The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 13, August 04 - Online version


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Open Days.
Plan Your Visit.
How to Join.
MIU Events.
Volunteers' Work.

Inside this issue:

Working together.
Who has lived on Hilbre in the past.
Parks Forum.
An experience of Hilbre.
Plasterers, Joiners & Plumbers.
Information Centre & Sea Watch.
Safety Notice.

Working together -19th July

Around 20 people came out for the task on the 19th July (advertised in the last newsletter). This has been the biggest turnout to a Hilbre Island task this year, to date.
We were able to do a great deal of essential work. This included clearing out the Buoy Master’s House (in preparation for repairs) maintaining the garden of the Buoy Master’s Cottage, a litter pick and bracken pulling in the Buoy Master’s Garden—see pictures.
This was a good opportunity for volunteers to get to know one another. A sumptuous lunch, prepared by Barbara Burton, was enjoyed by all.

Thanks to all the volunteers who contributed to the day—we hope you continue to come and support our work on the Islands.

© Nicky Norriss

If you would like to join us for a variety of tasks on the Islands, please Email us. No previous experience necessary but due to insurance restrictions only members of 'The Friends of Hilbre' over the age of 18 are permitted to join work parties on the islands.

How to join the Friends of Hilbre.


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Who has lived in Hilbre in the Past?

A brief History

After the monks left, in about the mid 1530s, Hilbre was let out to tenants by the newly established Chester Cathedral. Attempts to trace the identity of successive tenant has proved really interesting, because it has reflected the kind of use Hilbre was important for in each period of history.

Between 1540 and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Hilbre was one of the many embarkation points for soldiers, horses, supplies and even gold for the English campaigns in Ireland. Henry VIII started these, almost as soon as he had finished closing down the abbeys and taking their wealth. Was it one of the main reasons for getting rid of the abbeys, not just because of his affair with Anne Boleyn? The Stanleys of Hooton, as army commanders, were tenants here for more than 100 years.

During Oliver Cromwell’s time, Chester Cathedral lost all its lands, including Hilbre, which was bought by a London lawyer, called Robert Blaney. When King Charles II came home from exile, the cathedral got Hilbre back, but leased the islands to a series of business men (some local, some from Lancashire or London).

Why did they want such a small and isolated island? This was a time of entrepreneurs, leading up to the industrial revolution, and it seems that Hilbre was caught up in the salt trade for a while. The government’s Salt Tax of 1694 was supposed to exempt any works already operating, but Hilbre’s boiling pans were reported as “in disrepair” by 1700.

Other tenants and sub tenants in the 18th century included John Glegg of Irby (a local squire and solicitor), and Joseph Hickson, who kept a public house on Hilbre between about 1793 and 1820.

Clergy such as Archdeacon Travis of Chester, and the absentee Rector of West Kirby took on the main lease around 1800, possibly to try to make some profit from collecting the local tithes or church taxes, which were traditionally part of Hilbre’s perks. The tithe system in Britain was revised radically a few years later.

As Liverpool developed its trade with America, a Trust formed of Liverpool City Councillors and merchants showed great interest in using Hilbre as a Telegraph Station, to monitor its shipping. The first semaphore Telegraph building was working by 1828, in a temporary building to the north of the present Lookout. When their lease came up for renewal in 1856, the Liverpool Dock Trust bought the freehold from Chester Cathedral.

From then on, Hilbre was an important out post of the Port of Liverpool. Trinity House were sub tenants, so that their Buoy Master could repair the buoys in the Dee and off North Wales. A lifeboat station, as a subsidiary of Hoylake’s was built in the same period. The tide gauge, still in use, was set up to measure the sea levels, and to help predict future times of high water.

In 1945, Hoylake Urban District Council bought the title to the 3 Hilbre Islands from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, the successors to the Dock Trust. When Wirral Borough was formed in 1974, they inherited Hilbre, with the duty to care for its wild life and heritage.

That’s where we Friends of Hilbre come in, not as owners or tenants, but as one of the groups of voluntary helpers in Hilbre’s modern role as a wild life haven, and public Green Tourism amenity.

© Sue Craggs

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Parks Forum 24 July 2004

Forum meetings are held periodically by the Parks and Gardens people and the Rangers, for members of Friends groups like ours to attend. Two of the Friends of Hilbre committee went to Liscard this time. Networking and exchange of news are always useful, and information about sources of funds. This time, groups agreed that we need to look up the Unitary Development Plan of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, before the closing date for public comments, in early September. It is available on the Council web site, and in public libraries in Wirral.

© Sue Craggs

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An experience of Hilbre

Hilbre to me is marvellous, beautiful, inspirational escapism.

As you walk out, leaving the noisy, busy main land behind, you have the Welsh mountain range dominating the sky line behind Hilbre and the massive expanse of sand you cross is really quite awesome and a bit surreal because it makes you imagine that you are trekking across a hot, arid desert in search of civilisation! (well….it does me).

Once you are on Hilbre you have to walk around it, find a nice spot, sit and gaze at the wonder around you. Stroll down to the old derelict Lifeboat station and walk to the edge of the launching slope that disappears into the sea.

If you stand and be patient, watch and wait, you maybe lucky enough to catch sight of the seals who have come over to check out the tourists, their
heads bobbing up above the waves and their big black eyes looking at you, enticing you to want to join them and swim with them.

But instead you resign yourself to just waving at them hoping they will wave back, but strangely, disappointingly they don’t, they just tease you by vanishing under water so you try and guess where they will appear again, but they always outwit you.

Then, when you’ve had your fix of tranquillity you have to drag yourself away to make the trek back, wishing you could stay.

© Jane

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Thanks to the
Wirral Countryside Volunteers, who have given us
(on semi-permanent loan)
various tools to help us with our volunteer work eg fencing tools, spades and grass hooks

Plasterers, Joiners, Plumbers - Can you help?

We may soon be given the go-ahead, to start restoring some of the historic buildings on Hilbre. The buildings include the Buoy Masters House, the Buoy Master’s store and the Buoy Masters Cottage.

Buoy Master's Cottage
The buildings have not been lived in, or used for a number of years and have gradually deteriorated in their condition. Structural Surveys have been carried out and necessary repair and maintenance work has been identified. The restoration process will depend upon securing adequate funding.

We will urgently need advice and / or volunteer work from anyone with experience as a plasterer, joiner, or plumber. Do you have these skills? Are you able to give any of your time to volunteer to work on these buildings?
We will also need help from enthusiastic volunteers to help to clear out the inside of the buildings , to prepare for internal repairs and to decorating the buildings, to bring them up to a habitable standard.

All work carried out will be at the discretion of the Hilbre Ranger, and under his supervision. The future uses of the buildings have not yet been identified, but it is likely that they may be used for educational purposes, courses, and for volunteer accommodation, etc.

If you feel you can help, please
Email us.

© Nicky Norriss

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Buoy Master's store


Do you want more information about FOH activities?
Details about all our activities are published in the newsletter and the rest of this website throughout the year (eg task lists).
Please Email us if you wish to find out further information.

Telegraph Office Information Centre / Seal Watch.

The Information Centre has display boards, which provide information about the Hilbre Islands and give an opportunity for us to promote the activities of The Friends of Hilbre Island. This resource has been very popular with members of the public.

Volunteering involves staffing the Information Centre, allowing members of the public to look at the displays and giving them information about the Islands.

Opportunities are also available for volunteering for Seal Watch. You will be showing people the seals, through a telescope and providing information (information leaflet provided)
No previous knowledge or experience is necessary. Information leaflets are available for the volunteers, to enable them to answer common questions. An experienced volunteer will be on hand to answer more complex queries.

If you are interested please send us an Email.

Do you have any stories or memories about Hilbre Island?
We would love to hear from you. Please send your contributions for the newsletter to the editor by



Always check the tides before going out to Hilbre. Tides change each day. Use the safe route, it is dangerous to use any other route. For full details of when to cross safely and the safest route to Hilbre see our Planning your visit to Hilbre Island page.

PLEASE NOTE: All articles and photographs in this web site are ©  COPYRIGHT of Friends of Hilbre unless specifically otherwise stated.

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