shrouded in mystery
How did Wirral village get its name?
Centuries on, the argument still rages unabated. The mediaeval form,
Brunburgh, could have been a reference to one Brun, a dark haired
Saxon, and the hamlet that formed his fortress. But the Wirral as
a whole certainly tasted the fury of the Norsemen, and the name
could have been derived from the Scandinavian word for spring "brunnr",
for once the area had a great many.
At one time there were three notable wells. It is alleged that St
Patrick's Well, in Brotherton Park, off Spital Road, is the site
of a holy man's landing in the fifth century, whilst the Petrifying
Well may have had links with the leper hospital at nearby Spital.
St Chad's Well, in Shodwell Wood, is now buried beneath industry,
and like a good deal of Bromborough's past, lost to the present.
But, historical speculation is, if nothing else, is fun and because
Bromborough's development erased many traces of its beginnings,
myth has replaced fact.
The Battle of 'Brunanburgh' was fought in 937 by Athelstan, King
Alfred's grandson, when an army of Danes, Welsh, Scots and Irish
were heavily defeated. Unfortunately the precise location for this
Dark Ages "rumble" has been lost, but it could have been Bromborough.
The Danes, under Anlaf, certainly sailed from Dublin and Bromborough's
location overlooking the Mersey, made it strategically important,
and besides, there was a strong Norse presence in Wirral at the
time. But then that's as probable as claiming King Arthur's final
resting place, and the location of Avalon, is really Brotherton
Around the time of the Domesday Book, Bromborough was a cluster
of dwellings with a parish church but by the mid-12th century the
church and manor house were handed over to the Abbot and the Convent
of St Werburgh which is now Chester Cathedral. And then, the little
village began to grow. In April 1278, Edward I granted a weekly
market to the monks of St Werburgh's, in their manor of Bromborough
and a yearly three-day fair. The Monday market was held where Bromborough
Cross now stands.
Perhaps the monks, and certainly the King, hoped that the sacred
location would inspire commercial honesty. The steps of the present
cross are 13th century, authenticated genuine, but the shaft and
cross were a gift from the Bromborough Society. The manor house
granted to the monks was the north of Pool Lane, west of the old
Court House. Sadly, the manor was destroyed by fire in 1284. Bromborough
developed piecemeal until the industrial revolution, with Bromborough
Pool - hailed long before Port Sunlight as one of the first industrial
villages - purpose built to serve Price's soap factory.
However, around the time of the Great War many traces of the past
were devoured by development. Stanhope house, zealously protected
by the Bromborough Society, is perhaps the best the village has
to offer historical sleuths.
The Sann family built a house on the site during Tudor times and
the name appears in clerical records in 1554 as belonging to "George
Spann, gentleman of Bromborough". As with many rural families, Richard
Spann in 1678, used the front pages of the parish register to list
the births and deaths of his line. In the reign of William and Mary,
Stanhope House was built of locally quarried sandstone. It was distinctive,
with unusual front gables and mullioned windows.
Over the doorway is a nameplate in the form of a shield with the
initials of the occupants and date, 1693. Stanhope House, at the
corner of Mark Rake and Spital Road was converted to a public library
in 1939 and renovated. Original Oak panelling was removed, but the
drawing room, was later restored using panels from Chillingham Castle
in Northumberland, home of the Tankerville family.
The surrounding garden wall possibly predates Stanhope House. Indentations
on stones may have been used for sharpening arrows. A similar claim
is made at Shotwick Parish Church where similar abrasions can be
seen today. However, other structures did not fare so well and Bromborough
Hall (early 17th century) was demolished in 1932.
Today the essence of village life remains, as the countless organisations
indicate, and Brotherton Park is a nature reserve within easy reach
of the centre and "guarded" by the ever active Bromborough Society
BACK TO ARCHIVES