road layouts. In the 1920's, the area had 3 distinct areas: Bidston, Bidston Hill, and Bidston Moss.

Bidston Village has appeared in records since Doomsday, but evidence for occupation goes back to the Stone Age. The Village still maintains its medieval shape of church, farms, village green and manor house.

Bidston Hill comprises 100 acres of heathland and woodland maintained by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council as a nature reserve and public park. The land was purchased in stages from 1894 to 1908 by Birkenhead Corporation from local landowner Lord Vyner. It is the site of Bidston Windmill, built around 1800 and the former Bidston Observatory and Bidston Lighthouse. Read more

Bidston Moss was originally low-lying wetland marsh at the head of Wallasey Pool. Early reclamation by railway companies led to the use of a triangular piece of land between railway tracks being used for the West Cheshire Golf Course. In 1936 most of the land was given over to residential, commercial and industrial landfill which ceased in 1995 before conversion to a nature reserve.

Lowry refers to Bidston in his novel Ultramarine when Dana recalls crossing the Great Float via the former swing bridge at Duke Street Birkenhead: "We stood there often on our way to Bidston" (Pg. 62). In the 1920's, Bidston Hill was a popular attraction for people to visit to picnic and take in the panoramic views of the Wirral, Liverpool and the Mersey Estuary. We must assume Lowry visited the hill with Tess Evans during 1927.

Bidston features in his novel In Ballast to the White Sea; Sigbjørn recalls making love with Nina on the hill;"They leaned in silence, looking over towards Bidston Hill where they had once made love, but which was now invisible." (Ch. V11); the hill, the observatory and the windmill are noted when Sigbjørn drives to Birkenhead to catch the train to Liverpool on his journey to Preston;  "and down the incline beyond, faster here, to get a run for Bidston Hill where trees, hedges, and houses rushed up to them as from a screen, to be instantly transferred into new, ever-changing scenes; and soon they had reached the summit where it was so clear they could see the Observatory through the trees." and further on in the journey; "Noctorum on the right and Bidston Common on his left. With huge and tattered sails the old windmill loomed before them like a derelict being driven before the storm on the dark sea of the moor where snow patches on the heather were like white crests of waves." (Ch. X1); the windmill had been damaged in a storm in a 1927 remaining unrepaired for several years, Lowry changes the topography at this point as the windmill and observatory were not visible from Upton Road on which Sigbjørn is travelling; "This wound in great curves over the back of the mounted a final hill at the other side of the county, thickly wooded and crowned by an observatory and an ancient windmill. This was Bidston and the last station of the ancient Telegraph." (Ch. X111). The "ancient telegraph" refers to the site of penultimate station of the Liverpool - Holyhead  Semaphore Telegraph.

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