Memories of Storeton
By Jack & Bill Fairs
This article originally appeared in The Wirral Champion. We express our gratitude for them allowing us to reproduce it here. We would also like to extend our thanks Wilf Wilson for the use of his photographs in this article, some of which were not used in the printed version.
Jack and Bill in their eighty fourth year still walking around the block find that their minds revert back to their childhood and would like to share some memories with readers of those very different days when they were about twelve years of age.....
Higher Bebington Whitefrees
Well, here we are off to the woods! But which woods? We have the option of going to Mount Woods or Storeton Woods. We chose Storeton. Our friend Hugh Black who is with us suggests that Storeton is bigger and more exciting (Mount Woods in those days was a very small wood and nowadays has been built on by Stanley Avenue and The Pine Walks.)
The sandstone crusher at
Higher Bebington Quarry
photographed in 1939
We make our way with Hugh who tells us that his father told him that
in the old days there was a railway for taking the quarried stone from
the quarry down to a jetty at Levers dock at Port Sunlight.
We cross Mount Road and entering the woods we find a cutting that leads to a tunnel under the road. It looks exciting and we make our way through and find ourselves in the big quarry.
Stacks of Storeton stone at the quarry
await "dressing" with Sammy Duckers
A voice calls out, "Whatcher doing there?" We approach a man sitting on a stool with a heavy hammer and a chisel striking a large piece of sandstone, we are interested to see what is happening in the quarry‘, we reply. And so we get into conversation. He does not tell us off, but answers our questions - we are lucky because he seems prepared to spend a little time with us.
Higher Bebington Quarry
We learn that his name is Sam Duckers and he tells us that he is a stone dresser, a person who improves the surface of the stone, and he shows us how as with his claw toothed chisel he removes a little lump. It used to be a very busy quarry he says, but now there are just three working here and he was preparing this stone for repairs to a building in Manchester. He is very proud of his work and tells us to look at the lovely villas surrounding Birkenhead Park which are built with Storeton Stone, and parts of the famous Empire State Building in New York are also clad in Storeton Stone. Some of the waste stone is powdered and sold to glass manufacturers.
Storeton Wood 1911
He asks where we live and tells us that if we go down Heath Road
and look in the field on the right hand side that is where a railway
carried the stone to Port Sunlight for transshipment by boat. The reason
for the railway was that the huge heavy blocks of stone so damaged
the roads leading to the quarry that they had to find another method
of transport and the previous method, by horse and cart, could take
as long as three weeks to make the short journey whereas by rail it
could be done in less than an hour.
The distance from the quarry to the Bromborough Pool, a tidal creek of the Mersey, was 2½ miles and here the stone was loaded from a stone quay into barges. These then went out past Prices Candle Works and into the open water of the River Mersey for transporting to Birkenhead or Liverpool.
Storeton Wood Near Birkenhead
We followed the given directions, down Bracken Lane past the Gorsey Hey mansion and across the fields alongside Heath Road where we found traces of the railway. When we approached Cross Lane there were lots of trenches filled with concrete. It was obvious that they were footings for new buildings - sure enough it was the start of Wirral Grammar School.
We walked along the footings in the trenches - I guess that is the sort of thing that all young people do, little knowing that seven years later Bill and I would act as Masters of Ceremony at a dance at The Wirral Grammar School for Girls. I took as my partner my first girl friend, Zena Ashton, and Bill‘s partner was, surprisingly, Zena‘s maths mistress, Barbara Hall - but she was very young, this was her first appointment.
A cutting leads to a tunnel
under the road
We thought the dances were wonderful. The girls all wore long evening
dresses and most of the lads wore evening suits. It was such an occasion
in those days, and to the best of our memories, a request to the ladies
for a dance was, "May I have the pleasure of this dance please?"
We are digressing. We considered that we had a successful day full of interest and made our way home for tea where we found we were having cheese on toast. Bill had been appointed "toastmaster". A few days earlier he had made a toasting fork from a wire coat-hanger, it had four prongs and the handle was about fourteen inches long. We had a big iron range in the kitchen with an oven on the left, a fire with bars in the centre and a large hob on the right.