Heswall’s History

Heswall Cross

Heswall for much of its history was a small hamlet on the banks of the Dee estuary, where fishing and farming were the order of the day. The tower of St. Peters church being around 500 years old suggests there’s been folk considering Heswall home for some time. In 1801 the population of Heswall was recorded at 168, for comparison the population of Heswall in 2001 stood at 16012 (incl. Barnston & Gayton). Heswall’s growth and popularity started in the 19th century with wealthy merchants who had originally chosen the area as a quiet coastal retreat from the industrialised cities of Chester & the rapidly growing Liverpool. The Victorians having a strong belief in the virtues of the sea and fresh sea air. However the arrival of two new railway lines meant that Heswall was now much more accessible and they could now ‘commute’ to Liverpool & Chester, which led to the rapid expansion of this once rural agricultural and fishing village.

One of those railways was the ‘Borderlands Line’ which ran from Hawarden Bridge in north Wales to Bidston and opened in 1896, with ‘Heswall Hills’ station opening two years later in 1898. This is the railway line and station that serves Heswall to this day. The station was called Heswall Hills rather than just Heswall, mainly to differentiate it from the earlier and other station to serve Heswall that was located in the lower village, on Station Road surprisingly enough. The addition of ‘Hills’ was that the main area of Heswall town today used to be known as Heswall Hills. This area being amongst the ‘hills’ above the original lower village. The earlier ‘Heswall’ station was located on the Hooton to West Kirby branch of the Birkenhead Railway Line which ran from Birkenhead via Chester to Warrington. This Wirral branch which eventually was extended to West Kirby linked up with the Wirral Railway which ran and still does from West Kirby to Birkenhead. The line was closed in 1962 as part of the rationalisation of the country’s rail network after the second world war, largely due to the rapid expansion of private car ownership, helped by the lifting of petrol rationing and a booming post-war economy. What the closure of line did leave, was a narrow strip of land running through stunningly scenic parts of Wirral’s countryside and which was largely reclaimed by nature. This led to the creation of the ‘Wirral Way’ and Wirral Country Park, a stunning coastal path of 12.2 miles that is ideal for walking and cycling  (click here to find out more information on the Wirral Way).

Beyond the railways Heswall continued to grow in size and popularity as a residential area and continues to be one of the more desirable areas to live on the Wirral. During the 20th century a new commercial centre developed around the small hamlet of Heswall Hills that sat on the Chester High Road, this has now become the thriving metropolis that we know as Heswall today.