The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 21 - Online version

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

Inside this issue:
Annual General Meeting.
History Research.
History and Heritage Fair.
Family Evening.

Seal Watching.
Funding News.
Mobile Information Unit (MIU).
Safety Notice.
Latest Newsletter.



Source: Atgofion Ynyswr  {Memories of an Islander} by Lewis Jones, 1939.

AGM - Committee Members

The Friends of Hilbre Annual General Meeting took place on 23rd May, and, despite the Champions Football League Final, was well attended. There are three officers' posts on the committee: Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and other general committee posts, we have a total of 10 committee members. The Hilbre Ranger, Dave Cavanagh, is always an ex-officio member of the committee, and is our main link to the Council.

Sue Craggs has been Chairman of The Friends of Hilbre for 6 years and has worked extremely hard in this capacity for the benefit of Hilbre Island. Thanks are offered to Sue for her dedication and hard work as Chairman. Allen Burton, who is our Project Coordinator for practical work on Hilbre, agreed to be nominated as The Friends of Hilbre Chairman and was duly elected. Sue Craggs was elected as Treasurer. Thanks are also due to Neil Kelly who has been Treasurer for the past 6 years and was the instigator of the ‘Friends of Hilbre Business Plan’. Neil will continue on the committee as Assistant Treasurer. Christine Longworth was elected as Honorary Secretary and Barbara Burton is our Membership Secretary. All 10 members of the committee work very hard in their various capacities.

We have about 150 members and the committee welcomes your support and commitment in our endeavours for the benefit of Hilbre Island.

AGM - Guest Speaker

Reverend Glenys Wilkinson was our guest speaker and gave a most interesting talk about the life of her Great Great Uncle, Lewis Jones, who was Telegraph Station Keeper on Hilbre for about 35 years. Lewis Jones wrote his biography Atgofion Ynyswr {Memories of an Islander} when he retired to Anglesey and it was published {in Welsh} in 1935. In 2003 the book was loaned to Sue by a relative of the local McAfee family. Hugh Begley, a respected teacher of the Welsh language and co-founder of Merseyside Welsh Heritage Society, agreed very kindly to do the translation of the biography for The Friends of Hilbre without making any charge. The Friends of Hilbre are deeply indebted to him. The original Welsh text and its translation have been presented to West Kirby Library for the use of the public. There will be more information about Lewis Jones in the next Newsletter.

If anyone has information, or photographs, or postcards regarding Hilbre from the past and would like to share them please contact:

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Our thanks are offered once again to Richard Smith for continuing to help us with the Friends of Hilbre web site. The site has been on-line now for about 2 years and has had about 35,000 hits. Val collects/edits the information for the web site from various contributors, and delivers this to Richard who formats it for our web site. The paper copy of the Newsletter is firstly despatched to members of The Friends of Hilbre and at a later date ’posted’ on our web site. Folk across the world are thus able to keep up with news of Hilbre Islands.

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Historical Research

Hoylake Historical Society gave us a generous grant of £500 for books and materials at our AGM last year. We have been spending it on DVDs, books and materials which can soon be used by visiting groups. The idea is to show that Hilbre was a part of the local community and economy as far back as records survive.

The myths about Hilbre are great fun, but hide the real issues of life here, and what the monks of Chester Abbey were really doing on the islands. I have given many history talks locally, based on research material such as translated Latin documents from the Abbey’s records. Gone is the medieval pilgrimage to a Saxon (or even Celtic) saint. Also the ancient cemetery and a saint’s tomb; the only burial we can be sure of on Hilbre was a tall man placed under a grave slab dating from about 1100. Who was he? This is more exciting to me than a mythical Celtic princess. The islands at that time were the property of an abbey in Normandy, at St. Evroult Notre Dame du Bois.

The grey sandstone grave-cover c1100 was found in 1864 in the place then believed to be
the ancient cemetery on the island. Only the upper portion now remains and this is kept
in the Charles Dawson Brown Museum near St. Bridget’s Church, West Kirby.

Sources: ‘The Early Monuments of West Kirby’ by W.G. Collingwood in West Kirby and Hilbre by
John Brownbill, 1928. Reliques of the Anglo-Saxon Churches of St. Bridget and St. Hildeburga,
West Kirkby, Cheshire by Henry Ecroyd Smith, 1870

The French abbey, in ruins, is still there, but most of its records have perished in the wars in Europe since the early times. A monk called Orderic Vitalis, raised in Shrewsbury, but employed as a writer of history at St. Evroult, left several volumes of his chronicles when he died in the 12th century. His works include a candid pen portrait of Hugh Lupus, the Earl of Chester who gave West Kirby and Hilbre to St. Evroult. He was fat and aggressive, but well respected!

Other myths include Hilbre’s supposed Roman lighthouse, based on a misunderstanding of a learned article written only 130 years ago. A historian working in the Mediterranean suggested that the Dee estuary, and other rivers in north west England, would be good places for Roman navogation lights, but no archaeological evidence has ever been found of one on Hilbre. In addition, the medieval lamp in Hilbre’s monastic chapel was almost certainly a prayer lamp, donated with yearly payments for prayers in memory of the deceased relative or friend of a later Earl.

Perhaps the use of these learned papers and books, written as the result of careful research in the last 150 years, will help modern students to make better sense of Hilbre’s past, and that of Wirral and Cheshire, too.

by Sue Craggs

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History and Heritage Fair 10th March 2007

The Friends of Hilbre were one of dozens of local groups and organisations represented at the recent History and Heritage Fair held at the Wirral Museum {formerly the Birkenhead Town Hall}. The groups represented wide-ranging interests relating to Wirral’s past, present and future. The all-day event was very well attended with significant numbers of visitors coming from places outside of Wirral.

Our display stand attracted a number of praiseworthy comments from both visitors and representatives from some of the other groups at the event. Over the years our displays have evolved and expanded so that we now have a professional-looking comprehensive range of material, both historic and current, relating to the Hilbre Islands.

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The Friends of Hilbre Family Evening in August

Meet by the Rangers’ notice board at Dee Lane slipway.
This very enjoyable event will be for members of the Friends of Hilbre and their families. Children over 5 years old will be welcome if accompanied by an adult. Sue has led these walks for the past few years and her extensive knowledge of Hilbre Islands Local Nature Reserve has been shared with children and adults alike. All participants have enjoyed these walks under Sue’s leadership. Why not make a note in your diary to join Sue this year?

For further information contact Sue at our hotmail address:

Above photographs by Anne Hulbert, Colin Jones and Val Burnett

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  Seal Watching Training with the Hilbre Ranger

Dave, the Hilbre Ranger, with members of The Friends of Hilbre
on the Seal Watching Training course (Val Burnett).

Dave Cavanagh, the Hilbre Ranger, gave another excellent refresher/training session for Seal Watching Trainees on 3rd February this year. The total number of trained members from 2006 and 2007 is now 26. Dave’s training has equipped members with sufficient knowledge to man the telescope and to answer questions posed by visitors to the island about the Atlantic Grey Seals in the Dee Estuary.

A trainee Seal Watcher learning to use the telescope with Colin’s help.
by Val Burnett

It is hoped that members who attended training days in 2006 and 2007 will volunteer for at least one session on Hilbre. Some dates have already been arranged and others will follow. Will trained members please get in touch with June who has agreed to act as the contact for volunteers on Seal Watching Duty. Thank you members who have already volunteered.

Contact for Seal Watching Volunteers
June at our hotmail address:
Hilbre Ranger, Dave Cavanagh 632 4455 {phone before 6.00pm please}.

Atlantic Grey Seals hauled-out on the Lifeboat Station slipway this year.
This was a very unusual occurrence as the Grey Seals usually
haul-out on the West Hoyle Sandbank in the Dee Estuary.
© Steve Williams

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Funding News

Since January, the Fund Raising sub committee has had a quiet time. One good reason is that Wirral Borough Council has moved rapidly ahead with its plans to spend special local project money on improving many coastal features, including Hilbre. We need to concentrate on related projects, and to co-ordinate our efforts with the local authority’s plans.

The Barn Bunk Room and its kitchen will be soon open for organised school and society visits to study, find shelter, and possibly have somewhere to make hot drinks. The proposed composting toilets will be waterless, and so we shall need to learn how to use gel hand wash. The toilets will be much more suitable for the island as a popular nature reserve than the present uncomfortable Elsan in the shed. The Rangers and the Friends will have a role to play in showing visiting parties how to use water, electricity and gas on the island without waste! The Victorian residents on Hilbre had supplies of rain water only from the roof, stored in underground tanks, to provide cooking and washing water, and laundry for up to 10 people. We take abundant water and fuel too much for granted!

B&Q in Bidston gave us paints and brushes through its Better Neighbour Scheme, which our volunteers and other groups will use this summer to restore the buildings and woodwork. The Council has done a great deal of work on replacing fences with similar style paling, and has repaired roofs damaged by the storms.

Attempts are continuing to interest some local businesses to sponsor work on Hilbre. There are many people out there who love Hilbre and find its maritime history fascinating, so perhaps the firms they work for will take an interest, too.

Mobile Information Unit {caravan} & Other Events

The MIU is based at Dee Lane slipway, West Kirby and is staffed by Friends of Hilbre volunteers once a month between March and October. The March date had to be cancelled because it was too windy and the Information Unit may have become too mobile for comfort!

There are still 5 dates remaining for volunteering opportunities on the MIU. The Wirral Rangers, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Friends of Hilbre will again share the MIU at Hoylake Lifeboat Day on 27th August.

Val and Barbara staffed the Friends of Hilbre stall at St. Bridget’s Church Fair in June.

Please will members contact Val or Barbara to let them know when they are available to staff the MIU or to help at the other venues by phone or by e-mailing:

Mobile Information Unit and Other Events for dates.

Contributions to the Friends of Hilbre Newsletter

Do you have a memory to share? If anyone would like to make a contribution to the Newsletter please e-mail it to The editor reserves the right to amend/abridge articles and letters. Articles should be between 50 to 350 words in length.


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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Silver seas from Hilbre Island’s shore.
© Anne Hulbert