100 Interesting facts

100 Interesting Facts

  1. The Benedictine Monks ran the first regular ferry from Birkenhead to Liverpool. The Monks would row over to the fishing village in Liverpool on market days, and offer the service to travellers.
  2. The service was granted a Royal Charter by Edward III in 1330.
  3. Edward III also granted the right to the Earl of Chester to run the ferry service from Seacombe to Birkenhead, establishing the Wallasey ferry. These two operations merged as Mersey Ferries in 1968.
  4. Rowing across the Mersey would take 90 minutes in calm weather; however much longer in rough conditions.
  5. In one day, the ferry had over 100 arrivals and departures on the Liverpool – Wirral service.
  6. The ferry used to run all night before the opening of the Mersey tunnels.
  7. The Mersey Ferries were the only way of getting across the river until the opening of the railway tunnel in 1886.
  8. In 1863 when the Channel fleet visited, 55,000 people took the ferry out to see the Navy ships.
  9. Before radar was installed in 1947, ferry captains had to rely on fog bells to give them an audible target to aim for
  10. The Mersey Ferries were the first in the world to install a radar system for safe navigation in fog, in 1947.
  11. In 1357, the charge for a foot passenger was a halfpenny.
  12. The opening of the first underwater railway in 1886 and the lines electrification in 1903 was predicted to be the end of the Mersey Ferries, but in 1919 the Seacombe ferry alone carried 22 million passengers.
  13. After the opening of the road tunnel in 1934, there was a huge decline in numbers using the Mersey Ferries.
  14. The opening of the second Mersey tunnel in 1971 brought the closure of the New Brighton ferry.
  15. The Birkenhead and Wallasey ferry operations merged into Mersey Ferries in 1968.
  16. The Mersey Ferries were under threat in 1977, when a bill was put before Parliament to discontinue ferry services. The bill failed to receive support and the Mersey Ferries survived.
  17. After a decline in commuter traffic using the ferries, in 1990 Merseytravel re-launched the ferries as a heritage and visitor attraction.
  18. Mersey Ferries won Visitor Attraction of the Year award in 1996, by the Merseyside Tourism Board.
  19. The Mersey Ferries took a technological leap in 1815 with the introduction of the first steam ferry, Etna. For the first time, the ferry service could operate a timetable.
  20. Soon after Etna, came Vesuvius, the second paddlesteamer.
  21. By 1840, all ten ferry services across the Mersey were using paddlesteamers.
  22. Crocus, the first coal-fired screw steamer was introduced in 1884, closely followed by Snowdrop the following year.
  23. The first diesel-powered ferry came in 1949
  24. The last steam ferry on the Mersey was the Wallasey, which sailed for the last time at Whitsun in 1963.
  25. The template for the 20th century Mersey Ferries was the Wallasey ship Rose, in 1900.
  26. Cammell Laird built all five ferries that made up the Birkenhead post-war fleet; Upton, Hinderton, Thurstaston, Claughton and Bidston.
  27. Birkenhead and Wallasey followed different trends in naming their ferries; Birkenhead used local place names such as Woodchurch and Claughton, and Wallasey used flowers, such as Daffodil and Primrose.
  28. In 1906 Wallasey took ownership of Iris and Daffodil, which become their most famous ferries.
  29. In 1918, Daffodil and Iris were requisitioned by the Admiralty to take part in a raid on Zeebrugge on St Georges Day, 23 April.
  30. A commemorative service for the Zeebrugge raid is held every year on a Mersey ferry, on the Sunday nearest to St Goerge’s Day.
  31. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery in the Zeebrugge raid.
  32. In recognition of their courageous part in the raid, King George V granted Wallasey Corporation permission to add the ‘Royal’ prefix to both names.
  33. Royal Iris’s nicknames were ‘the fish and chip boat’, ‘the booze boat’ and ‘the love boat’
  34. In November 1998, Overchurch went into dry dock in Manchester, where she was refurbished and given new engines. She later emerged as the Mersey Ferries new flagship, Royal Daffodil.
  35. Mountwood went into dry dock for refurbishment in 2001, and was renamed Royal Iris of the Mersey on her return in April 2002.
  36. The current Mersey Ferries fleet consists of two boats: Snowdrop, (previously Woodchurch) and Royal Iris of the Mersey (previously Mountwood). Up to 2013, the Royal Daffodil (previously Overchurch) had been the flagship of the fleet.
  37. The Royal Iris was sold in November 1991, and is now berthed in London, by the Thames Barrier.
  38. Since the name Royal Iris is still in use by the old ferry now berthed in London, we have Royal Iris of the Mersey.
  39. Each ferry holds 35 tons of fuel in its tanks and burns a ton in 12 hours: So, a Mersey ferry could travel across the Atlantic to New York without needing to refuel.
  40. Overchurch was the most recent Mersey ferry to be built, launched at Cammell Laird’s yard in 1962.
  41. The current ferries were built to carry 1,200 passengers; however they are now licensed to carry 650 for their daily service, and 396 for longer cruises.
  42. By 1989 the ferries were running at an annual loss of £2.5 million; a new strategy was then agreed, focusing on tourism and heritage rather than commuter transport.
  43. Between high and low tide, the river Mersey can rise and fall by 30ft.
  44. The ferries all have Fletner system rudders which make them much more manouverable. By using the vessel's twin screws, captains can move the vessels away by using one engine to push the vessel from the stage and the rudders and other engine to point it into the correct direction.
  45. A ferry across the Mersey from Seacombe, the narrowest crossing point of the river, is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086
  46. During the First World War the steamers Iris and Daffodil were taken out of service from Wallasey to be used as troop ships in the naval raid on Zeebrugge in Belgium
  47. The Manchester Ship Canal is the eighth-longest ship canal in the world. Mersey Ferries offer six hour cruises along the Manchester Ship canal with return bus transport.
  48. Famous people who have travelled on the Mersey Ferries –  Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Princes Anne, Margaret Thatcher, King George V and Queen Mary, The Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers.
  49. The Manchester Ship Canal 60ft rise in height from Liverpool to Manchester is resolved by a series of 5 locks
  50. In 1847, the first floating landing stage opened at Liverpool. The landing stage rose and fell with the tide so that the boats could dock at any time.
  51. The first passenger ferry steamer to have a saloon was the Cheshire. It operated from Woodside in 1864.
  52. On 26 November 1878, the ferry Gem, a paddle steamer operated from Seacombe collided with the Bowfell, a wooden sailing ship at anchor on the River Mersey; the collision resulted in the death of five people.
  53. In 1894 trains were carrying 25,000 passengers per day and the ferries 44,000 per day.
  54. The ferry service at Tranmere closed in 1897.
  55. The pier and landing stage at Rock Ferry was built in 1899.
  56. In 1914 King George V and Queen Mary travelled on the ferry S.S. Daffodil from Wallasey to Liverpool.
  57. The ferry service from Seacombe lost two million passengers when the Queensway road tunnel opened in 1934, with people starting to use the tunnel rather than the ferry.
  58. The opening of the road tunnel also had an impact on the luggage boats which were introduced in 1879. Both ferry companies earned a substantial amount from luggage boats, which carried vehicles and goods across the river. The luggage boat services from both Woodside and Seacombe to Liverpool came to a close in the 1940s.
  59. The closure of Eastham in 1929 marked the last use of ferry paddle steamers on the river.
  60. In 1941, mines which had drifted into the River Mersey stopped ferry crossings
  61. In 1950, the ferries carried almost 30 million passengers.
  62. By 1970, the total number had fallen to just 7 million.
  63. In 1956, night boats across the river were cancelled and replaced by bus services through the tunnel.
  64. The future of the Mersey Ferries came under threat in June 1971, with the opening of the Kingsway road tunnel. The Mersey Ferries saw a further decline in passenger numbers; only 4,000-5,000 passengers a day using the service. 
  65. 1984 was a considerably good year for the Mersey Ferries, and is seen as the beginning of the ferries rise from the slumps of the 1970s.
  66. A special ferry service was provided to Otterspool Promenade throughout the International Garden Festival. This service was usually operated by Overchurch.
  67. In August 1984, sailing ships from the Tall Ships Race visited the river.
  68. The first diesel ferry to enter service was the Royal Iris in 1951.
  69. The most famous Royal is the Royal Iris of 1951. She was by far the best loved of all the Mersey Ferries.
  70. Royal Iris was the first diesel powered vessel of the Wallasey fleet, with four diesel generators connected to two Metrovick marine propulsion units.
  71. Before being sold in the early nineties for use as a floating nightclub, The Royal Iris held hundreds of party cruises, and played host to popular bands such as Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Searchers, and The Beatles.
  72. The Royal Daffodil II was constructed by James Lamont and Co. at Greenock and entered service in 1957.
  73. The Royal Daffodil II is the only Mersey Ferry to ever have docking order telegraphs in the wings.
  74. Leasowe was sold to Greek owners in the mid 1970s; she has been heavily modified and is still cruising around the Greek islands.
  75. The former Royal Daffodil II was converted to a container ship. She sank in November 2007, 20 miles off the coast of Cape Andreas, in heavy seas.
  76. The Mountwood was used in the film "Ferry Cross The Mersey",
  77. The Mountwood was used for the video of the Gerry & The Pacemakers song, “Ferry across the Mersey” It was filmed on two separate journeys across to Liverpool from Birkenhead
  78. In her early years Mountwood was an unreliable ferry, breaking down three times whilst crossing the river and had to anchor. Her passengers had to be rescued by Woodchurch.
  79. In 1981, Woodchurch was withdrawn from operation for almost three years, due to cost cutting measures.
  80. Woodchurch returned to service in 1983, after main engine repairs and a full repaint. Her return freed up Overchurch to work the new Otterspool service, set up for the 1984 International Garden Festival.
  81. In 1996 the Overchurch was given a facelift, enclosing of the promenade deck shelter.
  82. The current fleet has served the river for nearly five decades. The Royal Iris of the Mersey and the Snowdrop celebrated their 50th birthday in 2009.
  83. The new Wartsilla engines fitted on the ferries are much more economical than the previous engines by Crossley Bros of Manchester. They produce much less emissions than the original propulsion units, making them a lot greener.
  84. Each of the Mersey Ferries in the current fleet carries two Kockums Super Tyfon TA 100/150 type fog horns. These are the original horns that were fitted when the ferries were first built. Both Royal Iris of the Mersey and Snowdrop have an E-flat tone, and Royal Daffodil is in F Sharp.
  85. The ferries are known for their ability to operate in very heavy seas.
  86. When berthing the vessel, the captain uses a combination of rudder positions and engine movements.
  87. Although the ferries can cope in heavy seas, berthing the vessel can be extremely hazardous. This can result in the service being suspended.
  88. The ferries all have Fletner system rudders which make them much easier to manoeuver.
  89. The ferries played a big part in Liverpool's European Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations, where they carried a record numbers of passengers
  90. On Monday 21st July 2008, the Royal Daffodil operated a special cruise to witness the parade of sail and departure of the Tall Ships.
  91. The first record of a service from New Ferry to Liverpool was in 1774.
  92. The first steamship to operate on the Mersey was the Elizabeth, a wooden paddle steamer, which was introduced in 1815 to operate between Liverpool and Runcorn.
  93. The Woodside, North Birkenhead and Liverpool Steam Ferry Company was formed in 1835.
  94. The Cheshire, the first passenger ferry steamer to have a saloon, operated from Woodside in 1864.
  95. The iron pier at Eastham was built in 1874.
  96. The pier and landing stage at Rock Ferry was built in 1899.
  97. Wallasey Ferries had a funnel livery of white and black and Birkenhead red and black up until the Second World War, when this was changed to orange when Mountwood and Woodchurch were introduced.
  98. Due to financial losses incurred from a reduction in patronage, Birkenhead Corporation gradually closed its southern terminals; New Ferry on 22nd September 1927, Eastham in 1929 and Rock Ferry on 30 June 1939.
  99. In 1941, The Oxton and Bebington vessels were fitted with cranes to enable them to unload United States aircraft from mid-river and deliver them to the Liverpool landing stage.
  100. The Birkenhead boats Claughton, Bidston, Thurstaston and Upton were seen as the fastest ferries on the river.