Thursday, 4 August 2011

West Cheshire Golf Course

Spring on the West Cheshire Golf Links, with its background of cylindrical brick- red gas works Ultramarine

The West Cheshire Golf course was formed in September 1908 and went into liquidation on 7th June 1952.

The course occupied 2 sites as indicated on the map above. The first course occupied the former Bidston Moss to the east of the Birkenhead to New Brighton Railway and south of the line to Seacombe with the club house and first tee lying to the north across the Seacombe line. The course could be reached by an underpass under the Seacombe branch line. The first course moved from this site sometime in the mid-30s possibly due to the expansion of Birkenhead Docks with the construction of Bidston Dock which can been seen on the above map (click on image to enlarge) and in the photo below.

This expansion is referred to here:

The low-lying land north of Bidston, the site of the old West Cheshire Golf Course, is suited to port industries. The latest of the docks, Bidston Dock, at the head of the West Float, gives shipping facilities Merseyside Plan 1944

The original course became a municipal tip in 1936 which gradually expanded across the former course into the 90s.

The original course is the one referred to by Lowry in Ultramarine which we can assume he used with Tess Evans ( the basis of the character Janet in Ultramarine). Lowry himself was a member of Caldy Golf Club as a youth and later was a member of the Royal Liverpool Club at Hoylake. We can only speculate why he used the West Cheshire course rather than the ones at Caldy and Hoylake. Certainly, the West Cheshire was nearer to Tess's home in Liscard, she may have been a member or perhaps Malc was "hiding" with her at the West Cheshire from the prying eyes of his family and their friends? You can see the course's clubhouse which Malc and Tess would have used on the left of the photo below.

The gas works which Lowry referred to in Ultramarine was located the east of the course in Gorsey Lane, Wallasey which would have been clearly visible from the east end of the original course.

The only meaningful mention of the course in local newspapers I could find related to winding up of the club. However, the most detailed mention of the course is in Bill Houldin's Up Our Lobby which refers to the West Cheshire Artisans based at the course but also talks about caddying at the course. The book includes this description:

The West Cheshire Course was situated around what was the Wallasey Pool, (now Bidston Dock). The Pool was simply an irregularly shaped, grassy banked stretch of water. On one side ran the Wrexham/Wallasey railway, and on the other side up to the road bridge, the golf course. The course followed the line of the pool and then took a right turn following the road past what is now the incinerator. It went up to what is now the Co-op Coal Depot, but which then was a railway engine sheds. It then took a right turn again. It was a nice undulating and interesting course and bred many fine golfers... The clubhouse itself was on one side of a dirt road which starting at the first tee and going under the Wrexham/Wallasey Railwayb line bridge, would stretch for three or four hundred yards up the hill to Breck Road, Poulton... The Professionals Shop and Caddies Stand were on the opposite side of this sunken, dirt road. They were connected by a wooden bridge which lay alongside the railway bridge, both crossing the sunken dirt road at this point.The Caddies' Shed was just that, an open-ended wooden structure, roofed in with corrugated iron and having a dirt floor. Nothing here to encourage the lazy tomlounge about.

The second course was located west of the New Brighton to Birkenhead line occupying the former Bidston Aerodrome site as seen below:

The above map appears on the site of a former member of the club - Bert Gadd:

My new club, West Cheshire, just down the road from Hoylake, now lies partly under the M53 motorway having been wound up half a century ago, so I guess my course record 63 is safe.The Life and Times of Bert Gadd – Professional Golfer

Bert Gadd's mention of the club is one of the few on the Net. Another refers to the role of the course in WW2:

The West Cheshire Golf Course, of which my parents and I were members, was taken over to decoy German aircraft to hopefully bomb wide open spaces. The job of some brave folks, as air-raids started, was go out setting light to the many oil filled pots. The deception worked, the only problem being that some of the nearby homes including ours) suffered damage.

The old course received many bombs creating the abundance of "ready made" bunkers. However, as the estimate to reconstruct the course was prohibitive, the compensation money given by the government was used to build a new course - the clubhouse having escaped damage.
WW2 Talk

Both former sites are now virtually unrecognisable due to the first being used as a tip and the second being consumed by a motorway, access roads and a retail park. There is sparse information existing about the course unlike Caldy and the Royal Liverpool - the course has virtually disappeared off the map and local consciousness. It must be noted that the course was not connected to Bidston Golf Club which still exists on land adjacent to the second course.

The original West Cheshire course and the later tip are now Bidston Moss Nature Reserve.

This triangular piece of land sandwiched between the River Birket, the M53 and A554 was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1994.

Although vastly changed from the salt marsh of the original mossland it is an important wildlife site in North Wirral, particularly for its ponds, reedbed and marshland.

Approximately eight hectares in size the site has had a varied history. The construction of a sea wall in 1847 along the eastern limit of Wallasey Pool effectively destroyed the salt marsh at Bidston. Land drainage and the canalisation of the River Birket allowed the construction of roads and buildings.

The adjacent golf course was constructed in 1890, while land forming the present nature reserve continued to be used for grazing until the 1970's. Part of the reserve's land was then used for tipping builders rubble - particularly the mound in the north-east corner.

It was declared a Site of Biological Interest in 1980 and improved in 1984 by the construction of ponds, paths and boardwalks together with tree and wildflower planting. Since then it has been managed by the Wirral Ranger Service.
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