The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 22/23 - Online version

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

Inside this issue:
Contacts and Tides.
Excavating the site for the composting toilets site.
Note from the Treasurer.
History Day Course.
Task and Friends of Hilbre Lunch.

Mobile Information Unit (MIU).
Lewis Jones: Telegraph Station Keeper and Humanitarian.
Safety Notice.
Latest Newsletter.

Seasons Greetings to all the Friends of Hilbre



The flat roof of the telegraph station would have been caulked and pitched, the 2 iron masts were fitted with 4 semaphore arms which could be manoeuvred into any angle by a winch inside the building. The telegraph station building on Hilbre now has a pitched roof and is used as the Interpretative Centre for the islands.

The Friends of Hilbre e-mail:

Tides and Information
Hilbre Islands Local Nature Reserve Ranger: 0151 1632 4455

Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371/3884

North Wirral Coastal Park 0151 678 5488

Metropolitan Borough of Wirral Web Site:

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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Excavating the Site for the Composting Toilets

Archaeologists from the National Museums Liverpool spent some days out on Hilbre in September and October excavating the area for the new composting toilets. The site is alongside the slate shed in an area which everyone had thought had been a dump.

It certainly was a dump! We found old sherry bottles, beer bottles, wooden bits from boats, metal lumps off engines, old roof slates, plastic bags and crisp packets. It was all 20th century rubbish.

To our surprise and delight, we also found some real archaeology. Underneath the rubbish the sandstone bedrock had been smoothed and flattened to make a superb floor. The floor is covered with chisel marks left in the effort to smooth off the floor.

The wall of the slate shed went down another metre to rest on this sandstone floor. The floor is enclosed within four walls which were all uncovered during the excavation. The lower part of the slate shed wall showed evidence of a blocked up doorway which suggests that the area excavated may be part of a two-way complex, the second room being under the floor of the slate shed. 

There are two matching rectangular features cut into the sandstone floor which we are still trying to interpret. One of these features is close to a natural cleft in the rock which had been carefully filled in with hand-made bricks to level off the floor. There are also channels cut into the floor near the walls which may be for drainage.

Finds during the excavation include a few pieces of 17th century pottery and clay tobacco pipes. At the moment we are unable to say what date the floor and rectangular features are and are presently carrying out research to try to understand them.

Christine Longworth, November, 2007.


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Notes from the Treasurer

At our AGM in May this year, we elected Sue Craggs as the Treasurer of the Friends of Hilbre, with many thanks to Neil Kelly for his sterling work in the last few years. In spite of his increasing work load, he remains on the committee as Assistant Treasurer.

We also changed our accounting year from the tax year (April to March) into the calendar year (January to December, from 2008). That means we have a 9-month “year” running at present, which will end in December 2007. Accounts for this shorter year will be given as usual at our 2008 AGM, in May in the West Kirby Concourse. The Charity Commission, whose rules apply to all charities’ finances, has given its blessing to our new time scale. We had very useful advice on keeping our accounts from the Community Accountant, based at the CVS offices in Birkenhead. Friends of Hilbre will continue to access the local funding available to voluntary groups. The islands are benefiting from the current financial input by Wirral Borough Council, obtained by them from the Mersey Waterfront Project, and other funders.

The developments to buildings on Hilbre are under way, but with due care for the island’s wild life and character. At present, the Council is adapting two areas as day centres, for use by booked study parties. We hope to see the toilet block put up in 2008. The Lookout has been fitted with museum show cases, for changing displays of history, wild life and geology.

Sue Craggs

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Local History Day Courses on Hilbre 2008

Advance Notice
The Friends hope that Sue Craggs will be able to run a local history course, repeated on 2 separate days next summer, about Hilbre and district. The materials used on the course will come largely from the collection of books, photocopied articles, photographs and computer discs purchased with a very generous gift from Hoylake Historical Society.

The dates are not yet settled, and booking will open in the New Year. Details will appear later in the Rangers’ section of the Wirral Borough Council’s web site,, if you click on Leisure and Culture, and then on Parks and Countryside Newsletter. The Rangers’ printed Events Newsletter, which used to give dates of walks and courses, will no longer be available.
Friends who do not have access to a computer can ask their local library staff to help them to use the library computers. Booking via Wirral Country Park will be essential for the History course, and there will be a small charge. If this arrangement is successful, future courses may be provided on a variety of subjects.
Sue Craggs

Web site count: 50,OO0 `hits` to-date.

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Task and Lunch - August 18th

To thank our ‘Friends’ for their support, we provided our annual volunteers lunch for all members attending the Hilbre task on Saturday 18th August.

Many friends old and new joined us on this day and we accomplished a variety of tasks; pointing the lifeboat station, clearing the vegetation by the boat house.

As usual we enjoyed a wonderful lunch, provided by Barbara with lots of tasty homemade dishes. A great time was had by all.

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  Mobile Information Unit

Thanks are offered to all volunteers who staffed the Mobile Information Unit 8 times this year. Our thanks also go to the rangers for bringing the MIU from Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston to Dee Lane slipway, West Kirby. The Friends of Hilbre also attended the Friends of Ashton Park May Day Fair, St. Bridget’s Church Fair and Hoylake Lifeboat Day. Our presence on the `mainland` lets some folk know there is a Friends of Hilbre group in existence – some even enrol as members! We provide educational literature, supply information about safety measures to take when crossing to the islands, raise funds from sales items and share visitors` memories. Our next MIU date will be in March 2008.

We joined other local groups on Friday 7th December 5pm - 8pm outside the Concourse, West Kirby. We had available information about the Friends of Hilbre and items available for sale. Thank you `Friends` who came to support us. Some of the shops remained open and there were carol singers and street entertainers. Father Christmas and a fire engine were part of a procession along Banks Road.

If any members wish to join the team please

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Lewis Jones - Telegraph Station Keeper and Humanitarian

Lewis Jones, Telegraph Station Keeper

Mrs. Lewis Jones

Lewis Jones was born in 1858 on Anglesey, the son of a clog-maker, and the youngest of 9 children. His first job was in a shipbroker’s office in Liverpool as a boy “quick with figures” for 6 shillings a week. Later, Lewis became an employee of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and he was offered an apprenticeship with Mr. Roberts, the Telegraph, based on Eilian Mountain. For economic reasons the authorities moved this telegraph to the top of Point Lynas lighthouse; Mr. Roberts and Lewis Jones became 2nd and 3rd officers under the lighthouse keeper between 1875 and 1879. Lewis worked as 2nd Assistant there between 1879 and 1884. During this phase of his life Lewis married ”one of the most beautiful maidens in Anglesey” and wrote that “never was a couple better matched”. Sadly, their two children died during this period.

In 1884 Lewis was promoted to Bidston Hill Station where the family spent 15 “wonderfully happy months”. In 1885 Lewis was appointed head of the station which was on the slope of Foel Mountain, between Prestatyn and Gronant {1885-1888}. At this time Foel Nant Station and Hilbre Station were the only 2 remaining working telegraphs of the dozen which formerly used to transmit sea news from Holyhead and Liverpool by means of semaphore.

Left: Theodolite and Hilbre Telegraph Station.
About 1827 the Trustees of Liverpool Docks established a chain of telegraph stations from Holyhead on Anglesey to Liverpool for the purpose of reporting ships, weather, and all circumstances relating to navigation in the outside channel. In 1841 they built substantial dwellings and stations of uniform design for the signallers and their families.

Courtesy of the Canoe Club Archive.

In 1888 “there came a rumour that the authorities were going to install an electric cable between the Bar Lightship and Liverpool, so there would be no more need of the Foel Nant Station”. In 1888 Lewis Jones was offered the care of the telegraph station on Hilbre Island, where he remained until his retirement to Wales in 1923.

Whilst living on Hilbre Lewis Jones became known as a respected lecturer and author on the different aspects of his life on Hilbre. He led Eisteddfods on Merseyside, wrote poetry, and became honorary local correspondent for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for many years. Lewis made donations to worthy causes from the proceeds of his activities, he wrote in his memoirs:

“…through the medium of my lectures I was able to help hospitals and many philanthropic causes, and nothing gives me greater comfort than remembering that we were able to do something to lighten the burdens of those in need and trouble.”

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Jones` mode of transport to the mainland was by walking
 a `round trip` of 4 miles, or by horse and trap, or by boat.

Lewis Jones became an honorary representative of the Royal Alfred Seamen’s Institution and obtained pensions for certain old seamen and widows of seamen in Anglesey and Caernarfon. Mrs. Lloyd George’s Fund benefited from the proceeds of a concert he organised to “provide comforts for the Welsh soldiers”. Lewis and his wife were also involved in helping the Convalescent Home for children in West Kirby. The couple attended the English Presbyterian Church in Hoylake and later joined a Welsh-speaking Cause established in West Kirby. He served as deacon and treasurer for 30 years and administered the Marriages Act of 1898 in the chapel for four years.

Whilst living on Hilbre, Lewis Jones, at great personal risk, rescued at least 24 people from drowning. In recognition of his bravery he received many gifts, medals and certificates from the National Lifeboat Station. the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society, and his contemporaries. His thoughts, referring to one presentation included:

“I have never placed much importance on my small service in connection with saving lives. Few have had as much opportunity as I had to do such work. I confess, however, that the words of Mr. Egerton Macdona{l} touched my heart, “Friends, do you realise the amount of good twenty lives saved from drowning are capable of doing?” I felt that my life on Hilbre was not completely in vain if I succeeded in helping some who were likely to do so much good in the world, and I do not remember me ever feeling happier than I felt that night while crossing the beach to the Island.”

Lewis Jones and his wife lived on Hilbre Island until their retirement to Cemaes, in Anglesey in 1923. The couple returned briefly for a reception held in his honour in West Kirby which hundreds of people attended. Lewis was presented with a glowing testimonial in the form of “…a very beautiful album containing an address woven in exceptionally finely…” He was also presented with a wallet containing a cheque to buy a Hillman car; his wife was given a motoring coat, cap, gloves and cushion.

Atgofion Ynyswr {Memoirs of an Islander} by Lewis Jones, 1939, translated from Welsh by Hugh Begley, 2003 {a copy of the translation is in West Kirby Library courtesy of the Friends of Hilbre}.

Talk by Glenys Wilkinson {Lewis Jones great-great niece} at The Friends of Hilbre AGM 2007.

Faster than the Wind – The Liverpool to Holyhead Telegraph by Frank Large, Avid Publications, 1998.

{Compiled by Val Burnett, 2007}

Icicles one snowy Hilbre Island Winter by the late John Gittins

good wishes to all friends of hilbre in 2008

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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