Birkenhead, Cheshire

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Birkenhead and its neighbouring parishes at the north of the Wirral peninsula originally formed part of the Wirral Poor Law Union. However, on 2th March, 1861, the new Birkenhead Poor Law Union was formed to cover this area and comprised the parishes of Bidstone-with-Ford, Birkenhead, Claughton-cum-Grange, Liscard, Noctorum, Oxton, Poulton-cum-Seacomb, Tranmere and Wallasey. It had a 13-strong elected Board of Guardians, four representing Birknehead, two from Tranmere, and the rest one each.

Church Road Workhouse

A new Birkenhead Union workhouse was built in 1861-3 at the west side of Church Road in Birkenhead. The architect was Thomas Layland of Liverpool. It could accommodate about 500 inmates and opened its doors on 4th January, 1864. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1909 map below:

Birkenhead workhouse site, 1876.

The main block was a T-shaped building facing to the east.

Birkenhead main block from the east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The central rear wing of the main block contained the dining hall and kitchens.

Birkenhead rear of main block from the north-west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The original workhouse hospital was built at the south-west of the site in 1866. New pavilion blocks were added at the south-east in the 1890s. The original hospital was replaced by two new pavilions and an administration block in 1911-12.

Birkenhead workhouse site, 1909.

Birkenhead workhouse site, 1936.

Birkenhead mortuary and hospital block from the north-west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Birkenhead south-east hospital pavilions from the south, c.1906.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Birkenhead 1911 replacement pavilions from the south, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

From 1904, to protect them from disadvantage in later life, the birth certificates for those born in the workhouse gave its address just as 56 Church Road, Tranmere.

The workhouse later became Birkenhead Municipal Hospital then, in recent times, was known as St Catherine's Community Hospital. The main building was demolished in 2010 with the remainder following by the end of 2012.

Workhouse School

A large workhouse school stood at the north of the workhouse. It was a T-shaped building with the boys accommodated in one wing and girls at the other. The central rear wing probably contained a dining-hall/chapel. In 1881, the schools had around 200 children in residence. By 1909, the building had become converted for use as a sanatorium as indicated on the map above.

Birkenhead workhouse school/sanatorium entrance, c.1910.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Scattered Homes

From the early 1900s, the union began making extensive use of scattered homes to house its children. Thse included: Ashford House, Ashford Road, Birkenhead; 66 and 76 Bridge Street, Birkenhead; 100 Camden Street, Birkenhead; 36 Carlton Road, Birkenhead; 5 Lowwood Road, Birkenhead; 297 and 305 Old Chester Road, Birkenhead; 28 Pilgrim Street, Birkenhead; 93 Westbourne Road, Birkenhead; 59 Albion Street, Wallsey; 6/10 Mill Lane, Wallasey; 141 Seaview Road, Wallasey; 66 Falkland Road, Wallsey; 33 and 226 Bedford Road, Rock Ferry; 16 and 84-86 Highfield Road, Rock Ferry; and The Tors, Thorburn Road, New Ferry. There were also receiving homes for new admissions at 591 New Chester Road, Rock Ferry (closed around 1925); Manor Grange, 2 Egerton Road, Birkenhead (from around 1925), and 47-49 Church Street, Birkenhead. The Church Street establishment was also referred to as the Central Home.

Birkenhead Union Central Home, c.1906.
© Peter Higginbotham.




Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Wirral Archives, Cheshire Lines Building, Canning Street, Birkenhead CH41 1ND. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1861-1930); Births (1864-1914); Baptisms (1890-1950); Deaths (1864-1944); Creed registers (1869-1930); Register of inmates' property (1897-1956); etc.


  • None.


  • None.

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