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Mersey Estuary 

There are records of ferrymen active on the Mersey Estuary going back to the 12th century. Traffic gradually increased and received a major boost with the development of Liverpool, on the eastern Lancashire shore as a major port, which would rise to international importance in the 18th century. Settlements developed along the western shore on the Wirral, then part of Cheshire and the town of Birkenhead, directly across from Liverpool, was to develop rapidly after William Laird moved south from Greenock to establish and iron works in 1824. With his son he  established a shipbuilding company in 1828 which was to become John Laird, Sons & Co and from 1903, Cammell, Laird & co, a major name in international shipbuilding for much of the 20th century. 

The first record of a steamship on the River Mersey was in 1815 when the paddle steamer Elizabeth sailed between Liverpool and Runcorn. The first regular paddle steamer service between Liverpool and Birkenhead started in 1822 with the locally-built Royal Mail. The rapid expansion of industry and population on both sides of the Mersey estuary called for greater ferry capacity and several private operators entered the business. A major rationalisation took place in 1861 when the municipal authorities of Birkenhead and its neighbour to the north Wallasey took control of services from their town to Liverpool. The Birkenhead ferry terminal at Woodside remains today as does the nearby Seacombe terminal which came under Wallasey jurisdiction. Piers existed further north on the Wirral at Egremont and New Brighton from where Wallasey's ferries also ran.  

From 1862 until 1876 six new passenger paddlers were introduced on to the Woodside service to augment the existing fleet before screw steamers became standard. Two further paddlers did come in to service : Cheshire, built locally in Birkenhead, in 1889 and Birkenhead, built by J Scott & Co at Kinghorn, Fife,  in 1894. In the same period, sixteen came new to the Wallasey services with the final examples, John Herron and Pansy, also coming from J. Scott & Co in 1895/6.

John Herron (1896-1919) was sold to the locally-based Cunard Steam Ship Co and found a future use as a tender to their ocean liners at the port of Cherbourg as Satellite, serving until 1924

Extant Vessels on Municipal takeover : Woodside

Nun (1841-1868)
Queen (1844-1881, double-ended)
Prince (1844-1881)
Wirral (1846-1889)
Lord Morpeth (1847-1870)
Woodside (1853-1864)
Liverpool (1855-1882)

New Vessels : Municipal Ownership : Woodside

Newport (1862-1864, luggage ferry)
Cheshire (1863-1888)
Woodside (1865-1891)
Lancashire (1865-1891)
Birkenhead (1872-1890)
Claughton (1876-1894)
Cheshire (1889-1894)
Birkenhead (1894-1907)

Extant Vessels on Municipal takeover : Wallasey

Seacombe (1822-1863)
Ramsgate Packet (1853-1866)
Liscard (1858-1861, double-ended) : returned to the service as Gem

New Vessels : Municipal Ownership : Wallasey

May Flower (1862-1884)
Water Lily (1862-1892)
Wild Rose (1862-1883)
Heather Bell (1865-1891)
Seymour (1872-1882)
Swallow (1872-1882)
Gem (1873-1881, double-ended)
Primrose (1879-1906)
Daisy (1879-1911)
Sunflower (1879-1905)  
Violet (1884-1901)
Crocus (1884-1909, double-ended luggage ferry )
Snowdrop (1884-1906, double-ended luggage ferry)
Thistle (1891-1911)
Shamrock (1891-1902, luggage ferry)
John Herron (1896-1919)
Pansy (1896-1916)

Acknowledgement :
Other ferry services did exist on the Mersey estuary :

Eastham Ferry    Operated an extensive paddle steamer ferry service until 1929

Independently-owned Mollington. Purchased by the Davies family of Mollington and operated 1892-1894. Ordered as a private yacht from John Reid & Co of Port Glasgow and first launched in 1879, the vessel was available as the original buyer defaulted.  125.2 ft long, she had a steeple engine built by Walker, Henderson & Co of Glasgow.  The vessel is reported to have moved to Portugal in 1904 as Guadiana


The Cunard Steam Ship Co and their predecessors, the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co until 1878, operated the tug tender Satellite (1848-1902) and Jackal (1853-1893, serving at Queenstown, now Cobh, between 1878 and 1887)

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